Culture Clash: Moroccan and Turkish Muslim Populations in the Netherlands

By
Guy Padgett

CONFLICT MAP

Parties

Primary Parties

The primary actors in the cultural conflict in the Netherlands are native, ethic Dutch and the immigrant Muslim population from Morocco and Turkey, as well as their children. Traditionally, the Dutch have distinguished between allochtonen and autochtoenn. Roughly translated, allochtonen refers to immigrants and their descendants; autochtonen refers to ethic Dutch. Worth emphasizing is the concept that even a person born on Dutch soil, and having full Dutch citizenship is still thought of as allochtoon if one or both parent were immigrants [1]. The Netherlands has a population of approximately 16,715,999. Of the total population, it is estimated that there are 2.46 migrants per 1,000 inhabitants [2]. Ethnic Dutch make up 80.7% of the population, people of Turkish descent account for 2.2% of the population, and Moroccan descent 2%. Religion in the Netherlands is predominantly Christian, with Roman Catholics at 30%, Dutch Reformed at 11%, Calvinist at 6%, and other Protestant sects at 3%. Muslims by contrast constitute 5.8% of the population – a sizeable minority. Noteworthy is the fact that 42% of the Dutch population do not consider themselves religious [3]. Broken down another way, the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) estimates that over 857,000 Muslims live in the Netherlands. Of this population, it is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 are attracted to radical Muslim ideologies, with a potential 2,500 susceptible to violent ideologies. This represents a mere 0.3% of the Dutch Muslim population [4]. Additionally, the immigrant communities are disproportionally concentrated in urban environments. The four largest cities of the Netherlands – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht – house approximately 13% of the total population of the Netherlands, but these cities contain 30% of the immigrants in the nation.
           
If allochtonen and autochtonen populations outline the general form of each side of the conflict, more specific actors in each camp can also be identified. In the native Dutch population, there is a general sense of worry regarding radical Muslims, and certain members of the elite have utilized this fear for political gain. Of note is politician Geert Wilders. He has been consistently described as anti-Muslim, claiming that “Islam is inherently incompatible with democracy [5].” He has built a political party, the Freedom Party (PVV), based on a platform that includes distinct anti-Muslim planks, including the closing of mosques deemed radical, a five-year ban on Muslim immigrants, stricter assimilation policies, and an amendment to the Dutch constitution enshrining a “Judeo-Christian” heritage [6].
 
If there are extremes to be found on the native Dutch side, there are certainly extremes to be found on the Muslim side. As stated above, there is an estimated 0.3% of the Dutch Muslim population disposed towards radical action. Among them are some home-grown terrorist networks, if loosely organized. One such group, labeled the Hofdstadgroep by security forces, was disbanded and twelve of its members arrested in 2007; the Dutch Ministry of the Interior posits that several other such loose knit groups continue to exist [7]. Additionally, until recently there was a tradition of recruiting imams from their mother countries. In some cases, these imams have revealed themselves to be radicalizing elements. One notable incident involved the imam el-Moumni, who, when asked about homosexuality, referred to it as a “disease” [8]. Needless to say, this comment provoked an outcry in the mainstream media, given the Netherlands’ tradition of tolerance. While attacks on gay men and women by Muslim youths cannot be wholly attributed to one individual’s comments, it is illustrative of the broader cultural conflict. 

Secondary Parties

While the conflict in the Netherlands is primarily between autochtonen and allochtonen, several secondary parties can be identified, especially in relation to the radicalization of Dutch Muslims. Attention to the ‘problem’ of radical Muslims in the Netherlands began in earnest in the last part of the 1990s. Prior to 1995, the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Serve (AIVD) had considered radical Dutch Muslims as a low-level threat. Terrorist attacks in France, Israel, and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York contributed not only to a rise in prejudice against Dutch Muslims, but also to an increased scrutiny of them by the AIVD. In 1998, the AIVD issued a report revising its opinion of radical Dutch Muslims. Firstly, it did acknowledge that there were a very small number of persons that could potentially pose a threat. But secondly, it went on to also cite the influence of mother countries of some immigrants – notably Turkey and Morocco – contributing to radicalized politico-religious ideologies [9].
 
However, it is not just country of origin that plays a role as a secondary actor in this conflict. Many non-governmental and religious organizations play a role in radical Islam in the Netherlands. Some examples include the pan-Arabist socio-political Arab European League, and political party Hizb al-Tahrir, both of which maintain branches in the Netherlands – although both of these branches are more moderate than those found in other countries [10]. The Turkish orthodox Muslim group Milli Gorus also maintains a presence in the Netherlands, as well as its more radical counterpoint Teblig. Both advocate the establishment of an Islamic Turkish state, although Milli Guros has largely relegated its actions to the socio-political sphere where Teblig has espoused more radical measures. Approximately 40,000 Dutch Muslims belong to Milli Gorus, and around 200 are said to be active in Teblig [11].

Tertiary Parties

Tertiary Parties are harder to identify in the conflict in the Netherlands. However, it would be fair to say that other nations in the European Union have a stake in the conflict. Firstly, countries like Germany and France are facing similar problems in dealing with Muslim immigrant populations. Their actions may have repercussions in the Netherlands. Secondly, trans-national organizations like NATO may also affect the conflict. Military actions in predominantly Muslim nations such as Afghanistan have an effect on the Muslim populations in European countries; indeed, the Dutch government just recently collapsed over the question of whether to remain part of the NATO mission there.

Core Causes of the Conflict

The Netherlands is an established democracy, with centuries of history and precedent supporting its democratic institutions. It is a stable state and a prosperous one at that; indeed, the prosperous economy and the stability of the state is at least partially responsible for the comparatively high number of immigrants seeking either work or political asylum there. In this sense, security or high-stakes distributional needs cannot wholly account for the conflict in the Netherlands. However, identity and fundamental belief structures both play a central role in the conflict between Muslim immigrants and native Dutch.
 
Dutch culture has traditionally been described as tolerant, and with good reason [12]. Reaching as far back as the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the eyes of Jews and Protestants throughout Europe were turned towards the Netherlands as an island of tolerance in a Europe rife with wars of religion. These refugees found a society which offered an opportunity to not only practice their religion in relative peace, but a society that gave them an opportunity at a better more prosperous life. Indeed, this variety of peoples proved good for the Low Countries, and the diversity it attracted was valued, if not for its own sake but for the tax revenue it generated [13]. This tolerance has long remained essential to the Dutch view of its own culture. Indeed, the 20th century saw movements such as women’s rights and gay rights take root in the Netherlands before they were embraced elsewhere.
 
Over the last 20 years there has been a rising perception among native Dutch autochtonen that Muslim immigrants were somehow incompatible with, or perhaps incapable of, adopting this mentality of tolerance that had become so central to the Dutch character. This mentality is demonstrated by increasing prejudice against and negative stereotypes of Dutch Muslim immigrants, as noted in the 1995 AIVD report [14]. In 2000, historian Paul Scheffer published an article blasting the Netherlands’ multi-cultural strategy. Scheffer claimed that instead of integrating Muslims into Dutch culture, government policies had simply created a cultural underclass that was unwilling to accept Dutch values and unwilling to conform to their host country’s norms and values [15]. Whether or not Scheffer was correct in his assumptions is less important in this context than the fact that he had recognized an undercurrent in Dutch opinion. Indeed, later polling indicated that native Dutch have become “sensitive to presumed attempts, particularly by Muslims, to undermine basic values in western society [16].” It is true that some radicalized Muslims may have these goals in mind, but that 0.3% is hardly indicative of the larger Muslim immigrant population. A survey conducted by Han Entzinger in 2000 of Muslim youth in Rotterdam in fact indicated that while there was a certain tension between “Islamic and European values,” most participants in the survey had “developed a highly personalized or ‘westernized’ interpretation of Islam,” and had fully adopted certain western – and Dutch – ideals of civil liberties and personal freedoms [17]. Additionally, a Study by the Erasmus University of Rotterdam found that very few Muslims wished to challenge the social norms of the Netherlands [18]. However, high-profile actions by radicalized Muslim individuals and organizations – both within and outside of the Netherlands – solidified a stereotype of Muslims in the Netherlands. That stereotype portrays Muslims as antithetical to Dutch ideals of tolerance, individual rights, and the secular state.
 
Even if the majority of Muslims in the Netherlands do not wish to challenge the social structure of their adopted country, there is a certain tension of cultures that does contribute to a difficulty in assimilating to Dutch culture, and in extreme cases leads to radicalization that can result in violence. The problem of violence and crime among Muslims in the Netherlands is seen to be largely a problem associated with young Muslim men, mostly the children of immigrants who arrived in the Netherlands between the 1960s and the 1980s [19]. Statistics from the Dutch Central Statistics Bureau (CBS) indicate that persons of Moroccan or Turkish descent account for 5.8% and 3.8% of crime in the Netherlands respectively; an admittedly large proportion [20]. Simply put, these children of immigrants from Morocco and Turkey feel torn between the culture of their parents and the culture of the Netherlands. This crisis of identity manifests itself in two ways. First, there is a generational divide between them and their parents in that the youths do not feel connected to the cultures and traditions of their parent’s country of origin. Second, there is a divide between the youths and Dutch culture in that autochtonen Dutch do not fully accept them either. What results is that these youth “feel alienated from both their parents and Dutch society and have a hybrid-identity that is not recognized by their direct environment [21].”
 
To summarize, the native Dutch population feels under siege. A perceived ‘Islamisization’ of the Netherlands is seen as a threat to traditional Dutch culture and ideals. On the other side of the conflict Muslim, and particularly young Muslim men, exist in a state of uncertain identity. They are neither attached to their parents’ country of origin nor to the culture of the Netherlands. In this uncomfortable middle ground of identity, some turn towards radical Islam in an attempt to find their identity.

History of the Conflict

The roots of the conflict between native Dutch and Muslim immigrants from Morocco and Turkey originate with the introduction of guest workers in the 1960s. The Netherlands had always had a large number of minorities due to its colonial past, but the 1960s saw the welcoming of “guest workers”, and “an influx of economic and political refugees [22].” When these populations began to come to the Netherlands they were regarded both by the government and by themselves largely as guest workers seeking to make some money and then return to their native lands [23]. Indeed, Muslim social and religious life was organized around this principal of return; mosques were viewed as serving migrant populations rather than serving as community religious centers [24]. Additionally, the government did little to help integrate Muslim immigrants into Dutch society, as their sojourn there was viewed as temporary [25].
 
Only late in the 1970s and in the early 1980 did it become clear that these immigrant populations would stay. A process of family reunification was initiated, and the Muslim immigrant population boomed as workers brought their wives and children from their native country to join them in the Netherlands [26]. As it became clear that this community of Muslim immigrants intended to stay and establish roots, the Dutch government began to change its policy to one of integration [27]. Additionally, a distinct socio-economic imbalance began to emerge – Muslim relied more heavily on social services, had lower-paying jobs, higher unemployment, and existed on the outskirts of Dutch society. The government responded with the uniquely Dutch ‘pillar model.’
 
Pillarization -- eg, the Dutch form of consociationalism -- was formed along both confessional and secular lines, becoming more or less formalized in 1917. Four pillars emerged -- Catholic, Protestant, Socialist, and a loosely organized fourth pillar that included free-market liberals. This system allowed for funding of infrastructure within each pillar; a noteworthy example being the funding of schools. To briefly summarize, Catholic, Protestant, and secular schools received funding in proportion to the populations in each pillar. In the 70s and 80s, there was some thought that Dutch Muslims could form their own pillar. To that end, funding for Muslim institutions was allocated -- in education, for example. However, pillarization in the Netherlands had been largely disassembled by the 70s. So, the effort to create a Muslim pillar was an attempt to use an outdated model -- albeit a previously successful one -- to integrate Muslims into Dutch society.
 
This multicultural strategy was distinct from that of the rest of Europe in that it sought to preserve the culture it was assimilating rather than see the “immigrants’ ethnic and cultural identities fade as they integrate into the dominant culture [28].” In other words, it strove to acquire socio-economic equality not cultural unity, and through that societal harmony. Education and job training, for example, might be held in the immigrant’s native language rather than Dutch to allow for the preservation of the parent culture. At its root, the pillarization system allows religious groups to set up their own infrastructures and communities, while being subsidized by the central government. Despite these resources being devoted to this cause, no “Dutch Islam” pillar emerged [29]. Additionally, the policy of achieving socio-economic parity through parallel pillarized structured failed. By the mid-1980’s, the Dutch economy had stalled, and low-skilled immigrant workers were hit hardest; one-third of all Moroccan and Turkish immigrants were unemployed [30].
 
In the 1990s, Dutch policy again changed. While the goal of a multicultural society was still intact, “a strategy of building ‘generalized social capital’” was pursued; this policy has produced questionable results, and some believe it erased what progress was made through the 1980s and early 1990s [31]. This shift in government policy saw the focus move from socio-economic relief and equalization to participation in the mainstream culture and education [32]. Education that had been provided in the mother tongue was now be provided in Dutch; civic integration courses, free of charge, were introduced [33]. But more telling, general public opinion, as well as government thinking, began to shift. Problems related to immigration and integration were now seen as more closely linked to issues of “cultural or religious difference” [34].
 
Yet another shift occurred in Dutch policy towards Muslim immigrants in the early 2000’s. As mentioned above, Paul Scheffer had written an article adamantly criticizing the Dutch policy of multiculturalism. His was not the only voice decrying Dutch tolerance of Islam. The wildly popular populist politician Pim Fortuyn brought the discussion on immigrants and Islam to the forefront of Dutch politics. At one point he stated that a “cold war” with Islam was not only desirable but inevitable – 90% of the Dutch population noticed this declaration, and 30% agreed with it [35]. Fortuyn formed his own political party, and in a short period of time from February 2002 to May 2002, managed to make his party a formidable political force in the Netherlands. He called for an end to immigration, attacked Islam as a “backward religion” [36], and argued that only intolerance of multiculturalism could preserve the Dutch tradition of tolerance [37]. While his views were sometimes inconsistent, his party did well in the polls. Even after his assassination by a radical animal rights activist one week before the elections, the List Pim Fortuyn won 26 of the Dutch Parliament’s 150 seats.
 
In this political climate, the Dutch government switched from a policy of integration to one of assimilation. Immigration was severely curtailed, and family reunification programs were cut back. Asylum requests were judged on much stricter criteria. In addition, assimilation policies became more stringent. Instead of free cultural integration courses, immigrants were required to locate and pay for courses themselves. Likewise, language requirements were made stricter, and immigrants were expected to take a language and culture test within five years of arrival in the Netherlands. Failure to pass this test barred the applicant for permanent settlement in the country [38]. In the course of 15 years, immigrants who had previously been encouraged to preserve their own culture were now blamed – and even penalized – for failing to assimilate into Dutch culture [39].
 
Simultaneous to this change in policy was the increasing rhetoric denouncing Islam as incompatible with democratic nations and Muslim immigrants as antithetical to Dutch values. As mentioned above, Fortuyn made this a central part of his platform. Other politicians followed suit. Rita Verdonk, a current member of parliament and at the time Minister of Integration and Immigration, went so far as to defend a Dutch woman who had rammed – and killed – a Muslim man with her car after he had tried to steal her purse. Verdonk and other politicians argued her innocence [40].
 
Former Dutch Member of Parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali has not been shy about sharing her views on Islam. In a newspaper interview, she called Muhammad a “pervert” for having sex with a 12-year-old girl [41]. She has said “Islam should be investigated more, since Muslims are involved in almost all contemporary wars [42].” With filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, she helped create the film “Submission,” writing the script and providing some voice-overs. This film was controversial to say the least, and strongly criticized Islam’s treatment of women. Her work on this film as well as her stance on Islam has earned her death threats, and since 2004, she has lived either in hiding or under police protection [43].
 
Theo van Gogh is indicative of both the extremist tone critical of Islam as well as an example of the worst episode of Muslim extremist violence in the Netherlands. Van Gogh became well known in the Netherlands for his views on Islam. He was highly critical of a religion he saw as “backward and oppressive [44].” He was not shy to share his opinions either, at one point calling Muslims “goatfuckers [45].” He used his position both as a pundit and as a filmmaker to spread criticism about Islam. His film, “Submission,” was not widely seen by the Dutch Muslim population, but word of mouth was swift. The film earned its makers death threats and the epithet “enemies of Islam [46].” On the morning of Nov 2nd, 2004, a 26-year-old Dutch-born Muslim waited outside van Gogh’s house, and followed him as he got on his bicycle and rode through the city. Van Gogh was shot, then stabbed, and ultimately had his throat slit. Pinned to his body with a knife was a letter protesting Van Gogh’s views on Islam and threatening to kill Hirsi Ali [47]. His killer, Dutch-born-Moroccan Mohammed Bouyeri, had hoped to become a martyr by his act [48].
 
The response to this act of violence was astounding. The Anne Frank Foundation reported “over 100 racially motivated attacks directed at the Muslim community in the weeks after the murder;” Christian churches and schools were bombed in retaliation [49]. The assassination of Van Gogh and the ensuing violence allowed the right-wing of Dutch politics to “step up their rhetoric against Islam and Muslims.” Where Fortuyn’s murder was thought of as an assassination, the word terrorism became associated with Van Gogh’s murder [50].
 
The current situation in the Netherlands might be described as a stable tension. There have been no notable instances of extremist violence perpetrated by Muslims, but crime rates among allochtonen Muslim youths remain higher than average. Reliance on social services among immigrant Muslims remain high, and autochtonen Dutch are becoming increasingly aggravated by this fact. The political right has increased its rhetoric calling for stricter limitations on immigration and on Muslims, and the Muslim community has reacted in disbelief [51]. As of March 2010, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party has made incredible gains in local elections, and is poised to increase its number of seats in parliament from 9 to as many as 27 seats [52].

THE ROAD TO THE FUTURE

In examining the conflict between autochtonen Dutch and alloctonen Muslims from Morocco and Turkey, several key trends emerge. In order to begin to understand the goals of conflict mitigation in the Netherlands, it is worth specifically pointing out these patterns: the socio-economic status of allochtonen Muslims, perceived threats to both Dutch and Muslim identity, and extremist actions on both sides of the conflict. Each of these areas must be addressed in any potential solution.
 
Additionally, any goals set should be modest. No one solution will prove a ‘silver bullet’ that will instantly – or even quickly – relieve the tensions between the autochtonen andallochtonen populations of the Netherlands. Those tensions have built up over decades, and have been exacerbated by events both inside and outside the Netherlands. The process of alleviating cultural conflict will take years to come. With that said, the goals and proposals presented here are incremental, and seek merely to make a start on the long road to reconciliation.

Socio-Economic Status

It is true that the population of Moroccan and Turkish immigrants lag behind Dutch norms when it comes to poverty levels and education levels (see appendix, figure 1). Likewise, it is true that both these communities also account for a higher percentage of crime than the Dutch autochtonen population (see appendix, figure 2). These trends deserve attention, and should be addressed.
 
Firstly, the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics needs to continue their tracking of the figures. They provide useful data. In the case of both male participation in the workforce and in Moroccan and Turkish participation in higher education, these numbers indicate a positive trend – both have improved significantly. However, these statistics also indicate the core of the problem; Dutch Moroccan and Turkish populations still exist at a level of poverty (30%) much higher than that of Native Dutch (8%).
 
Secondly, these numbers need to be considered in a dispassionate matter when planning for social programs. Instead of advocating for programs to assist the Moroccan and Turkish Muslim populations, existing programs that provide such services should be framed in a purely socio-economic context. Such programs are open to all members of the Dutch populations qualifying under regulations, blind to the applicant’s ethnic or religious affiliation, and programs must be framed by elites as open to all Dutch – autochtonen or allochtonen. They must be run by mid-level actors in the same open manner, and grass-roots efforts must be conducted to recruit all qualifying citizens.
 
         To summarize:
- Accurately track and report both allochtonen and autochtonen crime rates (mid-level, elite actors)
- Accurately track and report both allochtonen and autochtonen poverty levels and education level (mid-level, elite actors)
- Advocate and execute educational & employment opportunities based on income levels rather than ethnic or religious status (elite, mid-level, grass-roots actors)

Perceived Threats to Identity

Identity is perhaps the most pernicious and most complex aspect of any conflict in a society. John Paul Lederach, Louis Kreisberg, and many other authors emphasize the importance of not just the actual identity of actors in a conflict, but also the identity of the actors as perceived by the other side. In this sense, addressing issues of identity in the Netherlands is especially difficult. And the trends are not reassuring. Figure 1 in the appendix indicates that insular impulses among Moroccan and Turkish allochtonen has not gone down, but in fact increased. This trend is troubling, and perhaps indicative of the increasing societal and political rhetoric of native Dutch acting as an isolating factor. Addressing this cultural identity divide will be difficult, but it will also be essential to any strategy of reconciliation.
 
If Muslim of Moroccan and Turkish descent are to be full partners in Dutch society, some sort of understanding between the two cultural elements of Dutch society must be established. In this spirit, intercultural exchanges are essential. Mid-level cultural institutions must be engaged in this process. As noted above, the Ann Frank Institute was essential in tracking the violence in the aftermath of Theo Van Gogh’s assassination. As a respected and established cultural institution, the Foundation has the potential to do so much more. If possible, funding should be secured – either through state or private sources – to allow the Foundation to expand its tracking of hate-inspired violence to include programmatic events encouraging the appreciation of both traditional Dutch culture as well as the culture of the immigrants (whether Muslim or not) that have contributed to the Dutch state. It is essential that such programming should be inclusive of culture outside of Islam if the perception of Islamisation is to be avoided. Indeed, cultures as diverse as those of Indonesia, South Africa, and Surinam have all played a role in the history of the Netherlands. Another cultural institution, the John Adams Institute, may also be in a unique position. Founded in the name of the United States’ first ambassador to the Netherlands, and coincidentally America’s second President, the Institute seeks to bring American culture and learning to Netherlands in honor of New England’s Dutch roots. The Institute has the potential to highlight some of the positive attributes shared by Dutch and American culture, such as a commitment to individual liberties and a belief in religious freedom. Such seminars could help to highlight the importance of cultural harmony.
 
But Muslim organizations will have to be engaged at some level. Moderate mosques should reach out to their Christian counterparts. The willingness of Christian leaders is certainly present. In a poll, 75% of church workers in the Netherlands expressed the belief that voting for Wilders’ anti-Muslim party PVV was un-Christian; one priest went so far as to say “Wilders and the PVV's views contradict Christianity [53].” Christian leaders may be the unexpected if natural ally in an effort to help bridge the Netherlands’ cultural divide.
 
As noted above, the legacy of an allochtonen population of Morrocan and Turkish Muslims comes from the Netherlands’ own policy of inviting guest workers to the country. The cultural clash taking place in the Netherlands today is not only a result of the guest worker program, but is also and more importantly a result of an identity crisis among the children of these guest workers. In this sense, an intergenerational dialogue must be initiated. These guest workers of the 1960s and 1970s were not forced to immigrate as refugees; rather these workers chose to relocate to the Netherlands, and then to utilize Dutch reunification policies to reunite their families. This suggests that these workers had good reason to stay in the Netherlands – be it economic, ideological, or otherwise. Younger Moroccan and Turkish allochtonen need to be reminded why their parents and grandparent chose to live in the Netherlands.
 
Finally, existing multi-cultural centers have a vital role to play. They can promote cultural acceptance as well as serve as models for new centers in the major cities. A unique example of this fusion of culture, art and tolerance exists in Amsterdam already. Podium Mozaiek is a multi-cultural arts center in Amsterdam’s Bos en Lommer neighborhood. A former church said by some to resemble a mosque, it seems the perfect venue for reflecting the Netherlands’ multicultural heritage in both the performing and visual arts [54]. Again, the multi-cultural – not just the Muslim – character of the organization makes it a perfect vehicle for bridging cultural divides in a climate paranoid about Islamisation. Furthermore, the renovation of an historic structure – such as a church – sends a powerful message as well. While it may be too ambitious to suggest such a venture in all the cities of the Netherlands, this model could be applied to cities with the largest concentration of immigrants, such as Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.
        
To summarize:
- Intercultural and interfaith exchanges (mid-level actors)
- Intergenerational forums (mid-level, grassroots actors)
 -Multi-cultural centers (elite, mid-level actors)

Political and Violent Extremist Actions on Both Sides

Authors like Roeder and Rothchild emphasize the importance of democracy in establishing societies that can overcome culture differences.  The Netherlands is an established democracy, operating under a consensus-based model employing list-proportional representation. In this sense, it is perhaps less than fruitful to talk of changes to the nature of the democracy itself. However, extreme elements such as the PVV are operating in Dutch politics, and more moderate centrist parties have begun to lean towards populist right-wing stances.
 
It is essential that Muslim immigrants engage in the politics of their adopted country. One obvious strategy that could be pursued is the formation of a new political party in the Netherlands. Indeed, this strategy has already been employed by Wilders in his establishment of the anti-Muslim PVV. It is admittedly difficult to create a nation-wide party, even in a small country such as the Netherlands. However, nation-wide parties are not necessarily the answer. Local parties can contest municipal elections. As stated above, the Muslim immigrant population is largely concentrated in the four largest cities in the Netherlands; organizing a party to contest elections in select cities with a large immigrant population could be a viable strategy.
 
However, caution must be used in this approach. In a society where much of the population is already concerned with the perceived Islamisation of the state, any party purely associated Muslims or their plight in the Netherlands is likely to be viewed with suspicion. Rather, it would be wiser to create a party that is openly sympathetic to the needs of immigrants, including but not limited to Muslims, while at the same time addressing the problems that immigration has caused in the Netherlands. For example, a party in Rotterdam might run on a platform of addressing juvenile crime rates, while also advocating for increased educational opportunities for qualifying socio-economic groups.
 
Another strategy in the political realm involves using the existing party structure, rather than trying to create new political organizations. It is true that much attention has been given to the rise of right-wing populist parties with anti-Muslim platforms, but this sentiment is by no means universal in Dutch politics. In the March 2, 2010 debates for municipal elections, several party leaders criticized Wilders and the PVV for his intolerant view of Muslims. Labor Party leader Wouter Bos called PVV’s stance “unwise” while Socialist Party leader Agnes Kant said “Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders was a bigger threat to society than Islam [55].” If not just Muslim but all immigrant voters begin to voice their support for parties advocating sensible immigration and assimilation policies, they could become a powerful force. This ‘get out the vote’ strategy relies not just on grass-roots action from political parties, but also on grass-roots action among the immigrant populations themselves.
 
Authors like Large and Sisk argue that human rights are essential in peaceful societies; that point is well taken. Human rights are not only enshrined in the Dutch constitution, but also have a long and important history in the development of Dutch society. Extremism such as hate-speech is illegal, and the laws banning it have been well used. Wilders has in fact come under fire for his criticism of Islam and Muslim immigrants, and on January 20, 2010, a trial began in Amsterdam to determine if he has in fact violated these laws [56]­­­­­. This trial is important. It serves as a demonstration to all Dutch people – be them native or immigrant – that these laws are real. Whether it is a Muslim cleric or a Dutch politician, all citizens are subject to basic Dutch human rights guidelines. However, it may cause a backlash in that it may serve as a rallying point for hard-line anti-immigrant forces. With this in mind, both mid-level and elite actors must enforce these laws and initiate such lawsuits in both the autochtonen and allochtonen communities whenever it becomes necessary.
 
While Dutch Muslim extremists constitute a small percentage of the Muslim population – around 0.3% according to the AIVD, as stated above – that faction of the population must be rooted out and neutralized. The AIVD has proved itself quite competent in this capacity. The Hofdstadgroep was efficiently monitored and dissolved by the authorities, and as noted the AIVD continues to posit and track the existence of other such groups. These efforts should be encouraged, and if necessary additional funding and resources should be placed at their disposal to facilitate this task. While the Netherlands has been fortunate to have only a few notable incidents of Muslim extremist violence, that threat remains very real in all of Western Europe. Developments such as the Schengen Agreement have made easy travel across European boundaries a reality. Even if the vast majority of Dutch Muslims are not susceptible to violent extremism, there is the potential for extreme elements to find their way into Dutch society. This allows extremists the possibility of recruiting disenfranchised Dutch Muslims and inciting them to violence. The Dutch Government has a responsibility to protect both its autochtonen and allochtonen populations from this threat.
 
To summarize:
- Muslim participation in existing political structure (elite, mid-level, grassroots actors)
- Ongoing litigation/use of existing laws to keep extremist organizations in line with human rights protections (elite, mid-level actors)
- Funding for Security forces already established (elite actors)

Conclusion

There is no easy answer to societal conflict, especially when that conflict is largely rooted in perceived threats to identity. The suggestions outlined in this paper are only a start to what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult process. Even these somewhat modest proposals will require great effort and an ongoing commitment from all levels of Dutch society. The burden of this task will fall on the moderate parts of society, both allochtonen and autochtonen. While contributions from actors outside the Netherlands may be fruitful, it is internal actors that will be the cause of change.


APPENDIX

Figure 1


 


 

[1] My personal experience in the Netherlands suggests that some Dutch feel these terms are perhaps not politically correct any more; however the historic use of the terms, and the fact that the Dutch Bureau of Statistics still employs them, speaks volumes in my mind.
[2] CIA Factbook. 2010. “The Netherlands.” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook.
[3] CIA Factbook. 2010. “The Netherlands.” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook.
[4] Veldhuis, Tinka & Edwin Bakker. 2009.”Muslims in the Netherlands: Tensions and Violent Conflict,” in Michael Emerson (ed.), Ethno-Religious Conflict in Europe. Center for European Policy Studies: Brussels.
[5] Aarts, Paul and Fadi Hirzalla. 2005. “Lions of Tawhid in the Polder.” Middle East Report. July, pp. 21
[6] Party for Freedom. 2010. www.pvv.nl.
[7] Veldhuis, Tinka & Edwin Bakker. 2009.”Muslims in the Netherlands: Tensions and Violent Conflict,” in Michael Emerson (ed.), Ethno-Religious Conflict in Europe. Center for European Policy Studies: Brussels.
[8] Sunier, Thijl. 2005. “Interests, Identities, and the Public Sphere: Representing Islam in the Netherlands Since the 1980s,” in Joyce Cesari & Sean McLoughlin (eds.), European Muslims and the Secular State. Ashgate: Burlington. Pg. 91
[9] Veldhuis, Tinka & Edwin Bakker. 2009.”Muslims in the Netherlands: Tensions and Violent Conflict,” in Michael Emerson (ed.), Ethno-Religious Conflict in Europe. Center for European Policy Studies: Brussels.
[10] Veldhuis, Tinka & Edwin Bakker. 2009.”Muslims in the Netherlands: Tensions and Violent Conflict,” in Michael Emerson (ed.), Ethno-Religious Conflict in Europe. Center for European Policy Studies: Brussels. Pg. 92
[11] Veldhuis, Tinka & Edwin Bakker. 2009.”Muslims in the Netherlands: Tensions and Violent Conflict,” in Michael Emerson (ed.), Ethno-Religious Conflict in Europe. Center for European Policy Studies: Brussels. Pg. 94
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