Hot Issue

Radicalisation in Gouda

through the eyes of Co van den Berg

Police officer Region Haaglanden (Netherlands) stationed in Gouda.
Special Task: Specific target groups ( Extreme right, radicalising Muslims, outlaw Motor Clubs).

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Co van den Berg works in the city of Gouda, a city in the mid-west of the Netherland (province South-Holland) with around 71.000 inhabitants (of which 11.000 non-western immigrants). She is one of the important cooperating partners in the network of JONG Gouda, the local organisation for professional open youth work.

How would you describe the current situation in Gouda, concerning radicalisation of youth?

In Gouda you see the development of radicalisation of young people in two ways:

on the one hand the radicalisation of young Moroccan people and on the other hand the radicalisation of young extreme right wing people.

The radicalisation of young Moroccan people and of young extreme right wing people

Up until now (August 2015) around ten young people have left Gouda to join the Jihad, among them 5 young women

To start with the radicalisation of young Moroccan People: Young people departing to Syria and other radical Islamic countries have different motives for their radicalisation.

For some of them, like in Delft belonging to criminal youth groups, opportunism, financial motives are leading but others are driven by ideological motives. In Gouda most of the young travellers have this ideological background. Also the educational level differs, from only primary school up to an university degree.

Up until now (August 2015) around ten young people have left Gouda to join the Jihad, among them 5 young women.

The recruiting of these young people seems to have a link with one particular family although there where links with groups form Mosques in Delft and The Hague.
There where plans in Gouda to rebuild former military barracks into a large Mosque. Since these buildings are in the middle of a residential area there was a lot of opposition towards these plans. It was also a hot item in the press and questions where asked in de national parliament. This situation also contributed to a further polarization between Immigrants and inhabitants with local roots.

The municipality of Gouda has appointed a special director who’s task it is to coordinate the interventions of all parties who are involved in the prevention and repression of Islamic radicalisation.

It is difficult to get in contact with young people who are in the process of radicalisation because their motivation is based on Religion. Especially the hard core group avoids contacts with “non-believers” and is strongly influenced by a criminal organisation (I.S.).

Right-wing extremism

Some two or three years ago there was a small group of young people who distributed flyers from a Dutch national right-wing extreme party. The last two years this group grew from four up to twenty five persons. This growth is strongly influenced by the developments around Islam Radicalisation, all the fuzz concerning the mega Mosque and the fact that national right-wing groups and parties took their chance in using the situation in Gouda for their own propaganda (in fact there are now extreme left wing parties ho have discovered Gouda as a new platform with national features).

Unfortunately local policy focuses only on the Islam radicalisation and no extra means are extracted for the prevention of right-wing extremism amongst youth.

It is important to offer a structure

Are there similarities between the Moslem youth and the right-wing youth?

Both groups have an urge for regulations and guidelines in their upbringing. It is important to offer a structure. In the Netherlands we believe that having a chat for an hour a week with young people at risk is enough but that means that they are back in to the influence of their peer group and/or internet for another 90 hours. Prevention of radicalisations calls for an intensive programme for young people.

Both groups in Gouda also have to deal with problems that are familiar to criminal groups (or young people tending to criminal behaviour) like lack of income, debts, problems at school, unemployment, etcetera.

What could the community, and especially youth work and police , contribute to support young people ?

First of all we should be very explicit to young people: “I like you as a person but what stands between us is the fact that you adore I.S. and I am opposed because I am opposed to violence”.

Secondly: we have to invest in building up contacts with young persons at risk. For me, as a female police officer this is sometimes difficult to get in contact with male Muslim young people with a strong religious attitude because they are reluctant to get in touch with women.

In Gouda there is not much attention for prevention within the youth policy. There should be more attention and professional input on this matter.


  • More alternative ways of day care, especially for young people who are unemployed or do not go to school;
  • Appointing youth coaches, professionals who can offer a intensive programme on individual support en guidance for young people at risk;
  • More attention for girls and young women because a lot of what happens to them during their growing up is out of sight of professionals (while an important part of the life of boys and young men takes place in the public domain).
  • A comprehensive approach to achieve that young people get more attached to society and their social environment;
  • A policy that focuses on a positive perception of the inhabitants towards their own city, by improving for instance the perception of safety and (social) well being.


Specific for youth work:

  • More personal counselling for young person at risk;
  • More attention for guiding young people towards education and / or work
  • More support of youth work for social inclusion, which can also mean bringing them in contact with sport clubs or other social clubs and organisations.
  • A lot of young people choose for gathering on the streets so it is important to have well trained detached youth workers who know where to find “their” youth groups.

First of all we should be very explicit to young people


by Dick Smit (2015)


Dick Smit has been working for Stichting JONG for over 20 years as trainer and coach.  His current position is manager detached youth work in the city of Gouda


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