Salafism growing, but preaches no violence

The radicalisation process of Muslims in the Netherlands has entered a new phase, according to the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). The Service has signalled the rise of a professionally-organised campaign to promote Salafism, a stream of fundamentalism within the Sunni branch of Islam with strong roots in Saudi Arabia. The AIVD says it does not preach violence, but the Service is nevertheless concerned about the possible effects of Salafist “mission activities” in the Netherlands.

The report from the AIVD is the third since 2004 that tries to provide an insight into radicalisation processes within a small minority of the million or so strong Muslim community in the Netherlands. The report doesn’t describe the actual level of threat, but analyses the developments, background and the influences from abroad.

The first two phases
The first report, entitled ‘From Dawa to jihad’ (December 2004) described what the AIVD subsequently named the first phase in the radicalisation process – a study of how the radical Salafist preachers, mostly from abroad, were trying to gain influence in the Netherlands. The second report, ‘The violent jihad in the Netherlands’ (March 2006) dealt with what is now called the second phase – the period of the Hofstadgroep (a group of 14 Islamic youths suspected of terrorist activities), the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, and the ‘self-igniters’ – young men who, without any external influences apart from the Internet – develop ideas of violence. The AIVD now describes this period as “amateurish”, but nevertheless no less dangerous.

Phase three
So now a third phase has begun: the Service signals, in a report of some 94 pages, the emergence of professionally-organized Dawa (preaching), which it defines as the missionary spreading of a radical-Islamic ideology from a Salafist angle, which explicitly does not champion violence. The rise of the Dawa is illustrated by, amongst other things, the fact that the number of Salafist readings has doubled in the past two years. Apart from that, the AIVD warns that the three described phases are not sharply defined – preachers from abroad and ‘self-igniters’ can still appear.

The AIVD has also adopted a new term for the most recent developments: “Islamic neoradicalism”. According to the Service, there are now Dawa preachers active who are not, or only slightly, dependent on support from abroad; they operate using a “smart marketing strategy” which consciously avoids straying too close to the margins of Dutch law. The Internet is no longer a primary communications channel: it’s now mosques and meeting halls, where priests are not interrupted by all the ‘noise’ of critical voices such as those in Internet forums and chat rooms.

The goal of the neoradicals
The goal of the ‘neoradicals’, according to the AIVD, is “setting up their own, Islamised enclaves in society where there’s no place for dissidents or those with different beliefs.” And although no violence is preached, the AIVD sees a serious threat to the Dutch constitution and democracy, such as strong pressure from the Salafist radicals on fellow-believers; the rejection of the Dutch legal order; tensions within the Muslim community or tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims. Above all, says the AIVD, it’s still too early to be sure that the ‘neoradical’ movement will not combine the Dawa with violent jihad.

According to the Service, the professionalism of the new movement is also due to the fact that, since the end of last year, the Berber community in the Netherlands (the majority of the Moroccans living here) have begun readings in Tamazight, their own language. Interestingly enough, the AIVD says that within the similar-sized Turkish community in the Netherlands, there’s little or no response to the Salafist message – possibly because it’s seen as too Arabic and too conservative.

Also in other West European countries, Salafist groups are on the rise, says the AIVD in its third report. In Great Britain the authorities are actively seeking closer contact with the Salafists; that’s seen as the only way to identify violent trends in time. It’s not known if a similar pro-active approach will also be adopted in the Netherlands.

Salafism growing, but preaches no violence
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