Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The End of Dutch Relativism?

Just how far can cultural relativism go? The Dutch have been famous for their tolerance and acceptance of diparate populations in the Netherlands, but after a series of infamous killings, fissures have emerged in Dutch popular opinion. The Pacific News Service has an article on one recent development that those interested in contemporary "culture wars" should put in the files.

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands--After a 19-year-old man of Moroccan descent was run down and killed in January by a Dutch woman driver trying to recover her stolen purse, mourners blamed Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk for the death.

Gathered at a makeshift memorial here earlier this winter, the mourners said Verdonk's tough immigration reforms have increased Dutch xenophobia against Muslims, spurring the woman's violent reaction against the alleged thief.

Yet some voices here say that it is, ironically, the famous Dutch tolerance -- euthanasia, gay marriage and soft-drug use are allowed here -- that may have laid the foundation for current ethnic tensions.

"The problem is we have been tolerant of the intolerant, and now we are paying the bill," says Bart Jan Spruyt, director of the conservative Edmund Burke Foundation in The Hague.

In a nation of 16 million, 1 million residents are Muslim. But according to Spruyt, cultural relativism has reigned so long that there has been little, if any, push to integrate immigrants from Morocco and Turkey into Dutch society.

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