Netherlands: Combating radicalism with radicals

The AIVD recently came out with a report about the rise of Islamist neo-radicalism in the Netherlands.  Neo-radicalists, the AIVD warns, are looking to attract a larger group of Muslims than the frustrated outcasts.  They are focused on cunningly getting into influential positions.  To combat the radicals, the AIVD warns against seeking advice from radical Muslims and in letting them take over government organized initiatives.

As the following articles show, the message has not been fully understood or accepted by the Dutch authorities.  It would be interesting how people would react if youth would start learning about the evils of racism by debating with neo-Nazi activists.


When minister Guusje ter Horst presented her action plan against radicalizing at the end of August it caused consternation at the Samenwerkingsverband Marokkanen in Nederland (Moroccan Cooperation in the Netherlands, SMN).  "28 million were set aside for identifying radicalism.  That is a lot of money to warn agents about the clichéd picture of bearded men with dresses," says Habib el Kaddouri

SMN developed a course package directed at prevention, with a methodology to reinforce the identity of Muslim youth.  SMN wants to make these youth into critical citizens through "empowerment" training, citizens who ask themselves if what the imam says makes says and think hard about Wilders' statements," explains El Kaddouri.  The course package will be presented to minister Vogelaar (integration) in a congress in Utrecht about radicalizing.

Now what first caused consternation by the SMN, is doing the same to Wilder's party, the PVV.  In developing the methodology the SMN called in imam Ali Eddaoudi and Mohammed Cheppih, who once intended to be leader of the Arab European League and a prominent name on the security service list.

In the past he argued against kissing on the street and Gay Pride, supported corporal punishment and publicly spoke in admiration of Osama Bin Laden.  Cheppih (30) says of himself that he has mellowed.  "Though my piousness I had tunnel vision," and adds that if needed he'll now go against the masses.  "I am glad that I, despite a past that gave me different labels, still get opportunities to make a positive contribution to society."

SMN established that many youth struggle with questions about Islam.  The gap with their parents, mosque and the imam is too big to seek answers there.  "The quest for their own identity sometimes leads the youth to the "radical traveling preachers" or "the wrong message on the internet".

Cheppih says that the youth sometimes don't what to do with Dutch society.  "And they have no idea what they can do with an old religion in the Netherlands of 2007.  That's what we want to train them about, through discussing different themes for hours."

"Prejudices against Muslims, ignorance about Islam: that is the climate with which we have to deal with.  Wilders scores high in the surveys and that doesn't come about because of his thoughts about agriculture or culture, but only thanks to his anti-Islam politics," says Cheppih, and adds that this sounds hostile and is a climate to radicalize.

Habib el Kaddouri: Islamophobia may not be an excuse for us, as the Moroccan community, to wait with our arms crossed for what happens.  We take responsibility and want to take care through training that the youth will soon be full-fledged citizens."

"I look at it with a psycho-social approach," continues Cheppih.  "It's about youth with fear, who don't know themselves, who don't feel appreciated.  We want to fill that void.  That empty feeling is not weird, in this climate, in this time.  But don't fill this void with crazy things like violence.  Those youth need guidance."  That can be done by discussing, and by approaching the Koran again.  Because what it says precisely and how it fits within the Dutch context.  Cheppih: I had made mistakes.  Interpreted things really to black and white, much to simplistically.  I forgot the things that are really relevant.  How you associate with each other, with your neighbor, within society?  With people who think and believe differently?" according to the man who has meanwhile been enlisted by the municipality of Amsterdam for various projects.

"SMN came for me like an savior and this project fits me exactly.  Minster Ter Horst comes with her approach too late for many youth.  Why should you put in so much energy in one radicalized person if with the same energy in the preventive phase in our way you can help hundreds of youth?"


Muslim youth who might be radicalized can best be help by discussion sessions.  Immigrant interest groups want to talk with youth susceptible to radicalism.

Minister Guusje Ter Horst of Internal Affaris said regarding the AIVD report about the rising Salafism that tough repression of radical Islam does not help.  She suggested dialog with the radical Muslims.  That caused much criticism against her in parliament.  Laetitia Griffith of VVD called dialog a "show solution".  The government must "take tough repressive steps as it's necessary," she argued.

According to  Sp!ts newspaper this is what interest organizations for Turks, Moroccans and Surinamese say  in a plan that was presented today.  But it's not a cure-all, says a spokesman for SMN to

The most important thing, he says, is that young Muslims who look for religious roots will get to hear various interpretations of Islam, and not only those of Salafist preachers.

Youth between 15 and 25 get into trouble by the "polarization in politics and in the mosques".  They have questions about faith and society and get no answers from their parents of the imam.

SMN therefore lets moderate and radicalized Muslims debate each other over a weekend.  The youth than reject radical Islam, such as Salafism, faster.

The method is successful, says SMN after two test session with 50 youth.  According to SMN they have received requests to continue with the sessions.  In addition, participants say that they will now start off with movements which take Western rules as a starting point.

Culture psychologist Theo Verheggen is positive about the sessions, but has questions about their effect.  Youth who feel society is cutting them out are angry and frustrated.  "Nobody talks those emotions out of your head".

Sources: Trouw (Dutch), Elsevier (Dutch)  h/t Nieuw Religieus Peil (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Summary of AIVD report on neo-radicalism


Ferdy said...

Excelent work!

I also directly jumped on the story. But when I re-read the Trouw article I noticed that no where in the article it is actually said that the goverment is funding or supporting their project (or did I over look something?).

But I guess the SMN as an official minority representer to the government does receive funding from them.

Esther said...

Hi Ferdy,

By governmental support I was referring to minister Guusje Ter Horst's idea of going into dialog with radical Muslims.

According to their site, the SMN is the offical "partner" of the Dutch government representing the Moroccan community (see here)

They are also partially funded by the Dutch government.

personalrep1 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


I wasn’t criticizing your translation, it was the original article that was suggesting it so strongly.

But that does not mean I don’t expect the current government to buy into this scheme of letting known Islamic extremist give Koran lessons on the schools under the banner to stop extremism.

Everybody knows that terrorist ‘misunderstand’ the Koran. A saying especially popular with people who don’t know anything about Islam or the Koran.

-- Ferdy