None of this apparently matters though, as the government has appointed a Muslim mayor.
Unifying Dutch city falls to Muslim mayor
In Rotterdam, where cultural and social divides are apparent, the burden of bridging them now belongs to Morocco-born Ahmed Aboutaleb. How he fares could matter beyond his city's borders.
Reporting from Rotterdam, Netherlands - The veiled women clutch their children's hands as they scurry past the liquor store, ignoring rows of vodka bottles on their way to the Muslim butcher's next door.
Across the street, male customers emerge from the Climax sex shop with their purchases and quickly stride away without a second glance at the Turkish kebab restaurant just opening for lunch.
The conservative and liberal, religious and secular, Dutch and foreign stand side by side here in Rotterdam, in a contrasting and at times uneasy coexistence where social and cultural middle ground can be elusive.
The job of finding that middle ground has now fallen onto the shoulders of a thoughtful Moroccan-born Muslim who arrived in Rotterdam just nine months ago. His address: the mayor's office.
Ahmed Aboutaleb is the first Muslim immigrant to lead a major Dutch city. The son of an imam, he was appointed mayor of Rotterdam late last year and in January became the official face of the Netherlands' second-largest city.
Right-wing politicians demanded that Aboutaleb demonstrate his loyalty by giving up his Moroccan passport (he holds dual nationality). Geert Wilders, the country's most inflammatory public figure, declared that Aboutaleb's appointment was "as ridiculous as appointing a Dutchman as mayor of Mecca."
But there have been missteps. Critics questioned an official trip Aboutaleb took to Morocco in June, during which he met the country's foreign minister and appeared to step on the toes of the Dutch central government.
In August, a dance party for thousands of beachgoers devolved into pandemonium and brawls in which one man was killed. The mayor, criticized for not assigning enough police officers to patrol the event, ordered a two-year ban on such parties.
"My job is to build bridges, and Rotterdam is a good place to do that," he said.
Muslims are great at building bridges, they build them for themselves in an attempt to move towards more land to conquer.
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