THE HAGUE, Nov 8 (AFP) – The Muslim community in the Netherlands has been targeted in several attacks following the murder of controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh whose suspected killer has ties with Islamic extremists.
The latest attack took place on Monday at an Islamic school in the southeastern city of Eindhoven where a bomb blast caused heavy damage but no injuries, authorities said.
Five mosques were also targeted by arsonists at the weekend and a sixth was daubed with offensive slogans and pig heads.
Authorities have linked the attacks to the brutal murder last Tuesday of van Gogh by a suspected radical Muslim of Moroccan origin who is in police custody.
Van Gogh was widely known for his criticism of Islam and recently caused an uproar with a short film linking domestic abuse with the perceived subservient position of women in the Islamic faith.
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Five other suspects, all of North African origin, have also been arrested in relation to his murder.
Eindhoven mayor Alexander Sakkers lamented the escalation in violence Monday and appealed to calm while Amsterdam’s council of churches expressed its solidarity with the Muslim community in an advertisement in the local daily Het Parool.
“Why must such a horrible act (as the killing of van Gogh) lead to such consequences?” Sakkers was quoted as saying by the Dutch news agency ANP.
“This blast must not destabilize our society,” he added. “We must prevent people from blaming one another.
“This act committed by an imbecile must be condemned by all.”
Muslim houses of worship and Islamic schools have been under surveillance since van Gogh’s murder but police patrols would be stepped up, Sakkers said.
Eindhoven has some 20,000 Muslims inhabitants in a total population of 210,000 people.
Driss el Boujoufi, deputy head of Ummon association, which oversees some 90 Moroccan mosques in the country, also said that security had been boosted at places of worship and schools.
“We have asked our followers to be on the lookout around mosques and schools,” he told ANP. “But most mosques don’t have the means to ensure security round-the-clock.”
Interior Minister Johan Remkes on Sunday described the attacks as “isolated incidents”.
Meanwhile an Internet site set up for condolences following van Gogh’s murder was forced to shut down because of a flood of racist messages. But several far-right marches in Amsterdam failed to attract a large crowd.
Out of a population of 16 million the Netherlands has some 900,000 Muslims and of those some 300,000 are of Moroccan descent. The authorities estimate that between three and five percent of all Dutch Muslims support radical ideas.
In recent days days Dutch authorities have stepped up security for a handful of politicians who have also received threats from suspected Muslim extremists.