News - January 10, 2008

Dijkhuizen signs tolerance manifesto

Among the sixty original signatures on the ‘Benoemen en bouwen’ anti-intolerance list of Doekle Terpstra is that of Aalt Dijkhuizen. The Wageningen UR chairman explains his position.

In November Doekle Terpstra, the chairman of the HBO-raad, the Netherlands Association for universities of applied science, made a call for a counter movement against the politician Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV (Party for Freedom) and his anti-Islamic message. Following this, Terpstra invited public figures to sign his open letter ‘Benoemen en bouwen’ – a rallying cry to name problems and seek constructive solutions to stem the current trend towards increased polarisation as a result of intolerance.

Terpstra’s original list was not open to the general public. How come your signature is on it?
‘I’m not the kind of person who actively seeks this kind of publicity. I was approached personally by Doekle Terpstra.’

Your action is a political one. Are you acting in a personal capacity or on behalf of Wageningen UR?
‘It is not a political statement, on the contrary. It’s a social statement we are making, as individuals and organisations.’

Why do you support Terpstra's initiative?
‘I think it’s a good initiative and it’s important. The subject is one that we need to think and communicate about more deeply than the usual cursory political statements and one-liners. The subject is particularly relevant to Wageningen UR as we have so many international students. We are living proof that it is perfectly possible to live and work in harmony with each other, regardless of origins, beliefs and nationality.’

What were the reactions within Wageningen UR?
‘I discussed the matter beforehand with the president of our Supervisory Board and she supported the initiative wholeheartedly. I also informed my colleagues in the Executive Board and the members of the Concern Council before signing. All responses were positive.’