Saturday, October 21, 2006

Diversity Issue in Netherlands

I was invited by br Nouman Ashraf, Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Officer @ UofT, to attend a brainstorming session held on campus, on the topic of Diversity in Netherlands. The session was organised for a delegation of high profile Dutch political figures. They included mayors of various cities, and a few police representatives.

The hour-and-half went by pretty fast. Everyone present had a lot to say. Br Nouman had selected a few students he knew to come share their experiences, and aid in the discussions.
I must commend these group of people, who flew all the way here from Europe- They sincerely cared about solving the issue of diversity, and dealing with Muslims, and wanted to learn as much as possible about what the difference between their country and Canada was.
I've always been proud of this place, and today, I was even more thankful.

A bit of background:

Government and their agencies, including police, are not willing to respect the customs, traditions, beliefs and behaviours of minority (non-Christian) groups. Neither do these groups try and work with each other to 'problem solve" issues, which is one of the primary functions of Community Based Policing. This is how this mission to Toronto originated. The Netherlands have a lot of minorities groups, most who originated from their former colonies.
They cause a lot of problems and dilemma for the 55, 000 police officers in The Netherlands.
The chief constable decided that we must import a document with a profiled vision to deal with diversity - minorities, homosexuals, the Muslim community.
As a result of the killing of film producer Theo van Gogh, the Muslim community has been targeted, not only by the police but the mainstream communities. The police officers are not adequately trained to deal with diversity and their interaction with the public is very poor. They do not understand customs, cultures, religious beliefs, the need for Muslims to prayer 5-times a day, the refusal of some Muslims to shake hands with female detectives, refusal to talk to females detectives, assumption that Muslim women are not allowed to speak to male officers, etc. Every day, the police Force experiences about "30 dilemma dealing with diversity issues."
Toronto was chose over London (UK), New York City and Baltimore, because everywhere in Europe, it is acknowledged that Toronto is recognised, by the United Nations, as one of the most diverse cities in the world. So then, what is happening there ? What are communities getting on ? What is the police doing to police such a diverse society (city), What training do the front-line police officers receive ?
Some of the facts that came up:
- The clause in the Canadian charter of rights that talks about equality and no discrimination is EXACTLY the same as the Dutch
- Canada has 60% immigrant population. Netherlands has about 40%: The difference is that the 40% are Muslims, but in Canada, it's a mix.
- Immigrants in Canada have an average of 1.2 degrees compared to the locals:0.97. Immigrants are highly educated, whereas in the Netherlands, the immigrant community is mostly the labour class.
- The first wave of Muslim immigrants entered the Netherlands around the 1960s, so their population is much older than ours.
- Netherlands is densely populated. A very small country, yet it's the next after Bangladesh in their population density.

Issues in the Netherlands:
- Do they want the immigrant community to stay?
- Have they done enough to teach the language to foreigners?
- This generation (the third) seems to be more extreme and radical than the first generation that came here.
- There are about 10 Muslims political leaders in the entire country.

So what makes diversity work in Canada?
- Canadians have great programs for immigrants.
- Immigrants are praised for their achievements, regardless of their background
- Diversity is @ all levels- not just in religion.
- Educated Muslims have integrated well, and are even part of the political process.
- Muslims here are also deeply involved in society, and social upliftment.

I concluded that there's an absolute need for the Muslim community to teach others about Islam. The government has made no such effort, nor have the Muslims.

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