Islamic banking is on the rise in the Netherlands. The Turkish bank KuveytTürk opened its first halal-bank in Germany last week. Now the bank is looking towards the Netherlands for further options.
This was said by Kemal Ozan, the general manager of the German branch of the bank. “After the opening in Frankfurt we would like to expand to the Dutch market.” He points to the large Muslim community in the Netherlands which consists of almost a million people. “There is a lot of potential for Islamic banking in the Netherlands.”
In 2008 The Dutch Bank and the Authority for Financial Markets identified a “substantial latent need” for Islamic banking products. However this never materialized. The Rabobank did experiment with interest-free banking products but without result. “We did have a look at it then but at the time it was not commercially interesting enough,” a spokesperson of the bank said.
The impediments are abundant: the quantity of Muslims is hard to establish and not all Muslims are orthodox practitioners of their faith. The Central Bureau for Statistics does forecast a considerable growth of the amount of Muslims in the Netherlands. Similarly, the average gross income of that group is increasing.
The most important impediment of the Dutch consumer market is the deduction of interest for mortgages. As a rule, conventional mortgages are cheaper because buyers of houses can deduce those mortgage’s interest from their taxes. Islamic mortgages would be easier to implement if a comparable settlement would be set up.
When the first Dutch Islamic bank will open in the Netherlands is not sure yet according to Ozan: “If our expansion is stabilized we will focus our attention on the Dutch market.”
The Dutch Vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher has recently defended Muslims in the Netherlands on the party congress of his Labour Party (Partij van de arbeid). In the same meeting he lashed out against the Dutch Islamic critic and anti-Islamic Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid) leader Geert Wilders.
Asscher stated that the justified anger about the attacks [in France, ed.] should be directed at the perpetrators, the accomplices, the recruiters, and those who have inspired terrorism. But the same anger should not be quenched by directing it at the cashier at the Albert Heijn [a widespread Dutch super market, ed.], the neighbor, or the mosque around the corner, Asscher said. “They [the Muslims, ed.] deserve our support.”
Additionally Asscher said that he admires Wilders because he continues to voice his opinions despite ongoing threats to his person. But Asscher also “rejects and despises” Wilders’ views and will do anything to combat them in the public debate.
“Wilders doesn’t see people, he only sees suspects,” Asscher said. “He poures out Quranic texts but repudiates the Dutch constitution. The PVV [Freedom Party, ed.] does not deserve its self chosen name. Let us be the party of freedom. Of elevation and emancipation. Of enlightenment and bonding.” Asscher stated on the Labour Party congres.
The Municipality of Amsterdam demanded earlier this year that the educational board of the Dutch Islamic Education Foundation (Stichting Islamitisch Onderwijs) should distance itself from a board member who publicly expressed pro-Islamic State (IS) views. After the Municipality had refused a permit to the Islamic Education Foundation for the establishment of a new Islamic high school the organization filed a complaint to the Dutch Court. The Municipality refused to co-operate because a board member expressed views on Facebook in support of the terrorist organization IS, active in Syria and Iraq.
The judge ruled on the demands as being unfounded and unjust on the basis of current Dutch law. The Dutch court also ruled that the Municipality of Amsterdam has to review it’s decisions on the permit within six weeks.
The Dutch Ministry of Education has congratulated the country’s Islamic schools for their greatly improved academic performance. In only a few years the schools have shown rapid development. For instance, in March 2011 one-fifth of Dutch Islamic primary schools showed poor performance, and 7.5% had very poor performance; now none of the schools register a very poor performance, and only one a poor performance.
A group has been founded in the Netherlands calling on Muslims to fight for the establishment of a Dutch Islamic state. Sharia4Holland has split from Sharia4Belgium, and wants sharia law to be introduced in the country, and is active on the internet including on facebook and YouTube. The National Counter-Terrorism Coordinator has announced that the national intelligence agency is aware of the group and its activities, and it has yet to commit a crime.
Meanwhile, Imam Sheikh Fawaz Jneid of the as-Soennah mosque in Den Hague has distanced himself from Sharia4Holland, while the Freedom Party requested that the Interior Minister ban the organization.
Two Muslim broadcasting organizations will cease operation this year. The Dutch Muslim Broadcaster (NMO) and the Dutch Islamic Broadcasting (NIO) companies have not requested a renewal of their public broadcasting license for the next five-year period.
The two broadcasters decided not to renew their licenses following multiple conflicts within Islamic Broadcasting Foundation Care, the umbrella organization set up specifically to mediate between them, Abderrahman Farsi from NMO told Radio Netherlands. The broadcasters will stop operation in August 2010.
Dutch public broadcasting is organized on the principle of representation, with broadcasting associations being allotted airtime on public channels commensurate with their membership. Each broadcasting company represents a significant section of society. The Islamic broadcasters operate during a small percentage of airtime set aside for associations representing religious groups.
The Dutch media authority has received requests by five other Islamic organizations who want to take the place of NMO and NIO, including Muslim Broadcasting Foundation (Stichting Moslimomroep), Stichting Moslim Omroep Nederland, Stichting Academica Islamica/OUMA, Nederlandse Islamitische Media and Stichting Samenwerkende Islamitische Koepel.
A Dutch court announced that it will hear a complaint lodged by Muslim groups seeking to stop Geert Wilders from releasing a film criticizing the Quran. Hague District Court spokesperson Paula Koning said that the complaint filed by the Dutch Islamic Federation will be heard on March 28th. No legal barriers prevent Wilders from releasing his film before this date. The 15-minute movie is expected to be released by the end of the month, and available for viewing on the film’s website.