Radical Muslim preacher welcome in Rotterdam

Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin rejects demands by two parties to bar a radical Islamic preacher from speaking in the Netherlands.

Mr Hirsch Ballin wrote to parliament on Thursday that the preacher, American citizen Khalid Yasin, is free to enter the country and address audiences. The justice minister adds that Mr Yasin will risk prosecution if it turns out that his speeches incite hatred. He emphasises that everyone in the Netherlands has freedom of speech, provided they respect the rule of law.

The two major parties of the governing coalition, Labour and Christian democrat CDA, together with the opposition populist right-wing Freedom Party, had asked for a ban. They cited earlier utterances by Mr Yasin, who according to the Freedom Party is “a terrorist” and “an evil man”. Labour had asked the justice minister to verify reports that Mr Yasin preaches radical Islam and intolerance between muslims and non-muslims. The Christian democrats wrote to the minister that they feared Mr Yasin would issue calls to violence.

The issue mirrors the case of Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, against whom a prosecution was started on Wednesday for inciting hatred against Muslims. The MP is a vocal critic of the Qur’an, having compared Islam’s holy book to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and said it fosters terrorism. Mr Wilders says he was exercising his right to free speech, both inside and outside of parliament.

Converts to Islam
Mr Yasin is scheduled to give two lectures to Islam converts at the private Islamic University of Rotterdam; he will also speak in the town of Maaseik in Belgium. Rotterdam’s recently appointed mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told the ANP agency that Mr Yasin is welcome in his city, but the mayor said he did not want to become involved in a discussion over religion. “Every individual has their own perception of religion.” Mr Aboutaleb rejected censorship and said he was hoping for a lively debate, “but if his texts are insulting or inciting to hatred, we’ll prosecute him.”

For more information: www.radionetherlands.nl

Radical Muslim preacher welcome in Rotterdam
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