Rotterdam mayor faces councillors’ questions over Salafism comments

Aboutaleb opening a Chinese New Year event in Rotterdam. Photo:

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb faces questioning by city councillors on Thursday evening over comments he made about Salafism during the winter break, according to the Volkskrant.

Aboutaleb told a radio programme that every Muslim is a ‘bit of a Salafist’, and that he could be seen as a jihadi, stating, when questioned, that he was referring to the words in their broadest definition.

Salafism is considered to be an conservative or pure strand within Sunni Islam and has come to be associated with extremist violence. Aboutaleb, however, told the programme that to him Salafism is about attempting to live in the same pious way as the prophet Mohammed.

‘By that definition, would you call yourself a salafist?’ presenter Tijs van den Brink asked the mayor?

‘Yes, every Muslim is a little bit of a salafist,’ Aboutaleb answered, adding that ‘I have said before that I am a jihadist. I get up every day at 7am to do good for Rotterdam and the Netherlands. That is jihad in its purest form.’

Aboutaleb, who is a practising Muslim, has always been reluctant to talk about his faith in public, and his comments raised the hackles of local populist party Leefbaar Rotterdam.

PVV leader Geert Wilders also called on the mayor to resign while commentators said the mayor should have been more cautious in his statements, describing them as simplistic.

Hard line

The mayor, who is in the middle of his second term in office, is also known for his hard line on religious extremists.

In 2015, he broke with the Labour party line and said Dutch nationals who have decided they want to travel to Syria to join Islamic militias should be allowed to go but should be banned from coming back to the Netherlands.

‘I want to make sure those who are considering going to Syria know exactly what is at risk,’ Aboutaleb told the AD at the time. ‘If you think this society is depraved, then go. But there is no way back. Hand over your passport and risk getting bombed.’

Aboutaleb also hit the headlines after the terrorist attacks in Paris when he said that the time is right to wipe out ISIS.

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