Court orders Dutch government to finance new Islamic school

The leader of the Dutch far-right Party for Freedom Geert Wilders speaks to the press during his visit to the Schilderswijk district in The Hague in this file photo. The Netherlands' highest court ordered the Dutch government to approve funding for a new Islamic school in Amsterdam which it had sought to ban. (AFP file photo).
Updated 27 July 2017

Court orders Dutch government to finance new Islamic school

THE HAGUE: The Dutch government was ordered Wednesday by the country’s highest court to approve funding for a new Islamic school in Amsterdam which it had sought to ban.
Funding for the school was refused in 2014 by Deputy Education Minister Sander Dekker, after a member of the school’s board voiced support for the so-called Daesh jihadist group.
But the Council of State on Wednesday found there “is no valid reason for refusing the funding” after hearing the school had distanced itself from the man’s remarks as well as any kind of extremism.
The man in question had also been dismissed from the board, the court said in its ruling.
Dekker was ordered by the court to reverse his decision and find finances by Tuesday, August 1, ahead of the start of the next school year.
The issue of Islam and its influence on Dutch society has long fueled debate here, with outspoken far-right MP Geert Wilders having made a ban on the Qur'an and mosques a central plank of this year’s parliamentary elections.
His Freedom Party is now the second largest political group in parliament after winning 20 seats in the March polls.
The school, which would become only be the second Islamic high school in the country, is expected to welcome some 200 students this year. Dutch media reported it would have to be housed initially in temporary accommodation.
Dekker said he was frustrated by the decision, and still had concerns about “the quality of the education” that would be offered.
“We must do everything we can to ensure that our children get the education that they are entitled too, and learn what it means to be part of Dutch society,” he told public broadcaster NOS.
He has also asked the schools inspectors to check whether the school meets the country’s educational requirements.


Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

Updated 39 sec ago

Australian government to aid tourism industry as bushfires recede

  • Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia’s east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks
  • The Australian government said it will channel A$76 million ($52 million) to the tourism industry
MELBOURNE: The Australian government said on Sunday it will financially aid the country’s tourism sector that’s been badly hit by long-lasting bushfires, as Melbourne braced for downpours at the start of one of its greatest allures, the Australian Open.
Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia’s east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks, easing a disaster that has scorched an area roughly one-third the size of Germany.
The Australian government said on Sunday it will channel A$76 million ($52 million) to the tourism industry.
Twenty-nine people have been killed in the fires while thousands of animals have also perished.
Fears of smoke from the fires disrupting the Australian Open receded in Melbourne where the year’s first Grand Slam starts on Monday, but the city and parts of the bushfire-ravaged Victoria were bracing for heavy rains.
“Victoria is about to see its wettest two-day period in many, many months,” Dean Narramore from the state’s Bureau of Meteorology said.
More than 780,000 fans attended the two-week Australian Open last year, according to figures from the office of the state’s premier, providing a major influx of cash for Victoria’s economy.
Damages to the tourism industry from the bushfire disaster have approached A$1 billion so far and may go above A$4.5 billion by the end of the year, according to estimates from Australian tourism bodies.
The government said the aid announced on Sunday was “an initial push” to help the country’s A$152 billion tourism industry, an increasingly vital part of Australia’s economy, that accounts for more than 3 percent of annual economic output.
In a joint statement released with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the bushfires have dealt the biggest reputational blow to the Australian tourism industry that it has ever faced internationally.
“Tourism is the lifeblood of so many communities around Australia and it’s absolutely critical that we help to get people back visiting those communities,” Birmingham said.