At this moment, there's some uproar at Dutch grammar schools. Some of them refused to distribute a free pro-gay magazine, paid for by the Dutch government, to their pupils. Now these schools find themselves in a situation in which they have to defend themselves against accusations of an anti-gay bias. There's even talk of an official government inquiry into gay intolerance.
Since I'm Dutch, and Dutch people always have an opinion about everything, I'd like to tell you what I think is really happening.
The Dutch government, not the grammar schools, are to blame for the current uproar on gay acceptation. Furthermore, the Dutch government have behaved with extreme cowardice. And finally, none of this has happened withoug being foreseen, or indeed planned.
Since most of you probably wouldn't have the patience to read through an elaborate history of the Netherlands, here's a summary (if you are an executive, please fill in that word yourself) of what's happened since 1848.
1. Dutch society has long been based on the principle of balancing out differences.
2. When differences couldn't be reconciled, the Dutch have traditionally adopted a policy of non-interference.
3. This caused some problems in the area of schools, as non-religious schools could get government financing, but non-secular ones could not. After a major political battle, the so-called 'School Strife', the Dutch constitution was ammended to provide for state financing for all schools, whether ideological or not.
As of late, this policy has caused the government some problems. Several Islamic families and foundations have rightly claimed that the constitution allows them to claim government funding for Islamic schools. This poses some problems similar to those at so-called 'black schools', which have a large percentage of immigrant and/or Islamic pupils. It's well known that these schools, as well as some orthodox Christian ones, have rather stern opinions on gays. Although Christians are slowly dying out in this country, Muslims are not. Doing something about it has always been a problem though. Muslims are being considered a threatened minority, just as much as gays. The Dutch press has been talking for more than a week about one police bust which wrongly targeted a Muslim family in Utrecht. Obviously, this is a mine field you do not want to get into if you're a government that's already under heavy criticism.
So how do you tell one minority to respect another?
You try to provoke the other party into action.
Some 420,000 copies of gay magazine Expreszo were sent out, apparently without warning, to nearly all grammar schools in the Netherlands.
The magazine was in itself benign. Well, relatively speaking. It contained crude language and gay couples kissing. These are not things that would shock many urban Dutchies. However, it is probably just enough to infuriate some Christian schools. I've attended several. They don't like people snogging one another, and the threshold for something to be considered profanity is much lower. (Yes, the pupils probably do curse as as well as participate in the odd snog, but that's not the point - official school policy is the issue here.) The magazine also didn't get a warm reception at many 'black schools', for very similar reasons. Orthodox Islam and Christian teachings have some similarities, which isn't all that weird since they both have their roots in Judaism.
So by having this gay magazine printed and distributed, the government really left certain schools no choice but to send it back or to dump it in the garbage bin.
Unless we are governed by extremely stupid people, it's implausible that no one anticipated this course of events.
The added advantage, of course, is that Christian schools are involved. They serve to deflect attention from similar opinions at 'black schools'. Criticizing Christians is considered a virtue in this country, since they were once one of the dominant factions in this country, and we tend not to like authority figures (although most of us really enjoy it when they fall from grace).
Now the government has an excellent excuse for dealing with gay intolerance, whilst at the same time being shielded from being biased against Islam (or anything else, for that matter). It's efficient and effective, but I'm not sure it's something to be proud of.