Dutch Girls in Syria?

“Dutch Muslim girls – as young as 18 years old – are taking part in the armed battle against the Assad regime,” reported Dutch news today. Organizations around the world which are trying to keep people aware of the crisis in Syria are facing a difficult task. The conflict is increasingly ‘old news’ about another spun out of control situation. Amidst fears surrounding the South Korean Nuclear threat and continuous cutbacks, scandals and negotiations in the European economic field, 100-250 deaths per day in Syria does not engage the same urgent attention as months earlier. What is more, with the slight fade away of extreme-rightist Geert Wilders to the background in the Netherlands (and his programmatic switch to blaming the European Union instead of the Islam), the issue of Muslim exclusionism in the Netherlands is also not creating daily (or even weekly) headlines. When a news piece as the one quoted above pops up in the morning updates, it reminds me that two highly salient issues remain prevalent, and as all contemporary problems in the current global climate, very interconnected.

The Netherlands has long enjoyed a reputation as the epitome of tolerance. Nevertheless, due to its variegated and piecemeal historical formation, the Netherlands has also been a culturally divided society. the Netherlands is a country of political minorities. The deep cleavages were founded on communities of Catholics, Protestants, Liberals and Socialists. From the introduction of universal suffrage in 1917 up until the mid-1960s citizens voted along lines of religion and social class. Recently the traditional divides caused by pillarization – the vertical segregation of a society into several “pillars” according to different religions or ideologies – have made way for a new divide; the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims. Moreover, this divide attained central political representation after the parliamentary election of 2010 through the Party for Freedom (PVV) of Geert Wilders.

The Dutch government is in contact with its Muslim citizens through two organizations; the ‘Muslim Council for Relations with the Government’ (CMO) and the ‘Contact Group of Islam’ (CGI). The minister of immigration meets regularly with these groups in order to discuss the integration of Muslims in the Netherlands. The concern exists that the Dutch integration measures foster the impression that immigration is essentially negative and that integration is a one-way instead of a two-way process. Employment in the Netherlands is guided by the Equal Treatment Commission’s advisory report, which describes how employers may not make employee selections based on religion or the wearing of religious symbols. However, they may lay down their own rules on the execution of their employees’ religion during work time. In a survey conducted in 2011 in the Netherlands, 71% of people from an ethnic minority reported receiving rejections to job opportunities. Over a quarter of the respondents believed the rejection was due to discrimination. What is more, whereas a Swedish court ruled that an individual’s beliefs reducing his/her employment opportunities was discrimination on grounds of religion, the Dutch court ruled that it is legitimate.

The article discusses young women raised in the Netherlands, who apparantly have not felt liberated by figures as Ayaan Hirshi Ali or integrated into young, dynamic cities as The Hague and Amsterdam. Instead they have chosen to venture to a conflict zone to pursue the armed ambition of freeing an Arab state.

http://www.rtl.nl/components/actueel/rtlnieuws/2013/04_april/12/binnenland/Ook_jihadmeisjes_naar_Syrie.xml

( and in a similar vein http://www.telegraaf.nl/buitenland/21463814/___Al_12_Belgen_dood_in_Syrie___.html)

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