Islamophobia, distrust: Dutch Muslims react to state surveillance



People ride bikes past a mosque in Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 13, 2017. (AP Photo)

People ride bikes past a mosque in Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 13, 2017. (AP Photo)

Muslims in the Netherlands are losing their trust in the country’s government as reports emerged it has been carrying out secret probes and investigations since the early 2010s.

Community groups and nongovernmental organizations, however, said they were not surprised by the investigations after the increase in Islamophobia and racism in the country and Europe in general.

“It is not in vain that Muslims’ distrust toward the government has been increasing steadily recently, and it seems that the state does not trust Muslims either, which is why they conducted these investigations,” said Muhsin Köktaş, the head of the like Contact Body for Muslims and Government (CMO) in the Netherlands.

“The scandal that emerged during the discussions and meetings between the Social Affairs and Employment Ministry in 2022 to regain the trust of Muslims and the authorities of Islamic institutions is very significant.”

Adding that Islamophobia and racism can be observed in all government institutions, Köktaş said: “While, on the other hand, the Ministry is working on regaining the trust of Muslims and holding discussions, the Justice and Security Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz says there is no place for headscarves in police uniforms and bans them. Incidents of racism in the Foreign Ministry and systematic discrimination scandals at the tax office … were just some of the racism and discrimination incidents in many government institutions,”

Köktaş said due to racism and discrimination in government institutions, the trust of Muslims in the state has been seriously undermined.

“The work done by the Social Affairs and Employment Ministry to regain the trust of Muslims should not be limited to just one ministry. It should be carried out in all government institutions, and they all need to be on the same page for any improvement to happen. In a society where racism is increasing, it is essential for the sensitive public to support this effort. Gaining the trust of Muslims will not be easy. It may take many years. The current leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Yeşilgöz says that after the general elections to be held on Nov. 22 with the Party for Freedom (PVV) led by far-right (Geert) Wilders, they can form a coalition government. I can’t even imagine how Muslim trust will be gained if such a government is formed,” he said.

Köktaş urged Muslims in the Netherlands to be conscious and consider the Netherlands as their own country and called for efforts to protect and ensure the rights of Muslims.

Discriminatory laws

Stephan van Baarle, chairman of the Denk Party Parliamentary Group and Member of Parliament, also pointed out that the secret investigation of Muslims and Islamic institutions is not the first.

“I was shocked by the Social Affairs Ministry conducting espionage on the Dutch Muslim community illegally through a private company. I will submit a proposal next week in the Representatives Chamber for the minister to apologize. I requested a special session in parliament on this issue, but unfortunately, it was not accepted. Everyone who has been spied on illegally should be informed and compensated.”

Van Baarle said: “It reveals the model of hatred against Muslims within the government. In the future, the only way to prevent this is to examine the government in terms of anti-Muslim hatred and investigate laws that discriminate against Muslims.”

Kenan Aslan, head of Foreign Relations for the National View Organizations of the Islam Community in the South Holland Region, condemned the investigations.

“With the revelation of these illegal activities, it has been another disappointment for the Islamic community that the ministry has also discovered that it collected information through illegitimate means within itself. There is still a long way to go. Muslims will always be transparent, just as they have been in the past, but we also expect the same transparency from the government and local municipalities. It is now their duty to improve the atmosphere of distrust,” he said.


In the Netherlands in 2021, it was revealed that municipalities conducted secret investigations into mosques and institutions owned by Muslims through private companies.

It was reported that research funded by the Netherlands’ Security and Counterterrorism Agency (NCTV) was conducted through the NTA (Nuance door Training and Advies) private company.

It said NTA employees conducting research in mosques introduced themselves as members of the congregation or visitors, and during the investigation, they met many people from the congregation without revealing their identities.

It noted that NTA particularly reported its findings regarding backgrounds, origins and education of imams and administrators to municipalities as “confidential information.”

Karien van Gennip, Social Affairs and Employment Minister, said in a letter to the House of Representatives this week that it was determined that the agency conducted unauthorized research on individuals, institutions, and networks among Muslim communities living in the country in previous years.

Van Gennip expressed sadness about the secret investigation of Muslims and Islamic institutions and said she learned lessons for the future.


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