Mosque blaze suspect a known fascist activist

Searchlight, August 2005

A fascist activist, Ben van der Kooi, 31, has been arrested for a firebomb attack on Rotterdam's Djama Masjid Shaan-E-Islam Mosque on 15 June. In the assault the mosque's ground floor and prayer room were burned out.

The arsonist left clear clues to his political identity by spray-painting slogans like "Lonsdale" and "Theo, R.I.P." - a reference to the late Theo van Gogh, the filmmaker murdered in November 2004 - and several White Power symbols on the walls.

Another slogan "Geen moskee op Zuid" ("No mosque in South"), referring to a Rotterdam suburb, was also daubed to draw attention to the fact that the mosque was about to move to a new location. Four days before the attack, the fascist Nationale Alliantie (NA), staged a demonstration of 40 people against the mosque's establishment in Zuid and called for all mosques in the Netherlands to be dissolved.

Though anti-fascists had publicly warned that the demonstration was aimed at inciting hatred and violence, they were not allowed to stage a protest at the NA's presence. When they tried to do so, some of them were carted away by police to the city and, in the end, 44 people were arrested.

As a result of the police's determination to prevent anti-fascists from exercising their democratic rights, the NA was able to claim a victory, boosting its self-confidence. It was probably in this intoxicating atmosphere that hardcore activist Van der Kooi decided to put the NA's violent words into action and torch the mosque.

Van der Kooi was no foot soldier at the NA rally but walked at the head of the demonstration, behind the banner 'Moskeen? Weg ermee!' (Mosques? Get rid of them!'), wearing a red, white and blue T-shirt, alongside NA leader Jan Teijn.

Van der Kooi has been visible on the right-wing scene since the end of the 1990s when he and his younger brother joined the Nieuwe Nationale Partij (NNP), where the latter became chairman. Since then he has been active in no fewer than three Dutch extremist organizations: Nieuw Rechts, Leefbaar Rotterdam (the Rotterdam party of the late Pim Fortuyn) and the NA. Besides that he is or has been also a member of the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), the Vlaams Blok, Stormfront Nederland and the OSL, a bunch of ultra-rightist Cold War veterans.

On the internet, Van der Kooi parades his fascination with burning mosques, or "hate-barracks" as he calls them, and sympathises strongly with youngsters who collected convictions for setting them afire in the aftermath of the van Gogh murder. He has even posted a series of photos that he took of a burned down mosque in Vianen, a town that is some distance away from Rotterdam. When not doing this, he also travels abroad to the Lega Nord headquarters in Italy, for example, or to Voorpost meetings in Belgium.

On national television, in "Opsporing verzocht" ("Wanted"), a programme that helps the police by appealing for the assistance of the public in solving crimes, Van der Kooi was captured on film, biking with a jerrycan in the area of the mosque on the time of the fire.

Three days later, he was arrested. forcing the NA to try to distance itself from the arson attack on the mosque by claiming that Van der Kooi was not an NA member despite the facts that, in the year-and-a-half of the organisation's existence, he has been at almost every one of its meetings, has recruited people and dragged them to meetings and demonstrations, spread propaganda wherever he could and even makes all banners for the party's demonstrations.

In the end, indeed, it seems that more NA supporters were for Van der Kooi than against him because the party leadership was forced to close the discussion forum on the party's website because too many posters were voicing their approval of the arson attack.

The NA has threatened people who have connected the party to mosque fire and has called for "severe measures" against those who insist on doing so.

The party has also been griping about the fact that "the Dutch can't go about their business like the 'Hofstad group' (the group the authorities suspect of having killed Theo van Gogh) can" since two of them were released. Whether they mean that the NA, or "the Dutch" should have the right to set fire to mosques without being arrested is not made clear.

That NA is a party of convicted fascists, national socialists and antisemites is so well documented it needs little explanation here. Nor should the fact that it spawns people who would burn mosques cause any surprise.

Hopefully, Van der Kooi's potentially lethal activities will open the eyes of the wider public to the fascists' violent intentions and anti-fascists will be allowed to prevent the NA from using Rotterdam as a playground.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht