Netherlands to spend $38 million to combat Islamic and right-wing extremism

Amsterdam, Netherlands – The Dutch government will spend $38 million over the next four years to prevent both the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and right-wing nationalism, an official said Monday.

The emphasis will be on funding existing programs at the neighborhood and school levels for what the government sees as a “growing problem” of the radicalization of Dutch youth, said Interior Affairs Minister Guusje ter Horst.

The number of racist incidents in the Netherlands spiked sharply after the November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist, according to the Anne Frank Institute, which monitors hate crimes. A cycle of retaliatory attacks between native Dutch and Moroccan immigrants ensued.

But from 2005 to 2006, the number of reported racist attacks fell 10 percent to 265. There were 62 recorded attacks against Muslims and Islamic buildings – the most targeted group, the institute said.

Ter Horst said the goal was not to combat extremist groups – a job for law enforcement and intelligence agencies – but to prevent them from forming.

“The point is that all organizations that deal with youth ... and that notice signs of radicalization ... share that information, and that something is done to stop it,” she told reporters in the Amsterdam borough of Slotervaart, which has a large Muslim population and has been held up as a model for its efforts to help troubled youths.

She described a mix of “soft measures,” like sponsoring multicultural debates and creating job internships, and “hard measures,” including cracking down on truancy.

A teacher who notices students voicing racist or fundamentalist notions should be able to call a hotline for advice, for example, Ter Horst said.