(photo credit: )
The Dutch government will spend €28 million (US$38 million) over the next four years to prevent the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and right-wing nationalism, the interior affairs minister said Monday.
Guusje ter Horst said the emphasis would be on funding existing programs at the neighborhood and school levels for what the government sees as a "growing problem" of the radicalization of Dutch youth.
She said the goal was not to combat extremist groups - a job for law enforcement and intelligence agencies - but to prevent them from forming in the first place.
"The point is that all organizations that deal with youth ... and that notice signs of radicalization ... share that information, and that something is done to stop it," she told reporters in the Amsterdam borough of Slotervaart, which has a large Muslim population and has been held up as a model for its efforts to engage problem youth.
She described a mix of "soft measures," like sponsoring multicultural debates and creating job internships, and "hard measures," including cracking down on truancy and more supervision on the street.
A teacher who notices students voicing racist or fundamentalist notions should be able to call a hot line for advice, for example, Ter Horst said.
Slotervaart district chairman Ahmed Marcouch said his strategy is to ensure young people "do not become isolated" from wider Dutch society.
He cited the case of a young Muslim woman who had begun wearing a burqa and quit her job because men worked there too. After a talk with her imam, she agreed to return to work.
The daily NRC Handelsblad criticized the plans as "vague."
"It offers cities the opportunity to tap into a new subsidy pot for old programs," it wrote in an editorial. "Dangerous extreme right or Islamic tendencies should be targeted directly."
Ter Horst acknowledged the plan included no "single breakthrough idea," but she defended the existing programs as "of great importance" and deserving of more support.
"What's new is that this is an integrated approach," she said.
According to the Anne Frank Institute, which monitors hate crimes, the number of racist incidents in the Netherlands spiked sharply after the November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist, as a cycle of retaliatory attacks was set in motion between "native" Dutch and Moroccan immigrants.
But the number of reported racist attacks fell 10 percent to 265 in 2006 from 296 in 2005.
Anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish and anti-"White" attacks all fell, with Muslims and Islamic buildings continuing to form the single largest victims' group, suffering 62 recorded attacks.
The Institute said that attacks by right wing extremists increased sharply, to 67 from 36. It noted that most incidents go unreported, and its data only indicate trends.