Minorities increasingly targeted in Amsterdam: Mayor

Mayor of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen

Amsterdam mayor Jozias van Aartsen is receiving signals that the number of incidents targeting minorities in the city is on the rise, he said on Wednesday in a city council debate about a decapitated doll left at the Emir Sultan Mosque in Amsterdam Noord last week, Het Parool and AT5 report.

The discrimination hotline for the Amsterdam region received more and increasingly violent reports last year. The hotline received a total of 392 reports about discrimination based on origin, skin color or ethnicity, an increase of 25 percent compared to 2016. Van Aartsen also based his statement on conversations with minority communities. "There is a feeling that there is an increase in the number of incidents and impacts on the moral position of people. And that makes it a reality for me", the interim mayor said to the council.

Van Aartsen had a meeting with representatives of mosque managements earlier this week, to discuss the latest incident with the decapitated doll. "I can imagine the fear very well. They experience this as an attack. It was seen by mothers and especially children from the school in front of the mosque. It had a huge impact on their lives, it hit them emotionally. A mosque should be a safe home", the mayor said.

Each one of the Amsterdam faction leaders condemned the action. The VVD called it "disgusting", Groenlinks "terrible", SP "nauseating", and the D66 called the perpetrators "cowards". PvdA member Sofyan Mbarki said he is noticing a bleak wind of racism and xenophobia in the city. "But do not let this wind drive us apart", he said. He is also seeing an increasing number of stories about discrimination and hate on social media. "A Muslim woman called in the help of a consultant to improve her resume", he told the council. "She was told that she had to lower her ambitions because of her headscarf. This must not happen in our city."

Mbarki and GroenLinks faction leader Rutger Groot Wassink asked Van Aartsen whether the investigation into who left the doll at the mosque and the increasing discrimination incidents have priority in the city council. 

"I also said [in the meeting with the mosque managers] that I was touched by the idea that there would be trivialization, looking away", Van Aartsten answered. "The idea that nothing is happening is wrong. Of course this has priority, everything to do with hate crimes has absolute priority." He added that the figures don't say much about Amsterdam residents' willingness to report such crimes. "But do that especially, file a report."