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Thursday, February 3, 2000
Holland Approves First Islamic Public High School

By Khaled Shawkat

THE HAGUE (Islam Online) - The building that will house the first public Islamic high school in Europe was handed over by the Dutch government to the Muslim community of the Netherlands this week.

The school, will be called Abdul Rahman Ibn Khaldoun, after the Muslim philosopher who founded sociology. It will be built in the southern part of Rotterdam, Holland's second-largest city. One-sixth of Rotterdam's population, or 100,000, is made up of Muslims, mostly of Turkish or Moroccan origin.

The school is scheduled to open its doors in the upcoming academic year (2000/2001). It has the capacity for 1,000 students and dozens of teachers and administrators, most of whom will be Muslim.

"The idea for the school came out of the Muslims' feeling that their children were lagging behind academically and rarely going to college," said the principal, Abu Qasem Na'es. "This is besides the identity crisis that most second-generation immigrants suffer from. They don't really feel they are Muslims, and without an identity, a child cannot be healthy."

Na'es said that the obstacles to getting the school approved were "not different than one would face in a Muslim country. There were questions, allegations and clear reservations."

The Dutch parliament rejected the first application from the Muslim community for the school in 1998. Conservative representatives said the schools would become "bases for fundamentalists and terrorism."

"In the end we convinced everyone that our work will not threaten anyone's interests, but will help society and humanity in general," he said. Finally, and with the support of the left-wing Greens party, parliament approved the project, for the sake of assimilating second-generation Muslim children and increasing their education levels.

Being a public school, the government will cover all of Ibn Khaldoun High School's expenses. Na'es said he would like to see non-Muslim children in the school as well as Muslims. "We send our children to Catholic or Protestant private schools. This school will be open to everyone, just like Islam. If the trial succeeds, we will work to spread it."

There are significant Muslim populations in many of Holland's major cities, including The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht. There are already 32 public elementary Islamic schools, and the number is expected to grow because of the high birth rate among Muslim families.

Principal Na'es said that school curricula would be different from the typical Dutch public school because "Islam will be the epistemological source of what is taught. Science and knowledge will be tied to religious teachings." The language taught in the school will be Dutch, although Arabic and Turkish will be offered as second languages.

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