Despite its small area and population, the Netherlands played an important role in European history, starting from conquest and trade in the medieval era until the establishment of the European Union in its current form. The people of the Netherlands contributed to forming current European values, including freedoms, democracy, and social justice. The country became saturated with pluralism and a place that accommodates many cultures and civilizations, including Islamic culture, which made it a destination for refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries.

In this text, we highlight the reality of the Muslim community in the Netherlands and its current presence in both political and social life. We will focus on the intellectual currents prevailing among Muslims there.

We note that our work will be covering all aspects and forms of the Islamic presence, given the strong political, economic and social impact of Dutch Muslims.

Introduction:

The Netherlands have a long history of dealing with Islam and Muslims. For 300 years, the Dutch ruled over Indonesia[1], the largest Muslim country in the world.

During Indonesia’s war for independence from the Netherlands during World War II, hundreds of Dutch colonies in the Indonesian archipelago of Southeast Asia migrated to the Netherlands to work and improve their incomes. In 1950 they numbered about 5,000 Muslims, inaugurating the first brick in the wall of the Muslim minority there.[2]

After World War II, the number of Muslims in the Netherlands increased with the arrival of the Moluccans, who were soldiers of the Royal Dutch East Army in the colonies of Indonesia and Suriname.[3] This was accompanied by the start of Asian, African, and Middle Eastern immigration toward Europe. By the beginning of the 1990s, some Iraqis immigrated to the Netherlands and in 2014, an estimated 70,000 Syrians arrived in the Netherlands, a large part of them have acquired Dutch citizenship.

Today, about one million Muslims live in the Netherlands, they constitute 5.1 percent of the total population of 17 million. Most Muslims are Turkish, with an estimated population of nearly 400,000, followed by Moroccans with about 390,000, according to the Dutch Statistics Center “CBS“.[4] Islam is the second largest religion in the country after Christianity.

The Muslim minority is considered one of the most successful minorities in the Netherlands, as it is active in various areas in the country, according to many observers. It benefits from the open environment and religious tolerance. This is a policy that the state is fully committed to, not to mention the Dutch society nature, which is characterized by religious tolerance and the acceptance of others by their religions, customs, and traditions. This is despite some racist incidents as a result of the rise of right-wing parties in most European countries, including the Netherlands, where the Freedom and Democracy Forum parties are active, raising anti-immigrant slogans.

Officially, Dutch domestic policies over the past decades have facilitated the integration of Muslims into society, including:

  • In 1990, The Dutch parliament passed a law allowing non EU-foreigners to participate in municipal elections after five years residency. After three years of the law, Muslims gained three parliamentary seats, rising to seven after eight years.
  • Government facilities for arrivals to obtain Dutch citizenship. Since 1990, the language is no longer a prerequisite, and the period has been reduced to only five years to obtain residency and then citizenship, which encouraged Turkish and Moroccan immigration to the country in the late 2000s. The number of Muslims increased from 13 thousand in 1990 to 171 thousand in 1999.[5]
  • Stimulate integration by providing large resources and financial allocations to municipalities to organize training and language courses, which promote integration and open doors for work for Muslim youth.[6]

Islamic intellectual streams and nationalist movements

Some Muslim immigrants carried their intellectual and partisan affiliations to the countries they moved to and the orientations of some Arab and Islamic countries during previous periods contributed to the growth of some Islamic intellectual currents among Muslim communities in Europe.[7] Therefore, the Islamic intellectual movements spread in the Netherlands, as well as in most of Europe. They are, in the end, oriental, completely different from the European environment in its social and political system.[8]

Muslims in the Netherlands are distributed among the well-known Islamic doctrines:

  • Hanafis: Turks, Pakistanis, Surinamese, Iraqis, and Syrians.
  • Shafi’is: Indonesians, Indians, and Kurds.
  • Twelver Shi’ism: Iraqis, Iranians, and Lebanese.
  • Al-Malikiyah: Moroccans, Algerians, Sudanese and Tunisians.

Practically, it can be said that the dominant Islamic intellectual currents that can be observed in the Netherlands today are the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafism in the first place, in addition to Sufism. Several Turkish nationalist movements are also spread in the Netherlands, as in the rest of Europe.

The Muslim Brotherhood:

In contrast to some European countries such as Germany, France and Britain, the Muslim Brotherhood’s presence in the Netherlands is relatively recent. It dates back to the 1990s, apparently because the country’s universities have not historically attracted many students associated with the community because of the language.

The first Muslim Brotherhood entity was established in the Netherlands in 1996 under the name “The Islamic League”. It was active in The Hague, four years before disappearing, gibing place for another Brotherhood organization, the “Union of Islamic Organizations in the Netherlands”.

In the same period, a group of Brotherhood leaders founded the „Europe Trust“ branch in the Netherlands. It is a financial institution, its original branch is active in Britain. It works in the field of real estate and remittances and is the main financier of the group’s activities in Europe.

Over time, the Europe Trust bought a number of properties in the Netherlands, some of which were converted to mosques, such as the Blue Mosque in Amsterdam and the Rotterdam Center, the organization also received generous funding from foreign countries.[9]

Entities and individuals in the Dutch Muslim Brotherhood environment are linked to its umbrella organizations in Europe, although Dutch organizations play a minor role in the Brotherhood network at the European level. Ibrahim Akkari, a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands, and Noureddine Al-Wali, a local politician in Rotterdam, played an important role in organizing these local networks.

The „Islamic Association“ organization and then the „Federation of Islamic Organizations in the Netherlands“ occupied the membership of the former “Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe” (currently the „Council of Muslims in Europe“), which is the umbrella organization for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Federation is headed by Yahya Boyava, a senior official in the Dutch Muslim community of Moroccan origin. He has a long history of establishing pro-community associations and organizations in the Netherlands since the 1990s, such as Noor Al-Alam Publishing House, which translates and reproduces the works of Youssef Al-Qaradawi, Hassan Al-Banna, Abdul-Ala Al-Mawdudi, and Ibn Taymiyyah. The Foundation of the Netherlands Institute of Humanities is a replica of the European Institute of Humanities (EIHS) in France[10], assisted in his projects at that time by Musa Marqosh and Noureddine Asherat.

Ibrahim al-Zayat, a leader of the international organization, also played a major role in consolidating the group’s networks in the Netherlands.[11] He served as “Secretary of the Mosque Reconstruction Company in the Netherlands” and also held a position on the board of directors of the real estate investment company (SLM) that finances the construction of mosques in Europe, in partnership with the Turkish “Mili Gorus” organization, which Zayat also contributed to founding.

And in June 2021, an association called Al-Mashreq, active in the Dutch Hague joined the Forum of Youth and Student Organizations in Europe (FEMYSO), which is accused of infiltrating European organizations for the community.[12]

In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood on the ground today has several Islamic centers and mosques under their direct control. The most important are:

  • Islamic Cultural Peace Centre (EIIC) in Rotterdam.
  • The Moderation Center in Rotterdam, run by Jacob van der Bloem, a Dutch convert to Islam, who is also the de facto director of the Islamic Cultural Peace Center. He had moved to London for media training at the Islamic Society of Britain at Finsbury Park Mosque with the efforts of Zaher Al-Birawi, Hamas finance official in Britain.
  • A former school building in Rotterdam was purchased by the Social Cultural Center Foundation in the Netherlands, which is the social and cultural arm of the Tunisian Renaissance Movement.
  • The Mohammed Abdul Mohsen Al-Kharafi Islamic Center in The Hague, named after the Kuwaiti family that provided the main funding. It is managed by the “foundation of the socio-cultural center”.
  • The Blue Mosque in Amsterdam: according to Yahya Boyaf, chairman of the board of Directors of the European Trust Fund in the Netherlands ETN, the financing of the mosque and its opening in 2008 came from Qatar Foundation: „No one from Qatar Foundation attended the groundbreaking ceremony, but a high-ranking official of Qatar Charity Foundation attended”[13]
  • The Foundation of Islamic primary schools in Eindhoven: it is believed to be hacked from the group, considering that Yahya Boyava was one of its officials in the 1990s.

The Brotherhood networks in the Netherlands have a certain amount of cooperation with Islamist organizations such as the “Pakistani Islamic Group” and the Turkish “Milli Görüs”, which share the same ideological ground with the group.

Salafism:

Salafism arrived in the Netherlands in the 1980s with the migration of Islamic activists from the Middle East to Europe, and these had the main role in the emergence and formation of Salafist organizations in the country.

The call of Salafists in the Netherlands – as in most countries – is centered on the revival of the Islamic caliphate, strict interpretation of Islam, adherence to the Quran, the Sunnah, the practical and the sayings of the “righteous predecessor” of the companions, caliphs and their followers in the descent of the provisions of the book and the Sunnah on the renewed reality in kind.[14]

The activities of Salafists were initially limited to participating in television debates and some articles on the internet, and the majority of other works and activities were aimed at the Muslim community in its own spaces, or in mosques, according to researcher Annik Roix in his study entitled “Salafi Dawa networks in the Netherlands”.

Later, the Islamic call became public with the establishment of the group „Street Dawa”, focused on spreading Salafi interpretation of Islam and promoting it on Dutch streets. According to some Dutch researchers, the “Hoftad“ group is the first Salafi-jihadist group in the Netherlands. It is ” a network of young extremists led by Moroccan Mohamed Boueri, who later became famous for the murder of film director Theophane Gogh in 2004. Also, new politically active Salafi groups with extremist orientations, including: “Sharia for the Netherlands” and “a Group behind Bars”, held press conferences and organized protest movements and demonstrations, some of which had political and security consequences and secretions, after which the security services and the police were forced to take specific measures to curb the phenomenon. In June of 2012, they arrested a member of the “Sharia for the Netherlands” group, after a press conference held in Amsterdam on charges of “making public threats to the head of the far-right nationalist and hostile Freedom Party Geert Wilders, describing him as a “rum dog” who “will be treated as his ilk had been treated.”[15]

Other Salafi networks were active from the Tawhid Mosque in Amsterdam. They were run by Egyptians and Syrians, including Mahmoud Sharshabi and Ahmed Salam. And also, a network in the Sunni Mosque in The Hague and the Waqf – Al-Furqan Mosque, in Eindhoven, founded by Moroccans. Two Salafi networks emerged, the first gathered around a family known as “Salam”, residing in Tilburg, in addition to a third network that wraps around the religious preacher Abdullah Bushti.

Many followers of Islamic Salafist movements have moved to Europe and the Netherlands since the 1980s, such as the Dawa and Tabligh movement, the Libyan International Islamic Dawa, the Islamic Waqf group, the Moroccan Justice and Charity group, and the Salafi group for Preaching and Fighting, which contributed to strengthening the Salafi presence among Muslim communities in the West.

There are only two estimates of the number of Salafists in the Netherlands. These estimates vary widely, from 20,000 to 30,000 in 2007 and 40,000 to 60,000 in 2010. However, a few years later, in 2015, the general intelligence and security service of the Netherlands (AIVD) and the National Commission for security and counter-terrorism (NCTV) stated that the number could not be determined due to the great diversity and overlap[16], which often means the overlap of Islamic movements among themselves and the difficulty of differentiating from each other. NCTV data also indicate that the number of mosques run by Salafists increased from 13 in 2014 to 27 in 2018.[17]

These Salafi networks culminated their activities and expressed the truth of their thought during the Syrian war, when in 2013 hundreds of Salafists of Arab and Islamic origins moved to Syria to wage jihad in the ranks of armed groups, some of them are still detained in the prisons of the autonomous administration dedicated to the fighters of “ISIS”.[18]

As a result, Salafism is present in the Netherlands today through four main centers[19] and other less important sub-centers. The four centers are:

  • Tawhid Foundation in Amsterdam: The Tawhid Foundation in Amsterdam was established in 1986 with Saudi support. The foundation (and the associated al-Tawhid Mosque) is considered one of the founders of the Salafi infrastructure in the Netherlands.
  • Islamic Endowment Foundation: Often referred to as the endowment, it was founded in 1989 in Eindhoven. The parent organization of this institution is located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and has offices in several countries. The Al-Furqan Mosque in Eindhoven is the central location for Waqf activities in the Netherlands.
  • Sunnah Foundation Soundna: Founded in The Hague in 1990 with the support of preachers residing in Saudi Arabia, the name was changed to Sheikh Islam Ibn Taymiyah Center in 1998. The most prominent figures in the foundation are the controversial Syrian imam Fawaz Junaid, as well as the preacher Jamal Al-Hajjaj (Abu Ismail), who played an important role in the spread of Salafism in the Netherlands.
  • The Islamic Foundation for Education and Knowledge Transfer (ISOOK): It was founded in Tilburg in 2000 with one of its most famous officials is Ahmed Salam.
  • Islamic Youth Foundation in Breda: Founded on March 9, 1990 in Breda.
  • The foundation of the Muslim World League in the Netherlands: It was established in February 2000 in Tilburg, as a branch of the Muslim World League based in Mecca.
  • Muslim Youth Foundation (SMJU): Located in Utrecht and founded on February 8, 2005. According to the founders, the foundation was created with donations and efforts of Dutch Muslims.
  • Institute of Education (IoE)): Founded in October 2006 in Utrecht on the initiative of Suhaib Salam, the son of Ahmed Salam.
  • Pushta Mosque in Tilburg.
  • The Unitarians Mosque in EDI.
  • Mosque of Islam in Roermond.

The Sufi Way:

The Dutch Sufi movement and independent Sufi centers are guided primarily by the ideas of Inayat Khan (1882 – 1927), an Indian mystic, considered the founder of the international Sufi movement.

The “world Mysticism” movement has several centers in the Netherlands, the most important are Stichting Soefi Beweging Nederland in The Hague, The Center for Sufism in Rotterdam, the Foundation for World Mysticism in The Hague and the Enayet Center in Amersfoort. For followers, the headquarters for meetings and organizing events is the Sufi temple located in the city of Katwijk.[20]

The spread of Sufism in The Netherlands was especially expanded by Abdul Wahid van Bommel, a former jazz musician and the first known Dutch to convert to Islam. He was also one of the first to write about Islam and a whole generation grew up with his book “Live to Pray”. He also played a leading role within the Muslim community by bringing up controversial topics.

In general, many Sufi organizations are active in the Netherlands, some of them are independent and others are national (regional in major cities), below is a list of the most prominent of these organizations and their areas of spread:

There are other Sufi methods that are widespread among Muslims in the Netherlands, such as the Qadiri and Naqshbandi methods (Indonesian and Turkish interpretation.) and the Turkish Sulaymaniyah and Darqawiyah, but they are less influential.

The Ahmadis:

A regenerative Islamic movement founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the nineteenth century in British India. The Ahmadiyya community believes that its founder is the awaited Mahdi, while Sunni and Shiites see it as heretical and a departure from Islam.

Many Ahmadi Muslims migrated to the west from Pakistan, where they were deprived of their religious freedom in their homeland.[21] Since 1974, members of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan were forbidden to present themselves as Muslims, they are not allowed to call their temples mosques.

According to Amnesty International, the Pakistani authorities have for many years covered up violence against members of the Ahmadiyya community and even supported violence against them to some extent. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Ahmadiyya community is a persecuted minority in Pakistan and its followers have the right to seek protection. Therefore, unlike Germany, members of this community are granted asylum in Britain, the United States and the Netherlands and are legally forbidden to be deported to Pakistan.

The Ahmadiyya movement has been active in the Netherlands since 1920 and built its first mosque there in 1955: the Mubarak Mosque in The Hague by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, who was Pakistan’s representative at the United Nations and president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Today, there are approximately 3,000 Ahmadi Muslims in the Netherlands, located in the cities of Leeuwarden, Middelburg and Amstelveen.[22] The “Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the Netherlands”[23] is their main umbrella organization, led globally by Mirza Masroor Ahmad.

Shiite Organizations:

The Shiite presence in the Netherlands began with the immigration of a number of Turkish families who came to the Netherlands in the 1960s for the purpose of work and reconstruction, but their presence began to multiply relatively after the arrival of thousands of Iraqi families during the 1990s and later after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. They represent today the largest number of Dutch Shiites.[24]

In addition to them, there are several thousand other Asian ethnicities, such as Iranians, Pakistanis, Afghans and Indians who came to the Netherlands and settled there for various political and economic reasons.

The majority of Dutch Shiites belong ideologically to the „Twelver Imami“ branch, as distinct from the „Ismaili Imami“ branch or the „Zaidi“ branch. Dutch Shiites do not have large religious institutions, mosques or large hussayniyahs, with few exceptions.

The affairs of the community in the Netherlands are regulated by at least three Shiite organizations, such as the Shiite Islamic Council of the Netherlands (SIR) (SJI’itische Islamitische Raad), founded in 2004, the Dutch Shiite Parliament (OSV) (Overkoepelende Shiitische Vereniging), founded in 2004, and the Iraqi Federation of Netherlands Organizations (UVIO) (Unie van Iraqi organizations in Nederland) founded in 2003, the Dutch Shia Parliament (OSV) represents Shia before the Dutch government. ([25])

The most prominent Shiite cultural and social institutions are:

  • The Islamic Cultural Center in Utrecht.
  • The Imam Mahdi Center in Wordrecht.
  • Ahl Al-Bayt Cultural Association in Almera.
  • Iraqi Cultural Association in Dordrecht.
  • Al Kawthar Cultural Foundation in The Hague.
  • The Society of the great apostle in Imawden.

Turkish Nationalist Movements:

The Turkish community is steadily growing as an economic and societal force in the Netherlands. The Turks have been able to establish many civil society, political, religious and cultural organizations, most share a national character and focus on strengthening the bond between the diaspora Turks and their motherland.

The presence of these organizations and institutions was strengthened with the AKP ruling in Turkey, where Turkey has played a very firm role at the official level in building economic, social and religious bridges with the Turkish-European parties and movements that it considers politically aligned with its interests[26], in the framework of Erdogan’s AKP ideology to maintain political ties with the large Turkish community in Europe and even controlling them.[27]

There are four main organizations of Turks and Dutch of Turkish descent in the Netherlands, focusing their activities and events on religious and social matters, namely:

  • Dutch Islamic Foundation (ISN): The “Dutch Islamic Foundation” was founded in 1982 in The Hague, under the supervision of the Turkish Religious Affairs “Diyanet”. The latter operates 146 mosques in the Netherlands (about a third of the total mosques in the country).[28] ISN’s goal is to serve Turkish Muslims in the Netherlands and its activities include religious services inside and outside the mosque, such as sponsoring Holy Quran lessons, services related to Ramadan, Hajj, sacrifice, funerals, educational and cultural activities for women and children, organizing sports activities.[29]

The board of Directors consists of the following members, according to the official website of the foundation:

  • Milli Gürüs Organization[30]: one of the most prominent Turkish organizations in Europe. It shares the same ideas, goals and tactics with the Muslim Brotherhood. It was founded in the late 1960s by former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and has become a mixture of Turkish nationalist and Islamist ideas.[31] It focuses on integration clearly into European societies, as a cover for its real intentions and goals, the organization has been present in the Netherlands since 1997 through two branches:
    • “Mille Gorch North Holland” Millî Gürüs Northern Netherlands (MGNN) is the umbrella for the work of Mosques, women’s and youth organizations located in the northern part of the Netherlands.
    • “The Dutch Islamic Federation (NIF)” [32] was founded in 1981 and is considered the umbrella organization of mosques, women’s and youth organizations located mainly in the southern half of the Netherlands.[33] The headquarters of the federation are located in Rotterdam, currently headed by Mohamed Erdogan.

Both branches run about 40 mosques in the Netherlands, as well as youth, women’s, student and even sports centers. Its activities range from summer courses for children to a “rehabilitation” course for imams, organizing hajj trips to Mecca, in addition to relief work for poor countries during Ramadan and Eid al-Adha. The number of members of the organization in both branches is believed to be about 30 thousand people.[34] Some reports indicate that the organization receives indirect funding from the Turkish government through several institutions, including the “Turkish Youth Foundation” (TÜGVA).[35]

  • The Foundation of The Dutch Islamic Center (SICN): It is run by the followers of the Turkish Sufi Sulaymaniyah method, attributed to the Turkish Naqshbandi Sufi Suleyman Helmi Tonahan (1888-1959), the first Turks in Europe who religiously organized the life of Turkish immigrants in the Seventies.[36]
  • Fethullah Gülen Organization: The Gülen movement has an influential presence in the Netherlands[37], often refers to itself as “Hizmet“.[38] The organization presents itself as a moderate Islamic dialogical educational movement, while former members accuse it of being a group with mafia structures and secret agendas.[39] The Turkish official “Anatolia” News Agency has previously announced the names of eight schools in the Netherlands that it said were linked to a “terrorist organization,” referring to the Gülen movement, which Ankara accuses of being behind the failed coup attempt in the summer of 2016[40], accusing the Dutch-Turkish politician Turan Yazir of running the organization’s activities in the Netherlands.[41]

In addition to the four aforementioned organizations, there are other Turkish organizations in the Netherlands that are predominantly of a national and religious nature, which are generally loyal to Turkish agendas and adopt the Turkish official discourse:[42]

  • The “Gray Wolves”: A Turkish transnational organization with a far-right nationalist ideology, closely associated with the right-wing Turkish Party (MHP), founded in 1969 and a partner in the ruling coalition with the AKP after it took third place in the June 2018 parliamentary elections, winning 49 seats.[43]

Since its foundation, the organization has focused on the hostility of the Kurds and has participated since the 1990 in battles against the PKK organization in western and eastern Turkey. The movement believes in the ethnic superiority of the Turks, seeks to restore their “glories and history” and unite the Turkish peoples in one state, in addition to antagonizing other nationalities such as Greeks and Armenians.

The branch of the Turkish organization in the Netherlands is mainly aimed at young third-generation Turks[44] and it is believed that it controls the “Holland Turkish Federation” (Holland Türk Federasyon)[45] based in Amsterdam. The organization is controversial in several European countries due to acts of violence and hate speech, including the Netherlands, where the ruling coalition and the opposition Socialist Party in November 2020 sought to ban it.

  • Turkish Foundation for Islamic Culture: Located in the “Transvaal” District of The Hague, it has been active in the city since 1988.
  • Dutch Religious Establishment (HDV): Loyal to the AKP government in Turkey, headed by Dr. Youssef Akar, who also holds the position of acting adviser for religious services in The Hague.

Mosques and Islamic centers

In the previous chapter, we talked about some mosques and Islamic centers with clear and well-known dependencies, and we continue in this chapter to talk about mosques as one of the most prominent manifestations of the existence of Muslim community in the Netherlands, despite its different cultures, languages and origins.

The first mosque in the Netherlands was built in 1956 with a grant from the government in the city of The Hague and with the efforts of the “Ahmadiyya Muslim community“[46], while the Surinamese built several mosques in the late 1960s, simultaneously with a similar activity of immigrants from Indonesia. While the Moroccans and Turks began to open a mosque for themselves in the early 1970s, most of these mosques were old garages and uninhabited places of residence, because Muslims in the Netherlands believed that their presence was temporary, as well as a result of disputes between local religious associations that existed at that time.[47]

In 1975, the Muslims succeeded in forming the federal Muslim organization, in 1981 the Islamic Information Center (MIC) in The Hague, and the magazine „Qibla“ was published, which began to introduce the Dutch to the Muslim community on the basis that they are part of the Dutch society. After that, mosques began to spread with the increase in the number of Muslim residents and their need to perform worship, as the designs and sizes of mosques varied according to the members of the Muslim community who lived nearby.[48]

There are now about 500 mosques, including a hundred mosques built in the Islamic style with minarets, it is not allowed to sound the call to prayer through loudspeakers. The mosque “Al-Salam” in Rotterdam is considered the largest mosque, while the Maulana Mosque, built in 2006 in the same city, won the title of the most beautiful building in the city that year, as it is located next to the train station with a minaret height of 42 m.

Of the total number of mosques in the Netherlands, the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) controls 146 of them. Diyanet applies the political ideology of the Turkish AKP party and employs trained imams in Turkey[49], some of whom do not speak Dutch, prevent the effective integration of Dutch-Turkish Muslims into Dutch society by promoting loyalty to the Turkish state while neglecting to strengthen loyalty to the Dutch state.[50]

Considering the large number of mosques and Islamic centers in the Netherlands, we will only mention the most prominent ones here, noting that some of them have been mentioned above:

  • Al-Salam Mosque in Rotterdam: The largest mosque in the Netherlands, founded by the efforts of a leading member of the European Muslim Brotherhood[51], Noah Al-Qaddo, a British citizen of Iraqi descent, serving as the executive director of the Islamic Cultural Center in Ireland, and the secretary of the Islamic Peace Cultural Center in Rotterdam. The prayer hall can host up to 1,500 worshippers per day, and there are other rooms inside the mosque dedicated to various purposes including the administration room, education room, cultural event room, and social activity room.
  • Al-Furqan Mosque in Eindhoven: In charge of the mosque is Nasr al-Damanhouri, who became famous after Qatar bought a building in Rotterdam for 1.7 million Euros, where he said that he is an official representative of the foundation “Al-Noor” in Germany, in addition to a number of other charitable organizations in the Gulf region, especially the state of Qatar. According to the same statement, Al Noor is a Qatari body, the members of its board of directors are Qatari and have contacts and ties with the ruling family in Doha. He pointed out that the “Sheikh Eid bin Mohammed Al Thani Charitable Foundation”, which is one of the three largest charitable foundations, chairman of its board of directors is from the royal family of Qatar, paid for the building.
  • The Blue Mosque in Amsterdam: Controlled by followers of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is a mosque and a cultural center. The mosque was established with the support of the Europe Trust Nederland fund directly, as the fund was able to secure the contract with the local government in Amsterdam after offering an advance payment of 400,000 euros when the official contract was signed in 2008 in the presence of the founding partner of the Muslim Brotherhood’s financier Europe Trust, Ahmed Kazem Al-Rawi.[52] Later in 2010, after Yahya Boyava left the chairmanship of the board of trustees of the Dutch branch of Europe Trust, the new board of trustees managed to secure the necessary amount to complete the project (2,3 million euros) from Kuwait, specifically from Kuwaiti businessman Abdul Mohsen Al-Kharafi. Ahmed Al-Falah, one of the leaders of the „Social Reform Association“, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, main conduit for securing funding. In recognition of Kuwait’s patronage, the Blue Mosque was named the Dutch-Kuwaiti cultural and social center.
  • The Sunni Mosque Foundation in The Hague: Run by the controversial Syrian-Lebanese Salafist Fawaz Junaid, who was banned from entering several areas of The Hague several years ago because of his „Jihadist messages that could promote terrorism,” according to the Ministry of Security and The Hague municipality. It is noted from his posts on Facebook[53] that he takes a hostile position from the rulers of Saudi Arabia, against the background of the reforms being carried out by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • The Ganton Foundation in The Hague: Also run by the Salafi preacher Fawaz Junaid.
  • Foundation of The Endowment in Eindhoven.
  • Sikhdam Yildiz Islamic Center: Run by Turks and includes a mosque, headed by Zakaria Budak.[54]
  • Unity Foundation (Al-Tawhid Mosque): Located in Leidschendam.[55]
  • The Eindhoven Islamic Planning Foundation “Islamplanning”: Controversial Islamic preachers study there. The foundation’s headquarters will soon move to a new headquarters in Veldhoven, after its supporters (more than 80,000 followers on Facebook) raised funds to build the new headquarters, where 405,000 euros were paid in early June 2022 to complete the process.[56]
  • Islamic Cultural Center in the south of the Netherlands: It is located in the city of Tilburg in the southern part of the province of North Brabant. It serves the Muslim minorities, offers many activities and services, practices, da’wah, guidance and teaching of Islamic sciences.
  • Fatih Mosque: A Turkish mosque that is considered one of the largest in Amsterdam. It was used as a church until 1971 when it was sold to Turkish organizations due to the reluctance of people to attend church rituals.
  • Umar al-Farouk Mosque: Located in Utrecht, it was built in 1966 and was used as a church until 1981, when it was sold to a Moroccan group..
  • Ulu Mosque: Located in the Lombok district of Utrecht.
  • Maulana Mosque: A mosque in northwest Rotterdam, serving mainly Turkish-Dutch Muslims.

Political Parties

The creation of parties on a religious basis is considered a Dutch constitutional tradition. Article 8 of the Dutch Constitution guarantees the freedom to form civil and political groups on any basis, even religious. Article 11 reinforces this right by guaranteeing freedom of assembly in groups and freedom of demonstration. Parties formed on religious principles have had representation in parliament since the first parliamentary elections in 1922. The law on participation in elections is simplified, it is enough for those who intend to apply for elections to submit an application to the electoral commission. Even resident foreigners are allowed to create political parties and participate in municipal elections.[57]

Historically, Muslims in the Netherlands during the 1980s and 1990s were more inclined to the Labour Party, whether at the personal desire of the members of the community or on instructions coming from the capitals of their native countries in Turkey and Morocco, but now the situation has changed relatively after the arrival of many Muslim members within the major parties of the Netherlands, mainly the Green Left Party[58] and the Dutch Labour Party. This contributed to the arrival of the Turkish-Dutch politician Nabahet Albayrak to the post of Minister of Justice between 2007 and 2010 as a candidate of the Left party, and the Dutch of Moroccan descent Ahmed Abu Talib to the post of Minister of State for Social Affairs and employment in 2007, now the mayor of Rotterdam.

Despite all the rumors about the “strong” entry of Islamic parties into parliamentary life in the Netherlands today, this narrative is blown up by the facts on the ground. The two main parties, Denk and Nada, are limited in their presence in the provincial and municipal councils and have not yet been able to achieve remarkable success in parliamentary elections, with the exception of Denk, which won three seats out of a total of 150 in the last elections, held in March 2021.[59]

The following is an overview of the most prominent Islamic-themed parties in the Netherlands:

  • Hizb Al-Tahrir Al-Islami: A transnational Islamic political party that does not recognize the national state and adopts the ideology of “a major tool in change and the revival of the Islamic nation from the severe decline, which it has reached,” according to its program.[60] Its call is based on “the necessity of restoring the Islamic caliphate to existence, the return of governance according to what Allah has revealed, and the resumption of Islamic life.”

The Islamic Liberation Party, founded by Sheikh Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani in 1953 in East Jerusalem, is banned in Russia and many countries in Central Asia and the Middle East, also in Germany because of his anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli propaganda.

The party adopts an Islamic orientation and emphasizes in its literature that its work is based on “carrying the Islamic call to change the reality of corrupt society and turn it into an Islamic society, by changing the ideas that exist in it to Islamic ideas, so that they become a general opinion among people, and concepts that push them to apply and work according to them, and changing feelings in it so that it becomes Islamic feelings that satisfy what pleases Allah and revolts and becomes angry when Allah is angry, and changing relations in it so that it becomes Islamic Relations that follow the provisions of Islam and its treatments”.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is accused of extremism for several considerations, on top of which is the party’s categorical and hate-filled doctrine, especially anti-Semitism, anti-capitalist democracy, and that it provides intellectual and religious justifications for terrorists, in addition to contributing to the process of separating Muslims in Europe from their foster environment.[61]

The party does not disclose the number of its supporters, saying only that their number is constantly increasing. Among its well-known members are Okai Bala, who serves as a media spokesman, Bilal Kassem and Suleiman Tahtali.

  • The Islamic Democratic Party: Founded in 2005 in The Hague by activists of Moroccan origin during the rise of the extreme right in the country. The party has not scored any significant achievement except for gaining a single seat in The Hague municipality, while in the 2006 legislative elections it failed to win a seat in parliament after receiving only 4,399 votes. Among its well-known members are Fatima Fayed and Hassan Kojuk.
  • The Foreigners’ Party: Founded in 2005 and includes the interests of Turkish and Moroccan minorities, but it did not participate in elections.
  • The Dutch Muslim Party: Founded by Dutch converts to Islam, it entered the municipal elections in 2006 in some cities in the northern Netherlands, but dissolved itself in 2012 after failing to win any seats.
  • Unity Party: Founded by controversial Dutch politician Arnaud Van Doren who left Geert Wilders’ far-right party and converted to Islam in 2012.
  • The Union of European Turkish Democrats: Established in 2004 as an association that claims to” promote the political, social and cultural participation of Turks in the European Union and to contribute to the process of integration into European society”, but the reality reveals that this organization serves as an essential arm of the Turkish AKP Party, which contributed financially and administratively to its foundation, as its members enjoy frequent meetings with President Erdogan and wide coverage in the official Turkish media and parties close to his party.

The federation operates in 17 European countries, especially in Germany (where it has 46 branches alone), France, Austria and the Netherlands, where the density of Turkish communities is high, and while each branch is organized in accordance with local legislation, they are all controlled from the headquarters of the federation in Cologne, Germany.

Representatives of the “Union of European Turkish Democrats” promote Erdogan’s point of view in the European media, and the it organizes demonstrations and events on issues of importance to the Turkish regime.[62]

  • The Denk Party: Established in 2015 by Dutch MPs of Turkish origin Tonahan Kuzu and Selcuk Ozturk after they were dismissed from the Labour Party for rejecting its policies towards integration. Denk Party won three seats in its first participation in the elections in March 2017. The word Denk means ” justice “in Turkish, and it is the first of the name of Erdogan’s AKP, the party realistically makes no secret that it is affiliated with Erdogan and defends its interests and policies in the corridors of the Dutch parliament.

Denk tried to prevent the Dutch parliament from voting on February 23, 2018 against a recommendation to recognize the Turkish genocide of Armenians; however, it failed, and the parliament approved by a majority of 142 votes the recommendation to recognize this genocide, while only three members, namely members of Denk, rejected.

As for the current status of the party today, according to its website[63], it has three members in the House of Representatives (consisting of 150 deputies), and four members out of a total of 570 members in the Provincial Council (Dutch: Provinciale Staten), which is the regional parliament and the Legislative Council of each province. Whereas, it has no representative in the 75-member Senate.

  • Nidaa Party: The party was founded in 2013 and has members in the municipal councils of a number of Dutch provinces such as Rotterdam, The Hague and Almere. The party considers that it has “enough experience to qualify it for national elections” and presents itself as “the voice of a new generation with new blood, diverse backgrounds and an Islamic reference”.

The Nidaa party first participated in national elections in March 2021, but failed to reach the quorum.[64] Nevertheless, the party seems to have succeeded in passing some of the views it adopts within the municipal councils of which it is a member, as happened in the law “restricting alcohol advertising” in the city of Rotterdam.[65]

The most prominent figures in the “Nidaa” party: Nour al-Din al-Awali, who is the founder of the party and Nour Allah Jerdan, the former head of the party, in addition to Erkan Buyukjevci[66], the head of the party branch in Rotterdam and Hassan Boyatoy. The party currently has two members in the Municipal Council of Rotterdam (out of 45 members) and one member in the Municipal Council of The Hague (out of a total of 45 members as well), according to the reviewed documents and references.[67]

Charities, Financial Institutions and Social Organizations

One of the most prominent pieces of evidence of the presence of Muslim communities and their settlement within the Netherlands is the fact that they have been able to establish dozens of civil society organizations, profit and social organizations of an Islamic nature. In this section we highlight a sample of such associations and institutions:

  • Islamic Relief Netherlands:[68] A branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization, which was founded in 1984 in Birmingham by prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as Hani al-Banna, Essam Al-Haddad, Khaled Lamada, Essam al-Bashir, Ahmed Al-Rawi, Abdul Wahab Noor Wali, Mohammed Al-shammawi and Ihsan Shabib.

Islamic Relief is one of the largest Islamic charities in the world and operates in more than forty countries, but in most European countries it faces accusations of financing extremist groups and is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. The former adviser to President Mohamed Morsi, Essam Haddad, has held important roles in the organization for many years.

The organization’s branch in the Netherlands was founded in 1992 and the organization has three branches there today, concentrated in Amsterdam. The “Dutch Islamic Relief” in 2020 raised about 8 million euros. It says this has enabled it to support more than 5 million people in 37 countries around the world through emergency relief and development programs.

  • National Zakat Fund (NZF):[69] Established in 2020, the foundation is headquartered in Amsterdam and managed by Emad al-Fadili. According to the official website of the foundation, NZF focuses on three areas: poverty reduction, empowerment, and community development. The institution presents itself as an intellectual center that organizes workshops and seminars. Branches of the foundation have been established in Switzerland, the UK and Canada.
  • Zamzam Charity: Founded in 2020, it is interested in relief projects in developing countries, especially well drilling projects. It is managed by Faisal Ajzani, tax policy advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Finance. During the previous Ramadan, the organization managed to raise at least 409,106 euros for all its projects. The organization says that more than 1,850 wells will be constructed in Pakistan (998), Nepal (444), India (373), Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Uganda, Somalia, Togo and Chad.[70]
  • Esraa Charity Foundation: Established about 20 years ago, it is based in Rotterdam. It is run by activists of Moroccan origin, headed by Ahmed Serhan. The foundation is active in organizing visiting programs for Islamic centers and mosques, giving sermons and lessons, participating in organizing Ramadan tables and social events, in addition to collecting Zakat and alms funds and sending them to the needy in the Middle East and Africa, recruiting preachers and scholars and organizing meetings for them with Muslims in centers, mosques and institutions operating in the country.
  • Hope Foundation: A charitable foundation run by activists of Moroccan origin, whose activity is focused on fundraising in the Netherlands to implement projects inside Morocco.[71]
  • Islamic Cemeteries of the Netherlands: A Moroccan Association headed by Ismail Hachens.
  • The European Trust Netherlands (ETN): As we have mentioned, ETN is the Dutch branch of the “The Europe Trust”, which is the most important financial instrument of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain and Europe.

The parent organization was first registered as a charity in the UK in 1996 under the name “European Trust” and then merged under the name “Europe Trust” in 2003. In 2004 it was registered again as a charity with the name “Europe Trust“, headquartered in Markfield, UK.

The foundation manages various financial activities in real estate and others, to finance associations and organizations of the community, radical mosques, educational facilities and pressure groups in various European countries where the community is active.[72]

The foundation’s branch in the Netherlands was established in 2006, and since its establishment, the fund has acquired properties worth millions of euros in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. It also took over the creation of several Islamic centers, the main of which is the Blue Mosque of Amsterdam.

  • Friendship Society Foundation: A community organization, run by Ahmed al Masri. It organizes 100 meetings a year with about 200 volunteers. It is located in eastern Amsterdam, but attracts people from all over the city.
  • Dare to Dream: Concerned with the development of talents for young Muslim people, managed by Radwan Al-Yaqoubi.
  • Intercultural Peace Foundation: Concerned with alleviating poverty among Muslims and organizing a food bank for the needy. Managed by Mercy Hulsman.
  • INS Platform: Interested in solving social problems of citizens and immigrants, managed by Sunny Kalkin.
  • Happy Dutch Muslims: A community-based organization run by Anne Dick.
  • Chess School Foundation: Creating friendship and communication by playing chess, managed by Mustafa al-Jarmouni.
  • The Rising Nation: Concerned with encouraging the acceptance and recognition of Muslims, managed by Paler Arrows.
  • Al Salam Foundation for The Arts: Interested in Islamic art projects. Run by a Mrs. Franken.[73]
  • Muslim Rights Watch in the Netherlands: A human rights organization.[74]

Islamic schools and universities

The establishment of religious schools in the Netherlands is a constitutional right, article 23 of the Dutch Constitution guarantees freedom of religious education. More than a century ago, in 1917, it was confirmed that religious schools are funded by the government like public schools. Nowadays, more than 60% of all children go to a Protestant or Catholic school.[75]

The opening of a new Islamic school initially requires processing by the responsible municipality. The municipality looks at whether there is enough interest in the area to set up the school, a legal requirement to receive government funding. Between 2014-2019, 17 applications were submitted, 15 of which were eventually approved. While the Ministry of Education received 82 applications for new schools last summer 2021, more than a quarter of these applications were submitted by Islamic institutions – this concerns primary and secondary schools.

If the municipality rejects the request, school officials can turn to the Ministry of Education. If the approval is also not granted by the Ministry, the State Council gives the final decision in this regard.

One in eight Muslim children attend an Islamic Primary School, which is more than 1 per cent of the total number of Primary School students.[76]

There are currently about 60 Islamic primary schools with 12,500 students, in addition to a number of schools which are under construction.[77] There are also two Islamic high schools in the country. The number of Islamic Secondary Schools is expected to increase from two to seven in the coming years. Five ambitious schools in Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Schiedam have collected enough signatures for this, which is an important action when founding a new school.[78]

The “Coordination of Islamic Schools in the Netherlands” is a reference framework for most of these schools, and the coordination was established in 2008 after a report issued by the General Inspectorate of Education in the same year warned of the low level of education in Islamic schools, pointed to the weakness of the educational process and the administrative and financial misconduct of school administrators.

The assessment has varied by a large percentage since that date, and Islamic schools in the Netherlands topped the list of the most successful schools in the country in 2019 for the fifth year, where the al-Bukhari Islamic school in Leerdam came in fifth place out of 6,000 schools in the Netherlands, the Hadith school in Maastricht ranked ninth and the Bilal school in Amersfoort ranked tenth.[79]

In general, Islamic schools in the Netherlands are ordinary primary schools, but they give more space for religious education, where prayers are held, students are allowed to fast and receive Islamic principles. The number of students enrolled in these schools has increased by 60% in the past ten years.

As for higher education and in a qualitative leap in the path of the Muslim community in the Netherlands, the “Islamic University of Europe” was inaugurated in the city of Schiedam in 1997 to be the first Islamic University in Europe, and a branch was inaugurated in Amsterdam in 2001. Ironically, a major financial scandal related to fraud and money laundering led to the suspension of the university and the flight of its president Nadeem Bahgat Kabylie out of the country in 2018.[80]

The only university that is actively working among Muslims today is the Islamic University of Applied Sciences IUASR[81], which was founded in 1997 in Rotterdam, working on the qualification of Islamic theologians with a Dutch frame of reference. The university also teaches various Islamic sciences at the preparatory, undergraduate and postgraduate levels and is managed by Arnold Yassin Mall.

The IUASR has two programs recognized by the Dutch-Flemish accreditation organization (NVAO): The Bachelor of Islamic theology and the master of Islamic spiritual care. The Bachelor’s program was recognized in March 2013 and re-accredited in 2018 for six years, while the master’s program was accredited in 2010 and re-accredited in 2016 for another six years, which opened the way for the university to apply for material support from the Dutch government. Before that, it was supported by Turkey.[82]

There is also a „Faculty of Islamic Theology”[83] in Amsterdam, managed by Bahaa Eldin Budak, while Iraqis in the Netherlands founded the „Virtual University of ibn Rushd“, which includes faculties and departments in the disciplines of humanities, arts, literature, psychology, sociology and political science, operating mainly with an e-learning system, managed by Iraqi academic Tayseer Abdul Jabbar al-Alusi.

Conclusion

Despite the success achieved by Muslims in the Netherlands, the issue of integration into society remains controversial in the country[84], where some see Muslim communities as closed within Dutch society. Perhaps this is because Arab immigrants – and Muslims in general – often find themselves at a loss between adhering to the elements of their original identity and the requirements of new citizenship in immigration societies, between the practice of their own lives, in accordance with their values, customs and traditions, and the requirements of their forms of social, political and cultural integration and the necessities.[85]

Unlike most members of the same sects and religions or even similar ethnic minorities, Muslims in Europe in general suffer from a lack of homogeneity, as the space is crowded with all religious ripples, a large da’wah market, as the Moroccan researcher specializing in Islamic Affairs Muntasir Hamada calls it, includes under his banner the members of the Sunni and Shiite current, Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi, with the growing number of Sufism.

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