In the Hague, Netherlands, a 500-meter portion of Stationsweg street that starts from the Holland Spoor train station and ends before Chinatown is full of Muslim immigrant-owned shops and restaurants. From bakeries and restaurants to clothing stores, they have it all.
Halal Burgers & Chicken (HBC) is just one of these businesses that are located along this part of Stationsweg. As the name suggests, HBC is a fast food restaurant that sells halal meals in the form of fried chicken and different types of burgers. The restaurant’s Pakistani owner, Atif, who started the business two years ago, says he often receives complaints from his neighbor, who Atif describes as an Englishman, about HBC-branded burger wrappings littered around the restaurant.
Dutch law legally requires restaurant owners to keep 25 meters around their shop free of litter. Atif and his employees try to follow this law but they cannot control what the customers do when they leave HBC. The trash usually leads to weekly calls and emails of complaints to the police from Atif’s neighbor.
“Every time he calls police when people, my customers, throw litter outside the door. Every time he comes to me and he yells at me, he calls the police and that is because he don’t like Muslim,” Atif says. “This man makes so many problems for us here because one day he told me he don’t like halal business in this neighborhood.”
Even though the neighborhood is full of Muslim-owned bakeries, restaurants and convenience stores with Arabic writings on signs, HBC is the only one that explicitly has “Halal” in its name.
“One day I was outside and some people throw the HBC garbage mixed with McDonald’s garbage on the street. He was outside only taking the photo of HBC, not the McDonald’s garbage. And I asked him ‘why are you like this?’ and he said ‘you people, since you came here you make so many trouble for me’.”
According to OSCE, of the total number of hate crimes reported in the Netherlands in 2017, 327 of them were racially motivated. However, only 27 of those were categorized as “bias against Muslims.”
Despite the problems his neighbor causes him, Atif remains positive about his time living in the Netherlands since moving here in 2005 with his family. They moved from Pakistan to find better opportunities, which Atif did when he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. He then pursued a master’s in international business but dropped out two years ago to focus on HBC.
Atif enjoys being a part of a neighborhood that comes from diverse backgrounds like his own, but he also appreciates how most of the locals have treated him since moving here.
“I think if I am good to everyone… the people are good. If you speak some negative, then you get some negative back from other people.”