The Amsterdam authorities have announced that a large cross, which was removed from in front of a supermosque that is currently being built in a western suburb of the city, will be put back in its original place once the construction works are over in a few years’ time.
Last week we reported on the decision of the Amsterdam borough of De Baarsjes to permanently remove the white cross which served as a memorial to the Second World War. The cross, with the inscription “Aan hen die vielen” (To those who fell), was situated in front of a place where a huge mosque – the Westermoskee – is currently being built. The cross was removed for the building works, but the authorities decided they would not put it back afterwards and would replace it by a “neutral” memorial, at the price of 50,000 euro.
According to the authorities the cross was offensive to the Muslim and Jewish communities, who had objected to the cross as a war memorial. “The cross is seen as a reference to Christianity. I can understand this,” the local (Christian-Democrat) councillor, Jan Voetberg, said.
However, news of the decision led to an outcry, which prompted the local council to renege on its decision. The local council was swamped with protests from all across the country. While the Pakistani, Moroccan and Turkish communities had, indeed, asked for the removal of the memorial, the Jewish community said it had never objected to the cross. On the contrary. Bloeme Evers, an Auschwitz survivor, said he was shocked by the demand. Three years ago a war remembrance ceremony at the memorial was disrupted by Moroccan youths shouting anti-Jewish slogans.
“We have made an error of judgement and apparently touched an open nerve,” Jan Voetberg said about the decision of the council’s change of mind. Last Friday the council announced that the cross will be returned to its original position “in a few years time,” once the construction of the mosque is completed.
Considering that it is probably intolerable for a Muslim to have a huge white cross in front of a mosque (at least as intolerable as a paper that publishes a drawing of Muhammad) we are curious to see whether the Amsterdam cross will indeed return – and if so – for how long.