The Growing Problem of Islamist Salafism in Holland: Justifying Polygamy
June 17, 2008
By Emerson Vermaat
Patrick Pouw is a Dutch journalist who is alarmed about the growing influence of Salafist Islamism in Holland. It is the fastest growing movement and their mosques are always packed with hundreds of worshippers – and not just in Holland. Salafists are ultra-orthodox Muslims who are ideologically close to the allegedly pure "Wahhabi" or Saudi Arabian version of Islam. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is a Salafist Muslim, or a "Salafist Jihadist" rather. Islam experts distinguish between those Salafists who oppose and those who endorse violence. Salafists are also increasingly active in the United States, and what is being said here about Holland may also be applicable to them.
It was in 2007 that Patrick Pouw joined a group of young Salafists in the Dutch city of Utrecht and followed a yearlong Salafist course given by Suhayb Salaam, son of the radical Salafist cleric Ahmed Salaam. Pouw managed to win Suhayb's trust and the trust of his Salafist fellow students, and they usually did not conceal their real views. Pouw recently published a shocking book about what he heard from Suhayb and his students. There is, for example, a wide gap between what they say in public and what they say and believe in private or when they are among themselves. Publicly, Suhayb condemned violence preaching tolerance and "multiculturalism" but when he was lecturing to his pupils in that small classroom in the city of Utrecht he said that those who "betray" Muslims must be beheaded. Such people are "spies" and decapitation is the only proper punishment for them, Pouw heard Salaam say. "I saw how his eyes were cold and full of hatred, just like they were on that other occasion when he called on his students to burn Bibles."
In another lesson Suhayb told his students that Allah had declared war on the infidels. All infidels are enemies of Allah. Muslims must hate the enemies of Allah, they must see them as their own enemies. That is an obligation, Suhayb emphasized. Those unbelievers who oppose Allah and Islam must be utterly detested. And those unbelievers who do not fight against Allah and his prophet, must be hated, too, yet they must be treated with respect. It is up to Islamic scholars to decide on the question who opposes and who does not oppose Allah and Islam. "We must follow their opinion on this issue," Suhayb told his students. After Patrick Pouw had written a summary of what Suhayb had said and handed this text over to him, he (Suhayb) just commented: "Very good." Suhayb was opposed to any attempt to organize a "dialogue" between Muslims and non-Muslims. That is "Haram", forbidden, and dangerous, he said. Do not discuss private matters with unbelievers, Suhayb advised his students. Select your friends with care, create more distance between you and your non-believing friends. Suhayb also said more than once that he distanced himself from any Muslim who lives among the infidels. He advised his students to leave Holland and go to a Muslim country. Yet, he and his father refuse to do so themselves. His father once refused to pay taxes, yet he did not object to receiving Dutch welfare money. Both father and son fled to peaceful and tolerant Holland after they felt persecuted in their home country Syria, and now they advise others to leave the very country that sheltered and protected them. This attitude is typical for the kind of hypocrisy among many Salafist Muslim clerics. They are quick to advise others to do or not to do certain things, yet they rarely set the example themselves.
Concealing your real feelings and views, or "takiyya," is also typical for the behavior and tactics of these fanatics. When Ahmed and his son Suhayb were interviewed on Dutch television, they said quite different things than what Pouw had heard from them privately. On TV they were not talking about hating the infidels or the obligation for Muslims to leave Holland. Instead, they suddenly emphasized "unity in diversity" and "integration."
The same thing happened when Salaam was interviewed by Dutch TV for the second time. The reporter asked him critical questions about Patrick Pouw's new book. "Did you say all these things (to your students)?" the reporter wanted to know. "No, I did not," Salaam said. The reporter then quoted from Salaam's written teaching material which he had used in his own classroom. Salaam quickly and lamely said that this material was not for public consumption.
In one of his lectures Salaam talked about the tactics to ingratiate oneself with opponents. He mentioned the Tilburg city council which he and his father – so he claimed – managed to convince of their views after a long debate. There was only one member of the council who remained critical, Suhayb claimed. Yet, the council later stated publicly that Imam Salaam and his son were "too conservative to integrate fully" (into Dutch society).
In another lecture Suhayb said that unbelievers who are living in an Islamic state have only three options: become a Muslim themselves, pay protection money or leave for another country. If they do not make a choice, the only option left for them is persecution by the Islamic state. When a student asked Suhayb: "Isn't there freedom of religion?" he resolutely replied: "No, there is not." This is the totalitarian mind of Muslim fanatics who publicly preach peace and harmony in the West where they are being sheltered but what they really want is nothing else but to abolish our democracy and freedom replacing it by a Taliban like state.
And for some reason all of them hate the Jews – just like the Nazis once did. "Allah cursed the Jews," Suhayb said in one of his lessons. He referred to an old Islamic text from the "Hadith" (=Islamic tradition) which said that the Jews possessed a lot of knowledge, yet they declined to accept the prophet Mohamed. "The Jews are cursed because they knew the truth, but they did not follow it," Suhayb said. "This is not the case with the Christians who are not cursed. They are just erring." It is not allowed for Muslims to read the Bible or the Torah, Suhayb told his students. It is dangerous, even if you do so with a view to being better able to contest the views of Christians and Jews.
Muslim women who are working in a supermarket are committing a sin, Suhayb said in another lecture. There they sell alcohol and pork. Supermarkets are "places of perdition."
Salafist Muslims like Suhayb do not believe in normal marriages. They do not recognize wedding ceremonies conducted at Town Halls. "The Dutch civil wedding act is invalid because it is not in conformity with Islamic guidelines set out by the prophet," Suhayb told his students. "Brothers and sisters who married this way, must split up immediately, live separately for three months in order to find out if the woman is pregnant and then go to the imam straightaway and arrange an Islamic marriage."
Salafists marry in their own mosques, and they do not object to polygamy – having more than one wife. The Muslim prophet Mohammed himself practiced polygamy, so why should a fanatical Salafist follower of his decline to do so? And the more children the better. Suhayb's father Ahmed Salaam is married to two wives. Patrick Pouw learned that the same Ahmed also conducted the Islamic wedding ceremony for his son Suhayb in his Salafist mosque in the city of Tilburg. (According to the Dutch Intelligence and Security Service AIVD, this very mosque received money from Saudi Arabia.) But Suhayb has another wife, too, in Syria that is. He also has two children there whom he visits regularly. Pouw writes: "Weeks ago he discussed the topic of polygamy in the classroom. ‘Of course, it is allowed for Muslims to take a second, third or fourth wife. It is no problem at all, as long as you can financially support them. Did not the prophet Mohammed have more wives?"' "It is the man who decides if he wants to take a second wife," Suhayb said. "Women have no say in these matters." "It is the duty of the wife to be faithful to her husband, not the other way arround." Of course, the Salaams, both father and son, would never say such things on television. There would be an outcry. Polygamy is strictly forbidden in the Netherlands. Yet, a gradual "Islamization" is taking place in Dutch society. You now see lots of veiled women everywhere – even in smaller cities where you did not see them ten years ago. The Amsterdam City Transportation Board recently decided not to celebrate Christmas anymore. It might cause offense to Muslim employees.
Ahmed Salaam's best friend in The Hague is Imam Fawaz Jneid, another hate cleric who also happens to be from Syria. (Fawaz once arrived in Holland as an asylum seeker, now he condemns the very country that shelters him.) Fawaz's Salafist "As Soennah Mosque" is an important center for conducting Islamic wedding ceremonies in accordance with "sharia law." Polygamic relationships are not rejected in principle by a number of Salafist mosques. The Dutch Intelligence and Security Service reported in October 2007 that "there are Salafi mosques which are prepared to ‘marry' men who already have wives, and so are legitimizing bigamy and polygamy." These Islamic "marriages" are not recognized by the secular state or the Moroccan consulate. Many Salafists in Holland are second-generation Moroccan immigrants.
Polygamy is also practiced by Muslims and sub-Saharan immigrants in major European cities, especially in Paris, Brussels and London. But it is also on the rise in some American cities, for example in Philadelphia where black Muslims increasingly turn to polygamy. Sub-Saharan immigrants living in the restive "banlieus" or suburbs of Paris widely practice polygamy. Some men from Mali, an African Muslim country, have up to five wives and more than 20 children. Lacking any discipline at home, these these youngsters are often deeply involved in crime and display violent behavior. Polygamy is part of the African value system and culture (see the highly interesting study by Yasuko Hayese and Lao Lee Liaw referred to below).
We already noted that Salafist Islam is highly discriminatory for women. Patrick Pouw reports that Suhayb once said that women were not allowed to travel alone. Traveling without being in the company of a "mahram" (a male family member or husband) is forbidden for women. And if a woman wants to study law, it is preferable for her to study "Islamic law," not the kind of Dutch law that is being taught at universities. Other academic studies such as philosophy, psychology or economics are equally "haram." Women are not allowed to shake hands with men or vice versa. Women must wear the "Niqab," a kind of gloomy long usually black dress which also covers most of the face. These women really look like ghosts.
One of Suhayb's students was Hassan, a former terror suspect. Hassan had received a two months prison sentence. He had previously taken suspicious photos of government buildings in The Hague. He also talked about suicide attacks in at least one phone conversation. When asked by Patrick Pouw why he had talked about such provocative topics, Hassan avoided giving straight answers. Instead, he talked about Islam being "a religion of peace." "This irritated me," Pouw writes. "How could he say this, when in tapped phone conversations he had previously talked about suicide bombings in the very name of his religion?" For some reason, Hassan could get on quite well with Suhayb.
There were two Islamic theologians whom Suhayb liked especially: Ibn Taymiyya (who justified violent jihad) and Mohamed Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, the founder of the extremely conservative version of Saudi Islam. Osama bin Laden has also been inspired by these two men, but Suhayb criticized bin Laden because the latter wanted a revolution. "We must be more patient," Suhayb explained.
In an Islamic state it is allowed to stone women when they commit adultery and cut off the hands of thieves, Suhayb said. This the kind of primitive state the Taliban once created in Afghanistan.
Salafism is increasingly popular among young Dutch Moroccans, according to the recent Dutch doctoral dissertation "Zoeken naar een ‘zuivere' Islam" (Searching for a "Pure" Islam) written by Martijn de Koning, an anthropologist. Salafist movements and "their version of ‘pure Islam' gives them (these youngsters, EV) a powerful identity coupled with a feeling of moral superiority," De Koning writes.
Emerson Vermaat is an investigative reporter in the Netherlands specialized in crime and terrorism. His website is: www.emersonvermaat.com
1. Patrick Pouw, Salaam! Een Jaar Onder Orthodoxe Moslims (Amsterdam: Nieuw Amsterdam Uitgevers, 2008), p. 43, 44 ("The Jews are cursed"), p. 63-65, 171-173 (Hassan), p. 101, 102 ("hating the infidels"), p. 104 ("working in a supermarket", "dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims is haram"), p. 104 ("only Islamic marriage is a valid marriage"), p. 105 ("mahram"), p. 106 ("study Islamic law"), p. 109 ("select your friends with care"), p. 126, 127 ("Muslims who live among the infidels"), p. 128 (TV interview), p. 138 (Tilburg city council), p. 141 ("no religious freedom in an Islamic state"), p. 152 (Bin Laden), p. 200, 201 (Saudi Arabia), p. 203-205 (polygamy), p. 207 ("Do not read the Bible and the Torah"), p. 252 ("eyes full of hatred"), p. 224, 234, 235 (stoning women, cutting off hands).
2. General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), The Radical Dawa in Transition (The Hague: AIVD, October 2007), p. 65.
3. IslamicAwaking.com, November 2006: Philly's Black Muslims Increasingly Turn to Polygamy.
4. Yasuko Hayese and Kao Lee Liaw, Factors on Polygamy in Sub-Saharan Africa: Findings on the Demographic and Health Surveys, in: The Developing Economies, September 1997, Vol, 35, No. 3, p. 293-327.
5. "Pauw & Witteman" (Dutch TV), 17 April 2008 (Salaam's denials).
6. Martijn de Koning, Zoeken naar een "Zuivere Islam". Geloofsbeleving en Identiteitsvorming van Jonge Marokkaans-Nederlandse Moslims (Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 2008), p. 317. I do not agree, though, with some of the conclusions drawn by the author who, in my view, shows too much understanding for these youngsters.