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‘Jihad scene the Netherlands intact and bigger than ever’

Although Islamic State has largely been beaten, for now the Jihad scene in the Netherlands is more than alive. That is what professor Edwin Bakker (terrorism and counterterrorism) recently said in an interview in the Algemeen Dagblad.

Bakker is afraid that the attention for the returned foreign fighters will decrease now that IS seems to be practically defeated. ‘The jihad scene is still intact and bigger than ever. The scene gets new heroes: the people returning from Syria or from prison. Their brothers welcome them with open arms. Do we see that as a problem now, or are we not going to consider that as a problem until someone commits an attack a while from now? Or if there is a new conflict zone, where suddenly hundreds of Dutch people go to?  ’

Low level of penalties 

Bakker states the Dutch government is pretending to be ‘very tough’ when it comes to  the approach of terrorism suspects and returned jihad fighters, but in fact we are rather soft in an international perspective. ‘We send all terrorism suspects to the prison in Vught and close the door: there you go, you have to stay at the special, extra strict Terrorism department. But our level of penalties is simply low when compared to other countries. In the short time that they are detained, they tend to harden, they are detained for a too short period to really think about their future, too short to really get them out of their own circles.’

Spreading fear

At the same time, Bakker is surprised that a small group of extremists can dictate the political agenda and spread fear. ‘I am afraid of an overreaction if there should be an attack in The Netherlands.  Such an overreaction gives that person exactly what he wants. Who dares to say at such a moment ‘this is just something that may happen’? Because from a historic point of view, the Netherlands have never been as safe as now, maybe we should stress that more.

Read the entire interview here (in Dutch).

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