By Emerson Vermaat
February 1, 2010 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - A new Islamic broadcasting network, the Netherlands Muslim Broadcasting Foundation or SMON, has recently been granted permission to broadcast in the Netherlands. There were lots of problems with previous similar Muslim networks, and it may not be very different this time. Chairman of the new network is Radi Suudi, a Dutch Palestinian and a well known defender of Palestinian causes. I once visited him in Amsterdam to discuss Middle Eastern issues. I remember he even demanded money for the information provided by him. 'Time is money,' he simply said. He may be right, but very few people I talked to in my long journalistic career, ever asked for money.
SMON was initiated by the Dutch Union of Moroccan Mosque Organizations and the Dutch branch of the World Islamic Mission (WIM). However, Mohammed Anas Noorani Siddique, the spiritual leader of WIM, is a radical cleric from Pakistan. He strongly condemns a moderate and liberal Islamic sect called the Ahmadiya. 'I would rather die than consider them to be Muslims,' he said in September 2006. SMON chairman Suudi claims that Siddique's organization will not be able to influence the content of TV or radio programs. The broadcasting board and the journalists will be independent, he says. I am not so sure about this.
Another dubious supporter of Suudi's broadcasting network is a Dutch Moroccan named Mohammed Cheppih. Although Cheppih nowadays presents himself as a moderate Muslim, he once publicly applauded Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Palestinian suicide bombers and propagated corporal punishment. I remember he showed an intense interest in several major Dutch terror trials back in 2002 and 2003. He also played a role in the fundamentalist Al-Fourqaan Mosque in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven where he had many friends. Two of his friends traveled to the Indian part of Kashmir at the end of 2001, presumably to join the Islamic jihad. Cheppih was then chairman of the controversial Muslim World League (MWL). Cheppih got his theological training in Saudi Arabia. His Saudi professor Abu Bakr El Jezeiri, an arch conservative Muslim theologian, published the book 'The Path of the Muslim,' in which he called for the public execution of gay men by throwing them from the highest roof in the city. In addition, El Jezeiri told his followers: 'Adulterous' women must be stoned to death. He also advocates the death penalty for Muslims who convert to Christianity, Judaism or communism. (El Jezeiri's book was translated into Dutch and made readily available by several mosques and Islamic bookshops.) Cheppih has now publicly distanced himself from such radical views but is there any guarantee that he is not just another Tariq Ramadan, a man he strongly admires but who, unfortunately, has a reputation of being rather double-tongued?
SMON chairman Suudi claims Cheppih won't be able to influence the contents of SMON's TV programs either. But, once again, there is no guarantee. 'Should journalistic independence ever be affected, I'll be gone,' Suudi said. Another controversial friend of Suudi's is Frank William, a fairly moderate Dutch-Surinamese Muslim. In 2008, Suudi and Frank founded a new Muslim broadcasting organization called 'Zenit.' Among those who supported the new initiative was the controversional Dutch-Surinamese defense lawyer Gerard Spong. Mr. Spong is one of the strongest advocates for prosecuting Geert Wilders for 'hate speech.' Wilders is a Dutch parliamentarian who once compared the Koran to Hitler's 'Mein Kampf.' I would not do so myself, nevertheless, this is a free country where Christianity has also been the subject of mockery and total rejection. Nobody ever took those who ridiculed Christians and their beliefs to court. Yet, Wilders is currently on trial in Amsterdam, and I am afraid the usually liberal and politically correct Amsterdam judges will convict him, regardless of what his lawyer, Mr. Bram Moszkowicz, will argue.
Back to Radi Suudi and Frank William. Their broadcasting initiative 'Zenit' never managed to attract sufficient interest, so another organization – SMON – was founded in 2009. Who is Frank William? He is a former director of one of SMON's predecessors, the 'Netherlands Muslim Broadcasting Network' (NMO). William's role as NMO director was very dubious indeed. He had a reputation of being corrupt – which not uncommon among people with roots in Surinam and Afro-Surinamese culture. Frank William, his wife and son were arrested early November 2009 on suspicion of fraud and accepting bribes involving more than 600,000 euros. Mr. William sometimes boarded a plane carrying 20,000 euros in cash. The NMO accounting system reportedly was a mess. William also favored his own wife and son. He reportedly accepted bribes from TV production companies in exchange for receiving work assignments. He was involved in costly lawsuits and other scandals – costing the Dutch tax payer huge amounts of money. Keep in mind that the NMO was part of the Dutch public broadcasting system, so is SMON today. Mr. William, a strong supporter of 'multiculturalism,' ran the NMO as his own private company. A rival Muslim Broadcasting organization, the 'Netherlands Islamic Broadcasting Network' (NIO), was equally involved in scandals and expensive lawsuits. A lot of tax payers' money was wasted on lawsuits, settling quarrels and fraudulent practices.
Islamic schools in Holland: segregation, poor performance, fraud and trips to Saudi Arabia
So-called Islamic schools in the Netherlands have been a constant source of concern for the authorities ever since their inception in the early 1990s. Bad management, poor quality teaching, hostility towards the West and Western values such as the emancipation of women are, unfortunately, not uncommon. There are now more more than forty primary schools and two secondary schools ('Ibn Ghaldoun' in Rotterdam and 'Islamic College' in Amsterdam). As early as January 1992, the Dutch politician Jan Franssen issued a strong warning against the 'islamization of our school system' as well as further segregation of Muslim children. He said:
'What worries me primarily is that we are putting Muslim children into quite separate schools, when they are part of a minority group in Dutch society which is in a most vulnarable position socially, economically and from the point of view of the community, and which we are trying hard through a minorities policy to integrate into Dutch society, and to give them the same opportunities the Dutch have. I am very much afraid that with a further growth in the number of Muslim schools to a hundred or so, also continued in secondary education, this segregated development within a closed-in culture which is in no way related to Dutch society, will lead to tensions in the future.'
Seventeen years later, Dutch philosopher and historian Wim Klever observed that 'Islam is becoming influential and uses the school system.' 'The system of education in the Netherlands is creating an orthodox Muslim movement in the population that is defiant of today's Western standards,' Klever says. 'We are now facing the invasion of a new and very forceful religion' and 'the rapid growth of the (Muslim) population.'
The problem primarily is that most Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands have a rather backward rural Moroccan and Turkish culture (niece-nephew marriages, honor crimes, etc.). To say so in the nineteen eighties and nineties was then invariably regarded as 'racism' and 'discrimination' – an outright assault on the unshakable liberal dogma of 'multiculturalism.' (Today, however, few people in Holland deny this is just a fact.) Proper financial accounting, for example, is not particularly the strongest skill of first and second generation immigrants from Muslim countries and Africa. In November 2008, a Dutch school inspection report said that most Islamic schools are still causing serious problems. Their boards of governors do not know how to spend money properly and more than 50 percent of the Islamic schools were performing poorly. In the southern Dutch city of Helmond, for example, ill performing and usually conservative school governors who were guilty of financial mismanagement initially refused to step down. It was only after they had been forced to to so by a Dutch court verdict that they did what was required of them. Yet, one million euros had been lost.
Muslim school governors like to travel to Muslim countries or use the school's money to simply enrich themselves or their family members, the Dutch government and school inspectors found in 2008. Between 2001 and 2007, 235.982 euros were spent on 'excursions' to the holy sites in Saudi Arabia, the school inspectors reported. It was discovered that at least 86 percent of the Islamic schools were involved in fraudulent practices misusing Dutch government money. Mind you, Islamic schools in Holland are also heavily subsidized by the government – tax payers' money, that is. Dutch taxpayers' money has been wasted on hobbyistic trips to Salafist Saudi Arabia.
One of the most problematic Islamic schools is 'As Siddieq' in Amsterdam. Fenny Brinkman, an idealistic former Dutch female teacher there, published a critical book on 'As Siddieq' in 2005. She claims that the school's highly conservative board of governors seeks to impose non Western values on the pupils. Teaching about the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews, for example, is 'haram' ('not allowed' or 'forbidden'). Jews are bad, Hitler is not. One should not be too surprised about the fact that, for some reason, Hitler and the Nazis are still (!) very popular in many Muslim countries. As Jeffrey Herf, a noted American historian, recently pointed out in a brilliant study, Nazi propaganda to the Arab World during World War Two was more effective than some people assume. Indeed, there are striking parallels between the Nazi anti-Semitic tenets and today's Islamist anti-Semitism.
Although the As Siddieq's board of governors promised that things would change, very little has indeed changed since 2005. In August 2009, a letter from another former female teacher was published by the Amsterdam newspaper 'Het Parool.' She claims that the Islamic school 'As Siddieq' still does not adhere to the principle of respect for other cultures. Only the Muslim culture is acceptable.
Lodewijk Asscher, the Amsterdan city alderman of Education, decided to stop subsidizing the school with half a million euros. 'As Siddieq' refused to give in and threatened to challenge Asscher's decision in court. Just before the case was brought to court, Asscher gave in claiming that the school was willing to meet a number of requirements. (Making all kinds of promises is very typical of such people.)
One of the Islamic primary schools that is performing better is 'Noer,' based in Rotterdam. Director Ed Coors, who is native Dutch, does not shy from raising topics such as the Holocaust and what happened in World War Two. There is no obligation for female pupils and teachers to wear a headscarf, and many don't. But Coors admits that is not very easy to convince conservative Muslim parents of the need for a more open attitude and to be more open to other cultures. For this reason, his school is very small, many Muslim parents still seem to prefer the traditional ways and views.
It is not unusual for Islamic schools to have native Dutch teachers – apart from Muslim teachers. However, religious instruction is exclusively being given by devout and conservative Muslims who often sympathize with the kind of Islam one finds in Saudi Arabia.
Emerson Vermaat is a Dutch investigative reporter in the Netherlands. Website: emersonvermaat.com.
Spreekbuis. Blad voor Omroepmedewerkers, January 15, 2010 ('Nieuwe moslimomroep bezweert conflicten bij voorbaat').
Aboe Bakr Djaber El Djezeďri, De Weg van de Moslim (Minhaj El Moslim), deel 3 (part 3), Uitgeverij Dien, Netherlands, 2000 (Dutch translation of El Jezeiri's book), p. 224, 226, 233.
Spreekbuis. Blad voor Omroepmedewerkers, March 27, 2009 ('Onrust, ruzies en juridische procedures blijven islamitische omroepen teisteren').
NRC Handelsblad (Rotterdam/Amsterdam), March 17, 2009, p. 2 ('Een omroep runnen als een eigen bedrijf').
Medianed.com, November 11, 2009 ('Arrestaties na misbruik omroepgeld moslimomroep').
Trouw (Amsterdam based newspaper), June 22, 2009, p. 1 ('Ruzies kosten tonnen per jaar'). 'Geld moslimomroepen gaat naar advocaten en accountants, niet naar programma's.'
Lijst van instellingen voor islamitisch onderwijs in Nederland (wikipedia.nl). This list is not complete.
Jan Rath, Rinus Penninx, Kees Groenendijk en Astrid Meyer, Western Europe and its Islam (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 20001), p. 78 (quote Jan Franssen, VVD). Franssen's political party, the VVD, was then led by Frits Bolkestein, one of the very few Dutch politicians who in the early nineteen nineties dared to speak out against the new liberal dogma of 'multiculturalism.'
Vkblog.nl, September 3, 2009 ('Renowned philosopher comments tensions over Islam in the Netherlands'); Wim Klever, Wilders maak van afschaffing bijzonder onderwijs programmapunt nunmer 1, in: NRC Handelsblad, August 28, 2009. I do not agree with Klever's plea to get rid of all religious schools. Jewish and Christian schools in Holland are usually performing very well and not linked to an aggressive and intolerant religion or culture.
De Volkskrant, November 14, 2008, p. 2 ('86 procent van de islamscholen rommelt met geld'); NRC Handelsblad, November 13, 2008, p. 2 ('Veel fraude islamscholen met rijksgeld').
Inspectie van het Onderwijs, Bestuurlijke praktijken in het islamitisch onderwijs (report Dutch school inspectors, November 2008). Page 58: 'Het grootste deel van de excursies zijn buitenlandse reizen.' 'In de jaren 2001 tot en met 2007 is in totaal 235,983 euro uitgegeven aan reizen naar de heilige plaatsen in Saoedi-Arabië.'
Fenny Brinkman, Haram. Uit het dagelijks leven op een islamitische school (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Balans, 2005), p. 45, 46 ('As Siddieq' and the Holocaust).
Jeffrey Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008).
Het Parool (Amsterdam), August 17, 2009, p. 1 ('Asscher: As Siddieq zo nodig dicht'). 'Hij reageert op een brief van een ex-onderwijzeres van de school in deze krant over de praktijken op school. Volgens haar wordt geen ruimte geboden aan andere culturen dan de islamitische.' Asscher is the Amsterdam alderman of Education.
De Telegraaf, January 7, 2010, p. 9 ('Toch geld voor As Siddieq').
Trouw (Amsterdam), January 27, 2010, p. 1, 22, 23 ('Islamschool Noen laveert tussen traditie en integratie').
©2010 Emerson Vermaat. All rights reserved.