Posted on December 24, 2008

Labour: Tolerance Has Hampered Integration

NIS News Service, Dec. 24, 2008

Labour (PvdA) appears to want to take a different direction regarding the integration of immigrants. In a new memorandum on the subject, the party urges confronting intolerance. “The mistake that we should never again make is swallowing criticism of cultures or religions because of tolerance.”

The memorandum was drawn up by PvdA chairwoman Lilianne Ploumen, indicating it is a document from the entire party leadership including PvdA leader Wouter Bos. The memorandum, entitled “Divided past, shared future,’ will be presented to the PvdA members at a congress next March and then, if adopted, become the new PvdA policy.

According to the party chairwoman, the government should no longer try to encourage integration by information campaigns. The government should only provide the conditions in which integration can take place by itself. On the one hand, the law must be maintained and on the other, opportunities must be offered to everyone via education, youth guidance and activating labour market policy.

Toleration has not done integration of migrants in the Netherlands any good, the memorandum concludes. The PvdA considers that in future, newcomers must opt for the Dutch society. “We all speak Dutch, know the basic forms of behaviour and the democratic constitutional state.”

Nonetheless, the PvdA wants to continue to tolerate headscarves in classrooms and mosques with an Arabic architecture. It will become somewhat stricter on wearing of burqas or refusing to shake hands with someone of the opposite sex; immigrants that do that should be told that it is abnormal in the Netherlands. Finally, there is a third category, setting explicit boundaries, under which the PvdA is thinking of female circumcision and violence to save damaged family honour.

Ploumen terms this three-prong policy norm-setting, confrontation or tolerance. In the past years, tolerance has been over-emphasised, including tolerance of behaviour that was actually not acceptable, the chairman says. In the memorandum, she also calls on Muslims not to take on a victim’s role any more.

Ploumen gave an interview yesterday in De Volkskrant, traditionally a PvdA-minded medium. According to the paper, the PvdA sets out “a friendly but strong vision.” “An iron fist in a velvet glove, beyond tolerance and cultural relativism.”

“The mistake we must never again make,” says Ploumen in the interview, “is choking back criticism of cultures or religions for the sake of tolerance.” For a long time, it was thought that “it would all eventually turn out well by itself.” In practice, that meant looking away from problems. “Feelings of loss and worry were suppressed. And (..) these feelings were not recognised by government and politicians.”

The theme has been dividing the PvdA, Ploumen acknowledges. “Earlier reports identified the problems, but offered no solutions. There was no party view to guide local politicians. This there now is. ( . . . ) I assume that this resolution will get through at the congress in March.”

To De Volkskrant’s question about whether the problems caused by children of Turkish or Moroccan parents are not actually already empathised too much, Ploumen answered: “No. It is sometimes painful, but it is necessary. We do have to make progress now. After the confrontation, the ultimate goal is acceptance. That everyone can respect one another.”

Among migrants, 80 percent have dual nationality. Ploumen says the “grip of countries of origin” on immigrants “must disappear.” She considers that “to become Dutch, you must in principle give up your old nationality.” But at the same time “loyalty (to the Netherlands) for me has nothing to do with nationality.”