"You sometimes feel that something is wrong. You come into the hall and there are texts on the tables: "Allah is the greatest! Death to Hirsi Ali! Death to the infidels!" But what should you do with that? the only thing you can think of is to take these kids one by one and try to talk to them. Why do you do that, what do you want to achieve with it. but that takes a lot of time and you don't have time."
The speaker is a teacher in a middle school in The Hague. She took part in a study day about radicalizing organized by the Study Center Kerckebosch last Thursday. Several prominent researchers shared their knowledge with teachers, policemen, youth social workers etc. though they discussed radicalizing by both Muslim and extreme-right youth, the emphasis was on the former.
Said Harchaoui Of the Multicultural Institute Forum recognizes the teacher's problem. It is not a problem of knowledge, he says. In recent years we have been brought up to speed on young Muslim radicals through many reports. We recognize them by their clothing, the length of their pants and beards, the dark veils of the women. We know something about their fundamentalist ideology, Salafism; that there are varying gradations possible and that in fact just a small group preaches violence. "We have no lack of knowledge, the question is what we need to do with that knowledge."
The problem, according to Harchaoui, is that in the Netherlands we are too caught in a culture of increasing expansion, bureaucracy, and performance contacts through which nobody uses sound intellect anymore and just steps up to these kids. because as much as the fundamental kids may also radiate that they want nothing to do with the Netherlands, in fact they're screaming for attention. "You must speak with them, precisely as [the teacher] says. But that as she says, we have no more time. Our professionals are not encouraged anymore to get on their bike and make a house visit to such a kid to ask: what is going on, how are things going with you?.. "
Harchoui thinks we must go back to small community schools in which teachers, mentors and caretakers would have the time against to make contact with the kids. "a school shouldn't be larger than the memory of the caretaker." Schools should have more freedom to decide what they do with their time instead of being more and more accountable to a manager who says: You should have produced ten reports; you didn't do it and so you get a bad assessment.
Ahmed Marcouch, president of the Slotervaart neighborhood council, the neighborhood in Amsterdam-West were Mohammed Bouyeri grew up, completely agrees with Harchaoui. Marcouch got to the news last year when his neighborhoods installed a "de-radicalization official".
Muslim kids have, in essence, a religious problem, says Marcouch. Muslims children learn at home to take religon seriously. But then they get to school and suddenly religion doesn't mean anything. That brings up questions that a kid can't answer, but neither the parents nor the Dutch teachers say anything about it. "That leads to a situation where you seem to be fitting in and growing up with the idea that you in your deepest convictions aren't accepted; that you're only accepted if you act you're one of them. The strong religious interests of kids is a reaction to that."
Religion is an important part of the problem, says Marcouch, but when he became part of the neighborhood council he found a youth department that had nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, through his work in Slotervaart a program was set up to make the problem of radicalization discussable. Talks are set up with parents, who are often really in a jam with their radicalizing sons and daughters. and there are discussion groups organized with radical youth.
An important part of the program is offering alternative religious sources and interpretations. the youth usually don't turn to the imam of the mosque, who usually come from Morocco and don't have answers for their specific problems in the Netherlands; often his doesn't speak any Dutch.
Salafism is than almost the only alternative available. They are excellently organized and are very active on the internet. According to Marcouch there's a need to put something opposite it. There's also a moderate, modern Islam that doesn't preach separating from Dutch society. Marcouch names Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss-Egyptian preacher who is currently guest-professor in Rotterdam, as example. But he recognizes that in the Netherlands there's a lack of authoritative spokespeople of liberal Islam. "We need several dozen clones of Tariq Ramadan in the Netherlands."
The teacher from the school in The Hague listens to it all with the necessary reservation: the plans that I here here are fine but at the moment we stand with empty hands. Please get them to hurry, because I can't go anywhere with my problems."
Source: Allochtonen Weblog (Dutch)
See also: Amsterdam: Take youth's religious beliefs seriously, Antwerp: Daring to tell the truth about radicalization, Rotterdam: Tariq Ramadan hired by municipality