“Give me an example of a multiethnic, multicultural society, where the indigenous population still live . . . where they live in a peaceful, societal union,” Blok said, according to Reuters. “I don't know of any.”
When someone in the audience pointed to Suriname, a former Dutch colony, Blok dug in.
“I admire your optimism,” he replied. “Suriname is a failed state, and that is very much linked to its ethnic composition.”
Suriname, in South America, is made up of the descendants of Asian indentured workers, African slaves and indigenous people, according to Reuters. The Fund for Peace, which puts out an annual report on failed and flailing states, lists Suriname among the world's more stable countries. The country gained its independence from the Dutch in 1975.
He went on to speculate that human beings “somewhere deep in our genes” want “a defined group.”
“I can't see the difference between a Hutu and a Tutsi, nor between a Sunni or a Shiite,” he said. “Unfortunately, they can.”
Blok's comments — which were aired on the Dutch television series "Zembla" on Wednesday — sparked a big backlash. Several lawmakers called on the foreign minister to explain himself.
“The job of a foreign minister is to maintain diplomatic relations,” Kees Verhoeven, a member of the house of representatives, wrote in an open letter, calling Blok's comments "incomprehensible."
But he's not apologizing. When asked, he told "Zembla": “My contribution during the question and answer session of the meeting partly was aimed in part at sparking a reaction from the audience. During the closed meeting, I used illustrations that could come across as badly chosen in public debate.”