Imam Yassin Elforkani says that dozens of Muslim young men in Amsterdam have already moved so far into radicalism that nothing will restrain them.
Elforkani asserts that a terrorist attack is coming to Amsterdam within the next 18 months. He said: “The terrorist networks are in place. Many people in the neighbourhoods know about them but choose to keep their mouths shut and are protecting these young men”.
Elforkani says there is no point in holding any more discussions for the time being. “It is simply time for hard intervention”.
Yassin Elforkani is a youth imam in the Morroccan Muslim community of Amsterdam. The 33 year old was also the former spokesman for the ‘Contact Group for Muslims and the Dutch Government’. He has a reputation as a moderate who pleads for a humane “bolder Islam”.
But the imam is now sounding the alarm in an interview with the Dutch daily Het Parool. “We have to roll up these Islamic networks which were created as long as four years ago. We can talk after that. Right now it is the turn of the Dutch security services to act”.
Elforkani believes that these terrorist networks were started in 2012 when members of “Sharia for Belgium” started recruiting in Holland. They made their public appearance by disrupting a debate in the Badr Mosque in Amsterdam.
Many people present laughed at the bearded young men in their Islamic garb then, but Elforkani did not. He saw the fanaticism in their eyes and recognized young men from Amsterdam who participated in the disruption.
He said: “I had spoken to two of them. One went to Syria. I don’t know what happened to the other one”.
The youth Imam says that the Muslim community talks about the terrorist networks. “Some of the young men have gone to Syria and left their wives and children behind. The networks support the families. With cash. With groceries.”
That has caused many Muslims in Amsterdam to ask how these young men could leave the country like that. They wonder if the security services function at all. Elforkani agrees that these people should contact the authorities. But many are afraid.
Many of the people who have inside knowledge are family members. “These networks are much tighter than we think”. In the final analysis, though, Elforkani says that the government and not the citizens are responsible for security.
Theology, not sociology
Elforkani rejects the idea that socio-economic factors have driven these young Muslims into radicalism. Elforkani points to the leader of “Sharia for Belgium” who is the son of a wealthy businessman.
In his experience the issue is theology. They have become so convinced of their own theology that they are willing to fight for it. Elforkani: “The problem is that these boys aren’t listening to anyone any-more. Our theology does not offer them any good alternatives.”
Wilders is right: preventative detention is necessary.
Elforkani says that some of the solutions proposed by Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom sound harsh. But arresting everyone who has returned from Syria is the right answer for the current reality. “I totally support preventative detention for any young man who has fought in Syria and returns to Holland.”
The youth imam says that even the parents of the boys who are in Syria can understand that. When I ask them: would you rather have your boy detained to protect him from himself or should we wait until he carries out a terrorist attack? They always reply: “Lock him up”.
Elforkani’s remarks have already provoked a sharp backlash in the Muslim community in the Netherlands. The Council of Moroccan Mosques accused Elforkani of spreading fear. “He should be talking to the police and not to the media.”
Labor party member Sofyan Mbarki in the Amsterdam City Council rejects the idea that the Moroccan community is covering up extremism and radicalism. He thinks that his community understands the need for openness.
Dilan Yesilgoz, a Liberal party member of the Amsterdam City Council, however says that we should take Elforkani serisously: “he is saying this for a reason.” Yet Yesilgoz adds: “We are on top of the situation in this city. We should not act as if we have a kind of Molenbeek in Amsterdam.”
The Dutch police have invited Elforkani to come speak with them. One of their spokesmen says that “the Imam apparently has information that we don’t have.”