In an interview on the Dutch TV show Newshour shortly after the Charlie Hebdo murders, Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Muslim, said Islamic extremists should "fuck off".
He said, in Dutch:
It's incomprehensible that you turn against freedom like that, but if you don't like this freedom, for heaven's sake, get your suitcase, and leave. There might be a place where you belong, and be honest with yourself about that, don't kill innocent journalists.
This is so backwards, so incomprehensible, go away if you can't find your place in the Netherlands, or accept the society we want to build here, because we only want people, including all those Muslims, and all those well-intentioned Muslims, who may be looked at with suspicion, we want to keep all those people together in what I call the "We Society". And if you don't like it here because you don't like the humorists who make a little newspaper – if I may dare say so – just fuck off.
He then gave a powerful speech on Thursday night in a public square in Rotterdam.
Towards the end of the speech he said:
The death of innocent people, wherever they are in the world, may never be met with complacency. Here in Rotterdam we invest in peace. In a We Society where there's a place for everyone who respects the law and holds compassion in their heart, a "We Society" where there's a place for everyone, regardless of your background, your faith or the colour of your skin. A society where there's no place for members who don't respect other people.
We are here because, at the end of the day, the pen and pencil will turn out to be the strongest weapons and we, you and I will turn out to be the winners. The worst thing we could do now, is to meet the expectations of the terrorists, that we let hate and revenge grow amidst our people and our hearts. May we never let that happen.
Neither can we let people put up walls in our society that will separate people. Never. Not now and not in the future and that's why I implore all the people of Rotterdam and everyone who loves peace, to defend our tolerant We Society. To stand with me, the city council and everyone in Rotterdam, to go forward in the fight. Not divided but together. Not with weapons but with words. Not with hate but with love.
London's mayor, Boris Johnson, later described Aboutaleb's words as "powerful".
Aboutaleb is the first immigrant mayor in the Netherlands.
The Guardian described Rotterdam as "Europe's biggest port and a multiracial melting pot".
In 2010, Ahboutaleb gave a TED talk about his background and how to escape poverty through education.
Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alan White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maggy Van Eijk is the UK social media editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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