The Muslim mayor of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, said this week that Europe has no place for extremists who are not willing to live within the bounds of its norms.
Speaking to CNN's Michael Holmes on Wednesday, the mayor, Moroccan-born Ahmed Aboutaleb suggested that those Muslims who don’t embrace values should leave Europe.
"You are not forced to be with us, it's a choice," he said. "Work with us together to construct a 'we society.'"
"But if you want to stand out of the 'we community,' you threaten us, you go to Yemen to learn how to use a Kalashnikov and to come back to threaten the society, well you are not part of my 'we society,' you better leave," added Aboutaleb.
Aboutaleb drew headlines around the world in the wake of last month's attack on the editorial staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, when he said, "if you don't like it here because you don't like that humorists who make a newspaper — yeah, if I can say it like this, get lost!"
Aboutaleb, who moved to the Netherlands when he was 15, eventually working as a television journalist and then working his way up through the Dutch Labor Party, said he has the authority to speak on the subject. He rejected the notion that poverty leads to terrorism.
"I am one of the people who knows how it is to live in poverty. I spent fifteen years in Morocco of my life on one meal a day, walking without shoes, going to the Netherlands without a coat to protect myself," he told CNN.
"I cannot accept that poverty leads to terrorism," he added, saying that poverty must lead to knowledge and to better oneself.
"It's about investing in yourself, first of all. And by doing that you invest in society. And that's the message I try to give to these people."
"Yes, indeed, I am not only a mayor of a city, but I am also Muslim. And that gives me maybe the additional authority to say these things that maybe other colleagues of mine in Europe and maybe in the U.S. are not maybe authorized to say," noted Aboutaleb.
"The Dutch constitution, but also the Dutch society, is constructed on a very, very intrinsic basic value, and that is tolerance and acceptance," he continued. "So the moment you come to the Netherlands…and you get a citizenship then you have to at least underline and embrace the constitution and the values of the country."
When he speaks to new citizens, he told Holmes, he emphasizes the symbolism of the passport they will soon receive.
"That is not only a travel document, that is an identity. Then we request you and there is also a duty upon you to accept society as a whole," he said.
In Rotterdam, he added, "there are mosques and synagogues and churches from all denominations."
"It's even okay if you have radical opinions as long as you act within the borders of the law."
The Netherlands is one European country in which anti-Semitism is still prevalent and reared its ugly head during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer.
Thousands of people protested in Aboutaleb’s city of Rotterdam against what some labelled Israel's “genocide in Gaza”. As many as 10,000 people took part in the demonstration against Israel's defensive operation in Gaza, with marchers waving posters reading: "Free Palestine" and "No Dutch support for Palestinian genocide".
Similar demonstrations in other countries saw hundreds of Muslim extremists attacked a major synagogue in Paris, provoking clashes with Jewish youths who rushed to defend the site and worshippers trapped inside.
There have also been anti-Israel protests in Berlin. Footage of one of these protests showed hundreds of demonstrators chanting in German, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight on your own”.
At the same time, Dutch politician Geert Wilders has been a staunch critic of Islam and a supporter of Israel.
Wilders, who is often reviled in Dutch immigrant communities for his fiery anti-Islam rhetoric, has in the past compared the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and has called Islam a fascist religion.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)