Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Dutch Film Warning: Nudity and Gay Kisses Ahead - New York Times

It's not a spoof.

NIJMEGEN, the Netherlands, March 15 — This is not exactly a run-of-the-mill homework assignment: watch a film clip of an attractive woman sunbathing topless, and try not to be shocked.

"People do not make a fuss about nudity," the narrator explains.

That lesson, about the Netherlands' nude beaches, is followed by another: homosexuals have the same rights here as heterosexuals do, including the chance to marry.

Just to make sure everyone gets the message, two men are shown kissing in a meadow.

The scenes are brief parts of a two-hour-long film that the Dutch government has compiled to help potential immigrants, many of them from Islamic countries, meet the demands of a new entrance examination that went into effect on Wednesday. In the exam, candidates must prove they can speak some Dutch and are at least aware of the Netherlands' liberal values, even if they do not agree with all of them.

Opponents of the tightening immigration policies have pointed to the film — a DVD contained in a package of study materials for the new exam — as an attempt by the government to discourage applicants from Islamic countries who may be offended by its content.

Dutch politicians and immigration officials have dismissed those accusations, saying the film, blandly titled "To the Netherlands," is a study aid that will give potential immigrants an honest look at the way life is lived here.
When I first read about this, I thought it could be a spoof and if it wasn't it was kind of wacky. Upon further reflection I'm changing my mind. How do you communicate to immigrants what they buying into in a way that allows you to say you did your due diligence to communicate your cultural values?

The same issue came up when Westerners living in Muslim countries were caught somewhat surprised by the cartoon kerfuffle. Had their host countries performed due diligence to communicate what is taboo? Or are all taboos absorbed implicitely, if not be osmosis?

Interesting that the photo the NYT uses to depict the Dutch scene could have easily been taken in Dubai. And the woman in the bikini would not have been one dimensional. Speaking of which, here is Thomas Friedman on Dubai: "Dubai is where we should want the Arab world to go. Unfortunately, we just told Dubai to go to hell."

UPDATE: Cheryl Bigus - yes, that is her real name! - sends along this link to an extremely powerful video that amplifies what Friedman has to say. Yes, it is MEMRI edited and translated. Watch anyway.

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UPDATE: Welcome Pajamas Media readers.


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