EU taking on responsibility to fight neo-Nazis: mayor

EU taking on responsibility to fight neo-Nazis: mayor

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
EU taking on responsibility to fight neo-Nazis: mayor

Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The EU is taking responsibility to deal with racist movements in its countries, Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said yesterday in Istanbul.

“Of course I don’t approve of what happened in Germany. But there is an investigation going on and they succeeded in finding who did it and why. That’s really important,” Aboutaleb told Hürriyet Daily News in an interview. “A lot of people said they feel shame and Merkel commented on it as well. That is very important.”

Discussing extreme far-right tendencies in Holland, Aboutaleb said everyone has the right to speak of their own free will, but they do not have to say everything just because they are allowed to. “As a Muslim, I defend everybody’s right to say that Islam is not a good thing,” he said. “Mr. Geert Wilders and all the others have the right to say that. Yet, you don’t have to say everything just because you are allowed to.”

Aboutaleb said he closely followed last week’s incident between Turkey’s EU Minister Egemen Bağış and Dutch politician Barry Madlener, who criticized Islam and Turkey and presented Bağış with a Turkish cartoon that landed the artist in jail.

“Cartoons, articles and saying what you think about other’s religion are rights of freedom of speech and there is no right to be offended. That newspaper is going to be on the floor the next day and the cat is going to play with it,” he said.

Integration issues

Half of the population is of immigrant background in Rotterdam, including 66,000 Turks, where Aboutaleb is the first mayor of immigrant origin. “I myself came to the Netherlands from Morocco when I was 15. In the beginning I found it not so easy, but then I ended up being an engineer and then worked as a journalist. It is not an easy process,” he said.

Aboutaleb said the integration process is also the responsibility of immigrants. “The governments can only make the necessary opportunities within the framework of law,” he said. “Yet, it is very important people make their own choice to be part of the society, because if they don’t like it they can always go back.”