Anti-government extremism on the rise in Northern Netherlands: study

THE HAGUE - Anti-government extremism is on the rise in Northern Netherlands, and the phenomenon is going largely unnoticed because the approach to radicalization mainly focuses on jihadism. Researchers Leonie de Jonge, Pieter Nanninga, and Fleur Valk from the University of Groningen came to this conclusion in a study into extremism in the region, NRC reports. 


In this first region-specific study into extremism, the researchers looked at all the extremist incidents in Northern Netherlands between 2014 and 2022 that made it into the media or court. Since 2016, there have been about 10 incidents per year, with a peak of 15 incidents in 2021. Since 2018, half of the annual incidents have stemmed from anti-government thinking. Extremism is still “a relatively small phenomenon in the north,” Nanninga said to the newspaper. “At the same time, we see an upward trend.” 


The researchers found that more traditional forms of extremism - religious, left-and right-wing - are limited in the North. “In recent years, we have seen more and more incidents related to anti-government feelings in regional files,” Nanninga said. Wind farms, asylum shelters, and the nitrogen problem, in particular, lead to region-specific issues that are less common in the Randstad. “As a result, we see a broad anti-Randstad sentiment that is supported by strong feelings of social unease.” 


And that’s resulted in incidents like a molotov cocktail through a journalist’s window after he criticized opponents of the coronavirus policy, asbestos dumping in public areas due to the arrival of wind farms, and a farmer crashing his tractor through the Provincial House’s door in a protest against the nitrogen policy. Among other things. 


As the approach to extremism and radicalization is mainly focused on jihadism, anti-government and right-wing extremism go largely unnoticed and have increasingly normalized in Northern Netherlands in recent years, the researchers said. “Anti-government feelings and radical and far-right ideas are often not recognized or acknowledged as extremism,” De Jonge said to the newspaper. 


They worry that the Northern Netherlands could become a breeding ground for anti-government sentiment. And that is problematic because anti-government thinking is very hard to get rid of once it takes hold. 


As long as the focus of the approach to extremism and radicalization remains on jihadism, the approach does not match the phenomenon, De Jonge said. “In short, we are more likely to label someone with a beard who speaks Arabic as extremist than a farmer who rams a provincial door.” They, therefore, urge authorities nationwide to change their approach to extremism and radicalization to match developments. Otherwise, they’ll always lag behind. 

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