The dilemmas of defense play out in the Netherlands. Why not ask the leaders of the Muslim community there to formulate what they believe would be an adequate defense against the specter of terrorist attacks? That could be an extremely enlightening exercise. From AP, with thanks to Nicolei.
After the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, Dutch intelligence claimed to have uncovered a series of Islamic terrorist plots, prompting many people here to wonder: “Are we next?”
The terror fears have spawned a raft of harsh security measures – from forcing citizens over 13 to carry identity cards, to authorizing police to stop and search people with no apparent cause – that challenge the image of the Netherlands as one of the world’s most progressive nations.
Some people are already talking about a serious erosion of civil liberties.
“The government is playing a game of panic football, where they move from one expansion of the law to another in reaction to the latest development,” said Jessica Silversmith, a spokeswoman for the National Anti-Discrimination Bureau, a nongovernment organization.
While there is no equivalent to the U.S. Patriot Act in Europe, most countries have taken anti-terrorism steps that curtail civil liberties: Britain has held foreign suspects without charge, while Germany began religious profiling of suspects in the days after Sept. 11.
In France, with its history of attacks from Algerian dissidents, special judges have wiretapping powers similar to those granted to prosecutors under new Dutch laws.
But the new power of the law enforcement agencies seem an odd fit here in the Netherlands – a country with a let-live attitude that was the first to tolerate marijuana use and to legalize euthanasia and gay marriage.
Among other measures implemented in reaction to the threat of terror in the Netherlands are relaxing rules on wiretapping and monitoring Internet traffic, and tripling the amount of time suspects can be held without charge from three days to ten.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, 40 Muslims have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism-related activity – only two have been convicted of any crime. The latest arrests came in July, but the detentions were only disclosed this month.
Many Muslims claim the anti-terror laws – and the willingness of authorities to enforce them – are part of a wider problem of xenophobia that has gripped the nation in recent years.
Said Bouddouft, chairman of a support group for North African immigrants, said the security laws are a “cause for concern,” citing several instances where Muslims seemed to have been victims of racial profiling.
Here is Daniel Pipes with a good piece on profiling, and why it is counterproductive to search for terrorists among the Pennsylvania Amish.