Muslim Schools Under Fire By Dutch

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) -- The Tarieq Ibnoe Ziyad elementary school looks a lot like any other Dutch school. The kids lug Mickey Mouse school bags and study in Dutch.

They are also children of Muslim immigrant families. Once a week they study the Quran and religious subjects. The girls wear headscarves and attend sports classes without the boys.

Last month, their school was one of several identified by an Internal Security Service report as a possible threat to the Dutch way of life.

The Tarieq Ibnoe Ziyad school, which has a student body of 208 children, all from Somali, Moroccan and Turkish families, strongly denies the charge.

The report said one-fifth of the 32 state-sponsored Muslim grade schools in the Netherlands received financial support from fundamentalist Islamic organizations, and warned they may be indoctrinating the children with anti-Western ideas.

Some of the schools were linked to Dutch organizations connected to the Libyan secret service and the militant Palestinian organization Hamas.

Meanwhile, the popular television news program Nova claimed in a special report that the children were being taught ``to battle people until they acknowledge that Allah is the only God.''

The report came as a shock to a country that has seen little evidence of Islamic fundamentalism even though nearly one in 20 residents is Muslim.

De Telegraaf, the country's largest circulation newspaper, carried a front-page story the next day under the headline ``Muslim schools source of hatred.''

The report prompted calls from legislators across the political spectrum to end subsidies to the schools.

And there are signs that sentiment against Muslim immigrants is growing. In local elections March 6, new far-right parties that advocate closing the borders to new immigrants scored heavily against the mainstream parties.

Minister for Integration Roger van Boxtel warned against the rising anti-Muslim tide, and blamed the elections for the ``hysteria about the integration of Muslims.''

Van Boxtel said the security service report drew an inaccurate picture of the schools as corrupt.

Vincent van Steen, a security service spokesman, said none of the schools were visited before the report was issued, and were singled out based on financial records that linked them to radical organizations.

The report, entitled ``The Democratic Order and Islamic Education: Foreign Interference and Anti-Integration Tendencies,'' said the Tarieq Ibnoe Ziyad school is sponsored by the Al Wakf Al Islami foundation, which it described as a ``radical Islamic organization.''

A spokesman for the foundation, located at an Islamic center across from the school playground, said his organization had no links with the state-funded Muslim schools.

The principal, Jos van der Looy, said his school received money from Islamic groups to lease school buses 14 years ago, when it opened.

Now it is totally supported by the state.

The charges are ``complete nonsense, and we can prove that,'' Van der Looy said.

Van der Looy said the teachers -- nearly half of whom are Muslims – are preparing students for Dutch public high schools, since there are no Muslim high schools.

``That's why we teach intercultural development in the final grade,'' said Van der Looy.

The Education Ministry said it would investigate classroom material and file charges under anti-discrimination laws if warranted.

Such an investigation would end an 85-year-old tradition of noninterference by the Dutch government in religious education, which began when special Protestant and Catholic schools became state-subsidized in 1917.

``If you raise children in hatred, you cross the border,'' said Karin Adelmund, deputy education minister. She said the government should respect the constitutional right of religious freedom ``unless it is used to teach hatred and rancor to children.''

Van der Looy said the ministry has told him its inspectors won't have time to visit the school before August.

Until then, the school will have to battle for its name.

``We have invited the inspection to make a report based on the real facts. This is not good for our reputation,'' Van der Looy said.