A swimming pool for Muslim women in Holland

By Khaled Shawkat, IOL Correspondent

THE HAGUE, September 16 (IslamOnline.net) – Muslim women took to the streets of Helmond city, southeast of the Netherlands, to protest a decision by the city’s municipality to withhold an annual grant for a government-aided social organization, allocated for women-only swimming classes.

“Some 250 Muslim women – mostly veiled – rallied against the Helmond decision,” Omayma Hassan Nour, the head of an NGO catering for Arab and Turkish women in Holland told IslamOnline.net Tuesday, September 15.

“The marchers made their way to the headquarters of Helmond municipality, where they met with municipality members, who were all on board to hold back the annual grant. They had viewpoints that reflect provocative racist backgrounds,” she maintained.

Nour said some officials had the gall to “ask Muslim women to cope with the Dutch culture by having swimming classes with males and that Muslim women’s “reluctance signaled a rejection to incorporate into the (Dutch) society and a preference to live in a ghetto, which necessitates withholding the annual grant.”

She further complained that the decision denied hundreds of Muslim women in Helmond their right to have unmixed swimming courses.

“A large portion of the grant was used to rent closed swimming pools for Muslim women,” Nour clarified.

Fears

She feared that the decision would be used as a pretext by other municipalities nationwide to take similar moves.

She also warned that Helmond municipality and other Dutch boroughs might withhold all other Muslim-oriented grants whether they have to do with sport or other cultural and social activities.

“Unfortunately, the 9/11 attacks have tarnished the image of Muslims in the eyes of many Dutch officials, who now see hijab as a means to impose social isolation on Muslim women and an obstacle to their incorporation into the Dutch society,” Nour added.

She further said that after the September attacks, Dutch officials have conceived of incorporation as forcing minorities into yielding to the traditions of the majority rather than taking part in a multi-ethnic society.

Self-Help

Nour said the main problem lies in the power seized by the right-wing parties in Holland “which will certainly help them impose their ideas and racist plans.”

“The new directives of the Dutch authorities will force the Muslim minority to drift against the current and help themselves in building their organizations and safeguard their religious and cultural values, which would widen the gap among the society’s communities,” she added.

She said the Holmand decision will inspire Muslim women into establishing their own dependent organization instead of relaying on government-aided ones.

The Muslim in Holland – one million out of the country’s 16 millions – have established over the past 30 years hundreds of religious, social and cultural organizations, many of which receive grants from the Dutch authorities.