THE HAGUE, NIS NEWS – Mayor Job Cohen of Amsterdam is prepared to give subsidies to radical mosques. He is thereby adopting a quite remarkable interpretation of the principle of separation of Church and State.
According to critics, separation of Church and State is violated if a government authority subsidises construction of a church or mosque. But Cohen disagrees. Conversely, in his view the separation of church and state would however be violated if government subsidised only moderate Islam and not radical Muslims.
Cohen gives his remarkable views in a memorandum, ‘Separation of Church and State,’ launched by Amsterdam last weekend. In an interview with Trouw newspaper, he defended his policy on encouraging the building of mosques.
“The Netherlands was always a country of minorities whose rights needed protection. We do not involve ourselves with the content of religions, nor they in our administration. But that does not mean that we may not support any religious institutions, that we may not deploy any Imam to address radicalising youngsters, or even sometimes offer some extra support for building a mosque, synagogue or ‘black’ church, because the groups that make use of it are in a deprived situation. Yes, that means that we can also support an orthodox mosque if we have the arguments to assert that this mosque is in its place there.”
Cohen continues: “If you provide subsidies, you do have to give arguments as to why. One reason can be that a house of prayer can make a contribution to the cohesion in a district. But trying to influence the teaching in the mosque (…) by imposing conditions on the belief that the people profess, that does mean violating the separation of Church and State.”
“There are tensions in society due to the rapid rise of Islam, at a moment when many Dutch have said farewell to their Christian faith. This clashes now and again. Many view the rise of Islam as a threat. (…) You notice that the principle of separation of Church and State leads to confusion” among citizens, added Cohen, who apparently now wants to redefine the principle.
In the Netherlands, this principle is not enshrined in the Constitution, nor in any other statutory instrument. According to the Amsterdam memorandum, the principle has in fact been no more than a ‘political agreement between church and worldly powers not to muddy each other’s waters too much.’ Centuries ago, Church and State both wanted state political power, according to the memorandum, thereby suggesting that today, there is no religion any more that seeks control of the state.
Cohen also suggest in Trouw that he wants the controversial Westermoskee mosque built as quickly as possible. Building was halted over a year ago after a series of scandals, including a statement by the mosque leaders that they did not want to pursue a moderate course, though this had in fact been agreed with Amsterdam’s De Baarsjes district.
Cohen refers to the Westermoskee mosque as an example of discrimination against radical Muslims by the government. He provided a subsidy for its construction, but “the De Baarsjes district executive (…) only wanted to finance it if the mosque would propagate a liberal Islam.” This meant the principle of separation of Church and State had been lost, the Labour (PvdA) mayor repeated. “The city will continue to support religious institutions if the executive considers this necessary, but will not specify what they must say in a mosque.”