Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nine Egyptian Bloggers

This morning I watched the Dutch tv program "goede morgen Nederland" (a title which is hard to translate because "good morning holland" would only cover two provinces). Anyway, on that program a representative of Dutch foreign affairs admitted that Dutch interests are being hurt by Geert Wilders superficial but continuous verbal attacks on Islam and muslim immigrants living in the netherlands. This government official explained that foreign affairs had therefore invited nine Egyptian bloggers to visit the Netherlands. Anyone know who those nine bloggers are?

These nine bloggers have apparently been invited to the Netherlands to introduce them to the debate on Islam and migration that has been raging in the Netherlands for the last decade.

Let me therefore give a very short introduction to this debate.

As I argued in my article "if culture matters?" the end of the cold war has not been a blessing to Africa. The "empty house" has seen scores of new ghosts come in. The same goes for Europe, in the Netherlands the last 15 years have seen the rise of anti-immigrant politics which resembles to the line of thought which Lawrence Harrison and Michael Fairbanks seem to be exploiting.

The main ingredient of this line of thought is the assumption that cultural progress is a lineair process and people living anywhere in the muslim world or in sub saharan African are cultural inferior to people living in Europe and the US. An idea that seems to have had a lot of attraction on people who have lost all attachment to some coherent worldview, be it catholicism, protestantism, communism or even social democracy. It's in that context that politicians like Balkenende and Sarkozy emphasizing "European judeo-christian values" and "Law and order" won their victories. It's also to that line of thought that Geert Wilders is appealing.

The debate on democratic development in the muslim world and in sub saharan Africa is strongly influenced by these people. These people tend to support authoritarian regimes (Moubarak resurfaced today) both in the arab world and in sub saharan africa for a very simple reason. They claim that people in muslim countries and sub saharan Africa lack the level of enlightment to be entitled to democracy. The Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy published a report with the title "Dynamism in Islamic Activism" which resisted this tidal wave, but to this day it has been completely eclipsed by anti-muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric and scorn not only by Geert Wilders, but also ignored by all major socalled centrist parties. I chatted with a city council member of a conservative party in Rotterdam that literally told me that he didn't think muslim immigrants were ready to vote in local elections.

Laurent Chambon, has a good article in French on how right-wing political parties succeed to appeal to progressive voters in Europe based on this line of thought.

Where Are The Egyptian Bloggers?

I would very much like to start following these nine Egyptian bloggers. The debate (should I call it that?) on Islam and muslim immigration in the Netherlands has gone on way to long without any relation to the very large arab world blogosphere, estimates tell us Egypt has 30.000 active arab bloggers. Let's connect to Egyptian bloggers!

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