42 pages 1 hour read

Ian Buruma

Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerance

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2006

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Important Quotes

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“‘If I say ‘fucking nigger’ to a Surinamese, I’m called a racist, even though they call me whitey. You can no longer say what you think these days. No, we’ve become foreigners in our own country.’”

(Chapter 1, Page 1)

One of the main points of contention in Murder in Amsterdam is the notion of tolerance and open-mindedness that Western European liberal democracy prides itself on, especially in the years following World War II. It has become understood that to use any slur, especially in reference to a minority community, is to be treated harshly and immediately reprimanded. However, this idea is complicated by the other fundamental tenet of European liberal democracy, freedom of speech, in which people are allowed to voice their opinions and beliefs without fear of government censure or reprisal. This highlights how tolerance, at present, is not a two-way street, but rather informed primarily by white, European guilt over mistakes made during the colonial and World War II era.

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“The result was widespread unemployment, dependence on the welfare state, petty crime, and a vicious cycle of social discrimination and sporadic violence. There are still many Surinamese without an official job, perhaps as many as 30 percent, but the Surinamese are no longer a ‘problem.’ They always speak Dutch, excel at soccer, and by and large have been moving steadily into the middle class. Like the West Indians in Britain, they are not universally welcomed, but are still recognized as an exotic yet integral part of the national culture.”

(Chapter 1, Pages 20-21)

Referring to the initial round of immigration to the Netherlands during the middle part of the 20th century, this highlights how, in the view of many Dutch, not all immigrants are created equal. While the Dutch may not completely like the immigrants who came from former Dutch colonial possession, they do feel an obligation to assist those who used to be under their rule. Furthermore, because these immigrants had a solid understanding of Dutch culture before their arrival, they better assimilated into the Dutch lifestyle than immigrants from Morocco and Turkey, whose cultures bear no resemblance to that of the Dutch and whom the Dutch never intended to stay on in the Netherlands after their tenure as guest workers ended.