Ibrahim (1993), owner of ‘Homie’, raised in Rotterdam West
I PERCEIVE IDENTITY AS A HUMAN BEING PARTICIPATING IN SOCIETY.
I perceive identity as a human being participating in society. An individual who is good to his parents and neighbours, who is honest and sincere, and who contributes to society. Here in the Netherlands I try to uphold universal norms and values. With my enterprise Homie I try to build a career and bring about change for myself and for others, too.
Every now and then we get lost in discussions about Dutch norms and values. But what are those norms and values? Let someone name them: is it going out from Friday to Sunday, getting drunk at Stadhuisplein or going to church on Sundays? And what about the thousands of Rotterdam citizens who attend the prayer in the mosque on Fridays? Aren’t they Rotterdam citizens? In a dynamic city such as Rotterdam there are so many norms and values. If there is something that needs to be said then let that be ‘live and let live’. Despite the many freedoms Muslims have in this country, I think it would be a nice gesture if autochthonous employers allowed their Muslim employees to attend prayer on Fridays – it only lasts an hour. It offers something of value to your companion, not because it is demanded of you, but because of a mutual understanding. Now that’s what I call open-mindedness.
I SEARCHED FOR LIMITS AND FOUND THEM. BUT IS THAT WHAT YOU CALL FREEDOM? IT FELT EMPTY. PUSHING BOUNDARIES WITHOUT SATISFACTION.
Returning from nightlife, I started practicing my religion. I searched for limits and found them. But is that what you call freedom? It felt empty. Pushing boundaries without satisfaction. Within that nightlife culture, egos have the upper hand. Everything revolves around you. There is a total lack of care for others, and if you do care about others there’s always a catch. There must always be compensation. Within the Islamic community prevails a we-culture. We are obliged to take care of one another. That does not always happen, but there are plenty of examples. More than often, the negative aspect of this social control is highlighted. However, if the community were to deal with this social control a bit better then it could be something very positive to look after each other. If you sincerely want what is best for each other, then looking at and after each other could be a nice way of performing social control. You could compare the Islam to the converter: no matter what you put in, whether something difficult, bad or sad, it offers you a practical solution. I claim that the Islam offers a solution to all problems.
With Homie I attempt to provide for a place where everybody can feel at home. We offer pastas, pizzas, burgers, wraps, salads and sandwiches. I call it an urban restaurant. The food is halal, but I wish to address that subtly. There’s no need to exaggerate. The food is fresh, fast, healthy and affordable. I am happy when I see the diverse group of guests around me. Like a meeting of the United Nations, my brother and companion would say. Unfortunately it still happens once a month that someone walks in and after seeing me, my brother or one of the other boys shies away and runs off. You can almost hear them thinking: ‘Oh, those Mohammedans, never mind’. I wouldn’t want to call it racism; perhaps it is a fear of the unknown. However, it does surprise me that this still happens in Rotterdam.
After all, there’s no telling what people will do when they are pushed to the edge. If certain individuals with certain ideologies reach certain positions, I would not rule out that what happened in Bosnia could not also happen here. This is a fear shared also by other Muslims. Yet, when I as a Muslim man draw a comparison between what happened to the Jewish community in the Second World War and what happens with Muslims at the moment – the demonization of a religion and accusations of a double morality and integrity – I am not taken seriously. How long since the horrors in Bosnia occurred? The nineties? Know that whoever hits us on the right cheek can certainly receive a strong one back. Rotterdam has given me courage.
ROTTERDAM RAISED ME. I FELL, FELL HARDER, AND GOT BACK UP. I HAVE LEARNED TO WORK, REFLECT AND FIGHT. WHEN SOMEONE SAYS: ‘WE GIVE ROTTERDAM BACK TO ITS CITIZENS’ I LAUGH AT THEM. WHERE DOES THIS PERSON LIVE? BARENDRECHT, IJSSELMONDE, SPIJKENISSE? I DON’T THINK THEY ACTUALLY COME FROM ROTTERDAM AND OTHERWISE THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER.
Rotterdam West has taught me a lot. I have been through puberty, learned a lot, and met a lot of people. Rotterdam is my home. Every time I drive by the Maasboulevard and see the Erasmus Bridge I appreciate the view. I enjoy being a part of it. I also enjoy the fact that I can have Halal food on the Nieuwe Binnenweg, whether tjaptjoi or saoto soup, at two o’clock at night. And I enjoy the delicious fresh fish from the Moroccan place. Rotterdam raised me. I fell, fell harder, and got back up. I have learned to work, reflect and fight. When someone says: ‘We give Rotterdam back to its citizens’ I laugh at them. Where does this person live? Barendrecht, IJsselmonde, Spijkenisse? I don’t think they actually come from Rotterdam and otherwise they should know better.
Beer Duijves (1989), bartender / cocktail shaker, born and currently living in Rotterdam West
My parents were both raised very religiously – one Catholic, the other Protestant. They thought it was important for their own children to decide for themselves what is important in live, and therefore provided us with a broad view and awareness of the world around us. I realized at a young age that the world is more than its picture presented in the daily news. I am grateful for that.
In primary school we were read the Koran, but the Bible, Thora and Edda (Scandinavian) as well. I have always thought religion in itself is a beautiful thing. However, I do have issues with the fact that it is preached as being the absolute truth and in case you do not adhere to it you are being labelled a misbeliever. There is little space for different perspectives that, in my opinion, leads to disunity. I have been raised with the message ‘just be a good person’. Rules such as ‘love thy neighbour’ and ‘thou shalt not steal’ were interweaved in my upbringing. In a way, I find it funny: it is not that difficult altogether.
IF YOU ARE MY NEIGHBOUR, YOU DO YOUR BEST IN SOCIETY AND YOU’RE A GOOD PERSON, THEN I DO NOT REALLY CARE WHERE YOU’RE FROM. WE ARE ALL ROTTERDAM CITIZENS; THAT SHOULD BE ENOUGH.
In a world full of extremists, try and tell me what is normal. What exactly constitutes a Dutchman? For ages, we have been a trading nation. The seeds of the plant that is our society and culture today have been sown many years ago. I hope that our society can work towards a culture in which there is no such thing as talking about each other’s culture. That something new arises.
I have been living in a multicultural society for 28 years now. If you are my neighbour, you do your best in society and you’re a good person, then I do not really care where you’re from. We are all Rotterdam citizens; that should be enough. For a few years now I have lost my faith in politics. I believe my neighbour is more important than the government.
In West, it was usual to hang out with everybody. Outside was where you would meet one another. Not often would you set foot in someone else’s home, but you did greet their mother. In the neighbourhood people take care of each other. I think togetherness is something beautiful. As long as my life and my way of living do not affect yours, I wouldn’t know why there should be reason for conflict or even more extreme actions such as eviction or border closure. At times our lives concur, and at others they clash. For example, when Jehovah’s witnesses knock at my front door on Sunday morning I think: guys, it’s Sunday, I just finished a night shift, please leave me alone. Remember the commotion caused by a sheep’s cadaver next to a trashcan in Overschie? At the same time, the whole flat was invited for dinner.
THERE IS SO MUCH BEAUTY IN EVERY CULTURE AND ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE WITHIN REACH TO TRANSMIT. BUT THERE IS A LACK OF INTEREST AND THERE IS THE FEAR OF, WHEN CONCEDING, EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE.
I think it is fucking naïve to view the world of today through ‘Before, everything was different’ goggles. Borders are opening up. In a few years, an African boy can buy a smart phone for the price of a chicken and will let us know what happens in his life since he puts everything instantly online. If you allow yourself to learn from another person’s vision, perspective and culture, it is much easier to understand why that person acts the way he or she does. There is so much beauty in every culture and enough knowledge within reach to transmit. But there is a lack of interest and there is the fear of, when conceding, everything will change. If nothing changes over the course of ten years, it probably will over the course of thirty. Rip off the bandage and accept the new world: the earlier, the better.