UPDATES WITH STATEMENTS
By Selman Aksunger
AMSTERDAM / ROTTERDAM (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 had 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 posed as members of the community or visitors and met numerous 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.
- Muslim figures, groups in Netherlands criticize probes
Dutch Muslims criticized the secret investigations.
Muhsin Koktas, head of the Dutch Muslim Organization for Government Relations, told Anadolu Agency that they were greatly disappointed by the news.
Underlining that for years Muslims have been working to be good citizens in the Netherlands, Koktas said: “With such actions the state is constantly derailing our efforts. For this reason, they lose the trust of Muslims instead of gaining it.”
“This causes discrimination in society,” he said. “We will convey these concerns to the authorized state institutions and consult on what measures they will take to prevent it from happening again.”
Tunahan Kuzu, a Turkish-born Dutch lawmaker and founding member of the pro-migrant political party Denk, echoed Koktas’s remarks, saying that the situation damaged Muslims’ trust in the Dutch government.
“It’s illegal for municipalities to investigate mosques in this way,” Kuzu said.
“We will take the necessary steps in parliament to stop this state practice, which that places so-called researchers among the mosque community,” he added.