Yesterday the Dutch government responded to several initiatives against ‘Salafism’ in the Netherlands. Last year about nine initiatives to counter the influence of ‘salafism’ were approved of by Dutch parliament. One included a motion to ban so-called Salafi organizations, another one to curb foreign financial support, to ban so-called Salafi Muslims from working in the army and a yet another to ban so-called Salafi Muslims from centers for asylum seekers.
The rule of law
Given the sheer number of these initiatives, the broad range of political parties supporting them and the fact that one motion (to ban organizations) was initiated by a Moroccan-Dutch social democrat created a high political pressure for the Dutch government. In its response the Dutch government stated:
The basis of our rule of law is individual freedom. That’s why the government does not want to forbid a religion or step into the personal belief of people.
Since the motion to ban organizations was only meant to ask the Dutch public prosecutor to enforce the law when organizations violate it, no further action was deemed necessary. Organizations can also continue to receive money from the Gulf but the government is demanding more financial transparency (a new law effectively creating such transparency will already be effective from this year on). The government also stated it will not ban people from the army based only on their religious convictions.
Against ‘undesirable’ influences
The firm statement of holding on to the rule of law is combined with an approach that tries to counter ‘undesirable’ influences of Salafism in particular on children. The government and municipalities will work together to help local authorities (who are now often to a certain extent cooperating with Salafi centers in counter-radicalization efforts and local community building projects)to deal with such organizations should it be necessary. The exchange of information will improve and schools and municipalities will receive clear instruction on what they can do if a Salafist organization causes problems also in cases when no law is broken.
The government’s normative framework
The undesirable influences of Salafism are said to pertain to eight different categories some of which clearly violate law but others not:
- segregating from society
- denouncing the democratic order as a way of living together and inciting others to do the same
- hinder others to enjoy their (constitutional) liberties and the right not to be discriminated
- violating public order and security
- incitement to hatred and discrimination
- undermining the democratic rule of law
- violence, threatening and calling to violence against individuals, groups and their possessions
- terrorist acts
You can find the documents (in Dutch) here
Again, the rule of law
Although the Dutch government appears to be very clear on maintaining the rule of law, both in response to Salafism as well as in response to the political initiatives against it, one might question as to how efforts to counter developments that are not violations of the law, relates to the rule of law. In particular because this normative framework is explicitly tied to ‘salafism’ and not to other religious or ideological trends.