Dutch anti-terrorism coordinator links Turkish President Erdogan’s anti-Western rhetoric with rise of Salafism and terror attacks

THE HAGUE — In a leaked report, the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding en Veiligheid, NCTV) has expressed serious concerns about the influence of anti-Western rhetoric by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the rise of Salafism in the Netherlands. Salafism is generally regarded as an extremely conservative movement within Islam which advocates compliance to the Islamic law of Sharia.

According to Dutch media, the leaked report states that Erdogan implements a deliberate and conscious strategy of pro-Turkey and anti-Western rhetoric which has significant impact on security in the Netherlands. The report links a terrorist attack on a tram in 2019 in the Dutch city of Utrecht to the Turkish President’s anti-Western rhetoric. The day prior to the attack in Utrecht, Erdogan made statements in which he addressed the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand as a “war between Muslims and Christians”. The attack by a Dutch person of Turkish origin in Utrecht left four people dead.

The report by the NCTV also expresses concerns of the influence and hold of  Turkey on Turkish–Dutch social and religious organizations, like mosques and religious schools.

The report also cites precedents in Germany, Switzerland, and France. On October 2020, the German government released a similar report stating that Turkish organizations are used as pro-Turkish and anti-Western platforms to influence German citizens with Turkish roots. The German report also expressed concerns about the links between the Turkish organizations and the conservative Muslim Brotherhood. Last year, the Government of France outright banned the Grey Wolves, the ultra-nationalist movement tied to the Turkish National Action Movement (MHP) which is coalition with the Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

In a recent paper, Netherlands-based Sallux, the official foundation/think tank of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), has advocated that NATO member states pass domestic legislation stating that they will not support Turkey if it were to come under attack. In an opinion editorial published by SyriaPress, Sallux Director Johannes de Jong explained the move as one which could help to, “… put the brakes on Turkey … until [it] ceases its foreign interventions and occupations” without going so far as to expelling it from the treaty entirely.

Such a move would not necessarily suspend Article 5 of the treaty, which stipulates that “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”, but would rather make clear to Turkey that, should it need to invoke Article 5 in the near future, it should not expect a generous interpretation of the text of the treaty. As de Jong points out:

Article 5 … states countries must support one another, but does not specify that this support must be in the form of military assistance. This is to say, it is up to the discretion of the remaining NATO countries whether or not to militarily support a particular NATO country if they are attacked. As the paper explains, Article 5 was worded this way intentionally, to provide for precisely this possibility.