LI and D66 lead freedom of belief debate across Dutch cities

“Radical Islamists are as Muslim as the KKK is Christian”, determined Hatim Beggar of Liberal International’s Mouvement Populaire (full member – Morocco) as two LI-D66 (full member – Netherlands) co-hosted events on freedom of belief concluded in the Netherlands in April.

Addressing large audiences in Groningen and Utrecht in the Netherlands, Liberal International Human Rights Committee (LI HRC) and Democrats 66 (D66, LI full-member), held debates on reconciling religious and non-religious beliefs in multicultural societies in what marked a second series of events on the topic. Under the theme Individual vs. Collective Identity, the event attempted to investigate the tension between the exclusivity of religions and their collective dimension on the one hand and the power of the individual to dictate his/her own right to religious and non-religious beliefs on the other. Special attention was given to diverse (multi-faith) societies where pressure often comes from within the community rather than the state.   

LI HRC Member and Former D66 Member of Parliament, Boris Van der Ham, moderated the discussions by posing questions on what liberal political parties can do to change social behavior towards Freedom of Belief. “We need to defend the right of every individual to express his/her own religion and identity. As liberals we should always put the secular law and state first as this protects religion and does not diminish it.”

The keynote speech was delivered by Hatim Beggar of Mouvement Populaire (LI full-member – Morocco) who discussed the changing perspective towards Islam around the world and in Morocco in particular.”The Moroccan Constitution acknowledges religious diversity by stipulating institutional power with the King who is the commander of believers and non-believers alike. It is precisely because of this model that Morocco is seen as a leading exporter of moderate Islam around the world having developed an international Imam training programme” he said. Referring to the growing misconception that Islam breeds radicalism he emphasized that radical Islamists are as Muslim as the KKK is Christian and pressed on the fact that radicalism is in fact wahhabism which is often used to control power and wealth.

Other experts alongside Van der Ham and Beggar included Annelou van Egmond, member of the D66 National Board and ALDE Party Vice-President, Alper Alasag of the Islam Kennis Center and Meryem Kaaboun, a student in Public Policy and Administration of Moroccan descent.

In line with the recently adopted LI resolution by the 199th Executive Committee in Johannesburg calling “on the Liberal International Human Rights Committee to make the study and promotion of Freedom of Religion and Belief one the key strands of its work in 2018”, the event served to promote Liberal International’s work by building on the recently published LI Booklet on Freedom of Belief and the conclusions drawn from earlier debates held on the fringes of the Africa Liberal Network General Assembly in Accra, Ghana.

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