101. The Dutch Ministry of Justice told us that there
are over 900,000 Muslims in the Netherlands (which has a population
of 16.2 million). We also heard that Muslims form 13% of the population
of Amsterdam, where up to 60% of those under 18 were from ethnic
minorities. The Muslim population of the Netherlands rose ten-fold
between 1970 and 1997: many came as guest workers, mainly from
Turkey and Morocco (countries which were never colonies of the
Netherlands and with which there had not been significant exchanges).
Asylum policies had also been a significant factor in immigration.
102. All our interlocutors agreed that the rise of
Pim Fortuyn, which led to the questioning of the prevailing consensus
on integration and immigration, and the murder of Theo van Gogh,
of which a Dutch-born Muslim was accused, had radically altered
Dutch approaches to the integration of ethnic and religious minorities
and community relations. The desire to bring minorities into the
mainstream of Dutch society was now an important political issue.
There was a widely held view that what had earlier been seen as
Dutch tolerance had in fact been a failure to confront the challenges
that had now been identified.
103. We also heard about the measures taken to encourage
integration: these included language lessons for foreign imams
and stricter regulation of asylum and dual nationality. Some felt
that the lack of social cohesion could not be ascribed only to
the threat from terrorists and extremiststhere was a lack of dialogue
between different parts of Dutch society and there was a problem
of Islamophobia in the majority community. The media were also
criticised for stigmatising communities. Representative of the
mainstream Dutch media told us they were doubtful how successful
they were in reaching minority communities.
104. In De Baarsjes, like Saint-Denis a multi-ethnic
community (52% of foreign descent) suffering from social deprivation,
we heard from community and faith leaders about their efforts
to build community cohesion and inter-faith dialogue and the considerable
progress they had made.
105. It is clear that the problems faced by France
and the Netherlands have both similarities and differences to
those faced here.
106. On the positive side, this country has a
long tradition of race relations legislation and reasonably frank
and open discussion of community and race relations. At local
and national level there is a habit of dialogue, if sometimes
patchy, on which solutions can be constructed. Our impression
was that neither France nor the Netherlands have explicitly considered
these issues in the recent past (though for different reasons)
and this meant that, at national level at least, there was some
real uncertainty about the most effective way forward.
107. On the other hand, in both countries there
was a more explicit willingness, particularly at local level,
to recognise the central importance of the Muslim communities
and their future development within national society. In France,
too, counter-terrorism powers were more developed than our ownpossibly
because of their longer experience of dealing with this form of