Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dutch Muslim Women Make a Mark on Society

This article was first published in Aquila Style.
A few months ago, the former Queen Beatrix (who is now known as Princess Beatrix) of the Netherlands announced that she would abdicate the throne on April 30, and her son Willem-Alexander IV would be the new king (and the first since 1890!).

Also known Koninginnedag, or Queen’s Day, this date is a much-loved holiday for Dutch people involving dressing up in orange, flea markets, street performances and making merry.

Many Dutch companies responded with special offers and discounts on their goods to celebrate this last Queen’s Day. Al Nisa, an organisation for Dutch Muslim women, saw this as an opportunity to promote their organisation and send a message of appreciation and thanks to the royal family. Al Nisa’s warm relationship with the royal family has been expressed in the form of invitations to dinners and New Year gatherings, to recognise and acknowledge the importance of the organisation’s work.

But one incident in particular made the deepest mark on Al Nisa. In 2012, Queen Beatrix made a diplomatic visit to the United Arab Emirates and Oman, where she visited some mosques. As a mark of religious respect for these places of worship, she wore bright blue and red headscarves over her trademark wide-brimmed hats.

In a debate in the Dutch parliament after her return, right-wing politician Geert Wilders claimed that she was ‘legitimising women’s oppression’ by wearing a headscarf. Queen Beatrix was said to have heaved ‘a deep sigh’ and in a most politically incorrect way, dismissed these comments as ‘nonsense’ – a highly exceptional response that was much appreciated by Al Nisa. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, supported her actions as a mark of respect for a house of worship.

Al Nisa’s campaigns have historically aimed to react quickly to comments made by politicians in the public domain, to avoid a negative political climate by clearing up misconceptions in an informative and unique way. Previous campaigns have focused on the debates to ban the burqa (‘Get Real’), and the mistrust and misconceptions surrounding Muslim women (‘Real Dutch’ and ‘Do You Know Me?’)

Al Nisa hoped that the new monarch, King Willem Alexander, and his wife, Queen Maxima, would continue the open-minded attitude of his mother. So they decided to send them a message to bring society together with a new campaign.

A change of royal rule is usually characterised by issuing a new set of coins or stamps. The new king has just been celebrated with his own set of stamps. How crazy would it be to see a stamp with a Muslim woman, majestically radiating with a vision?

Al Nisa got a designer to make a Moroccan dress known as a kaftan, with silver details on the buttons and belt. For the colour, they chose orange – the colour of the Dutch royal family. In the final image, the model wears a bright orange hijab complete with a tiara. She looks off into the distance, arms akimbo, with confidence and poise.

The stamps were launched on April 30 to celebrate the royal abdication and coronation, as the country celebrated nationwide. The royal family also received a set of stamps as a sign of appreciation from Al Nisa.

In the first few days of the campaign, there was an immense wave of positive comments through social media. The campaign was covered by local Dutch newspapers and radio, and did not escape attention from Austrian and French media as well.

One thousand two hundred-fifty stamps have been sold so far, with orders still being taken. One supporter is even planning to use these stamps for his wedding invitations!

With only a few weeks to work on and execute their pro-bono campaign, Al Nisa inspires us to see just how much can be achieved with the creativity, passion and commitment of a few Muslim women.


If you’d like to buy some stamps to support this campaign, send an email to

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