Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

- In Europa Zu Hause [DE]
- L'Europe Chez Soi [FR]
- At Home in Europe [EN]
- In Europa Thuis [NL]

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Belgium Upside Down

In surrealist-minded Belgium, a stupid error may easily turn into a wise comment.
French TF1 Television channel was going to inform their public, yesterday night, about the actual political turmoil in the neighbouring country. A map was needed, to indicate where Belgium is, and how it is divided in three regions.
Here is the map. Please, find the TWO biggest errors:

You saw it!
The French speaking Walloons are living in the Southern part of Belgium and the Dutch speaking Flanders people live in the North. That is the first error. The second one is less evident for everybody who is not Belgian. The third Belgian region is the Brussels agglomeration. It lies just some Kilometers north of Wallonia and not in the middle of Flanders. An informed French blogger jubilated ironically: ‘This is a final solution to the Belgian mess! French speaking Brussels in the middle of Wallonia, in stead of being surrounded by frustrated Flemish.’ Only the mutual ethnic cleaning between North and South, would be somewhat onerous…
Why is that turning upside-down of the Belgian crisis so funny?
You should know, that the division of the country into regions is language-based. Dutch-speaking Belgians were overlorded by French-speaking elites since Belgian independence (1830, from Holland). A cultural, regional and political upsurge of the Flemish since the end of the 19th century, forced the Brussels and Walloon bourgeois to accept equality of the two main national languages first, and subsequently a series of state-reforms that leaves Belgium as it is now: a country governed by the two main (linguistic) regions, each jealously guarding its prerogatives. Even international trading has become a regional matter!
(Imagine the Chinese, receiving a Belgian economic mission, that is split up between Flemish, Walloons and representatives of the separate Brussels region! This really happened a few years ago. I’m told, that the Chinese are still laughing…)
Most problems about frontiers are about asymmetry. In Belgium, we have an asymmetry between language and soil. If you divide a country along linguistic lines, you have to take into account, that there are areas of mixed language that do not fit into your scheme.
This is, where the capital, Brussels comes in.
A long time ago, Brussels was a Flemish city. We are speaking about the early Middle Ages. Then the Bourguignons came in and attached the whole of the Low Countries (the actual Benelux) to their powerful French duchy. Court- and bureaucratic language became French, the Church turned French. Later on, the Spanish Habsburgs were masters of the country, speaking French. Next (beginning 18th century) came the Austrian Habsburgs, guarding the country against the Dutch, the French and the English and fighting many wars on its soil. The last 18th century war, the one against the French Revolution, they lost. The French sansculottes occupied Belgium and Brussels. Napoleon I even made Belgium part of the French ‘nation’, splitting it up into French Départements. The Vienna arrangements of 1815 gave the Austrian Low countries to the new Dutch king. William I did not bother much about language. His latest spouse was a member of the French speaking Belgian nobility. The Belgian revolution of 1830 was made in Brussels by the new higher middle class of traders and industrialists, closely tied to mighty Great-Britain.
That is why the city (or: region) of Brussels became, in majority, a French speaking city. It has in some neighbourhoods still authentically Flemish speaking citizens and in some places, people mix up both languages in a creative potpourri.  There are no Flemish or French neighbourhoods, anybody can live everywhere. So, Brussels could not fit into the linguistic definitions of the ‘State-Reforms’. And it would not, either, for it has a mission of being a capital, as well for the 60% Flemish majority, as for the 40% French speaking minority in Belgium.
If you consider Brussels as an exception, you have to allow that it is a BIG exception. Brussels bilingual region has 1,2 million inhabitants. Greater Brussels (the agglomeration and surroundings) can claim 2 millions out of a total of 11 million Belgians.
The frontiers between the linguistic regions have been fixed in 1962. After half a century, you may assume, that there have been some changes to the linguistical composition of some areas next to the “frontiers”. This is of course more than true for the growing Brussels agglomeration. To cut it short: Some rural communities around Brussels receive an influx of French-speaking inhabitants, and, as the EU develops, also of many Eurocrats, who do not speak French, maybe, but certainly not Dutch, in most cases.
As an immigrant into Brussels since twenty years, I admire the loose way in which common citizens in the city as well as in the rural communities around it, cope with the linguistical problems in day-to-day life. “Les Belges se débrouillent” - the Belgians find a way out. That is the result of many centuries of foreign occupation, I think. The Belgians let their politicians do and find their own solutions among themselves. In that respect, I see no distinction between Walloons, Flemish or ‘Brusseleers’.
The aloofness of my new compatriots has its merits. But it is also responsible for a surrealistically complicated government, that is the playing ground of regional politicians who are unable to swallow the compromises that inevitably have to be made for the survival of the Belgian contraption.
As I told on several occasions before this, the irresponsible politics of Flemish separatists and Walloon regionalists, are suffocating the city of Brussels, which, on its own, provides 20% of the economic strength of the country. The last citizens rebellion of Brussels (against the Burgundian aristocracy) dates from the 1511 carnival. Will 2011 see a repeat of it?
I must confess: I hope so!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Urban Legends abour Muslims are a Disaster for the Dutch international Standing (1)

How the Dutch extreme-right wing exploitation of islamophobia is really bad for The Netherlands' international reputation...

Today, three examples of the international echo in English of the actual Dutch obsession with urban legends about Muslims.

1. The US Loonwatch site about Tariq Ramadan.
Ramadan, a Geneva-based Islamic scholar, was engaged by Rotterdam city to teach 'Integration' at the Rotterdam University and to advise the Rotterdam City about how to deal with its immigrants from Islamic countries. Ramadan was controversial at the time of this engagement. The US had banned his entry into the States (2005).

Four years it took the successors of Pim Fortuyn (still an important party in the local council), to find finally a "stick to beat the dog". Tariq Ramadan commented on an Iranian website on Israel. What he said, was not in the least belligerent or out of place. No, the FACT that Ramadan co-operated with an Iranian programme was sufficient. He was sent away by both the local authority and the University.

Tariq Ramadan is a theoretician. Not a civil servant. His family may have ties with the original Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which was an Arabic intellectual movement for modernization of the Islam. The actual fundamentalist Muslim Brothers are in favor of the contrary: Back to the Roots! They are not in favor of Saudi Wahhabism, but (too) often, they link up with it.

The original Muslim Brotherhood took its inspiration from the Enlightenment. The founders were in narrow contact with the European Freemasons. I.e. the people who helped Christianism to become rational and who invented the Separation of State and Religion. Just like the Founders of the United States of America, when they signed the Declaration of Independence.

That is, what I hear, when I listen to Tariq Ramadan. And that is, what I think, should be the message, our Muslim immigrants will have to understand. You can preserve the whole richness of your religion and culture, provided, you become a decent citizen (if you aren't already) of the Western society that is receiving you in its midst.
It can be argued, that Ramadan's message is too intellectual, too abstract, for Moroccan (Berber) farmers from the Rif region, who constitute the bulk of Rotterdam city's Muslim immigrants. That is not Tariq's fault. For their way of thinking and perceiving, there exist other strategies, that may help to calm the problematic relations with the other cultures that are to be found in the City of Rotterdam. The mayor and his aldermen should have thought about that, five years ago.

Like Ajaan Hirsi Ali, ironically, Tariq Ramadan was ousted by the Dutch, to find a refuge in ... the US. While Ajaan was (during the Bush reign) welcomed by the Neocons of the American Enterprise Institute, Ramadan is going to teach at a Catholic University in the Midwest.

The New York Times, today, has an article about President Obama's tranquil way, to engage American Muslims, after their marginalization and the mistrust they are exposed to, due to the Bush demagogy. Engaging Ramadan, is part of it.

It is a shame to the Dutch, that their country, formerly known as a refuge for original thinkers like Spinoza, Descartes, etc., is sending them away now, tarnishing their reputation.

Like Dutch entrepreneurs and tycoons said before (and who are we, to contradict them on this point?): Mr. Wilders and his supporters are doing a big disfavor to the country.
The country they say they love so much more than us, the "cultural relativists" who continue to open up to new and old contributions to our society.

Here is the first one we'd like to show to you:

Posted at on 16 April 2010: "Tariq Ramadan, “stealth jihadist,” exposed!"

Tariq Ramadan
As you know, Dr. Tariq Ramadan - Muslim scholar, writer, and thinker - has had his visa to enter the country reinstated, and he used this to his advantage: speaking at various engagements across the United States. We here at LoonWatch alerted our fellow citizens of the arrival of the “stealth jihadist,” coining the terminology of Robert Spencer. Yet, we didn’t want to stop just there. We wanted to report on what this man was saying." had a stealth observer at Tariq Ramadan's Chicago annual banquet speech for CAIR.
The man reported that Ramadan concluded his speech with the following dangerous incitement:
His final words were this: Never forget that you Muslims are American. He urged them to speak about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine, and do so as Americans, not Muslims. Moreover, Muslims need to institutionalize their presence in America: Muslims need institutions, and they must work with all people. The key is confidence and humility: be confident about your position, but be humble at the same time.
Part 2 and 3 will feature the urban legends that are rocking Holland and Wilders' stealthy way of associating with racist persons and websites.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Godless Europeans, are they being punished economically? (Fox news)

Fox News knows best - We, Europeans are a bunch of godless and hapless idiots!
(Thanks to - Dietmar Näher, Germany)

No, the following video is not a fake. Fox news is serious about the causes of Europe's economic problems: It is "Secularity" and "abandoning God", that cause our "decline".

This is an illustrationn of the growing cultural gap between (part of) the US and Europe.

Personally, I do not believe in that gap. The fundamental values of the US Constitution are part of the European Enlightenment. Europe is being nurtured by American contributions to our common culture, civilization, economy and philosophy. From more than a hundred years on. A fertile exchange.

The eternal urge, however, to build up an enemy corresponding to one's own image, has been let loose. The Nazis under Hitler built an "East Coast" enemy, the Jewish capitalist. Turning the mirrors at a 180° degree, Fox News constructs an European "pagan" enemy who is disturbing the otherwise paradisaic world of US free market capitalism. We, Europeans, became pagans, and God is punishing us with economic disasters!

I am in favor of developing an European common identity. But not at the price of hate and mistrust of US-American culture. Nor of any other cultural identity. That would be stupid and counter-productive. Neither US-American thinking, nor Islamic thinking can be severed from Europe.

Europe is rich enough in itself. It should welcome any possible contribution and ponder it.
Provided, we do so together!
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