Amsterdam mayor, councillor defuse anti-Islam hysteria, says Haroon Siddiqui
AMSTERDAM—If Christians are lobbing rhetorical bombs at Muslims, who better to tamp down tensions than a soft-spoken Jewish intellectual? Job Cohen has done so as mayor of this city of 800,000, 1 in 8 of whom is a Muslim.
No sooner had the long-time Labour politician and former deputy minister of justice settled into the job in 2001 — the mayor is appointed by the federal cabinet while the council is elected — than he found himself dealing with the fallout of 9/11.
Anti-Muslim anger was fanned to dangerous levels by gay politician Pim Fortuyn (murdered in 2002 by an animal rights activist), filmmaker Theo van Gogh (murdered in 2004 by a Muslim), and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the "ex-Muslim" poster girl of Islamophobes (forced to resign recently as an MP for having lied on her citizenship application).
Amid all the hysteria, Cohen kept his cool.
First, he led street protests to condemn the Van Gogh murder. He then made a point of publicly meeting Muslims, especially clerics, considering them the key to influencing Muslims.
He told the Muslims: "You are much needed in this country. You are the hope of this country." He told everyone else: "Islam is here to stay. We have to get along with each other."
Cohen cracked down on petty crime, especially among young Dutch-Moroccans. But he also went after the disco owners discriminating against them.
His partner in peace has been a Muslim councillor.
Moroccan-born Ahmed Aboutaleb warned the Dutch against the debilitating effects of discriminatory immigration policies. He told the Muslims who were bemoaning the decadence of the Dutch that they were free to take a flight to Casablanca.
I talked to both Cohen and Aboutaleb here at city hall, overlooking the Amstel River.........
.......link (Toronto Star)