Minister Asscher to consider Dutch language and culture courses for foreign imams

Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Lodewijk Asscher has written to the House of Representatives today to announce that he is considering offering foreign imams the opportunity to follow a Dutch language and culture course before they relocate to the Netherlands to take up a permanent post at a mosque. The proposals echo a similar initiative in Germany, where Turkish imams are already offered such courses before coming to the country to preach.

In his letter Mr Asscher refers to his recent discussions with representatives of Turkish religious movements and organisations in the Netherlands. The topics covered included the position of young Turkish-Dutch people, the influence of the Turkish government on the organisations and transparency.

The organisations agreed with Mr Asscher to work together to prevent young Turkish-Dutch people isolating themselves from Dutch society. The minister also called on the organisations to boost their public profile and thereby address their perceived lack of transparency. He writes that he will continue to invest in relations with Turkish religious movements and organisations to facilitate solid cooperation and critical dialogue.

Mr Asscher goes on to address the Turkish government’s criticism of the Netherlands in November last year. In response to a report on Turkish religious movements and organisations commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, a spokesperson for Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke of ‘aggressive and racist accusations toward Turks who are part of Dutch society’.

The minister writes that, since November, the issue has been discussed at various diplomatic levels. It has been explained that the Netherlands is pursuing a policy of integration that focuses on allowing members of the Turkish community in the Netherlands to play a full role in Dutch society. Everyone remains entitled to participate in religious or cultural organisations. However, the Dutch government insists these organisations be transparent, including about the influence of foreign governments.