An Iraqi woman was told she could not rent an apartment in Amsterdam as only tenants who "cook in the western way" were allowed to live there.
Maysaa Munaf, who has been in the Netherlands a week, was shocked when her rental requests for two properties were refused as "both are not suitable for tenants who like to cook for hours with herbs." The Dutch housing agency said in an email that only "western way of cooking" was permitted in the apartments.
The email went on to say that if Munaf cooked in "the western way" she could view the apartments later that week.
The housing agency's response, which was shared on Twitter almost 1,400 times, sparked outrage, with people accusing the company of "racism."
Munaf shared the offensive message on Facebook with the caption "Racism is alive and well."
When she complained to the agency she was told that the message was meant to "inform her of the restrictions" and not "as a racist remark in any way."
But Munaf said that "even if it was not meant as a racist comment, it felt that way."
"I did not get what I was reading," she told Dutch broadcaster RTL. "What is western cooking? Am I only allowed to eat sprouts?"
Michel Rootring, director of Executive Home Rentals, told Dutch media that the apartments were "not properly equipped for long cooking sessions" but admitted that the agent's use of the phrase 'western' was "an extremely unfortunate choice of words."
"I find it extremely annoying if people interpret those words as racist. We should have said that the apartments are not suited to 'cooking with many herbs', because that could also be the case if one cooks sprouts or cauliflower."