Monday, 4 January 2010

Monday 4 January

Here in eastern Holland, the morning dawned cold but dry; overnight low was -7C. Current temperature at -4C, but the windchill is at -10C. In other words, not a nice day out in the open. This village has a lot of trees in it, so in the shelter it is not too bad.

An echo from the past occurred over the New Year, when clashes occurred between people from two different ethnic groups in the town of Culemborg, some 40 miles south of Amsterdam. One man reversed his car into the garden of a house, where several people were standing outside. There were injuries. The ethnic groups involved were Moroccan and Moluccan; the latter are from the Spice Islands, in the east of Indonesia. That country used to be a colony of the Netherlands until 1949, when it gained independence following the Second World War and a war against the returning colonial power. The Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) comprised of a lot of Moluccan soldiers, who could not stay in their islands after the war. They were promised independence for their islands, an independence that never materialised. Bitterness and frustration boiled over into violence in the 1970s, when two trains were hijacked in the north of Holland. Several people were killed. With the passage of the years, this frustration has subsided, and most Moluccans appear to have integrated into Dutch society very well.

The Moroccans in Holland came here as migrant workers in the 1950s and 60s, supposedly only for a little while. So at the time, no attempt at integration was made. The other problem is that many of the Moroccans came of Berber stock, who are itinerant shepherds, living in tents in the Atlas mountains. When their third generation came along, living in Holland, they were no longer prepared to subject themselves to the strong social control and patriarchal aspects of Berber society. They saw the freedom that their Dutch contemporaries enjoyed and rebelled. In some cases, went wildly out of control. A few years ago, a number of them disrupted the Memorial Service on 4 May in Amsterdam, which caused a lot of upset. After talks with the community leaders, a number of them agreed to go to Auschwitz and see what the 4 May Memorial was all about.

Inter-ethnic clashes are nothing new, and a signal for the authorities to talk to both groups and sort out any problems that there might be. The mayor of Culemborg has invoked emergency powers to stop people from outside of town to join their respective groups and cause more trouble.Speaking on NOS TV this morning, he said he wanted those lifted as soon as practicable.

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