Since the attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, Western governments
have been investigating ways to prevent similar terrorist attacks
on their own soil. They want to have more say in what the population
thinks and does. This desire is being expressed in a variety of
diverse proposals. The Dutch State Secretary for Traffic, De Vries,
like her British and French colleagues, wants to increase inspection
of the civilian communication traffic. The English Minister for
Home Affairs, Blunkett, wants to ban religious jokes. The German
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Schilly, called for intellectuals to
stop criticising America's foreign policy. And in America the Defence
Minister Rumsfeld urged the media to exercise patriotism in their
reporting. In short: Western society is under all sorts of pressure
to surrender part of its characteristic openness. The question is
whether the end - preventing terrorist acts - justifies the means.
Do these measures not infringe on the very freedom of movement that
democracies must protect at any cost?
under the microscope
Liberalising privacy regulations
The Dutch government has come up with a plan of approach for preventing
terrorism. This approach pleads for giving the police and the secret
services more extensive authorities for tracking people. The data
regarding citizen's communication via telephone, fax or e-mail must
remain available for inspection longer. And citizens must be required
to carry identification. Citizen's rights organisations are protesting.
Free, uncontrolled communication is one of the hallmarks of a democratic
constitutional state. The organisations say that they are afraid
that the personal data regarding citizens will be misused.
Fear for new terrorist activities has caused American TV broadcasters,
to start censoring news broadcasts. The US Security Advisor Condoleezza
Rice has requested that stations not transmit broadcasts from Al
Queda leaders without censoring them. It is feared that they may
contain coded messages for terrorists. Free news gathering about
the war against Afghanistan is more difficult. The Pentagon is already
buying images from Afghanistan from a commercial satellite station
to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per month.
Moslems under the microscope
The shock over the September attacks have led to an increased interest
in Islam and its followers in the Netherlands. At least six of the
books in the non-fiction top ten as reported in the newspaper Trouw
are about Islam and the Jihad. Program councils in the Hague and
Rotterdam have asked their cable provider to transmit broadcasts
from the Arabic news broadcaster Al
Jazeera. The Dutch bishops have issued an official letter calling
for dialogue with Muslims. State Secretary for Culture Van der Ploeg
has indicated that he wants to spend more money on publications
for minorities. Members of the Association of History Teachers
(Vereniging of Geschiedenisleraren (VGN))
argue that more attention must be devoted to Islam in the history
lessons. And a central organ that represents all Dutch Muslim organisations
has been hastily set up. This body is intended as a discussion partner
for the government.
Intolerant statements forbidden
The increased interest in Islam is coupled with increased vigilance.
How anti-western are the sentiments of the Muslims in our midst?
Commission says it wants to study how subsidies to Syrian, Palestinian
and Egyptian development organisations are spent. Could they be
spent on schoolbooks with anti-Semitic texts? The Dutch press is
interviewing imams and representatives of Muslim organisations.
How do they feel about integration, emancipation, and democracy?
Intolerant statements regarding homosexuality made by the Rotterdam
imam El-Moumni a few months ago are being re-examined. Old extremist
Internet texts from the Amsterdam Al
Tawheed mosque are being dug up. VVD parliament member Cherribi
contends that the two imams at this mosque, both involved in the
Islamic elementary school As Siddieq, must be removed from the staff.
The police in Haaglanden fired a temporary employee of Moroccan
origin because she would not participate in the three minutes of
silence for the victims of the World Trade Center attacks. The discussion
of anti-western sentiments must be forbidden in the media. Beneath
the surface another question is at play: which culture gets to call
the shots here?
Newspaper Files (in Dutch)
op Afghanistan, Nrc Handelsblad
VS, Reformatorisch dagblad
VS, Nederlands dagblad
tegen terreur, de Volkskrant
tegen terrorisme, Algemeen Dagblad
tegen terrorisme, het Parool
tegen terrorisme, Trouw
van Buitenlandse zaken
Afghanistan humanitarian crisis
in rep en roer na uitspraken imam, NOS nieuws
Koran in het Nederlands, NMO
wetten op het gebied van informatievrijheid, Instituut voor