Radical Dawa Changing: The Rise of Islamic Neo-Radicalism in the Netherlands

Special thanks to the Islam in Europe Blog for providing this translation.

The Dutch intelligence service AIVD recently released a report on the development of Islamic neo-radicalism titled “Radical Dawa Changing, The Rise of Islamic Neo-Radicalism in the Netherlands” (Radicale dawa in verandering: De opkomst van islamitisch neoradicalisme in Nederland.). This report follows two previous reports by AIVD, one on the general situation of radicalism in the Netherlands and one specifically on jihadi groups. This is a partial summary:

The phases of Muslim radicalism

Muslim radicalism in the Netherlands has gone through a couple of stages and seems to be now starting off a new phase, which the AIVD calls neo-radicalism. These phases do not cancel each other out and there are still active members of each.

The first phase started off in 1980s, when both foreign jihadi and radical dawa organizations set up shop. Their goal group was the first generation immigrants, especially the Moroccans and they were generally very much connected to Saudi Arabia. The ties between the jihadis and dawa people were quite strong at this stage.

The second stage started with the 9/11 attacks, when foreign organizations were banned or dismantled due to the War on Terrorism. The Dutch groups became more autonomous, also because their followers broke away from their original inspiration and became convinced that Islam was oppressed and threatened in the Netherlands. Radical groups grew, but were also fragmented and amateurish. Youth got radicalized on their own, through the internet, a tool which grew very fast in this period. There were dozens of radical Islamic sites in Dutch alone. The ’coolness’ of the ’radical lifestyle’ attracted people who were not ’true’ radicals.

In addition, there were other groups that used Islam to excuse nihilism, escapism, vandalism and criminality.

The 9/11 attacks and the Murder of Theo van Gogh and the political discussion that ensued forced the dawa groups to come out against violence and to distance themselves from the Jihadi groups. The Jihadis, on their side, saw the dawa movements as ’giving in’ to the infidels. The dawa groups did not call for going on jihad abroad, but did not condemn it either.

In this second stage, radical preachers appeared who were more involved with the local state of affairs.

Now a third stage is apparently starting, with new Muslim radicals coming up on the scene and questioning the way things had been done in the past. These radicals want to work in a more organized manner and they reject the individualization of the past, where everybody did whatever they wanted. Their main goal is to slowly build up a broad base for radical Islam and with that build up their movement. In order to build a powerful movement they do not turn only to those who feel alienated and frustrated but to other groups as well, and to each they come with an appropriate message.

The internet is now the most widely used tool, as well as charismatic preachers. However, these groups are still very much fragmented and do not come with a unified dawa message.

They reject terroristic violence, as that will hurt their long term goals, but they do not rule out, for example, street violence without loss of life.

Other groups

When turning the general Muslim population they face competition from groups that call for combining strict adherence to Islam with taking part in Western society (eg. Egyptian TV preacher Amr Khaled). Groups elsewhere in Europe also affect Dutch Muslims. These groups include those striving to publicly express Muslim identity (eg. Tariq Ramadan) and for political emancipation (local Muslim parties taking part in elections).

Other competition are Muslim groups who are secularly oriented and the ex-Muslim associations. There are also groups who reject Western society but do not attempt to change it.

The radical dawa groups set themselves up as the representatives of true Islam. Muslim interest groups led by such radicals are then approached to solve problems in the Muslim community, even if they do not really have many followers. Muslims who do not support them fear coming out against them openly as they are then labeled infidels and enemies of the Muslim community.

The dawa groups deal with the competition in two ways. Through “intolerant isolationism” which means building up spaces of Muslim enclaves (both physical and in the media/internet and education) run by the laws of Sharia. A second method is “anti-democratic Muslim activism”, which aims to remove the ’reprehensible’ democratic order from the public sphere.

Though the radical groups reject terrorist violence, they are checking out other public and secret undemocratic and democracy-hindering tactics. These tactics have been used by radical Muslim groups in Muslim countries for quite some time. Some of these tactics have already been practiced in the Netherlands on a small scale, such as intimidating people in the Muslim community not to take part in the democratic society and to show loyalty to Islam. Some tactics have been considered such as taking over political organization, disturbing social harmony by spreading conspiracy theories and false rumors or setting up their own law system in their neighborhoods through intimidation.

Radical dawa in the Netherlands is led by political Salafists, but there are other active movements such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, Tablighi Jamaat and Muslim Brothers.

The estimates of the AIVD and other intelligence services is that about 5% of religiously oriented Muslims are susceptible to radicalism, and of those 10% actually radicalize and then they tend to go for the jihadi movements. The dawa groups aim for the original 5%.

The report then goes into a more in-depth analysis of the history of both Salafist and non-Salafist groups in the Netherlands. I might summarize this in the future, depending on if there’s interest in it.

Security risks

What kind of security risks do these groups pose?

The AIVD explains that a democratic order is built in two dimensions. The first is the vertical dimension (citizen-government) meaning a democratic constitutional state that includes things such as the separation of powers and freedom of opinion and religion. The second dimension is the horizontal dimension (citizen-citizen) meaning a public society that includes social cohesion, stability, active citizenship and respect for plurality.

The Dutch government sees security in the broad sense, not only to provide physical security but to also provide social trust, a social atmosphere in which citizens can live together peacefully, regardless of religious, ethic or political differences.

In characterizing the risks there are two issues: the good functioning (even to some citizens) and the continued existence of the democratic order.

Do the radical groups have the power to effect such changes, and what opposition do they face?

The radical dawa groups do not currently threaten to topple the democratic order, but it is legitimate to say that they currently pose a risk to the system’s functioning for some citizens, especially Muslims who do not adhere to the Salafist philosophy.

The risk of adverse affects are as follows:

(a) contributing to undermining support for a democratic order by some Muslims (especially pertaining to the horizontal dimension)

(b) contributing to the polarization of society by preaching against homos, Jews, Shiites, secular Muslims and the ’enemies of Islam’ (ie, most of Dutch society)??

(c) preventing Muslims who think otherwise from exercising civil rights – by calling them apostates either directly or indirectly. A website of the as-Soenah mosque, for example, called Ehasan Jami an incestuous weasel who is furious at Islam for not allowing him sexual contact with his mother and sisters.

(d) preventing non-Muslims from exercising civil rights – by using a very intimidating and threatening tone against those considered “enemies” of Islam.

(e) preventing women from exercising civil rights – by preaching for protecting and even saving women’s honor and for limiting women’s activities, and by practicing that in their own circles.

(f) preventing homosexuals from exercising civil rights

(g) enforcing their own legal system in an informal and secret manner – for example, trying to enforce Sharia personal law. For example, some Salafist mosques have contracted Muslim marriages without registering them. This can also lead to practical legitimizing of polygamy.

(h) checking out ways of secretly opposing and upsetting the democratic order – for example, by saying Muslims in the 2006 elementary elections may exceptionally vote, for specific people, in order to thwart the ’enemies of Islam’.

(i) secretly influencing government policy and entering the social middle field – for example, dawa organizations are active in advising municipalities on how to fight crime and dropouts among immigrant youth, or guiding immigrant women. In some cases organizations (secretly) related to Salafist mosques got government subsidies for guiding criminal youth back to society. The aim of the government was achieved in the sense that these youth left crime and improved their school scores, etc, but they also took on an anti-democratic Salafist way of thinking. Radical dawa organizations pose as the representatives of the Muslim community and try to control contact between the authorities and the community. Another such influencing was seen in the case of a Tilbug female teacher who was fired for not willing to shake hands. The woman was ’sent’ by the Tilburg Salafist mosque, which can be seen here trying to introduce ultra-orthodox Islamic rules

(j) breeding ground for radicalizing to violence – for practical reasons, radical dawa rejects violence in the West, but it is not possible to make a clear distinction between jihad and radical dawa, especially not for the individual:

– Radical dawa has an intolerant, isolationist, anti-democratic and anti-Western message that can lead to violence.

– Dutch Muslim terrorists regularly visited Salafist mosques, though they were radicalized further in other ways.

– Radical dawa repeatedly claims that the West is attacking Islam, which leads to see the West as an enemy.

– They reject violence now, but it’s unclear how that would continue if tensions rise, for example by violence against Muslims or a terror attack, since they do justify violence.

– It’s unclear how much the rejection of violence is not done out of pragmatic reasons. Much like in Muslim countries, radical dawa organizations may have splinter groups who do openly support violence.

The continued growth of dawa groups

The continued growth of radical dawa depend on the following:

(a) the continuation of professionalizing and whether they would manage to prevent breaking up due to ideological, ethnic and personal differences. The important questions are who will lead the movements, what their status will be within the Muslim community and how much charisma they would have.

(b) opposition in the Muslim community – though moderate Muslims have trouble today voicing their opposition, opposition may grow by people who realize the radical dawa message is asking too much sacrifice and does not make life better. Leaders who do not follow their preachings might also bring about opposition.

(c) internalizing the radical dawa doctrine

(d) availability of competing non-radical doctrines

(e) polarization between Muslims and non-Muslims – the more conflict, the more both groups are likely to “toe the line” and support the ’group interest’.

(f) expansion of the radical dawa community – will youth attracted to radicalism continue on with it in adulthood and will there be a second generation that grows up with the radical dogma.

Possible risk-developments

Possible developments for risks on the long term: the radical dawa organizations currently have an adverse effect especially on Muslims who think differently. However, they do pose a danger to the democratic order.

In the vertical dimension, they can bring about a growing number of Muslims who do not follow the authority of the Dutch government. An ’ethnic counter-response’ might also be dangerous to the democratic order. In the horizontal dimension, inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations may worsen due to the activities of groups and the reactions to it. The cohesion and solidarity of society can lead to growing suspicions between parts of society and even to violence between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Counter-strategies

Strategies against Islamic neo-radicalism:

As long as dawa groups do not incite to violence, they are protected by freedom of religion and expression. this causes the democratic paradox – using democratic means to bring about the fall of democracy. However, the democratic order is more than ’majority rule’ and also includes inalienable civil rights. From this point of view, democracy can protect itself. The European Court of Human Rights has already decided that governments may act against group who use democratic means to undermine democracy, if there’s an acute threat.

Judicial action against non-violent intolerant and anti-democratic groups has been done in the Netherlands only in extreme cases and it is generally seen as better to use non-judicial means.

Isolationism in itself does not threaten the democratic order, but intolerant isolationism does pose a threat. This means: exclusivity (discrimination and incitement) and parallelism (having your own laws above state laws). The authorities can work against exclusivity and paralleism, but the dawa organizations spread it sneakily and secretly and the current preaching is protected by civil rights.

The governments policy focuses on prevention and repression. Repression means preventing the growth of dawa organizations by preventing subsidies etc. It is generally agreed that this can be effective if it’s used in a restricted manner, as otherwise it brings about feelings of discrimination and encourages radicalization.

The security threat of Muslim radicalism has gone through both absolutism and relativism. Until recently headlines of Muslim radicalization were seen as a stage in the emancipation of Dutch Muslims. Now such headlines are seen as an immediate threat from all Muslims. This absolutism was caused both by Muslim propaganda, but also by Dutch politicians and leaders who spread doomsday scenarios. Both Muslims and non-Muslims have less trust in the government, with each side feeling that the authorities are not doing enough against the other side (Islamic radical, or anti-Islamists).

Conditions for effective strategies against neo-radicalism:

(a) keep things in proportion – do not subordinate the democratic order to the effectiveness of the approach.

(b) keep in mind the diversity of the Muslim community – see Muslims as individuals and citizens, pay attention to other movements in Islam, realize that about 1/3 to 1/2 of Muslims in the Netherlands do not act from a religious agenda.

(c) prevent polarization by developing government policy – Differentiate between ’hard core’ radicals and ’hangers-on’. Avoid doomsday scenarios (Muslim radicals often overestimate their power). Do not paint the other party as ’the enemy’ as that helps them mobilize forces, direct action only against the ’hard core’. Work away from the limelight. Break away from polarizing slogans.

(d) limit accommodating dawa groups – realize that most Muslims are moderate and are bothered by the dawa groups. Refrain from seeking advice from these groups. Prevent one group or person from taking over contact with the government, seek diversity and keep in mind that some religious representatives might have double agendas. Refrain from (financially) supporting projects which discriminate between sexes etc. Do not support any initiatives or project which exclude other groups.

(e) start dialog with as many Muslim groups as possible – involve not only with liberal but also non-radcial, orthodox Muslims in the debate about social activities and the values of society, democracy and pluralistic society. Be alert that dawa groups often use ’facade-politics’ and do not support any project related to radical dawa mosques or centers.

(f) try to reinforce trust in the democratic order – support initiatives within the Muslim community that serve as a moderate counterweight to radicalism. Try to build up renewed public trust in the buoyancy of the democratic state and open society.

“More radical Dutch Muslims: report”

Radicalisation, ’Extremism’ and ’Islamism’: Realities and Myths in the ’War on Terror’

The Muslim community in Britain has been under a continuous spotlight since the events of 9/11 and 7/7 in particular. The bombings triggered a wide-ranging debate that sought to understand the processes at work within the Muslim community, map its changes, scrutinise the influences it is subject to and identify events in its recent history that may explain why Muslim British citizens would want to turn on Britain.

This debate to date has blamed a number of different factors for contributing to this heightened terror threat, but has been offset by sensationalist claims and alarmist comments that have only acted to obscure an accurate picture and to entrench stereotypes in an already polarised debate. It has sought to discredit legitimate Islamic political ideas by suggesting they increase the Muslim community’s susceptibility to using violence. To date, the debate has lacked an honest, dispassionate assessment of the forces at play within the Muslim community. The impact of which has been dangerous characterisations of Islam and the Muslim community, misinformed public fear and misguided government policy.

This report by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain aims to expose the many inconsistencies in the ’War on Terror’ narrative and the manipulation of security fears to attack political ideas that carry considerable support in the Muslim world. Our report challenges misconceptions about radicalisation, ’extremism’ and political violence, explains Islam’s political tenets and maps a way forward for the future.

The report describes how the language used in the security debate has become politicised to counter dissenting voices, particularly to falsely claim Islamic political ideas are at the part of the problem. It challenges the view that the association between Islam and contemporary politics – often termed ‘Islamism’ – is part of a process that increases the Muslim community’s vulnerability to the use of violence. It is an assumption that it is built on a false characterisation of the relationship between Islam and politics in general. The report argues that there has, over many years, been a process that first saw a general ‘politicisation’ of the Muslim community and subsequent ‘Islamicisation’ of Muslim politics in Britain, rather than ‘radicalisation’. The false labelling reflects a failure to understand Islam and therefore to position its ideas within a secular political system. The report goes on to cite credible research that calls into question the Bush-Blair argument that Islamic political ideas inherently cause violence and insecurity. The trend towards greater Islamic political practice, far from being a precursor to violence, often provides people with an alternative.

The report argues that politically motivated violence is a broader issue often occurring as a response to political oppression and injustice rather than because of ideology or theology. Hence, the association of Islamic political ideas with violence is misleading. Importantly, recent poll evidence shows there is little support for violence as a means of change in the Muslim world, polls which simultaneously show increasingly levels of support for Islamic politics. The report also highlights the need to separate goals from means so as to not to link widely held legitimate political ideas with violence.

The report challenges attempts to discredit one of the central goals of current Islamic political activity in the Muslim world: the establishment of an independent Islamic political system in the Muslim world, or Caliphate. Just as with Islamic politics more generally, a host of arguments have been forwarded to suggest such the Caliphate would be unwelcome prospect and that its emergence should be opposed, including attempts to link its reality with violence. The report address failures in the Western discourse on the Caliphate, explains the position of the Caliphate in Islamic orthodoxy and describes how the Caliphate is a distinct and alternative political system. Crucially, it argues the Caliphate will be a stabilising force for the Muslim world.

In discussing a way forward, the report highlights how attempts at reforming Islam itself have been discredited and gained little traction amongst Muslims – Islamic orthodoxy has won the opinion in the Muslim world. As part of diagnosing the problem, the report argues Western colonialism not Islam has been at the heart of the political instability and crises of the Muslim world. The onset of colonisation also disrupted indigenous efforts at modernising the Muslim world. Importantly, Islam played a historic role in preventing political excess, tyranny and totalitarianism in the Muslim world and its absence has allowed these to go unchecked, as has been acknowledged by senior academics. Importantly, the Muslim world should be allowed to determine its own political future, not the West.

Through examining the statements of senior politicians, the report demonstrates the primary concern of many has, and still remains, preventing Islamic political change so as to protect the US and Britain’s unrivalled influence over events in the Muslim world. In the corridors of Washington and Westminster, Islam’s political ideas are seen as a potential threat – not to security – but to the control, exploitation and interference that has continued for decades. Yet on the ’Muslim street’ these ideas mean liberation from tyranny and oppression, a connection to their beliefs and history and the ability to shape their own political destiny.

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.