Make Eid al-Fitra a national holiday

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Note from the ConstPol Coordinators: According to BBC, “Dutch anti-Islam political leader Geert Wilders has been convicted of insulting a group and inciting discrimination”. In this context, we want to share a call for equal treatment of Muslim citizens in the Netherlands (and everywhere) by Dr. Bouke de Vries, Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen (Germany) and EUI alumnus:

Imagine a family that does not celebrate the birthday of the youngest child. Asking his parents why they are not celebrating his birthday, the Benjamin is told that ‘we already celebrate the birthdays of his brother and sister’. This is a family tradition. When the Benjamin complains that celebrating his birthday could also become a tradition, the parents remain adamant: ‘as a newcomer, you have to accept the existing birthday culture’.

If this is unjust, then so is the fact that we do not recognise al Eid as a national holiday in The Netherlands. Just as a family should recognise all of their children by celebrating their birthdays, the state should recognise religions besides Christianity. This is called ‘state neutrality’. In many areas, state neutrality is already accepted. We would find it unacceptable if the royal family only visited places in the Randstad [the region with the most populous Dutch cities] during Kingsday. For aren’t Limburgers, Zeelanders, and Groningers every bit as Dutch? Nor would we find it acceptable (at least not in certain port cities) if Ajax was the only football team recognised by the state – imagine that an Ajax poster was displayed in the middle of the Tweede Kamer [the Second Chamber]. Yet when it comes to recognising the holidays of other religions (including Islam), we prefer to be partisan.

Now you might think: ‘Muslims have chosen to come to The Netherlands. Therefore, they ought to adapt’. But this would only apply to the first generation of Muslims; later generations did not choose to grow up here. Could the difference be that Islam is a totalitarian religion, as Wilders often refers to it? No. It is not just Aboutaleb [the mayor of Rotterdam] and Ali B [a famous Dutch rapper/comedian] who practice a form of Islam that is hospitable to democracy – most Muslims do. Saying this is not to be political correct, but to state a plain truth. Of course, there are extremists. But just as it would unjust to permanently ban Feyenoord fans from the Kuip [the Feyenoord stadium] because some fans misbehaved in Rome [last year, Feyenoord hooligans damaged shops and a Bernini fountain at Piazza di Spagna], so it would be unjust not to recognise Eid al-Fitr because some Muslims misbehave.

We should not betray our Christian heritage. However, we wouldn’t do so by replacing second Pentecost day or Easter Monday with Eid al-Fitr. This is not a matter of pampering Dutch Muslims, but treating them as equal citizens.

This is a translation of a letter that Bouke sent to the newspaper Metro in the Netherlands. If you agree with his thesis (or simply believe it deserves a wider audience), please vote for it. The letter with the most votes is published in the printed edition (Bouke is currently close to winning). In order to vote, you have to register first (the best way to do so is to click on the ‘registeren’ button in the top right corner).