There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom.
Disputes arose when the exercise of the rights to freedom of religion and speech clashed with the strictly enforced ban on discrimination.
The government prosecuted several cases involving public speech that incited religious, racial, or ethnic hatred. Convictions were rare, however, because courts were reluctant to restrict freedom of expression, especially in the context of public debate when politicians or journalists made statements that were found to “offend, shock, or disturb.” In May the manager of the Holland Hardcore Forum was convicted of publishing anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim texts, and for allowing the offending statements to remain on the forum’s website. He was sentenced to 36 hours of community service.
The Equal Opportunities Committee, antidiscrimination boards, and the courts repeatedly addressed wearing headscarves in schools and places of employment, ruling on individual complaints and at times issuing opinions. The rulings generally reflected prevailing jurisprudence, which held that any restriction on wearing headscarves should be limited and based on security or other carefully delineated grounds. In practice, headscarves were permitted almost everywhere, including in schools.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled July 10 that the Protestant Political Reformed Party (SGP), which objected on religious grounds to women running for public office, must comply with the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women by ensuring that the SGP grant women the right to run for office. It rejected the SGP’s argument that this would violate its religious beliefs and gave priority to “advancing the equality of the sexes.” The government expressed the expectation that the SGP would change its statutes.
Secular political parties criticized what they perceived as the “privileges” of religious groups, such as the student 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. One member of parliament criticized laws that restricted Sunday shopping.
A number of right-wing politicians argued that Islam was incompatible with the country’s traditions and social values. Geert Wilders, leader of the Party of Freedom, advocated an anti-Islam platform with a primary focus on countering “Islamization” of Dutch and Western society. Wilders was the most prominent of several politicians stating that Islam preached violence and hatred. In May Wilders published Marked for Death, a book calling for a war to protect Western civilization from a perceived Islamist threat.
Local governments maintained antidiscrimination units, which responded to reports of religious discrimination with support and advice, including providing information on registering and reporting complaints. Through newspaper advertisements, Internet outreach, and television public service announcements, the government encouraged victims to report religious discrimination. Local authorities also worked with synagogues and mosques to provide additional security if needed.
The Public Prosecutor’s National Discrimination Expertise Center registered 169 new offenses in 2011, the most recent figures available. Of these, 37 percent were related to religion (32 percent against Jews, 5 percent against Muslims). In 2011, officials resolved 172 newly registered or previously registered offenses, brought 90 indictments, obtained 57 convictions, and settled 14 cases out of court.
Courts convicted several individuals of anti-Semitic speech. On January 12, a court convicted a man in Amsterdam for online statements and harassment through such phrases as “damn the Jews and kick them out of the country.” He was convicted of “insult to a category of persons” and sentenced to community service.
In her Christmas address to the nation, Queen Beatrix stated that religion should reflect compassion, tolerance, care for the underprivileged and respect for creation. She stated that “religion can never be a justification for irresponsible behavior.”
In its annual policy paper on countering all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims, the government summarized its efforts and initiatives, often carried out with partner organizations. These programs attempted to tackle discrimination more effectively, including through identification of best practices.
Local authorities continued to implement a Ministry of Internal Affairs national action plan aimed at combating discrimination, particularly anti-Semitism. Under the plan, local authorities such as police and school boards engaged Jewish and Muslim organizations to increase cooperation and improve the ability of communities to address potential problems. The government also continued to sponsor the Jewish Moroccan Network Amsterdam, which sought to reduce tensions between Jews and Muslims of Moroccan descent. The government reiterated the importance of Holocaust education.