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This Reader’s Comment, by Ismail Muhammad from Los Angeles, to a particularly narrow-minded editorial in the NY Times by Ross Douthat (in which Mr. Douthat, in short, portrayed historical

Next stop: Japanese internment camp, California, USA 1941-46

intolerance and the threat of discrimination in the US as “wisdom”), can be applied to many multicultural environments, including here in the Netherlands:

“I take issue with the idea that discrimination produces assimilation, and is excusable because it leads to unity. I’m curious to know your historical analysis of anti-black discrimination [in the US]. Discrimination does not result in assimilation. Assimilation is the result of being fully integrated into the native culture through the work place, social and government institutions, media, and popular culture. The more people are forced to recognize that they are different, the more likely they are to wield those differences as cultural weapons. In short, discrimination results in narrow-minded thinking on the part of the victim, who comes to see himself as irrevocably different and only finds acceptance in his own culture. This may even lead to dangerous interpretations of that culture, i.e. militant black nationalism, Islamic extremism, etc.”

It was a relief to read such a reasoned and rational view after suffering Mr. Douthat’s surprisingly provincial and black/white view of the world. There were many worthy comments, but the one by Mr. Muhammad I found particularly cogent.

This is, in my view, what is largely missing in the Dutch and broader European landscape: an accurate representation of  modern societies in “work place, social and government institutions, media, and popular culture.” Until this truly begins to happen, those who are new to the culture will continue to feel themselves underrepresented, ostracized, disenfranchised and “different.” It is not only up to them to make the changes: it is up to both the host society as well as the newcomers to reach out to each other.

رمضان مبارك, Joyeux Ramadan, Happy Ramadan, Selamat Berpuasa, Feliz Ramadan, ماه رمضان مبارک – To all my Muslim followers.

It’s been interesting following the “trending topics” on Twitter, especially when there is something of value (i.e. NOT “Justin Bieber” or the latest Disney film). Last night it was the beginning of Ramadan. Even though I’ve read about Ramadan, this was the first time I’ve heard in detail from those who are practicing it. It was fascinating to read that nearly every practitioner who was writing about it saw this time as an opportunity to deepen their spirituality and their relationship not only with God, but also with their families and themselves. A typical posting, this one from @NomadicEmpress, reads:

“I am in complete happiness! The beautiful month of Ramadan is here to bless and cleanse us all. May we all benefit from the month of mercy.”

Reading these filled me with such a feeling of joy and happiness for my Moslem brothers and sisters. Suddenly all the noise about the “Ground Zero mosque,” Geert Wilders and other anti-islamists appeared to me to be shallow, hateful, self-righteous and intolerant.

I also felt a small twinge of envy. As a practicing and faithful Catholic, we have our own season of self-denial and spiritual examination in the Lenten period before Easter. Feeling the depth of the experience reflected through social media made me realize how much deeper an experience it can be.

Thank you, my Moslem brothers and sisters, for sharing a glimpse into your faith. I wish you strength, health, happiness and a deeper spirituality during this time.

Ramadan Mubarak.

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Leo Salazar

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