Saturday, March 15, 2008



Breaking News. According to Harald Dornbos, a Dutch journalist based in Beirut, the release of Fitna on the net is imminent. We are talking about that movie against Islam sponsored by a controversial Dutch MP, Geert Wilders. Perhaps you've heard something about it. Well, those of you who don't live in Holland can't imagine how much the public opinion is debating on that topic here. Everything related to Mr. Wilders finds place on Dutch newspapers, websites, radios and televisions since I came here. This because of the worries connected to this movie. In the last two months, therefore, national medias have talked about this dangerous movie any given day. Even the Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende played a role in the debate on the narrow limit which separates freedom of expression and racism. International medias covered this news only marginally. In the meanwhile Italian newspapers were somewhere else, focusing their attention on a "Dutch law which allows people to have sex in public parks". Sigh. Sob. Needless to say that this fundamental topic didn't find a coverage on any newspaper here.

Anyway, let's come back to the main topic. In his blog, Harald Dornbos draws a worst case scenario made of Dutch embassies burnt down and riotings against Holland in several extremist Islamic countries. I don't know. I hope there has only been much ado about nothing. Yet, I'm not that optimist. Unfortunately the media already fueled the topic so much that is impossible to don't pay attention to it. At this point it doesn't matter anymore if Fitna will be awful, racist, silly or just a plain useless movie. That's not important. I remember how the stupid but innocuous Danish cartoons on Mohammad were ignored for a long time after being published by the Jyllands Posten. Sometimes medias are to blame and this case is a perfect example.

Yesterday my thoughts were different. Instead of ruminating on Mr Wilders' idiocy, I went to Rotterdam for the first time in my life. My Austrian classmate Lisa invited me to join a free dinner and a free concert somewhere in Coolhaven. She found this association called Dialoog Academie which promotes an interesting exchange between Turkish and Dutch culture. I confess I didn't know and never heard anything about DA before. Hence I spent a few hours asking to Lisa where we were going to go and who we were going to meet while walking up and down the Erasmusbrug in a desert and apparently hostile Rotterdam. The whole city looked like under a curfew, miles away from my enthusiastic expectations on architecture, social life, art. Perhaps we went to the wrong places. I will give R'dam a second chance.

The Dialoog Academie is in a modern and anonymous four storeys building in a large silent street. Yusuf, Lisa's contact, welcomed us at the ground floor. We shook hands and smiles.
"The dinner is ready" he told us.
"Dank u wel" we answered using the polite form.
Then we took a lift to the 3rd floor. There we entered in a large restaurant room with dozens and dozens of people sat on many tables. The tasty smell of well cooked food was everywhere. Everyone was chatting and laughing. Small children were running from lap to lap. Dutch looking women were eating Turkish looking food. The atmosphere was really relaxed, informal and friendly. Me and Lisa found a place on a corner and started to sip a soup with a very unusual sweet and sour taste. An excellent warm appetizer coming in from the cold. We also filled our dishes with unknown delicious food which could resemble the meat used for schoarma and kebab and the kind of yogurt mashed vegetables used for Greek salad. Suddenly someone told something in Dutch. Begging for a translation, we learned that we had to go downstairs where the concert was going to begin. We poured a strong and boiling Turkish tea in our glasses and then descended the stairs.
At the second floor we had the privilege to attend to a real and hidden cultural event. I guess we were almost the only non-Dutchmen there. After a short Dutch spoken introduction a choir started to sing some arias from the Johann Sebastian Bach's Johannes Passion.

to be continued

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