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Liberal culture under threat in Dutch religious and ethnic crisis - Guardian, UK

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  • Zafar Khan
    Liberal culture under threat in Dutch religious and ethnic crisis Ian Traynor in Amsterdam Friday November 12, 2004 The Guardian
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 15 12:18 PM
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      Liberal culture under threat in Dutch religious and
      ethnic crisis

      Ian Traynor in Amsterdam
      Friday November 12, 2004
      The Guardian


      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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