Study shows extremists should be included in society
Muslims who are actively involved in the democratic process in the Netherlands are unlikely to become radical Islamists, according to a report by the Amsterdam University that was commissioned by the Dutch counter-terrorism centre NCTb. The report will be handed to parliament on Wednesday.
The researchers investigated three generations of activists in the Netherlands. The first group were the Moluccans from the former Dutch colony of Indonesia who wanted to force the Dutch government to acknowledge their islands as an independent state in the 1970s. The second were the squatters of the 1980s and the third group were extreme right-wing activists in the 80s and 90s.
Comparisons with these groups and interviews with former activists and Muslims who were once radical Islamists, form the foundation of the researchers’ conclusions.
Researchers Marieke Slootman says Muslims should become involved in the wider Dutch society. "They can still have orthodox beliefs, but they won't use violence to force these on others if they see the Netherlands as their country," according to Slootman.
"Some of their ideas might clash with our democratic life-style, but listening to them takes the wind out of the sails of those who say the government is the enemy of every Muslim," she says.
Slootman says it is important to avoid evoking 'us versus them' emotions and politicians must play a role in this. Un-nuanced comments by politicians make Muslims feel more isolated in the community, the researchers say.
On an individual level, the best way to make sure Muslims do not become extremists is to give potential high risk individuals the opportunity to talk to an imam or former extremist. These people are the most likely to convince them that radicalism is not the answer, according to the study. This approach has been tested in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.