Netherlands

NRC: Mosques secretly investigated by private company

In recent years, at least ten municipalities have deployed a private research agency to investigate religious organizations. NRC writes that undercover methods were used that are not allowed. Islamic organizations say they are shocked by the findings of NRC.

It concerns the company NTA (Nuance door Training and Advice), which is carrying out research on behalf of the municipalities into “radical trends that can pose a danger to society”. According to the company, researchers do not enter confined spaces without permission and NTA’s work is monitored by information and legal experts. “The central statement that NTA secretly conducts research in mosques is not correct.”

NRC states, however, that the researchers do indeed enter mosques, where they speak with visitors, administrators and religious leaders. Investigative reports are then written about this, which are not made public or shared with municipal councils or the organizations investigated. NTA also contributes ideas about policy in response to the findings.

The newspaper has, among other things, seen the research report about a mosque in Veenendaal, which describes which families are arguing with each other and where certain members study or take lessons. The NTA reports about a mosque in Ede that it is being closely monitored by the Moroccan authorities.

Information position for municipalities

The municipalities were brought into contact with NTA by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), who advises and financially supports municipalities in combating radicalisation. With the help of NTA they hope to obtain reliable information about difficult-to-access Islamic communities, including about foreign financing and radical preachers and administrators.

The covert investigation had to help, because, according to the municipality of Rotterdam against NRC, a public investigation would lead to socially desirable answers. Salafists would not be honest and open with outsiders about their true intentions and behavior.

The investigations started at a time when there were great concerns about young people traveling to Syria for the armed jihad and there was a fear of attacks in the Netherlands. The municipalities of Rotterdam and Zoetermeer, among others, tell NRC that they no longer find such investigations justifiable. The municipality of Leidschendam-Voorburg says it is still investigating whether the method complied with privacy legislation.

According to the newspaper, there has been criticism within the NCTV of NTA’s work in recent years, partly because the company is said to be operating in the field of secret services. Two professors call the method used according to NRC illegal.

The NCTV has not been reached for comment so far.

‘State Islamophobia’

Islamic organizations are outraged, saying that trust between the community and the government has been damaged. The Rotterdam umbrella organization SPIOR speaks to the ANP news agency of “espionage activities” and “state Islamophobia”. The government has “broad and structural mistrust of the Islamic community”, according to SPIOR.

Hassan Saidi from Veenendaal, director of one of the mosques investigated, tells NRC that he feels cheated. So far the relationship with the municipality has been good, but “this gives my confidence in the municipality a huge blow.”

In a statement, NTA says it does not recognize itself in the article at all. The company says it is known as reliable and honest with both clients and many mosques. “Our work contributes to the protection of the democratic legal order. (…) This is a complex field that requires the necessary discretion. For NTA, legislation and regulations are leading.”

The organization also finds the reporting in NRC tendentious, especially in the way the founder of NTA is portrayed. “For example, we find the comment behind his name: “beard, tailor-made suit” extremely distasteful and irrelevant.”

NRC: Mosques secretly investigated by private company
Source link NRC: Mosques secretly investigated by private company

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