Islamic Schoolboard Organisation threatens new Islamic school

Damini Sitaram

THE HAGUE – The Organisation of Islamic Schoolboards (ISBO) is trying to stop the establishment of an Islamic secondary school in The Hague. The ISBO is of the opinion that the foundation behind the initiative is not reliable. It has therefore said that, if necessary, the ISBO will take legal steps in order to prevent the Islamic secondary school from opening.

On the 17th of May, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science approved the request of Sonar Atasoy, chairman of the foundation “De Ozonlaag”, to open such a school. Together with the Dutch government, this foundation had been discussing for a while the possibility of starting a secondary school based around Islamic values in the Schilderswijk in The Hague.

The ISBO has made strong criticism regarding the government’s approval. Director Yusuf Altuntas stated: ‘we have no faith in this organisation. We are familiar with Sonar Atasoy and he has also made similar requests in Amsterdam. This idea previously failed in Amsterdam, yet he continues to send in applications.’

The approval of the project was based on calculations indicating that the school would receive enough students to be a feasible project. The request regarded three different levels of education, namely MAVO, HAVO and VWO. The reason for the sufficiently large amount of expected students is that the basis of the school is to be Islam and Hinduism. This is different from earlier attempts in other cities, where with just a Muslim-only school the number of prospective students remained too low. Whether or not the school would actually be founded on Hindu as well as Islamic principles is unclear.

Another criticism of “De Ozonlaag” that the ISBO puts forward, is that Atasoy is its only director. This can cause problems, according to ISBO, as ‘the full responsibility of the education of our children is in the hands of one man.’

City Hall (Night)

Arnoud van Doorn, representative of the Unity Party (Dutch: Partij van de Eenheid) in The Hague’s city council, does not agree with the criticism aimed at Atasoy. ‘He is not the sole director of the foundation. There are many people behind it who are reliable, knowledgeable when it comes to education, and who’s aim is to create an excellent school.’

Arnoud van Doorn was a member of the Freedom Party (Dutch: Partij voor de Vrijheid, or PVV) until he converted to Islam in 2013 and decided to leave the party. The PVV is known for its radical views concerning Islam and its opinion that Europe should be wary of increasing ‘Islamisation.’ After having left the PVV, Mr Van Doorn co-founded the Islamic Unity Party, which has for several years now been making an effort to create an Islamic secondary school.

State Secretary of Education Sander Dekker is also hesitant when it comes to Atasoy’s trustworthiness. Last year, Mr Dekker ordered an inquiry, as one of Atasoy’s colleagues in the foundation’s board praised IS (Islamic State) and none of the other members, including Atasoy, distanced themselves from these remarks.

(Dutch only)

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