Ban on imams inciting hatred

The Hague, Netherlands – Judges should be given more scope to prohibit, as an additional penalty, radical imams from exercising their profession. Under the current law this is now only possible when imams disseminate inflammatory documents or incite hatred.

The government also wants to prohibit individuals from exercising their profession in the case of provocation, offending a group of people on the basis of their race, religion or sexual tendency and incitement to hatred, discrimination or violence. The government will send a proposal to the Council of State for advice.

Minister Guusje ter Horst (home affairs) wrote this in a letter to parliament on Thursday. In the letter she sets out activities to reduce the influence of the growing number of non-violent radical Muslims. These are followers of Salafism, an ultra orthodox ideology that is anti-western and anti-democratic.

According to the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), there are between fifteen and twenty Salafist preachers who are preaching in mosques and youth centres. It is not possible to forbid them to preach as the Netherlands recognises the freedom of religion and the separation between church and state. If a preacher is convicted of a criminal offence the judge can impose a prohibition on executing his professional duties as an additional punishment.

Mayors and town councillors should also play a role in tackling radical preachers. They should engage in face-to-face talks, confront them with the problems and be very firm, according to Ter Horst. The AIVD will offer mayors specific information if need be.

Ter Horst also strongly believes in "de-radicalisation" aimed at detaching an individual from the influence of a radical group. This is possible through probing talks, assistance in finding another house or job.

There also many other initiatives to combat polarisation and radicalisation. 2008 will be the year of intercultural dialogue, whereby debates will be organised between Christians, Jews and Muslims in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Role models for Muslims, such as soccer players and rappers will engage in discussions on the position of women, homosexuality and democracy.