Aboutaleb sworn in as Rotterdam mayor
Monday 05 January 2009
Ahmed Aboutaleb was sworn in as the new mayor of Rotterdam on Monday morning at a special meeting of the full council and in front of considerable foreign media interest.
Aboutaleb, formerly Labour’s junior social affairs minister, is the first mayor in the Netherlands to have Moroccan origins and has been heavily criticised for having two passports.
In his inauguration speech, Abouteleb said his new position was a ‘fantastic challenge’ and that he would do his utmost to be a mayor who is ‘deeply involved’ with all Rotterdam’s citizens.
‘Many people feel uncertain at the moment, in a world in which everything is changing. Jobs are no longer for life. Money appears to vanish. Churches are disappearing and mosques are coming in their place,’ the new mayor said.
To help old and new Rotterdammers come to terms with the changes, it is necessary to build trust, Aboutaleb said. This demands ‘tough debate about the fundamentals of our democracy: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equality between men and women, gays and straights, and combating discrimination and disadvantage.’
Rotterdam is Holland’s second biggest city, has a high immigrant population and some of the poorest areas in the country. It was in Rotterdam that the murdered politician Pim Fortuyn launched his right-wing populist political movement.
Marco Pastors of Fortuyn's party Leefbaar Rotterdam used the ceremony to again draw attention to Aboutaleb's dual nationality. Pastors gave the new mayor an empty envelope in which to send his Moroccan passport back to Morocco.
Aboutaleb refused to take the envelope, saying he could not accept that there were still doubts about his loyalty after being a Dutch citizen for 32 years.
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