Netherlands: Fighting violence against prayer-houses is top priority

Netherlands: Fighting violence against prayer-houses is top priority

The area around the Turkish mosque in Almelo was closed off Wednesday after a suspicious package was discovered next to the women's entrance. The police was alerted and called in the bomb disposal unit. After investigating the package they concluded that the package, which seemed to contain a detonator, did not contain any explosives.

The Dutch Minister of Safety and Justice, Ivo Opstelten, wants to deal harshly with the violence against mosques and other prayer-houses, he said in an emergency debate in congress on the issue. The debate was called after various incidents, including the shooting at the Ayasofia mosque in Dordrecht in October, where a bullet entered building, and two men narrowly escaped being killed. A couple of weeks earlier there was an arson attempt at a mosque in Groningen.

Opstelten emphasized that he will act decisively against such incidents. "I'm the minister who doesn't write. I'm not going to write a new action plan, but tackle the problem directly. These are cases which make me lie awake."

Fighting violence against mosques, churches and synagogues has top priority, according to the minister. "For me, the government, the police and the local government." The politician says that the registration and tracking of such cases should be improved. He said that not enough [ie, no] perpetrators are being arrested, and that these issues shouldn't be set aside. He also wanted to improve the readiness of people to complain and a 'crystal clear' answer if there are structural or shooting incidents.

The SMN (Association of Moroccan-Dutch People) said earlier that there are about 20 such incidents against mosques annually. According to the police, in 2008 there were 32 incidents, compared to 16 in 2009 and 5 in the first half of 2010.

"That there are less incidents, doesn't mean that the problems are solved," Opstelten emphasized. He promises to come up wit a concrete approach by the first quarter of 2011.

The D66 party wants some of the 500 animal-cops agreed on in the coalition agreements to be used to protect prayer-houses instead of rescuing animals. Parliament member Gerard Schouw submitted a motion on the issue, which Opstelten quickly discouraged.

Sources: BN/DeStem, RTV Oost (Dutch)