Who’s good, gets candy..

16 Nov

I thought we lived in a country where everybody was free to share their opinion, even if that opinion was not shared by all. A country where you can call mosques “palaces of hatred” (as right-winger Wilders does), or that the royal family is too costly, or that soccer guru Johan Cruijff needs to retire.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 19), the Dutch Constitution (article 7) and the European Convention on Human Rights (article 10) are clear as glass: everyone has the right to an opinion and the freedom to share that opinion, without any interference by any public authority. Last Saturday, there turned out to be limits to that freedom.
A silent and non-violent protest of Quinsy Gario and Kno’ledge Cesare was ended forcefully, as they were wearing t-shirts that said “Zwarte Piet is racist”. (For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet and Sinterklaas, please read my earlier post “Free Piet” ). In a shocking video posted on Youtube, we see three police officers wrestling Gario to the ground, upon which he was arrested and held for questioning for over six hours.
Is this our famous Dutch tolerance? Didn’t we have space for different opinions in the polder? Didn’t we engage in dialogue, looking for comprise and consensus?
It was already tough enough to explain this abroad: an old Turkish bisshop who arrives by boat from Spain, with his servants wearing Afro wigs and blackface telling us with a Surinamese accent that they’re black from the soot from the chimney.
The images of Gario’s arrest don’t make it any easier.
Fierce debates online: “They should stop complaining, hands off from Zwarte Piet”.
That too is freedom of speech. But apparently in the Netherlands some are more free than others.
As the old Sinterklaas song goes: “who’s good, gets candy, who’s bad, gets whipped.”
(the Dutch version of this column appeared in Dutch daily AD 15 November 2011)

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