Netherlands: Muslims vs. Dutch Reformed

Netherlands: Muslims vs. Dutch Reformed

A report on community relations in the Dutch town of Ede was published last week. The report was carried out by the IVA research bureau of Tilburg University, The headlines which followed either talk about the racist Dutch or the Islamist Moroccans. Dutch newspaper Trouw says that the Moroccans and Dutch Reformed are almost at war (NL), a statement contested (NL) by the local mayor.

I skimmed through the report (PDF, ~170 pages), and it doesn't exactly say any of these things. Ede is a city in the Dutch 'Bible Belt'. The city is about 86% Dutch and 7% non-Western immigrants. Almost all of the non-Western immigrants live in the city of Ede itself, particularly in the district of Veldhuizen. In Veldhuizen A there are 34.5% non-Western immigrants, the largest group being Moroccans (16.5%). The towns and villages around Ede have a strong Dutch Reformed community, which is generally somewhat intolerant. For example, one store which opened on Sunday had its windows smashed.

The Moroccan community in Ede got headlines when a number of Moroccans celebrated after the 9/11 attacks, and when a Muslim youth organization invited a Salafist preacher. There are constant reports on the news of car burnings, vandalism and threats against bus drivers. On the other hand, the "Londsdale" youth are considered to be those responsible for attacks against the local mosque.

The researchers conducted interviews with Moroccan and Dutch youth, and the final conclusion is that they're each distrustful of the other, and do not mix. They see each other at school, but otherwise (mostly) stay out of each other's neighborhoods. Both have an 'us vs. them' attitude.

The report speaks of xenophobic attitudes and 'kitchen-table' racism (from the Dutch youth, of course), but they're not exactly the 'right-wing' extremists portrayed by the news, either. The youth don't have a racist ideology as much as they don't trust or want to mix with the people they don't know. An attitude which, btw, is mutual.

According to the mayor of Ede, Cees van der Knaap, the Moroccans and the Reformed are almost enemies and it would already be good if they would just be respectful opponents. However, he says he doubts the situation is different elsewhere in the Netherlands.

According to the report, both communities lead a segregated lifestyle. The researchers say it's an issue of cause and effect - the Moroccans weren't accepted and thereby turned inwards.

Henk Moors, one of the researchers who conducted the study, says that the Muslims in Ede don't feel they have recognition. They live in bad neighborhoods with a high crime rate. They had to fight for years in order to get their mosque, and the bad publicity of troublemakers and radical Muslims leads to prejudices and discrimination against the Muslim community. They're jealous of the orthodox Christians who can practice their faith quietly while the orthodox Muslims have to constantly justify themselves. I'm not sure this perception is true. Violence from the orthodox Christian side might not make national headlines, but it's not appreciated. Their neighbors don't appreciate their 'double standards', either.

The study suggests setting up activities which would 'force' the two groups to visit each other's 'turf'. Van der Knaap says he hopes teachers, social workers and the church people would work on getting the two groups to talk with each other. The municipality intends to prevent the Muslim community from radicalizing and to stop the polarization between the two groups of youth.

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

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