On October 21, the appellate court in The Hague denied Scientology the status of an institution of public advancement, making it ineligible for tax exemptions, on the grounds that it operated as a commercial enterprise.
Local governments continued to provide all Jewish institutions with security, a practice which they instituted following the shooting death of four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014. Local authorities also provided security to Muslim institutions at their request.
The government continued to require all imams and other spiritual leaders recruited in Islamic countries to complete a year‑long integration course before practicing and to permit the Diyanet, Turkey’s religious affairs directorate, to appoint imams for most of the approximately 200 Turkish Muslim mosques.
The National Discrimination Expertise Center (LECD) coordinated the prosecution of cases of discrimination and hate speech, including inciting religious hatred. In 2014, the year for which the most recent figures are available, the LECD registered 174 incidents, of which 30 percent concerned anti‑Semitism and 6 percent related to discrimination against Muslims. Indictments were issued in 59 percent of all cases, resulting in convictions in 90 percent of the cases. The most common sentences were fines and community service.
The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (NIHR) and municipal antidiscrimination boards addressed individual complaints, such as the denial of internships to female Muslim students because they refused to remove their headscarves. The rulings generally held that any restriction on wearing headscarves should be limited and based on security or other carefully delineated grounds pertaining to the nature of the work. In practice, headscarves were permitted almost everywhere, including in schools.
On May 22, the cabinet agreed to a legislative proposal prohibiting clothing that fully covers the face, such as burqas or niqabs, in educational and healthcare institutions, public buildings, and public transportation. According to the government, the proposal sought to balance people’s freedom to dress in the way they like with the importance of mutual and recognizable communication. Some Muslims said the change would restrict their religious freedom; the government said it would not. By year’s end, parliament had yet to vote on the proposal.
Government ministers repeatedly rejected anti‑Semitism, anti‑Muslim sentiment, and general discrimination. On July 17, Foreign Minister Bert Koenders stated, “we should never give up the fight against racism and anti‑Semitism,” and “we should not yield to the terror of intolerance and tackle anti‑Jewish aggression hard.” On April 25, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, “we should stay alert and vigilant because anti‑Semitism around us is never far away, and that is unacceptable.” Following the January attack on Charlie Hebdo’s office in France, Rutte addressed a large public event in Amsterdam and defended free speech, stating there should be “room for everybody’s belief and conviction.” On January 9, Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher said “expressions of Islamophobia are unacceptable” and “vandalism of mosques will not be tolerated.”
The leader of the populist Freedom Party (PVV), opposition parliamentarian Geert Wilders, continued to speak out against Islam in public speeches and on social media. Wilders traveled extensively to campaign against the “Islamization of the West,” attending events including the launching of an anti‑Islam party in Perth, Australia, addressing a Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident) demonstration in Dresden, Germany, giving a speech at a breakfast meeting in the U.S. Congress, and presenting the award for the best Muhammad cartoons in Garland, Texas. The government began preparations for the hate speech trial against Wilders for remarks he made about Moroccans at a rally in 2014. The trial was expected to take place in 2016. In September Wilders led the protest against what he called “the tsunami of refugees from Islamic countries who threaten our women and our civilization.”
A number of official institutions, including the Council of State and the NIHR, both national‑level bodies, were responsible for reviewing complaints of religious discrimination. Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as solely based on religious identity. The NIHR also provided periodic advice to the government on issues involving religious discrimination.
The government used newspaper advertisements, internet outreach, and public service announcements to encourage victims to report discrimination, including on religious grounds.
Government ministers met with the Jewish community to discuss appropriate measures to counter anti‑Semitism. Local authorities engaged with local NGOs as they implemented a Ministry of the Interior national action plan to combat discrimination, particularly anti‑Semitism. For example, local governments worked with youth groups and relevant NGOs on projects which included encouraging the Turkish community to discuss anti‑Semitism, organizing roundtable events with teachers to discuss anti‑Semitism and Holocaust denial, holding discussions with social media organizations on countering online anti‑Semitism, and promoting interreligious dialogue.
Government ministers met with Muslim community leaders to discuss measures to counter anti‑Islamic sentiment, including a campaign to urge Muslims to register discrimination; better registration of incidents; joint efforts to counter anti‑Muslim sentiment; and support for community‑building initiatives in Muslim communities. They reached agreements with the principal Islamic organizations on improving the reporting of anti‑Muslim incidents. Apart from these agreements, local authorities in the larger cities started registering incidents of discrimination against Muslims as specifically due to discrimination against their faith.
Following the increased migration influx, the government debated a law that would require asylum seekers to sign a participation statement of civic integration in order to obtain a residence permit. At year’s end the statement remained voluntary. The statement made newcomers aware of their rights and obligations as well as the fundamental values of Dutch society, including freedom of religion.
The government reiterated the importance of Holocaust education, mandating its inclusion in curricula, but allowed schools to design their own approach to the subject, which Jewish community leaders said resulted in insufficient coverage.
The government cancelled its programs to subsidize universities that provided training for individuals to become imams due to lack of interest among prospective students. The training had aimed to convey to prospective imams a better understanding of the country.
The government is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.