Dutch army recruits first imams

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However, one of the two imams appointed is deemed unsuitable to offer spiritual support to both Muslim and non-Muslims personnel, say MPs.

THE HAGUE – The Dutch armed forces have recruited two Islamic clerics to give spiritual support to both Muslims and non-Muslims in their ranks, the defence ministry said Wednesday.

"We now have two imams, they are the first two imams in the army. In all we have 150 spiritual companions," a spokesman said.

"An imam can give spiritual support to non-Muslim service personnel just as an almoner supports non-Catholics."

The ministry of defence spent five years trying to select imams for the post, but had been hampered by disagreement between different Islamic organisations until recently.

The Dutch armed forces employ about 50 Protestant pastors, some 40 Roman Catholic almoners, humanist representatives, two rabbis and two Hindu spiritual guides. No figures are available for the number of Muslims or people of Muslim origin in the Dutch armed forces.

The two imams are Ali Eddaoudi from Morocco and Souad Aydin of Turkey, both in their 30s.

The two Islamic clerics have been trained in recent weeks in the military in order to be able to work in the army, reports Trouw. On Thursday they will be presented with their beret at a private ceremony at the Royal Military Academy in Breda.

The imams will be civilian employees but are required to wear uniform.

They could be sent on missions outside the Netherlands, in particular to Afghanistan where 1,600 Dutch troops are based "if there is a local demand," the ministry said.

However, the appointment of Moroccan imam Eddaoudi as an army chaplain has been criticised by the MPs.

According to the MPs, Eddaoudi has earlier called Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende a hypocrite and said he was worth less than a doormat. He is also alleged to have said that Christians are still at war with the Muslim religion.

In a Radio Netherlands report on Wednesday, Deputy Defence Minister Jack de Vries is reconsidering the appointment of Eddaoudi and is holding talks with the parties involved before making a final decision.

AFP / Expatica

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