Tolerant Amsterdam

Tolerance is a topical subject in present-day Holland. In view of the ritual slaughter of the renowned film producer and columnist Theo van Gogh - great-nephew of the famous painter Vincent van Gogh - by a juvenile Islam fundamentalist born and raised in Amsterdam, it might be a good idea to focus on Amsterdam’s tradition of tolerance. This tradition started in medieval Amsterdam when citizens named porters paid their feudal lords in exchange for freedom, enabling the Dutch counts to do their duty as nobles, playing warlord in expensive wars. These porters elected their own regents and made their own laws. The relative freedom within the city walls as well the demographic and geographic circumstances aided the rise of trade in the city that would soon become the birthplace of western capitalist society.
For the sake of trade, which was the life line of the city, the people of Amsterdam became more tolerant towards other religions and different ideas at the end of the 16th century. In those days Europe was plagued by religious wars and burdened by absolute royal power. The fact that many of the regent families that were to guide Amsterdam through the turbulent Golden Age were former fugitives from the king of Spain and his inquisition, must have influenced their tolerant attitude towards religion, different cultures and new ideas.

In the 17th century Amsterdam became an international metropolis, a melting pot of people from all over the globe looking to benefit from her treasures. This made Amsterdam the symbol of tolerance. Today Amsterdam is still a progressively tolerant city with her attitude towards and support of gay issues, legalized prostitution and the kind, but realistic policy towards soft drugs (the so- called gedoogbeleid, which literally means “tolerant policy”). Beautiful churches tucked away in houses, the Portuguese synagogue built in the 1670s, the gay monument, coffeeshops; everywhere in Amsterdam traces of tolerance can be found.
This positive tour takes 2,5 hours and includes a drink