At the beginning of this month, Ahmed Abouteleb became the first mayor of a Dutch city with Moroccan roots.
It was an event that attracted its own fair share of media coverage – and race-related articles from all the major international news agencies. After all, it was big news.
A man, a Muslim, who had come to the Netherlands as a small boy was now top dog in one of the country’s biggest cities.
More than that, it was the city that gave rise to the Islam critic and populist politician Pim Fortuyn. But Aboutaleb’s swearing-in was spoiled by a silly gesture from Fortuyn’s hangers on who are angry he still has two passports.
And there were puzzled comments about his wife who does not wear a headscarf – as if all Muslims do.
Much was made of the fact that Aboutaleb is a model immigrant – whatever that is.
Things are all a bit different on the other side of the pond. Barack Obama is sworn in as the first black US president and it is a matter of great rejoicing and celebration – even here in the Netherlands.
His inauguration is described as ‘historic’. TV stations are in overdrive. Inauguration parties are the hot ticket.
Of course, Obama is not an immigrant and Abouteleb was not elected. But the different reaction that we in the Netherlands have to the two appointments says an awful lot about our attitudes to race.
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