Thursday, May 18, 2006

Eurovision 2006

Once again, it's that time of the year to sing!

The annual Eurovision Song Contest is an opportunity for some 37 countries in Europe (including strangely enough Israel) to compete for the best sing/dance act. It's always fun to watch, and today was the semi-finals. Voting is carried out by the audience all over Europe (and Israel), who get to phone in on Saturday to vote for their favourite act.

The Dutch entry by Treble didn't manage to get in. I didn't watch the whole thing, only the end...but I wonder: was Treble really that bad, or was this a 'political' decision (with the background of the Ayaan Hirsi Ali debacle)? Maybe it's too much speculation, but in 2002 when the UK invaded Iraq it got a humiliating 0 points for its entry.

Stay tuned Saturday!

UPDATE 19 May 2006

OK, I now understand why the Dutch didn't get into the contest.
This was the entry:

Written and composed by Treble

Amambanda amambanda
Amambanda gwena mambanda
Amambanda amambanda
Gwena mamba gwena mamba

Con galapa con galapei
Con galapa con galapei
Con galapa con galapei elele
Con galapa con galapei

Con bitele con bite le leina
Con bitele con bite le leina

There is a way
To understand without a language
Don’t be afraid
There are words to find in the place you hide
Speak your mind
And explain yourself today

Amambanda amambanda
Amambanda gwena mambanda
Amambanda amambanda
Gwena mamba gwena mamba

Con galapa con galapei elele
Con galapa con galapei

Con bitele con bite le leina
Con bitele con bite le leina

You’re here to stay
So move your body everybody
There’s no shame
There are words to find in the place you hide
Know the way
And trust yourself today

Amambanda amambanda
Amambanda gwena mambanda
Amambanda amambanda
Gwena mamba gwena mamba
Amambanda amambanda
Amambanda gwena mambanda
Amambanda amambanda
Gwena mamba gwena mamba

Con goelapoe lei toendaja
Con goelapoe lei toendaja
Maja gwena maja gwena
Maja gwena maja gwena
Lama con goelapoe lei toendaja
Con goelapoe lei toendaja
Lama coe toele toendei
Lama coe toele toendei
Maja gwena maja gwena
Maja gwena maja gwena

Con galapa con galapei
Con galapa con galapei
Con galapa con galapei elele
Con galapa con galapei

Amambanda amambanda
Amambanda gwena mambanda
Amambanda amambanda
Gwena mamba gwena mamba
Amambanda amambanda
Amambanda gwena mambanda
Amambanda amambanda
Gwena mamba gwena mamba
Amambanda amambanda
Amambanda gwena mambanda
Amambanda amambanda
Gwena mamba gwena mamba
I was a little shocked when I read the lyrics...
What kind of gibberish are they singing in?
What does it all mean?

According to the trio Treble, amambanda is supposed to mean
'stop thinking, and feel happy' in Treble-language. Well they certainly didn't think much when they wrote the text.

And why Treble language? Because it's supposed to have "universal appeal".

What rubbish! Though you can't blame them for trying...

The Da Vinci Code

Is the film blasphemous? 50million (and more!) readers of the book worldwide probably don't think so.

Of course it's a sensitive issue and one that is critical of the whole institution that the Catholic Church is founded on. But it's just a fictional story decorated with historical fact. That does not make it "The Truth", but is merely an intepretation of it.

Remember, just before the Passion of the Christ was released there was just as much criticism and commotion.

Stop wasting Euros!

Like I mentioned before, the Europarliament is not situated in just one, but three places (Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg). Every once in a while Europarliamentarians must travel between these cities....while some don't even bother to turn up. That costs money and time, whereas they could just as easily do everything in one place. This is unacceptable for an institution that is supposed to represent the interest of over 300million Europeans! It's useless bureucratic waste.

Here are some facts about the Europarliament (from

Facts and figures:
  • The European Parliament is the only assembly in the world not having a sole seat. The European Parliament now spreads over nine main buildings in three cities in three founder member states of the former European Community: Luxembourg, France and Belgium.
  • All 732 MEPs have offices in Strasbourg and Brussels. Secretariat staff has offices in Luxembourg or Brussels and shares a smaller number of offices in Strasbourg.
  • At the moment, Luxembourg holds 20% of the total surface area of European Parliament buildings and 2000 offices. Brussels holds 50% total surface area of European Parliament buildings and 3000 offices, whilst Strasbourg holds 30% total surface area of European Parliament buildings and 2200 offices.
  • The cost of geographical dispersion is estimated to be 15% of EPs budget (but only 0,13% of the total EU budget). The main part of this sum is the costs of having 12 plenary sessions for 60 days a year in Strasbourg: 13% total budget of the EP.
  • A study by Prof S. Hix (London School of Economics shows that: one quarter of MEPs regularly fail to turn up for votes throughout the entire week-long plenary session.
  • The worst attendees are the Italian, Portuguese, and Irish MEPs. The most regular attendees are the Dutch, Greek and French MEPs. (EV 6-12 April 2000)
  • The new building has cost 457 million Euro.
  • Before Enlargement, 3000 people traveled to Brussels to Strasbourg from Brussels (a distance of 300 miles) for a week every month- with 10 new member states and over 100 new MEPs, this number has increased dramatically. We are waiting on response from the Commission on questions detailing the exact number and cost.
  • Before enlargement, the work time loss over these travels is estimated to be over 1 million Euro. On the contrary, when meetings are held in Brussels, only 170 people travel in from Luxembourg.
  • 60 days costs of gas, water and electricity (GWE) for the building in Strasbourg is only 70% for the yearly costs for GWE of the Brussels building.
  • The lack of a single seat costs over €200 million a year. If the EP did its work in only one place- it would save the €200 million.

Please sign the peitition here to keep the Parliament in ONE place! And help Eurotaxpayers save €200million per year that could be better spent elsewhere!

A total of 1million signatures from citizens of the EU is needed to initiate the so-called "participative democracy" process, whereby individuals can propose changes in EU legislation and affairs. So far there's less than 50000 signatures.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Far right

I can't believe there are still people who think that the white race is supreme, that the Holocaust never happened, or that politics is dominated by Zionists. But believe it, there are such people.

After the gruelsome murders by an extreme right teen in Antwerp last week, there was a focus in NOVA tonight on the issue of extremists in the Netherlands. Two teens were interviewed, and the kind of nonsense and twisted views were terrifying to say the least. One declared himself to be a National Socialist (ie. a Nazi), with such pride too.

As usual, the same mumble jumble: foreigners out, marry your own race, all coloured people are backward and undeveloped... They lack such depth and ability to look beyond their little ideas and bigotry, and instead simply repeat all the usual stereotypes and biases. Have they ever come into contact with a 'foreigner' or person with a different skin colour? Have they even tried to talk to them, to get along, to understand 'them', before they start shouting abuse and discriminating? Do they know or understand the meaning of dialogue? Of acceptance? Of respect?

It's too easy to dismiss these people as lunatics who have little strength, but the Internet, with all its easy and ability to network people internationally, is transforming the voice of these extremists. How do you track them down? How do you censor their remarks and views? Where do you draw the line between freedom of speech and public interest? Who decides what is 'extremist' and what should be the tone of debate?

The world is so small already, crowded with so many people and cultures. And some make it their goal to make it even smaller.


Satirical cartoons on the Ayaan Hirsi Ali issue

Here! I'm afraid you'll need to understand Dutch and a bit of local politics to find them funny.

Was Minister Verdonk lying?

Leon de Winter, columnist and friend of Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggests yes. Verdonk, according to him, lied about the fact that she never knew AHA's personal details were false. And worse, she did so in Parliament too.

He realls an incident surrounding a girl name Pasic, who sought asylum in the Netherlands and had similarly lied about her status. AHA pleaded to Verdonk in a phone conversation to grant the girl asylum license, but Verdonk stood her ground (like she is doing now): rules are rules.

AHA then went on to say: "But Rita, I lied myself as well!"
Accodring to AHA, Verdonk's reaction was that if she were there at the time, Verdonk would also have kicked AhA out of the country.

Further, according to Leon, it may appear that Verdonk may have also lied about consulting the Cabinet members before sending out her decision to invalidate AHA's citizenship. He argues "[Verdonk] may have informed, but she has not consulted anyone in the cabinet about this utmost sensitive issue."

According to an interview by Netwerk with another columnist Ebru Umar, there is more evidence that Minister Verdonk is lying. Ebru Umar wrote an open letter to AHA last year in which she attacked AHA for her criticalllllllllviews. Part of the letter also mentions that Ayaan Hirsi Ali's real name is Magan. Last month, Verdonk invited Umar for a private meeting, and Umar claims the meeting was about nothing else other than the contents of the open letter she wrote. So Verdonk MUST HAVE KNOWN AHA's real name!


UPDATE 21 May 2006

At a VVD-party congress, in which the candidates for party-leader debatted and presented themselves as the '(wo)man' for the job , Verdonk seemed to have softened her tone considerably. At the beginning of the debate Verdonk declared that Hirsi Ali will get her passport-- a radical departure from her previous statements in parliament and during her campaigning that 'rules are rules'.

Perhaps at the meeting of the council of ministers (Ministerraad) on Friday (which is a weekly closed-door meeting of all the cabinet members), Verdonk received more pressure from the Prime Minister Balkenende to carefully reconsider the whole Hirsi Ali affair. The fiasco last week caused considerable damage to the Netherlands' image abroad, and PM Balkenended has on numerous occassions expressed his displeasure about the schism caused by a determined Verdonk and an almost unaminous parliament that believes the case of Hirsi Ali was too hastily dealt with.

quote of the day

“The Netherlands has made me what I am today.”

(Ayaan Hirsi Ali)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

reaction from the American Enterprise Institute

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's future employer has publicly confirmed her employment, and also expressed anger at the happenings in the Netherlands.

The president of the Institute wrote:

We appreciate that your views have been controversial and are likely to remain so; we believe that controversies such as these, when conducted in a spirit of civility and reasoned inquiry, are essential to intellectual progress, and are to be welcomed rather than feared.

In your application and in our recent conversations, you envisioned joining AEI in the autumn. I understand that subsequent political developments in Holland may lead you to wish to accelerate the date of your appointment. If that is the case, I will be happy to work with you to arrange a starting date that accommodates your new circumstances. Let me add that I have been deeply angered by the unfair and partisan attacks that have been leveled against you and have admired your courage and forthrightness in the face of this hounding.

"unfair and partisan attacks", "houndings"... what strong language!
Is he correct in saying that debate and being controversial is something to be feared in the Netherlands?

UPDATE 18 May 2006

US Undersecretary of State Robert Zoellick just said today in Den Haag that "[AhA] is a courageous and impressive woman, an important person from whom we can still learn from in the United States". So she is more than welcome.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali case, legal arguements

In the parliamentarian debate last night, the legal question surrounding the Ayaan Hirsi Ali case focused a lot on Article 14 of the Rijkswet op het Nederlanderschap (Law on Netherlander):

Hoofdstuk 5. Verlies van het Nederlanderschap
(Losing Nethelander-citizenship)
Art 14

(1) Onze Minister kan de verkrijging of verlening van het Nederlanderschap intrekken, indien zij berust op een door de betrokken persoon gegeven valse verklaring of bedrog, dan wel op het verzwijgen van enig voor de verkrijging of verlening relevant feit

[Our Minister (or Integration and Immigration) can revoke the receipt or allocation of Netherlander-citizenship, if she can base it on a false declaration or deceit by the person concerned, as well as the concealment of any facts that are relevant to the receipt or allocation.]
The key word here (bold) is "can". Many parliamentarians have raised the issue that the Minister also has the discretionary power take into account all the circumstances around the naturalisation process. Like I mentioned before, humanitarian considerations, or the undeniable fact that she has sat in Parliament for over three years should be reason enough to validate her status as Netherlander.

However, sub-article 4 may be of relevance too:

(4) Met uitzondering van het geval, bedoeld in het eerste lid, heeft geen verlies van het Nederlanderschap plaats indien staatloosheid daarvan het gevolg zou zijn.

[With the exception of the situation, as stated in the first sub-article, that the loss of Netherlander-citizenship if becoming stateless would be a result thereof.]
Does AHA become stateless when she loses Netherlandership? A group of jurists have argued that if AHA's citizenship status is revoked, then she is still entitled to reside in the Netherlands. She would then fall back to her original status as asylum seeker when she first entered the country, and could potentially reapply for naturalisation.

The US has in the meantime said that AHA losing her citizenship would not hinder her entrance into the country.

Live Debate in Lower Chamber (Tweede Kamer) 16 May 2006
  • Another issue that parliamentarians bombarded the Minister for Intergration and Immigration was whether she knew that AHA's real name was actually different. Faction-leader of GroenLinks Halsema made the point clear that AHA's email in parliament contains her real name Magan, and that this is the email she corresponds with everyone. A surprised looking Minister Verdonk said she never knew this and claimed that she never contacted AHA by email. Being pressed further on the issue, Minister Verdonk threw tantrum:

    "Do you think that I am not affected by this, that I don't have any feelings about this, but I am also a minister. Why would I only start an investigation Friday morning if I knew long ago that Hirsi Ali is actually called Magan?"
  • The question remained unanswered: Is AHA Dutch or not?
Minister Verdonk said time and again that the letter she sent to AHA on Monday 15 May was merely a statement (constatering) of fact, not a decision, on whether AHA is Dutch or not. THis statement is based on legal rules that could not be applied any other way, she admanantly argued. And on strict interpretation and application of the rules, in according with precedence, AHA did not receive Dutch citizenship. Asked whether AHA is Dutch or not,Minister VErdonk skirted around the question, and only said that AHA has six weeks to respond to the 'statement'. Implicitly she seemed to say that AHA is not Dutch (thus by implication her 'statement' is actually a 'decision'), because Minister Verdonk said AHA does still have the status of refugee. With that status AHA can re-apply for citizenship, with her real name and personal details.

Case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, continued

What a turn of events!

Just watched an emotional press conference delivered by Ayaan Hirsi Ali(AHA). She has decided to step down as parliamentarian, and has also given more details to her decision to leave the Netherlands. She also reacted with great disbelief to the “dis-proportionate” decision that was made last night that her Dutch citizenship will be revoked. She spoke, at moments looking as if she was holding back tears, but her voice stayed strong and committed. There was loud applause after she finished. My favourite, and a powerful statement (which is not in the script):

I am leaving, but the questions remain. The questions about the future of Islam in our country, about the oppression of women in the Islamic culture and about integration of the many Muslims in the West. It is self-delusion to think that that everything will be the same as before. Because the world changed after 9/11 .

Her speech can be found here in English. Dutch version here.

About lying to obtain asylum status: she argues that it was out of desperation, and that she was forced to do it under the circumstances. Asylum seekers often do fabricate stories to back up their claim, in order not to be sent back. Whether that is moral or responsible has to be judged against the desperation and situation. And besides, she has, publicly in the national and international press in many occasions admitted that she had not told the whole truth. Why persecute her now for something that she admitted several years ago?

(Picture: NOS live)

About the real circumstances surrounding her asylum: contrary to what the Zembla extravaganza tried to make the audience believe, AHA claims that she was indeed married off by her father, who “is not a man who takes no for an answer”, and that there is “nothing more and nothing less”. I mean let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Would you like to be in such a situation? Would you not try to escape if you had the opportunity, rather than be forced into a lifetime of unhappiness and restraint?

Further, there’s the issue that she was recently forced in a court decision to move out of her house in Den Haag. Her neighbours had complained that the security measures were being a burden, so filed a lawsuit, which the court decided against her favour. Like she said, wherever she goes now and even if she wins an appeal that the Minister of Justice Donner is filing on her behalf, she’ll probably have to move again. It has just become too unsafe for her (and others who are vocal and unafraid of raising debate) to stay…anywhere. If trying to raise debate and issues that have for a long time been swept under the carpet of multiculturalism and ‘let-them-be-ism’ (a phenomenon that just doesn’t happen here in the Netheralnds, but also elsewhere in Europe and the ‘west’ in general) is considered provocative and dangerous, then debate is dead, and so are the values democracy. Before you know it outbreaks of violence and lawlessness in the banlieus of France last year will spread.

About the citizenship issue. Let’s review of the twist in the events:

  • One day later, on Friday 12 May 2006, Verdonk changes her position 180 degrees and says that there should be an investigation. This, btw, is from a minister who is also running for leadership of the self-proclaimed ‘liberal’ VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) which takes a hard stance towards immigration.
  • Monday 15 May 2006, effectively less than 48hrs after the investigation into AHA’s citizenship status, Minister Verdonk decides that she does not have Dutch nationality. Now that's quick! What happened to a proper investigation, taking all the facts into account? What happened to respecting personal privacy?

AHA is of course preparing to challenge the decision. And a number of legal experts and supporters of AHA are also preparing to take legal action against the Minister, who already knew at the time that the naturalisation process was underway that AHA had not revealed the truth about her identity.

In the press conference today, Gerrit Zalm (Minister of Finance and Vice-Prime Minister), in his personal capacity, said he was astounded by the speed at which the decision was made. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) is infamous for its backlog of pending decisions. (Once a friend of mine waited over 6months to get his residence permit. By the time he got it his 1yr employment here was almost over). But the case surrounding AHA was decided within a matter of less than 48hrs. Are we seeing a new IND, that is efficient and fast? Zalm even joked that if this is the new IND, then perhaps the renewed application will be handled as speedily as before. He did make another point: how come for three years nobody made an issue out of the fact that AHA had lied about her identity, and all of a sudden because of some journalistic hype it has all become ‘news’? It’s not ‘news’, it’s media frenzy blown out of proportion about things that for many years were already known in public!

To me the whole affair just stinks of hypocrisy. We're talking about a parliamentarian who was voted into office, who has lived in the Netherlands for more than 15 years, who has contributed much to public debate and society. She has gone through so much, sacrificed much of her freedom and lived in fear and hiding for standing up for her views.

Stripping her of her Dutch citizenship is like admitting that parliament and all those ministers were so blind all these years. A requirement to be a member of parliament is Dutch citizenship (Art 4 of the Constitution). But now the Minister has decided that AHA can be considered never to have received that citizenship. So is she saying that for all those years we had a sham-politician in parliament? A ghost politician who gained 30000 votes! To do something like this does not reflect well on the decision makers then and now. Why not grant her naturalisation (again) solely based on her contribution alone, and forget about the past (a past that she has n.b. admitted several times as wrong )? At least do it out of a sense of humanity.

There are of course strong arugments that all should be treated before the law...but the law also describes that different situations and circumstances be taken into account when decision are made. Law cannot just be blindly applied as if it's one-size-fits-all. AHA is a different case, a different person. What happened to the humanitarian consideration? This coming from a country which prides itself as tolerant and liberal, welcoming of immigrants and asylum seekers really hurts.

I leave you with what her thoughts on leaving… or as I see it being forced to leave.

I am therefore preparing to leave Holland. But the questions for our society remain. The future of Islam in our country; the subjugation of women in Islamic culture; the integration of the many Muslims in the West: it is self-deceit to imagine that these issues will disappear.

I will continue to ask uncomfortable questions, despite the obvious resistance that they elicit. I feel that I should help other people to live in freedom, as many people have helped me. I personally have gone through a long and sometimes painful process of personal growth in this country. It began with learning to tell the truth to myself, and then the truth about myself: I strive now to also tell the truth about society as I see it.

That transition from becoming a member of a clan to becoming a citizen in an open society is what public service has come to mean for me. Only clear thinking and strong action can lead to real change, and free many people within our society from the mental cage of submission. The idea that I can contribute to their freedom, whether in the Netherlands or in another country, gives me deep satisfaction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as of today, I resign from Parliament. I regret that I will be leaving the Netherlands, the country which has given me so many opportunities and enriched my life, but I am glad that I will be able to continue my work. I will go on.

Now there’s a brave woman with a cause.


"Why this sudden impetus, you knew this for years. What drove you to act in such a harsh and such a reckless manner? It's not the battle for to be the leader (lijsttrekker) of the VVD, I hope?"
Minister Verdonk has made it clear that she would like to be the party leader of the VVD, and also the next prime minister. Her campaign is based on the slogan "daadkracht" (strength) and the promise to "shake the Netherlands up a bit"
She's really achieving her aim...
  • It appears that the IND already conducted an investigation into AHA's past, and nothing came of it in 2002. Which is more the reason to ask why now, why her?

  • Since she is now legally obliged to move house, you can support AHA here, by registering as her neighbour. It was set up by a residence in the Archipelbuurt of Den Haag where she lives.

  • Trouw published an article reviewing AHA's life and contributions, suggesting that perhaps the VVD is grown tired of her...or that she has outgrown the VVD:

“She made many enemies, within the [parliamentarian] faction and without. That had to do with jealousy; everywhere she went there were cameras. But it also had to do with her opinions on for example the ‘special education’ [bijzonder onderwijs], which she is again, because this makes it possible for the establishment of Islamic schools. And her opinions on honour crimes, shelters for victims of abuse, domestic violence, the separation of religion and state, and the closing of radical mosques”.

"She initiated and denounced, but as a debater came across as less vocal. [...] She let herself be known as an activistic politician, a kind that you would sooner see at the Socialist Party [Socialistische Partij] or the Green Left [GroenLinks], and rather than with the well-behaved VVD'ers. She was strongly internationally orientated, with which she also indicated that the Dutch parliament was a little bit too small for her."


“The VVD could not get along well with a person with the calibre of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her charisma and assertiveness are characteristics which liberals, certainly the backbenchers, were uncomfortable with. […] Under the leadership of the former faction-leader Van Aartsen, under the influence of Hirsi Ali, the party transformed from a classical liberal party into an emancipation movement. Now that Van Aartsen is gone and that Hirsi Ali is going overseas the party will undoubtedly, in one way or another, return to its roots.”


  • The Guardian has poignantly pointed out that perhaps AHA was used to a "useful political cover for the VVD party[...] to deny accusations of racism". If so, maybe they decided she had become more a liability than gain.
  • The Wall Street Journal writes that the country is suffering from "Dutch Disease"(don't have the original article, so this is just a reference):

"For centuries the Netherlands has been known as a safe haven for dissidents, today is the day when the Dutch dissident [AHA] who has to look for a safe haven" [translation mine]
  • German paper, Die Welt, writes about this "affair" (in inverted commas):
"This recent asylum does not put the 36 year old to shame, in its stead it is the Netherlands, which could not--or does not want to-- protect an independent voice" [translation mine]

UPDATE 17 May 2006

"You can not equate lying in an asylum request with fraud. It is completely different from lying in the tax[declaration] or something like that. You don't want to be found by people from your home country, that's what it's a about."
The professor also believes that the contributions of AHA to the country should qualify her for naturalisation immediately:
"Hirsi Ali is legally speaking stateless [due to the] letter of Verdonk, in which Verdonk states that Hirsi Ali never received Netherlander-citizenship. The loss of nationality is the loss of human rights, certainly in her case."

  • Minister Verdonk has on several occasions said that the Hirsi Ali affair has nothing to do with her intention to become faction-leader of the VVD. Before the whole issue broke loose, she was enjoying the so-called 'Rita-effect' and actually pulled support for the party based on her 'no-nonsense', 'direct-and-clear' (recht door zee) approach, despite the fact she doesn't really have a coherent political agenda or plans. The handling of the Hirsi Ali affair only showed how "stubborn' Verdonk is, and won her criticism from all factions of the parliament, as well as from the majority of members in her own VVD party.

"One might have imagined that the Netherlands, as a bastion of liberal values, would guarantee that right. Ms Hirsi Ali is a full citizen of the country and, until yesterday, was an elected member of the Dutch Parliament. She is entitled to expect the same kind of protection that Salman Rushdie once had in the years after the publication of Satanic Verses. Instead, she finds herself today abandoned by her political colleagues and forced into exile."

A good comparison. Last night in the programme NOVA, writer and friend of AHA Paul Scheffer argued that the 'poldermodel' of consensus making and maintaining that is dominant in Dutch politics and society has a centralising effect. It provides stability and certainty, but on the other hand also has a restraining effect, in which 'other' voices and perspectives are effectively silenced. So AHA's struggles and opinions, however true or current they are, cannot gain much momentum in the country, and as a result she is marginalised.

This is a sad day in the history of liberal democracy, a stain on the reputation of a once-tolerant country and a setback for the reputation of Islam itself, cementing the impression that is simply not open to criticism. In particular, it lets down Muslim women, who are still being subjected to forced marriages. The debate about its role in Western society is one of the most urgent and complex that confronts us today — only this week, the Government launched an attempt to find a frame of traditional British values that could encompass young Muslim opinion. At the very least, therefore, we should be free to hear all strands of opinion, however challenging they may be.

Of course The Times could not hold back the stiff-upper-lip attitude of how the British seems better than the rest.

Ms Hirsi Ali’s penetrating analysis of religion and society in Muslim countries should be answered, not ignored. This is not just a matter of a novel satirising the Prophet, or a few insulting cartoons; hers is a sustained and clear-sighted critique of Islam, from someone who has experienced its restrictions and believes that there is a reasonable case to be made against it. A country that turns its back on those views reveals itself, not only as illiberal, but one that has lost confidence in the resilience of its own democracy."

Has the Netherlands really lost its international standing and identity as the champion of liberal values and tolerance?

  • A Financial Times interview with AHA last year, with more on her life and opinions and how they became formed. This sentence by AHA probably ties in well with what is going on now, and her decision to leave

    “I feel more and more at home in New York. You see people of all colours. So many people of colour are successful there. You realise that it is nothing genetic.”

    ...“I feel safer outside Holland,” she says. “Different people, different languages. A false sense of security, I’m sure.”

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali not Dutch?!

It has been decided: Ayaan Hirsi Ali is to be considered not having ever received Dutch citizenship. This, according to the Minister Verdonk for Integration and Immigration, is in line with legal precedence. Shocked reaction from a number of close friends of Hirsi Ali, including EU Minister for Competition Kroes, who said she was ashamed of the Netherlands for forcing the parliamentarian to have to “flee” again.

A number of net-izens called this “legal murder” (legale moord), and puts it in line with the two murders of prominent Netherlanders who were ‘silenced’ for speaking out, beginning with Pim Fortuyn in 2002, and Theo van Gogh in 2004. .

Well, Ayaan Hirsi Ali wanted to leave before all this commotion broke out it seems. Sshe already decided to leave the Netherlands and take up a position at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington .The Institute is well-known for its neo-conservative tendencies and its close ties with people in the Bush administration.

Is the Netherlands too small for the maverick politician? Though the plans were already known before hand, with the recent uproar about her how she wrongly obtained Dutch citizenship it all seems too coincidental. Perhaps like she claims to be, she is: “an autonomous individual and a citizen of the world”.

Her departure is sure to please Muslims here in the Netherlands, who have been feeling insulted time and again by her comments.
According to a recent public opinion poll, around 66% of Netherlanders believe she should resign as parliamentarian, whereas 47% believe that her citizenship should be revoked.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What am I doing?

To be honest I'm not sure.

Another week has gone by and I'm not sure what I've actually done that's 'constructive'.
Did some reparation/paintjob outside almost everyday, but there doesn't seem to be an end to that. Did lots of reading, and writing too. Finally got the applications for study and internship(s) sorted as well. Also managed to start the long term residence application dad's been asking about.

And there's still this one big job to do. The interest rate mortgage on our house is too high, and my parents want me to go negotiate a better deal. As if I could just walk into the bank and demand terms. Had a look around online on the terms and conditions, and just realised how really greedy these money-grabbing banks are! They put everything in such beautiful language about how you can 'profit' by banking with them...but they just want to make money off of your money. To change the terms of a mortgage there's a hefty fine (thousands of Euros!). And it all has to be done in writing. Doesn't help when the persons who actually took out the mortgage are not here. Related to that are urgent replacements of our front windows, which are really starting to fall apart. To do that will cost lots of money, and that's something else I need to 'negotiate' with the bank too.

Results, do this, do that... that's what they want from me.

But seems like all those things I've done haven't given any visible results. Which may explain why I feel so useless when I look back at the past week. I feel like I'm lazy, useless and so demotivated. Other people are out there studying or working, while I'm at home, bumming, cleaning, doing these household tasks and dealing with the messy and mundane 'official' business of bills, bills and more bills!!! Why am I not out there trying to do something for myself? Why am I not out there contributing to society?

Feel like I'm some kind of leech living off of my parents' money and living in my parents' house.
A leech who likes to rant.

Weekly roundup: Week 19

On the Vatican and Beijing

Vatican’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China would immediately mean derecognition of Taiwan. Is the trade off worth it? While the former has 1.3billion people, the latter only has 23million. China has been adamant that it will not allow the papal state to dictate its handling to religious affairs. Let’s not forget the role Pope John Paul II played in toppling the former dictatorships of Eastern Europe. Perhaps the ties with the Vatican will draw attention to the prosecution and restrictions on religious freedom in the world’s most populous nation. The issue now seems to be more a question of when, not if.

On the role of the US in the Pacific

That the US’ presence in the North-East Pacific is important cannot be disputed. With a rising China, an ‘evil’ North Korea, signs of terrorism, piracy and an explosive Taiwan Strait, the threats to regional, and perhaps world peace, cannot be underestimated. It is a delicate balancing act of national and geo-strategic interests. A report from the world’s biggest naval battle group, the Seventh Fleet.

On the security situation in Iraq

The war was won, and now to win the peace. They say life was terrible under Saddam, but life has become a nightmarish struggle with death, as kidnapping is becoming big business.

The spirit of being Taiwanese

Taike” (literally ‘Taiwanese guest’) is a term that has come into fashion lately. Whereas before it was associated as being a condescending term, today, with the explosion and increasing popularity of local culture, it has become synomonous with being ‘in’.

Taiwan has never had a Cultural Revolution; it never needed one. Taiwanese know how to balance respect for the past with growth for the future. While Taiwanese respect their ancestors they know it does not mean to be slaves to them. Many say if you want to see Chinese culture at its best, come to Taiwan. Taiwanese embrace their roots and add to them the many other experiences of their past. They embrace and adapt.”

On Tibet

Articles on the situation in Tibet, one on the future of the country, one an eyewitness account of the conditions in a gulag, and another on the railway that is supposed to link it to the rest of the world.

On human trafficking in Europe

Excruciating tales.

To say or not to say

How sorry can you be for something in the past?


Sean Connery: The Ballet

On Bush and Blair

Leaving a legacy

Self interest first

The recent commotion about President Chen Shui-bian’s refusal to stop in the US on his way to Latin America may be telling about the realignment of US’ foreign policy strategy. And Taiwan, an international pariah floating heavily on the tacit support of the US, is not the only country that needs to worry. (or lack of it).

Around the world in a week

President Chen flew around the world, whereas his real destination was actually just across the Pacific. Desperate for diplomatic allies, trying to rebuff the US snub for denying him the proper reception, or just a skilled politician winning a small diplomatic victory?

  • “Somberheid is net als slecht weer” [Somberness is like bad weather]
    Simone de Schipper, Kennis pg 7, De Volkskrant, 13 May 2006

Traditional therapy taught people to change their thoughts. There is now a new study that proves that maybe accepting your thoughts may just do the trick even better. And the technique stems from the Buddhist training of MINDFULNESS—having your attention concentrated in the here and now without judgment. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT, or aandachtgerichte cognitieve therapie in Dutch) is becoming ‘in’, already in the US, and now in the Netherlands, according to Dr Willem Kuyken:

“ Mindfulness is an exercise to have the attention to be present in the here and now, and to be with everything that is happening in the here and now—the breath, physical sensations, feelings, thoughts and sounds. If the thoughts do wander—and they do that continuously—than you kindly bring them back to the breath or to where you focus the attention. Through this you try not the change or judge the experience, and you don’t even think of it as positive or negative, but you welcome it as it is.”

“Mindfulness training is not about what people think, but about the way they think…People learn: a thought is but a thought, not a fact.”

“Somber thoughts or feelings will still arise, but you learn to treat them like the weather: there is another black cloud, with depressing thoughts and despair. You can be in the middle of it and become desperate, but you can also take a step back and see it as a dark cloud, a bad moment or a bad day. Then you know: this will be over again…It takes the oxygen out of the fire.”


  • “Praten met Al Qa’ida en Hamas, er zit niks anders op’ [Talk with Al’Qaeda and Hamas, there is no other way]
    Wim Bossema, Het Betoog pg 5, De Volkskrant, 13 May 2006

    See also transcript of on 26 February 2006

The stereotypes of blood-thirty terrorists and wanton destruction based on hate are wrong, argues Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou of Harvard. Organisations like Hamas and Al Qaeda should instead be seen as an organisation with political goals, and many of those goals, but not necessary the means by which they achieve them, have broad sympathy amongst Muslims worldwide. Dialogue is necessary to address those grievances and to recognise that fighting fire with fire will not extinguish anything.

[I] think that we cannot invisiblise the situation of occupation and the fact that this is a liberation movement gone from armed struggle into the political realm, and this would merely fit into the historical pattern that we've seen with the Algerian FLN, the Irish IRA and beyond. It is the traditional pattern where these groups enter the political realm.


  • “De kritische mens zit ons in de weg” [The critical person is in our way]
    Jeroen Busscher, het Betoog pg 5, De Volkskrant, 13 May 2006

The Dutch have a way with creativity.

“Without creativity [there is no] innovation. We Netherlanders like to see ourselves as a creative people. Look to the arts: Rembrandt, van Gogh, Mondriaan, de Kooning.”

But Dutch culture has another element that seems to be hindering progress and creativity: the critical person, or the critical voice, which seems inherent in all endeavours and breakthroughs.

“We are still stricter to ourselves than we dare admit. That is not a positive characteristic, now that the world is undergoing so many changes. Just as the Calvinistic outlook on life which once brought us welfare and security, it has now become one of the characteristics which hinders us to hitch onto amazingly fast changes.”

So in this critical culture things that are simple are thought to be unworthy of attention; and things that are easy are not thought of as good enough.

Post-modernism taught us that there is not one reality, but that everything exists due to an infinite number of realities. There is always a reality to be found which you can be critical about […] Enthousiasm we associate with critic-less-ness. Criticism we associate with insight.

With increasing globalisation and ‘outsourcing’, the author argues, this inherently critical self will inhibit all things new and innovative, and thus break this generation from our history of having a creative national culture. Instead of trying to deconstruct new ideas and find faults, we should be bolder and “not be afraid to be stupid or to make a mistake” for a change. For “a good mistake seems all too often the start of innovation.”


  • “Verdeel en heers” [Divide and rule]
    Wilco Dekker en Ben van Raaij, het Vervolg pg 25, De Volkskrant, 13 May 2006

An alarming article about how ministerial posts are predominantly allocated to members of political parties only. And not just any member, but members that are most active… in ‘backroom’ dealings that is.

“[…] political scientists have for years warned about the existence of a ‘political caste’, ‘governing class’ and a ‘cartel democracy’. That closed ‘political-bureacratic complex’, separated from society, not only prepares policy, it also exercises and controls it as well, and thereby denigrating the democratically elected parliament to a rubber-stamping [function]. “The problems is”, says Rinus van Schendelen [political scientist], “that the political elite is not rooted in society, but does have its branches dangle all over society.”

The evidence for this is that only 23% of civil servants are not affiliated to any political party, compared to 98.5% of the eligible voters in the Netherlands. That means even though the Constitution (Article 3) guarantees that any one eligible to vote is also eligible to stand for office, the reality is that only a very marginal minority that are party members have the most likely chance to be given public office.

  • “Seks-voor-iets” [Sex-for-something]
    Rob Vreeken, het Vervolg pg 27, de Volkskrant, 13 May 2006

A few months ago there news broke out about young teenage girls exchanging their bodies for a ‘breezer’ (ride home). Apparently young girls are beginning to realise their ‘sexuality’ could be ‘sold’ in exchange for something, anything.

A recent report by the Royal Institute for the Tropics (Knonikrijk Instituut voor de Triopen) on such a phenomenon in Ghana revealed:

“[…] the materialistic foundation of their relationship with the boyfriends, the principle of sex-for-something. Sex for food, sex for clothing, sex for the hairdresser, sex for shoes. I needed something, so I got a boyfriend, they all said. What is striking is the naturalness with which the girls talk about it. Doesn’t love play a role? The question is answered with an almost empty look.

More striking that this is happening in a society that perhaps not even a decade ago chastity was perceived as a must for girls waiting to be married off. Maybe there is something ‘good’ about greater promiscuity, as the Dutch experience has shown. With greater openness and acceptance of sex as a natural activity there is also greater awareness of the risks and dangers of unprotected/unsafe sex. Certainly as the country with the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, the evidence seems clear.


  • “Stelling: Het is beter als Tony Blair opstapt” [Statement: It is better if Tony Blair resigns] Oscar van den Boogaard, Forum pg17, de Volkskrant, 13 May 2006

“I don’t know if in politics at the world level honest communication sis still possible. And friendly, intelligent discussions [for that matter]. Maybe it never existed. Against that powerless feeling of being played by lies and shamlessness, you must take a stand as an ordinary citizen. It is a struggle not to become cynical, to transform into a rottweiler—or turn [your] back to politics.”

Disclaimer: Translations of the texts above are mine. Translations were done to convey the original message as well as is possible, according to my understanding of the original articles.

i c, ICC

Just received an email from the International Criminal Court that they received my application:

Dear applicant

Thank you for your interest in the work of the International Criminal Court.

I am pleased to inform you that we have received your application which will soon be evaluated by our Human Resources Section. Please note that due to the large volume of applications received by the International Criminal Court for the Internship/Clerkship and Visiting Professional Programme we are not in a position to inform you about the status of your application unless you have been short-listed.

For additional information please refer to the website

It doesn’t mean anything much at the moment, but at least after weeks and weeks of waiting for a reference I’ve managed to get the application in. If all goes well (and I really hope it does) maybe I’ll hear from them soon…