Dutch PM pleads for end to violence

10th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

10 November 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Responding to urgent concerns about the worsening social climate, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Wednesday the government was taking firm measures against Islamic extremism and urged the public to stand together for a free and tolerant society.

10 November 2004

AMSTERDAM — Responding to urgent concerns about the worsening social climate, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Wednesday the government was taking firm measures against Islamic extremism and urged the public to stand together for a free and tolerant society.

But in initially referring to the stand-off between anti-terror special forces and suspected terrorists allegedly armed with explosives in The Hague, the Christian Democrat CDA leader said everything possible was being done to reach a solution. He refused to provide further details.

Balkenende also expressed shock and concern about the present intolerance and violence in the Netherlands. He reminded the public that freedom of speech and religion were the "cornerstones" of democracy and urged people to show continued respect the nation's schools, mosques, churches and liberal thinkers.

His speech comes after last week's murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh — allegedly by an Islamic militant — and a series of arson and vandalism attacks against mosques ad Islamic schools. A couple of fires have also been reported at Christian churches in recent days.

Balkenende was to visit later on Wednesday the latest arson attack, an Islamic primary school in the Brabant town of Uden.

"Everyone should be conscious what the rules are of our nation: No violence," he said a press release on the website of the General Affairs Ministry said.

Balkenende told the Dutch Parliament that he had been in contact with Queen Beatrix, revealing that she empathised with those affected by recent events and those who are concerned for the future. "Let us together turn against extremism and build a society for and from us all," he said.

The prime minister's speech comes after the green-left GroenLinks demanded Queen Beatrix urge public reconciliation. At the same time, the Labour PvdA invited Balkenende to participate in a debate about the killing of Van Gogh.

GroenLinks leader Femke Halsema said the government had to take the lead to prevent further escalation. She also said city councils must draw up a threat analysis of schools and religious institutes and take adequate measures where necessary.

Reacting to the GroenLinks suggestion for Beatrix to urge social reconciliation, PvdA MP Peter van Heemst said the request would only diminish the responsibility of the prime minister.

He said Balkenende should on Thursday debate the murder with the PvdA, along with Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Interior Minister Johan Remkes, news agency ANP reported.

The Christian Democrat CDA also said it was unacceptable that Christian and Islamic buildings were being attacked. "Hate and angst must never gain the upper hand in this nation," parliamentary leader Maxime Verhagen said.

The prime minister also said authorities will crackdown on attacks against mosques or Islamic schools and those who are guilty of such crimes will be prosecuted. The cabinet met with the Dutch Association of Municipalities (VNG) on Tuesday to discuss a joint approach to maintaining public order.

"But more must occur. We must with full strength work towards new mutual trust. We must prevent people from sliding off to extremism," a press release on the website of the General Affairs Ministry said.

"Democracy is also about always remaining in discussion with each other. I strongly urge everyone in his or her manner to work together on this. We want a society in which there is room for everyone. We must stand firm together," Balkenende said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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