Mona Eltahawy Cancels

appearance at De Balie

By MAX KIKKEN | April 29, 2019

Feminist author Mona Eltahawy had been invited to speak at De Balie on her upcoming book The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls and her work as an activist. However, in an open letter posted on Twitter on April 22, she let her followers know that she had decided to cancel her visit. Eltahawy cited as her reason that Dutch friends of hers had told her that De Balie has hosted events where right-wing politicians and political thinkers have openly discussed the deportation of Muslims.


Cairo-born, Eltahawy is a recognizable voice in the battle against the patriarchy, specifically within Islam. She is also known for frequently speaking out about racism and sexism in the United States, where she resides. In her letter, she stated that she was excited to speak about her new book, but after hearing what had taken place in De Balie two years ago, she came to the conclusion that this was not a place where she wanted to express her views.

Some visitors sit for a break in De Balie—a café, restaurant, and venue in the center of Amsterdam—on a Wednesday April evening. Sofia van den Donk / The Amsterdammer

The event to which Eltahawy refers took place two years ago. Its title, ‘Waarom haten ze ons eigenlijk?’ (‘Why do they hate us?’), gives some indication of its polemic nature (video link). The event was organized after the terrorist attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016 by Werkelijkheid in Perspectief, an organization that claims to offer a podium for thinkers that would otherwise be overlooked. The topic was discussed between a set of right-wing and far-right politicians and political thinkers. Amongst these thinkers were politicians from anti-immigration party FvD and the ex-leader of the Flemish section of controversial anti-Islam movement Pegida. During this event, the panel discussed the de-Islamization of Western countries under the guise of a totally free debate. In her letter and in following tweets, Eltahawy explained how the things that were said that night were “… an outrageous affront to fundamental human rights and a dehumanization of Muslims.” She went on to explain that, to her and many other Muslims around the world, “this is not a theoretical debate.”


Eltahawy’s cancellation at De Balie resulted in a resurgence of the public debate about how supposedly ‘theoretical’ discussions are not as theoretical to those affected. De Balie has since reacted publicly to Eltahawy’s cancellation and criticism towards the venue. De Balie states on its website that the views that were presented in the event were strongly rejected by the venue at the time, though it stressed that their stage should be one where everyone can voice their opinion and “engage in dialog.” This last statement has sparked outrage among many on social media, with users calling into question whether the Netherlands’ liberal attitude toward ‘dialog’ and the ‘exchange of ideas’ legitimizes racism and Islamophobia.

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