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.”
The NIHR, 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.
On February 26, the Hague Appellate Court convicted a man for failing to show identification at the request of a policeman because as an Orthodox Jew he only wore clothing and carried no items on the Sabbath for religious reasons. The Court did not regard the legal obligation to be able to show identification in public at odds with the right to freedom of religion.
In January the majority of secular parties voted to abolish the law on Sunday rest, which they viewed an anachronism. They had criticized this as one of 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.
Local governments continued to maintain antidiscrimination units, which responded to reports of religious discrimination with support and advice, as well as information on how to register and report complaints. The government used newspaper advertisements, internet outreach, and television public service announcements to encourage 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 114 new offenses in 2012. Of these, 35 percent were related to religion (28 percent against Jews, 7 percent against Muslims). In 2012, officials resolved 131 newly registered or previously registered offenses, brought 71 indictments, obtained 66 convictions, and settled 17 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.
On March 13, Deputy Prime Minister Asscher described as “shocking” and “reprehensible” statements by Turkish Dutch school boys in a television interview in which they approved of the Holocaust without reservation and stated they hated Jews. He called it “unacceptable when solidarity and strong identification of – often young – Muslims with Muslims elsewhere in the world result in public hostility toward other groups in Dutch society.”
On September 24, a man was convicted for assault and possessing t-shirts with texts and images offensive to the Jewish community, including a picture of a man aiming a gun at a person with a Jewish fedora and payot (sidecurls).
The government gave high priority to countering all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims. The government offered the general guidance that proper information should be provided, but left implementation to parents, schools, local authorities, neighborhoods and the communities themselves. It pursued a comprehensive plan of efforts and initiatives, often carried out with partner organizations. These programs attempted to tackle discrimination more effectively through identification of best practices. The government engaged the independent Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), and Jewish and Muslim organizations on how best to counter anti-Semitism among youth.
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 their communities to address potential problems. Particular attention was given to combating prejudice and anti-Semitism among youth. 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. The government-sponsored Independent Registration Center for Discrimination on the Internet (MDI) started a “counter-speech” campaign on the internet to repudiate online anti-Semitic allegations and Holocaust denial.
The police continued to investigate anti-Muslim incidents, but had difficulty identifying perpetrators.