I'm just back from Amsterdam - a working long-weekend

I was writing an article about Moroccan immigrants, and looking for local manifestations of global jihad. So, I'm jet-lagged. And, what can I tell you? The Dutch and the Moroccans aren't at each other's throats yet, but things are uneasy. I spoke with as many people as I could- even made a few new friends. One high point was a surreal, late-night visit to the only Moroccan gay bar in Amsterdam - has anyone here seen a man belly-dance? You're missing out. Another was a Saturday night hip-hop revue at one of the major clubs - the Milky Way. Midway through, I went upstairs to meet Raymzter.

It bears keeping in mind that, despite the tensions between Moroccans and the Dutch, one of Holland's biggest stars is a Moroccan rapper named Ali Bey, who now goes by the nom-de-rap, Ali B. More unfortunate than the unintended echo of "Ali G.," or the fact that Dutch criminals are never mentioned in the press (ie., the killer of Theo Van Gogh - whose name is Mohammed Bouyeri - is always referred to as "Mohammed B" - which gives us another, perhaps unintentional, echo) is the irony that many Moroccans I spoke to consider Ali B - who is immensely popular with the Dutch - to be soft, and a bit of a sell-out.

"Talk to Raymzter," everyone said. And so, Raymzter - who is half-Dutch, half-Moroccan, and looks disconcertingly like a corn-rowed Benecio del Toro, is seen as a genuine hero - a conduit for righteous fury, and an honest outlet for whatever happens to be happening. (As it happens, Raymzter himself said only good things about Ali B.)

So, I liked Raymzter in part for his manner - he ran out to get his friends a round of beer, he rolled his own joints, he included people around him in conversation, and he was genuinely, disarmingly humble - in part for his refusal to see the "Moroccan community" as any one thing. The quote above translates as "Fuck Moroccans"; the title comes from an off-the-cuff remark by a Dutch politician. The "twin towers" reference you can make out (it comes complete with an Eminem-style whistle) is Raymzter asking why everyone looks at him as if he blew up the twin towers.

I don't mean to minimize the problem: Like other young Moroccans I talked to, Raymzter saw Van Gogh's killer as loner, and a sociopath - his comparisons were to Timothy McVeigh, or Charles Manson. Like other Moroccans I talked to, he pointed out that Pym Fortune was killed by an animal rights activist, but no Dutch politicians issued calls to exile all animal rights activists from the Netherlands. And yet, Mohammed B. did belong to the Hofstad group. And the identity crisis many Moroccans seem to be experiencing these days does seem to make at least a few people susceptible to men of strong conviction and dubious purpose. Everyone I spoke with - Dutch and Moroccan alike - is certain that another terrorist attack will come. There's more certainty of that than there is here in New York. The point isn't that all Moroccans living in Holland are radicals - by most estimates, there are hardly any. It's that those radicals exist, and that it only takes one to destroy what is, at the moment, a very delicate balance.

The paradox that fascinates my American friends is, "how can a nation built on tolerance tolerate Islamic intolerance?" Perhaps Dutch "tolerance" is little more than a form of disinterest: A "you come work for us, and as long as you stay in your Moroccan ghetto, you can behave like the savages you are" sort of thing. The Dutch imported Turks, Moroccans, and now, Poles, by the pound. The fathers and grandfathers of the people I spoke with described selection tables in Morocco; the locals were paid 300 Guilders to come work in the Netherlands; the prerequisites were strong hands, good teeth, and the inability to read and write. Holland imported a colony, and this isn't a Moroccan problem so much as a socio-economic, post-colonial mindfuck.

"The Dutch don't have shades on their windows, so that God can see in. But their hearts are closed," a Moroccan woman told me. "We may wear the veil, and yet, our hearts are open." Moreover, Holland's response to Van Gogh's murder - Moroccans attacked on the streets, Mosques burned, Islamic schools firebombed - caused many Moroccans who never saw themselves as anything but Dutch to reconsider their identification with the mainstream. Moreover, moreover, in the wake of Van Gogh's murder it's become harder for Moroccan kids to find jobs, or internships. There's no question that bad people are running around the Netherlands - and that the Netherlands are in no shape to do very much about it - but the situation's more complicated than most of what I'd read in the press. The newsgroups I've visited are full of fear and hate,on both sides.

If any people from Holland are reading this today, I'd be especially curious to know what I've missed, or misunderstood. As for Brainpower and Extince? I have no idea what they're on about, but I'm inclined to agree with a German friend who describes this track as "das bomb." Be sure to give it a spin.

Update: From a recent Guardian article on the Dutch Youth Channel's latest reality show:

"The live Spuiten & Slikken show - which can be translated either as Inject & Swallow or Ejaculate & Swallow - starts on October 10 on the Dutch youth channel BNN, which last upset viewer sensibilities with a programme entitled This is How You Screw.... Main presenter Filemon Wesselink, 26, is billed to go on a pub crawl, take heroin in the form of a pill, and try LSD at home on the sofa under the watchful eye of his mother. He will also retire into a locked room and try to establish whether oral sex is better from a man or a woman."