Sour Note on the Library Opening

Amsterdam Weekly published some photos showing the library construction, and an article. It’s not completely available online but you can download the pdf of the issue.

One line in the article caught my eye, it’s a quote from Mr. Van Velzen, director of the library.

Allochtoon girls visit the library en masse and borrow ten books, no exception. They gain freedom through knowledge

The term allochtoon means “immigrant or foreigner” according to the Van Dale dictionary. Some Dutch politicians have further defined it as “anyone not born in the Netherlands or whose parents were not born in the Netherlands.”

The word has become code for “Muslim” in common Dutch usage. A usage I like to challenge by saying “I am allochtoon” and watching the person using the term try to rephrase their sentence without using the term “Muslim” or referring to specific nationalities.

I agree that intellectual freedom requires awareness and knowledge, and books have always played an important part of my own learning.

However whichever definition of “allochtoon” was meant, Mr. Van Velsen’s comment smacks of cultural arrogance.

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