Jewish Political Studies Review 19:3-4 (Fall 2007)
The Nonintegrated Moroccans in the Netherlands
Het Marokkanendrama (The Moroccans’ Drama) by Fleur Jurgens, J. M. Meulenhoff, 2007, 176 pp. [Dutch]
Reviewed by Manfred Gerstenfeld
The indiscriminate mass immigration from non-Western countries to Western Europe over the past decades represents one of its major political failures. An apt example is the Netherlands, which among its sixteen million inhabitants has now become the domicile of some 1.6 million non-Western immigrants and their offspring.
For much of the second part of the twentieth century, multiculturalism was a politically correct idea in the Netherlands. The utopian concept behind it was that large numbers of immigrants of many different nationalities would enrich Dutch society socially and culturally. The few opponents who publicly and correctly said that nonselective immigration would cause far more problems than benefits were considered troublemakers if not racists.
Few have deflated this concept better than one very successful immigrant, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This Somalian refugee became a member of the Dutch parliament for the Liberal Party and in 2006 left for the United States. She lamented the diversity of backgrounds among the immigrants as well as their great cultural differences from the native population of the Netherlands. She contrasted this lack of a common bond with the unifying Jewish national heritage of immigrants to Israel.[i]
One immigrant group, among several, of which significant numbers of individuals are considered particularly problematic are the Moroccans. After the Turkish immigrants and their offspring, who number an estimated 350,000, the Moroccans are the second largest ethnic group with over 300,000 people. Most of them are Berbers originating in the northern part of Morocco.
A variety of books have been published on the nonintegration of a sizable proportion of the offspring of Moroccan immigrants. The common sociological wisdom is that first-generation immigrants not only often stick together but also frequently have great difficulty blending into the host society, whereas the second generation integrates much better. With part of the Moroccan community, however, the reverse seems to be the case.
Fleur Jurgens, a journalist and philosopher, has published this study of the rapidly growing Moroccan male underclass in the largest Dutch cities. (Moroccan girls seem to be far more successful in society.) Her study was supported by a research program sponsored by the Dutch Police Academy and is based on interviews with seventy experts.
Jurgens focuses her findings on four myths that she deflates. The first is that no substantial second-generation Moroccan underclass exists and that the problems concern a small group of nonintegrated individuals. Jurgens cites data that seven out of ten male Moroccans leave school with no useful diploma. Forty percent of Moroccan youngsters are unemployed. Ten percent are registered with the police as suspects for at least one criminal act. This percentage is the highest for any ethnic minority and is twice as high among second-generation Moroccans compared to first-generation Moroccan immigrants. One in three youngsters in youth institutions of the justice system is of Moroccan origin, whereas the Moroccan community accounts for only 2 percent of the entire Dutch population.
The second myth Jurgens exposes is that young Moroccans commit their crimes because they are discriminated against in the Dutch labor market. This determinist explanation is commonly favored internationally. During the French riots of autumn 2005, many on the Left strongly promoted this view to justify the disturbances perpetrated almost exclusively by North and West African Muslims. French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut exploded this narrative by observing that: “In France there are also other immigrants whose situation is difficult-Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese-and they’re not taking part in the riots.”[ii]
Jurgens also attacks a third myth, namely, that Moroccan parents are incapable of controlling their sons’ behavior on the street because it is not part of their culture. She points out that many girls in the Amsterdam Moroccan community consider its intense social control unbearable. This disproves the claim of many Moroccan parents that they are unable to supervise their sons’ conduct beyond the front door.
The fourth myth is a historic fallacy. It posits that the Netherlands has a moral debt to the Moroccan immigrants because they were recruited as “guest workers” by the Dutch in Morocco. Jurgens shows that the number of people concerned is a small minority of the actual Moroccan population. Probably more than half of these imported laborers have returned to their native land since the recruitment was stopped in 1973. The present population is almost entirely comprised of those who immigrated on their own initiative for economic reasons.
Major Investment in Immigrants
The Netherlands has invested much money and human resources in integration and other programs for the immigrant community. The Dutch Social and Cultural Planning Bureau concluded that little is known about which of the many initiatives to combat ethnic segregation are effective.[iii] Dutch society lacks many cultural tools to address adequately the problems resulting from indiscriminate immigration and it remains doubtful whether these can be solved in the coming decades.
The prevailing attitude toward multiculturalism in the Netherlands has greatly changed in the past few years. There is now substantial ethnic profiling, which a few years ago was still largely taboo. The turning point came with the November 2004 murder of the media-maker Theo van Gogh by the radical Dutch-born Moroccan Muslim Mohammed Bouyeri. Nowadays it is common to read in the mainstream press a news item such as that, out of six people arrested for beating up two homosexuals in Amsterdam, four were of Moroccan, one of Turkish, and one of Surinam origin.[iv] Another example is that when the Dutch government in 2007 made five million euros available to the four largest municipalities, these were specifically earmarked to combat criminality among Moroccans.[v]
The problems caused by some of the Moroccans have also affected the Jewish community in many ways that Jurgens does not mention specifically. Estimates are that Moroccans are responsible for about 40 percent of physical and verbal attacks against Jews in the Netherlands.
Some Dutch officials and prominent Moroccan immigrants cultivate a delusion. They point out that the Jews initially were also not integrated but ultimately often became successful citizens. It is conveniently forgotten that the Jews came to the Netherlands in much smaller numbers over a much longer period than the contemporary non-Western immigrants. There also was a much greater desire to study and learn in the Jewish community than among the Moroccans.
Whereas the Jews wanted to integrate and even assimilate into Dutch society, many immigrants from the Islamic world reject Dutch society and culture. Their apartments’ satellite-dish antennae absorb television broadcasts from Arab countries, which contain a good dose of hatred toward the West. This phenomenon, far too little studied, is likely to aggravate the problems that the nonintegrated offspring of Moroccan and other Muslim immigrants will cause Dutch society in the coming decades.
Finally, those who predict the successful integration of almost all Moroccans should recall the World War II experience. Then, three-quarters of the 140,000 Dutch Jews were murdered by the German occupiers after Dutch citizens had arrested, transported, and guarded them. This indicates that even the integration of the Jews was much less successful than the idealized Dutch narrative suggests.
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[i] Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “Confronting Israeli Realities with Dutch Ones,” European-Israeli Relations: Between Confusion and Change? (Jerusalem: JCPA, 2006), 160.
[ii] Dror Mishani and Aurelia Smotriez, “What Sort of Frenchmen Are They?” Haaretz, 17 November 2005.
[iii] Cees van der Laan, “Allochtoon blijft in stad, autochtoon gaat naar buiten,” Trouw online, 25 July 2007. [Dutch]
[iv] “Twee homo’s mishandeld,” Het Parool online, 2 July 2007. [Dutch]
[v] “Extra geld voor aanpak criminaliteit,” Trouw online, 17 January 2007. [Dutch]