Friday, May 23, 2008

Dutch Culture Wars

(Ellen Vroegh's banished painting)

There's a breed of stories coming out in the Dutch press lately with the theme "man, can you believe how backward those Muslims are?!"

Personally, I have my doubts about how accurate these stories are: they are suspiciously well-suited to a readership eager to be outraged by anything un-Dutch done by Muslims.

The most recent is the story (Telegraaf, Dutch) of how the city hall of Huizen removed the painting above because of complaints from "Muslim men."

A week ago, when there was a heat wave, there was a similar story (Telegraaf, Dutch) that said _ or so the story goes _ several Muslim men asked (white) Dutch construction workers not to wear t-shirts and shorts to work. Too revealing.

The foreman "said there was a complaint from Islamic neighbors. They thought our clothes were too naked and too short." The well-muscled men registered the remark (i.e. and didn't act on it).

-Construction worker Robin Willemsen, as quoted by De Telegraaf.

I guess somewhat surprising if true.

The Telegraaf's wording ("well-muscled men") ensured that the basic tone of responses (23 pages worth on the paper's website) would focus on the sexual undertone here: how Muslim immigrant men must feel worried that their women will be led into temptation by the sight of white male flesh.

Yeah, right.

Here are the two basic types of Dutch construction workers:

(flickr: malingering)

(flickr:geoff coupe)

Neither one of them is likely to pull a lot of Muslim chicks.

What if _ and I'm just speculating here _ one of the workers were taking a leak on the site, and that bothered the locals?

What I'm saying is, as surprising as it seems that Muslims were complaining about men in shorts on a hot day, I sure wish I could hear their side of the story, rather than reading a version derived 100% from the perspective of the construction workers.

More deconstruction:

On the removed painting:
Reading other reports fills out the picture a bit.

NOS writes that actually "several female employees also didn't feel comfortable" with the paintings either. But it doesn't mention what religion they were.

De Volkskrant (via ANP?) says there were actually two paintings, and they were moved from the main lobby. More interestingly, a city spokeswoman is quoted as saying complaints came from "a couple of Muslims, as well as people of other spiritual convictons."

I would add that Huizen is a small, politically conservative town where the Dutch Reform Church (Calvinists) is by far the largest.
I wish I could put a number on how many Muslims live there, but I can summarize it thusly: not many.

If this were just a plain old "some people are prude" story, would we even be reading it?


Dee said...

You probably would not be reading it and your perception is correct. If a Muslim is involved it gets misleading headlines, too much coverage, giving a distorted perspective. De Telegraaf is well known for pandering to the lesser educated with feelings if anti-Muslim sentiments.

There is a lot of irresponsible journalism here.

Anonymous said...

I gotta go now, and burn some books

Anonymous said...

Check out the story of Roosje at Sudsandsoda. The whole ordeal got a lot of press at the time, but it never becomes quite clear if "the Muslims" did it.

Toby Sterling said...
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Toby Sterling said...
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Toby Sterling said...

@Branko _ Interesting. I love Hinke's write-up, makes the story that much better.

Laura K. said...

Are the BOOBS offensive or am I totally off here?

Boobs... nourishment.. hmmmm the horror!