“Don’t be afraid of my Moroccan driving teacher”

By ANNICK VAN RINSUM

My driving teacher uses a typical Dutch saying that goes as something like ‘what a farmer doesn’t know, he doesn’t eat’. This could explain why the PVV does well in rural areas with little to no Muslim immigrants. Whereas in Amsterdam, the PVV only received 6,9% of the votes. In Rotterdam, however, the PVV was the second largest party.

“I’m pretty sure he’s Moroccan,” my dad told me after the first phone call he had with my driving teacher. Although he didn’t consciously mean anything by it, he still felt the need to tell me.

During my first driving lesson, I think I was more nervous about my behaviour than about my driving capabilities. I really did not want to seem uncomfortable but I also didn’t want to be naïve. So, I tried very hard to make myself believe that I perceived my driving teacher as I would have any other random man. But at the same time, I felt like I was secret intelligence operative when I was extra observant at times we stopped at shady parking places and he left me in the car for 10 minutes while he handed something over to some other guy.

More than two and half years later (I took a long break, I don’t completely suck at driving), my driving teacher and I have become friends. I ask how his son, whom I once picked up from soccer practice, did in his match. He asks me if my dad is cooking again tonight and how I’m doing at school. He tells me his plans for the evening: leaving the house because his ‘little lady’ is having a dozen of female friends and family over.

Helped by my boundless curiosity, and inspired by Irshad Manji’s plea that people in (multicultural) democratic societies should actively enter into discussion with people outside of their own circle, I slowly but surely overcame my fear of potentially rubbing him the wrong way.

Now, he often plays sung verses from the Qur’an, and I know that in Islam a woman is considered to be a diamond, not designed by god to perform physical labour. She needs to be, in first, a good mother. Therefore, she should be educated, make a good home, and it’s the man’s duty to provide her with the opportunity to do this in a comfortable way.

I also know that my driving teacher thinks that it’s much easier for women to go to heaven, because in his opinion they are less likely to commit serious sins – they should just really make sure not to gossip too much. But he also knows that I think that gender roles are constructed and that I believe that both men and women can perform virtually every role.

He also knows that I think gay marriage is a wonderful thing and that love is one of those scarce things in life that don’t have a darker or problematic side to. We both think that in this little life of ours, we shouldn’t force other people to live their lives differently, as long as they don’t harm us. We are both secular, and we are both of a very strong opinion that people nowadays often don’t see things from the right perspective.

Granted our idea on the role of women and the acceptability of Gay parents adopting will probably never match, we have discovered that we have so many views in common that, after all my talk about (my courses in) politics, he encouraged me today to become the first female Dutch prime minister when I grow up.

His son calls, “can’t you just watch some television”, I hear him say.

“He doesn’t want to be with the chatting women either?” I laugh.

He laughs too, “yeah, I’m playing an indoor soccer match with some friends, but I’ll see if I can take him with me.”

My driving teacher told me that if you do good deeds you take them to your grave and that you cannot take your money, your phone or your house to your grave, and that whatever you believe, we all know that we will die one day. He also told me that if you help a person, no matter what colour or religion, it is good deed, because we are all human and we should help each other. So, please don’t be afraid of my Moroccan driving teacher, because even my initial suspicion seemed completely uncalled for. He’s not here to make our society less free, so let’s not allow our xenophobia to do so either.

 

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