Netherlands: Islam contributing to delinquent behavior

Netherlands: Islam contributing to delinquent behavior

The knowledge base is available on the Justice Ministry site (in Dutch)


The Dutch justice ministry is investigating which approach to youth criminality works.  Using this information, the cabinet will deal with the problematics of Moroccan youth.

Islam is possibly one of the causes of delinquent behavior of Moroccan youth, suggests Corine de Ruiter, professor of forensic psychology in Maastricht who - together with others - mapped out for the justice ministry ways to deal with criminal Moroccan youth.  According to De Ruiter, Moroccan (and Turkish) youth are 'backwards in their moral development'.

This backwardness is one of the factors which can cause criminal behavior: it's been scientifically shown that delinquents often have decreased moral functions, less emphatic abilities and less aggression controls.  This less well developed 'moral reasoning' of Moroccan and Turkish youth is explained, according to De Ruiter and her coworker Kim van Oorsouw, by the Islamic background of these minority groups.

"In Islam the emphasis is on obedience and respect for the parents.  Individualism and independence are less important - and these are exactly the qualities which can bring moral development to a higher level,' according to the co-authors of the knowledge base for dealing with criminal Moroccan youth.

Children in Dutch families grow up with a 'democratic negotiation style' and much consultation with the parents, where they learn to decide.  Islamic children often grow up in a family structure in which they 'must only follow orders'.  There is yet no empiric evidence that this goes together with antisocial or criminal behavior, but the authors think it's 'plausible' that it goes like that.


Moroccan youth deal with different background factors than Turkish youth.  Morocco is less industrialized and less democratic than Turkey and in Morocco women have less political rights, which goes together with illiteracy, to enumerate some differences.

Accordingto the researchers programmes such as the Glenn Mills school for Moroccan youth are also 'not effective in increasing moral maturity, since repression is often already the dominate upbringing style".  They see much more benefit in teaching a different style of thinking.  Studies abroad show that this approach actually leads to less recidivism.  It is also known that Moroccans suffer more than average from schizophrenia.  This might well have to do with the frequent cousin marriages, according to researcher Trees Pels, who also worked on the report.

The knowledge base is the basis of the 'Moroccan policy' that the cabinet is now developing.  The WODC (Research and Documentation Center) of the Justice Ministry asked various researchers to write down what is already known and established about the approach of youth crime and antisocial behavior in general, and of immigrant/Moroccan youth in particular.

They are looking for which interventions and regulations have been shown to really work.  There are only a few, conclude the researchers.  What is available as far as scientific evidence is based mostly on American studies; research of the workings of (foreign) interventions in the Dutch context is highly necessary, argue the authors.  Thus it is unknown whether youth in justice youth institutes who don't show problem behavior any more also keep to it after their release.  Probably not, think the researchers.


An important recommendation from the report is that schools should play a bigger role in fighting nuisances and criminality of Moroccan youth.  Immigrant parents turn to the (psychological) social worker slower than ethnic Dutch parents, also due to a cultural taboo.  Informing the parents is therefore of great importance, say the authors of the knowledge base.

The researchers recommend that schools (school doctors, youth health care, teachers) play a more important role in observing.  Teachers, for example, could be encouraged to screen for behavior problems in their class.  There's a test with simple questions ('can the child sit still? Does he lie often?') which can signal problem behavior and behavior disorders very early.
When immigrant parents are referred to social workers by the school it can help overcome the hurdle, argue the researchers.  It would be better if the social help would be offered at or via the school.  That would be seen as a smaller hurdle and less stigmatizing by immigrant parents, but also by parents with a low social-economic status, than when they must go on their own to the youth social care, according to the writers of the knowledge base.
The expectation is that if parents find their way more easily to the volunteer social workers, immigrant over-representation in the non-volunteer, more serious help (youth care) will also decrease.


The increase of 'social binding' among ethnic minorities can also work as a 'buffer against criminal behavior', the researchers, who worked for WODC, think.  The social binding can be reinforced by strengthening the social cohesion within the (Moroccan) families.

"Parent training can already be done during the elementary school period.  Moroccan parents appear to have problems recognizing their child shows difficult manageability behavior."  Teachers do recognize this behavior, a reason to already offer 'preventive intervention' in school.

Other findings of the researchers: the creation of places to hang out for at-risk youth often has a contrary effect; setting up a curfew is not effective in fighting crime, but improving street lighting is.  More random 'blue' on the street is not beneficial, but directing extra patrols at certain times and areas works demonstrably well.

Source: Binnenlands Bestuur (Dutch), h/t Wij Blijven Hier

See also:
* Denmark: 'Muslim culture plays role in criminality'
* Copenhagen: Crime and religion

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