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VVD split over Islamic schools

Published on 02/12/2003

2 December 2003

AMSTERDAM — A split has opened up in the Liberal VVD after seven prominent members claimed proposals by party colleagues on restricting the establishment of Islamic schools were embarrassing and contrary to the spirit of liberalism.

The seven members opposed to the stance include former Education State Secretary Nel Ginjaar-Maas and four members of the party’s education commission. They claim the campaign against Islamic schools, led by VVD MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is nothing more than a “witch hunt”, NOS reported.

The VVD aims to restrict the establishment of new Islamic schools with a variety of policy measures, claiming the schools do not contribute to the integration of immigrants. But the opponents have labelled the claim an “unfounded assumption” and a “flagrant violation of the constitutional freedom of education.”

Hirsi Ali stirred controversy recently with her proposals, which came despite a recent Education Inspectorate report indicating that the education offered at the nation’s 43 Islamic schools does not breach basic Dutch ethics. The report also said Islamic schools stimulate integration.

Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven also defended Islamic schools based on Article 23 of the Dutch Constitution, which regulates freedom of education. Responding to demands to tighten regulations, the Christian Democrat CDA minister also said last month that it was not the government’s responsibility to take action against so-called “Zwarte scholen”, black school.

This refers to schools in large urban areas where native Dutch parents withdraw their pupils from schools where the larger group are children from an immigrant background.

The VVD proposal to place stronger demands on Islamic schools also missed out on parliamentary backing after the Labour PvdA withdrew its support for the plan. Hirsi Ali’s has demanded that schools no longer be mono-ethnic and has urged that all school directors have, or acquire, Dutch nationality.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister and VVD leader Gerrit Zalm said last weekend that government money should no longer be invested in creating schools that will primarily attract problem students, meaning immigrants. He has backed limiting the establishment of Islamic schools, claiming they hinder integration.

But Ginjaar-Maas has since asked how long politicians can credibly entice youths to respect the basic values of Dutch society when political opportunism prompts them to attack the freedom of education.

The seven VVD members have also claimed that Hirsi Ali — a Somalian-born Muslim who openly criticised the Islamic faith for its treatment of women and has described the prophet Muhammed as a “perverse tyrant” — is being driven by a personal trauma, ANP reported.

But VVD education spokesman Eric Balemans dismissed the criticism and said there was no hint of a witch hunt. He said the problems must be tackled and the criticism of Hirsi Ali — who only acted out of concern for integration — was “a little strange”.

Balemans said he will suggest to VVD leaders that they meet in the near future and discuss the issue with Ginjaar-Maas and the other six party members.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news