Amsterdam: Investigate Muslim Sunday schools, bring Islam into public schools

Ahmed Marcouch (Labor), mayor of the Amsterdam neighborhood of Slotervaart, wants to investigate the extent and consequences of Muslim Sunday schools who inflict corporal punishments and cause damage to integration by instilling an anti-Western approach.

Marcouch says that children learn in awful circumstances with bad pedagogic means, and that what they pick up during the week in regular schools is spoiled in the Sunday schools.

Trouw says that according to a teacher's report, the young visitors of a "Moroccan school" in Amsterdam are hit by the teachers if they don't listen and are filled with fear of hell by an imam. Marcouch says that these are not exceptions and says he often receives reports of corporal punishment in Sunday schools. The teacher writes that the children are extremely frightened, but also often unmanageable because they can't reconcile the different approaches of the schools.

Marcouch says that this makes Muslim children "angry and sensitive for radicalization. During the week a loving teacher, on Saturday a harsh teacher, you get frustrated by it."

Marcouch wants an investigation into the scale, methods and effects of Muslim Sunday schools. He's already spoken to those in charge about the irresponsible pedagogical means" which are used there, but says that everybody denies it.

Marcouch says that public schools must give more attention to Islam as a "quality alternative" for Sunday school classes. "You could say: forget all that religion, but that doesn't work. The need of parents for religious schooling for their children is so great, that we must offer them a good alternative. We must compete with the bad offering in Mosque classrooms."


Fatimazohra Hadjar agrees "1000%" with Marcouch's call. "I know the stories of children who were hit till they bled," says the manager of Kap, "Kinderen in achterstandposities" in Amsterdam (an association for children with educational problems).

Hadjar says that after complaints from parents she had gone to mosques, and had stolen nasty think rules from classrooms, leaving a note to the teacher that they could find it by her if they couldn't do without it.

Hadjar adds that the mental abuse shouldn't be underestimated. What should a kid do if they hear that they'll be damned and that they should expect a one-way trip to hell.

Mohammed Cheppih says it's good to denounced abuse. As an imam for youth he's called in all over the country. He says that he also hears stories of smelly classrooms and Koran teachers who come from other countries and think it's normal to hit students. But he says he also knows many good examples of volunteers who without many resources supplement the daily education, and who give inspired Koran and Arabic lessons. They come in where parents fall short of educating. If you look at what's happening in the streets, you would want the troublemakers to go to Sunday school.

Marcouch aims his criticism particularly at the El Ouma mosque in Slotervaart. Khalil Aitblal of the Union of Moroccan Mosques in Amsterdam and the Area speaks on behalf of the mosque and says that Marcouch sketches a picture where children are hit on a conveyor belt and are tortured. There are incidents, also by them, but the outside world must not ignore that fact that mosques also teach in a different way.

Aitblal recognizes that Sunday school education should be better. "That is been a priority for us already for years. Concerning that we support the attention that Marcouch asks for quality education."


Minister Vogelaar firmly supports Amsterdam Labor politician Marcouch, who wants Islam lessons in public schools. She says abuses in mosques must be investigated.

Minister Ella Vogelaar (integration) wants to investigate abuses in Islamic education in mosques. This investigation must check both criminal aspects, because children are possibly punished with corporal punishment, as well as to check whether teachers indoctrinate the children with anti-western doctrines.

Vogelaar will consult with State Secretary Dijksma (education) and with Marcouch on how to conduct this investigation. Marcouch had asked to have Muslim religious lessons in public schools due to the abuses in mosques. According to Marcouch, children in Muslim Sunday schools are hit or abused in other ways on a grand scale.

In his neighborhood of Slotervaart a hundred children go to Sunday schools to learn Koran and Arabic. The children are also taught aversion to Western society.

Critics fear that Marcouch wants to "Islamisize" public education, but he receives support from Vogelaar, who says that formally there is such a possibility. The neutral character of the school is not affected. If parents ask for it, the school must comply with the request, as happens when Catholic or Protestant parents with children in public schools make such a request.

In such a case, Muslim education will get a place within the school's regular offering. It will be taught by teachers appointed by the school and paid from the school budget. The school inspection will monitor the quality of the classes.

Regarding the investigation into mosque abuse, Vogelaar says that corporal punishment is not allowed in the Netherlands, and that they're already looking at hate-preachers who are against integration. They must see if that also happens in religious education in mosques.

Last year Vogelaar caused a lot of commotion when she said that they will help Muslims and Islam take root in Dutch society. Vogelaar says that the moderate reactions to Fitna - where Geert Wilders severely criticized Islam - are proof that they've already partially succeeded in that. "I don't want to be arrogant, but I myself suppose that my open dialog with that community played a role in it."

"Our position as cabinet was: we don't ban the movie in advance, this belongs in our society, however offensive people might find it. Muslims have accepted that we do it like that here. I think that's an expression of taking root in our society."


Vogelaar also says that the Dutch should stand for their standards. She says that the Dutch react with too much fright to Muslim criticism of homosexuality, the depiction of naked women or other issues, which are regarded as normal here.

"Simply say: we think this is normal in the Netherlands, and therefore we'll do it too", says Vogelaar in an interview with Brabants Dagblad. "Don't think: We must let go of this because it's not agreeable to certain groups. We must be clear and firm on that."

According to Vogelaar it's good that Dutch Muslims speak up about inconveniences because that is also part of freedom of speech.

Sources: Trouw 1, 2, 3; Brabants Dagblad (Dutch)

See also: Amsterdam: Schools should be considerate of Islam, Netherlands: Salafi Islam Sunday school, Denmark: Muslim schools should be banned, Netherlands: Combating radicalism with radicals, Netherlands: A Judeo-Christian-Muslim state

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