An article spreading harmful generalisations about Salafism in Belgium and the Netherlands has been published by the Belgian news outlet DH.be.
The Get the Trolls Out! partner in Belgium, European Network on Religion and Belief, has submitted a complaint to DH.be requesting significant edits to the article.
The article claims that Salafist schools in the Netherlands are causing concern because they teach pupils to “refuse to be part of Dutch society” and that “non-Muslim people deserve the death penalty”. It states that according to the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAM) in Belgium, several state departments in charge of security “have kept an eye on Salafist members” for years. The article also mentions that “state security figures from April show that our country is home to hundreds of Salafist organizations (mosques, religious centres, schools)”, and while “there is no data on how much the phenomenon is growing but the number seems to be increasing.”
This article presents a superficial and misleading understanding of Salafism by regarding it as a movement based on hatred towards the West. In fact, Salafism is an orthodox Sunni reform movement that emerged at the turn of the twentieth century, encouraging emulation of the first followers of the Prophet Muhammad, the “salaf” or predecessors. According to Oxford Islamic Studies Online, this movement emphasises the “restoration of Islamic doctrines to pure form, adherence to the Quran and Sunnah, rejection of the authority of later interpretations, and maintenance of the unity of ummah.” The article by DH.be wrongly depicts all Salafists as terrorists and this is a distorted view of this movement. While some terrorists do identify as Salafi, important sections of the Salaf movement distance themselves from violent extremism in Europe and respect democratic authority.
Rather than treating Salafism as whole as a security threat, the article should have said a specific school in the Netherlands was found disseminating violent ideas, but that it is not representative of all Salafist schools. The generalisations in this article misinform readers and spread fear about Muslim people who belong to this group which contributes to their stigmatisation.
At the time of writing, DH.be has not issued a reply to ENORB.