A few days before the Netherlands goes to the polls, Aicha Bennani is riding through the Dappermarkt, an open-air market in east Amsterdam that sells spicy Indonesian food, Moroccan fabrics and products from all around the world. The serious faces of politicians stare down from billboards, marked with the colourful, if confusing, initials of the main parties – CDA, VVD, PvdA – and covered again with bright flyers advertising nightclubs. “We never see the PVV here,” she says, referring to the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party of the populist politician Geert Wilders. “They wouldn’t dare. We have a lot of students and artistic people here and they would just laugh. No, they go to places where there are no Muslims, where they can say what they like.” And with that, she smooths some of her hair back beneath her headscarf and rides off. Bennani is one side of the modern Netherlands, the side that most Amsterdammers are keenest to display. The daughter of Moroccan immigrants, she is a university student living in one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities. For the Dutch, tolerance is practically a religion, the embodiment of the local word gezellig which translates as being comfortable with each other, a rubbing along of communities that has historically allowed different religious and political groups to flourish side by side. No religious group comprises more than a third of the population, and no political party has won an outright majority since the First World War.
more from Faisal al Yafai at The National here.