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My ridiculous country

January 8, 2012

While I was supposed to be putting the final touches on a presentation today, procrastination on Twitter led me to the currently trending topic “Kamervragen PVV.” The PVV is the Dutch Party for Freedom, which is headed by Geert Wilders. This man and this party, to me, represent everything that is wrong with my country (well, perhaps not everything, but quite a lot). I’m generally of the opinion that engaging them in any way legitimates them, which is the last thing I want to do, but today I just can’t keep quiet.

“Kamervragen” (chamber questions) are instruments with which Parliament can keep tabs on the government and developments in society. Any member of Parliament can ask ministers or the Prime Minister questions about anything at any time, and these questions need to be answered within a 3-week period. When the PVV asks questions, you can be quite sure they’re absolutely ridiculous. Today’s questions did not disappoint.

Queen Beatrix, crown prince Willem-Alexander, and his wife princess Máxima are currently in Abu Dhabi, where they visited a mosque. During this visit the Queen (and I assume princess Máxima as well) wore an abaya and headscarf. Banning headscarves is one of the PVV’s pet projects (they once proposed a headscarf – or as they called it, “headrag”- tax), so naturally they are not amused. They have submitted the following questions to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration, Integration, and Asylum Affairs:

1) Are you aware of the message/article “Beatrix wears headscarf at visit to mosque in Abu Dhabi”?

2) To what degree do you agree with the PVV’s opinion that the headscarf is a symbol of islamization, oppression, and discrimination of women.

3) Do you realize that by having done this, our head of state has legitimized the oppression of women?

4) Could this sad show not have been avoided? If not, why not?

The organisation which speaks for the Queen in such instances, the Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst, has said that “she did it out of respect to the nation’s customs […] When in Rome, do as the Romans. On previous visits this has also happened.”

If I were the Prime Minister, my answers to these questions would be as follows:

1) I am now.

2) Not at all. Firstly, “islamization” is not an actual thing in this world; it is a term used to promote fear and antipathy towards Muslims. Stop trying to make “islamization” happen. It’s not going to happen. Secondly, though I won’t deny that in some instances, headcoverings have been used to oppress women (see the mandatory dresscodes for women which were enforced in Afghanistan and are still enforced in Iran and certain other nations), I refuse to take women’s personal choice and agency away from them. There are millions of women in the world who start wearing hijab, niqaab, and even burqa, after thorough deliberation which stems from a place of deep cultural, religious, and personal conviction. By painting them as oppressed, you are doing them a disservice. Furthermore, as a result of your stance against headscarves, you are discriminating against these millions of women, thousands of whom live, vote, and work in our own country.

3) I refuse to acknowledge any such realization because it is false. Queen Beatrix’s actions have legitimized both a woman’s right to choose what she wears and how she presents herself to the world, as well as the importance of respect towards other cultures, particularly whilst inhabiting those cultures.

4) I refuse to acknowledge that this was a sad show, or indeed a show of any kind. And no, it could not have been avoided, because doing so would have shown blatant disregard to the Queen’s hosts, her host country and culture, and also the belief system of 1/16th of our own population.

I should not let this party get to me, but today I couldn’t help myself. I’m practically shaking with anger because of the bigotry that this party has once again slapped in our collective faces. Instead of letting fearmongering male politicians speak about these issues, why can’t we just shut up and let the women in question speak for themselves?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2012 4:00 pm

    Sometimes it is funny to see people from every nation in the world complaining about their home country. It is completely different from how people talked about their country, say, one hundred years ago. Sometimes I think this to be a healthy development. But maybe one should not be too harsh with his own country. It might not be to bad after all:

    http://swissecon.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/the-big-exception/

    (Of course, you complained about the PVV rather than your country. But then your headline is kind of misleading.)

    All the best from Switzerland!

    • January 8, 2012 4:10 pm

      Look, there are tons of things I love about my country and there are tons that I disagree with or think can be improved. I want us to be better, as a nation. I think it’s ridiculous that we have a party like the PVV and that people vote for it (though obviously that’s all allowed and grand, because FREEDOM and all that jazz), so I wouldn’t say this post’s title is misleading. And even if it is, the topic is right in the opening paragraph.

      Honestly, this is a blog where I write under my real name. I would very much like it if my students didn’t see me cussing and shouting all over the Internet, and that’s exactly what would have happened if I’d titled this with my very first thoughts on the matter.

  2. January 9, 2012 2:45 am

    What a bunch of stupid questions. I like your answers.

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