There were some reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Jews and Muslims faced instances of abuse during the year, although the experiences of the two communities differed. Because ethnicity and religion are often inextricably linked, it is difficult to categorize many incidents specifically as ethnic or religious intolerance. The government repeatedly condemned any form of anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic activity, and it worked with NGOs to combat such abuses.
The Royal Dutch Medical Association took the position in May 2010 that “circumcision of minor boys without medical grounds was a violation of the right to autonomy and the right to physical integrity of a child.” It acknowledged that its position conflicted with the religiously-based practice of male circumcision and therefore called for a dialogue with religious groups.
A recent study by the Netherlands Institute of Social Research observed the Dutch in general have a great deal of faith in their institutions but have the least faith in religious institutions. The secular majority in public discourse is increasingly critical of what it perceives as the “privileges” of religious institutions, such as the selection policies of religious schools, the practice of religious slaughter, and the right of civil servants to refuse to marry same-sex couples for religious reasons.
A number of outspoken right-wing politicians continued to argue openly that Islam was incompatible with the country’s traditions and social values. Geert Wilders, leader of the Party of Freedom, advocated an anti-immigrant and anti-Islam platform with a primary focus on countering “Islamization” of Dutch and Western society. Wilders, who is not a member of the government, was the most prominent of several politicians seen as encouraging public disapprobation of Muslims by claiming Islam preaches violence and hatred. There were no government spokesmen who engaged in such action. On June 23, the Amsterdam District Court acquitted Wilders of offending, inciting hatred toward, and discriminating against Muslims. Although the court found some of Wilders’ anti‑Islamic and anti-immigrant statements “rude and disparaging,” it did not regard them as “inflammatory” or inciting hatred and discrimination given the political context in which they were made. The court noted prevailing jurisprudence permitted criticism of a religion and the behavior of supporters of a religion.
Muslims continued to face societal resentment, attributable to perceptions that Islam is incompatible with Western values and that Muslim immigrants have failed to integrate within Dutch society. In a speech on June 28, Deputy Prime Minister Verhagen, speaking as the leader of the Christian Democratic Party and not on behalf of the government, declared the multicultural society “a failure” and stressed “the primacy of Western values,” focusing his rhetoric on the failure of non-Western immigrants to integrate into Dutch society.
Major incidents of violence against Muslims were rare. However, minor incidents, including intimidation, brawls, vandalism, and graffiti with abusive language, were common. The government consistently investigates such incidents but the National Police Service has difficulty identifying perpetrators. The Minister of Security and Justice stated that motivations could include xenophobia, wantonness, intoxication, or even conflicts over parking problems or building projects. The Minister of Security and Justice remarked local authorities invariably take supplemental security measures if necessary.
Anti-Semitic incidents, including verbal threats, cursing, and desecration of monuments and cemeteries, continued to occur. There were four incidents of physical violence (including two incidents where stones were thrown through the windows of private homes, and one incident in which a boy wearing a yarmulke was beaten by three other boys), 61 ‘real-life’ incidents (involving vandalism, desecration, verbal abuse, or telephone harassment), and 47 offensive e-mails. The incidents were committed mostly by native Dutch. The independent Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) noted the incidents show not all anti-Semitism is “imported.” CIDI pointed out that writers of anti-Semitic e-mails often link their present prejudice about Jews to the Holocaust, which they tend to deny or minimize.
In its most recent report, the Registration Center for Discrimination on the Internet (MDI) in 2010 received 414 reports of anti-Semitism of which it considered 212 punishable, including 68 denials of the Holocaust. Whereas the Web sites of right-wing extremists traditionally accounted for most of the anti-Semitism expressed on the Internet, the MDI found expressions of anti-Semitism increased on mainstream interactive Web sites. Reports on incidents are rarely published in the news, although occasionally the press reports on the prosecution of individuals who made offensive statements on the Internet.
The Public Prosecutor’s National Discrimination Expertise Center was set up to optimize the criminal processing of discrimination cases. In 2010, it registered 170 offenses of discrimination. Of these, 43 percent related to race and 43 percent to religion (36 percent against Jews, 7 percent against Muslims). During the same year, officials dealt with 171 offenses, brought 121 indictments, obtained 90 convictions, and entered into 17 out-of-court settlements.
Expressions of anti-Semitism also occurred throughout the year during soccer matches. In March fans in the ADO soccer club chanted, “Hamas, Hamas, all Jews be gassed,” and other anti-Semitic slogans during a match. As a result, the ADO soccer club was censured by a court in The Hague following a suit brought by the Combat Anti-Semitism Foundation (“Stichting BAN”).
There were several convictions for using offensive language with respect to Jewish people. For example, on December 19 a man was convicted in Amsterdam for sending offensive e-mails in 2010 and 2011 about Jews “for no purpose at all.”
CIDI engaged in various programs to counter prejudice against Jews and others in schools. In doing so, it worked with Muslim organizations, Jewish groups, the Center for Culture and Leisure (a Dutch gay rights organization), and the Rotterdam Anti-Discrimination Action Council to set up the Intercultural Alliance Foundation. The foundation’s primary goal is to promote in schools the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference diversity programs. These initiatives include the Classroom of Difference program, which trains teachers in handling discrimination, and the peer training program, which trains participants to engage students in debate on tolerance towards others.
Some educators have debated whether to discuss the mandatory Holocaust curriculum in the broader context of human rights by including references to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in order to better engage the interests of students at predominantly ethnic schools. Organizations like CIDI, NIOD and CJO object to making such a link.