Monday, February 13, 2006

Will Europe Adapt to the Post-Politically Correct Era?

"In 2002, I was demonized for urging the Amsterdam City Council to drop publishing notices on every piece of business it does in Kurd, Papiamento and God knows what," said Geert Dales, who is mayor of Leeuwarden, a city of 100,000 on the North Sea.
Thus starts John Vinocur's article on a flow-reversal of attitudes in two famously tolerant nations: "Their emphasis, coming now with special intensity caused by a sense of declining sovereignty, is specifying that their Muslim communities must demonstrate compatibility with Dutch or Danish society."
Four years ago, Dales's thrift was called intolerance or even racism. For a decade, anyone expressing concern about projections that Amsterdam would have a Muslim majority by 2020 (about 65 percent of its young people now have Islamic backgrounds) risked disgrace as a closet fascist. Now the Dutch discuss the implications of similar population projections and similar time frames for cities like Rotterdam and The Hague without cramped circumlocution.

In comparison, direct official- and politician-speak in places like Britain, France and Spain shies from the idea that failed national policies accommodating (or avoiding) Muslim integration have been factors in the most confidence-shaking European events of the new century:

Bomb attacks by local Islamic extremists in Madrid and London, the murder of a Dutch filmmaker by a member of the Amsterdam Moroccan community, riots in immigrant towns around Paris, and now, Denmark and Danes coming under threat and attack around the world after a newspaper published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The post-politically correct comes in here. … When I asked Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Copenhagen last week about a Dutch-Danish post-politically correct link (a phrase first used by the American writer Christopher Caldwell), he talked about insisting on the same core values that Frits Bolkestein, the original politically incorrect Dutchman and former European Union commissioner, first described in relation to Islam as "non-negotiable." Like the separation of religion from politics, the importance of work, and Western notions of freedom of expression and gender equality.

"We're on the right track," Rasmussen said. "I see a very clear tendency that other European countries will go in our direction." … But in light of the Danish experience, countries considering a more politically incorrect stance on immigration may now think twice.

Bolkestein, who warned in the early '90s about Islam's challenge to the Dutch and Europe, is not optimistic. He believes Europe has only seen "the thin edge of the wedge" of pressure to come from rogue states and Islamic extremists.

"Next time," he said, "I fear it will be oil, or Israel, or nuclear weapons rather than cartoons."

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