The Dutch government does not plan to introduce a ban on Salafist organisations in the Netherlands, saying it would conflict with the individual right to freedom of religion.
‘Our consititution is based on individual freedom,’ social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher said in a briefing for MPs. ‘That is why the cabinet does not want to ban a religion or intervene in people’s personal religious beliefs.’
Parliament in December passed a motion calling on the cabinet to look into banning Salafist organisations because they are, according to the security services, a breeding ground for jihadism. Salafism is an ultra-conservative movement within Sunni Islam, and a small proportion of its followers – known as jihadi Salafists – believe in violence.
Nevertheless, ‘although salafism does not equal extremism, it does provide a breeding ground for radicalisation’, Asscher said. To this end, the government will make an analysis of the Salafist organisations operating in the Netherlands and schools and local governments will be given more resources to deal with the excesses.
Current laws already provide enough options for tackling the undesirable side of Salafism, Asscher said.
VVD parliamentarians said later that the cabinet is not going far enough to stamp out extremism. They say the Netherlands should be able to take legal action against religious organisations which undermine the state.
Halbe Zijlstra, who leads the VVD’s parliamentary party, said in an interview with Trouw earlier this month that protection for religious organisations should be removed from the statute books. It is currently impossible to ban a religious organisation in the Netherlands, even if they threaten to undermine the law.
The VVD is now planning to introduce draft legislation which will remove the special position for religious groups in law. However, commentators say that has little chance of success because it will also cover fundamentalist Protestant organisations.