Netherlands: Muslim highschool taken over by extremists?

According to former management sources in the Islamic College of Amsterdam (Islamitisch College Amsterdam, ICA), the school is in the grips of a religious conflict, torn between moderate and extreme forces.

The girls in the ICA all wear a Muslim veil, and feel quite at ease. "I don't need to explain why I wear a veil and it gives a feeling of solidarity to fast along with everybody on Ramadan", said a student a year and a half ago in an interview.

In the meantime, a conflict is raging in the school, between very religious Muslims on the one hand, and their liberal comrades and non-Muslims on the other.

In April 2005 the educational inspection services found that there were a lot of problems with the education at the school. Teachers who taught at the school were not fully fluent in Dutch and the turnover in teachers was very high.

A year later, the inspection concluded that the instruction level was not any better. The school was given tightened inspection. Too many students were failing national exams.

Until last May, when he was fired, the principal of the school was Erik Bijkerk. Shortly thereafter two additional management personnel resigned. The reason given was the latest inspection of the school. According to Bijkerk, however, who is not a Muslim, it was just an excuse to get rid of the more liberal members of management. He says that the internal pwer stuggle in the school is paralyzing it.

"All the energies go to discussion of whether something is allowed or not according to Islam. Teaching plans don't get off the ground. The identity is always more important than the education. The children are left to face the music in the end."

Since May the president of the school board is Farid Zaari. In addition he functions as spokesman for the Al Tawheed Mosque, a mosque which had been stamped as extremist by the Dutch security services (AIVD).

According to Zaari there is no issue here of conservative forces taking over the school and that new board intervened just in time. "We made a clean sweep of the dismissal of the principal and part of the board in May. We have since been hard at work to propose a reform plan."

According to Bijkerk, the religious issues of Islam were always a point of discord. And the influence of some of the conservative teachers on the students is very high. After one talk with a teacher, two students wanted to start wearing a niqab. Some students refused to go to some lessons since it did not fall in line with their religious beliefs. Some teachers approached board members without me around. They ignored the behavior of conservative teachers."

According to Bijkerk, the level of some teachers was another reason for the lacking educational level.

Source: NRC (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: demand to close down Muslim school

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