Amsterdam faces a huge security crisis and no one in the government of the city of around 866,000 is paying attention.

The empowerment of conservative Muslims in Amsterdam started during the last years of the reign of Mayor Job Cohen, a member of the Dutch social democrat party PvdA, and was continued by his successor and fellow social democrat Eberhard van der Laan. The Dutch social democrats, PvdA, are very close to Labour in the United Kingdom, there is almost a parallel development in both parties concerning the empowerment of the conservative Muslims within the ranks. In both parties there is a strong undercurrent of Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers who are able to control growing anti-Israel and pro-Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) messaging. It often leads to anti-Semitic outbursts – not denounced by the social democrat party leadership.

Second-generation Muslim youth are being radicalized, but even when family members report them to the police nothing is done. Many have ended up in Syria fighting for ISIS. Meanwhile, one of the de-radicalization coaches hired by the city, an ex-convict, Bilal Lamrani, turns out to be a radical himself and has been on the city payroll for almost two years. Even now, he is still occasionally being hired. The Dutch intelligence services still see Bilal as a potential threat. Their assessment about him is that he is unpredictable and dangerous.

Second-generation Muslim youth are being radicalized, but even when family members report them to the police nothing is done.

A pattern can be seen of a failing and a non-functioning radicalisation monitoring unit in City Hall. Since the Syrian civil war started in 2011 a few dozen mainly young Muslims from Amsterdam have joined groups close to al-Qa’ida and the fighting hordes of Da’ish, aka the Islamic State.

One case is extremely painful. A whistleblower father of a young man who was radicalizing tried a few days before Christmas in 2014 to reach a special city official who was responsible for the area.

They reached him on the phone and tried to get up an emergency appointment to stop the son from traveling to Syria. The official was at a Christmas party and could not be reached. The young man was being coached by Bilal Lamrani. The father wanted to press charges against Lamrani but according to the police, the fact that the last phone number called by the son was Lamrani’s number was not enough to arrest Lamrani. It is questionable if the police even started a full-scale investigation. The son disappeared.

There are more stories like this out of Amsterdam. In late 2013 the then- 16-year-old Achraf Bouamran had radicalized fast. Achraf’s father Faris had followed his son to a house in Amsterdam West where radicals were meeting. Though he gave the address to the police, nothing was done. During Christmas the father called a special phone number to inform authorities about his son, he asked them to take away his son’s passport so he could not leave the country. The police told the father “we will not lose him. You have to trust us.”

On 27 December 2013, Achraf flew Turkish Airlines to Turkey from Schiphol despite his passport number being registered with the police. He never returned. The Amsterdam authorities had done nothing.

Bilal Lamrani

Achraf’s father was angry at then -mayor Eberhard van der Laan and let the mayor know that his opinion was that the police and civil servants did not do their job. The mayor said that ‘after a report the one who reported will be immediately contacted. First, we start an investigation in the surroundings of the person. If it is problematic, we make a plan of action. In this case the son was gone before we were ready with our plan of action.’

From others the word came that nothing was done as the radicalization was reported during the Christmas holiday season. This turns out not to be incidental but symptomatic in Amsterdam.

A second case is Omar Hmima, who was arrested with fuses and raw material to make explosives and convicted in 2013 for terrorism. Although he was seen as a threat by authorities, he was allowed to await his appeal in freedom and used that period to travel to Syria and Iraq to become a fighter for IS/ISIS/Da’ish. A radicalisation expert who had made inroads with the Hmima family was reporting the radicalisation of Omar and his younger brother to then-Mayor Eberhard Van der Laan (now deceased) and his protégé Fatima Elatik. They did nothing and even obstructed the work of the radicalisation expert.

The city of Amsterdam gave the Hmima family welfare and at the same time knew that they were running an illegal bakery business. No steps were taken by the city to keep control on the family, not even after Omar Hmima was posted on the national terror list and all his accounts were frozen. In 2015 when Omar was supposedly killed, his father in Amsterdam received Omar’s IS salary from Syria, roughly US $700.

Probably the most shocking mistake the city of Amsterdam made and is still not willing to acknowledge was hiring a convicted, still radical terrorist Bilal Lamrani as a deradicalization expert and coach for radicalizing youth.

“I do not believe in deradicalization
programs.”
— Bilal Lamrani

Lamrani was a member of the indigenous Dutch terror network the Hofstadgroup in the mid 2000s. (A member of this group was responsible for the murder of Theo van Gogh.) While in prison, he expressed a desire to blow himself up in a place with many people present and encouraged fellow prisoners to do the same. Part of his jail time of three years was for recruiting for the jihad; he was earlier jailed for threatening politician Geert Wilders. After he was released in 2008, he followed a deradicalization program but never deradicalized and still supports Salafi-jihadi viewpoints. In Lamrani’s own words, “I do not believe in deradicalization programs.”

Probably the most shocking mistake the city of Amsterdam made and is still not willing to acknowledge was hiring a convicted, still radical terrorist Bilal Lamrani as a deradicalization expert and coach for radicalizing youth.

According to multiple whistleblowers, some of them working as civil servants in Amsterdam, Lamrani was able to start working for the city after a personal intervention by then-mayor Van der Laan. Regular people need a certificate of good conduct from the city, and Lamrani did not get one for obvious reasons. Van der Laan’s intervention helped and Lamrani started his work as a youth worker.

As a youth worker Lamrani was instructed to help deradicalizing young men, but the city never proofed or tested Lamrani’s beliefs. As such he was able to recruit for the jihad and helped people to leave the country, according to a whistleblower.

The city even funded a ‘charity’ trip for Bilal to Jordan. Nothing is known about his activities while in Jordan and he might actually have crossed into Syria. A sister of Bilal Lamrani, Sarah, went to Syria and married a Belgian jihadi. She was killed in Syria in 2018 along with her daughter. Bilal is still in close contact with Samir Azzouz, another member of the Hofstadgroup who is still seen as a serious threat by Dutch intelligence services.

Lamrani was, as a city youth worker, also part of regular meetings with the police where upcoming actions in the neighborhood were discussed. So, he could warn his circle of upcoming inspections, police raids and other actions that could hinder the radicals around Lamrani. In recent months Lamrani seemed to have started a campaign to intimidate and threaten persons who speak about him. The Amsterdam police again have not taken action. The city of Amsterdam is still hiring Lamrani for occasional youth football training sessions.

Where former mayor Cohen only empowered the Muslim Brotherhood, Van der Laan gave room to Islamic radicals. What were his motives? One can only speculate, but it was a big mistake to allow Bilal Lamrani to work as a youth coach and social streetworker with a task to deradicalize young men who wanted to join the jihad. Lamrani never deradicalized, and he said so, but was allowed, due to his work, to sit in on meetings with the police on upcoming police operations aimed at radicalized youth and criminals.


A Bit of History

Muslim immigrants from Morocco and Turkey began coming to the Netherlands in substantial numbers in the mid 1960s to early 1970s for work.

The Dutch economy boomed at the time and many hands were needed for low-paid jobs in factories. Many immigrant workers hoped to earn a lot of money in a short time to create a better future for their families back home. The oil crisis in the 1970 caused serious problems to the economy. Many immigrants were laid off but stayed in the country. Although the labor immigration was stopped in 1973, a 1974 law that allowed family reunification kept the number of immigrants steadily growing.

According to a 2017 PEW Research Center report, the Muslim population of the Netherlands is about 1.2 million or 7.1% of the total of roughly 17 million. This places the Netherlands in the top five European countries with the largest percentage of Muslims. The two main national origins of Muslims in the Netherland are Morocco and Turkey. Roughly 400,000 people are of Turkish origin and 390,000 of Moroccan origin.

(Note that in what follows we will mainly discuss Dutch Muslims of Moroccan descent. There is not that much data available on the Turks as they are a more closed community. There is also more social control within the Turkish community and generally there is no generation conflict between parents and children as there is within the Moroccans. As we will see below, Dutch Muslims of Turkish descent also do not have the high crime rate of the Moroccans.)

Integration issues are difficult in the Netherlands; there still is a language barrier for many of the older immigrants and there is often a disconnect between parents and their children who were born in the Netherlands. But Dutch bureaucrats and politicians have been living in a bubble, believing that integration was going well.

According to a 2017 PEW Research Center report, the Muslim population of the Netherlands is about 1.2 million or 7.1% of the total of roughly 17 million. This places the Netherlands in the top five European countries with the largest percentage of Muslims.

They thought it was just a matter of time before the immigrants would fully integrate. Reality was different: migrant communities mixed but not with indigenous Dutch. There was really not that much contact between the native Dutch community and the immigrant community.

The native Dutch and immigrant communities live in parallel universes. A PhD thesis of then- member of parliament Oussama Cherribi about Friday preaching in Moroccan mosques in Amsterdam in the first half of the 1990s shows that religious leaders in the Dutch-Moroccan community are really focused on their own community, and their religious plight. In some of the preaching, imams urge suspicion of the native Dutch: Sura 5:51 of the Quran is quoted: “Believers! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies. They are the allies of each other. And among you he who takes them for allies, shall be regarded as one of them. Allah does not guide the wrong-doers.”

In May 2001, an early warning of problems to come sounded. The conservative imam Khalil el-Moumni – blacklisted in his native Morocco but the recipient of financial support from the Dutch office of the Muslim World League – gave an interview on Dutch TV. Discussing the growing violence by young Dutch-Moroccan men against the LGBT community in the Netherlands, he stated that “Homosexuality is harmful for society as a whole…” “If this phenomenon spreads within the youth, both boys and girls, it will lead to extinction.” “Homosexuality is not only limited to the people who have this disease but can spread itself. Dutch society is multicultural. If the disease spreads, anyone can become infected. We are afraid of that.”

The country was upset and within days the Minister for Urban Policy and Integration of Ethnic Minorities, Roger van Boxtel, invited representatives of the Muslim community to start a dialogue. A group of about forty persons – most them representing only themselves or a handful of persons – attended the meeting and it was clear that there was not a representative body for the Muslim community, as there is not one Muslim community but many.

The controversy led to the creation of the contact body for Muslims and the government (Contactorgaan Moslims Overheid – CMO). This did not turn out be a great success as it only represented Sunni Muslims. The Sunni organisation did not allow Shiites and Ahmadiyya Muslims in their organisation, and soon the CMO became, and still is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood current. A second organisation was created, Contact Group Islam which represented the Shiites, Ahmadiyya and some smaller Sunni umbrella organisations. In the mid-2000’s the Muslim Brotherhood also took over this organisation, but just for a limited time.

Then two major assassinations happened in the Netherlands that shaped the discourse for the years to come. On 6 May 2002 up-and-coming populist politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated by an extreme leftwing native Dutch terrorist. At the time of his assassination Fortuyn was assessed to be able to win the upcoming elections and could have become the next prime minister. During his trial the assassin told the court that he wanted to protect the country’s Muslims from Fortuyn’s rhetoric.

The killing of Fortuyn was followed by the murder on 2 November 2004 of Dutch publicist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a member of the indigenous Hofstadgroup of radical Muslims. Theo van Gogh had just finished a short very critical documentary on Islam with then Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In 2006 Hirsi Ali was forced to give up her parliamentary seat after it became known that she had committed fraud in her asylum application and was stripped of her Dutch citizenship by the Minister of Immigration. This decision was reversed at the urging of the Dutch parliament but in September 2006 Hirsi Ali emigrated to the United States.

“Homosexuality is harmful for society as a whole…” “If this phenomenon spreads within the youth, both boys and girls, it will lead to extinction.”
— Imam Khalil el-Moumni


After the Murders

A year after the murder of Van Gogh the Dutch government installed the office of the National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism (NCTb). The NCTb, which became the office of the National Coordinator Terrorism and Security (NCTV) in 2012, got the task to make an inventory of the terrorist threat in the country and develop a counter strategy.

One of the first programs started by the new counter terrorism watchdog was monitoring the four main Salafist centers in the country. The program initiated by the NCTb was called Project Verstoren (to disturb). This effort was aimed at the Salafist centers in the Netherlands in Eindhoven, Tilburg, The Hague and Amsterdam. The aim was to monitor, observe and map the four centers and their following. At the same time the government wanted to tone down the anti-integrative and anti-western rhetoric often heard at these Salafist centers.

Monitoring these centers was a big task and involved both of the Dutch intelligence services (the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) and the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD)) as well as the Immigration service (IND), Military Police (Marachaussee) responsible for border control, the National Police and local police. On the one hand the result was that some mosques toned down their rhetoric and started to cooperate with the government in a lukewarm fashion. On the other hand, the monitoring of the Salafist centers also showed the limits of democracy in the Netherlands; the Dutch government could monitor and pressure the Salafist centers but not stop them from spreading an anti-integrative and anti-Western message. Salafists don’t want to be a part of the Dutch society, but they take social-security money, get funding to send their children to Koran lessons in the mosques, etc.

Under the eyes of the government the Salafist centers, especially the one in The Hague, had started training a second and third generation of preachers, young men who often were born and raised in the Netherlands, of mainly Moroccan descent. They went out in the country as traveling preachers and soon Salafist centers started popping up all over.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood, already planted in the Netherlands, received new energy. The first organization, the League of the Islamic Community in the Netherlands (LIGN) was set up in the 1990s but did not really take off. In the mid 2000’s an ambitious teacher of Moroccan birth with roots in the Salafist al-Fourkaan Mosque in Eindhoven, Yahya Bouyafa, took over the LIGN and started to set up a web of new Islamic organizations with at its core the Federation of Islamic Organization in the Netherlands (FION) and the Europe Trust Netherlands (ETN).

When Bouyafa took over the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands there was no mosque owned by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands. The ETN was founded in 2006 as a waqf or charitable trust to own and control the real estate owned by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands. The three founding members included Moussa Marcouch, whose brother Ahmed will appear below. The ETN was ultimately controlled by the Europe Trust in Markfield, near Birmingham. The Europe Trust is the Muslim Brotherhood financial control organization for the whole MB structure in Europe, run by Ahmed al-Rawi. In the bylaws of the ETN is a clause that in case the ETN ceases to exist all the properties will be turned over the Europe Trust.

Omar Hmima

Financing from the Gulf States (especially Kuwait and Qatar) came in and in a short time the Muslim Brotherhood was able to acquire four known properties in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, worth at least 5 million euros.

Ahmed al-Rawi signed the contract for the purchase of the Blue Mosque in Amsterdam.

The Dutch government and bureaucracy had no response to the entrance of the well-funded and anti-integrative Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands. In the years following 2008 the strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands was clearly focused on the largest cities in the country especially Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The MB also focused on Dutch converts and third generation Muslims who barely speak Arabic. Thus most of the lectures and preaching in the MB mosques are done in Dutch and well-known international speakers within the Muslim Brotherhood current like Jamal al-Badawi and Hussein Halawa often lecture in English.

While the Dutch government and intelligence services clearly state in a report released to Parliament that the Muslim Brotherhood members in the Netherlands are secretive and anti-integrative, they empower them by allowing them to take key position within Contact Body Muslims Government, one of the two official coordination councils between the Muslim communities and the government.

A 2010 investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands by the Dutch intelligence service AIVD on request of Parliament came to the following conclusions:

  • “…the activities of the movement could, in the long term, pose a risk to the democratic legal order in the Netherlands.
  • Firstly, it is conceivable that the Muslim Brotherhood’s endeavor to make Islam leading in all aspects of Muslim life can contribute in the long term to a breeding ground for (intolerable) isolationism and polarization.
  • Secondly, the security-consciousness and covert actions of the Dutch Muslim Brotherhood cannot rule out the possibility that there are other objectives in addition to the stated intentions that may conflict with the democratic legal order in the Netherlands. However, the AIVD has no specific indications for this.
  • Thirdly, it has been found that Dutch Muslim brothers are trying to gain influence in civil society. If Muslim brothers hereby participate in or influence political decision-making without making their signature known and thereby their interests and intentions, this can lead to an undesirable situation. However, the AIVD does not have concrete indication that this is currently the case.
  • Finally, the AIVD has established that Dutch Muslim brothers have a broad international network with ample financial resources, which could increase the possibilities of achieving the (possibly disguised) objectives in the Netherlands.”

A good example of the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands is the earlier mentioned CMO or Contact Body Muslims Government, a Sunni organization representing most Turkish and Moroccan mosques. Later the Platform of New Muslims in the Netherlands (LPNM), controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, also became a member of the CMO. Since 2006-2007 Turkish president Erdogan ordered the Turkish mosques of Diyanet in Ankara and Milli Görüş in Cologne who are effectively the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood, to cooperate and work together with the CMO, it is clear that CMO is Muslim Brotherhood-controlled. Two young Muslim Brotherhood members Yassin Elforkani and Jacob van der Blom were not only controlling the Europe Trust Netherlands but also the CMO.

In 2018 Halil Karaaslan, from Milli Görüş in Cologne, became the new chairman of the CMO. His focus was to make CMO more of a social organization while most of the other board members saw the role of the CMO as a religious organization. In early 2019 Karaaslan took the consequences and stepped down as chairman.


The Dutch Approach

In public the NCTV and its predecessor NCTb were fond of themselves and the counter radicalisation strategy they had developed, selling “the Dutch Approach” abroad as an excellent way to fight radicalisation. In 2007 Deputy National Coordinator for Counterterrorism Lidewijde Ongering testified before the U.S. Senate to explain the Dutch Approach in self-congratulatory terms.

“The Dutch authorities have decided to analyse and tackle the dangers of radicalisation and terrorism as a coherent whole. We have developed a ‘comprehensive approach’ to task at hand. It includes repressive measures against terrorists but puts an equal emphasis on prevention.”

“So far, these measures have been successful. Several terrorist networks have been broken up, including the Hofstad group. A sizable number of jihadists have been given prison sentences. Recruiters who were trying to induce young people to take part in violent jihad in countries like Iraq and Chechnya have also been tackled. These government actions have been effective in disrupting the formation of jihadist networks in the Netherlands. As a result, radical Muslims are contending with a lack of leadership and major internal divisions. Taken together, these developments prompted us to lower the general threat level for the Netherlands. For a long time, the threat level was ‘substantial’; today it is ‘limited’. This means that at present we view the probability of an attack as low, although of course it cannot be ruled out completely.”

  • One way we work to prevent radicalisation is by intensifying our efforts to integrate Muslims into Dutch society. We are trying to make Muslims feel more included, mainly by paying more attention to the identity issues confronting young Muslims in a Western environment, combating discrimination and exclusion, and encouraging Muslims to participate in society and politics.
  • In this context, the Dutch government also feels strongly that Dutch Muslim communities should have their own training programmes for imams, so they will no longer be dependent on imams ‘imported’ from their countries of origin.
Herengracht Canal in Amsterdam

Some of the explanations sound good on paper but there is a deep gap between the ivory towers of the government in The Hague (the seat of the Dutch government) and the situation on the ground in, let’s say, Amsterdam-East where “prevention” has not been a huge success.

One problem not mentioned by Ongering is that second generation Moroccan Muslims in the Netherlands, who were born and raised in the country don’t see themselves as Dutch first. Although they speak better Dutch and do better at school than other immigrant communities the majority of Dutch Moroccans stay within their community and marry within their own group.

Furthermore, a disproportionate number of young male Dutch-Moroccans are involved in crime.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics in the Netherlands, 20.3% of young Dutch-Moroccan men between the ages of 18 and 25 were “suspected of a crime” in 2012 as opposed to 4.5% of native Dutch men.

For the 12-17-year-olds the percentage is 13.1% (Moroccan descent) to 2.6% (native). Interestingly enough, when corrected for socio-economic status, Moroccans are still twice as likely to be suspected of a crime. (These numbers don’t apply to Dutch residents of Turkish origins, whose crime rate is like native-born residents’ when corrected for socio-economic level.)

Another issue – and explanation – is that the unemployment rate among Dutch Moroccans between 15 and 24 is 37% – as opposed to 10% among native Dutch. So, these youths have fewer ties to Dutch society.

It is small wonder that some of these young men in trouble radicalize and form the majority of those who traveled to Syria and Iraq since late 2012. The mainly native Dutch bureaucrats and policymakers are seldomly in touch with the Dutch-Moroccan community.

Amsterdam Immigrant Neighbourhood

Around 2006-2012 there was no apparent jihadi threat in the Netherlands. The radical mosques were toning down their rhetoric and recruiters for the jihad were pushed out of the mosque. But out of sight a new generation started to prepare for jihad. A second generation of Dutch speaking Salafi preachers started to vent their message of ‘true Islam’ all over the Netherlands, attracting not only second and third generation Muslims but also converts. If groups of young men following the Salafist ideology were pushed out of a mosque, they went to house meetings or rented inexpensive storage spaces underneath apartment buildings. Others went online and started watching YouTube channels with lectures of American preachers like Ahmad Musa Jibril and Anwar al-Awlaki.

Under the surface, though, the radicalisation of a group of mainly young men and women kept going on. Then in early January 2013 it came out that in December 2012 at least a couple of dozen young men had left the country and joined the fighting in Syria. They were followed by hundreds more. The politicians and media were shocked and surprised. Even the head of the intelligence service AIVD had to acknowledge on TV that he had not seen this coming. It became clear that the Dutch Approach did not work.

The Dutch government reacted by pushing the anti-radicalization down to the local level.
“The approach to counter polarization and radicalization is primary a matter for the local government, at the local level.” stated the first Action plan “Polarisation and Radicalisation” 2007-2010. The local government is in control.”


Infighting

Amsterdam was the first city to come with a specialized counter-radicalization plan. One specific city quarter, Amsterdam-Slotervaart, took the lead.

Amsterdam-Slotervaart consists of three sub-districts with roughly 20,000 people living there in 2018 with the migrant community being the majority. The single largest ethnic group other than the Dutch are Moroccans. Amsterdam-Slotervaart presented an action plan to tackle radicalization in early 2007. It became the testing ground for Amsterdam’s deradicalization and prevention program.

In 2006 Moroccan born Ahmed Marcouch, a former Amsterdam policeman who had acknowledged that he had radical Islamic opinions when he was younger, became the chief executive of the Amsterdam-Slotervaart quarter for the Social Democrat Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA). (This is like Labour in the UK and SPD in Germany and Parti Socialiste in France.) In his younger years Marcouch was a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and after he became the chief executive of Amsterdam-Slotervaart he seemed to many, even within his own PvdA, to behave like an Islamic politician.

During Marcouch’s time in Slotervaart the Muslim Brotherhood was empowered. The Muslim Brotherhood had had no presence in Amsterdam until in 2008 a contract to build and own a new mosque was given to the Dutch Muslim Brotherhood. There was opposition in the neighborhood to granting the Muslim Brotherhood the rights to build and own the mosque. The mainly traditional Moroccan Muslims living in Slotervaart wanted a more traditional mosque. One of the critiques heard around that time was that the Muslim Brotherhood got the mosque was because one of Marcouch’s brothers, Musa/Moussa, had key positions within the Dutch Muslim Brotherhood structures at the time.

Ahmed Marcouch’s career flourished anyway. In 2010 Ahmed Marcouch moved on from Slotervaart and became a member of Parliament for the PvdA and in 2017 he was appointed mayor of the city of Arnhem.

In another part of Slotervaart, the Poldermoskee or ‘Polder’ Mosque was started in 2008 by Mohammed Cheppih, the Oujda-born former director of the conservative Muslim World League Netherlands. Cheppih had been trained at the Islamic University of Medina, one of the most prestigious Islamic universities, that is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Later, he worked in the Balkans in the early 2000s under Saudi Wael Julaidan, one of the founders of al-Qa’ida. Cheppih was at that time very active within the pro-Gaza/Hamas arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands.

Cheppih was asked by the NCTV to work as a consultant in a deradicalization program in Amsterdam. He was asked to help with the deradicalization of two former members of the Hofstadgroup, Samir Azzouz and Ismail Akhnikh. Both had been convicted and served jail time for terrorism. But Cheppih was ineffective. Samir Azzouz did not deradicalize and still believes in his ideology of jihad. Ismail Akhnikh left the country and ended up fighting the jihad in Syria. The winner was Cheppih who was very well paid for achieving nothing.

In cities like Amsterdam the Muslim Brotherhood was seen as a partner by the city and empowered. Also, in Amsterdam mosques that came under the influence of Salafism were still receiving grants from the city. The Hizb ut-Tahrir, a clear incubator for radical Islam, was empowered by the deradicalization department of the city of Amsterdam, even though its goals – a restored caliphate under sharia law – are close to those of ISIS. A youth counselor for the Streetcorner organisation in Amsterdam said that he thinks it is not a bad thing that a radicalized person gets active within the Hizb ut-Tahrir. According to that youth worker the radical “will think deeply about Islam and that is ok.” The youth worker forgets that the Hizb ut-Tahrir is very controversial, with political parties in Parliament supporting a ban of the organization.

One of Marcouch’s close advisors at that time took over from him as chief executive of Slotervaart: Fatima Elatik. While working under Marcouch, Elatik took credit for a project called ‘Opvoedambassadeurs’ (which translates as “educational support ambassadors”), which was presented as an initiative from inside the Moroccan community but was developed by deradicalization specialist Marion Huisinga and the University of Amsterdam.

Huisinga, who has run courses for immigrant women, is probably the only non-Moroccan deradicalization expert with a deep understanding of the Moroccan community. Thanks to her insight into the Moroccan culture she is trusted by Moroccans. She has been very critical of the work done by the deradicalization department of the city of Amsterdam.

This ‘Opvoedambassadeurs’ program really took off in Amsterdam East. Abdou El Khattabi – then chairman of the al-Karama Mosque in Amsterdam East – was the chairman of the project. It meant that Moroccan parents in Amsterdam helped with the education of young children between 4 and 12 years old, addressing problems that they saw in children in the street. When kids were too loud or had a big mouth, they were corrected. It was a way to get Moroccan mothers more involved with the upbringing of their children outside the house. At the same time the Moroccan mothers would meet mothers from other cultures who were living in the same neighborhoods. This not only helped the children but also their parents. Parents started participating in the education of their children at school. It created more connection between parents and their young children.

The Hizb ut-Tahrir, a clear incubator for radical Islam, was empowered by the deradicalization department of the city of Amsterdam, even though its goals – a restored caliphate under sharia law – are close to those of ISIS.


Funny Money

De-radicalisation has been good business for some people, due to the co-operation of a corrupt mafia of government officials and “experts” wasting taxpayer money.

The successful program of the Opvoedambassadeurs, for example, ended up beginning corruption due to receiving double funding. It was originally fully funded by the city of Amsterdam. Then sometime in 2008 the program started to get double funding, from then- Minister of Integration Eberhard van der Laan. Both Amsterdam city officials and the minister himself were fully aware that this project was funded twice.

Part of the extra money that came in was funneled to mosques and foundations and part of it disappeared. I was told that some city officials used the money buy land or build houses in Morocco. With the corruption came nepotism. Some of city civil servants who were working in departments linked to deradicalization programs were stimulated to set up a company on the side. When tenders came out, they were hired. So, not only they were working full time as civil servants for the city, the same people were double dipping as they were also hired as specialists.

This was revealed in private to me by a whistleblower who said that all the people involved from the Amsterdam side of the project, led by the responsible city counselor Freek Ossel, knew about the double funding but did nothing. The architect of this double funding was Ruud IJzelendoorn, who was handpicked by Van der Laan to come work for him at the Ministry of Integration. IJzelendoorn would later move with Van der Laan to Amsterdam to become the city’s security tsar when Van der Laan was appointed mayor of Amsterdam in 2010. IJzelendoorn had to leave his post early in 2018 after critical reports on systemic failures at his security department. Like many who work as civil servants for the city of Amsterdam he also operated his own advisory company on the side.

What happened with the extra funds was explained by the same whistleblower. The funds were in the end funneled through a company to the al-Karama Mosque in Amsterdam and private persons. In recent years this moderate mosque was taken over by a group of young Salafists which created a lot of tension and hate speech. The company was given a certain amount and was then instructed to forward the money to a foundation run by a cousin of Van der Laan’s protégée Fatima Elatik, who was also involved with the al-Karama Mosque.

With multiple foundations (some not even registered at the Chamber of Commerce) active in a mosque, the support from the local government that ends up in the pockets of the mosque can easily reach between 10-20,000 euros a year.

There is a strict separation between church and state in the Netherlands which means that in general the national government does not get involved in religious activities and does not fund religious institutions. Contrary to the national government, however, local governments often fund mosques indirectly by giving grants to foundations that are active within mosques. Often these foundations are supported with grants of a couple of thousand euros a year. The activities are low cost and as such the money that is not spent goes to the mosque. With multiple foundations (some not even registered at the Chamber of Commerce) active in a mosque, the support from the local government that ends up in the pockets of the mosque can easily reach between 10-20,000 euros a year.

These may seem like small amounts. But for a country where the government is not supposed to fund religious institutions it is shocking that this is happening: the government is not funding churches or synagogues.

In 2010 things took a turn for the worse, as Minister of Integration Eberhard van der Laan became mayor of Amsterdam. Van der Laan as mayor of Amsterdam kept funneling money to mosques in the city.

Van der Laan had decided that he was going to empower the Dutch-Moroccan minority in Amsterdam. (While mayors in the Netherlands are appointed, Van der Laan was a staunch member of the Social Democrat party and may have had Muslim votes for his party in mind. His predecessor also catered to the Muslim Brotherhood.)The whole radicalization-prevention and deradicalization task was given to a group of Dutch Moroccans. This group of civil servants soon became a cabal loyal neither to their employer, nor to the citizens of Amsterdam, but only to themselves. Some were involved in fraud.

One whistleblower told TIJ that houses were being built with Amsterdam city money in Morocco. Friends and lovers were given large consultancy contracts. Dutch Moroccans who got in trouble for radical activities received waivers or got tipped off. In 2017 the head of the deradicalization unit of the city, Saadia Ait Taleb, was fired for fraud.

She had given her boyfriend Said Jaafar a consultancy contract. Jaafar’s invoices were for 18,000 euros each time without giving a justification for the hours that he worked.

But this firing wasn’t a cleanup: Ait Taleb’s job went to her deputy Mounir Dadi, who happens to have his own consultancy firm and is the husband of Van der Laan’s protégée Fatima Elatik, who also has her own consultancy firm. The firing of Ait Taleb was just a smokescreen for the failure of the mayor’s policies, according to Professor Jean Tillie of the University of Amsterdam.

Professor Tillie is extremely critical about what he called the failed deradicalization policy of Van der Laan. According to Tillie, “nobody dared to confront Van der Laan.” Tillie said that Van der Laan took out the religious and social elements of radicalisation and made it just a security issue. “Without Eberhard van der Laan the city would have been really more resilient.”

Munir Dadi (left) and Saida Ait Taleb (right)

Van der Laan died in 2017, but the situation has not improved. The interim mayor of Amsterdam, former minister of Foreign Affairs and former mayor of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen, is a proponent of working closely with Salafists. Also, Van Aartsen did not want to listen to whistleblowers and kept the situation as it was. Since July 2018 the former parliamentary leader of the Green Left, Femke Halsema, has been the mayor of Amsterdam. Again, nothing has really changed.

Recently the City of Amsterdam and its officials went over the edge by humiliating, obstructing and criminalizing a whistleblower who is extremely knowledgeable about her work with minorities in the city. Her problem is knowing where the city elites have buried the bodies; she knows about fraud, nepotism, funding of mosques with taxpayer’s money and failures of the city to block people from traveling to Syria.

That is an extremely low point reached by a city that was always known for free speech and being a refuge for those who were persecuted. Now a cabal of salon socialists are forcefully protecting fraud and radicalism. The ruling left-green coalition in Amsterdam has placed its former police chiefs, city council members and counselors at strategic places in the bureaucracy, parliament and in the national government.

This list names a few of those positioned in strategic places within parliament and government by the left-green coalition:

  • Lodewijk Asscher – former counselor of Amsterdam, former vice-Prime Minister, now leader of the PvdA in parliament
  • Kasja Ollongren – former deputy mayor, now Minister of the Interior for D66
  • Pieter Jaap Aalbersberg – former police chief, now National Coordinator Terrorism and Security
  • Nevin Özütok – former district council member Amsterdam Oost – now Member of Parliament for Groen Links (Green Left), a leftwing-green party created in the late 1980s after a merger of the Communist Party, the Pacifist Socialist Party, the Political Party of Radicals and the Evangelical People’s Party

The people of Amsterdam deserve a safe city, with city officials that represent them and don’t work to enrich themselves. When will Amsterdam city hall start cleaning up the mess and make Amsterdam safe again?

Instead of cleaning up the mess and enforcing accountability, it seems the former Amsterdam officials who now have significant positions on a national level are giving their consent to what is happening in the Dutch capital, by not interfering and keeping silent.

The people of Amsterdam deserve a safe city, with city officials that represent them and don’t work to enrich themselves. When will Amsterdam city hall start cleaning up the mess and make Amsterdam safe again?

Ronald Sandee
Ronald Sandee

Ronald Sandee is a former senior counter-terrorism analyst at the Dutch Military Intelligence Service (MIVD). He also served as the director of research and analysis at the Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation. He is the co-founder and CEO of Blue Water Intelligence, an investigative company in the Netherlands and the United States.

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