THE HAGUE, 05/09/07 – The Netherlands is to make a case for the freedom of religion and ideology during the sixth session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this month. Partly initiated by the Netherlands, the EU will hand in a resolution that emphasises the right to apostasy.
As Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen writes to the Lower House, it is through the efforts of the Netherlands – the vice president of the council – that the topic of freedom of religion is on the agenda. The EU is to hand in a resolution aimed to re-emphasise this freedom, which also means that everybody has the right to change religions and to practise alone or communally their religion or ideology without state intervention, as the minister stated. In addition to the session, the Netherlands will also organise a meeting in which the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, Asma Jahangir, is to participate.
The resolution by Dutch initiative is salient because domestically, coalition parties Christian democrats (CDA) and Labour (PvdA) have expressed no support whatsoever for Ehsan Jami. This 22-year-old former Muslim, a PvdA local council member, is to set up a committee towards the acceptance of apostasy on 11September. On 4 August, Muslims assaulted him on the street. Jami did not receive a phone call from his PvdA, which reproached him for insulting the Prophet Mohammed. CDA remained silent on the matter.
Prime Minister Balkenende, like Verhagen a CDA member, has meanwhile given the Lower House his vision on the alleged ‘Islamisation’ of the Netherlands. This does not exist, Balkenende wrote in answer to questions from Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders.
“Islamisation means organising society according to Islamic principles. In the Netherlands, this is not the case. In our country, basic values and fundamental principles of democracy and constitution apply. This means we have freedom of religion in the Netherlands. (…) In the Netherlands, all religions, including Islam, are equal in the eyes of the law”.
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As the prime minister continues, the bonding of each person to Dutch basic values and principles is needed. However “more than ever, diversity in values, life principles, religion and ideological visions forms the basis of our society. Naturally, the government will maintain and protect the rules and values of the constitutional state. At the same time, the government will encourage tolerance and bonding in the pluriform society”.