“In their own perception, municipalities have to contend with more right-wing radicalism than Islamic radicalism”. This is the conclusion drawn in a study carried out for the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and published in its VNG Magazine.
Seventy five municipalities took part in the study by the COT Institute for Safety, Security and Crisis Management. The municipalities combined reported 27 incidents concerning right-wing radicalism and 8 instances of Islamic radicalism. In view of the complexity of the problems, the researchers consider it understandable that many municipalities as yet have no clear insight into the matter.
It is the first time that a poll of this scale was held among Dutch municipalities on this issue, added VNG Magazine. The objective of the study was to gain insight into the need of municipalities for support in tackling polarisation and radicalisation. “It appears that municipalities particularly require advice on how to detect radicalism and information on projects to boost social cohesion and combat polarisation.”
In VNG Magazine, the Mayor of Helmond, Fons Jacobs, said that in his municipality, right-wing radicalism is usually a reaction to “street terror” by groups of young immigrants. “When native Dutch people repeatedly fall victim to such groups, the readiness to react grows. Radicalisation from the right then starts to get underway”.
In his town, Jacobs combats polarisation through a Social Cohesion Platform. Formerly called Muslim Platform, this body has police, schools, social workers and local Islamic organisations joining forces against polarisation. “After the ‘Danish cartoon riots’ for example, we issued a united statement appealing for respect for people’s religious conviction”.
Helmond has a mosque which Jacobs believes to be Salafistic, but he does “not want to be too quick to label”. The mayor of Roermond, Henk van Beers, also has a mosque in his city that propagates this ultra orthodox current of Islam—the secret service AIVD has been warning against Salafism for some time—but he is less carefree. “Its lectures attract youth from Belgium and Germany. That makes you start to wonder . . . Nothing is taking place that is criminal”. But when the municipality organises bonding activities, “these are readily branded as haram (impure)” by the mosque.
But according to Rob Witte of the Forum Institute for Multicultural Development “far more municipalities have to contend with right-wing radicalisation than with Mohammed Bouyeris”. He was thereby referring to the terrorist who cut the throat of Islam critic Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam in 2004. Witte: “Take a town like Uden for example, where an Islamic school was set alight after the murder of van Gogh”.
In Winschoten, the municipality and Forum are carrying out a pilot project with a “withdrawal programme” for right-wing extremists. The objective is to ease the hangers-on away from the core group, “not to turn them into respectable Labour (PvdA) or Leftwing Green (GroenLinks) voters”, in Witte’s view. “If the project is a success, it could perhaps also be applied for Muslim radicals, although this group is guilty of fewer assaults and murders than right-wing radicals”, VNG Magazine wrote.