Maria van der Hoeven, the Dutch minister of Education, wants to withdraw subsidies from one of the two Islamic high schools in the country. The Islamitisch College Amsterdam (ICA) was established in 2001 and has 800 students. Van der Hoeven told the Dutch Parliament that she “wants to do everything possible to stop the subsidies to the school or to close the school down.” The minister says if the school wants to survive it has to reopen with a new school board. Employees at the school, who have meanwhile been fired, accused the school of channelling 60,000 euros of government subsidies to “extremist organisations outside the country.” Van der Hoeven confirmed that students at the school score very low (3.3 on a scale between 3 and 15). Critics say the school uses books which despise non-Muslims and preach hatred towards them. The minister said, however, the school can only be closed by August at the earliest because otherwise 800 students would lose their school halfway through the school year.
There is a growing demand for Islamic schools in the Netherlands. Home schooling is restricted in the Netherlands. Article 23 of the Dutch Constitution, however, entitles private organisations, such as religious groups, to establish their own schools which the government subsidizes if certain standards are met. Traditionally most of these schools belonged to Christian and Jewish denominations. There have never been problems with confessional schools until Muslim immigrants began organizing Muslim schools.
Last year, the then Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali proposed to abolish Article 23, ban all religious schools and send all children to state schools where they have to learn tolerance. She said Article 23 hinders the integration of Muslim children because they end up in Islamic schools. Hirsi Ali’s proposal to restrict freedom of education caused a row within her own Liberal Party when she called her critics “reactionaries” who “deny reality” and have no idea about the problems relating to the integration of immigrants into Dutch society.
In 2004 the official Dutch School Inspection published a report saying the Islamitisch College fulfilled the required minimum educational standards, though improvements were necessary. The school denies its lessons deal inadequately with topics such as tolerance, integration of immigrants into Dutch society, emancipation, homosexuality and racial hatred. Last year the school refused to employ a (Muslim) teacher because she did not want to wear the hijab.