The Netherlands has experienced as surge in anti-Semitic incidents and pro-jihadists demonstrations in the past decade, and is currently struggling to contain the rising popularity of the terrorist group the Islamic State in its Muslim communities. Last week, the Dutch government arrested three men described as “big fish” working to recruit for the Islamic State.
The “big fish” designation, Al Jazeera reports, comes from the mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, who announced the arrests. The three men were Dutch citizens–including 32-year-old Azzedine Choukoud, also known as Abou Moussa, who was previously known to be sympathetic to the jihadist cause–working within Muslim communities in The Hague. The arrests have increased concerns surrounding a rise in popularity for the violent jihadist group, particularly in that city.
The Hague, which jihadists have dubbed “Jihad City,” is facing a particularly pronounced threat from Islamic State supporters within the Netherlands. In July, a group of jihadist sympathizers organized a legal assembly in the city in support of the Islamic State, chanting slogans like “Death to the Jews!” and waving the Islamic State flag. Thousands called for Mayor van Aartsen’s resignation in the aftermath of that assembly, and the Netherlands passed legislation making it illegal to wave the black Islamic State flag in public.
The Netherlands’ jihad problem does not end at the edge of its borders, however. Al Jazeera notes that the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service estimates that the nation harbors “a few hundred followers and several thousand sympathisers.” About 200 Dutch citizens are believed to have left the Netherlands to commit acts of terror for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq; as citizens, they can return freely to the Netherlands at their leisure.
Those in the Netherlands in what Al Jazeera describes as “the radical scene” appear torn regarding whether or not to support the Islamic State, which leaves open the alarming possibility that those marching in support of the Islamic State are only a small percentage of jihadists living in the Netherlands. Said the spokesman for one of these groups in the nation, Moslims in Dialoog: “Like the vast majority, we are not for or against the IS, but we have a more nuanced position.”
These communities, in addition to others who promote anti-Semitic groups, appears to have grown significantly in recent years. According to a study by the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), 147 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in 2013, compared to 114 in 2012. Many of these incidents occurred on social media; Twitter was the platform most abused to promote anti-Semitic views.
Whether the Netherlands will exacerbate its efforts to keep the Islamic State’s domestic supporters at bay remains to be seen, but the example of the Netherlands is just one of a large number of Western nations facing the possibility of homegrown Islamic State terrorists threatening the safety of its citizens. The higher visibility Islamic State supporters are allowed, the more efficient their recruiting operation will become in the country, particularly in cities like The Hague with a high Muslim population.