Dutch government clamps down on radicalization

AP News
Posted: Aug 29, 2014 10:53 AM

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The Dutch government unveiled a package of measures Friday aimed at countering radicalization of Muslims in the country, a day after police announced the arrest of two men suspected of recruiting people to fight in conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

The proposals include beefing up the government's powers to strip people of their Dutch nationality if they join terrorist organizations overseas or play a role — as teacher or student — in foreign terror training camps.

They also are aimed at countering the spread of extremism online and via social media by tackling Internet providers that knowingly allow terror organizations to spread jihadi propaganda.

"In the Netherlands, there is no room for spreading hate or extremism," Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government said in a statement.

Justice and Security Minister Ivo Opstelten said about 130 Dutch citizens have already traveled to the Middle East to fight with militants group like Islamic State and al-Qaida and more than 30 have already returned. The Dutch and other governments around Europe say such returning jihadis — radicalized, hardened by brutal conflict and trained to kill — pose a significant risk to society.

The British government raised its terror threat level from substantial to severe Friday, meaning that a terrorist attack is considered highly likely.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the decision was related to developments in Iraq and Syria, but that there was no information to suggest an attack was imminent. Some of the plots are likely to involve fighters who have traveled from Britain and Europe to take part in fighting in the Middle East.

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In The Hague, Opstelten stressed that radical Muslims in the Netherlands form a "small but dangerous" minority in the Muslim population.

There are around 1 million Muslims in the overall Dutch population of 17 million.

Opstelten said local authorities will work with moderate Muslims to tackle the spread of radicalization.

Outspoken anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders said the government measures didn't go far enough. He called them a weak and "politically correct" response.