Religion, terrorism and psychiatry

Religion, terrorism and psychiatry have all been hitting the headlines this week. Mix them up and you have a nasty brew, says Abi Daruvalla.

The national statistics office, the CBS, has published a new report saying that the number of Catholics and Muslims attending church or a mosque is falling.
This seemingly innocent statistical survey was seized upon with the usual frenzy by some of the Dutch media.
Several newspapers used the opportunity to indulge in tiresome and patronising sermonising about how not going to a mosque is a sign that Muslims are integrating into Dutch society.
But there was no patting on the head for the Catholics – they are just left to feel guilty.
But can the Dutch media ever get it right? The arrest in Kenya of four Dutchmen (or officially three Dutchmen and a Moroccan with a Dutch residency permit) on suspicion of terrorism led to the usual media muddle over the ethnic background of those involved. Do they or do they not have Moroccan or Somali (read ‘Muslim’) backgrounds? And does it matter?
To muddy the issue further, the website of public broadcaster Nos kindly pointed out that the arrested men belong to a group of Muslims which has been banned from a mosque in The Hague because of their radical beliefs. Just in case you hadn’t made the link between Muslims and potential terrorists yourself.
Then of course there was the case of Saïda H who appeared in court on Wednesday suspected of being the woman who made a false tip-off to police about a terrorist attack in Amsterdam in March.
The NRC enjoyed telling us that she was ‘a small woman shrouded in a long white shawl’ who told the court ‘in broken Dutch’ that she was innocent.
Much was made in the media about the mental state of the woman, leaving us with the distinct impression that Muslims (not that she was directly identified as such, that was left to our own imagination) are either dangerous terrorists or insane. Or perhaps both.
Abi Daruvalla is one of the founders of

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation