UK bank scraps piggy banks for "fear of offending Muslims"
February 24, 2008
Piggy banks are given the chop as bank tries to attract young MuslimsDavid Charter, Europe Correspondent
Knorbert the piglet has been dropped as the mascot of Fortis Bank after it decided to stop giving piggy banks to children for fear of offending Muslims.
The decision has been viewed in the Netherlands as the ritual slaughter of a popular pig by political correctness. To some, it is the latest sign of uncertainty in Europe's most tolerant country about how far it should go to accommodate the sensitivities of minorities. It comes as the country is braced for a backlash against the plans of Geert Wilders, a right-wing politician, to release a critical film about the Koran.
Pigs are considered an unclean animal by Muslims and Jews, and Knorbert was culled after seven years as the Fortis mascot. A spokesman told the Dutch media that "Knorbert does not meet the requirements that the multicultural society imposes on us". The bank added that there had been "a number of reactions to the pig" and that a new gift and character were being developed that would be "fun for children of any persuasion". Children who had received a Knorbert piggy bank for opening a EuroKids account will be given a junior encyclopaedia instead.
The bank, which is based in the Netherlands and Belgium, was keen to play down the influence of cultural concerns on its decision. Lilian Tackaert, a spokeswoman, said that Knorbert had reached the natural end of his product life cycle. "The piglet was indeed being given to children opening a savings account but we ran out of stock, although some branches still had some," she said. "Now we are looking for something else."
Ms Tackaert said that the bank was in tune with the openness and welcoming nature of Dutch society. She repudiated the statement that multiculturalism meant that Knorbert's luck had run out.
"Of course we want to reach a wide audience of customers and what the kids like is important — they are changing very quickly in terms of taste," she said. "We will be looking for a new product that will fit the wider target audience."
The Muslim population of the Netherlands is put at about one million, or 6 per cent of the total of 16 million. Most are of Moroccan or Turkish origin.
The Government rejected calls in 2006 to ban women from wearing a veil, but it is due to consider plans to outlaw the burka in schools and to ban head-to-toe Islamic robes among government employees.
Mr Wilders, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party, is preparing a ten-minute film which he has said will show "the real face of Islam".
Mainstream politicians fear that the film could trigger a wave of violence against Dutch interests overseas or an attack similar to the one that killed the film-maker Theo Van Gogh in 2005 after his film Submission accused Islam of condoning violence against women. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article3419706.ece