by Renzo Verwer*
The members of the panel defined “de-radicalization” as “convincing people not to travel to Syria.” Another name for the same process was “preventing them from traveling to Syria.” During the first hour and a half the words ISIS/Daesh/Jihad were not mentioned. Strange, that.
So “de-radicalization” means preventing people from traveling to Syria.
I can see the subsidies starting to flow… armed with this definition, people can make quite some money!
The conference also called for reforming Islam. Two imams in particular were mentioned in this context. Their names are Yassin El Forkani and Abu Ismail. The former is known as a “moderate,” a reputation he won by daring to say, once upon a time, that Islam was not without its problems. It was determined that the Netherlands needed more “modern” imams to take the place of the “old fashioned ones.” Those imams, having entered the country from abroad, were “going around saying strange things.” Just what those “strange things” were no one bothered to explain.
A second conference on the same subject was announced. It made me think: “There we go again. All this nonsense about educating imams so as to rub off the tiger’s spots, reform them, and produce the kind of modern Islam the country needs.” An endeavor on which the Dutch Government has already spent considerable sums without any visible success, so far.
Back to the first conference. The audience, consisting of some 150 people, was of the kind you would expect. Such as the lady from Amsterdam North who likes “engaging in dialogue” and was “so happy with this meeting.” And the journalist Paul Andersson Touissant, who has published a volume that criticizes the integration of Moroccans into Dutch society. There were also four students from the Amsterdam Teachers’ College with whom I talked a little. One of the four was reading two books. One that criticized Islam and another written by a left-wing Dutch politician. She liked them both.
Many people asked a question or made comments. Among them, a surprising number described themselves as “psychologists.” One, a Moslem, said that “Moslem parents often neglect their offspring and blame society.”
Personally the person with whom I found myself in agreement was a fairly radical (depending on your definition, I suppose) Moslem who said (I paraphrase): “We are trying to prevent youngsters from traveling to Syria. But suppose they do so, and start fighting our opponents: should we try to stop them?”
El Forkani, who was present, strongly disliked the question. He became quite aggressive and started berating the man, accusing him of supporting a Moslim radical movement. The man denied it, becoming quite emotional in the process.
After the conference was closed I talked to the man. He had his own theory which he was very happy to share with me. According to him those calling for the establishment of a Khaliphate were planning to change the rules and stop exporting oil. And that was why the West was fighting DAESH.
I had had enough. Having listened to his monologue and partaken of the tea and sweets on offer, I went home.
Outside the building policemen were keeping guard. The reason, I was told, was the fear lest some members of Sharia4Belgium—see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia4Belgium–might break into the hall and cause trouble. It would not have been the first time. The same applies to Sahar as-Sham.
Briefly, the program was to harness the mosques in an attempt at de-radicalization—a concept defined quite broadly. And to make the authorities spend money on the enterprise; have a plan, will take money to carry it out. But how to guarantee that the money would not be misused? What I saw was the beginning of a conflict among the Moslems; who can put on the most tolerant mask and grab the money on offer.
Fascinating. I can see some of the most radical Moslems being given money simply for pretending to be less radical in front of other Moslems. Which seems to be just what El Forkani is doing.
In my life I have learnt that one should judge people by their deeds rather than their words. When politicians say that the economy is growing you do not automatically believe them. Nor do you necessarily believe sportsmen and sportswomen when they say they play a clean game.
The same applies to people who say that they choose their partners and friend purely for their character. And to medical researchers who claim that they like animals and treat them well. And so on, and so on. To repeat, it is deeds that count. Which is why I do not necessarily believe El Forkani either. This disbelief has nothing to do with the fact that he is a Moslem.
To say it again: What is de-radicalization? Does it mean not going to Syria, as people in Amsterdam seem to think? Or adhering to a moderate form of Islam? How do you measure those things? How do you brainwash people? Back in the 1980s, some people in the Netherlands, influenced by all kinds of sects, tried to re-program religious cults. Without success, needless to say. Briefly: I rather doubt whether a program designed to deprogram can work.
Finally, for those of you who want to make money: there is plenty of it waiting for you. The piggybanks, carrying a sign that reads “de-radicalization” are full. All they need is to be opened for the money to start flowing. For a start, set up a nice office and tell a nice tale about a nice moderate mosque.
* Renzo Verwer (Woerden, the Netherlands, 1972) is an author and a dealer in second hand books. He has published books about love, work, and the chess master Bobby Fischer. His most recent one (in Dutch) is titled Freedom of Thought for Beginners. His website is www.artikelzeven.nu. His books: http://www.amazon.com/Renzo-Verwer/e/B00ITG41ES/