The Shame of the Netherlands: A Young Muslim Must Go Into Hiding for Fighting Anti-Semitism

March 24, 2013 6:32 pm 21 comments

Screen shot of program on Dutch TV. Photo: tundratabloids.com/Nederland 2

Passover. This week we will all eat more matzo then we ever thought possible, hear more commentary about the Haggadah and its multiple messages for our time, and sit back in awe and (hopefully) love at the site at of our extended family circle.

But this Pesach, let’s leave some space for one young Muslim who deserves the world’s attention and support. He is not a martyr and desperately wants to avoid becoming one. But as of now, he and his family are in hiding in an undisclosed location in the Netherlands, because of death threats.

His name is Mehmet Sahin, a doctoral student, who has volunteered to reach out to street youth in the city of Arnhem. A few weeks ago he interviewed a group of Dutch-Turkish youth on Nederlands TV2 during which several declared their unabashed hatred of Jews and open admiration of Hitler. “What Hitler did to the Jews is fine with me,” said one. “Hitler should have killed all the Jews,” said another.

While these teens knew all about the fate of iconic Holocaust child victim, Anne Frank, that knowledge did nothing to deter them from expressing their outright hatred of Jews over and over again, and insisting that everyone at their school harbored similar views. When you view the clip you will see that their smirks and body language confirm a deeply-embedded hatred. Watch the video as one boy smiles as he declares: “What Hitler said about Jews is that there will be one day when you see that I am right that I killed all the Jews. And that day will come.”

From where does such bigotry emanate? Here’s a hint. When Mehmet Sahin reprimanded the youngsters and committed to spend however much time it would take to debunk and remove their ignorance and hate, here is how his neighbors reacted:  They collected signatures to demand he leave the area. When Mehmet began to receive death threats, the Mayor of Arnhem, Pauline Krikke, urged him to go into hiding.

And that is where he and his family are today.

Is this the best solution that democratic Netherlands can come up with? A Witness Protection Program for a man guilty of fighting anti-Semitism and standing up for the truth? Are there no consequences for the hate and threats emanating from adults? Are authorities going to question the student’s parents or teachers?

One member of the Dutch Parliament, Ahmed Marcouch says he will raise the scandal in Parliament. “It is horrible that someone has to be afraid because he has done something that we all should do – teach children not to hate.”

Against the backdrop of Anne Frank’s legacy, how today’s Netherlands deals with such deeply embedded hatred of Jews will impact not only on the future of Dutch Jewry but also on the future of Dutch society. SimonWiesenthal, the late Nazi hunter was much revered by the post-WWII generation in the Netherlands. In the 21st century some have forgotten his oft-repeated warning: warned: “Hate often begins with Jews, but history proves, it never ends with the Jews.”

Mehmet Sahin has written these words; “Within a couple of days, I will move to another city of the Netherlands. My personal situation/story is a shame of the European civilization because it is inconceivable that such barbarism can occur in this country. After what happened in the last three weeks, I understood the eternal loneliness and pain of the Jewish population. In the rest of my life, I will tell the whole world that we all must resist this aggression…”

Dayenu – enough good guys being martyred. We don’t need another martyr. Those kids in the Netherlands and their peers in Europe need Mehmet Sahin and other heroic messengers of truth, peace and tolerance. While me may not be able to guarantee his future we can let him know today, he is not forgotten.  Push the pause button on our Matzoth marathon and take a moment to send a message of solidarity to Mehmet c/o information@wiesenthal.com and together we will let him know he is not alone.

Rabbi Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

21 Comments

  • YOUR COURAGE IS AN INSPIRATION TO ALL…JEW, BUDDISTS,THE MUSLIMS WHO LIKE YOU ARE PEACE LOVING, CHRISTIANS, CONFUCIASISTS AND ALL PEOPLES OF THE WORLD.
    You have great courage to stand for the Jewish people.

    Pesach is a time to become free of bondage.
    You Mehmet Sahin have freed yourself from the bonds of unsolicited hatred.
    My family have been murdered in Poland during the Shoah/ Holocaust.
    Your courage touches my heart in ways that mere words cannot express.

    During the time of the Holocaust there were righteous gentiles, those who protected their Jewish neighbors.
    Your ability to speak up against the hatred that is being spread towards the Jews in your community makes you one of the RIGHTEOUS of the WORLD.

    MAY YOU AND YOUR FAMILY BE PROTECTED BY HASHEM AND BY ALLAH.

    IN DEEP RESPECT

  • Several posters here need to revisit the history of the Dutch and the Jewish history in that blessed land which gave refuge to the Sephardim when most of the rest of Christian Europe would not. The oldest synagogue in the Americas is in Curacao, Mikveh Israel, dating from 1651, a time when Jews were not allowed to even live in England and its colonies, and when the Spanish and Portuguese colonies were ferreting out and consigning to the mercies of the Inquisition their Jews. Thousands of Dutch citizens of all faiths went to the streets to protest the Nazi treatment of their fellow citizens during the Shoah. A check of the list of the Righteous Among Nations will verify the extent of those who protected their fellow Dutch. Given the conditions of the country under occupation, that some 25,000 Jews survived in hiding speaks to the dedication of the Dutch everyman. Between the time the Dutch gave a place of rest in the Diaspora until the horror of the Shoah, Jews have been “at home” in the Netherlands, their luminaries luminaries of the of the Dutch nation.

    That said, our young man here is a true Dutchman, loyal to the proudest traditions of his homeland.

    More than that, he is humanity at its best. Perhaps he may be a lone voice. But we as Jews must remember that it is that lone voice speaking out for us that gives us the hope and strength to overcome, to be reminded that we are not alone.

    We must assure him that he is not alone.

  • Although much of the anti-Muslim sentiment in Western Europe has been tinged by elements of racism, and even neo-Nazi facisim, resulting in attacks against innocents (the Norway massacre was only the largest and most notorious), it is hard for one who traveled these countries before the tide of Muslim immigration not to be saddened by and resentful of the fact that, rather than integrating themselves into the more tolerant values of their host countries, these non-native families, instead, maintain the bigotry of their native cultures. I loved traveling the Netherlands decades ago. But now?

  • To adapt Heine: Where they burn Jews today they burn the others tomorrow – as the Germans found under the bomber offensive.

  • Maybe it takes an ordinary – but, of course, in this case, an extraordinary – Dutch citizen of Turkish Muslim background to open people’s eyes to the hate & intolerance bubbling almost out of control just below the surface. Of course, Geert Wilders has been in the forefront of the movement to alert his countrymen to the extreme dangers of his country’s reckless immigration policies for the past two generations!

    The brave Mehmet has a very long (life-long) journey ahead, but his voice is already powerful. Pray to God that it is not silenced by violence and hatred! He would have been a worthy companion to Moses as he led the Jews out of bondage in Egypt!

  • While we admire and wish there were more people willing to not only tell the truth for what it really is but to also recognise that the truth is so far from so many and how much work still need to done in get it out, we do not reuire them to become martyrs: but let it be said, they will earn their place “among the righteous gentiles” at best; lets hope they find everl;asting safetty

  • Mac Tiger-Toll

    Mehmet is the kind of hero of which we need more. I admire him greatly.

  • David Sabghir

    The article is really not explicit, but I would guess that this area is a heavily moslem area and that the community that he wants to impact is Moslem. He is wasting his time and heartfelt feelings. The hatred is embedded in the Koran and the Hadiths and it is unlikely that he will impact anyone.

    His best bet is to leave Europe, which is increasingly going down the drain. America may be a healthier place unless there is a Fatwa against him.

    • Sorry to say, but there will be no place on earth where one will be free from the debilitating ideas of no matter what religion with Islam currently as the most dangerous one because of its totalitarian teachings, proven once again by these ignorant youngsters. The scary part is the fact that these kids and those neighbors are your everyday “normal”, “non-radical”, “non-extreme” Muslims.

      Any sane society would forbid the ideas of Islam being taught and practiced within its borders.

  • The Dutch gave their list of Jews to the Nazis so that most Dutch Jews could be exterminated. Nothing changes in Holland.

    • All Dutch city-halls, as an inheritance from the time of Napoleon, carry records of citizens, their whereabouts and their denomination. Amsterdam city-hall no exception and not even the Jews working there had any idea what the Nazis where up to, otherwise they would have destroyed these records. A sad fact of the circumstances at that time.

      Like any other country they had people collaborating with the Nazis but to say that they`re all guilty of handing over the Jews is a misconception.

      • Bathsheva Gladstone

        Actually, that’s not true. New findings out recently prove that you actually couldn’t stumble in any direction and not find some abode complicit with the Nazi agenda. In other words that myth of “oh, my! if only we’d known” no longer holds any water, whatsoever!

    • Stefan Leenaars

      Yes, it is true that the netherlands had the highest percentage of jews deported. About 75% of the population. But by stating this was just because the dutch are inherently more racist to jews is an over simplification of the situation. I’m sure holland has it’s share of anti-semites who were more then happy to help the nazi’s out, but holland had also been a safe haven for jews to practice their religion for a very long time. Especially in cities like Amsterdam. The very nature of the netherlands geographically (very dense, no real forests or mountains, make it difficult to disappear for long times on end), The efficiency of the dutch registration offices compared to other countries (even the germans who are famous for their ‘Grundlichkeit’ were impressed!) meant that it was very easy to find them. which was also a reason why these registration offices were a target for the resistance, the one in Amsterdam was set ablaze for this reason. But even if you were right, I fail to see why this matters in this case, since it appears the person isn’t fleeing from the ‘native’ dutch for speaking out, but the muslim community who mainly consist of immigrants who’s criticism seem culturally or religiously motivated…

    • To Richard: No, the Dutch didnot “give” thier list of Jews willingly to the nazis. the Dutch government fled to england together with the royal family (that is bad enough) and the nazis then put a fully nazi civil administration in its place. that is why it was so easy for the nazis to find the Dutch Jews, because the population registries were very exact and noted people’s religion, not only of Jews. and indeed, the Dutch resistance tried to blow up population registries. My won mother survived the shoah thanks to the courage of gentiles who hid her in their homes, with great danger to themselves.

  • We have the same hatred in Australia. Not openly – yet – but in a subtle way. Try Sydney for the rhetoric that comes out of the mouths of some crazy “imams”at Lakemba.
    The demnd for more mosques is growing and the purchase of properties in some areas is forcing the Anglo-Saxon families out.

  • Fredric M. London

    It demonstrates just how far ‘civilization’ has regressed. Once one of the most tolerant and inclusive countries on the globe, the Netherlands’ liberalism has been turned upside down by the insidious moral crime of politically-coerced censorship. It is a belief system which happily celebrates the medieval barbarism of one group, while tolerating, and even encouraging, hatred of another.

  • Tell Mehmet to come to the USA. Such a gem of a person shouldn’t have to go through all this. I bet even Israel would welcome him.

    • Israel is open to everyone who is law abiding, and for such a “racist” and “apartheid” country, even allows other religions (i.e. Muslims) to sit on and participate in and speak to the Knessett, the ruling parliament. Unlike the countries around them who are supposedly so kind and gracious to all.

    • Joseph mizrachi

      It is people like you who can help educate the wicked and the misinformed

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