OSCE Concerned At Dutch Climate Of Fear For Muslims

By Emma Thomasson AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Europe’s main democracy and rights watchdog expressed concern on Friday about increasing Dutch intolerance towards Muslims that was fanned by the murder last year of a filmmaker critical of Islam. Omur Orhun, ambassador on combating discrimination against Muslims for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), was in the Netherlands to discuss the position of Muslim immigrants. “Holland was reputed to be a country of tolerance where integration, as compared to other European countries, had been achieved acceptably. But recent events have shown there is a problem,” he told a news conference ending a three-day visit. “Especially from representatives of some civil society organisations there were repeatedly feelings of fear expressed. Not claims of physical attacks or abuse, but a climate of fear.” Home to almost 1 million Muslims or 6 percent of the population, the country’s reputation for tolerance and social harmony was shattered by the murder last November of outspoken filmmaker Theo van Gogh and its violent aftermath. A Dutch-Moroccan man was charged with the killing, allegedly motivated by Van Gogh’s criticism of Islam. Dozens of mosques, and Muslim schools were attacked in apparent retaliation. Orhun, who met Dutch politicians as well as Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese migrant groups and human rights organisations, said the fact the government had invited him to visit the country showed it wanted to tackle the situation. “There is a problem in Holland as far as tolerance and non-discrimination is concerned,” he said. “But the situation is not tragic and the problem can solved with common sense and trying to build bridges.” The Turkish diplomat said tension was on the rise in many Western countries over Muslim immigrants and said he hoped to visit the United States, Germany, France and Britain soon. “There is mistrust and stigmatisation of Muslims and a growing fault line between the Muslim communities and the host societies,” Orhun said. Orhun recommended that Islam should not be politicised by countries that are home to Muslim migrants or by the immigrants themselves, who must also do more to distance themselves from radicalism and condemn violence committed in Islam’s name. Western governments could also do more to counter stigmatising of Muslim youths, for example by helping them get apprenticeships for jobs, he said. “The sense of being accepted would tend to decrease this radicalisation. Equal opportunities would also create lesser possibilities, lesser chances of radicalisation,” he said.