Religious and racist violence in the Netherlands should have harsher punishments, says Christian party

The ruling ChristenUnie party in the Netherlands has pushed for harsher punishments for religiously or racially-motivated acts of violence in the wake of a vandalism incident targeting a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam.

(REUTERS / Reuters TV)Leaders of the four parties in the new government coalition attend a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands, October 10, 2017. L-R: D66 party leader Alexander Pechtold, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the VVD party, Christian Democrat party's Sybrand Burma and Christian Union party's Gert-Jan Segers. Still image taken from video.

Gert-Jan Segers, the head of the Christian party, said there should be more severe punishments for religiously or racially motivated violence. He compared it to a situation where the violence could affect public officials and explained that individuals who perform a public function were given extra protection in case they were attacked. He also said that the same principle must be applied to other victims of such acts because they are considered under threat because of their affiliation or belief,  The NL Times detailed.

"If a Jewish restaurant is attacked because the owner is Jewish, it is a threat to the entire Jewish community," NOS quoted Segers as saying. "If an ex-Muslim, who became a Christian or atheist, is attacked because he is a heretic, then that is a threat to anyone who makes such a choice."

Segers' call stemmed from an attack at the Ha Carmel restaurant in December in which the assailant broke the establishment's windows while toting a Palestinian flag. The latter was accused of vandalism and of trying to steal the Israeli flag on display in the restaurant, but he was later released and is now waiting for his trial.

Segers believed that the suspect would be getting a punishment that was too light for what he did, and he lamented that it was not possible to inflict a harsher consequence upon him. As of now, it remains to be seen if the ChristenUnie proposal will be approved by the lower house of the Dutch parliament.

Last month, Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb stirred controversy after he told a radio program that all Muslims were a "bit of a Salafist" and could be viewed as a jihadi. Salafism is a conservative version of Sunni Islam which is often linked with extremism, The Dutch News relayed.

However, Aboutaleb explained that he viewed Salafism as an effort to live devoutly like the prophet Mohammed. For him, "jihad in its purest form" involved rising at 7 a.m. every day to serve his country.