By Luigi Gaspardone - In 2011, the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) closed an investigation over the Muslim Brotherhood in the country, and concluding that the organisation was not a direct threat to national security. However, the investigation warned about the rising determination of the Islamic organisation gaining ground in civil society and influencing the political sphere.
Less than a decade since that investigation, and the Brotherhood has established a firm presence in the country and is rapidly expanding into national politics. The Netherlands have become fertile ground for political Islam and a major centre for European Islamist activism. The Muslim Brotherhoods’ accomplishments include the taking over of mosques spurred-on by the liberal policies of leftist parties such as Groen Links and the social-democratic Labour Party (PvdA).
Qatar and Turkey are involved in the drive of political Islam in the Netherlands. Qatar, for instance, was on the frontline in the construction of the Blauwe Mosque in Amsterdam (2008), and participated in the foundation of the Europe Trust Netherlands (ETN)—the financial arm through which the Muslim Brotherhood projects itself into Dutch civil society. The three founding members of the ETN were all identified by the AIVD as representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands: as fathers of the Federation Islamitische Organisaties Nederland (Federation of Islamic Organisations in the Netherlands).
And, Rotterdam may be considered a Muslim Brotherhood victory as well; the city is the economic and migration hub of the country, and the Muslim Brotherhood controls the Essalam Islamic Cultural Centre (EIIC), the Centrum de Middenweg (CDMW) and a former school building purchased by the Foundation Social Cultural Centre, which is the social and cultural arm of the Tunisian En Nahda movement. In Rotterdam itself, two new Islamic movements have been established: DENK and Nida. The first was officially founded in 2015, after two Dutch-Turkish representatives of the Labour Party — Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Öztürk — were expelled from the socialists after vocally rejecting the Party’s integration policy. They formed a new movement, which won three seats and took the votes of one-third of the Muslim community in the 2017 parliamentary elections.
DENK’s manifesto calls for a tolerant, just and caring society, by proposing the term “acceptance” instead of “integration” between cultures. While DENK has been very successful in mobilising Dutch citizens with migrant backgrounds to participate in Dutch politics, its rhetoric and conduct is far from the values enshrined in the document. Over the course of just a few years, DENK has already become a polarising agent in Dutch politics. DENK openly refused Dutch culture as dominant in the Netherlands while accusing the local and national governments of disseminating the seeds of racism and populism.
In 2016, on the eve of the Dutch elections, hundreds of Rotterdammers with Turkish passports, took to the streets in support of Erdogan’s Justice and Development party (AKP), and against the Dutch government, after a dispute erupted between the two countries raising questions regarding national loyalties in the Netherlands where an estimated 1.2 million Muslims live (out of a total 17 million people), of which 500,000 are Turkish and 400,000 Moroccan. The Muslim Brotherhood canalised, exploited and attempted to drive discontent of minorities in the country.
The pressures being mounted on Muslim communities by Muslim Brotherhood agents with foreign support is dangerous as it pushes people away from their more secular, pluralistic and open political identities and towards more aggressive religious based politics. This is due to parties like DENK and the divisive Muslim Brotherhood ideology they peddle.
At the end of March 2019, DENK’s leader, Tunahan Kuzu, announced that the movement will participate in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections. Rising anti-migration and Islamophobia is certainly something that needs to be addressed and such negative and hateful discourses need to be challenged. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Atheists and everyone else need to be treated equally under the law. DENK’s agenda is exclusive rather than inclusive and given the toxic political environment gripping Europe the development of foreign-funded political parties aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood is a step in the wrong direction and send the wrong messages about Muslim communities in Europe. Consider the Austrian New Movement for the Future (NBZ), founded in 2017, which strongly supports Erdogan, or in Belgium where several Islamic parties, such as the I.S.L.A.M party, are powerful enough to compete in the country’s national elections, and are increasing their efforts to establish Sharia law. The French Islamic Party PEJ maintains robust support for Turkey’s AKP behind the veil of fighting against Islamophobia and Sweden’s Jasin Party, founded in 2018 by Iranian Zoheir Eslami Gheraat, has declared that it essential to ‘follow exactly what Koran says, secondly what Shiite imams say.’ Gheraat is, essentially, arguing against following the secular laws of the country.
It is, of course, important to distinguish between the importance of having minority communities engaged in civil political life and the risk of having foreign-backed movements interfering with internal policies. The Muslim Brotherhood, as many other Islamist organisations, has the power, the will and the funds to proliferate itself in pursuit of its interests. Via such groups, Turkey and Qatar are meddling in foreign countries’ affairs—they are the largest donors to DENK and others.
Muslim voters in the Netherlands, and Europe more generally, deserve better options than the extremist world view of the Muslim Brotherhood. The average European Muslim voter is not attracted to such a hardline ideology and needs protection from those infusing the discourse, and political space, with Muslim Brotherhood agents. Banning those groups that mount pressure on migrant communities is in the interest of Muslim in Europe and Europe itself.