The Dutch Grapple with Intolerance / Race, religion spur immigration debate

By Jennifer Hamm
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — After a 19-year-old man of Moroccan descent was run down and killed by a Dutch woman driver trying to recover her stolen purse, mourners blamed Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk for the death. Gathered at a makeshift memorial here earlier this winter, the mourners said Verdonk’s tough immigration reforms have increased Dutch xenophobia against Muslims, spurring the woman’s violent reaction against the alleged purse thief. Though the Dutch are famous for allowing euthanasia, gay marriage and soft-drug use, it is ironically their tolerance that may have laid the foundation for current ethnic tensions. “The problem is we have been tolerant of the intolerant and now we are paying the bill,” said Bart Jan Spruyt, director of the conservative Edmund Burke Foundation in The Hague. “That bill has to be settled first before we can become tolerant again.”