Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Immigrant profiling

Beginning this week, prospective immigrants to The Netherlands will be tested on their knowledge of Dutch life, including the country's attitude toward gays.

Part of the test includes a DVD on The Netherlands and includes pictures of two men kissing and a same-sex wedding. The video also includes shots of immigrant slums in the major cities where many immigrants wind up living.

The video would be screened by an applicant prior to taking a written test that is conducted in the would-be immigrant's home country.

As divided as I am over this, I can only imagine what fundamentalist Christians (the ones who believe Islam is Arabic for Satanism, and homosexuality is man's greatest sin) must be thinking. But while I understand the motivation of the Dutch government, I'm uneasy about the precedent.

Cleary, The Netherlands is trying to keep out undesirables (i.e. radical Islamists) while maintaining their national identity. Hard to find fault with that.

The test is aimed mainly at people seeking entry to The Netherlands from the Middle East and Asia.

People emigrating from other EU countries, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are exempt.

(As an aside, I wonder how they handle airport security in Amsterdam? Doubt they're pulling any 80-year-old Italian grandmothers out of baggage check lines for questioning).

Common sense, perhaps, but should immigrants be required to take an oath of tolerance?

Again, I'm in a quandry. I support the liberal attitudes of The Netherlands, but fundamentalists have rights, too. While they don't have the right to impose their beliefs, they shouldn't be forbidden from believing them, regardless of how distasteful those ideologies are.

"They are trying to find every pretext to show that people should not come to The Netherlands because they are fundamentalist or not emancipated," said Abdou Menebhi, the Moroccan-born director of Emcemo, an organization that helps immigrants to settle. "They confront people with these things and then judge them afterwards."

It's interesting to speculate what the world's reaction would be if the U.S. followed the Dutch example. We may have our backwards moments, but no country has a more open immigration policy.

Too open? Definitely. But how far do we want to go in the other direction? Sometimes, it's hard to distinguish between tolerance and intolerance, and The Netherlands seems to be straddling that fence.

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