…something fairly remarkable is happeningin the Netherlands, writes John Vinocur.
Two weeks ago, the country's biggest left-wing political grouping, the Labor Party, which has responsibility for integration as a member of the coalition government led by the Christian Democrats, issued a position paper calling for the end of the failed model of Dutch "tolerance."
…If judged on the standard scale of caution in dealing with cultural clashes and Muslims' obligations to their new homes in Europe, the language of the Dutch position paper and Lilianne Ploumen, Labor's chairperson, was exceptional.
The paper said: "The mistake we can never repeat is stifling criticism of cultures and religions for reasons of tolerance."
Government and politicians had too long failed to acknowledge the feelings of "loss and estrangement" felt by Dutch society facing parallel communities that disregard its language, laws and customs.
Newcomers, according to Ploumen, must avoid "self-designated victimization." …
Instead of reflexively offering tolerance with the expectation that things would work out in the long run, she said, the government strategy should be "bringing our values into confrontation with people who think otherwise."…
"Without a strategy to deal with these issues, all discussion about creating opportunities and acceptance of diversity will be blocked by suspicion and negative experience."
And that comes from the heart of the traditional, democratic European left, where placing the onus of compatibility on immigrants never found such comfort before.
It's a point of view that makes reference to work and education as essential, but without the emphasis that they are the single path to integration.
Rather, Labor's line seems to stand on its head the old equation of jobs-plus-education equals integration. Conforming to Dutch society's social standards now comes first. Strikingly, it turns its back on cultural relativism and uses the word emancipation in discussing the process of outsiders' becoming Dutch. …
Indeed, Ploumen says, "Integration calls on the greatest effort from the new Dutch. Let go of where you come from; choose the Netherlands unconditionally." Immigrants must "take responsibility for this country" and cherish and protect its Dutch essence.
Not clear enough? Ploumen insists, "The success of the integration process is hindered by the disproportionate number of non-natives involved in criminality and trouble-making, by men who refuse to shake hands with women, by burqas and separate courses for women on citizenship.
"We have to stop the existence of parallel societies within our society."
And the obligations of the native Dutch? Ploumen's answer is, "People who have their roots here have to offer space to traditions, religions and cultures which are new to Dutch society" - but without fear of expressing criticism. "Hurting feelings is allowed, and criticism of religion, too."
…[One uncynical] explanation (that comes, remarkably, from Frits Bolkestein, the former Liberal Party leader, European commissioner, and no friend of the socialists, who began writing in 1991 about the enormous challenge posed to Europe by Muslim immigration):
"The multi-cultis just aren't making the running anymore. It's a brave step towards a new normalcy in this country. "