Highest Dutch court orders government to fund new Islamic school

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 26, 2017 10:04 AM

By Bart H. Meijer

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands' highest court on Wednesday told the government it must provide funding for an Islamic school in Amsterdam that authorities had sought to ban due to concerns that pupils there might be radicalized.

The Council of State reversed a decision by deputy Education Minister Sander Dekker, who issued the ban after a member of the school's board expressed support for militant group Islamic State in a Facebook posting in 2014.

But the court concluded there were "no valid grounds" to refuse funding as the person in question had since left the board, which had publicly condemned the posting.

It ordered Amsterdam's city council to provide a building for the school, which is now expected to open in September.

The public secondary school will offer Dutch-language education with a focus on Islam to approximately 180 students. It will be the second school of its kind in the Netherlands, it said on its website.

Another Dutch Islamic school was closed in 2010 after the national schools inspectorate ruled its education standards were poor.

Roughly 5 percent of the Dutch population of 17 million is Muslim, and the country has integrated hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Morocco and Turkey since the 1970s.

But the arrival of migrants in greater numbers from other Muslim-majority countries has sharpened a national debate about the benefits and drawbacks of immigration.

One of the country's highest-profile figures is anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party finished second to Prime Minister Marc Rutte's conservative VVD Party in national elections in March.

"We still have concerns about the school's board", a city council spokesman said in a reaction to the decision. "It has its back turned to society, instead of offering open-minded, good education to Islamic children."

Under Dutch law, city authorities provide school buildings while the national government is responsible for education funding.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and John Stonestreet)