European Jewish Congress
Rotterdam posters of Jewish man and Muslim woman kissing spark scandal
The Netherlands
Rotterdam posters of Jewish man and Muslim woman kissing spark scandal

A poster campaign celebrating diversity in the Netherlands has triggered acrimonious debate, charges of racism, acts of vandalism and even threats by those who found it offensive.

The reason: The women pictured in a series of posters were wearing Muslim headscarves – including one woman who was shown kissing a man wearing a kippah.

To some of the detractors, the poster campaign was a provocation designed to upset the sensibilities of Dutch Muslims and other non-white minorities. But to campaign supporters — including some prominent members of the Dutch Jewish community — it was an important statement about the need to counter radicalism and coercion in the Netherlands’ growing Muslim minority.

Initiated by a Muslim activist for women’s rights, Shirin Musa, the posters are part of a municipal initiative in support of women, mostly Muslim, who face abuse if they choose spouses their communities disapprove of. Bearing the slogan “In the Netherlands, you choose your own partner,” the posters were placed in bus stops and on signposts across Rotterdam. Supporters of the initiative also handed out fliers with the images on the streets.

The campaign features four couples locking lips against a background featuring the port city’s iconic Erasmus Bridge: the Jewish-Muslim couple; a Muslim woman kissing a blond man; two women, one in a South Asian dress, and a black man with a woman who appears to be of South Asian descent.

The campaign is in support of “women with an immigrant background from patriarchal communities,” Musa said in an interview on Dutch television last month. Such women, she said, are subjected to violence and coercion over their choice of romantic partners.

The poster featuring the man wearing a kippah was the image that “drew the most attention and criticism” by Muslims, according to Ronny Naftaniel, the executive vice chairman of the Brussels-based CEJI group, a Jewish organization that promotes tolerance in Europe, and a former director of the CIDI Dutch Jewish watchdog on antisemitism.

On Maroc.nl, a news site and forum popular with many Dutch Muslims, a moderator called the campaign the work of “racists and feminists who … provoke Muslims during Ramadan with posters of a Jew kissing a Muslim woman.”

But, Naftaniel added, Muslim detractors were more likely to focus on the depiction of Muslim women and less on the man wearing a kippah.

“The criticism by Muslims was that the campaign tries to enforce social norms on the Muslim minority,” Naftaniel said. “And I think we can debate this issue: Is the campaign saying that it’s good if people lose their identity, intermarry into one big mishmash?”

Although the campaign provoked no negative reactions in Jewish public circles, Naftaniel said, “many Dutch Jews would not like to see their child marry a Muslim, though they don’t feel the need to say it.”

To Esther Voet, the editor-in-chief of the Dutch Jewish Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad weekly, the “intensity of opposition that this campaign generated is the best proof of how necessary it is.”

It showed that in the Netherlands today, “for many Muslims, seeing a member of their own community kissing a Jew is an image that crosses a line, and that creates resistance,” she told JTA. “And that sentiment is precisely at the heart of the reason that this campaign was started in the first place.”

 Click here to read the full article in Times of Israel

Monday, July 24, 2017
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