Cartoons

I like to read cartoons. I’m a regular reader of userfriendly.org, dilbert, the wizard of id, fokke en sukke and a few others. I can’t say that I’m a regular reader of Gregorius Nekschot’s cartoons, which cover such topics as multiculturalism, islam, and other rather controversial topics. Good satire can hurt and his cartoons definitely hits a nerve with some deeply religious individuals. His website is enitled “Gregorius Nekschot – Sick Jokes”. Lets say Nekschot is very blunt and to the point.  Anyway check here for an example.

Anyway, two weeks ago, Nekschot  put a rather visionary (in retrospect) post on his web site where he jokingly suggests that soon Ernst Hirsch Ballin (Dutch minister of justice) & his uniformed party members would be arresting free spirited people and deporting them for reeducation (in Dutch). The reason was Ballin’s apparent plans to broaden the scope of existing legislation against blasphemy and the analogy with Guantanomo that was being suggested was very to the point in my view. Also the reference to 1940’s party members of Hirsch Ballin that cooperated with the Nazi occupation or looked the other way is very much to the point since Hirsch Ballins motivation seems to display similar spinelessness and an apparent desire to follow up on rather intimidating threats/complaints coming from e.g. Iran and various islamist groups living in the Netherlands. Sort of the same groups of people that cheered Theo van Gogh’s murder a few years ago, who was BTW a friend of Nekschot apparently.

It seems Nekschot’s analysis was more accurate than he must have realized. Gregorius Nekschot was arrested last week on orders of a maverick Dutch attorney who seems to be more or less operating under direct orders from Hirsch Ballin. Nekschot was locked up for two days, with no trial, based on vague accusations regarding the general shocking, insulting and discriminating nature of some of his cartoons. This is sort of a new low. Having a cartoonist’s house searched by a 10 people strong police force and the victim subsequently deported to a prison is not something you’d expect in a modern, democratic country.  It happened last week in the Netherlands. Full thumbs up from the responsible minister apparently.

Nekschot is a pseudonym of course that refers to the “shot to the neck” execution style that very much characterizes his approach to humour. His real name is so far not revealed. A court case will change that and expose him to very real threats to his life. After all, one of his friends was murdered already for speaking freely.

I usually don’t do politics on my blog but this is a good reason to make an exception. It seems Hirsch Ballin lacks a sense of humor and an appreciation of free speech and the Dutch constitution.

Dutch politics

Today, I’m making a rare exception and will post a little opinion piece on politics. Basically, something outrageous is happening currently in my home country, the Netherlands.

The last time when my home country made the international headlines, as it is no doubt about to do again now, was in 2004 when Theo van Gogh, a movie director and columnist, was murdered by a muslim extremist. Pinned to his body with a knife was a letter threatening Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an outspoken member of parliament. The brutal murder and political aftermath became world news with headlines on CNN, articles in leading news papers etc. In the aftermath of that murder and amidst significant unrest in muslim and right wing extremist communities, the Somali born politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali received serious dead threats and has since been living a not very enviable life of continuous police protection, frequently moving, etc. Her life of the past three years is not unlike that of Salman Rushdy. Nevertheless she continued to be outspoken and did not bow to the terrorist threats. For that she has been recognized last year as one of Time’s 100 most influential people. Basically, she’s a highly respected politician and intellectual (nationally and internationally). Though I don’t agree with everything she says I have a lot of respect for what she says, her rights to express her views and how she makes use of those rights.
Now something is happening that is outrageous. Essentially, it boils down to that her Dutch nationality (she’s a member of parliament!) is being revoked by a minister from her own party.

Eh, let me explain that again: Ayaan Hirsi Ali immigrated in the early nineties and managed to get a residence permit and later the Dutch nationality based on the fact that she was a political refugee. To provide some historical context, this was around the time things got really ugly for the US peace keepers in her home country. As she later admitted, she did lie about a number of facts (including her name) during that legal process. This was well known when she made her switch from the left wing PVDA party to the conservative VVD party and apparently communicated explicitly to VVD seniors during that transition. Subsequently, she became a member of parliament for that party (and got a lot of people to vote specifically for her). Ambitious, outspoken and sometimes controversial is a good characterization of her career since.

Fast forward three years. A tv documentary again highlights the fact that Ali has lied during the immigration procedure. She’s never denied that and has in fact been very candid about it in interviews over the years. In other words nothing new was presented. I suspect that the intention of the makers of the program was to merely highlight the harshness of recent immigration politics by contrasting it with the background in this respect of a popular and respected politician.
Enter Rita Verdonk, a former immigration service civil servant and now the first minister of immigration, ever. Arguably, this is a very controversial job and personality. She is very outspoken on immigration issues, generally favoring the hard line (I’m phrasing it politely). Interestingly, like Ali, she has a left wing history (communist symphaties in her youth). However she now is a member of the conservative right wing VVD (also Ali’s party) and competing for leadership of that party in the upcoming election (next year, or maybe a bit earlier now). She decided over the course of 24 hours first that she sees no reason to act on the documentary, then an investigation was launched anyway, and now Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s is being denied her Dutch citizenship (by Verdonk, with approval from prime minister Balkende) and will be forced to give up her seat in parliament and has a mere 6 weeks to fight this in court. I related news, she is being forced out of her house because neighbours complained about the devaluation of their property due to the continuous police protection.
WTF! This redefines the notion of backstabbing.

Anyway things are happening fast now. Apparently Ali has already decided to emigrate to the US where she will work for a conservative think tank in Washington. This latest incident is merely causing her to speed up her plans. Essentially she’s giving the finger to the people currently stabbing knives in her back. I can’t blame her but regret that this is even possible in my home country. This is the ultimate failure of this government to provide adequate protection to her.
I would not be surprised if this is going to be the final excuse needed to pull the plug on this impopular cabinet. I don’t see how decent politicians can continue to involve themselves with Verdonk. But then she managed to survive earlier incidents involving e.g. the expellation of a kosovo girl (17) who speaks fluent dutch and was about to enter her highschool exams; the expellation of gay/christian refugees from Iran (with the explicit message that they should cover up their views to protect themselves back in Iran); and the expellation of people to such stable democracies as Sierra Leone. These incidents and many others have made her popular with anti immigration right wing people and extremely impopular with other people (including me).
It’s just one of the reasons I don’t mind living in Finland right now. Finland is nice country with stable & boring politics. My home country can learn a lot from this sparsely populated country.