“As well as potentially posing a direct threat, returnees from Syria might also have a radicalizing and mobilizing effect upon fellow Muslims. In the Netherlands, they could act as the catalyst pushing some young people already attracted by a radical strand of Islam into militant activism. That could strengthen local radical groups and spread their message to a wider audience.”
Meanwhile, police said they had arrested a 35-year-old Dutch-Turkish national named Aydin Coban in the case of a Canadian teenager who was blackmailed after exposing herself in front of a webcam. The 15-year-old girl, Amanda Todd, later committed suicide after detailing her harassment on a YouTube video watched by millions around the world. Dutch prosecutors said the man is suspected of blackmailing girls in Britain, the Netherlands and the United States. Canadian police said they would seek extradition.
The number of people requesting asylum in the Netherlands rose by more than 4,000 in 2013 to 17,190, the immigration service said on April 14. Somalia topped the list with just over 3,000 requests, followed by Syria (2,670) and Iraq (1,090).
In Norway, the education ministry approved a controversial plan to launch the country’s first Muslim-only primary school in Oslo. The school will be run by the Association of Muslim Mothers, which wants to teach its pupils Arabic and Islamic values as well as the standard subjects on the curriculum. A standard course on Religion, Philosophy and Ethics would be replaced by Islam, Religion and Philosophy.
The school aims to have 200 students, and is expected to look for premises in the east side of Oslo, home to many immigrants. Both Norway’s opposition Labour Party and the anti-immigrant Progress Party, which is part of the government coalition, have voiced opposition to the plan.
On April 28, envoys from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries accused the Norwegian government of doing too little to protect its Muslim minority, and called for all criticism of Islam to be made illegal. The accusations against Norway were made in Geneva during a session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, which occurs every four years. Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende told Norway’s NTB newswire: “It is a paradox that countries which do not support fundamental human rights have influence on the council, but that is the United Nations.”
In Spain, a large Muslim umbrella group called the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain [UCIDE] sent letters to education officials in all of the country’s 17 regions asking for precise data on the number of students in primary and secondary public schools who have applied for Islamic religious training.
UCIDE is lobbying the Spanish government to expand the teaching of Islam in the public school system, and is said to be compiling the data to back up its claim that there are not enough Islam teachers to keep up with the growing demand.
On April 30, police in Almería, a port city in southern Spain, arrested a French-Algerian jihadist who was returning to Europe from combat in Syria. Abdelmalek Tanem, 25, was a member of the al-Qaeda-linked group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS], from October 2013 to January 2014, according to a statement issued by the Spanish Interior Ministry.
“During this period, Tanem is believed to have carried out the work of ‘combatant’ and as a ‘facilitator’ on the Turkish-Syrian border in order to make it possible for other European citizens to be integrated into this jihadist group,” the statement says. Tanem is the second returning jihadist who has been arrested by Spanish police; the first was Mohamed Sadik Abdeluahid in Ceuta, in January.