Some really good news is coming out of the Low Countries this week. Sleep quietly tonight, ye burghers, for a devilish menace has been exorcized. Or rather, has been debunked. For one, the Lonsdale brand name is OK again. On 12 and 13 July 2005, the papers happily announced that according to the findings of the Dutch state security service the vast majority of “Lonsdale youngsters” are not far-right fanatics. The media had created a negative hype about Lonsdale clothes being the secret uniform of xenophobic and even neo-Nazi youngsters. This helped to create a climate of apprehension about an imminent threat from “renascent fascism”. One would think that it is but a step from Lonsdale to committing genocide. As a result, some importers and distributors of Lonsdale gear went out of business.
The four young British suicide terrorists of Pakistani origin who committed last week’s London bombings appear to have become Islamic extremists at a government-funded youth centre in Leeds: the Hamara Youth Access Point. The Canadian Globe and Mail reported yesterday that apart from the British government the European Union, too, funded the centre. People working at the centre described it as a hub of radical Muslim politics and a hotbed of Islamic organizing, routinely hosting mysterious figures to speak about extremist politics. "It had become so radical and so hateful that I asked if I could stop working there," said one of the employees. Considering these testimonies one wonders why the British and EU authorities never inquired about what was going on in the centre. Is it standard policy just to pour European taxpayers’ money into projects without assessing what is being done with the money?
For decades Tintin has been the world’s most famous Belgian reporter. But now it looks like he may have a competitor. Philippe Servaty is the 42-year old chief economics correspondent of Le Soir, Brussels’ most influential newspaper. This modern Tintin’s adventures took him to Morocco several times over the past years. There dozens of women ended up in his bed and naked in front of his camera lens.
One of them is 42-year old Samira, a teacher in Agadir. Servaty told her that he loved her and asked her to pose nude for a souvenir picture. He had her stand on all fours with a leash around her neck while he took her doggy-style. “These sluts are so naive. If you promise to marry them and take them along with you to Brussels they do whatever you ask,” Servaty wrote on a website where he posted Samira’s picture. Another woman, 23-year old Amina, was photographed while Servaty urinated on her. He had promised her that he was going to help her flee the husband of her arranged marriage and use his media connections to make her a movie star.
The European Commission is worried about the spread of radicalism among Muslims in Europe. Recent intelligence reports in Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands have frightened political authorities.
Who said the European Union was intended to create an internal market? Perhaps that was true in the past, but it is hardly true after today’s verdict of the European Court of Justice about the 2002 food supplements directive. The health food industry had complained that the directive was invalid. The Court dismissed such a claim as well as the legal opinion of the advocate general.
In an editorial in the German conservative newspaper Die Welt Thomas Kielinger referred yesterday to the different ways in which British and Spanish politicians reacted to the bombings in London last week and Madrid last year. “London differs from Madrid in this respect that there were no panic reactions from politicans calling for a departure of troops from Iraq. For the first time this demand has even become an issue of secondary importance. For the first time in five years Tony Blair is experiencing a precipitous rise in popularity. The people sense how in a moment of crisis they have a head of government who does not simply talk about leadership, but lives it. A nation that is led like this is united in itself and with its ruling elite and will remain prominent.”
Today, in Amsterdam, the trial began of Mohammed Bouyeri, the 27-year old Moroccan who murdered Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh on November 2, 2004. Bouyeri ritually slaughtered van Gogh because the latter had made a critical movie about the position of women in fundamentalist Islamic societies. The assassination of van Gogh, two years after the May 2002 murder of the popular anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn, sent shock waves through Dutch society. During the first day of the trial Bouyeri, who wore a Palestinian scarf, refused to say a word. He did not react and displayed the same calmness he had shown eight months ago whilst he slit his victim’s throat in a busy Amsterdam street.
July 11 is Flanders Day. The date refers to the day in 1302 when an army of Flemish burghers defeated a superior army of French knights by driving them into a swamp. Historically the term Flanders refers to the mediaeval county of Flanders centered around the town of Brugge (Bruges in French). Today, the term Flanders is used in a broader sense, referring to the Dutch-speaking part of contemporary Belgium i.e. the historical counties of Flanders, Brabant and Loon. Brussels, the historical capital of Brabant, is currently the capital of Europe, Belgium and Flanders (in its contemporary, broad sense).
This morning the 223,000 voters of Luxemburg voted in favour of the EU Constitution with a majority of 56.5% “Jo” against 43.5% “Nee.” The Grand-Duchy of Luxemburg, though the richest of all EU member states, is the largest net receiver of EU handouts, getting 1,700 euros per head per year from Brussels – five times more than any other member state. Given these figures it is significant that more than four in every ten Luxemburgians rejected the EU Constitution. Luxemburg, which has only 0.05% of the EU population, has no unemployment. Its capital, Luxemburg City, houses many of the EU institutions and is considered one of the three official EU capitals, along with Brussels and Strassburg. The little country is widely known for its banks and its farmers driving mercedeses and BMWs, but the national motto “Wir bleiben was wir sind” (We want to remain what we are) clearly appealed to many.
The leading conservative French newspaper Le Figaro has noticed the sharp contrast between British courage and the cowardice of the Spanish who, after the Madrid bombings on March 11, 2004, painted their hands white and surrendered to al-Qaeda. Yesterday, the paper wrote in its editorial: “It is reassuring to see how the English respond with that typical flamboyance they display whenever history puts them to the test.” Contrasting this to the Spanish, who withdrew their troops from Iraq in the wake of the Madrid bombings, editor Pierre Rousselin writes: “This time the terrorists will not achieve the same result.”