Netherlands: radical preachers approaching youth

About twenty radical Muslim preachers travel through the country, winning people to their cause. Youth seem to be susceptible to the great concern of terrorism fighters.

Abderahman (23) and Brahim (17) took a class at the El Moahedin Mosque in Ede in "the true Islam" by Suhab Salaam, son of the Tilburg imam that refused to shake the hand of Rita Verdonk. Abderahman wears a robe. "Being who I am seems to me good for integration. I know that the AIVD [Dutch Intelligence Service] worries about Salafist but we reject Salafists. We follow the good middle way, not too soft, not too extreme. Sporadically somebody comes with radical ideas, but scholars such a Suyhab bring them to the right path. It is a danger is somebody goes searching on their own and turn towards false doctrine."

He thinks it is important to follow the pure Islam. "Our parents were guest worker, not highly educated and were busy finding their place in the Netherlands. Therefore they were more lax with their belief. We have the opportunity now to do more."

Brahim is absorbed, just as many of his friends, in his belief. "It's a bit of a fashion after the attacks in America. The Islam appears often negatively in the news, and then you ask yourself: is my religion bad? In Ede there are five or six boys who are fanatic. They come up to you and invite you: Do you want to know more about Islam? Then there's a class or a lecture." His religious ideas are strict. "It is the pure Islam, not related to culture. I have Moroccan friends, but also Egyptian, Iraqi and Dutch. Although our cultures vary we can share our religion."


Abu Ismail? No, he doesn't know the imam of Al Islam Mosque in Roermond. A lecture? He shakes his head. Maybe the management knows more. He puts up his hand apologetically and turns around.

He must prepare for the afternoon prayer. Older mosque visitors come by foot, youth arrive by bike. After prayer an administrator comes outside. "You may come inside, but we don't want you to speak to the youth." The mosque had bad experiences with journalists. We're only allowed to listen. "We have nothing to hide."

Inside thirty boys sit against the wall or cross-legged, behind low tables on the red carpet. Most are fashionably dressed: jeans, tight shirt and shining watches. A few wear traditional clothing and have a beard.

There's a notepad on their table and pens are passed round. Before them, by the table, sits Abu Ismail. Today he's giving a "class" about 'the true Islam'.

Abu Ismail is one of about twenty Salafist preachers who travel about the land. Supporters of that movement want to return to the pure Islam from the time of the prophet Mohammed and to implement Sharia.

The AVID and the National Coordinator for Fighting Terrorism (Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding, NCTb) worry about the growing support for Salafism that in the eyes of both services is anti-Western and works against integration in Dutch society. They think it makes youth suspectible for radicalizing.

Abu Ismail speaks in a compelling tone through his microphone. His audience, between 12 and 25 years old, listen with discipline. His story is about being busy with the religion and over Tawheed, the unity of God. "Only he may be worshipped". After this lesson - the third of four, given in Dutch, Abu Ismail makes time for us. Yes, he knows that the AIVD follows him. A witchhunt, he thinks. "I see it as my most important task to keep boy from taking the same path as Mohammed Bouyeri. They ask me also what I think of Samir Azzouz. And then I say that what he does is wrong." During the class Abu Ismail emphasizes that Moslims should not hate non-believers. "I notice that this misunderstanding exists by many kids. But we must be tolerant." According to the AIVD it's quite common for preachers to appear more moderate than they really are, under pressure from outsiders. "Such as journalists" says a spokesman.

Hans Jansen, an Arabist from Utrecht University frowns as well. Salafists are after one thing, according to him: the foundation of an Islamic state, on the basis of Allah's laws. The Jihad, the armed struggle against unbelievers, may therefore be used. He says it's logical that preachers approach mostly highly educated youth. "They grew up in a family in which the parents came from desolate areas in Morocco. These youth seek an intellectual interpretation for their belief. They don't get that at home. They're susceptible to such a message." He understands that the AIVD watches the Salafists. "You need only one that take things literally and you have a new Mohammed Bouyeri".

However, the administration of Al Islam mosque in Roermond is happy with Abu Ismail's arrival. "Youth hang around on the street or in the disco. They're exposed to temptations. That is not good. Sometimes they get on the criminal path. We hope to stop that with these meetings."

Source: Nederlands Dagblad (Dutch)

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