Germany, Our Pride And Angst Leading The Way On Refugees

Germany's welcoming of refugees is sending out a strong signal to the rest of Europe and the world. But there's hard work ahead in a country that knows the weight of history.

Refugees arriving at the Munich train station on Sep. 5
Refugees arriving at the Munich train station on Sep. 5
Jörg Eigendorf


BERLIN â€" Photographs of three children, variously heartrending and touching, have helped bring us closer to the truth: the dead Syrian boy washed up on the beach; the girl with the black curly hair and the soft smile at the Munich train station; the blond boy holding a "Welcome" sign...

It is these images that remind us of what we often try to push away: Being born in a modern and peaceful country is neither an acquisition nor an accomplishment. It's pure luck.

What we're witnessing in Germany suggests that perhaps many people are beginning to realize this. Germany's willingness to help desperate refugees has brought us admiration from around the world. Instead of running down streets holding torches and hounding people who have fled war to save their very lives, we are ready to share, ready to help.

This is encouraging, and we should proud of it. But let's remember what ushered in this euphoric wave of aid and goodwill: It was these pictures of children, this documentation of defenseless innocence, that pushed us to act.

Risks and dangers

With all the spontaneous emotion in this country, we shouldn't forget how long we, especially the government, have pushed this problem aside. We shouldn't forget either the shameful conditions that many of Germany's refugees are currently living in, and the remarkable commitment to refugee aid that civil society has proven.

Why should we face our government's failures in this current moment of euphoria? Because our biggest challenge still lies ahead of us. Winter is coming, and hundreds of thousands of desperate people will hurry towards the gates of Europe, no matter the quota Brussels might have agreed upon.

As evidenced by what happened Saturday night in Hungary, we won't be able to simply stand on the sidelines when a humanitarian catastrophe is in the offing. What is about to come doesn't have anything to do with iconic images of children. It will be difficult and unpleasant work. Huge integration efforts will be demanded, and will include risks and dangers. And refugees themselves will also face the enormous challenge of integrating in a new society.

Germany's part in this challenge may make it a role model, and it may even change Europe. We can prove that we are capable of even more than economic miracles and summer fairytales. We have no need to worry: If there is a country capable of this, then it must certainly be modern Germany with its people, economic power and sense of history.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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