Britain, Germany, Netherlands to jointly counter Islamic extremism

February 12th, 2009 - 11:31 am ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Feb 12 (DPA) The governments of Germany, Britain and The Netherlands have pledged to increase cooperation on countering Islamic extremism, at the opening of a joint symposium.
The opening event Wednesday was attended by German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, his British counterpart, and a representative of the Dutch interior ministry.

British Interior Minister Jacqui Smith said: “It’s clear that we share a common threat that demands a united response, even if the specific nature of that threat differs from country to country.”

“We can learn a lot from each other, not only in how we can counter the threat, but also how we can coordinate our actions,” she added.

The symposium, organised by the German interior ministry in association with the British and Dutch embassies in Germany, aims at finding unified approaches to the problems posed by Islamist extremism in Europe.

Schaeuble stressed the importance of international cooperation in monitoring websites that recruit potential extremists and disseminate extremist messages.

“Even if the mix of backward ideologies and advanced technology initially appears paradoxical, the Internet is an ideal platform” for those plotting to disrupt the status quo, Schaeuble said.

He cited the fact that the Internet transcends borders and creates spaces beyond the rule of law as reasons to work together.

“It doesn’t make sense for all security authorities to look for the same messages or all try to translate the same Arab dialect,” he added.

Dutch government representative Dick Schoof spoke on behalf of Interior Minister Guusje Ter Horst, who could not attend due to illness.

Schoof emphasised the importance of communicating across borders.

“Today’s meeting is about keeping each other alert,” he said, adding that “where radicalism is concerned, the smallest signs are the very ones we need to see, in order to prevent the biggest consequences”.

Schoof described the Dutch approach to extremism of any form, be it far-right extremists, Islamists or animal activists.

Authorities, he said, worked at a community level and offered advice to “the teacher who notices a student behaving strangely”, or “parents who can no longer connect with their child”.

Over the course of the symposium, specialists from the three countries will share experiences and discuss ways of cooperating to crack down on Islamist extremism, both by preventing radicalisation and being better prepared against potential attacks.

In 2005, London was attacked by four men who killed 52 people and wounded around 800 by blowing themselves up in trains and a bus.

The murder of Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh in 2004 increased the government response to Islamist radicalisation in The Netherlands.

In Germany, a plot to blow up two German trains with suitcase bombs was foiled in 2006.

Security officials warned last month that Germany faces an increased risk of Islamist terror attacks ahead of national elections in September.

In January, several videos were posted on the Internet in which German speakers issued threats, linked to the country’s military presence in Afghanistan.

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