Sunday 05 December 2021

Concern about funding of mosques by ‘anti-democratic’ donors


Many mosques in the Netherlands are being funded by foreign organisations seeking to promote a hardline, anti-democratic version of Islam, a committee of MPs has warned.

The committee, headed by CDA MP Michel Rog, voiced concern about the influence of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on the Dutch Muslim community.

The list of donors is dominated by Salafi organisations, who overwhelmingly fund mosques that share their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Donors also influenced the appointment of mosque leaders, imams and preachers, as well as the type of education and literature on offer, the committee said in its concluding report to parliament.

It found that the Diyanet, the Turkish state’s religious arm, exerted a strong political influence on the Turkish religious community in the Netherlands. All Diyanet preachers are appointed and employed by the Turkish government. Conservative religious groups also used social media extensively to promote their message.

The committee based its conclusions on research by the NRC newspaper and Dutch state broadcaster NOS, as well as a series of public hearings earlier this year. It said the level of influence exerted by ‘unfree’ countries on the Netherlands’ Muslim population was ‘concerning’, as was the lack of accountability.

Obscure constructions

The report said mosques tended to use unorthodox financial constructions to obscure who their backers were and how much they received, while government organisations lacked the resources to investigate them.

The committee found that the Essalam mosque received €8 million over an unspecified period, while the As-Sunnah mosque in The Hague was given €2.5 million between 2010 and 2017 and the alFitrah mosque in Utrecht received €1.4 million between 2011 and 2017.

Legal interventions were mostly ineffective because most donations complied with the law. Informal measures were more successful, such as a trip to Qatar by Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb to use diplomatic pressure to cut off a funding stream.

No recommendations

The committee made no recommendations on what action should be taken, a decision that prompted the PVV MP Edgar Muller to quit the committee last month. Some members of the Islamic community attacked its remit as ‘prejudiced’ because it focused exclusively on foreign donations to mosques and not churches.

‘It is for political parties now to draw conclusions and to decide how far it is necessary or to take more measures than there are currently,’ the committee said.

Rog also confirmed that he had filed a police complaint against the alFitrah mosque about the evidence given by its chairman and imam Suhayb Salam in February. It is understood prosecutors have been asked to investigate if Salam, who dismissed the committee as a ‘puppet show’, lied under oath at the hearing.

His lawyer, Anis Boumanjal, told AD: ‘As far as I can determine, no perjury has been committed. We will see in the near future if the complaint has any basis or is purely for show.’

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