AMSTERDAM — Time Magazine has named Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen as one of the European heroes of 2005.
He is the only Dutch person in the list published by Time this week of 37 “extraordinary people who illuminate and inspire, persevere and provoke”.
Cohen, 57, was born into an intellectual Jewish family; his paternal grandparents perished at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He was appointed mayor of the Dutch capital in 2001.
The European edition of Time names Cohen as one of its three “hate busters” of 2005.
The magazine writes that Cohen knew his city risked a spiral of racial violence on 2 November last year when Muslim extremist Mohammed B. shot and killed filmmaker Theo van Gogh for insulting Islam.
“But Cohen was not about to let this outrage pass in silence. He called on Amsterdammers to ‘kick up a ruckus and make yourselves heard’,” Time writes.
An estimated 20,000 people assembled on Dam Square and banged pots and drums to protest at the killing.
“The Muslim community did not need to be asked. They took the initiative themselves to join in and condemn the murder,” Cohen says.
Time says the “inflammatory tone and language” of some Dutch politicians alienated the country’s almost one million Muslim minority, while Cohen’s inclusive approach was widely credited with helping keep reprisal attacks against the Muslim community in Amsterdam so low.
A report by the Anne Frank Foundation counted 106 reprisals across the country, but only one incident was reported to Amsterdam police.
“Cohen was incredibly successful in defusing the tension in Amsterdam,” Hans Dijkstal, a former leader of the Liberal VVD party, says in Time.
French international soccer star Thierry Henry and Arab-Israeli soccer player Abbas Suan were also named as “hate busters” by Time.