Researchers from the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) presented the results of the first study on the nature, extent and threat of Salafist (strictly orthodox Muslim) community in the Netherlands on Friday, 24 September. The researchers's findings refute the argument that orthodox Islam is a political ideology that seeks to undermine Dutch democracy.
ReasonSince the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the murder of Theo van Gogh by Mohammed Bouyeri, Islamic radicalism in the Netherlands is an important issue in public and political debate. In this debate, Salafism and radicalisation are increasingly talked about in the same breath. The foundation of Salafism is to seek a moral and social recovery by returning to the religious sources: the Koran and the Sunna.
Important conclusionsThe researchers conclude that there is no evidence of radicalisation within the Salafist community in the Netherlands and that it poses no threat to Dutch democracy. Salafist organisations actually function as a buffer in that they reject violence. Radicalisation in the sense of active willingness to use violence takes place outside of the Salafist organisations.
Of the various schools of Salafism, political Salafists in the Netherlands appear to be the most visible. They are politically and socially engaged and support innovations that may benefit the religious community. Preachers reject violence and do not strive to introduce Sharia (strict Islamic laws) in the Netherlands. Through fieldwork in the Salafist community, an image emerges of a 'normal' orthodox movement and there is no indication to suggest radicalisation.
The survey found that 8 percent of Dutch Muslims see themselves as strictly orthodox and sensitive to Salafism, which is equivalent to about 53,000 people. Strictly orthodox Muslims do not seem susceptible to extremism or prone to political activism. They tend not to act but to passively support. However, a high degree of orthodoxy tends to go hand in hand with a greater legitimization of violence and theocratic ideals.
The researchersThe researchers and authors of the report are: Ineke Roex, Sjef van Stiphout and Jean Tillie from the IMES. Ineke Roex is an anthropologist who conducted fieldwork with, among others, the Arab European League in Belgium. Sjef van Stiphout is a political scientist and currently one of the researchers collaborating on an international comparative study of Islam in Europe (EURISLAM). Jean Tillie is professor by special appointment of Electoral Politics at the UvA and has previously published work on the political participation of migrants, and radicalism and extremism among (Amsterdam) Muslims.
The researchers are also affiliated with the AISSR (Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research) and the programme group Challenges to Democratic Representation.