Rotterdam: Politician regrets 'first Muslim mayor' comment
Marco Pastors, head of Leefbaar Rotterdam, regrets the fact that he called Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb the 'first Muslim mayor of Europe' last Thursday during a council debate about the riots in Hoek van Holland. "That was a less fortunate remark," Pastors said on Sunday during a debate about the Manuscripta book exhibit in Amsterdam.
Pastors earned a lot of criticism about his statement during the emergency debate. As manager of the police department, Aboutaleb had to account during the debate for the police action during the derailed beach party. Pastors gave Aboutaleb the 'yellow card' in the council hall and later repeated to journalists that he also addressed Aboutaleb as 'first Muslim mayor of Europe'.
Sunday, in a debate with Rotterdam alderman Dominic Schrijer (work and social affairs, PvdA), and journalist Jutta Chorus who wrote the book Afri about a Rotterdam trouble neighborhood, Pastors said that the fact that Aboutaleb is a Muslim is not relevant to a discussion about the security of the region. Pastors says that during the debate he was annoyed about Aboutaleb's laconic attitude and tried to get a 'grip' on him. "I thought: How can I make him listen to me? Of all the sentences that I could have said then, I chose this. And that was a bad choice."
Schrijer, a member of Aboutaleb's party, was still upset on Sunday about Pastors' choice of qualification. He says that if somebody would accuse mayor Rehwinkel of Groningen of something as the first gay mayor, or would disqualify Job Cohen as Jewish mayor, then everybody would be up in arms.
According to Schrijer, a candidate for head of his party, Rotterdam's biggest opposition party Leefbaar (14 seats) has been engaged for some time in "deliberately dirtying the debate, with Thursday being a sad all time low". he think that Pastors is sharpening the relationships in the multicultural city (174 nationalities). Scrijer accuses Pastors of applying a double standard and for deliberately attacking Aboutaleb. "If we're going to judge each other in Rotterdam based on religion and skin color, we'll get a city unfit to live in." [on-Leefbaar].
For now Pastors refuses to apologize for his statement. "It wasn't dramatically terrible." Schrijer calls Pastors’ retreat "not believable". According to him Leefbaar Rotterdam is being led by political motives. "The elections are approaching; Pastors wants to secure the PVV votes, now that Wilders had decided not to participate".
Last year Pastors represented Leefbaar in the selection committee which nominated Aboutaleb to succeed VVDer Ivo Opstelten. some of the Leefbaar supporters had trouble with the choice. Europe's first immigrant mayor for a big city would be a 'Moroccan job chaser' who 'sleeps in an Ajax pajamas' at home, according to Ronald Sørensen, fraction chairman for Leefbaar Rotterdam.
Source: NRC (Dutch)