To Get to the Other Side

A journey through Europe and its anarchist movements

Citizens Afraid, Government Happy

Translation of an article in the Dutch anarchist magazine Buiten de Orde, no.19 issue 2.

Present day Dutch politics is ruled by the codeword “Muslim terrorism.” Laws are changed, civil rights are trampled, and prohibitions are applied. But we’re not familiar with any Muslim terrorism in Nederland. A brief examination of the how and why of the existing Muslim policy.

The Beginning of “Muslim Terrorism.”

Since 11 September 2001, Muslim terrorists have been talked about in politics and in public space. From that date a discourse has developed in which citizens are deluded with the frightening prospect of Muslims taking power. “Western democracy” is said to be in danger. As an answer to the attacks America invaded Afghanistan at the end of 2001. In 2003 Iraq followed. Both wars were and are supported by the Dutch government. First Nederland maintained that it supported the war “politically,” and it was later revealed that in secret it was giving practical support in the form of Dutch commandos and F-16’s from the Royal Airforce. The Dutch government pumped an enormous amount of budget money into these wars.

Who Are the Dutch Muslim Terrorists?

Muslim terrorists are not said to exist only in faraway lands. We also have them in Nederland. The group of people pushed forward by the Dutch state as an organized Muslim group with the goal of carrying out terrorist attacks was the Capital Group. One of the people supposed to belong to this group was Mohammed B., who killed Theo van Gogh.[1] After this murder the entire group was arrested and locked up for varying periods of time.

What Has Happened in Pursuance of the Supposed Presence of a Terrorist Group of Muslims in Nederland?

Politically: Politicians have painted a picture of a great danger that threatens our Dutch democracy. Against this danger hard measures had to be taken. There was talk of an emergency situation, in which civil rights (such as privacy) would have to make way for the national well-being.

In the Press: Certain stories were reinforced and exaggerated. The media functioned as a mouthpiece for politicians. Through newspapers, magazines, TV and internet, over the past few years the picture has been constructed of a situation that has “gotten out of hand,” and that poses a danger for Western society and freedoms.

Juridically: Because of the emergency situation that rules our land, politicians began initiatives to change the laws. It was maintained that due to the protection of civil rights, the struggle against Muslim terrorism was being frustrated. For everyone’s safety the Dutch citizens had to surrender a small piece of their rights. Here follows merely a small number of examples from laws that were changed after the appearance of the struggle against terrorism.

  • The law on mandatory identification (29:218): the requirement to bear and show a valid identity card for all people residing in Nederland. Adopted in 2003.
  • Expansion of the possibilities for the investigation and prosecution of terrorist crimes (30.164).This bill expands the ability of police and the courts to take action at the earliest possible moment to prevent terrorist attacks. With this bill the government can intervene sooner in the case of a major threat. The use of these special investigative powers no longer requires the reasonable suspicion that a punishable offense is being committed. Mere indications are sufficient. Adopted in May 2006.
  • Increased ability of the intelligence and security services to investigate and take measures against terrorists and other dangers in relation to national security (30.553). That means among other things the introduction of mandatory data distribution and uniform automated databases. The bills intend to help increase the efficiency of the various branches of the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) and the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD). Adopted in October 2007.

Though this is just a small sample from many possible examples, we can draw a number of conclusions. First of all state control over private matters has intensified and the state has greatly expanded its mandate for control. All data can be examined and the secret services have secured many more opportunities to do so. Secondly the state no longer needs to justify arrests with the suspicion (or even just the presumption) of a punishable offense. Nowadays they need only point the finger. This means that any individual could be arrested at any moment and the state need not even give a substantial reason.

It’s not only easier for the state to carry out arrests now, but also prosecutions. Trial can be delayed for longer; where the maximum wait used to be 90 days, it’s now two years. In other words, with just a vague suspicion, without any accusation based on actual facts, a suspect can sit in jail for two years without trial.

The end of these changes to the law is not yet in sight. Even more serious, it seems like it’s barely begun. Thus people who “incite hate or violence” can be taken out of action more easily. The cabinet is also looking for ways to make “glorifying or praising serious crimes” a punishable offense. The writing of this article that you are now reading would also be a crime, under this law.

How was the Capital Group judged juridically?

For three and a half years we were hearing that the Capital Group was a terrorist cell of radical Muslim fundamentalists with the goal of carrying out attacks and killing people. Recently the Den Haag court announced that the Capital Group was not a terrorist organization (there was no talk of a criminal organization with a criminal intention). Now it’s not as though we as anarchists put much value in the judgment of judicial power. This will always be devoted primarily to protect the interests of the ruling class. The significance of this judicial verdict, however, lies in what it reveals about the objectives of the politicians. You might think that we can now breathe freely, because there is no Muslim terrorist organization in Nederland! Moreover, the anti-terror laws can be revoked: but the politicians are sending out the opposite message. Among others the CDA and VVD were displeased by the verdict.[2] Instead of recognizing that the Capital Group was no terrorist organization, the CDA and VVD advocated a sharpening of the anti-terrorism legislation. Such a reaction demonstrates that the governing parties don’t have the intention of letting factual information be tested by a judge, only that the fiction of Muslim terrorism remain in place.

Why do the authorities want the fear of Muslim terrorists to remain high, whatever the cost?

In a society that traffics in fear, politicians can set themselves and their institutions up as the defenders of the people. It is thus necessary that the citizens believe in the “actual” danger, that they fully trust the authorities, and that they themselves are happy to enjoy such protection. The feeling of fear must be so deeply rooted that people are prepared to give up basic human rights for the good of the “security situation.” Also the many millions that will be spent on war in the Middle East must be legitimized to the people. It just doesn’t sound good to say that the goal of the war is to conquer a land with large oil reserves.

The creation of a sphere of fear isn’t anything new. This tactic has been around for years. Think for example of the “Red Scare” in America. There the fear of communists after the Russian Revolution and in the fifties was cranked up and exploited to such an extent that all sorts of laws could be introduced and undesirable people could be silenced and estranged.

One of the characteristics of this tactic is the selection of a suitable group of people to get it started with. This must be a group of people whose experiences are far removed from the people in the country in question; a group against whom there already exist many prejudices that can be encouraged and multiplied. In the case of the “Red Scare” this was the communists, and now the Muslims have been chosen for this role. In short, the authorities profit from a total climate of fear. To keep this climate in place and to fuel it, they will do anything to exaggerate situations of terror and to let them develop in a controlled manner.

Summing up…

Within the period of fear the legal system is transformed and military operations are executed. The admission (years later) that the reasons for these happenings and interventions were fictitious is unimportant for the authorities. After all, the damage has already been done.

Firstly the military intervention has already taken place and the Dutch state has already participated in the murder of many thousands of inhabitants of Iraq and Afghanistan. Secondly we see that the transformation of the legal system is a well advanced project.

Once these projects are completed, the emphasis on Muslims will fall away. Then it will be apparent that they were only used to garner public support on racist grounds for the projects in question. Afterwards the transformed and newly created laws will be utilized to increase the repression against anyone who criticizes the system. So we see once again that the state does not want to protect us, but rather to come up with false pretenses in order to oppress us, to control us, and to exploit us

“First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Muslim. (…) Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up for me.”


[1]The Capital Group was a high profile group of people arrested in Den Haag, the Dutch capital. Theo van Gogh was a progressive filmmaker who made a film perceived to be critical or insulting towards Islam.

[2]The Christian Democrats and the Liberals, major political parties on the right and center, respectively, that make up the ruling coaltion.

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