15 September 2012
A planned demonstration involving about 30 people took place on Amsterdam’s Dam Square on 14 September, protesting the American-made film Innocence of Muslims. Local media provided commentary on the movie and the international response of the past week, with Radio Netherlands Worldwide attributing the violent events to “a dismal misunderstanding” in which “the work of an extremist individual [the filmmaker]” is taken as representative of the American nation. Dutch News reports that in anticipation of the demonstration the American consulate on Amsterdam’s Museumplein, as well as two schools in the neighborhood, closed early.
4 September 2012
Radio Netherlands Worldwide profiles Izzeddin Ruhulessin, a young convert to Islam, and his assessment of the Salafist movement in the Netherlands. According to the article, Salafism gained in prominence in the country in the years following the 2004 murder of film maker Theo van Gogh. Researcher Martijn de Koning attributes the popularity to “second and third generation immigrants who are looking for an alternative to the traditional Islam that was brought by their parents or grandparents from the countries of origin.”
Ruhulessin suggests that Salafism is now declining in popularity, with other Muslims irritated by the strict requirements for orthodoxy and emphasis on external appearance upheld by the movement. The dynamic is particularly visible online, which sees both a strong and popular Salafist presence in internet forums used by young Dutch Muslims, as well as an increasingly vocal critique on venues such as Face Book.
17 August 2012
New research by Chris Aalberts of Erasmus University in Rotterdam shows that the majority of Dutch residents supporting Geert Wilders and his PVV party are not in agreement with the politiican’s anti-Islam stance. According to Aalbert’s research, conducted through in depth interviews with supporters, only a small minority of supporters see Islam as a serious threat; rather, Wilders draws support from those “concerned about the more humdrum irritations of daily life” who identify anti-Islam rhetoric as a way of bringing their issues to the table, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports. Aalbert’s research and the media coverage comes with the commencement of national campaigns for a September parliamentary election.
27 May 2012
The organization Sharia4Holland received considerable attention in Dutch media this week. The group advocates establishing the Netherlands as an Islamic state, and was created in 2010 as an offshoot of the Sharia4Beligum, the organization. The radical stance has few supporters in the country, with estimations placing membership at one dozen- a Radio Netherlands Worldwide profile suggests that in many instances when the organization appears in public, participants are actually members of the more prominent Sharia4Belgium parent organization.
The group has attracted attention for organizing a conference which was to be held at an undisclosed location on May 26, 2012, and to which Fouad ‘Abu Imran’ Belkacem, head of Sharia4Belgium, had been invited to speak.
On Friday May 25 a man identifying as a Sharia4Holland participant, in a television interview at Amsterdam’s national monument, called Geert Wilders is “the dog of the Romans”, and warned that the politician should learn from the “lesson” of slain filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
Consequently, the organization has come under investigation by the Dutch police service, while councilor Robert Flos, a member of the ruling VVD, criticized police response at the time for not arresting the man as a result of his “hate speech”.
14 April 2012
A poster displayed in a primarily Muslim neighbourhood of Utrecht which depicts a woman in a short, strapless dress has been covered over. A black plastic bag has been taped atop the posters, which are promotional material for the city’s museum weekend. A message on the bag reads, “La ilahe il Allah- No Sexually Tinted Advertising In Our Suburbs. Stand Up And Fight Against This Case To Protect Our Children!” A second poster depicting a woman in a bikini was also covered briefly.
While the event prompted reactions online and PVV leader Wilders raised the event in parliament, reaction in the neighbourhood have been mixed. Radio Netherlands Worldwide quotes local Muslim residents with a range of reactions, including Muslim women whose attention had not been attracted by the posters or their covers, and others who see no use in the move to cover the image.
Controversy over female bodies in public campaigns has circulated in the Netherlands before, as when feminist and also religious organizations objected to lingerie and other advertising posters in 2010.
31 March 2012
A terrorism trial in Mechelen, Belgium has commenced involving three Dutchmen of Moroccan origin. The men are accused of participating in terrorist activities, including plotting but not executing a terrorist attack. They are also alleged to have recruited Islamists to train in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The fourteen defendants on trial include in addition to the three Dutchmen: three Russians of Chechen origin and eight Belgians of Moroccan origin.
16 March 2012
Radio Netherlands Worldwide this week profiles Salaamworld, a social media platform akin to Facebook which is to debut in June, during Ramadan. The site provides a platform for young Muslims who feel uncomfortable with the content of Facebook, as well as enabling access to a collection of Islamic e-books, products and services. The project is currently headquartered in Istanbul with branches in Russia and Egypt, and an ambitious expansion plan for the coming three years. The site is not the first alternative to Facebook targeting a Muslim demographic, and joins al- Millatfacebook, a Pakistani initiative.
Dutch-Moroccan publicist Mohammed Jabri comments on Salaamworld that while it provides a potentially fruitful, though undoubtedly commercial, enterprise, it does not reply a ‘pure’ alternative to an ‘impure’ Facebook. Jabri predicts that those who sign up with Salaamworld will not revoke their Facebook profiles, as they will not want to lose contacts not shared between the two platforms.
2 March 2012
The Fourth Beast, a book by British historian Tom Holland making controversial claims about the origins and development of Islam, has been released in a Dutch translation, though in advance of the English publication. According to an article in Radio Netherlands Worldwide the book’s potentially controversial claims include: that Islam emerged as a product of interaction in a multicultural and multifaith environment; that the religion is geographically rooted in Jordan rather than Mecca; and that little historical material can provide authoritative evidence about the life and character of Mohammad.
The article does not provide a Muslim perspective on Holland’s claims, rather stating their “shocking” nature. The review does an expert perspective from Petra Sijpesteijn, professor of Arabic language and culture at Leiden University. Sijpesteijn affirms Holland’s claim that Islam’s historical emergence was deeply influenced by Christianity and Islam, as “it says in the Qur’an itself that it’s a continuation of Judaism and Christianity. [Further], Western researchers generally assume that the Qur’an wasn’t written all at once, and Muslim scholars also recognise that Islam developed over the course of the centuries.”. Sijpesteijn disputes Holland’s assertion that there are no reliable records of Mohammad produced during his lifetime and immediately afterwards, as well as his suggestion that Islam did not arise in Mecca.
Radio Netherlands Worldwide carries an article on surgical hymen reconstruction, following publication of research on the topic by members of Amsterdam hospitals. The article states that “in some Islamic and Hindu communities… an intact hymen is ultimate proof of pre-marital virginity”, prompting some women to undergo the surgery prior to marriage. The article notes the basis of the study as investigating “whether hymen reconstruction actually works” within this context and summarizes the researchers’ observation that hymenoplasty fails to produce bleeding during nuptial night intercourse.
24 February 2012
In the midst of media attention to American troops’ burning copies of the Quran in Afghanistan, Dutch media has addressed the conduct of their own troops in the country. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports comments by major Niels Roelen advocating training about the sensitivities between different cultures. Roelen comments that during training for new recruits for instance, “We speak to someone at the mosque who can tell us about their religion, what the do’s and dont’s are and what the sensitivities are. The value a book like the Qur’an has for these people and that you must show respect for this.”