For the first time, Dutch public television is broadcasting a musical show for the Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. The decision has prompted criticism—from some Muslim groups.
The show will have a multicultural character and mostly feature musicians but also includes a number of actors. It will be staged in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam’s main concert hall.
Asked why a state-funded, secular broadcaster covers a religious feast such as Eid ul-Fitr, NTR’s Diversity Head Frans Jennekens replies the following:
"The question is rather: why not? In fact, it’s very strange that one of the largest cultural events in the Netherlands, which involves over one million people, has never been marked before on television, whereas other large-scale events, such as Christmas or the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi Easter address, or the Summer Carnival, are always marked with special programmes.
But is this not a bit like Egypt’s public television, for example, dedicating a programme to Christmas? Mr Jennekens disagrees. “We do not provide religious programmes. But we do stand for cultural diversity, of which religion is a part, though religion should not come first. We are not going to recite bits of the Koran. But we do want to show the richness of Islamic culture and cover the feast celebrating the end of Ramadan. But the programme does not include many religious items and features both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Yassmine el Ksaihi, who heads Amsterdam’s liberal Polder Mosque, welcomes the programme as an “interesting event”. She appreciates the fact that Eid ul-Fitr is being seen as a national holiday. With the programme, she says, public television gives a clear signal that Islamic citizens also count.
Other Muslim organisations have voiced criticism. Some, for example, say a musical show does not suit a religious holiday. The end of the holy month of Ramadan, they argue, requires a proper celebration, not a massive television show.
Farid Aouled Lahcen, who heads the Association Voice of Moroccan Democrats, is sceptical. He fears such a cultural event will hamper rather than help the integration of Moroccans in the Netherlands.
"Over the past few years, we have seen many initiatives linked with religious feasts such as Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Adhaor [Festival of Sacrifice, ed.] and Iftar [the evening meal Muslims have during Ramadan, ed.]. At some point one sees that such events do not promote social cohesion but only lead to more segregation. People get tired of that much attention being given to religion in the name of social diversity.”
[The National Eid ul-Fitr, Friday, 10 September 23.00-2400, Nederland 2 (NTR)]
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