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Viewing cable 06THEHAGUE1001, ISLAMIC EDUCATION IN THE NETHERLANDS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06THEHAGUE1001 2006-05-04 15:03 2011-01-20 21:09 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy The Hague
VZCZCXRO6698
RR RUEHAT
DE RUEHTC #1001/01 1241511
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041511Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5621
INFO RUEHAT/AMCONSUL AMSTERDAM 0781
EU POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 001001

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y ( ADDED ADRESSEE)


EU POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/UBI, EUR/PGI

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER KISL PGOV PINR SOCI SCUL KPAO NL
SUBJECT: ISLAMIC EDUCATION IN THE NETHERLANDS
THE HAGUE 00001001 001.2 OF 002
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE HANDLE ACCORDINGLY.

REF: THE HAGUE 00149

1. (U) SUMMARY: There are a growing number of Islamic
schools in The Netherlands, but they are hardly madrassas.
All are state funded, follow the national Dutch curriculum,
teach in Dutch, and have largely Dutch personnel. Although
the number of Islamic schools is small - 47 in the whole
country - they have become one focus of the ongoing
political debate over integration in the Netherlands. END
SUMMARY.

NUMBER OF ISLAMIC SCHOOLS SMALL BUT GROWING
-------------------------------------------

2. (U) The number of Islamic schools in The Netherlands
has slowly grown over the last few years, reaching 45
primary and two secondary schools in the 2005-2006 school
year. More schools plan to open next year, including a
third secondary school in The Hague. Muslims we have spoken
to say many Muslim parents prefer a more conservative
environment than public schools offer - some even send their
children to Christian schools when Islamic schools are not
available. Some students also say the Islamic schools offer
a refuge from prejudice at some public schools. One female
student at an Islamic secondary school in Rotterdam told us,
for example, that she had been harassed in a public school
for wearing a headscarf. She told us she felt more
comfortable in the Islamic school.

3. (U) Since 1917, the Dutch Constitution has provided for
government funding of religious schools. The GONL thus
fully funds Islamic schools and inspects them on a regular
basis. As all students in Islamic schools are required to
pass national exams, these schools follow the same
curriculum and use the same textbooks as their non-religious
school counterparts, although regulations allow for nonnational
curriculum courses, including classes on Islamic
and Koranic studies, Arabic, and world religion.

MAJORITY OF MUSLIM STUDENTS NOT IN ISLAMIC SCHOOLS
--------------------------------------------- -----

4. (U) According to Said Benayad, former Chairman of the
umbrella organization for Islamic schools (ISBO) and a
current board member of INHOLLAND University, the 45 Islamic
primary schools in the Netherlands represent about 0.6
percent of the total number of primary schools in the
country. Only 4 percent of all ethnic students attend
Islamic schools. Some 85 percent of teachers at these
schools are non-Muslim, while 75 percent of the principals
are non-Muslim. All Islamic schools in the Netherlands are
co-educational, although at least one Amsterdam school
separates boys and girls in the classroom. As a comparison,
Benayad noted that 70 percent of ethnic Muslim students in
The Hague attend public schools, 15 percent attend Christian
schools, and 15 percent attend Islamic or other schools.

FUTURE OF ISLAMIC SCHOOLS DEBATED
---------------------------------

5. (SBU) Given the national debate on integration, the
future of Islamic schools has become a focus of political
and parliamentary discussion, with some questioning whether
Islamic schools should continue to qualify for government
funding. For those who oppose government funding of Islamic
schools, the issue is how to end such funding without also
ending state support of Christian schools.

6. (SBU) Another question raised in the debate is whether
the existence of Islamic schools encourages separation of
ethnic Muslim from native Dutch children. In a recent
meeting with Emboffs, Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen asserted
that Islamic schools are a positive development. He said
such schools generally follow Dutch curriculum, maintain
high standards, and participate fully in the educational
system. He did acknowledge, however, that Amsterdam City
officials probably need to pay closer attention to the
operations and affiliations of a small number of Islamic
schools associated with mosques with more radical messages.

7. (SBU) Some right-wing critics, such as parliamentarians
Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, argue that Islamic
schools do not foster integration in Dutch society. They
claim that a policy of maintaining separate, segregated
schools hinders interaction between Muslim and non-Muslim
THE HAGUE 00001001 002.2 OF 002
Dutch students. Moreover, they assert that in some Islamic
schools, students are being indoctrinated into non-Western
modes of thinking, which makes them prime recruiting targets
for violent extremists.

8. (U) Anne-Bert Dijkstra, Dutch Education Inspectorate,
recently told Emboff that regular monitoring had not found
any Islamic schools to be teaching anti-Western ideas. In a
2003 review of Islamic schools, the Inspectorate did note
concern that several schools were too passive in promoting
social values. This has resulted in the implementation this
year of expanded legislation requiring all schools to
actively promote integration and good citizenship programs.
Schools' efforts to promote social cohesion are now part of
the Inspectorate's regular monitoring.

9. (U) In a separate exchange with Emboffs, Islamic school
principals noted how some ethnic Muslim staff and principals
were still adjusting to a life in the Netherlands, while
simultaneously attempting to teach the same to their
students. Alderman Fatima Elatik has also noted that
primary schools in her district of Amsterdam have parent
rooms where non-Dutch speaking parents can attend Dutch
language classes, meet other parents, and learn how to
become more involved in their children's education.

SEGREGATION PART OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM?
-----------------------------------------

10. (U) With only 4 percent of ethnic Muslim students
attending Islamic schools, it is difficult to argue that
these schools are the significant cause of segregation in
the Netherlands. However, many experts do view the 550
black schools in the country (which the Dutch define as
having over 50 percent minority enrollment, mostly as the
result of segregated neighborhoods) as contributing to defacto
segregation. Such schools are mostly located in
larger cities and represent about six percent of all schools
in the country.

CONTINUING EMBASSY OUTREACH
---------------------------

11. (SBU) Building on contacts made at a recent luncheon,
Emboffs recently visited Rotterdam's Ibn Ghaldoun, the
largest Muslim high school in the Netherlands. The visit
included discussions with school administrators on how to
build a long-lasting relationship between the Embassy and
the school, whose growing student population has resulted in
plans to open a new high school in The Hague. Emboffs also
shared with students and faculty donated maps, books on
American history and literature, and a CD-ROM for use in the
school library.

12. (SBU) School administrators noted with approval that
the U.S. Embassy was the first foreign embassy in the
country to visit the school. Students asked pointed
questions about anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., but were
clearly happy with the opportunity to speak with U.S.
representatives. One student questioned whether Emboffs had
been afraid to visit the school given widespread anti-U.S.
sentiment -- a clear sign that additional outreach is
needed. As a follow-on, Ibn Ghaldoun students visited the
Embassy in April. Ibn Ghaldoun's English department is also
developing a proposal for follow-up activities with the
Embassy.

13. (SBU) Emboffs have also visited the Islamic University
of Rotterdam (IUR), one of two privately-funded Islamic
universities in the country that focus on religious training
of imams and counselors. Additional visits are planned.
BLAKEMAN