AMSTERDAM: Europe must move beyond tightening laws and security to focus on education reforms and economic integration of Muslims if it is to combat radical Islamists, Dutch officials and academics have said.
”Radicalisation as a cause of terrorism cannot only be combated by laws. They only allow us to fight the symptoms, not to change the mindset behind it,” Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner told a conference yesterday ahead of the first anniversary marking the murder of a Dutch filmmaker by a home-grown Muslim radical.
An Amsterdam court sentenced Amsterdam-born Mohammed Bouyeri to life in jail in July after he confessed to killing Theo van Gogh on November 2. The murder stoked tensions with the Muslim minority living in the Netherlands and sparked a wave of tit-for-tat attacks on mosques, religious schools and churches.
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The Netherlands is home to almost one million Muslims — or about six percent of its population — around a third of whom have Moroccan roots just like Bouyeri.
Dutch authorities have arrested about 20 suspected Islamists since the Van Gogh murder — including seven people accused of planning an attack earlier this month.
Seddik Harchaoui, a Dutch-Moroccan director of FORUM, which organises projects for young Muslims, said Dutch politicians who had long ignored the threat of Islamists had gone to the opposite extreme since the murder of Van Gogh, a distant relative of 19th century painter Vincent van Gogh.
Harchaoui said the attention on Islam had exacerbated ethnic tensions and further alienated young Muslims, already angered by their social and economic exclusion.
”Highly educated young immigrants are isolating themselves from a society they see as hostile. They don’t believe the situation will improve. They don’t live between two cultures. They have no culture.
They are completely rootless,” he said.
Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen said local governments had to work harder to make second-generation immigrants — still dubbed ”Moroccans” by many in the Netherlands — feel at home, for example by creating more apprenticeships for them.
”If you can answer this the chances of radicalisation will be reduced,” he said. ”We need to take away the feeding ground in areas like work and education.”