Nearly a hundred Muslim fighters are returning to the Netherlands from conflicts in Syria, Africa, and elsewhere in the Middle East. The Dutch government has announced that it is now “monitoring” them for signs of extremism, says the BBC:
“The chance of an attack in the Netherlands or against Dutch interests abroad has risen,” said National Co-ordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism Dick Shoof in a statement.
“These jihadist travellers can return to the Netherlands highly radicalised, traumatised and with a strong desire to commit violence, thus posing a significant threat to this country.”
The move fits into a growing trend of hardening attitudes in Europe toward Muslim immigration.
Europe has long prided itself as a bastion of multiculturalism. Accommodations of non-Western mores were not unheard of. As recently as 2008, a French court permitted a Muslim man to annul his marriage when he discovered that his wife was not a virgin on their wedding night. And until last year, the UK offered pension benefits for “additional spouses”, despite bigamy and polygamy not being officially sanctioned.
But European Muslim population is rising. In 2010 there were 44 million Muslims living in Europe, or 6 percent of the population; in 2030, Muslims are projected to make up 8 percent of Europe’s population. Moments of cultural rapprochement have been growing rarer. Outbreaks of violence, including the 2004 murder of film producer Theo Van Gogh in Amsterdam, the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, and the 2012 killing of four soldiers in Toulouse, were just a few of the incidents feeding unease among the European electorate. A 2010 Le Monde poll revealed that 42 percent of French citizens and 40 percent of Germans saw Muslim communities as a threat. That same year, France passed a bill banning Muslim women from covering their faces in public. Meanwhile, nationalist parties were coming to the fore across Europe: Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who is highly critical of Islam, now heads the fourth-largest political party in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands’s move to raise the threat level, then, is just the latest twist in this ongoing continent-wide drama. Whatever its merits in terms of security, the Dutch Big-Brother approach is not likely to ease these tensions.