Netherlands divided over Dutch Islamists fighting in Syria

While 75% of Muslims in a poll believed those who travelled to fight were ‘heroes’, 70% of ‘native’ Dutch disagreed

Theo van Gogh: Muslim radicalisation has been a contentious issue since the assassination in 2004 of the controversial film-maker by Dutch-Moroccan Muslim Mohammed Bouyeri. Photograph: BrunoPress/Getty Images

Theo van Gogh: Muslim radicalisation has been a contentious issue since the assassination in 2004 of the controversial film-maker by Dutch-Moroccan Muslim Mohammed Bouyeri. Photograph: BrunoPress/Getty Images

 

A survey of attitudes in the Netherlands towards Dutch Islamists who travel to Syria to fight the Assad regime shows that 75 per cent of Muslims regard them as heroes – while almost half the non-Muslim population believe they should be stripped of their citizenship.

The survey shows that while there is broad agreement in both communities – 87 per cent of Muslims and 66 per cent of non-Muslims – that Bashar al-Assad should be removed as Syrian president, on virtually every other question there is significant divergence.

For instance, on the question of arming rebel fighters, 49 per cent of Muslims were in favour, while just 6 per cent of the majority population supported the decision.

The poll was carried out for the TV documentary Alitjd Wat and compared the attitudes of Dutch Muslims of Moroccan and Turkish origin with those of “native” non-Muslim families.

The Counter-terrorism Coordinator in The Hague confirmed recently that about 100 Dutch-born jihadists, including at least two young women, have so far joined armed opposition groups, making the Netherlands the largest European recruiting ground for anti-Assad militants. Three are believed dead.

In that context, 81 per cent of Muslims polled said the jihadists were doing what the UN and the international community should be doing and intervening on behalf of the Syrian civilian population. Only 17 per cent of non-Muslims took the same view.

Asked whether recruiting fighters should become a criminal offence, 61 per cent of Muslims were opposed – while 58 per cent of non-Muslims were in favour.


‘Heroes’ question
While 75 per cent of Muslims believed those who travelled to fight in Syria were “heroes”, 70 per cent of the native Dutch disagreed. On the other hand, while 43 per cent of non-Muslims took the view that jihadists who made the journey to fight in Syria should be stripped of their Dutch citizenship, 90 per cent of Muslims disagreed.

The terror alert level in the Netherlands was raised last month to “substantial” due to the threat posed by radicalised Muslims returning from Syria, but only 32 per cent of non-Muslims believe those coming home pose a significant domestic threat.

However, Muslim radicalisation has been a contentious issue since the assassination in 2004 of film-maker Theo van Gogh by Dutch-Moroccan Muslim Mohammed Bouyeri.