Netherlands: 'Progressives should talk about women, gay rights in Islam'

Netherlands: 'Progressives should talk about women, gay rights in Islam'

Femke Halsema, head of GroenLinks (Dutch Greens), called her colleagues to express their opinion on Islam. She said it's time that politicians expressed heir opinion about he position of women and gays in Muslim communities.

During a lecture Saturday in Utrecht about freedom of religion Halsema said that the passion progressives show for giving practicing gays access to Reform (Christian) education, and to giving SGP (fundamentalist Christian) women access to Parliament, should also be shown for giving Muslim gays and women the option to make their own choices.

"Many progressives have trouble with holding back when it comes to Orthodox Islam. It's a vulnerable group. It's complicated if such a vulnerable group of people is oppressed." Halsema says she understands that, but she asks for a nuanced approach, in which politicians "protect freedom and criticize lack of freedom in their own circles." That means, for example, that leftist politicians should support the management of the Belgian school that banned headscarves in order to prevent coercion. But it also means that the police agent who wants to wear a headscarf should be allowed to do so.

"I'm convinced that there are thousands of women in the Netherlands who - coerced by Islamic authority regulations and faithfully observed by fathers, uncles and sons - know too little freedom of movement. It doesn't help them that they're financially dependent. And often less-educated. I will not shut my eyes to the fact that many women live that way because there's no honorable alternative for them."

Halsema - who herself is non-religious, but after twelve years in politics is aware of all the sensitivities - progressives too often go on the defensive. There are two flavors: you're either a multiculturalist or an Islam-hater. Halsema doesn't agree, and says that everybody can believe what they want and whichever way they want, as long as it's a freely accepted choice. "Many Salafist, orthodox views have a lot of support in the Dutch Muslim community. Those are view on theocracy, about equality of man and woman, and of straights and gays. These views are imposed from above and have great consequences for freedom, especially that of women and gays."

"Too often I see in my neighborhood that girls are called names if they don't wear a headscarf," Halsema said afterward. "I call that coercion. Just like suggesting that it's your own fault that you're raped if you don't wear a headscarf. That naturally shouldn't be allowed. That's what I want to discuss."

Source: Trouw (Dutch)