Liberal culture under threat in Dutch religious and ethnic crisis - Guardian, UK
- Liberal culture under threat in Dutch religious and
Ian Traynor in Amsterdam
Friday November 12, 2004
The Dutch government yesterday moved to reverse a long
tradition as Europe's most liberal haven for
immigrants by signalling tougher treatment of
foreigners and Muslims and greater powers for the
security services, in response to the Netherlands'
worst ethnic and religious crisis.
Several more arson attacks on schools, churches and
mosques were reported across the country yesterday,
bringing to more than 20 the number of incidents of
racial and religious violence since controversial
Dutch film-maker and Muslim-basher Theo van Gogh was
killed 10 days ago in Amsterdam. A Dutch citizen of
Moroccan descent is the prime suspect.
The murder has triggered a spiral of tit-for-tat
attacks on mosques and churches and a national mood of
In raids this week in the Hague, Amsterdam and
Amersfoort - including a 14-hour stand-off with armed
Muslims - anti-terrorist units have arrested seven
alleged Islamist terrorists. This is in addition to
the arrest of Mohammed Bouyeri, charged with the
murder of Van Gogh, and a further five arrests
connected to the killing.
Amid a mood of rising national anguish, government
ministers went to parliament in The Hague yesterday
armed with a 60-page analysis of the background to the
Van Gogh murder, proposals to get tough on
troublemaking immigrants, and a version of events that
appeared aimed at getting cabinet ministers off the
The interior minister, Johan Remkes, has been facing
calls for his resignation over alleged police and
intelligence failures to penetrate Islamist networks.
Mr Remkes and the justice minister, Piet Hein Donner,
announced proposals to close some of the mosques
serving the Netherlands' Muslim community of almost 1
million if the mosques are identified to be inciting
breaches of public order.
In a country where it is relatively easy for
immigrants to obtain citizenship, the ministers also
announced measures to take away the Dutch passports of
those with dual citizenship if they are convicted of a
crime. The ministers also said the powers of the
security services should be beefed up to tackle a
problem that appears to be careering out of control.
Merely tracking 150 radical Muslims considered
dangerous was proving difficult, Mr Remkes said.
"It is an illusion to think you can have complete
operational control over that group 24 hours a day,
seven days a week," Remkes said.
The move to get tougher on Muslim immigrants reflected
the emerging government consensus on how to respond to
a challenge that is shaking the country. On Wednesday
the immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, blamed the
Dutch culture of tolerance and liber alism for being
ill-equipped to meet the challenge. "We've been too
naive," she said.
Appeals were made for Queen Beatrix to address the
nation. One daily newspaper put out a front-page
appeal saying: "Hate is spreading across this country
like a firestorm. Mosques, churches and schools are
being attacked. The Netherlands risks turning into a
country of us and them, a country under the rule of
fear. Your Majesty, please speak to your people."
Overnight yesterday schools and churches were attacked
by arsonists in Rotterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven,
while a mosque near the northern town of Groningen was
scrawled with White Power and Nazi graffiti symbols.
No injuries were reported.
Ministers and the security services said that the
seven arrests on Wednesday were connected with an
Amsterdam-based Islamist terrorist cell, the Capital
Group, with which Mr Bouyeri had contact.
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