Extra protection for ex-Muslim

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Once again, a critic of Islam has been placed under heavy security in the Netherlands. Ehsan Jami, a local council member for the Dutch Labour Party and a former Muslim, has been afforded extra protection since Monday this week, on the orders of the National Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. The local politician, who also heads a committee established to fight for the interests of former Muslims, was the target of a violent, physical attack outside a supermarket near his home in Voorburg last Saturday.

Ehsan Jami (was knocked to the ground and kicked by a group of three men: two young Moroccans and one Somali. During the incidents, his attackers called him a 'filthy homo' and 'filthy traitor'. Mr Jami's advisor, Afshin Ellian, later pointed out that it was not the first time he had been physically attacked:

"He's also been threatened before, attacked or beaten up, and he reported this to the police too. This is the third time."

Afshin Ellian, an academic and columnist, is also being protected by the authorities.

Ehsan Jami now shares the dubious honour of enjoying the same kind of security given to other threatened individuals, including former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali who ultimately decided to move abroad. Meanwhile, the question has been asked in various quarters as to why Mr Jami has only now been given serious protection, especially in light of the fact that his address and telephone number have been available on an Islamic website for at least two weeks.

The Labour Party councillor had already attracted considerable publicity with his critical remarks about Islam. These have included his comparing the Prophet Muhammad with Osama bin Laden and describing some passages in the Koran as 'backward'.

Freedom of religion

Ehsan Jami operates through his committee to argue the case of people who have turned their backs on the Muslim faith. Since the attack, he has made it known that he would prefer to remain indoors for the time being, but that he has no intention of staying silent or toning down his comments about Islam:

"I will go on fighting for freedom of religion, because even though they can, of course, harm my body, they can never do that to my ideology."

Not isolated

Afshin Ellian does not regard what happened to Mr Jami as an isolated incident. In his view, the climate of intolerance in the Netherlands has hardened in recent years, and he says that such incidents put him in mind of the atmosphere in places such as the country of his birth, Iran, or Pakistan:

"We ought never to forget that people like former Amsterdam councillor and current deputy minister Ahmed Aboutaleb and Amsterdam City Mayor Job Cohen have also been threatened, and you really can't accuse them of making any harsh statements against Islam. Many opinion-shapers and satirists are simply scared to death of writing anything about Islam."