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‘Complaints office not just for Muslims’

3 August 2007 - The Muslim Discrimination Complaints Office in de Baarsjes should change its name so as to make it clear that not just Muslims, but all residents are welcome, VVD party leader Tom Leest says.

The office was created in 2005. After the murder of Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist, the district wanted mosques to sign a ‘Contract with Society’ stipulating that they would report extremists to the police. In exchange, Fatih Dag of the Aya Sofya organisation asked for the creation of the centre.

Dag was inspired by the Anti-Semitism Complaints Office run by the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI). Dag is better known as one of the key players in the controversial Westermoskee mosque affair.

The centre in de Baarsjes has received 65 reports, 61 of them from people with a Muslim, Turkish or Moroccan background. Leest says the centre is doing a good job, but that more should be done to reach non-Muslims. Later this year, the centre will be evaluated. On the basis of the outcome, a decision on its continuation will be made.

The Muslim Discrimination Complaints Office has won a case against the Public Library, which had turned down a job applicant because she wore a headscarf covering her ears. Days before the ruling, the library changed its regulations and presented new uniforms that include an optional headscarf that covers the ears (photo). The centre further provides training to schools and local policemen.

The suggestion to change the name of the centre will be on the agenda of the district council in September. It seems likely that the change of name will go ahead. Non-Muslims are already welcome at the centre.

Incidentally, one might argue that it was the district that first set Muslims apart as a group by asking only mosques to commit to its anti-extremism programme. Leest agrees that it might have been better to involve the entire population, although he adds that it is easy to make such judgements with hindsight.


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