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Wikileaks: Americans concerned about radicalization and anti-American views of Dutch Muslims
More shocking news from Wikileaks. Dutch broadcaster NOS published several cables from the American Embassy in the Hague, detailing how concerned the Americans were (and still are) about the threat posed by radicalized Dutch and other European Muslims, and the steps the Americans took to deal with this threat.
Embassy staff visited Overtoomseveld, the neighborhood where Theo Van Gogh’s murderer, Mohammed Bouyeri, grew up, and were shocked by the anti-American viewpoints (PDF, 2005) held by the residents:
Overtoomseveld is a Moroccan neighborhood in Western Amsterdam, made notorious on November 2, 2004 when native son Mohammed Bouyeri murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh on an Amsterdam street in broad daylight. One year later, it remains a largely segregated community, in many ways more Arab than Dutch. Over the last year, Embassy and Consulate officials visited this economically depressed neighborhood several times and established contacts with local Muslim and non-Muslim residents, at least one of whom knew Bouyeri prior to the murder.
The Muslim character of Overtoomseveld is immediately apparent to the casual visitor. Women are more visible on balconies (usually with small children) than on the street, and nearly all wear headscarves. Arabic language shop-window signs and graffiti — much of it anti- American — are common.
Neighborhood youth are also active graffiti artists; when the Consul General and emboffs toured the neighborhood in late September, graffiti on apartment buildings included obscenities against President Bush, adoration for Saddam Hussein and several HAMAS-related displays. According to police contacts, local police are now trained to monitor amounts and types of graffiti as signs of radicalism.
According to Amsterdam West Youth Coordinator Tom Smakman, Overtoomseveld is not the toughest neighborhood in Amsterdam, but it is the most likely to produce radicals. Smakman claimed this was because of the density of the population and the level of poverty among its residents: People know that there are a lot of frustrated youths in this neighborhood. He stressed that police are less worried about what takes place on the streets — which they can monitor — than about what goes on behind closed doors. According to Smakman, radical views are more widespread than ever among local youth, many of whom consider Bouyeri a hero. Many youth, however, will not express their feelings openly in public or in the presence of their parents, who largely reject such views. However, Smakeman added, We don’t know what happens when the drapes are shut.
The result – the embassy established a special unit (PDF, 2006) to coordinate outreach with the Dutch Muslim community:
In August 2005, Post established an Integration Issues Working Group (IIWG) to coordinate outreach and reporting activities related to the Dutch Muslim community. This approach succeeded in considerably expanding Embassy The Hague’s and Consul General Amsterdam’s contacts in the Dutch Muslim community as well as among government, academic, and think-tank circles. Mission has also significantly increased reporting on Dutch Muslim-related issues. This cable summarizes highlights from the last six months and describes new opportunities for further mission outreach.
TOP MISSION PRIORITY
2. (SBU) In accordance with Washington guidance, mission has made engaging with the Dutch Muslim community a top priority, as reflected in the just-completed FY 2008 MPP. Mission efforts are focused around three prime objectives:
– Improving the image of the United States and U.S. policies among the increasingly influential — and largely anti-American — Dutch Muslim community;
– Increasing our understanding of issues of concern to the Dutch Muslim community and similar communities elsewhere in Europe, including relations with the non-Muslim majority;
– Using the U.S. experience to help foster a productive, non-confrontational dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim Dutch on sensitive issues of integration and civil rights.
There are several cables detailing how American visitors to the Netherlands met with Dutch officials to discuss their integration efforts. The Americans also reached out to the Dutch Muslim community (via RNW):
An all-expenses-paid study trip to the US: that was the offer to a number of prominent Dutch Muslims following the killing of controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004. Now WikiLeaks documents reveal that these trips were part of a concerted effort by Washington to win the hearts and minds of Dutch Muslims. Among them was the current Mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb.
Nordin Ghoudani was one of those fortunate enough to be offered such a trip after being invited for a number of conversations at the US Embassy. Now that he is aware of being a cog in the wheel of US policy, he tells Dutch broadcaster NOS that he looks back on the trip with mixed feelings.
“The knowledge that Washington, and former president George W Bush, insisted on these trips… yes, that puts things in a different perspective.”
The Embassy put special emphasis on outreach during Ramadan (PDF), a tradition which continues to this day:
Embassy staff participated in 19 outreach events during Ramadan this year, including hosting mission’s first-ever Iftar dinner, attending small Iftar gatherings hosted by Muslim families in Amsterdam, participating in the country’s first nationwide Ramadan festival, and hosting an international visitor from the Council on Islamic Education who conducted a series of workshops on religion and democracy. Mission participation went beyond public diplomacy staff and included political section, Foreign Commercial Service, economic section, the delegation to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, Consulate General in Amsterdam, and front office staff. In addition, political officer assigned to cover Muslim issues held 13 separate meetings with Muslim representatives during the month-long festival.
Meanwhile, another cable reports about a Dutch-Croatian employee of the embassy, who turned out to hold Jihadist viewpoints (PDF, 2010):
IMO’s investigation yielded evidence that subject had posted information and commentary on 9/11 conspiracy websites. Furthermore, on her Facebook page, under the alias XXXXXXXXXXXX, she had exchanged views and information with multiple people who appeared to espouse jihadist viewpoints. She also posted a hyperlink to a YouTube video, Winds of Paradise, which extols the virtues of al-Qaeda fighters and jihad, to which she added the comment, just beautiful.