New Dutch Muslim Cabinet Minister Accuses Lawmaker of Racially Motivated Political Attacks

March 7, 2007

Source: International Herald Tribune

Wire Service: AP

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: One of the first two Muslims appointed to a Dutch Cabinet post, Ahmed Aboutaleb calls himself a "foot soldier" in the cause of immigrant integration. And as a foot soldier, he expects to be a target, he said Wednesday.

Since being sworn in last month as junior minister for social affairs, Aboutaleb and fellow Muslim Cabinet minister Nebahat Albayrak have come under sustained political fire over their dual nationalities.

Anti-immigration lawmaker Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party won nine seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament in elections last November, claims their dual passports — Aboutaleb has Moroccan and Dutch nationality, Albayrak Turkish and Dutch — mean they also have split loyalties.

Aboutaleb rejects the idea, pointing out that Dutch citizens who collaborated with their country's Nazi occupiers during World War II only had one passport.

A motion of no confidence in Aboutaleb and Albayrak filed by Wilders earlier this month was overwhelmingly rejected and Aboutaleb said he has a framed copy on his office wall "because it was saying 'I distrust these people not because of what they do, but because of what they are,' and that is unique in Dutch politics."