Thursday 26 January 2023

Mosques file complaint against education minister over ‘radical’ schools

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Education minister Dennis Wiersma has been accused of breaking the constitutional ban on discrimination with his plan to target Islamic weekend schools suspected of fostering radicalism.

An organisation representing Islamic institutions in the Rotterdam area, SPIOR, has filed a police complaint against the minister after he said last month he wanted to authorise education inspectors to take action against schools that breached the rules.

Wiersma acted in response to an investigation by NRC and Nieuwsuur in 2019 into Salafi mosques that gave religious lessons at weekends. But the two media organisations also found last week that the minister had ignored warnings from his own civil servants that there was a strong risk the plan was impractical and unconstitutional.

In the summer Wiersma told parliament that he was concerned about reports that ‘in at least 50 places of education throughout the country views that are anti-integrationist, anti-democratic and undermine the rule of law are imposed on more than 1,000 children.’

NRC and Nieuwsuur said children were taught at the mosques that people belonging to other faiths deserved the death penalty and learned about sharia law punishments for homosexuality including whipping, stoning and beheading. Said Bouharrou, leader of the Council of Mosques, described the findings as ‘horrifying’.

Last resort

SPIOR, which says it represents more than 200 mosques and Islamic institutions, said it had filed a criminal complaint as a ‘last resort’ after the minister overruled his department.

‘It appears the constitutional expertise of the advisors has had to give way to political opportunism,’ the organisation said in a statement. ‘Unfortunately that leaves us with no option other than to go down the legal route.’

Wiersma insisted in response that more hands-on supervision was needed for a small minority of institutions that violated the rules. ‘It’s precisely to protect good informal education that we need to prevent it being used to spread radical ideas of any kind that undermine our democratic society,’ he said.

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