Minister Van Gennip of Social Affairs regrets the way her department has conducted research into Muslims and mosques. In a letter to the House of Representatives, she writes that she has established that her ministry conducted investigations into persons, organizations and networks within Muslim communities until 2019, without those involved being aware of this.
In 2021, NRC revealed that at least ten Dutch municipalities had hired a private research agency in recent years to investigate religious organizations. Undercover methods were used that are not permitted.
It now appears that the ministry has also conducted investigations into Muslims and mosques in which personal data were processed, while there was and is no legal basis for this. According to Van Gennip, this mainly concerns names of people linked to a place of residence and religious beliefs, behavior or expressions. The method of conducting research was also not always transparent.
The investigations mainly focused on Salafists, Muslims who adhere to an orthodox form of Islam.
Discrimination against Muslims
The news about the undercover investigations of municipalities caused a stir among Dutch Muslim communities. The Ministry of Social Affairs then started a process to restore trust between the government and Muslim communities.
But the minister now concludes that the government itself has promoted discrimination against Muslims. The letter states that the government has “unintentionally contributed to the stigmatization of large groups of Muslims who have nothing to do with this”.
According to Van Gennip, in order to combat discrimination against Muslims, more attention must be paid to the phenomenon and it must be re-examined. For example, she wants to do something against banks that refuse Muslims.
The personal data collected will be destroyed from April 1, 2024. People who want to know whether their data has been processed in the Social Affairs file can inquire with the ministry themselves.
According to NRC, this goes against advice from the State Attorney, who states that the government is obliged to inform citizens about whom information has been collected illegally.
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