'Unlawful' mosque probes conducted in The Netherlands
The Netherlands is at the centre of controversy after a report said several municipalities had paid hundreds of thousands to a private company to secretly spy on mosques and Muslim centres in the country.
Ten municipalities paid companies to investigate mosques, imams and Muslim community leaders, prompting criticism about privacy, according to a report by Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad.
The municipalities involved include Rotterdam, Almere, Huizen, Delft, Ede and several others, and it is believed that some €300,000 has been spent on the covert investigations, Daily Sabah reported citing NRC.
Employees of consultancy firm Nuance door Training en Advies (NTA) posed as mosque-goers and members of the community, to meet with imams and Muslim worshippers, in order to collect information about their backgrounds, without revealing their identity.
One municipality, Utrecht, reportedly halted its investigations over concerns about privacy and the way the investigation was conducted.
Municipalities involved in the investigation were unhappy with a government report on Islamic State radicalisation in the country and decided to conduct these investigations separately.
Muslim organisation SPIOR said the investigation amounted to "Islamophobia".
"With a government that so violently and radically portrays the Muslim community as the 'other' and 'potentially dangerous', populism seems to have reached the upper government levels," SPIOR said.
Parts of the Dutch government has been accused of fostering Islamophobic sentiments.
Earlier this year far-right businessman and leader of the PVV party Geert Wilder was convicted for inciting hatred and violence.
The case involves statements he made about Moroccans while campaigning in The Hague in March 2014.
Wilders had asked a group of people in a café if they want “more or fewer Moroccans in this city and the Netherlands", and after the audience said “fewer”, he responded: "Well, then we will arrange that."
The court at the time called his statements "unnecessarily damaging…even if it was done in the context of the political debate".