What if all the Moroccans in the Netherlands were to pack up and leave? This is the question posed by an internet video launched on Tuesday.
A man cycles in his dressing gown to collect his own newspaper from a pile in the street – the Moroccan delivery man has left the country. Streets are strewn with litter, buildings fall into disrepair. Stranded commuters queue for taxis, with no one left to drive them. “Last Moroccan leaves today,” reads the newspaper headline, as a plane overhead flies south.
This is the world envisaged in a video featured on the website munt.nu – one in which everyone of Moroccan descent has left the Netherlands.
Rotterdam football team Feyenoord are league champions, but the city’s Moroccan mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb doesn’t turn up to congratulate them. Meanwhile in Amsterdam, performances by Moroccan stand-up comedian Najib Amhali are cancelled. The video portrays a country with buildings falling into dereliction and endless rows of cars waiting to be repaired.
Nevertheless, the film is not simply a worthy celebration of Moroccan contributions to Dutch society. It also shows bored staff at a deserted social security benefit office left twirling on their chairs and filing their nails. Worst of all, in a country with no Moroccans at the centre of controversy, the Dutch press is struggling to fill its pages. An empty newspaper opinion page desperately appeals to its readers for material.
The eight-minute film, entitled Kop of Munt – Heads or Tails – features on the website munt.nu. The Dutch word munt also means mint, a reference to the crucial ingredient in the favourite Moroccan beverage, mint tea. But the people behind the website are keen to stress they are not “businessmen with a share in the sale of mint”. They also deny being the “Silent majority society”, the “Association of Experienced Opinion-holders” or the “Institute for professional provocateurs”. Or, for that matter, victims: “we’ve assigned that role to our sheep”. Rather they describe themselves as “socially engaged Dutch-Moroccan young people bursting with energy and creativity”. But exactly who they are remains a mystery – the makers of both film and website remain anonymous.
Moroccans tend to feature in the Dutch media as young criminals, causing nuisance in the street, hurling abuse at gays and women, and carrying out muggings and robberies. Or indeed as Muslims struggling to integrate, in a debate driven by anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party. Mr Wilders has said he would not hesitate to deport Muslims who commit crimes or fail to integrate into Dutch society – and his party is riding high in the polls.
The makers of Heads or Tails say they want to counter the popular view and show that “Moroccan Dutch people are an integral part of society. And that a large section of the Netherlands doesn’t identify with the hysteria surrounding ‘Moroccans’.”
However, judging by the results of a survey on the website’s homepage, the visitors are not persuaded. They seem far more ready to back Geert Wilders’ viewpoint. “What do you think of the idea of Moroccans leaving the Netherlands?” the survey asked. Based on a total of more than 13,500 respondents, the results were as follows:
"Good, I can’t wait!" 71%
"I’ve got no opinion at all!" 6%
"Bad, Moroccans belong here, full stop!" 23%
The “can’t wait” attitude is echoed on right-wing tabloid-style news website geenstijl.nl, where hundreds of respondents rushed to welcome the idea of a “100% Moroccan-free” Netherlands.
The young Moroccans behind munt.nu might deny being professional provocateurs, but they do seem happy to go on provoking the argument. They have now replaced their survey with a new question: “Who should be the next to leave the Netherlands: (a) Antilleans, Turks and Surinamese, (b) Anyone who wants to, or (c) No one – Moroccans are enough.”