Muslim groups ask The Hague to stop Pegida's plan to burn Korans at Turkish embassy
DENK and four organizations representing Muslims and Dutch people of Turkish origin asked Mayor Jan van Zanen of The Hague to ban a “threatening hate action” that Pegida wants to hold in the city on Friday. The anti-Islam movement announced a demonstration at the Turkish embassy on its Facebook page with a video of a Koran burning. Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz expects that destroying or burning a Koran during protests in the Netherlands can lead to an increased terror threat, as in Sweden. But banning the protest is legally not possible, Van Zanen said.
DENK and the civil society organizations fear that Pegida will burn or tear apart a Koran at its protest on Friday. “This is not freedom of expression, but open hate speech,” said a spokesperson for DENK. According to him, Pegida is out to insult Muslims “to the bone” and sow division in society.”
With IGMG Netherlands, Turkish Federation Netherlands, Turkish Islamic Cultural Federation, and Union of International Democrats Netherlands, DENK sent several letters to Van Zanen about their concerns in the past week. They speak of an “unacceptable act of hate and provocation and also have “serious concerns” about “public order and security.”
Van Zanen said that he distances himself from behavior that does not contribute to “a respectful and inclusive city,” such as “unnecessarily provoking and deliberately hurting people.” But he added: “As mayor, however, I have the legal duty to facilitate the constitutionally enshrined right to free expression and demonstration as much as possible. Therefore, Dutch legislation offers me no scope to ban this.”
In recent weeks, Koran burnings in Denmark and Sweden caused a lot of social unrest. On Thursday, the Swedish security service raised the terrorism threat level in the country to the second highest level. According to Swedish media, the threat has increased due to the Koran burnings in the country and the resulting anger in Islamic countries. In the announcement of the demonstration in The Hague, Pegida also referred to a Koran burning in the Danish capital Copenhagen.
Justice Minister Yeşilgöz wouldn’t be surprised if the terrorism threat level in the Netherlands also rises due to such demonstrations. She “personally finds destroying or burning books rather primitive and sad,” but “it is allowed in our country; you have that freedom,” she said at the start of the first Council of Ministers after the summer recess. According to the Minister, a higher terrorist threat due to certain actions is an element that you must take into account. “These components are part of a free democracy.”
Pegida announced that its demonstration would happen in front of the Turkish embassy at 7:00 p.m.
Reporting by ANP