THE HAGUE – One was a Somali refugee, the other an Argentine investment banker. Both are now high-profile Dutch women challenging this country to rethink its national identity. Princess Maxima, the Argentine-born wife of Crown Prince Willem Alexander, triggered a round of national soul-searching with a speech last month about what exactly it means to be Dutch in an age of mass migration. “The Netherlands is too complex to sum up in one cliche,” she said. “A typical Dutch person doesn’t exist.”
THE HAGUE — Imagine for a moment a Muslim teenager somewhere in Europe, with the internet in his living room, the world in his mind and his heart torn apart by a million identities, as Swiss-born Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan describes him. How do you prevent that young Muslim from being lured by radical ideas? That was the question at the heart of a conference organized here recently by the Dutch National Coordinator for Counter-terrorism (NCTb). The answer often depended on the religious background of the speaker. Muslims said historical grievances — real or imagined — that had left the Islamic world feeling wronged by the West must be tackled…
Are Ehsan Jami’s methods promoting religious tolerance in the Netherlands? Controversially, 9/11 was chosen as the date to sign the “European Declaration for Tolerance.” It aims to draw attention to what the former Muslims see as the lack of freedom of religion within Islam. Former Muslims from several European countries signed the declaration in the Hague on the sixth anniversary of the terror attacks in the United States Tuesday. Other signatories included many well-known Dutch politicians, authors and journalists. The date of the declaration, Sept.11, was symbolically chosen in order to condemn the terror and intolerance perpetuated by radical Islamic militants, though critics argue that choosing the date unfairly links Islam to terrorism.
THE HAGUE (AFP) – A Dutch Muslim radical was sentenced to four years in jail by an Amsterdam appeals court on Monday for planning a terrorist attack in 2004. Samir Azzouz had already been acquitted on the same charges twice by a lower court and an appeals court which said his plans were “so clumsy and primitive” that they were not a threat. But the case was referred for re-trial by the Dutch supreme court earlier this year, and the Amsterdam appeals court ruled Monday that the Azzouz was indeed planning an attack. Police found floor plans of government buildings, chemicals and night vision goggles and a silencer for a gun at his home.
THE HAGUE – Three quarters of Muslims regard turning away from Islam as a personal choice, but there are few that applaud that choice. A survey commissioned by television programme Nova indicates that 38 percent of the Muslims questioned disapprove of apostasy. 24 percent say they cut off all contact with a fellow Muslim who has turned their back on Islam. 6 percent is of the opinion that it is acceptable to use violence against an apostate.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch Catholic bishop who once said the hungry were entitled to steal bread and advocated condom use to prevent AIDS has made headlines again, this time by saying God should be called Allah. ”Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn’t we all say that from now on we will call God Allah?” Bishop Tiny Muskens said in an interview broadcast this week. ”God doesn’t care what we call him.” In this nation where religious tolerance has been eroded in recent years by a rise in radical Islam, the comments drew little support.
Dutch ex-Muslim youth have united under a new organization in Amsterdam, the Central Committee for Ex-Muslims, according reports on Wednesday. Ehsan Jami, one of the founders of the committee and a city council member for the PvdA Labour Party in Leidschendam-Voorburg, a small city near The Hague, said the committee aimed to help other so-called Muslims apostates. According to Jami, people who officially renounced their Muslim faith often received death threats from former co-religionists. The committee also aims to discuss issues like domestic violence and the violation of women’s rights in the Muslim world, Jami said on Wednesday in the news radio broadcast De Ochtenden. The organization called on the Dutch government to assist former Muslims receiving death threats. Former Iranian refugee Afshin Ellian, a well-known professor in international law and philosophy who plays an active role in the ongoing public debate about Islam, immigrants and democracy in the Netherlands, has agreed to help the Committee.
The conflict between Western society and Muslim extremism has called into question the reality of multiculturalism in the Netherlands. In a guest article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, writer Ian Buruma, born in the Hague in 1951, sees this as a result of the complacency that Netherlanders have had about the functioning of their multicultural system.
AMSTERDAM – Radical Muslims are gaining influence over their moderate co-religious at an increasing rate in the Netherlands. This was the main finding of the fourth progress report on combating terrorism which Interior Ministers Johan Remkes and Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner presented to parliament on Wednesday. It said that ultra-orthodox Salafism in particular was making its presence felt in an increasing number of mosques. This is a radical branch that seeks to return to the “pure Islam” of the days of Mohammed. Adherents often shun western society and criticise efforts by other Muslims to integrate into Dutch society. The movement has been linked to the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia. Followers of radical Islam have successfully used the internet and lectures to win over more followers and gain control of moderate mosques, Remkes said. Both he and his colleague said the ideological influences exerted by radical Muslims was a cause for concern. Conservative MP and Muslim critic Geert Wilders criticised Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands for her behaviour during a visit to a mosque in the Hague on 3 June. She removed her shoes on entering the Mobarak Mosque in The Hague and refrained from shaking hands with Muslim men there in accordance with their strict religious beliefs. The visit was to mark the 50th anniversary of the building of the mosque. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende praised the Queen’s behaviour as an example of the type of religious tolerance needed in the Netherlands.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch government passed a new terrorism bill Friday, granting law-enforcement authorities far-reaching powers of investigation and allowing them to hold suspects for up to two weeks without charges. Intelligence agents will be able to use currently banned techniques such as infiltrating terror cells for undercover operations and telephone taps, a Justice Ministry statement said. They will also be allowed to use entrapment tactics, such as bogus sales transactions. The law must be approved by parliament. “There also will be more possibilities to gather information, detain suspects and conduct preventive public searches,” it said. “The events in Amsterdam and The Hague have made clear that wider powers to prevent terrorism are desirable.” The ministry was referring to the Nov. 2 killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, whose throat was slit allegedly by a young Muslim radical who associated with a suspected terrorist cell. In The Hague a few days after the murder, terrorist suspects wounded several policemen during a botched arrest attempt. Two young men holed up in a residential neighborhood for a day before surrendering. The new law also lowers the level of proof needed to hold a suspect believed to be plotting terrorist activity, said Justice Ministry spokesman Wibbe Alkema. The problem in the past, Alkema said, has been insufficient grounds to detain someone who could be preparing an attack. If the law is passed, authorities will have more time – up to two weeks – to build a case and bring charges. “In the initial stage of custody, there will no longer need to be serious suspicion, but only a reasonable doubt,” he said. “That could be someone who is believed to be involved with a network that has been under observation for some time.” One such case is that of Samir Azzouz, an 18-year-old Dutch Muslim on trial for allegedly plotting bombings of prominent Dutch landmarks. Prosecutors will be able to approve the use of spot searches of people and cars in public places that could be potential targets, such as an airport or a sports stadium, if there is suspicion of an attack plot.