Dutch Muslims increasingly religious

A child walks near members of the Muslim community attending midday prayers at Strasbourg Grand Mosque in Strasbourg, France
A child walks near members of the Muslim community attending midday prayers at Strasbourg Grand Mosque in Strasbourg, France . Portaloko

Over the past ten years Dutch Muslims' faith became increasingly important to them, according to a study by social and cultural planning office SCP. The researchers attribute this partly to increased tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims and the feeling of exclusion that stems from that, NOS reports.

"The repelling attitude from Dutch society makes the faith, the Muslim identity and belonging to a community extra attractive. The negative image can be an incentive to delve into knowledge about Islam", the SCP wrote in its report The religious experience of Muslims in the Netherlands. "The negative judgments about Islam and Muslims from the Dutch social environment stimulate the strengthening of ties within the origin group and underline the Muslim identity." In other words, those who experience Dutch society as hostile, cling to their faith. 

The study is based on data from 2015 and focuses mainly on Dutch-Turks and Dutch-Moroccans - the largest Islamic groups in the Netherlands. Of them, 86 percent and 94 percent respectively call themselves Muslim. Respondents who call themselves Muslims prayed more often over the past 10 years. Especially Dutch-Turks visited mosques more often, and more Dutch-Moroccan women wore a hijab. Almost all of them indicate that their faith is a very important part of themselves.

For this study, the SCP divided the Muslims in the Netherlands into five different categories. Secular Muslims, who call themselves Muslim but do not participate much in the faith in practice. They don't pray, but usually eat halal and a minority participates in Ramadan. Cultural  Muslims, who do not go to mosque and pray infrequently, but still attach great importance to their faith. They eat halal and find negative comments about Islam hurtful. Selective Muslims, who give their own interpretation to their faith. Part of them regularly go to mosque, but they don't pray five times a day. They eat halal and find Ramadan important. 

The more devout Muslims are divided into two groups. Pious, private Muslims, who comply with most religious rules, but exercise their faith mainly in private. They do not go to mosque often. And strict, practicing Muslims, who regularly go to mosque, live all religious rules and believe that other Muslims should do the same. 

The SCP study found that an increasing proportion of Dutch Muslims fall under one of the two more devout groups. Among Dutch-Turkish Muslims that percentage increased from 37 to 45 percent over the past decade, and among Dutch-Moroccan Muslims from 77 to 84 percent. The researchers emphasize that these groups can not simply be labeled as strictly orthodox or salafist. The study provided too little information to determine this.

The researchers found that the majority of pious and strict Muslims are open to cultural diversity. Nearly all of them called it good that society consists of several cultures. Less than 10 percent said they understand religious violence. A large proportion of strict Muslims vote in elections. "For the most part, they do not reject the democratic constitutional state and the associated institutions", according to the SCP.

Still, a large proportion of Dutch Muslims have a negative image of society. About 40 percent think that other Dutch people can be trusted in general. They score the judiciary and police sufficient, and the government insufficient. Around three-quarters say that people with their background are occasionally or often discriminated against. Nearly 50 percent said they themselves regularly experience discrimination. And about 60 percent said that people in the Netherlands think too negatively about Islam.

A common assumption is that religious immigrants who live in a predominantly secular society for a long time become less and less religious. This does not seem to be the case with Muslims in the Netherlands, according to SCP. This is because the immediate environment of many Muslims is not all that secular, the researchers said. They live in their own social network and therefore hardly come into contact with other ideals in a positive way. 

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