Islam in Holland

Amsterdam, Shawwal 10/January 16 (IINA) - Out of Hollands population of

15.6 million, Muslims make up half a million, which is ten-fold what it

was in 1971. Now the Islamic atmosphere in Holland has become common

feature, with mosques and Islamic schools in existence in various parts

of the country.

The Dutch government does not interfere in the religious affairs of any

community, and seeks to integrate the various minorities in the country

into the Dutch society, so that they can participate in the democratic

practices of the country and do away with racial inclinations.

Holland itself was inhabited by very few Muslims since the last half

century or so, though the majority of those that were encompassed by the

Dutch Empire were Muslims, because, up to 1949, its borders included

Muslim Indonesia. In Surinam also there is a sizeable Muslim community,

of Indian descent.

In the sixties there was a shortage of manpower in Holland and the

country had to look for foreign labor outside its borders, so that its

economy could be activated, and for this reason there was a movement of

people from such Mediterranean countries as Turkey and Morocco. Though

in 1974 Holland put a stop to the importation of foreign labor, it did

not stop the current of immigration from such countries, and many of the

resident workers started to bring in their families. There was also a

wave of immigration from Surinam, before its independence in 1975, and

most of

the immigrants were Muslims.

Muslims now comprise four percent of the Dutch population, with the

ethnic Turks being the majority in the Muslim community, in that they

number about 270,000. This is followed by the Moroccan ethnic community,

numbering 225,000, while the Surinamese community comes third, numbering

50,000 in all.

Additionally, there are Muslims who came to Holland as refugees, from

such countries as Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Afghanistan, the

former Soviet Union, and Bosnia.

In 1971, Muslims in Holland numbered 54,000, in 1975 the figure went up

to 108,000, in 1980 it was 225,000, and in 1997 it reached the 573,000


Clause No. 1 of the Dutch Constitution stipulates that all the residents

of Holland shall enjoy equal rights, and the constitution also forbids

any form of discrimination on grounds of religion, faith, politics, sex,


ethnic origin. This means that the Muslims also enjoy equal rights as

those enjoyed by the Christians.

But coupled with these rights, there are also responsibilities that go

hand in hand with them, such as the payment of taxes, as well as

compulsory education. This means that up to the age of 16, every child

must go to school, including the children of residents.

Those who have taken up Dutch citizenship also enjoy equal rights as

their Dutch-born counterparts, including the rights to vote or stand for

election on the national level, while at the local level even residents

enjoy such rights. It is reported that over 100 Muslims hold elective

offices at the local level.

There is complete religious freedom in Holland, on both the level of the

individual and at the communal level, and religion is separated from the

state. This means that the government does interfere in the affairs of

religious bodies, while at the same time such bodies do not interfere in

affairs of the state. 

At the moment there are about 200 mosques scattered in various parts of

Holland, that were built by each of the various ethnic groups, while

Muslim cemeteries also can be found in dozens of towns and cities. In

fact, right up to the eighties, the Dutch Government used to give

subventions for the construction of mosques and churches, but this came

to an end after it was decided that this was contrary to the idea of

separating religion from the state. So now the onus of building mosques

has been left to the Islamic organizations.

Even in the private sector, Muslims enjoy a measure of freedom, such as

flexible hours during the fasting month of Ramadhan, while some

enterprises allocate special prayer areas for their Muslim workers.

Circumcision is practiced in many of the hospitals in Holland, while the

wearing of the Hijab by Muslim women has become a common sight at

schools and at university campuses. But at some of the private schools


practice is somewhat discouraged, and there is nothing that the

government could do about it, since they enjoy a large measure of

freedom to run their affairs.

As far as slaughterhouses are concerned, and in keeping with the

practice in other European Union countries, the government of Holland

has set aside special abattoirs for slaughtering animals according to

the Islamic Sharia. Thus there are more than 500 Islamic

slaughterhouses, out of a total number of 4,500. 

But the government of Hollands policy is that of social integration,

regardless of religious affiliation, though some of the ethnic

minorities suffer from a number of drawbacks, such as the linguistic

barrier and other stumbling blocks. 

The rate of unemployment among the ethnic minorities is around 20

percent, though this segment forms only five percent of the labor force.

The government is therefore working toward improving the lot of this

segment of the society in Holland, and integrating them within the Dutch

society as a whole, not only by providing employment opportunities for

them, but also by teaching them skills and the Dutch language. 

The government of Holland is now in the process of initiating the

appointment of Muslim chaplains in prisons and asylums, and for this

purpose will form an Advisory Commission, for purposes of reference.

Thus, in order to take care of the spiritual life of the inmates of

prisons, the government in Holland would shoulder the responsibility of

paying the salaries and other emoluments of such appointees, provided

the appointees can carry out their duties using the Dutch language.

There are denominational schools in Holland, such as those of the

Catholics and the Protestants, but the Muslims also have about 30 such

schools. But the secular curriculum applies to all, while education is

compulsory for all, so that no segment of the society can be left behind

as far as education is concerned.

Public schools are free to introduce religious education, and in this

connection both Islamic and Christian studies are taught in many such

schools. The studentat such schools are free to chose either Arabic or

Turkish as a second language. Itis also expected thatthis year(2000) a

Muslim secondary school will be established in Rotterdam.

Islam and Islamic studies, including Arabic and other Muslims languages,

are also given their due importance at the higher level of education,

and there are several lecturers who lecture on such subjects at the

university level. AT the University of Amsterdam there is a Chair for

Islamic Studies and it is funded by private organizations.

In 1998, the Dutch Institute for Islamic Studies in the Contemporary

World was opened in Leiden, and, as the name implies, it focuses mainly


Islamic studies. The government is also funding the training of Imams,

as it does with other religious denominations. At the moment, about 50

Imams are drawn from Turkey and Morocco every year, and the first year


their residence is used by the government to induct them in Dutch

society, and this includes the learning of the Dutch language.

Such induction courses are followed by examinations not only in the

language, but also to assess the ability of the fresh waves of Imams.


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