Radical preachers have increasing influence in Dutch education, intelligence service warns

The AIVD building in Zoetermeer
The AIVD building in ZoetermeerPhoto: S.J. de Waard / Wikimedia Commons

Dutch intelligence service AIVD warns of radical influences in education in its annual report for 2018. According to the service, "radical Islamic boosters" play an increasingly emphatic role in the education offer for young Muslims in the Netherlands. In the long term, this could undermine the democratic legal order, the AIVD said, NOS reports.

As examples, the AIVD mentioned the "at first sight accessible and innocent" after-school lessons in Arabic and Islam. "We believe, however, that children and young people are alienated from society by this interpretation of education and may be hindered in their participation in society. This is caused by the intolerant and anti-democratic views of the initiators. According to the AIVD, "a new group of eloquent preachers" has been trained, and part of this group is not necessarily opposed to the violent jihadist ideology. 

Last month NRC reported that controversial British Sharia preacher Haitham Al Haddad gave "covert" lessons at Amsterdam high school Cornelius Haga Lyceum.

The Netherlands experienced an increase in the number of incidents related to terrorism and jihad last year, the AIVD said in its annual report. For the first time since the murder of Theo van Gogh in 2004, the country was faced with terrorist violence in 2018. In the years before, terrorist incidents mainly happened in the countries around the Netherlands. But that changed last year. In May a Syrian man stabbed three people in The Hague. In August a man stabbed and seriously injured two American tourists at Amsterdam Central Station. And in September a network of seven jihadists were arrested. They were planning an attack at an event, according to the authorities. 

A total of around 500 jihadists, and a few thousand sympathizers, are active in the Netherlands, the AIVD said.

The intelligence service also raised concerns about digital espionage in its report. China, Iran, and Russia, among others, are targeting the Netherlands, according to the AIVD. They're not only focusing on politically sensitive information, such as on the MH17 investigation and NATO, but also information from Dutch companies that can be used to advance their own companies. According to the AIVD, Dutch companies are insufficiently prepared for such attacks and that "poses a risk to the economic security of our country".

The AIVD also sees cyber attacks on important facilities like drinking water and electricity as a risk, though the service does not yet have information that any countries are actually trying to attack the Netherlands in this way. Some countries are trying to get into the Dutch systems, however, the service said. Last week the Court of Audit also raised concerns about the cyber security of the Dutch waterworks. 

The intelligence service warned against using Chinese companies for the Dutch IT infrastructure. The AIVD calls it "undesirable" that the Netherlands depends on hardware and software from countries established to be "conducting an offensive cyber program against Dutch interests", especially when this hardware and software are used for "the exchange of sensitive information or for vital processes".