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Dutch government launches investigation into Islamic funding

The Dutch cabinet will launch an investigation into informal weekend schools in the Netherlands following the news that Turkey is to fund 12 Saturday and Sunday schools for children aged six to 17.

Published: February 14, 2019, 6:28 am

    The Hague

    The aim is dig deeper into which countries other than Turkey will be funding informal schooling, social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees said. The investigation has been launched, Koolmees said, because he “shared MPs concerns” about the development.

    “The Netherlands is a free and open society and that means that everyone is free to decide what courses or education programmes they follow,” the ministry statement said. “Countries are free to stimulate their own language and culture abroad… and this is something the Netherlands does too. However, the cabinet does not consider it desirable if this education hinders integration in the Netherlands, stimulates anti-democratic opinion or encourages opposition to the rule of law.”

    The Turkish government has meanwhile agreed to share the curriculum at the weekend schools and other relevant information with the Dutch authorities, according to Koolmees. It has claimed that the emphasis of the schools will only be on “language skills”.

    In total Dutch Turkish organisations made 18 requests for grants to fund the schools and 12 have been honoured with funding amounting to €16 500 per year from the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities project, to help “local and expat citizens”.

    The Dutch education ministry funds a special network for Dutch education world wide which works with some 200 schools.

    The YTB “organises cultural activities and give legal consultancy for human rights and all kinds of support to Turkish people living abroad” it states on its website.

    It is not easy to prevent money flows from “unfree countries” to mosques in the Netherlands and the prohibition of this financing is not yet being discussed.

    This was deduced from a letter by Koolmees to the House of Representatives, urging the government to investigate how this should be done. More research is urgently needed, according to the letter.

    Nieuwsuur and NRC Handelsblad reported earlier that at least thirty Islamic organisations in the Netherlands have applied for or received funding from the Gulf States in recent years, with millions of euros from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The information has been kept secret up to now.

    Funding coming from certain Gulf states have been highly controversial because these countries have actively been exporting extremism organisations to the Netherlands. The Dutch House of Representatives wants more transparency about money flows.

    According to Koolmees, the solution lies in reciprocity. A financing ban could therefore apply to countries that do not have religious freedom and to countries that do not allow The Netherlands to financially support its own organisations, as Saudi Arabia and several Gulf states do currently.

    In the coalition agreement, this reciprocity has already been noted, but whether it can actually be done in practice, is still being legally tested, says Koolmees.

    “The government is aware of the risks involved in a ban on foreign financing, such as undesirable political consequences, damage to the credibility of the Netherlands in the area of ​​rule of law and human rights worldwide and possible damage to NGOs active abroad,” said Koolmees.

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