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Vision on integration

Don't 'cuddle to death' but civic intergration!

On the subject of immigration and integration – an extremely important and politically sensitive issue in the Netherlands and elsewhere – one of my contributions is the now familiar idea that immigrants in the Netherlands are being ‘cuddled to death’, i.e. killed with kindness (doodknuffelen).
These and other views I hold on immigration and integration issues have attracted extensive media interest.

Commentary by Roel Pieper
When my new book ‘Beeldvorming en Integratie’ ‘Image and Integration’ was published at the beginning of 2004, Professor Roel Pieper wrote the following commentary:

David Pinto’s new book is a timely piece of work, having gone to press at the very moment that the parliamentary committee of enquiry into integration is completing a report on its findings. Pinto makes a number of predictions about the contents of the report.

It wouldn’t surprise me if, in this case too, he turns out to be right. I hope that the committee’s report will lead to a fundamental discussion about what, at present, is the most emotive issue in the political arena and what makes the timing of the book so effective.

Precise analysis
Pinto gives a precise analysis of the issues and offers refreshing as well as forward-looking solutions.

He is no stranger to unorthodox, non-traditional, in other words a non-Dutch, approach and has been treating us to his ideas for many decades. He came up with the notion that immigrants were being cuddled to death, inspiring the VVD as well as Frits Bolkestein to get a political discussion going.

He was the first to launch the idea that every immigrant should be obligated to learn Dutch. He thought up the ‘inburgeringscontract’. Like every other visionary, he encountered strong resistance at first. People considered him politically incorrect. Eleven year later, however, former minister, Hedy d’Ancona, admitted that he had been right. The tide of public opinion in the Netherlands is thus turning and people are ready for Pinto’s ideas.

The time has come
It is striking that what he published in the 1990’s is still relevant today, as is illustrated by the nine articles from that period in part IV of this book. Personally, I find his contribution to the debate with the then junior minister for justice, Job Cohen, particularly noteworthy.

This debate took place during a series of lectures at the Catholic University of Brabant on the subject of economic refugees. I agree with Pinto. And perhaps he is right in believing that public opinion in this country is not yet ready for what he proposed during the debate. Still, I would welcome the proposal to admit economic refugees into the Netherlands as well as Europe.

Not integration- but participation policy
What I also find refreshing is a detailed proposal to replace an ‘Integration policy’ with a ‘Participation policy’ being an active member of society. With his knowledge of Dutch history and culture together with a common-sense analysis of policies pursued to date and Talmudic precision, Pinto shows why those policies were bound to fail. At the same time, he offers clear arguments for what should be the alternative and why it would be a success.

Culture Gap
What I find very convincing is the discussion concerning the enormous cultural gap which, unlike the seventeenth century, divides present-day immigrants and the emancipated, secularized societies where they are settling. There is so much tension between these groups that an unclear and soft immigration policy, which is how Pinto describes it, cannot succeed. He has sounded repeated warnings.

The fundamental policy changes which he advocates are far-reaching but they do make sense. Empirical observation supports the arguments which have been put forward for many years by the man who combines knowledge, skill, commitment, passion and expertise. He emigrated, twice even, from Morocco to Israel and then to the Netherlands. Let’s not wait another eleven years, only to discover that we should have listened to the proposals advocated in this book.

Professor Roel Pieper, November 2003
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