Why the Dutch Turned Against Immigrants
FEB 23, 2017 1:30 AM EST
Soon after she moved into her new neighborhood, IJburg, on the eastern outskirts of Amsterdam, in 2005, Xandra Lammers started a blog about it. IJburg is a curious place, an architectural wonder, built in the middle of a lake on reclaimed land and partly on water. She still keeps the blog alive, but curiosity has given way to frustration: It’s all about the unpleasantness of living next to Muslim immigrants.
“I used to vote Labor,” Lammers told me. “I was quite politically correct. But now I no longer am.” She is a determined supporter of Geert Wilders and his anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party, PVV, the front-runner in the Netherlands’ March 2015 election. She is also a character in a book by nationalist writer Joost Niemoeller, called “Angry,” published this month and already on the bestseller list. The anger fueling the Wilders campaign is real and tangible in the Netherlands, but — like the anger of Donald Trump’s voters in the U.S. — it’s rooted in the existence of parallel realities in a society where efforts at social and cultural integration have run into major obstacles.
Lammers’ reality is stark. The owner of a translation bureau, she’s a native Amsterdammer, forced out of the city center by steeply rising real estate prices. When she and her husband bought their house on the water in IJburg, she says the real estate agent didn’t tell her the neighborhood would become the arena of what she calls a “social experiment” — an effort by the city government to put middle class homeowners and social housing renters in one innovative urban development. Initially, IJburg had a village feel: People with similar backgrounds bought the houses so they could stay in Amsterdam, and soon they all knew each other. Then the immigrants started moving in, brought over from suburbs where their cheap housing was demolished; 30 percent of IJburg housing turned out to be earmarked for the social renters.
“We have to share the gardens in some blocks, elevators in others,” Lammers says. “So people started experiencing bad things — cars scratched, elevators urinated in. There’s now a mosque on my street, a radical one.” (The mosque’s Facebook page, removed since locals complained to the authorities, contained references to a radical preacher and to Islamic Brotherhood, an organization some countries consider terrorist).
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