He is the mayor of Rotterdam - the largest port in Europe and one of the busiest in the world – and he is a Muslim of Moroccan descent. Ahmed Aboutaleb embodies the contradiction of many successful Moroccan immigrants in a country where anti-Islam sentiment has become a hot political issue.

"As a Muslim and a son of an immigrant from Morocco I am glad to take part in governing this country. I cherish this moment. I am proud that this is possible in the Netherlands. And I am proud of the Dutch people who have given me their confidence," Mr Aboutaleb stated in an interview for the Dutch daily De Volkskrant.

Mr Aboutaleb grew up in the rugged Rif mountains of northern Morocco. The family house, in the tiny village of Beni Sidel, lacked running water and electricity. When Ahmed was still a toddler, his father – an imam – emigrated to the Netherlands to find work and support the family. The family followed when Ahmed was fifteen.

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