Tjeerd Hendriks (31), Co-founder Groos, Born 1983 in Zwijndrecht, parents born in the Netherlands.
'Seeing is believing . That is something typically Dutch. People without faith will always be searching; it is human nature to search for answers. People who are religious have come to accept certain things. In the Netherlands, state and church are separate identities, however we should not forget that religion shaped our standards and values. That’s why I feel it is a shame that so many people are talking derogatory about it. I believe Bible studies should be part of our standard education as it informs people. It creates knowledge about our heritage.'
'Every society strongly believes in its own standards and values. The moment I visit an Arab country where it is about forty degrees and they tell me; ‘Gosh, I’d rather have you wear a dress than shorts because we feel offended when we see your beautifully muscled calves’’. Then I’m just going to walk around in a dress, that doesn’t bother me. Nonetheless, back here I wouldn’t wear such clothing. In the end it’s very simple: you just adapt yourself to your current society.'
'I find hipster stereotyping the same thing as the stereotyping of Moroccans or Muslims. However, I don’t feel accosted by it. Of all the subcultures we’ve heard about these last fifty years, the hipster has contributed the least to our society, except good coffee. There is zero idealism in being a hipster. Besides, I don’t think the youth have much to protest against anyway. The one who would normally protest is now an entrepreneur.'
'I believe Wilders is allowed to call for ‘less Moroccans’ in the same way as I think Neo Nazis are allowed to shout: ‘ Hitler, Hitler, Hitler’. But when this results in violence they should be punished unbelievably hard. For me, it’s the same when insults are shouted about Feyenoord (Rotterdam based football club) supporters. Let them shout all they can; I know it’s the most beautiful football club in the world.'
Qasim Arif (26), calligrapher and graphical designer
(Statiq Designs), born 1988 in Manchester, parents born in Pakistan.
In the Schilderswijk of The Hague, where I grew up, I wasn’t very conscious of either stereotyping or discrimination.
At school, the Dutch teachers were ‘white’. Nobody was hassled about their culture. After 9/11 all of that changed. Suddenly, I got all these questions about my Muslim identity and my opinion about Islam. This became the basis for my search to find my own Islamic identity.
I want to remind Muslims about our collective identity; what we value and what we aspire to. My work is based on this aspiration. Not too long ago there was an Islamic empire. Yet, at school, the Ottoman Empire was presented as just a slightly larger version of Turkey. It’s forgotten history. I would like to contribute to our general image and show non-Muslims that Islam is not the scary system which you would associate with chopping off hands. The philosophy behind the well-known words of our Prophet ‘ Mercy to mankind’ is something I wish to convey as a Muslim and artist.
When I was seventeen, I jumped from a job at the local cheesemonger to one at a printing office where I could start as a junior graphic designer. Very quickly I got enough assignments to start working for myself. Meanwhile, I’ve got customers from all across the world, from Red bull to Islamic Relief. I bring Islamic messages in an unconventional way. Whether I’m exposing work in London, Berlin or Dubai: my work is often a starting block for a conversation.
Mark van der Noord (33), illustrator (Corkville), Born 1981 in Oss, Parents born in The Netherlands.
Symbolism is a major topic in my work as an illustrator. I find it interesting how similar symbols are used in different cultures and still retain their individual significance. I like to play with that, by reshaping and combining symbols so they get a new meaning and fit within our current age.
I would describe the current zeitgeist as confused and tired. We miss the ideals and ambition to move forward despite all the available knowledge and technology. We live in a very individualistic society. We no longer live for each other. On the other hand, Muslims come from a society based on collectivism and they are accustomed to making choices for the whole of the community rather than for themselves. It is a human need to be yourself within a society. In my view, they are still struggling very much with reuniting their religion with our ‘Western’ philosophies. It’s not as simple as ‘I live in the West, so I’m a Western citizen’. I believe in balance. We could choose to learn from others instead of firmly saying that we’ll stay just the way we are both as a society and as an individual.
I think that everyone creates his own religion, some kind of a guideline to know how to live together with other people, how to be a better person, and how to shape your life. I would like to make a renewed Bible. A Bible based on sayings such as: ‘Nobody ever said it was going to be easy’. To put things into perspective. The moment you start living by all these old sayings you are properly able to live together with others. As a starting point we need more etiquette in our society.
Stryder (25), spoken word artist, born 1989 in a refugee camp in Lebanon, parents born in Lebanon and Jordan.
Multicultural society is a fact; it is not something in which you can or cannot believe. The only question people should ask themselves is whether they are prepared to accept this society. Take Rotterdam (Netherlands), it is a super diverse melting pot. In the end Rotterdam makes me. In every culture there are things I reject or embrace. In the same way as there are Palestinians to whom I do not relate and Palestinians to whom I relate a lot.
The greatest challenge is to take control over your own identity. The whole of society is tugging at you. You’re a Muslim, you’re a Palestinian. People create an identity for you and with that a self-fulfilling prophecy is born. But in the end, your identity is liquid and always developing. Islam is something personal, I don’t have to share that with anyone else.
I would describe the zeitgeist as a very complex time. A time where revolutions transform to civil wars. A time in which the gap between poor and rich is growing excessively. Where privacy disappears and people care more about their telephones than their beloved. And the dreadful thing is that no one really cares in the end. Ignorance is a blessing. Maybe things should get more gruesome before people are willing to demand change and radically change their lives.
Jan-Willem Ploegers (32), photographer, artist, born in 1983 in Zevenbergen (The Netherlands), parents born in The Netherlands.
To be a sailor or a soldier, those were the options. I wanted to be physically active. I chose the army and from my 17th to my 22nd I served as a soldier. I was deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia. A special time, but not extremely vehement. It was just work. However, I did notice I was different from the others in ways of my thinking and dressing. So when the possibility of studying on a course came up, I chose to become a stylist.
I do believe in a multicultural society, but it is not my utopia. Your cultural heritage influences your way of thinking. It will be very difficult to unite all these different ways of thinking without making concessions. Either way, it’s not fair play. I see a growing stigmatisation of other cultures, where people withdraw more and more into their own groups. I think our differences are being emphasised too much, they influence our daily conversation. The reality is: in the end we all have to live together on this planet.
As an atheist you are excluding everything, even more than when you would say: ‘ I’m a Muslim and I live by the rules’. Science doesn’t prove what is out there, it proves what isn’t, and leaves us with hundreds of possibilities that could still be an option. Besides, I think that the human brain doesn’t have the power to define a deity. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Maybe, maybe not. There is not one single truth, that is what I believe.
Aissam Tallagui (19), barista – first year student accountancy, Born 1995 in Rotterdam, Parents Born in Morocco.
May be it sounds strange but I see myself primarily as a human. I’m Dutch, because I was born here in Rotterdam. My origins are Moroccan because that is where my parents come from. My identity isn’t particularly formed by my Moroccan roots but instead is formed mainly by Islam. The standards and values of Islam made me who I am: a decent hard working person. Since I was fourteen I’ve earned my own money. I had two paper routes, one in the morning at 4am and one in the afternoon at 3pm. In between, I went to school and I visited the mosque in the evening six times a week. Because of the long hours I was tired often. Therefore I enjoyed spending time in an espresso bar in my neighbourhood. Not only have I been taught how to drink coffee but I also followed attentively every move of the barista. After the boss heard I was a hard worker, he gave me a chance to prove myself. Being a barista is serious business. Later in life, I’d like to have my own Ice cream parlour and espresso bar.
I only wear the black silk djellaba (see picture) in the mosque on Fridays. Sometimes, I also wear a djellaba at home or on a summer's evening outside. It gives me a sense of freedom. The rest of the week I wear tight jeans, hip jackets and cool printed t-shirts. Within Dutch society you need to be presentable. Primarily I would describe our time as a true-dictated society by media. Our media simply determines how we ‘see’ the world. They tell us the facts and stories of places we’re not able to see for ourselves. Therefore, I do understand that people who are living in small villages without contact with other ethnic residents are easily influenced by someone like Wilders. Purely dictated by fear of the unknown. At work, I always try to talk with my customers to get to know them better. Knowledge is light and ignorance is darkness.
There is a good balance to be found between the western ‘me’- culture and the eastern ‘we’-culture, even though this generation tends to lean more and more towards ‘me’. Even Moroccans. Perhaps, especially Moroccans. They always assume they are being screwed over. The Turkish always work together, Moroccans don’t. Why? I don’t know, it a cultural thing