Dutch Sources for Al Qaeda Website

December 9 2010

Telegraaf reports that the Ansar Al Mujahideen website, a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda worldwide carefully monitored by security services, is run by a group of Dutch Muslims. The site, registered with a Brussels PO Box, also includes an Arabic and a German section in addition to primarily English and Dutch articles. According to the Telegraaf report, “intelligence sources confirm that the English part of the website is run by a dozen Dutch Muslim extremists” including women and those with ties to the Hofstad Group.

Liberal Dutch Mosque Threatened With Closure

November 12 2010

Amsterdam’s liberal mosque as announced that it will have to close due to an inability to pay rent for its location in a former office complex. The “Polder mosque” opened two years ago and was hailed as a moderate institution in which activities are conducted in Dutch. While coverage from Radio Netherlands Worldwide suggests that the mosque is closing because Dutch Muslims are “not ready for Muslim Islam”, the article quotes Tijl Sunier, Professor for Islam in Europe, stating that “the fact that the Polder mosque is closing due to lack of money says nothing about the feasibility of the idea behind it.” The mosque’s organizers hope to reopen next year in a more affordable location.

Salafism in the Netherlands: Nature, Extent and Threat

Report Summary:

The study, conducted by the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES, UvA) in collaboration with the Central Bureau for Statistics, involved: 1) fieldwork in the Salafist community in the Netherlands, 2) network analysis of salafist organizations and 3) a survey among Dutch Muslims querying their degree of orthodox Islamic thought.

The study, conducted by the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES, UvA) in collaboration with the Central Bureau for Statistics, involved: 1) fieldwork in the Salafist community in the Netherlands, 2) network analysis of salafist organizations and 3) a survey among Dutch Muslims querying their degree of orthodox Islamic thought.

The report identifies the following findings:

Salafism from the Inside
-The core of salafist thought aims at a moral revival through strict interpretations of the Koran and Sunna which seeks to free these religious sources from innovation and guides all decisions in daily life. Salafis consider it an obligation to convert people to Islam. Salafism in the Netherlands is not a homogenous collection of thoughts, and is loosely grouped into the following categories:
(a) Pure religious salafis seek an ‘uncorrupted’ religious lifestyle and do not involve themselves in politics.
(b) Political salafis aim to actively improve the situation of Muslims in the Netherlands. Although they consider democracy to be inferior, they participate in the political system for pragmatic reasons. This is the most visible salafist group in Dutch society.
(c) Jihadi salafis consider it a religious duty to fight for Islam by any means necessary. This can include the use of violence.

Network Analysis of Salafi Organizations
-It appears that the managerial salafist elite is isolated from more moderate organizations. At the time of the study, there was a movement at the formal elite level to develop an overarching organizational salafist network.
-13% of Islamic schools in the Netherlands are connected to a salafist organization, a strong overrepresentation given the size of the community.
-Note that political radicalization appears to take place outside of these organizations.
-Salafist organizations might be split into three categories:
(a) Organizations explicitly profiled as salafist, including some mosques.
(b) Organizations strongly influenced by salafist thought, and involved in institutional networks with other salafist organizations, but that do not themselves identify as salafist.
(c) Organizations which invite salafist preachers to lecture or teach.

Orthodoxy Among Turkish- and Moroccan- Dutch Muslims
-Survey respondents were cast into five ‘types’ (devout follower, devout pragmatic, critic, salafi pride, fanatic, and born again) based on their degree of religious practices, societal participation, political integration, connection to salafist organization and radical thought.
-According to the survey, those Muslims whose religious attitude structure resembles salafist thought are relatively older, less educated and have a higher chance of unemployment. 8% of all Dutch Muslims are orthodox; this includes 15% of Moroccan Dutch Muslims and 5% of Turkish Dutch Muslims.
-Sensitivity to radicalism and extremism is higher among orthodox Dutch Muslims. This group’s tolerance towards a multi-religious society is lower, they think that Dutch women have too much freedom, they politically participate less in society and identify less intensely with the Netherlands, and are more likely to see violence as a legitimate means for attaining religious goals.

Further, a research summary provided by the University of Amsterdam notes that “The researchers’ findings refute the argument that orthodox Islam is a political ideology that seeks to undermine Dutch democracy….The researchers conclude that there is no evidence of radicalisation within the salafist community in the Netherlands and that it poses no threat to Dutch democracy. Salafist organisations actually function as a buffer in that they reject violence. Radicalisation in the sense of active willingness to use violence takes place outside of the salafist organisations.”

Websites to Needs of Dutch Muslims Online

August 11 2010

Radio Netherlands Worldwide carried a feature this week of several sites created to cater to the needs of young Dutch Muslims seeking “to combine Islam with living in a secular country like the Netherlands”. Featured websites include Polder Mosque, an online mosque for young people which treats Islam as part of Dutch society, and Maroc.nl, a popular discussion platform for Dutch-speaking Muslims. The RNW coverage emphasizes the confusion which can result from the many voices represented in the busy marketplace of internet forums. Mohammad El Aissati, founder of Maroc.nl, suggests that an authoritative voice emerging from the fray would most likely belong to “an imam who speaks Dutch, understands the questions of young Muslims in the Netherlands and advises them via the internet, the digital Mecca of this generation.”

Dutch Muslims Unfazed by Anti-Islamic Party Popularity

Hurriyet reports that while some Muslims in the Netherlands are
concerned about the rise of anti-Islam party PVV in recent elections,
others feel the hostility is unlikely to last long. Rather, they view
the antipathy as a symptom of a lack of knowledge about the religion
which does not reflect the day-to-day reality of their experience.
Despite the rise in popularity of the PVV, Muslims in the Netherlands
predict the hostile political atmosphere will be short lived, an idea
bolstered by the fact that they are facing no increase in
discrimination.

Dutch Muslims Create Website for Critical Discussion

Members of the Islamic community in the Netherlands have started a website as a platform to provide critical discussion about Islam. The site, nieuwemoskee.nl (‘new mosque’), is created independent of government funding and is intended to stimulate public debate on Islam’s position in Dutch society, as well as to provide “a platform for critical voices from all schools of thought, whether they be reformist, conservative or fundamentalist”, comments Arnold Yasin Mol. According to Mol, who heads the Deen Research Centre for modern Islamic thought and sits on the board of the Dutch Muslim Party, the website hopes to meet the demand among young Muslims to express their opinions.

Dutch muslims fear consequences of freedom party’s popularity

There is considerable fear among Dutch Muslims in the city of Almere regarding the potential success of the anti-Islamic Freedom Party (PVV) in upcoming national elections. The PVV, led by Geert Wilders, currently has nine of 150 seats in parliament.  It is predicted to win 17 seats next week and become the country’s fourth biggest party in the process. The party topped the March 3 municipal poll in Almere, east of Amsterdam, with 21.6 per cent, and came in second in The Hague.

Muslims in Almere express anxiety about possibility of the party gaining influence after the success of the party in the local elections. “Muslim people in Almere are looking differently at their indigenous Dutch compatriots” since the PVV election success, Shangram Karim, the Dutch Muslim Party leader in the city, told AFP. 

”People are thinking: ‘It is probable that my neighbour, or someone in my street, voted for the PVV and thus against me.”

Despite the party’s initial successes, however, it remains politically isolated.
 Coalition governments unwilling to compromise on some of Wilders’ more controversial proposals (such as a ban on headscarves) have ignored it.

Dutch muslims targeted in voting campaigns

Various religious and social organizations are addressing the Netherlands’ Muslim population in advance of national elections on June 9, 2010. While some organizations are encouraging active participation in the election, others are urging Muslims not to vote. Radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir set up a website and handed out flyers at Dutch mosques urging Muslims not to vote, as no candidate provides sufficient support for Muslims while their participation would legitimize the election.

Alternately, the Council of Moroccan Mosques in North Holland is urging Muslim participation in the election.  The Dutch Moroccan Alliance has produced a video and will send representatives into the community to speak Moroccan youth in an attempt to “get out the Moroccan vote.”

“Silent Majority”of Dutch Muslims Waking Up

A conference in Utrecht this week, organized as part of the MultiFestijn Festival, explored “whether the unease about Islam in the Netherlands is due to a lack of leadership”, Reformatorisch Dagblad reports. Abdulwahid Van Bommel, a translator and guest lecturer at the University of Groningen, spoke at the conference and identified a sense of unease about the presence of Islam in the Netherlands. He suggested that the “silent majority” of the Muslim community should take a stronger role in leadership within Islam in the country.

Academic presence of Dutch Muslims growing

Radio Netherlands Worldwide published a profile of the increasing number of Islamic academics in Dutch universities. While Muslim youth remain negatively portrayed in the press, the number of Muslim students and Islamic organizations in Dutch universities is growing rapidly. The Free University of Amsterdam has 2000 Muslim students, ten percent of the student body. Islamic students organizations such as MashriQ are made up of Muslim students from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds, including Somalia, Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, etc.