By Selman Aksunger
AMSTERDAM (AA) – Some city governments in the Netherlands have been secretly investigating mosques and Muslim institutions through private companies, local media reported on Saturday.
Dutch daily NRC reported that at least 10 municipalities in the country have been investigating mosques, imams, mosque association officials, and people active in the community.
According to the report, the municipalities involved in such investigations include Rotterdam, Delft, Almere, Huizen, Leidschendam-Voorburg, Zoetermeer, Veenendaal, and Ede.
The newspaper added that the Utrecht Municipality stopped its investigation due to concerns about privacy and the method of the probe.
The report claimed that the NTA (Nuance door Training en Advies), a consultancy firm that informs the government on radicalization, was paid by the national coordinator for security and counterterrorism through municipalities.
Around €300,000 ($347,990) has been spent so far on the secret investigations, according to the report.
The NTA employees doing investigations introduced themselves as members of the community or as visitors and met several people without revealing their true identities, the report added.
According to the daily, findings on the backgrounds of imams and administrators, such as where they came from or their schooling, were submitted to the municipalities as "secret information" by the NTA.
- Radicalization problems
According to the report, a government investigation into radicalization due to Daesh/ISIS’ role in the Syrian civil war fell short, and the municipalities wanted to gauge this problem with a separate inquiry.
The NRC reported that the municipalities wanted to get more “realistic” results by having mosques in their regions closely monitored.
Citing constitutional law professor Ymre Schuurmans, the daily reported that such investigations were “unlawful” and that the “municipalities cannot do this through private companies.”
Also quoting SPIOR, an Islamic umbrella group, the daily reported that the investigation did grave damage to the Muslim community’s trust in the government.