Rotterdam - When acting chairwoman Peggy Wijntuin, of PvdA Rotterdam, announced a “Ramadan break,” last week, discord struck the chambers of the Rotterdam city council meeting.
Rotterdam – When acting chairwoman Peggy Wijntuin, of PvdA Rotterdam, announced a “Ramadan break,” last week, discord struck the chambers of the Rotterdam city council meeting.
“In the context of our liberal framework, we acknowledge a separation of church and state. Therefore, I would ask that we call it a coffee break,” stated city council member Antoinette Laan, of VVD-Rotterdam.
Seeing that it was just 10 pm, NIDA party leader, Nourdin El Ouali suggested that the meeting continue since Iftar didn’t start until 10:15 pm.
Still faced with disorder in the audience, Chairwoman Wijntuin, informed the council members that the break would last until 10:20pm.
“There are a lot of people, including myself who have other jobs. Tomorrow, I have to wake up extremely early and will have a long day. Personally, I believe that this party has been nice. So, I say let us continue to be able to finish and let’s stop with this non-sense,” added Reinier de Jong, of Livable Rotterdam.
That day, members of the city council had started their 14 hour long day at 9:30 am.
“In all my years of experience I have never witnessed breaks dependent on the time of the Iftar. It’s inconvenient and we don’t want that,” continued Salima Behaj, D66 Rotterdam party leader.
El Ouali explained his disappointment to his fellow council members at the statements being made. He reiterated that the council meeting could continue for another 15 minutes, adding that the meeting would have to continue without his fraction if there wasn’t a scheduled break at the time of Iftar.
“Chairwoman this looks like a puppet show. We should not treat each other like this in these chambers…We should be considerate of each other in allowing someone to eat for 5-minutes. Regardless of Ramadan, we have breaks for everything around here which I don’t often use. This is why Chairwoman you will have to continue without my party, and most likely without a few others as well,” said El Ouali.
Social Media backlash
After NIDA Rotterdam placed the footage of the city council meeting on their Facebook page, it went viral, creating a whirlwind of criticism towards D66 Council Member Salima Behaj.
Council Member Behaj claims that NIDA Rotterdam distributed the footage outside of its original context.
“The image that NIDA is sketching of what happened is incorrect and unjustified. I have personally contacted them in the hope that NIDA would understand that it’s not good for their image. Unfortunately, they have disagreed with me and don’t feel that they owe an apology,” wrote Behaj.
The criticism towards Behaj is focused on her political position which is meant to be social liberal but comes across like her parties’ coalition partners Livable Rotterdam, as a right-wing conservative.