Elou Akhiat responds to threats

The 40-year old Elou Akhiat, a female Moroccan entrepreneur has recently received criticism for starting a wine bar.

Elou wants to work hard to provide a future for her three young children, so she started the Uvo Dolce wine bar in Rotterdam. Despite living out a dream, she has received death threats.

"I don't understand all the fuss; I also serve tea and Halal wine", she says. When the  came out, Elou was heavily criticized.

"My 74-year old father, who supports me, is suffering from heart problems because of all the fuss, and is now seriously ill. That hurts me. What also affects me is all the wild stories making the rounds. My father is supposedly a strict Imam and I was apparently married off. He is the coolest dad you could wish for. An Imam is someone who has learnt the Koran by heart; nothing more. And married off? No, I chose my own man."

Elou, who was 2 months old when her parents settled in the Netherlands, opened the wine bar last weekend on the Bergweg in Rotterdam-North.

It was a divorce—8 years ago—that helped her decide to blossom into an entrepreneur. The hijab was removed, Elou did a vocational training course, took driving lessons and worked for years as an interim-manager at sub-national authorities. A friend, who imports wine, brought her into contact with the Astoria wines from Italy. Wines she could bring, in turn, as family gifts.

The plan for the starting of a wine trade grew. With that idea in the back of her head, she followed a hotel and catering course. The wine trade came and with it, she grabbed the chance to open a wine bar in a former café. But the opening led to a deluge of threats, which really rained on her parade.

She doesn't want to go into it, if she can. But she does vent that "it should be about my business and not about me. I am being portrayed as a whore who is insulting her community and her religion."

"Those threats are coming out of the emotions of cowards. It's going so far that even mayor Aboutaleb got involved, and police supervision and the opening had to be arranged. Nobody predicted that. The extra supervision is still in effect."

Elou hopes that the negativity will soon abate. "Alcohol and Islam don't go together. But I am a citizen of the world, business woman and trade so that my three children — 9, 13 and 15 years old they are, and I'm raising them by myself — can have a future. The Bergweg is missing a hot spot, an icon. With my wine bar, I want to create some sort of movement, put Rotterdam-North on the map. I want one big melting pot of nationalities flooding in.

"I don't only sell wine, but also Moroccan and Chinese tea and chocolate, to name just a few examples. And not unimportant: I also have Halal wine. In a really pretty bottle, it looks like champagne but then without the alcohol. The wine bar isn't just for people who drink alcohol. If you come in a burqa, then you're also welcome. Look, there's also wine in the aisles of supermarkets without people taking offense? Why then all the fuss about my wine bar? You don't have to drink alcohol there."

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