The Dutch current affairs program Nieuwsuur (News Hour) has dedicated a special program to Muslim perspectives on integration and Islam in the
Netherlands. Middle East reporter Jan Eikelboom and editor Milena Holdert for several months interviewed Dutch Muslims on issues related to Islam currently debated on in Dutch society.
In Dutch media coverage about Islam the Muslim perspective is seldom portrayed. In an attempt to discover how Muslims themselves think about current issues such as integration and Islamophobia in the Netherlands the program interviewed a wide array of Muslims with different ethnic backgrounds and also Dutch converts to Islam.
The program in addition shows a debate on integration between parliamentary member Malik Azmani of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Nourdin el Ouali, the political leader of the young and upcoming local Islamic Party NIDA.
The Dutch political party VVD wants to prohibit travelling to areas where IS is active, to make penalizing of returning jihadi’s easier. Returnees will be automatically arrested, interviewed, kept an eye on and perhaps prosecuted. It also makes it harder for people to actually leave the country. According to party member Klaas Dijkhoff, it is important to not let them leave the country. Because then the problem will just be spread across borders, the jihadi network will be expanded and it also won’t be helpful in deradicalizing people.
Municipalities experience difficulties dealing with people returning from Syria and them preventing from going. Jozias van Aartsen, mayor in the city of the Hague writes that municipalities lack the knowledge to assess the risk a returnee poses. And they have no access to means to enforce measurements upon people who refuse their ‘support.’
Van Aartsen is pleading for a compulsory screening to check if someone poses a danger. If not so, then he is allowed to live in a municipality and can get support there.
Municipalities are pleading for a more central organization of the support for jihadis. Minister of Justice, Opstelten is considering dealing with the returnees in a prison where recidivists are treated now.
Leader of Christian Democratic Appel (CDA) Van Haersma Buma calls the returnees ‘ticking time-bombs.’ According to him it’s worrying that there is this image of the country having the issue under control, when mayors at the same time have no idea what to do.
Parties like Democrats 66 (D66), People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Party of the Labor (PvdA) also plead for support from the state for municipalities. However according PvdA municipalities should be able to provide shelter to the returnees themselves, to make reintegration easier.
The plan by the ruling coalition of the Dutch government to make it a criminal offence to be an illegal immigrant is causing divisions within the ruling Labour (PvdA) party. The Labour party had agreed with the Liberal (VVD) party to criminalize illegal immigration as part of last year’s coalition agreement. At this weekend’s party congress Labour party members voted in large majority for a motion condemning the proposed legislation.
In December, RTL news reported that illegal immigrants would face a fine and eventual deportation when legislation criminalizing illegality came into effect.
A debate in the Netherlands over a proposed ban on ritual slaughter continues with a majority of senators in the upper house of parliament now opposing the ban. A large majority of MPs in the lower house voted in favour of a ban in June, though Jewish and Muslim groups oppose the proposition. The change comes as members of the Labour and Liberal VVD parties decided to oppose the ban; members of the country’s Christian Democrats had opposed from the outset. The senate vote, now a foregone conclusion, will take place next Tuesday.
The ruling Liberal Party (VVD) of the Netherlands has requested that its home affairs minister stop granting funds to initiatives which ‘get in the way of integration’, such as organizations which offer separate swimming lessons for women. Single-sex activities, organizations which “oppose homosexual rights” or whose “activities conflict with democracy” should no longer receive support, according to VVD MP Cora van Nieuwenhuizen. According to van Nieuwenhuizen, for instance, a refugee center with a separate computer room for women should not be funded as it sends out “conflicting messages about Dutch society.”
The future of a proposed ban on ritual slaughter in the Netherlands is in doubt, as the ruling VVD party appears unlikely to support the legislation in the senate. VVD Senator Sybe Schaap commented that the ban, which has drawn criticism from Muslim and Jewish religious organizations, ‘has a poor legal framework’. He would not say definitively if the VVD would vote against the legislation.
Frits Bolkestein, former leader of the Dutch center-right VVD and a prominent “elder statesman” in the country, has released a new book, The Intellectual Seduction: Dangerous Ideas in Politics. At a reading in Amsterdam Bolkestein expressed his opinion on Islam and multiculturalism in the Netherlands, disparaging cultural relativism and calling for European leaders to stand up for freedom of expression and individualism. Bolkestein distanced himself from Geert Wilders and the notion that Islam poses a threat to western civilization, stating “I think that’s nonsense. On the contrary, it is us with our ideas, our ideals of individualism and secularism which constitute a danger to Islam: That’s why they react so strongly.”
Following the mass shootings in Norway last month, Dutch opposition parties have called for prime minister Mark Rutte to take a position on the role of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders with respect to the tragedy. Mentioned at least 30 times in the shooter’s manifeso, Wilders has publicly distanced himself from the event. In the polarized political climate opposition parties are calling on the leading VVD for a statement of their position with respect to Wilders’ PVV party, which currently supports the minority government.
Amsterdam police chief Bernard Welten has come under fire after suggesting that, should the burqa be banned in the country, his officers would not necessarily arrest women wearing the garment. Describing the issue as ‘extremely complicated’ Welten, noting that officers would have to ‘think hard’ before taking such a step. Under the governing coalition between conservatives (VVD), Christian Democrats (CDA) and the Party for Freedom (PVV), the accord has agreed to ban face covering clothing and the proposal is expected to pass successfully through parliament in the near future.
Welten faced criticism from several political parties, including the VVD and the PVV. Meanwhile Labour MP Ahmed Marcouch called the debate a non-issue, noting that he has never seen a burqa in Amsterdam. Orthodox Dutch Muslim organization As-Soennah has welcomed the remarks by Welten as ‘courageous’.