Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb at the podium (far right) at a rally to support Charlie Hebdo and the right to freedom of expression.
The Muslim mayor of the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands shocked audiences by going on live television to curse off Islamists who can’t tolerate the publication of offensive cartoons. Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said that Muslims who refuse to integrate and accept free speech should leave the country.
“We want to keep all these people together in what I call the “We Society.” And if you don’t like it here because you don’t like the humorists who make a little newspaper—if I may dare say so—just f—k off,” he said.
He continued to say, “This is stupid, this so incomprehensible. Vanish from the Netherlands if you cannot find your place here. All those well-meaning Muslims here will now be stared at.”
Aboutaleb is a Muslim and the son of an imam. He moved to the Netherlands from Morocco when he was 15 years old and was appointed as the first immigrant mayor of Rotterdam in 2009. The city of 80,000 people is about 13% Muslim.
He has a long history of confronting resistance to integration and democratic principles by Muslim immigrants. This activism has earned him death threats, often traveling with security and residing at undisclosed locations.
Aboutaleb was a member of the Amsterdam city council when Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered in 2004 by an Islamist. He reacted by doing interview after interview making the case for free speech.
“Stop seeing yourself as victims, and if you don’t want to integrate, leave,” is another well-known quote of his.
London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote an op-ed referencing Aboutaleb’s comments on television after the Paris attacks.
“That is the voice of the Enlightenment, of Voltaire. We can and will protect this country against these jihadist thugs. We will bug them and monitor them and arrest them and prosecute them and jail them. But if we are going to win the struggle for the minds of these young people, then that is the kind of voice we need to hear – and it needs above all to be a Muslim voice,” he wrote.
Those in the West concerned about Islamism needed a European Muslim to stand up and do something dramatic to grab the attention of the media and the non-integrating Muslim communities. Aboutaleb made a wise decision to seize the news cycle so his message could be heard by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, simultaneously undermining the inflammatory elements on both sides.
Aboutaleb’s activism also demonstrates the grave errors made by Europeans who push policies that collectively punish and denigrate Muslims as a whole, regardless of their value to society and the struggle against Islamic extremism.
Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders attacked the appointment of Aboutaleb as Rotterdam mayor on the sole basis that he is from Morocco, even though he has lived in the Netherlands since he was 15 years old. He was 47 at the time, making him a 32-year loyal resident of the country.
“Appointing a Moroccan as mayor of the second largest Dutch city is just as ridiculous as appointing a Dutchman as mayor of Mecca,” Wilders said.
The unfounded assumption was made that Aboutaleb had an agenda to Islamize the Netherlands.
“With him as mayor, Rotterdam will be Rabat on the banks of the river Maas. Soon we may even have an imam serving as arch bishop,” Wilders claimed.
The irony is that Aboutaleb is addressing the lack of assimilation; the very problem that Wilders’ blanket position against Muslim immigrants is supposed to solve.
Aboutaleb has made a major contribution to the West. He brought attention to an important problem and demonstrated that progressive anti-Islamist Muslims are a significant part of the solution. At the same time, Aboutaleb undercut those who would equate pro-integration policies with bigotry against immigrants or Muslims.
The huge media coverage of his interview means that his point of view will appear on many televisions, computers and phones seen by European Muslims. He will stir a much-needed conversation within the community about the topic.
All who cherish freedom should hope that Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb will become a celebrity in the international media and a name known by Muslims throughout the West.