Tuesday 11 September 2001 was the day of the attacks in the US.
Hijacked airplanes crashed deep into the World Trade Center towers
in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
A stream of discussions about the causes and possible consequences
of the attacks started immediately in the Dutch media. The impact
of this disaster is enormous, including from a cultural and developmental
In the cultural arena, the discussion regarding the attacks focuses
on a number of core questions. Can the hatred of Islamic groups
for the US be explained? Does polarisation - the creation of antithesis
rather than agreements - threaten our multiform culture? Is freedom
of speech under pressure, or is there too much room for the expression
of extremist viewpoints?
against the USA fed by the politics of globalisation?
through identifying with personal traditions?
of speech under pressure?
and 'them' in the Netherlands
Hatred against the USA fed by the
politics of globalisation?
According to the spokesperson of the Israeli/Palestinian dialogue,
Islamic groups' hatred of the US is the result of American arrogance.
Along with many others, they argue that the US has wanted to determine
the agenda for the rest of the world. In the opinion of these critics,
the US has behaved hypocritically with its 'economic imperialism'.
The nation that portrays itself as the cradle of freedom uses values
such as democracy and human rights elsewhere in the world for opportunistic
purposes. It has assisted dictatorial regimes in gaining and retaining
power with military support out of self-interest. The North American
support for Israel was held up as an example of such behaviour.
journalists Pieter Hilhorst and Hans Wansink argue that Islamic
groups have grimly hung onto their own religion and traditions because
of the politics of globalisation. Fundamentalism originated from
powerlessness. Anger about the lack of access to money and political
processes in their own territory lead to reactionary movements.
This is the background of a 'Jihad against McWorld.'
Polarisation through identifying with
People embrace their own traditions in times of uncertainty and
powerlessness. Journalist Janny Groen sees this as well in the North
American reaction to the disaster. She points to the broad-scale
display of the national flag, performances of national anthems,
and the chanting of the nation's name during memorial services.
President George W. Bush underscored that the coming retaliation
would not be directed against Islam, but against terrorists. Nevertheless,
Dutch Moslem youngsters told Prime Minister Kok in a conversation
that they feel put off by Bush's terminology: the use of 'us and
them', 'Western civilisation versus barbarism' and 'good against
evil'. In addition, GroenLinks MP Mohamed Rabbae contends that freedom
and democracy are monopolised as Western values in this perspective.
Bush warned that 'those who are not with us, are against us'. The
Civil Coalition, consisting of sixty Dutch organisations, which
called for a demonstration for peace, complains that this 'Cold
War rhetoric' unnecessarily escalates differences. The world has
some ten thousand cultural communities. They cannot be reduced to
Freedom of speech under pressure?
The 'us versus them' thinking in the discussion regarding the attacks
makes dissenting expressions 'suspect'. Statements are censured
from fear that those uttering them will be classified in the 'wrong'
camp. Video footage from the Associated
Press of celebrating Palestinians is believed to have been confiscated
by the Palestinian police. Not long after the attack, Afghanistan
deported a CNN crew. The German
Stockhausen was pilloried when he metaphorically referred to
the attack as 'the largest art work of all time'. His concerts for
the Hamburg Musikfest 2001 were cancelled. Anti-globalists
say that they feel backed into a corner by the polarisation. American
groups who participate in this movement report they are afraid of
being seen as terrorist supporters.
'Us' and 'them' in the Netherlands
Freedom of speech is under pressure in the Netherlands as well.
In polls among Dutch Moslems, a considerable percentage of the respondents
said they have 'some to complete' understanding for the act of terror.
Native Dutch people have reacted furiously. Cultural anthropologist
Hans Werdmölder puts the results into perspective. 'Understanding'
does not mean 'consent'. Robbert Bodegraven, editor in chief of
the multicultural weekly Contrast,
points out that many immigrants get their information from Arabic
news broadcast stations. That explains the difference in opinions
regarding the attack. Even so, the PvdA requested Korthals, the
Minister of Justice, to investigate possibilities in the criminal
code for 'dealing with' those who make 'Moslem extremist' statements.
A broadcast by the Dutch Moslem Broadcasting Station (Nederlandse
Moslim Omroep (NMO))
a few days after the attack also evoked anger among autochthonous
Dutch people. The program starts with a verse from the Koran which
refers to unbelievers as 'fuel for the fire'. The NMO director offered
his apologies. As it turned out, this was a repeat of a previous
broadcast. A week later, 63 percent of the Dutch people interviewed
in a NIPO/Volkskrant poll said that Moslems who approve of the attacks
should leave the country.
Diversity in danger?
The respect for cultural diversity suffers heavily from 'us/them'
thinking. The USA is not the only country in which Arabs have become
the victims of aggression. A call to start a cyber war against Islamic-oriented
sites surfaced in digital news groups. Hackers cracked sites such
as the Afghan News Network. In reaction to this, the German hacker
club Chaos Computer Club (CCC)
requested its members not to attack Islamic countries' web sites.
This is reminiscent of the Infopeace Declaration of 1999 in which
different hacker groups promised not to use hacking as a tool of
Moslems are victims of harassment in the Netherlands, as well. Since
the attack, damage has been inflicted on mosques and Islamic schools
almost every day. Yet the number of complaints at centres for reporting
racial discrimination has not increased.
Newspaper Files (in Dutch)
op Amerika, de Volkskrant
VS, Reformatorisch dagblad
VS, Nederlands dagblad
op Amerika, Nrc Handelsblad
op VS, Trouw
onder vuur, het Parool
in de VS, Algemeen Dagblad
van Buitenlandse zaken
Afghanistan humanitarian crisis