The former Netherlands Chief of Defense, Peter van Uhm -- whose son was killed by an IED in Afghanistan the day after Van Uhm was appointed Chief -- recently caused a controversy during a radio show about native fallen sons. He stated that Dutch youths who have chosen to fight in Syria should be respected for their idealism and their willingness to defend the women and children of Syria against Assad.
He later also stated that people judge these youths too easily: "The question whether their environment and our society have made sufficient efforts in keeping these people on the right track, is too rarely asked. You have to understand these young people, otherwise you cannot hope to help them." Van Uhm later added that he "Could not approve of their [jihadists'] modus operandi."
Van Uhm's views are quite typical for Western Europe, where cultural relativism is still the norm. He says he respects fighters because they seem to be fighting for an ideal. That this ideal refutes every Western ideal he himself holds dear, apparently does not affect his apparent respect for jihadists.
His view is typical: one should not consider one value superior to another value, no matter what these values actually are. There is no such thing as better or worse, there is only different. And it had better be different the way one thinks different should be: not "politically incorrect." The thought that a Dutch Chief of Defense had also fallen prey to this philosophy is saddening.
Yilmaz, a well-known Dutch-Turkish jihadist fighting in Syria, will on his return home to the Netherlands be entitled to a host of special welfare benefits unavailable to other, normal citizens.
The demonstrators called for the immediate release of two men accused of recruiting young Muslims for jihad in Syria, and other "Muslim prisoners." They proclaimed their support for the ISIS caliphate and waved banners stating, "Democracy Hypocrisy."
Also repeatedly proclaimed was the anti-Jewish battle cry: "Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud" ["Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning"] -- basically an incitement to genocide. The demonstrators formally announced their actions and asked the city council for permission to protest. They were granted permission by The Hague's mayor, Jozias van Aartsen.
Parallel to these shows of support, jihadists with European passports are now returning from Syria to European soil. The security risks, of which European intelligence services on the national and European levels have warned since this trend started, are beginning to emerge.
Mehdi Nemmouche, a jihadist returning from Syria, murdered four people in June at the Jewish Museum of Brussels. These murders by a returnee from Syria will probably not be the last. A Syrian jihadist from Antwerp, Azeddine Kbir Bounekoub, already called on his peers to repeat the atrocity. "May Allah inspire more youths to take example from the one who attacked the Jewish Museum. Martyrdom cannot exclusively be found in Syria, but also, in Belgium. Be a thorn in the side of the enemies of Islam," he posted on social media.
On June 15th, an armed attack on a Paris synagogue was thwarted. The police report stated that, "an unidentified man approached the police guarding the synagogue and aimed a Kalashnikov rifle at them before running away."
The leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, says that he, too, has been targeted by jihadists returning from Syria. He reported that the Dutch National Coordinator of Antiterrorism and Security [NCTV] informed him that two Dutch Syria-jihadists had been arrested while plotting an attempt on his life. An NTCV spokesperson declined to confirm this, merely stating that, "The NTCV never goes public about the sort and scale of threats against Wilders." The Dutch Public Prosecution Office [DPPO] later also claimed to know nothing of the case: "No one has been detained for plotting an attack on Wilders's life. And no one has been detained for this in the past."
Wilders replied that, "Recently the NCTV personally told me that two of them have been arrested and are now imprisoned, but it is possible they were arrested for another crime, in which case the DPPO's response was correct."
The officials' insistence on refraining from comment might have been due to genuine security concerns for Wilders's safety, and the fear that going public about threats on his life might inspire similar operations.
It might also be true, however, that Dutch Antiterrorism and Public Prosecution officials -- many of whom are known for their political correctness and antipathy to Wilders -- do not wish to strengthen Wilders's case by speaking about threats on his life.
The increasingly confident show of support for Al-Qaida and ISIS, the return of Syrian jihad veterans to European soil and the threats against Europe's Jews and Geert Wilders all coincide with the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service [AIVD] coming forward about their inability to monitor all new potential threats. The AIVD states that due to budget cuts, they are unable to keep track of the "new dynamic" of the jihadist movement, which it now calls "more elusive and dangerous than ever before."
If the Interior Minister, Ronald Plasterk of the Labour Party, persist in his cutbacks, an AIVD spokesperson stated, the AIVD will have to drop "even more essential tasks" and entire "Jihad teams will have to be dissolved." Minister Plasterk did announce an ad hoc budget increase but does not want to cancel his structural budget cut.
So what is the Netherlands doing to protect its citizens and politicians against these threats? Frankly: not a whole lot.
The best way to protect the Netherlands, as, for example, articulated by Wilders and the Dutch-Iranian Law professor Afshin Ellian, would be to deprive jihadists of their Dutch passports as soon as they leave for Syria. Dutch national law, however, has now been subordinated to European Union law. Article 7 (part 1 sub d) of the European Convention on Nationality states that a citizen's Dutch nationality can only be revoked when one has conducted acts that are "seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the State;" and Article 4 (sub b) of the same convention states that "Statelessness shall be avoided."
Apart from Dutch Moroccans, who, by Moroccan law, are prohibited from relinquishing their Moroccan passports, the fear of causing statelessness is a serious problem when trying to prevent European jihadist fighters from returning from Syria to their European host countries.
Justice minister Ivo Opstelten of the Conservative Party says he is currently designing a bill to bypass these laws. So far, no Syria returnee's Dutch nationality has been revoked, and the lawyers of returnees are likely to argue that their clients' renewed "religious interests" are a private matter and do not in any way conflict with the vital interest of the state.
So, while refraining from the only practical action to protect its citizens, what is the Netherlands doing to prevent terrorism by returnees from Syria?
They are being pampered with privileges in no way available for the common struggling citizen.
Regular citizens in need of psychological help sometimes have to contend with waiting lists for months, and many citizens are insured for only 8 to 15 sessions. By contrast, returnees from Syria receive their care instantly and are entitled to it indefinitely.
The city of Delft for example, a known hotbed for jihadists, communicated that returnees were also entitled to housing, a job and psychological care. "The purpose of this local action is deradicalization through the stabilization and normalization of the situation in which the returnee finds himself. This is a custom project and on the one hand consists of reintroducing structure in daily life, education, housing, debt restructuring etc. On the other hand, there will be psychological care available and/or specialist coaching in service of deradicalization."
With Western countries as enemies, why would jihadists need friends?