In a precedent-setting decision which may yet have ramifications in parts of Europe with a significant Muslim population, Holland’s Ministry of Education recently rejected a request by a Muslim school in The Hague to open a branch in Amsterdam.
The undersecretary of the ministry, Sander Dekker, cited Islamic radicalization within the Association of Islamic Studies school, commonly known as SIO, as the reason for withholding permission for it to go ahead with its expansion plan.
Dekker’s decision came on the heels of inflammatory comments made by the school’s former secretary, Abdoe Khoulani, two years ago.
Writing on his Facebook page, he praised Islamic State, the jihadist organization which had launched what would be a successful offensive to capture Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. By all accounts, Khoulani singled out IS for praise after authorities in The Hague declined to grant him a permit to hold a pro-IS demonstration in the city.
Predictably enough, Khoulani’s statement caused an uproar, forcing him to apologize and resign as SIO’s secretary.
A month later, however, he was at it again.
On Facebook, the medium of choice for Islamic radicals these days, he unleashed yet more bile. In a reference to Israel, he wrote, “May the Zionist settlement be washed away by Allah’s tsunami today rather than tomorrow.” For good measure, he expressed the hope that David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was “burning in hell.”
In the wake of these incidents, SIO told the Ministry of Education that its board did not share Khoulani’s views. The ministry responded by saying it had initiated an investigation on radicalization in the school. Instead of cooperating with the ministry, SIO refused to participate in the probe, leading to suspicion that it had something to conceal.
Saying it could not rule out the possibility that SIO’s students are bombarded by jihadist propaganda, the ministry decided to deny SIO permission to open up a school in Amsterdam. According to the daily newspaper Het Parool, the Dutch government may go one step further and shut down the school in The Hague as well.
This case should serve as a valuable object lesson.
Judging by a string of jihadist terrorist incidents which have claimed scores of lives in Madrid, London, Paris, Brussels and Toulouse in the past decade or so, Islamic radicalism has made disturbing inroads in Europe.
A high proportion of the ethnic Arab perpetrators who committed these crimes acquired their knowledge of weapons and explosives in Syria and Iraq in service of Islamic State, which seeks to create a caliphate in the Middle East. Having returned to Europe from these distant battlefields, they acted on their jihadist impulses in murderous rampages aimed at innocent civilians, particularly French and Belgian Jews.
It goes without saying that Muslim schools in Europe cannot be allowed to become incubators of future jihadists. If European governments turn a blind eye to this dangerous phenomenon, they will be acting irresponsibly and abandoning their citizens.
Islamic radicalism, which is diametrically opposed to mainstream European values, must be combated before it runs completely amok. Holland’s Ministry of Education was well within its rights to crack down on the SIO school, which seems to be a breeding ground for jihadists. The ministry had no alternative but to draw boundaries and set an example.
In the face of a resurgence of Islamic extremism, a clear and present threat to moderate Islam and European societies, Europe cannot afford to be complacent.