Rotterdam mayor survives no-confidence vote over Salafist comments

Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb (Picture: Twitter/@_sjgbb). (Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb (Picture: Twitter/@_sjgbb))

Rotterdam's mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb would not take back his controversial remarks on Salafism. Last month the mayor, a Muslim himself, caused uproar when during an interview he stated that every Muslim is a bit of a Salafist. Salafism is an ultra-conservative branch within the Sunni Islam.

"There were no wrong words used in the interview, but perhaps the radio is too volatile of a medium"; Aboutaleb told the city council on Friday. The mayor's provocative remark was heard during an interview on the radio-program Dit is de Dag.

His statement caused him a "motie van treurnis", a motion of regret, on behalf of the coalition-party Leefbaar. Leefbaar is the biggest faction in the city council with 13 seats. A motion of regret is a motion where the body who makes the motion disapproves a particular action or a deed made by its subject. The motion did not win a majority, even though it had the approval of the opposition party VVD.

Aboutaleb lamented the motion saying it "damages our trust relationship", reported newspaper Trouw. Leefbaar did agree on this point, according to council member Tanya Hoogwerf. By calling every Muslim "a bit Salafist" because they aspire to be like their predecessor Mohammed, Aboutaleb "narrows and dilutes" the concept of Salafism. According to her this orthodox movement within Islam represents "a threat to democracy and legality".

During the debate CDA and VVD seized the opportunity to criticize Aboutaleb,  NOS reported. According to Jan Willem Verheij, the leader of the VVD faction there, "The mayor's remarks led to doubts and fears among the people. One question that came up, is whether the mayor has another agenda".