Saturday, December 11, 2004

Telegraph | Exodus as Dutch middle class seek new life

Telegraph | Exodus as Dutch middle class seek new life

For years Holland was celebrated as a symbol of racial tolerance. But two high-profile murders have changed all that, reports Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Escaping the stress of clogged roads, street violence and loss of faith in Holland's once celebrated way of life, the Dutch middle classes are leaving the country in droves for the first time in living memory.

The new wave of educated migrants are quietly voting with their feet against a multicultural experiment long touted as a model for the world, but increasingly a warning of how good intentions can go wrong.

Australia, Canada and New Zealand are the pin-up countries for those craving the great outdoors and old-fashioned civility.

The illusion that all was well in the Netherlands died in May 2002 when Pim Fortuyn, the shaven-headed, gay populist, was shot by a Left-wing activist in the country's first political assassination since 1584.

Fulminating home truths than nobody else dared utter, Fortuyn swept on to the political stage protesting that Europe's most densely-populated country was full to bursting point, and that Muslim immigration, leavened with Salafist extremism, had reached a level where it was starting to destabilise Dutch society itself. His movement won more seats than the ruling Labour party in the 2002 elections.

Theo van Gogh, his friend and disciple, was next. The mischievous film-maker had his throat cut by an Islamic fanatic last month as he bicycled to work through the heart of Amsterdam, punished for a film about repression of women in the Muslim world.

A shrill provocateur, Mr van Gogh was not to everybody's taste. He once filmed kittens being mangled to death in a washing machine, which he thought was hilarious.

But his ritual execution, apparently by an Islamist hit squad, has shocked the country. Two leading MPs known to be targets are in hiding. The political class has been chilled to the bone, while white gangs have firebombed or attacked around 20 mosques and Islamic centres. "This was our 9/11. It was the moment the Netherlands lost its naivety. We always thought that we were the country of multicultural tolerance that could do no wrong," said Prof Han Entzinger of Rotterdam University.

Frans Buysse, the head of Buysse Immigration Consultancy, said he received more than 13,000 hits on his emigration website in November, four times the usual level. His office in Culemburg is flooded with fresh applications.

"Van Gogh's death was a confirmation for them of what they already sensed was happening," he said. "They're accountants, teachers, nurses, businessmen and bricklayers, from all walks of life. They see things going on every day in this country that are quite unbelievable. They see no clear message from the government, and they are afraid it's becoming irreversible, that's why they are leaving.


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