Islam in the Netherlands: Wikis


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The history of Islam in the Netherlands started in the early 17th century when the Dutch Republic signed a treaty of free commerce with Morocco, the first-ever official treaty between a European country and a non-Christian nation. In the 19th century, the Netherlands experienced sporadic Muslim migration from the Dutch East Indies when it was a colony from the Netherlands. Economic growth from 1960 to 1973 lead the Dutch government to recruit large numbers of immigrant workers, chiefly from Turkey and Morocco, and migration has continued by way of family reunification and asylum seekers from politically unstable Muslim countries.

Data from 2006 shows that the Netherlands hosts an estimated 850,000 Muslims, including approximately 320,000 Turks and 280,000 Moroccans.[1] Most of them live in the four major cities of the country, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. They are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods with poor housing quality, chronic unemployment, and high levels of crime.

Politically, about two-thirds of Turks and Moroccans "associate predominantly with members of their own ethnic group", and have low voter turnout and participation in politics. In the fourth Balkenende cabinet Muslims are represented by state secretaries Nebahat Albayrak, Ahmed Aboutaleb, and at least 10 members of parliament. Marginalisation and alienation due to perceived discrimination may cause many young second-generation Muslims to identify more with their religion than their nationality, although this perceived discrimination may be a result of their failure to accept fundamental Dutch values based on tolerance.




Treaty with Morocco

In the early 17th century a delegation from the Dutch Republic visited Morocco to discuss a common alliance against Spain and the Barbary pirates. Sultan Zidan Abu Maali appointed Samuel Pallache as his envoy, and in 1608 Pallache met with stadholder Maurice of Nassau and the States-General in The Hague.

On December 24, 1610, the two nations signed a treaty recognising free commerce between the Netherlands and Morocco, and allowing the sultan to purchase ships, arms and munitions from the Dutch. This was the first-ever official treaty between a European country and a non-Christian nation.

Dutch East Indies

In the 19th century the Netherlands administered the archipelago that would become Indonesia, a majority-Muslim country with the largest Muslim population in the world. The first Muslims who settled in the Netherlands were these islanders who fled from its bloody war of Independence.[2]


The Dutch Islamic population is very diverse. During the 1960s and 1970s the Netherlands needed a larger work force. It concluded recruitment agreements with countries like Turkey and Morocco, and people from those countries were allowed to stay temporarily in the Netherlands (smaller numbers of Muslim immigrants in this time came from Tunisia and Algeria). In 1973 there were about 22,000 Moroccans in the Netherlands.[3]

Official work immigration ended in 1973, but the number of Moroccans and Turks remained on the increase as immigrants brought their family to the country using family reunification laws. A number of Surinamese Muslims came to the Netherlands before and after the independence of Suriname in 1975.

In the 1980s and especially since the 1990s, Muslims have also come to the Netherlands as refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Bosnia, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.[4]

Currently most Muslim immigration takes place through marriage migration and family reunification laws. Most Moroccan and Turkish 1st and 2nd generation immigrants marry people from their home countries. In the past year the Netherlands passed immigration laws which force future immigrants and their prospective Dutch partners to abide by very strict requirements. Immigrants must pass tests showing knowledge of Dutch in their home countries. The Dutch partner must be at least 21 years old and prove income of at least 120% minimum wage. These strict laws have caused many Dutch interested in marrying people from other countries to move to Belgium for a temporary period, in what has been called "The Belgian Route".[5]

Because of increasingly restrictive legislation on family formation and reunification, the number of immigrants from Turkey and Morocco has decreased sharply since 2003.[6] The number of immigrants from Turkey decreased from 6,703 in 2003 to 3,175 in 2006, and the number from Morocco was more than halved from 4,894 to 2,085.[7]

Demographic situation

According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), a Dutch governmental institution, about 5% of the total Dutch population are Muslims (24 October 2007). Earlier statistics presented by the CBS showed a larger number of Muslims, but this information was solely based on ethnicity and not on religious belief.[1]

Like most non-Western immigrants, most Muslims live in the four major cities of the country, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. There are also relatively many Turks in Enschede, Arnhem and Zaanstad.[8]

There were 850,000 Dutch citizens who professed Islam in 2006. Of this 38% were ethnic Turkish, 31% were Moroccan, 26% were other Asian/African, 4% were European (Non-Dutch) and 1% (12,000 people) were native Dutch. 40,000 of the Muslims were Pakistanis, 34,000 were Surinamese, 31,000 were Afghan and 27,000 were Iraqi.[9] If non-citizens living in Netherlands are included the total number would cross 1,000,000.[citation needed]


There are about 400 mosques in the Netherlands, with about 200 Turkish mosques, 140 Moroccan mosques and 50 Surinamese.

There are about 45 Islamic elementary schools, and two high schools.

There are two main Muslim umbrella organizations:

  • The Contact Body for Muslims and Government (CMO), represents approximately 80 percent of the Muslim community[citation needed]
  • Contact Group Islam (CGI)

Broken down by ethnic group, Turks have more organisations than Moroccans and networks between these organisations are closer.


Whereas all foreign nationals who have legally resided in the country for five years have the right to vote in local elections, Moroccans traditionally turn out in low numbers, while turnout among Turks is comparable to that among native Dutch.

After the 2003 elections, there were at least ten MPs from Muslim background among the 150 Members of Parliament,[10] but as few as three among them may have been active believers, while two explicitly classified themselves as ex-Muslims.[11]

Nebahat Albayrak (State Secretary of Justice) and Ahmed Aboutaleb (State Secretary of Social Affairs and Employment, now mayor of Rotterdam) are both the first Muslims in the Dutch cabinet.

Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom has received many death threats in response to his outspoken remarks against Islam.[12]


The murder of Theo van Gogh by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Moroccan-Dutch Islamic terrorist, on 2 November 2004, as well as the arrest of the Hofstad Group on charges of terrorism, caused a lot of discussion about Islam and its place in Dutch society. The possibility of banning the burka was discussed in the cabinet.[13]

Following the murder of Theo van Gogh, a number of websites appeared praising the murder and making death threats against other people. At the same time, starting with four arson attacks on mosques in the weekend after the murder, a significant number of apparently retaliatory incidents took place. By November 8, Christian churches were in turn targeted. A report for the Anne Frank Foundation and the University of Leiden counted a total of 174 violent incidents in November, specifying that mosques were the target of violence 47 times, and churches 13 times.[14]

Between 23 November 2004 and 13 March 2005, the National Dutch Police Services Agency (KLPD) recorded 31 occasions of violence against mosques and Islamic schools.[15] The case that drew most attention was an arson attack that led to the destruction of a Muslim primary school in Uden in December 2004.[16] The period of heightened tensions between Dutch and Muslim communities was also evidenced by several confrontations between what are known as the "Lonsdale Youth" (Dutch youth groups characterised by their preference for Lonsdale clothing) and Turkish and Moroccan youths in provincial towns like Venray.[17]

These incidents took place against the backdrop of increasingly suspicious and fearful perceptions of Muslims, which have developed over a longer time. In May 2006, a poll by Motivaction / GPD (1,200 Dutch adults +/- 3%) found that 63% of Dutch citizens felt that Islam is incompatible with modern European life.[18] A poll of June 2004 found that 68% felt threatened by "immigrant or Muslim young people", 53% feared a terrorist attack by Muslims in the Netherlands, and 47% feared that at some point, they would have to live according to Islamic rules in the Netherlands.[19]

Feelings of fear or distrust coincide with a high degree of social segregation. About two-thirds of Turks and Moroccans "associate predominantly with members of their own ethnic group," while a similar proportion of native Dutch "have little or no contact at all with immigrants." Moreover, contacts between the groups are decreasing, notably those between second generation Turks and Moroccans and native Dutch.[20]


In 2006 Minister of Justice Piet Hein Donner provoked an outcry when he suggested the Netherlands might accept Sharia law in a constitutional manner. "It is a sure certainty for me: if two thirds of all Netherlanders tomorrow would want to introduce Sharia, then this possibility must exist. Could you block this legally? It would also be a scandal to say 'this isn't allowed! The majority counts. That is the essence of democracy." [21] The statements were categorically refused by parties across the political spectrum, as well as by one Muslim leader.[22]

Dual citizenship

Following the appointment of two Muslim ministers as state secretaries, both of which hold foreign passports, discussion started about double citizenship and the possibility of foreign citizens to hold office. The debate intensified when it was discovered parliament member Khadija Arib serves on an advisory council to King Mohammed VI of Morocco.


After the murder of Theo van Gogh in November 2004, Minister of Integration and Immigration Rita Verdonk commissioned an inquiry into the radicalisation of young Muslims. The conclusion was that many of them experience alienation, feeling disconnected with both their first-generation immigrant parents and from Dutch society. Previous reports had already found that young Muslims don't share the deep ethno-national attachment their parents feel with their country of origin, and instead are coming to identify primarily with their religion. While they participate less in religious activities than their parents, they more strongly link their identity with Islam and with the global Muslim community; radical and orthodox Islamic groups offer some of these young Muslims clear answers and a firm sense of belonging. While prior research found that the degree of religiosity in general decreases among Muslims with higher education and stable employment, the new report noted that highly educated young Muslims can also experience "relative deprivation" all the more strongly - the sense that despite their efforts they receive fewer opportunities than native Dutch of the same generation - and turn to radicalism in anger and frustration.[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Towards a new estimation on the number of Muslims in the Netherlands" (PDF). Central Bureau of Statistics, the Netherlands. 2006. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  2. ^ "Islam in the Netherlands (factsheet)". Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2002-11-01. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  3. ^ Jurgens, Fleur (2007-03-28). "De vier mythen van de Marokkaanse onderklasse" (in Dutch). de Volkskrant. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  4. ^ Demant, Maussen & Rath 2007, p. 11
  5. ^ "België vindt Nederlands vreemdelingenbeleid te streng" (in Dutch). Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (de Volkskrant). 2006-01-17. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  6. ^ Nicolaas, Han (2007-04-16). "Immigratie in 2006 toegenomen tot ruim 100 duizend" (in Dutch). StatLine. Statistics Netherlands. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  7. ^ "Immi- en emigratie naar geboorteland, geslacht en leeftijd" (in Dutch). Statistics Netherlands. 2007-04-16.,8,14,19,24,43,56,90,92-93,98,100,133,148-149,170,190-192,212,214,229,239&D6=a,!0-4&HD=090315-1815&HDR=T,G5&STB=G1. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  8. ^ "Bevolking in kaart" (in Dutch) (PDF). Bevolkingstrends, Statistisch kwartaalblad over de demografie van Nederland 53 (3): 7. 2007-04-16. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  9. ^ van Herten, Marieke (2007-10-25). "More than 850 thousand Muslims in the Netherlands". Statistics Netherlands. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  10. ^ Demant, Maussen & Rath 2007, p. 33
  11. ^ "Tweede Kamer telt 14 katholieken te weinig" (in Dutch). Radboud Foundation. 2003-02-21. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  12. ^ Richburg, Keith B. (2005-02-01). "In Netherlands, Anti-Islamic Polemic Comes With a Price". The Washington Post. p. A13. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  13. ^ BBC News - 'Dutch government backs burqa ban'
  14. ^ van Donselaar, Jaap; Rodrigues, Peter R. (2004-12-01). "Ontwikkelingen na de moord op Van Gogh" (DOC). Anne Frank Stichting. Leiden University. p. 3. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  15. ^ Winkler 2006, pp. 78–79
  16. ^ Demant, Maussen & Rath 2007, p. 7
  17. ^ Winkler 2006, p. 79
  18. ^ "Islam Incompatible with Europe, Say Dutch". Angus Reid Global Monitor. 2006-06-07. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  19. ^ Demant, Maussen & Rath 2007, p. 38
  20. ^ Demant, Maussen & Rath 2007, p. 24
  21. ^ "Sharia could come via democracy: Dutch minister". Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (Expatica). 2006-08-13. Archived from the original on 2006-08-13. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  22. ^ "Muslim Leader: Netherlands Must Defend Dutch Values". NIS News Bulletin. 2006-09-13. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  23. ^ Demant, Maussen & Rath 2007, p. 14–16


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