“Things are happening at the school which are not good for democracy and for integration,” said the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) in response to reports that Amsterdam-based Islamic school Cornelius Haga Lyceum allows its students to be influenced by administrators and teachers with links to terrorism. The school is a small institution with less than 200 students, but the spread of extremist sympathies is worrying.
The statement by the NCTV was based on intelligence from the AIVD, the Dutch intelligence service, after it expressed its concerns to the Municipality of Amsterdam and to the Ministry of Security and Justice on 7 March 2019. In light of the NCTV claim that prominent figures within the school have ties to a terrorist group, the Cornelius Haga Lyceum board was urged to resign. This is only one of the urgent measures taken by Dutch public figures to steer the school away from radical influences that pose security concerns.
Femke Halsema, Mayor of Amsterdam and former member of the House of Representatives, furthermore demanded that the Haga Lyceum, located on the Naritaweg in Amsterdam, allow the Inspectorate of Education full access for further investigation into the matter. The City also moved to suspend all subsidies for the school in an attempt to pressure the board to comply with its demands. The House of Representatives and the City Council had additionally hoped for the school to be closed down immediately after the serious NCTV report. But Chairman of the board and Director of the Haga Lyceum Söner Atasoy, of Turkish-Albanian background, firmly denied any claim that the school has links to terrorist groups.
The terrorist organization named by the NCTV is the Caucasus Emirate, a Chechnya-based group responsible for the attack on the Moscow metro in 2010. When the damning report of links between the radical group and the Haga Lyceum surfaced, a city hall representative was sent to deliver a letter from Mayor Halsema, summoning Söner Atasoy to the town hall to answer for the reports regarding his school – an invitation Mr. Atasoy initially refused, reports De Volkskrant. And due to the tension that had already arisen between the school and the City, the Inspectorate of Education failed to proceed with a planned unannounced visit to the school, deeming such a visit irresponsible in light of the growing tensions.
One of the main reasons for concern at the City Council is the inability of the school to guarantee its students a safe and democratic education system and environment, if the school acts in ways that are directly opposite to the Dutch government’s anti-radicalization strategies. If teachers and administrators are under the influence of extremist groups, students may be exposed to anti-democratic ideas spread by their teachers. New government legislation is therefore being introduced, which would oblige educational institutions to thoroughly demonstrate that the standards and quality of education provided meet the state’s requirements. Already, both primary and secondary schools are obliged to discuss topics on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.