Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher has dismissed recent claims that the political climate in the Netherlands is racist, saying the accusation goes too far.
A recent report by a Council of Europe human rights committee said the Netherlands needs to do more to combat racism and regretted the fact the funding for initiatives has been cut.
The report also criticised the way some politicians and the media describe Muslims and Eastern Europeans as a threat to Dutch society. The claims were backed at the time by the national ombudsman.
In addition, Amnesty International issued a report at the end of October saying Dutch police use ethnic profiling when carrying out ‘stop and search’ checks.
If there is racism in the Netherlands, it must be counteracted but you cannot claim the entire country is racist, Asscher told radio programme Dit is de Dag on Monday. ‘Then the word no longer has meaning,’ he said.
In addition, it is ‘too easy’ to compare criticism of migration with a hatred of foreigners, Asscher said.
Asscher also reacted to the ongoing debate around the character and role of Zwarte Piet – white people in blackface – who are central to the Sinterklaas celebrations on December 5.
Sinterklaas is a party for children and Zwarte Piet is a much loved part of this, Asscher said.
Nevetheless, people who feel upset by the character should be able to say what they think, the minister told the show. And Asscher said he is shocked by the ‘unprecedented poison and racism which the discussion has stirred up’.
Asscher also said he did not understand why Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration PVV, has made approaches to Marine le Pen, leader of the French National Front.
The minister pointed out that one candidate for the party had compared a black French minister to an ape and that the party’s founder had described the World War II gas chambers as an ‘historic detail’.
Marine le Pen is meeting Wilders in The Hague on Wednesday and the two are to hold a joint press conference about their plans to work closely together in the European elections.
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