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Saturday 20 December  
Ahmed Aboutaleb
The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands

WikiLeaks: US courted Dutch Muslims after Van Gogh murder

Published on : 21 January 2011 - 4:34pm | By Johan van der Tol (Foto: flickr / rnw)
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An all-expenses-paid study trip to the US: that was the offer to a number of prominent Dutch Muslims following the killing of controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004. Now WikiLeaks documents reveal that these trips were part of a concerted effort by Washington to win the hearts and minds of Dutch Muslims. Among them was the current Mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb.

Nordin Ghoudani was one of those fortunate enough to be offered such a trip after being invited for a number of conversations at the US Embassy. Now that he is aware of being a cog in the wheel of US policy, he tells Dutch broadcaster NOS that he looks back on the trip with mixed feelings.

“The knowledge that Washington, and former president George W Bush, insisted on these trips... yes, that puts things in a different perspective.”

Poorly integrated
On 2 November 2004, the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh at the hands of a radical Muslim sent shock waves through the Netherlands. Van Gogh had collaborated with politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the film Submission, a fierce indictment of the position of women in Islam. The US authorities examined the situation and came to the conclusion that the Netherlands was home to the most poorly integrated Muslim community in Europe.

The Dutch Muslims were described as strongly anti-American, an attitude that Washington was keen to change. Diplomats were ordered to seek contact with leading members of the Muslim community. They organised Ramadan dinners and offered study trips to the US for the select few. It was all done with the aim of cultivating greater understanding for the US and America’s views.

Nordin Ghoudani describes how it worked.

“I had a couple of discussions. We were invited, together with a number of Muslims. Eventually I was also selected to take part in a programme in the US, the Edward Murrow Programme. Yes, that took me to America for a couple of months.”

Equal footing
The programme Nordin Ghoudani refers to is an American study programme for foreign journalists. There the Muslims were courted by the Americans. One of the participants, Ahmed Larouz, praises the Americans’ egalitarian approach as something that might serve as an example to many Dutch politicians.

“I have to be honest: the conversations were always positive and took place on a very equal footing. I think they were better than some talks with other political parties in the Netherlands.”

One year after the launch of its charm offensive, the US Embassy in The Hague reported that the number of Muslim contacts being maintained had risen from 50 to 131. And diplomats say that number is still growing.

Government minister
The most prominent of these contacts is Ahmed Aboutaleb, then Executive Councillor of Integration in Amsterdam and current Mayor of Rotterdam. Reporting on WikiLeaks documents, the NOS says Americans describe him as one of their best Muslim contacts. He too enjoyed an all-expenses-paid three-week study trip to the US.

Mr Aboutaleb told local Rotterdam station Radio Rijnmond that he was not a US informer. He explained that as Amsterdam alderman at the time of the Van Gogh murder he spoke to a wide range of people "from all over the world" about the integration of Muslims in the Dutch capital. "And I paid for the tickets to the US with my own money," Mr Aboutaleb added.


tecumseh35 7 March 2011 - 12:29am / United States

It never ceases to amaze me how gullible Europeans have become. Do you ever question the motives of those who feed you this crap? I mean think about it. Is there any other country on earth who would to see all muslims dead, besides Israel. Muslims are one terrorist act away from being tossed into the atlantic ocean. Wikileaks is an org. whos goal is to weaken US influence in the world by any means.The truth is you decided(europeans) to not fight along side us. You people decided it was better to drag us through the sewer instead of helping a democracy that liberated you. Use your friggin common sense next time. You all love to state your superior intelligence to Americans, so act like it for once in your life, jerkoffs.

Ed Zuiderwijk 23 January 2011 - 10:32pm / England

Looks like the US has been repeating the same mistakes they made with the IRA when they allowed that a particular part of the populace supported financially a vile terrorist movement.

For some people the penny just never drops.

Hiram1 23 January 2011 - 11:18pm

Ed Zuiderwijk, do you know who created the vile, terrorist movement called the IRA? The British government, did! How did they do it? By invading Ireland and using terrorism against it's citizens. When the U.S. was controlled by the British, the Americans got tired of their abuses and fought back. The Americans were supported by a particular part of Europe, called the French. Without the financial help of the French, the Americans could have never escaped the tyranny of the British. It goes the same with the Irish Americans who supported the IRA and their fight to free Ireland from British tyranny. The Irish were probably vile, terrorists but lets us not leave out the British. The British have very bloody hands and they have terrorised millions of innocent humans in their conquest to control the land and resources from India to the U.S. They are the Mother of Terrorism. History has prove it.

Mowale 21 January 2011 - 9:03pm / NL

"The Dutch Muslims were described as strongly anti-American" You gotta love the propaganda. RNLD Stop being such an ignorant and be as neutral as possible, specially when it comes to citizens of yours.

Just a thought.

Vera Gottlieb 21 January 2011 - 8:26pm / Germany

Am I missing something here? The US is turning more and more Islamophobic and yet, it invites people who were instrumental in a murder? I don't get it. But then, of course, the US always supports those from whom it can profit, regardless of their "credentials".

Paardestaart 23 January 2011 - 9:43pm / Netherlands

What a despicable reaction. The vulgar and ungrateful anti-americanism of Europeans is really disgraceful. Stupid, above all.
Americans have invited these dutch muslims because they genuinely believed that it would be wise to convince the umma from the fact that America would not react the way an islamic country would if it had been attacked as America was, namely by declaring an all out war on the enemy. Furthermore, Americans at the administrative level are very pc, and they are almost all convinced that islam really is a religion of peace, and that a gentle approach may help to avoid unpleasantness, and to ameliorate the situation in the middle east.
By the way - the muslims who went to the states were not involved in the murder of Van Gogh. Not personally, that is. Only their religion is.

thebear 23 January 2011 - 10:47am / The Netherlands

Maybe it's just a case of keeping your enemies close. There is a logic to that.

Anonymous 23 January 2011 - 2:16am / NL

Unlike the proud German race, which has two core criteria: the blondness of your hair and the blueness of your eyes.

Anon 21 January 2011 - 9:45pm / U.S.

Islamophobia is a term coined by the Muslims. It means fear of Muslims. Americans are not afraid of Muslims. The American people are learning the history and tenets of Islam, have identified it as more of a political ideology then a religion, and are reading about the widespread violence perpetrated by Muslims throughout the world. We don't like what we are learning. Meanwhile, our gullible U.S. govt. officials believe what the Muslim leaders say about their "religion", and think that if they coddle Muslims, accord their "religion" every accommodation, accommodations not accorded any other religion, and just generally show what nice guys they are, the Muslims will stop wanting to kill us. The Muslims interpret this kind of behavior as weakness, not niceness. They don't care how nice we are. Pleasing Allah is all they care about. Read the Koran to find out what Allah wants.

Anonymous 21 January 2011 - 5:52pm

How cheap! Rewarding them?

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