- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

THE HAGUE The Dutch government has begun a criminal inquiry into Muslim clerics accused of inciting violence at mosques in the Netherlands.

The unprecedented move by the Justice Ministry comes after leading imams in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague were secretly caught on tape calling for the "destruction of the enemies of Islam" and encouraging Muslims to "disobey" Dutch law.

Prayers at the El Tawheed mosque in Amsterdam included recitations of "Allah make your enemies' lives an unbearable hell" and denunciations of President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Martyrdom was extolled at Amsterdam's El Rahma mosque, where the imam reportedly said: "Female Palestinian Muslims who offer their lives to Allah should be praised."

The lower house of the Dutch parliament urged prosecution of the clerics after the tape was broadcast on national television last week during a prime-time current affairs show.

The Muslim rhetoric appeared to go far beyond protected free speech, violating Article 6 of the Dutch Constitution, which guarantees freedom for all religions and "responsibility to uphold the law of the land."

Jan Peter Balkenende, the Christian Democrat leader and likely prime minister, said incitement in the mosques was "no longer acceptable." He swept the left out of power last month pledging to reverse the state policy of promoting multiculturalism.

Some imams have taken advantage of the Netherlands' tolerant climate to preach radical politics at prayer time, leading to a public outcry this year when one urged the death penalty for homosexuals. But this is the first time the authorities have been handed "a smoking gun" in the form of a tape.

Marking a dramatic shift in Dutch liberal sensibilities, both left and right are now calling for the expulsion of imams engaging in "flagrantly unlawful" activities.

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