Asscher’s Puppet Show 2017

Radical scary Muslims versus angry White Citizens

Translated by Marjolein van Pagee

My attention was drawn to a national event called ‘Stability in turbulent times’. Under the guise of a discussion with Lodewijk Asscher. Honestly, I’m not at all interested in a discussion with Asscher [then Minister of Social Affairs and Employment. member of the Dutch Labour Party PvdA.] I have nothing to tell him and neither does he. But okay, only because I don’t want to be accused of being a keyboard warrior, I decided to go anyway.

For that reason, I did not carefully read the announcement. I just went to The Hague without expectations. The event was held in a student hotel and the staff casually said, “Sorry, I don’t speak Dutch.” I said to myself, well, if you are blonde, you don’t have to.

Immediately a usual suspect approached me and asked my name and whether I had registered. I said “no” and then: “what are you going to do now? Throw me out?” He replied, “no no, I wouldn’t dare” But still he insisted [that I should have registered.]

In the end it was no problem at all, I registered anyway, received additional information, a name-tag and I was asked which workshop I wanted to attend. I was only allowed to choose one.

The subjects were: Refugees, the Angry [white] Citizen, Ethnic profiling, Muslim Radicalization, Muslim Radicalization, Muslim Radicalization, Media and radicalization. The last four were of course called differently but I am not naive. Read the description if you don’t believe me.

I chose to attend “the angry [white] citizen deconstructed”. How people think about Muslims I have heard a million times in the past twenty years, yet, I would like to know how white citizens are seen.

On the program I read that besides Asscher also Marco Pastors was taking part. I will never forget Marco Pastors. Actually, not so much Marco Pastors himself, but more specifically the Moroccan-born government official who saved him from my critical questions. In the past, during the Islam debates, Pastors was given the floor to express his disdain for Muslims, which remained unchallenged. He once started with the question: “why don’t Muslims voluntarily take off the headscarf to show goodwill?”

Before Pastors asked these kind of questions, Muslims were wondering why problems with integration only occurred after their sons and daughters entered university? Why nobody bothered about integration when we did unskilled work and did not speak Dutch? Now Marco Pastors poses the question: why don’t you take off your headscarf?

After the debate, I approached Pastors with the question: “what problems do you expect to solve with a headscarf ban? If no one is wearing a headscarf anymore what problem has been solved?” He started a lamentation that I repeatedly and consistently answered with the same question. “Will that be solved with a headscarf ban?” I went on with that until he said: “just stop talking about that headscarf!” Imagine if I said that to him…

Can you imagine it? Marco Pastors who asks me to stop talking about the headscarf!? At the time our conversation attracted many spectators. Mostly Moroccan youth. I was very happy with this because they could see that if you stay polite and be loyal to your principles, you can have a good discussion. This was 12 years ago, but nowadays I have comparable discussions with Muslim youth. They talk to me as if they are on a TV talk show and need all their ammunition to win the discussion. These are not discussions at all, this is slinging mud. They have realized that it is no longer about logic or understanding, but about who has the biggest mouth and the longest breath.

Guess who I just met and who greeted me cheerfully?! I reminded her immediately about our previous interaction.

I said, “I will never forget how you kept me away from Marco Pastors with the promise that I was going to be invited to participate in the debate. You gave me the impression that I was going to be part of a panel, however, instead of that I received a regular invitation that everyone else from Rotterdam received. I was allowed to sit in the audience and watch how loads of mud were thrown at Muslims. I realized that you did not do that for me but for him. So that he could escape a real debate.”

She replied that she had such a hard time as civil servant at the time and was not the one making decisions. As civil servant she only implements policies. I interrupted her explanation with, “I know everything about official obedience, that is why so many Jews were taken away in the Netherlands. By officials who just did their job because befehl ist befehl. (Order is order).”

She apologized and promised to contact me again. In the meantime, too little too late, Mrs. now works at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

I also noticed that the new generation of usual suspects also includes mosque boards. These usual suspects are on the speed dial of Dutch politicians and Dutch media. Usual suspects who think you should talk and connect with everyone but have little ol ‘me on their block list…

After lunch we entered the room and the party could start. So cringingly awkward how the topics were announced with childish singing and dancing. Punch and Judy for adults squandering public funds.

A room full of professionals whose profession it is to help citizens, wondering how to even reach the people. They want to but cannot. What a dilemma! You would almost feel sorry for them. Intermediaries, costing millions of euros, shamelessly displaying their redundancy without a hint of irony. How do we reach out to the angry white citizen?

One of the questions that Punch and Judy fired into the room was: “Diversity is nice, but there are people who have nothing to do with diversity, how do you reach them?” An answer from the audience was, (you can’t make this up): “we have to connect.

You have to understand that these people get paid to find the holy grail. Nobody knows what it is of where it is. It’s all about prolonging the quest. Finding real solutions for real problems would mean slaughtering the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Judy also wanted to hear some critical notes “because you can’t reach the angry white citizen with talking too vague.” Well I had a critical note and raised my hand. I said, “you bring people closer together by finding a common ground. The most important factor for stability is employment, education and good healthcare. These are things that both Henk and Ingrid [regular Dutch names] and Fatima and Ali [regular Moroccan names] find important.” Judy walked away from me as fast as she could.

They were praising the large turnout and that even people from the Schilderwijk attended. [Neighborhood in The Hague that is labeled as “Sharia Triangle”.] Yet we were in Schilderswijk The Hague, why is it so special and remarkable that people from the Schilderswijk are present too? Are we at war with the Schilderswijk? Is the Schilderswijk in Japan? Why did they use the word ‘even’?

Suzanne Hafidi referred to examples of polarization such as the Turks and Trump. I was struck by the collective memory loss. As if nothing was going on before there was a coup attempt in Turkey and Trump came in the picture. Why are we only allowed to pay attention to polarization when others can be blamed?

Subsequently the audience responded too and shocking images were shown, which made me realize that Turks and asylum seekers are the new scapegoats. Turks because they vote for Erdogan and/or the Dutch political party Denk and asylum seekers to spawn the angry white citizen with ‘understanding’.

Polarization could only be discussed as long as Wilders, Trump and the media are blamed.

Despite the fact that the information brochure was filled with the theme “radicalization”, it was hardly mentioned during the discussion. Fortunately, because otherwise, a lot of people attending would have to start looking for a real job.

Then a philosopher called Bart Brandsma started to put people in boxes. He put Wilders and Denk in the same box. While Muslims are [commonly] accused of importing conflicts [from the Middle East to the Netherlands], this gentleman based his expertise on Northern Ireland and Lebanon. Is the Schilderswijk perhaps in one of those countries? What do these countries have to do with the situation in the Netherlands? Brandsma used the incident in Cologne , Wilders and Trump as examples of polarization, which the media accelerated.

In my view Brandsma’s story was very one-sided for someone who claims to combat polarization. During the session about the angry citizen I was initially happy to see so many Moroccans present. Until I saw my suspicion confirmed that this session was about white anger only. When the audience was asked whether they ever had to deal with “the angry citizen” in their work, I introduced myself as an angry citizen. Not only because as a Muslim it is my right to receive understanding for my anger, but also because I find it patronizing to talk about people instead of talking with people.

Then, a long and nuanced monologue was held about “the angry citizen.” In case of the angry white citizen, we were told not to generalize, we should not lump everything together. Not everyone who sets an asylum seekers center on fire, is a neo-Nazi. And not everyone who hurls misogynistic threats hates women. No, instead [we were told] to listen to white people and understand their anger. The government is responsible when angry citizens attack an information meeting and threaten politicians.

Yet, as an angry citizen I did get the chance to tell why I am angry. I knew I did not have much time so I decided to focus and criticize Bart Brandsma’s argument, I said: “It is not Wilders who designed the policy that spends 129 million euros on [preventing] radicalization, whereas nothing is done to prevent the rise of extreme right-groups. Wilders is not responsible for the agreement with Turkey. So, at the same time when people are protesting against Trump’s Muslim-ban, refugees drown in the Mediterranean Sea or freeze to death in Greece. I don’t want refugees to come to the Netherlands either. I want us to stop bombing countries so that people can stay safe in their own country!”

I also said that the people causing problems in Cologne were not refugees, they were illegal North African immigrants who had been terrorizing the area for some time. I continued by asking why people only make a fuss when the perpetrators are of North African descent? Why not focusing on violence against women in general? Worse things happen during the Oktoberfest , but then nobody cares. If we were really so concerned about women’s safety, we would see that reflected in the number of arrests and prosecutions of women abusers and rapists.

I found it ironic that it were mainly white women who liked my story, one female police officer even gave me a hug. The Moroccans in the room completely ignored me. I suddenly felt like a pariah, they avoided eye contact, okay fine. I didn’t go to make friends. I was there to express my opinion.

During the debate between Lodewijk Asscher, Dionne Abdoelhafiezkhan , Sinan Cancaya and Marco Pastors, I started a conversation with my neighbor a typical muslim hipster, beard in suit. The debate really did not go anywhere in the sense that Abdulhafiezkhan and Cancaya almost did not speak. Pastors took all the space for his usual disdain and populism, while Lodewijk Asscher was given the floor for his well-intended denigrating patronage. The same man who usually doesn’t do anything to hide his hate for Muslim youths, now, in a fatherly way, leaned in towards Dionne to explain to her that she needs to listen to the concerns of [angry white] citizens who attack asylum seekers’ centers and threaten women with rape. It was really awkward to look at Dionne’s eyes full of disbelief and the repressed anger of Sinan Cancaya who could do nothing else than accept Pastors whitesplaining him. As a Turk you can have so many titles attached to your name, you could have done so much scientific research and still it does not outweigh the personal opinion of the white man. He will come and tell you how things work.

Unfortunately, my neighbor did not make me happier either. My neighbor is one of the countless radicalization experts. He works on the prevention of radicalization through homework and internship supervision. This is the travesty of the radicalization industry.

Many budget cuts on several social and cultural facilities, yet, so much money for radicalization-prevention. So, what had been a way to help young people with homework and internship in order to increase their chances on the labor market and help them to become self-reliant and independent, now became a way to prevent them from traveling to Syria. So, we do not fight discrimination, exclusion and youth unemployment, instead we prevent radicalization.

Therefore, our aim is no longer to become full participants of society, but, oh God, please let’s just prevent them from blowing themselves up. That is 20 years of integration debate. The youth has already been given up and the only option left is damage control.

It is almost like if we are in a state of war in which we can only operate in emergency and crisis mode, instead of thinking about where we want to go with this country. A political climate that is based on polarization while implementing a crisis policy that does not want to make itself redundant. Crisis as policy, a self-licking ice-cream cone.

A room full of intermediaries who would all switch themselves off if their goal was achieved: stability. We hop from crisis to crisis and take our safety and prosperity for granted. Instead of focusing on employment, sustainability, housing, education and healthcare, politicians are using the media to scare us into a crisis and by the time we realize this, nothing remains of our democracy and the rule of law. And both Henk, Ingrid, Fatima and Ali are left empty-handed.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Afterwards, I saw the same Moroccans who refused to look at me, like teenage girls, tumbling over each other to take a selfie with Marco Pastors.


A Group of Vultures Waiting for the Storm to "Blow Over"–"Let Us Prey"
Thomas Nast

A Group of Vultures Waiting for the Storm to “Blow Over”–”Let Us Prey”

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