Tilburg University to investigate controversial dissertation on Salafism

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)

Tilburg University called in an external expert to check a controversial dissertation on Salafism in the Netherlands, following complaints that the study contains many errors. This move is remarkable, as the research was previously presented as a thorough study on radical Islam, NOS reports.

The dissertation was written by Dutch-Iranian PhD student Mohammad Nazar Soroush. He visited 64 religious meetings over the past three years, and listened and watched young salafists at mosques, foundations and leisure activities. In his dissertation he concluded that there is a growing group of young Salafists in the Netherlands who politicians can't get a grip on and who are increasingly isolated from society. He also considered it certain that Salafism and democracy can't mix.

After the publication of this research, parliamentarians even requested a debate on the warnings in the dissertation. But now mosques and experts say that there are inaccuracies and omissions in the research. At least four mosques objected to the dissertation, including the Imam Malik mosque in Leiden. "We are absolutely not Salafist",  Abdelhamid Bouzzit, board member of the Imam Malik mosque, said to NOS. The descriptions of the nature of the sermons and even the descriptions of the mosque's interior are incorrect in the dissertation, he said.

The university now hired an external expert to check the dissertation. According to the Tilburg University Executive Board, the signals are serious enough to raise doubts. "These doubts concern in particular the carefulness of the scientific activities, the reliability of the execution of the research and the verifiability of the research results and conclusions."

Mohammad Nazar Soroush did not want to respond to this matter. His promoter, Ruben Gowricham, told NOS that the research itself is sound and only the part about the mosque in Leiden is incorrect. "That is why there is an erratum. It will be corrected."

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