The Prime Minsiter of The Netherlands, Mark Rutte, has a clear message to Turkish-Dutch citizens who do not feel connected to the country. In the Dutch TV show ‘Zomergasten’ he requested those people to ‘pleur op’. This statement lead to a lot of commotion in the country. Are his words justified? If yes or no, how is such a statement influencing the public debate?
Both citizens and politicians denounced his comment. However, he stuck to his words and refused to apology. Diederik Samsom, party leader of the socialist PvDA, said Rutte would not have reacted in the same way if it concerned native Dutch people. According to him the Prime Minster differentiates between for example hooligans and Turkish-Dutch citizens. When the discussion about hooligans arises, Rutte said frequently ‘I feel ashamed’. In the situation of the Turks, he requested them to get the hell out of the country (a possible definition of ‘pleur op’).
Other politicians agreed with the VVD-foreman. Kees van der Staaij, party leader of the conservative SGP, backed his comment. According to him Rutte did the right thing, by giving a clear message to those who do not feel connected to the Dutch nation. Although he did add that his word choice was comparable with ‘street language’.
The debate about the connection to the Dutch nation and identity is a very abstract issue. First of all we could deliberate the meaning of the Dutch society and identity. And secondly, the question about freedom arises. Are Turkish-Dutch citizens obliged to feel connected to the Dutch nation? If yes, by what means do you achieve this? Can you force people to feel connected to a nation?
No, you cannot force people to feel connected to a certain country. It is like forcing people to believe in Islam, Judaism or Christianity. The idea of believing in something is a psychological process. These are processes that function in your head. Therefore there is no government on earth who is able to check these processes. The entire debate is nonsense.
Mark Rutte has gained nothing with his comment, in fact: he created just another gap between the Dutch and ‘the others’. In these times, when right-wing populistic movements across Western-Europe are on rise, it is one of the duties of the Prime Minster to keep the wounds as small as possible. Turkish-Dutch citizens are actually not ‘Turkish-Dutch’ citizens. They are just Dutch like anyone else in this country with a Dutch nationality. They should be treated equally and they should have the freedom to believe in whatever they want to believe.
Just as Mark Rutte should have the freedom to say ‘pleur op’. The point is however that he is in charge of representing the entire nation. Not only Henk and Ingrid, but also Aisha and Deniz.