When Ways of Life Collide

When Ways of Life Collide

By Paul M. Sniderman & Louk Hagendoorn

Princeton University Press – £12.95


As a proclamation of all things inflammatory, there’s nothing like a mere mention of Muslim immigration with which to nigh guarantee triggering an assortment of Western European tongues into elongated overdrive. And since 9/11, perhaps the same could just as readily apply to North America. That the wearing of the niqab (the face cover worn by many Muslim women) might soon be banned in France – especially amid state run, government buildings such as Town Halls and Post Offices etc – further substantiates the current volatility of the Muslim persuasion.

In this thorough examination of what appears to be an on-going experiment, Paul M. Sniderman and Louk Hagendoorn investigate the varying degrees to which Muslims and Muslim culture are/aren’t accepted throughout the Netherlands: ‘’This is a book about issues of diversity and tolerance in the Netherlands. An odd choice, you may think – a country too far away to be of interest to Americans, too small to be of importance to Europeans, and a country in any case famous for its tolerance. Yet it turned out to be the best possible choice. It was in the Netherlands that the politics of multiculturalism erupted.’’

Like the United Kingdom, multiculturalism and indeed, acceptance, are greatly dependent upon class, education, prejudice, and whether or not Muslim culture is perceived as being too ‘’other’’ from that of familiarity: ‘‘Britain and the Netherlands have promoted multiculturalism to expand opportunities for minorities to enjoy a better life and to win a respected place of their own in their new society. It is all the more unfortunate […] that the outcome has been the opposite – to encourage exclusion rather than inclusion.’’

Regarding said exclusion, it’s worth remembering that in 2004, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered on a busy Amsterdam street, by a twenty-six-year-old Dutch Moroccan (who’d been offended by van Gogh’s controversial film about Muslim suppression of women). The irony being, that Dutch society is inherently expected to be tolerant of Muslim culture within its own borders, yet Muslim society isn’t expected to be tolerant of Dutch culture -such as that of free speech and freedom of expression – within its newly adopted home of Holland.

Furthermore, tolerance is the key word here, as Holland is renowned for being a tolerant society. But, as the authors make clear: ‘’political tolerance is one thing; social tolerance quite another.’’ In and of itself, tolerance appears to be something of a one-way street in relation to (Dutch) Muslim culture.

Replete with a number of graphs and tables – which range from ‘Dutch Negative Stereotypes of Immigrant Groups,’ to ‘Minorities Deserve Equal Rights,’ to ‘Muslim Evaluations of Western European Cultural Norms, to ‘Regression of Support for Immigration Restrictions with National and Personal Primes’ – When Ways of Life Collide is a provocative, yet empirical assessment of intrinsic, yet nebulous multiculturalism in today’s society.

David Marx

www.davidmarx.co.uk

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