Trump And The World

Melania Trump And Me, Two Slovenians Arrive In Washington

Melania Trump in Cleveland, Ohio, in July
Melania Trump in Cleveland, Ohio, in July
Andrej Mrevlje

WASHINGTON — Melania Trump (or Melania Knavs, as she was called before she married and moved into Trump Tower) will be the only first lady since 1829 to have been born outside the United States. John Quincy Adams' wife, Louisa Adams, was the last, having been born in England when the U.S. was still a colony.

Even before she set foot in the White House last week to meet the Obamas, Melania Trump had received an invitation for an official visit to her native country, Slovenia. According to Delo, a Slovenian daily newspaper, Mrs. Trump was invited by the country's prime minister, Miro Cerar, in a letter of congratulations for "the success that is of historic significance for Slovenia" and that "makes the citizens of our country proud and happy."

Cerar also expressed his belief that a good relationship between the two countries will develop further with the support and help of the new first lady.

According to one CNN report, Mrs. Trump's fellow citizens are happy to see their native daughter heading to the White House. Why wouldn't they be? At the very least, as somebody observed, Slovenia will never again be confused with Slovakia. That is, providing that Donald Trump does not remarry again.

Photo: Marc Nozell

In spite of my political tastes, this event makes me happy, too. I am another Slovenian-born New Yorker who happened to also wind up in D.C., having moved here a couple of months ago. In spite of some doubts about whether the Trumps will actually settle down and live in the White House, I feel that there is a lot of change coming in my new city.

The Obamas will be missed, their simple elegance replaced by a noisier, more glossy kind of glamour. I can't get rid of the idea that the Old Post Office, which was transformed into the luxurious Trump International Hotel, will become a guest quarters of the White House, resolving its risky financial situation. My imagination flies, and I can already see foreign dignitaries staying in Trump's hotel at the expense of the U.S. government. And might Trump move the White House Correspondents' Dinner into the Presidential Hall of the hotel?

As far as the Slovenian-American relationship goes, I remain skeptical. It might well be that Ljubljana (the Slovenian capital) will send their best men to Washington D.C. or may even invest in a bigger and better embassy building in capital. But is it worth it? Perhaps I am wrong and perhaps Mrs. Trump does have abilities that until now we have been unable to detect. Perhaps the Slovenian prime minister's weird invitation to Mrs. Trump is not as bizarre as it seems.

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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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