European Union justice and interior ministers agreed Friday that new immigrants to the 25-nation bloc should be required to learn local languages, and to adhere to general “European values” that will guide them toward better integration. Dutch immigration minister Rita Verdonk, who chaired the meeting, said all countries agreed to make integrating newcomers a priority, considering the growing ethnic tensions as EU nations struggle to absorb a steady stream of poor, mostly Muslim immigrants. Just this month in the Netherlands, the slaying of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a suspected Muslim radical unleashed a wave of attacks against mosques, churches and religious schools in a country once famed for its tolerance. Tensions also rose in Belgium, where authorities arrested a suspect Friday accused of sending death threats to a senator of Moroccan heritage who criticized radical Muslims. “It’s not like we are against immigration,” Verdonk said. “If you want to live in the Netherlands, you have to adhere to our rules … and learn our language.” Highlighting a European-wide problem, Verdonk said that some 500,000 Turkish and Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands don’t speak Dutch.
One of the most popular politicians in the Netherlands said Friday the country’s democracy is under threat and called for a five-year halt to non-Western immigration in the wake of the killing of a Dutch filmmaker by a suspected Muslim radical. “We are a Dutch democratic society. We have our own norms and values,” right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders told The Associated Press in an interview. “If you chose radical Islam you can leave, and if you don’t leave voluntarily then we will send you away. This is the only message possible.” In his first interview with the foreign media since the slaying of filmmaker Theo van Gogh on Nov. 2, Wilders said his own life has been repeatedly threatened. He said he has begun living under state protection and has even had to stay away from his own home. Wilders split with the free-market coalition partner Liberal Party two months ago because it backed the candidacy of predominantly Muslim Turkey for the European Union. He formed his own conservative party, the Wilders Group, which has one seat in the 150-member parliament. But a recent poll suggested his anti-immigrant message was reverberating through the electorate, and he would win 24 seats if elections were held today — up from 19 seats before Van Gogh’s murder. Wilders said that without swift, bold action, Islamic fundamentalism will topple the country’s democratic system. “The Netherlands has been too tolerant to intolerant people for too long,” he said. “We should not import a retarded political Islamic society to our country. There is nothing to be ashamed of to say this. It’s not Islam. I speak out against the facts.”
Muslims in Britain are suffering soaring levels of Islamophobia and discrimination based on their faith, rather than the colour of their skin, a report published today says. Experts warned that significant numbers of British Muslims, particularly young men, are being marginalised by the inequalities they suffer compared with white and other ethnic groups. Of British Muslims, 80 per cent said they had suffered Islamophobia. The study, published to launch Islam Awareness Week, calls on the Government to do more to tackle discrimination and engage the Muslim community in society. Sher Khan, a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, said: “There is a real potential for Muslim people to become increasingly isolated within Britain, which goes completely against the idea of trying to create a more cohesive society. It is not going to be possible to achieve integration unless the concerns of British Muslims are addressed by the Government.” But he added: “It has to be a two-way process. British Muslims have got to build bridges and be proactive in terms of integrating with the rest of society.” The report, by the Open Society Institute, found that since the 11 September attacks 80 per cent of Muslims said they had been subjected to some form of Islamophobia