Dutch far right party tries to block appointment of Muslims to Cabinet

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands: A far-right Dutch political party objected Thursday to the appointment of two Muslims to the Cabinet because they have dual nationalities.

Ahmed Aboutaleb and Nebahat Albayrak were named to become the junior ministers for social affairs and integration respectively in the new centrist Cabinet being formed by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. They would be the first Dutch Cabinet members who are Muslim.

An opposition member of parliament for the nationalist Freedom Party said the two should be barred because they have second nationalities – Aboutaleb also holds Moroccan citizenship, and Albayrak Turkish. They “remain the servant of two different countries and that can lead to conflicting interests, and that’s why it’s necessary to oppose this,” Sietse Fritsma said.

His remarks were interrupted by an uproar of protest from lawmakers across the political spectrum until he was cut off by the gavel of the parliamentary chairwoman, Gerdi Verbeet.

Verbeet adjourned the session, and when it reconvened she said Fritsma had withdrawn his motion to block their appointment because it conflicted with the Dutch Constitution prohibiting discrimination, which he had sworn to uphold.

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Freedom Party, told NOS television later that Verbeet, a Labor Party member, was misusing her position to support the two designated Cabinet members, who belong to the same party. “It’s unworthy, not objective and very dangerous,” he said.

Press Association, 15 February 2007

See also Expatica, 15 February 2007