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A young novelist lives under death threats in liberal and tolerant Netherlands

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Turkish origin Lale Gül (23) is a student and female novelist living in the Netherlands under death threats and on the verge of stopping to write about Islam as reported by the Dutch news site NOS.

Lale was born and brought up in an ultra-orthodox Islamic community in the suburbs of Dutch capital Amsterdam. Ironically, though Amsterdam is known for its relaxed attitude towards gay marriages, euthanasia and even soft drugs, the city is surrounded by the ghettos where radical Islamists exercise control on the communities and especially on the girls like Lale Gul and impose their moral code of conduct inspired from the strict interpretation of Islam that you typically associate with the countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the girls, when they want to break free from their conservative upbringing to integrate with the world around them, receive death threats and face social boycott even by their families. The story of this young novelist, Lale Gul, who published a novel titled, I am going to live (Ik ga leven in Dutch) is typical of second and third-generation offspring of Turkish and Moroccan Muslims who immigrated to The Netherlands as guest workers to earn living in the post-WW II industrial boom. 

In a recent TV interview, Lale Gül has said that she is not going to write about Islam anymore because her life has changed since she wrote the novel about the life of a girl, Busra, who is raised in an orthodox Islamic family of Turkish origin, rife with male domination and subjugation of girls. In the novel, Lale Gul challenges the hypocrisy of Islamic orthodox families and depicts the plight of youngsters whose outwards look is open and tolerant European society constantly on a collision course with the actors inside their society.

In the TV interview in this article, Lale Gül said “I will continue writing because I have received a lot of messages from the people who say: Please continue. But I am not to write about Islam. So be it, because you stand alone if you do it.”

After the publication of her debut novel, Lale Gül had to go into hiding to escape the fury of the Islamic orthodox community who branded her as the betrayer of the faith. Her illiterate parents, though they cannot read her book, are caught between making a singular choice between being part of a closed Islamic community or staying connected with their daughter. The hate against her runs so deep that walking with the uncovered face on the street in an Islamic ghetto, she can not escape verbal and physical abuse and even risk getting killed.

The Netherlands has arguably the best social welfare and health care systems in the world. In the last century, the successive Dutch governments spent hundreds of millions of Euros in so-called integration programs to assimilate the immigrants by teaching them the local language and European values. The outcomes of these programs were woefully inadequate because the Islamic immigrants did not imbibe the European values of freedom, equality and human dignity and instead of passing the values to the next generation of children, they exerted pressure on them to believe in exactly the opposite.   

Like most European countries, The Netherlands has no dearth of liberal and ultra-left political parties, newspapers and thinkers waiting to jump on any matter related to racism, asylum seekers and gay rights. But the voices of support for Lale Gul are weak, faint and suffocatingly rare to condemn the systematic violation of European values. This is a tacit invitation to Islamic radicals to gradually erode the confidence in the European value system. 

Aparajit is my pen name. I am a banker and IT professional living in the Netherlands. I am a keen observer of religion, culture and society of Europe from the Indo perspective.

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