Municipalities deny infiltrating mosques for undercover investigation
There were no undercover investigations in mosques in the municipalities of Huizen, Hilversum, and Gooise Meren. The three municipalities said this in a joint statement following a publication in NRC on Saturday. The newspaper reported that undercover researchers visited Islamic organizations to collect sensitive information about administrators, imams, and teachers on behalf of at least ten municipalities.
The National Coordinator for Counter-terrorism and Security (NCTV) paid for the investigations. He also nominated the NTA agency for the investigation, according to NRC.
Huizen, Hilversum, and Gooise Meren said that NTA "mapped the networks within the Islamic community in a responsible manner on behalf of the municipalities" and that there was a reason for this. The municipalities stated that the research was conducted during a period in which there was much attention for terrorism and radicalization. "NTA assured us that it did not make any secret visits to the mosques and that the persons interviewed knew they were cooperating in an investigation for the municipality. There is no question of infiltration, as suggested by NRC," the three said.
The municipality of Ede said in a statement that until the article's publication in NRC, there had never been any signs of an undercover operation by NTA in the mosque in that municipality. Ede knew that an investigation was being conducted, but it would have involved interviews with people involved within the Islamic community. The researchers would've made themselves known to those involved, the municipality thought. The council will investigate what happened.
Ede also had reason to gain more insight into polarization and radicalization at the local level. The municipality itself did not have the expertise for this and asked NTA to conduct an investigation. The municipality already spoke with the Islamic community about the matter on Sunday. "We understand that they view the report as an invasion of their privacy. We take the concerns and questions extremely seriously," Ede said.
Reporting by ANP