"Completely unacceptable" that Rotterdam teacher had to go into hiding, Minister, MPs say
Parliament and the government responded with dismay to news that a Rotterdam teacher had to go into hiding after he was threatened because of a cartoon in his classroom. "Horrible", "completely unacceptable", and "bizarre", parties from far-right PVV to Christian SGP described the situation. "It is completely unacceptable that the safety of teachers is under pressure because they convey the value of free speech," Ministers Arie Slob and Ingrid van Engelshoven of Education responded in a letter to parliament, NOS reports.
The teacher from the Emmauscollege went into hiding after a cartoon in his classroom drew attention following the commemoration of French teacher Samuel Paty on Monday. At a school in Den Bosch, actions in the context of freedom of expression also led to unrest, Slob said in the letter.
Slob and Van Engelshoven called it important that schools take all threats seriously and report them to the police. "Teachers who are committed to freedom of speech deserve our full support and their safety must be guaranteed at all times," they said. "The attack in Paris is a wake-up call".
They also said that the government wants to make lessons about the rule of law and fundamental freedoms less informal and mandatory in all schools. The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, will be debating a law that requires citizenship lessons in schools next week.
Parliamentarians responded with shock and outrage to the news of the threatened teacher. "Keep your hands off our teachers," SP parliamentarian Jasper van Dijk said on Twitter.
PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher said that freedom is "non-negotiable" and that those who stand against it "must be dealt with". "There is no room for Islamist extremists who indoctrinate young people with hatred," Asscher said.
PVV leader called on people to "support the teacher in hiding" by posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammad. "We will not be intimidated," Wilders tweeted.
ChristenUnie parliamentarian Eppo Bruins pointed out that real action must be taken to protect teachers. "As politicians, let us not think that you can solve this with a good conversation or information campaign," he said, according to NOS. "All support for teachers who dedicate their heart and soul to the future of our children every day."
Joep Bertrams, the Dutch cartoonist who drew the cartoon that caused the commotion at Emmauscollege, is shocked by what happened. Newspaper NRC wrote that Muslim students took offense from the cartoon because they thought it featured the prophet Mohammad. "That is not the case," Bertrams said to RTL Nieuws on Thursday. "I drew a jihadist, not the prophet. I find it very annoying that students did not understand that properly. When I read about those threats to the teacher, I really thought: damn it, that sucks for the teacher. And all that because of a relatively innocent drawing."
Bertrams drew the cartoon five years ago, after the terrorist attack on satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. It depicted a decapitated man in a Charlie Hebdo shirt sticking his tongue out at the jihadist who beheaded him.
Charlie Hebdo. Nooit opzij. pic.twitter.com/MJwGKPQ8jU— Joep Bertrams (@joepbertrams) January 7, 2015