Multiculturalism vs Homonationalism

9 September 2016

Pim Fortuyn, being the first arguing for anti-multiculturalism to safeguard the gay community, openly dismissed religious principles and cultural traditions of the Islamic community in the Netherlands. Geert Wilders’ political party, “Party for the Freedom”, seems to move in a similar direction, where nationalist policies are promoted, multiculturalism is criticized (especially the presence of a Islamic community), and the rights of the “original” Dutch citizens, including the gay community, are centrally positioned.

This “exclusion of racial and class others” rooted in the inclusion of homosexuals in “body politics” has been conceptualized by Puar as ‘homonationalism’ (Aydemir, 2012, p. 188). In this paper, the position of gay rights in the discussion surrounding (anti-) multiculturalism in Dutch politics is examined. It will be argued that ‘Homonationalism is increasingly used in Dutch politics to support anti-multiculturalist views’. Firstly, two crucial developments, i. e. the ‘normalization process’ of homosexuality on the one side and the emergence of a multicultural society on the other side, are separately presented.

Multiculturalism vs Homonationalism Essay Example

Next, the current clash of these two developments, and its political ramifications are examined. For this examination, the concept ‘homonationalism’ is presented. Afterwards, and lastly, the relation between ‘homonationalism’ and anti-multiculturalist movements in Dutch politics is analysed. Normalization of Homosexuality in the Netherlands During the last decades, a trend of homo-emancipation has been witnessed in Western European countries (Aydemir, 2012). The Netherlands has been a frontrunner in this process of promoting acceptance and tolerance of gay ommunities, which in a relatively short time has led to a high level of ‘normalization’ of homosexuality. Multiple milestones of homo-emancipation in the Netherlands can be identified during this process, which eventually evolved to a high level of ‘normalization’ (Mepschen et al. , 2009). The first milestone, taking place around 1971, covers the abolishment of legal discrimination and criminalization of homosexuality. On a global level, homosexuality was removed as a psychiatric disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association (Mepschen et al. , 2010).

At the same time, the age of consent was equalized for homosexuals and heterosexuals in the Netherlands, lowering the age for homosexuals from 21 to 16 years. The second milestone concerned the further establishment of equal rights for homosexuals. This wave culminated in April 2001, when homosexuals were legally given civil marriage rights. The third milestone pertains to the social acceptance of homosexuality by society at large and commenced last decade. A high level of ‘normalization’ has been established already, with some politicians and societal groups actively safeguarding the level reached (Van der Veer, 2006)..

The rapid and extended acceptance and tolerance towards homosexuality in the Netherlands can be attributed to two main factors. Firstly, the widespread secularization, taking place from 1960s throughout the Netherlands, gave way to de-pillarization (Mepschen, 2010). The fading of pillars – hierarchically structured subcultures based on religion, which originally formed the basis of the social organization of the Dutch society – freed the Dutch population from conservatism and oppressive structures. As Mepschen et al. (2010, p. 66) stated, in one generation the Dutch society transformed from “one of the most religious societies in the world to one of its most secular”. Christianity, being traditionally the most conformed religious belief in the Netherlands, became less important with the population gradually embracing expressionism and self-reflection (Wekker, 2009). This secularization contributed to the development of acceptance and toleration, since the Dutch society was freed from the Christian thought that condemned homosexual behaviour.

Secondly, the Dutch political and institutional framework contributed to acceptance and toleration of homosexuality (Mepschen, 2010). The corporatist style of Dutch authorities allowed greater influence of the new movements, promoting an accepting and tolerating environment. Homosexual liberation movements “reinforced an ethos of individual freedom, autonomy and enjoyment as alternatives to the authoritarian past” (Mepschen et al. , 2010, p. 965). Due to these influences, Dutch citizens distanced themselves from traditionalism and increasingly urged for liberal policies (Butler, 2008).

The existing political environment in the Netherlands eased the process of creating acceptance and tolerance towards homosexuality, where it allowed homosexual liberation movements as well as politicians, like Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders, to express their opinions openly and to create awareness among the population (Hekma & Duyvendak, 2011). The Emergence of Multiculturalism in the Netherlands After the Second World War, the Netherlands faced multiple periods of successive immigration flows.

During the 1950s and 1960s, most immigrants originated from former Dutch colonies. South Europeans followed, where during the end of the 1950s most immigrants were Spanish, Italian or Portuguese citizens. Immigration flows from Morocco and Turkey to the Netherlands was almost constantly present since the 1960s, mostly as a reply to the demand of cheap labour. These immigration flows contributed to the high diversity of culture present in Dutch society, creating a multicultural environment (Ceuppens & Geschiere, 2005).

Often however, the term multiculturalism reflects not the presence of all cultures and is used in the political sphere as a euphemism for the growing number of Muslim citizens (Jivraj & de Jong, 2011). Currently, around five percent of the Dutch population has an Islamic background. Noticeable, around eighty percent of the citizens with this background lives closely together in urban districts, primarily in the west of the country (the so-called Randstad) (Buijs et al. , 2009).

The increasing presence of the Islamic tradition in these areas in the Netherlands has, according to some, resulted in clashing morals and beliefs. Political views on this issue are diverse. Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders became most well-known for their restrictive immigration policy programs and their opinions on the Dutch multicultural society, and received significant support (Mepschen, 2009). They represent the most radical political view, building on the ideas of Ceuppens and Geschiere who argue that the Dutch society and cultural heritage should be protected from lternative non-Western influences, especially from societal groups with Islamic background (2005). Homonationalism and Anti-Multiculturalism in Dutch Politics Various scholars have highlighted the two important aspect in the Dutch nationalist discussion (Mepschen et al, 2010; Mepschen 2009; Buijs et al. , 2009; Buijs et al. , 2011; Butler, 2008; Van der Veer, 2006): On the one hand, there are apparent limits in Dutch tolerance towards Muslims, while on the other hand, Muslim citizens show limits in respecting the liberal Dutch values, including secular attitudes towards homosexuality.

Puar introduced the concept ‘homonationalism’, referring to gay politics as invoking a difference between the ‘West’ and the Islam (2007). In other words, gay rights have been used in Dutch politics to create a distinction between the tolerating ‘Dutch’ and the homophobic ‘others’, mostly referred to Muslims. Pim Fortuyn’s role in the entanglement of antipathy towards Islamic groups with the politics of sexual freedom has been crucial (Van der Veer, 2006). In March 2002, when his party participated for the first time in the municipal elections of the city of Rotterdam, the party received almost 35 percent of the votes.

In May of the same year, his party won more than 17 percent of all votes in the national elections. This large support was based on his views and action plan to ‘close the borders’ of the Netherlands, refusing most asylum seekers to enter the country, while portraying individuals with an Islamic background as a threat to the Dutch society (Van der Veer, 2006). He described Muslims as being ‘backward’ and as a threat to his personal freedom to be an openly homosexual man. He stated “I refuse to start all over again with the emancipation of women and gays. He successfully made a connection between sexual freedoms and secularization as the symbols of modern Dutch culture on the one hand, and an Islamic culture portrayed as backward and intolerant on the other hand (Mepschen, 2009). Since 2010, also Geert Wilders’ “Party for the Freedom” gained large support for its anti-Muslim position, in the light of Islamic beliefs opposing modern Dutch secular values. Geert Wilders used a similar gay rights discourse as a language for critique on the Islam and multiculturalism.

From the perspective of the Islamic community in the Netherlands, the rhetoric of Geert Wilders and Pim Fortuyn is perceived as hostile and directed at their beliefs and values. This has also been recognized by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, who conclude that “Muslims in the Netherlands are subject of stereotyping, stigmatizing and sometimes outright racist political discourse and of biased media portrayal, and have been disproportionately targeted by security and other policies” (ECRI, 2008).

Moreover, half of the Dutch population reports to feel aversion to the Islam, whereas 80 percent considers the Muslim integration in Dutch society to have failed (TNS-NIPO, 2003). Finally, the majority of the Dutch, partly due to the image created by Dutch politicians like Geert Wilders and Pim Fortuyn, have the feeling that the increased presence of Islam in the Netherlands threatens national identity (Kromhouts & Smits, 2008). These feelings are used and even exploited by populist’s politicians like Geert Wilders.

In sum, there is a conflict between established gay rights and Islamic values and beliefs, which Wilders and Fortuyn have put on top of their political agenda. The Dutch Ministry for Education, Culture and Science also recognized this conflict. Consequently, They developed a policy document in 2007 named ‘Gewoon Homo Zijn’ (translated: Just Being Gay) in which they formulate measures to appease the emerging conflicting positions. The Policy implications and other action plans proposed in the document, further strengthen homo-emancipation in the Netherlands taking cultural diversity into account.

The document places two values as essential in the public agenda: social acceptance and tolerance of homosexuality and freedom to be openly gay. The main goal listed in the document refers to the promotions of ‘speak-ability’ or ‘discuss-ability’ of homosexuality within the various groups of society (OCW, 2007). When listing the goals of the action plan and when is referred to the various groups in society that have to be intensively included in the homo-emancipation, the core target groups to be addressed are the Moroccan and Turkish Muslim communities.

Especially within these communities, homosexuality is relatively not tolerated and accepted (Jivraj & de Jong, 2011). Anti-multiculturalist politicians use this relatively low acceptance and tolerance rate of homosexuality by the Moroccan and Turkish Muslim communities to strengthen their position. To do so, gay rights are heralded as if they were part of the “traditional” Dutch culture and as if the “original” population has no conflicting values in this matter (Wekker, 2009).

An examination of violence reports, providing information on the occurrence of violent and criminal behaviour in Amsterdam, shows that, surprisingly for a city having worldwide recognition to be gay friendly, the city is having severe problems with violence against homosexual citizens. Young homosexual adolescents between 15 and 25 years old are most frequently the victims of violent behaviour, where more than 30 percent of the cases recorded involved physical violence (Buijs et al. , 2009).

Political parties like the “Party for the Freedom” claim that the criminals of this anti-homosexual violence in the urban areas, like the city of Amsterdam, are mostly having an Islamic background (and being almost always Moroccans). However, when further studying the examination of violence reports, it can be concluded that both native Dutch and citizens with an Islamic background are suspects of anti-homosexual violent behaviour. Though, the latter group of Islamic background is overrepresented as suspects, when taking into account the demographics of the city.

The violent and intolerant attitudes, from citizens with an Islamic background as well as the “original” Dutch and various political parties, is partially also explained by public statements of both sides. In 2001 – the same year, that homosexuals were given civil marriage rights – an unknown imam from Rotterdam, Khalil El-Moumni, declared that in his view Europeans were “lower than pigs and dogs” by giving homosexuals equal civil marriage rights. He publically opposed homosexuality in all its forms. It was in the same year again, that Pim Fortuyn got large public support, opposing views similar to the ones of Khalil El-Moumni.

Following Pim Fortuyn, various other politicians took up gay rights issues and did not avoid Islamophobic tones in the defence of secular Dutch rights. This Islamophobic attitude has not been contributing to the integration of the Islamic community in Dutch society and will not contribute to the development of homo-emancipation in the Dutch society at large. Hekma and Duyvendak (2011, p. 627) therefore “encourage strategies that explicitly repudiate all forms of Islamophobia but do not silence those who fight for the sexual citizenship rights of all, and therefore have to fight against those Muslim groups that reject homosexuality. Political attention and public statement for anti-multiculturalist movements, in the sake of homo-emancipation and to protect Dutch secular values, have to be more nuanced and should avoid blanket statements. These statements overlook the homosexual-friendly Muslims and are countering the positive change that is aimed for within these communities (Keuzenkamp, 2010). Conclusion In the homo-emancipation process in Western Europe, the Netherlands has been exceptional in its pace of generating and strengthening acceptance and tolerance for homosexuality in society at large.

The Dutch society even reached in this process a remarkable level of ‘normalization’ of homosexuality. Multiple milestones have been contributing to reach this level, where especially after 1971 the process has been progressing rapidly, relative to other Western European countries. The de-pillarization of Dutch society, as a consequence of the secularization, and the Dutch political and institutional environment empowered this ‘normalization’ of homosexuality.

Aside of increasing acceptance and tolerance of homosexuality in Dutch society, a cultural transformation process took place, where the Netherlands faced large flows of immigration from former colonies, Mediterranean countries and, noticeably, Morocco and Turkey. Consequently, the society has become increasingly culturally diverse. These two developments, normalization of homosexuality and the establishment of a multiculturalist society, have clashed, resulting in anti-multiculturalist movements within Dutch politics. Likewise, some political parties have used homonationalism to strengthen their position on anti-multiculturalism.

They justify their position upon threats of the culturally diverse society, mostly referring to the Islamic communities present in the Dutch society, on Dutch secular values. In the future it will be interesting to see how traditional Dutch political parties will position themselves in this debate. Positioning themselves in this debate is a balancing act. Since, on the one hand, they want to denounce the anti-Muslim rhetoric of Wilders, while on the other hand, they want to express full right to homosexual values in the Netherlands. Reference List Anti-homogeweld zijn geen incidenten.

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