Friday, July 10, 2009

Local Islam

So I've been in Holland for a week now, and I've been talking to my family and friends here a lot about Islam in Holland and how Muslims are percieved. Right now I'm staying in a small town near the German border, with a very small population. I thought it'd be interesting to find out how Muslims who live here are seen by non-Muslim Dutch people, and wheher they integrate fully or not.

I began by asking my cousin if there were a lot of Muslims here. She said there were. Then I asked whether people accepted them or not. She said most people didn't like them but it was mostly because Muslims didn't make any effort to integrate: they didn't learn Dutch, or work, or go to Dutch schools. They also tended to form gangs. Then I asked her if she knew any Muslims personally and she said no. Hmmm!

Then I found out that the town mosque had been burnt down after 9/ in, on purpose. After I recovered from the shock of realizing I was in a town where a mosque had been burnt down, I asked whether they had found out who'd done it. She said they hadn't. Anyway, after that the Muslims who live here put together money to build a new mosque. I asked different people what the mosque was like and when I got back "amazing", "huge", and "out of place", I started to expect a mosque similar to the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah. Instead I found this:

I mean ít's nice and everything but 1) it's not huge; and 2) it's not out of place. It barely looks like classical Islamic architecture. I thought it was just another building until I saw the minarets. I'm not saying all this because I think it should look more Islamic or it should be bigger - I just find it interesting that a lot of people exaggerated its size and appearance. Someone even asked me why there needs to be a mosque in this town.

Anyway, my grandfather had pretty much the same views as my cousin: Muslims here don't try to integrate and they cause a lot of problems.

I then talked to my aunt, who had the exact opposite view. She said there weren't a lot of Muslims in this town, and that most of them were really nice people. She said every religion has good and bad people. She also said that most Muslims DO integrate and speak Dutch fluently.

Yesterday I also asked a friend of mine all these questions. She also said that most Muslims do integrate and are nice people, and that many Dutch people are just ignorant about Islam.

From my personal experiences here so far, I've noticed that most foreign-looking people tend to be speaking Dutch (in a natural Dutch accent). They dress like everyone else, talk like everyone else, and act like everyone else. The only difference is in appearance. So what are Dutch people complaining about? Why do they think that MOST Muslims don't want to integrate or "be part of society"? How did Holland go from being the most open-minded and tolerant society 10 years ago to being one of the most anti-Islamic countries in Europe? Will things get worse, or will people eventually stop panicking about Muslims and accept that Muslims are normal Dutch people who are here to stay?


Umm Omar said...

Wow, I can't believe you moved to Holland. Was that a sudden decision? I was looking forward to meeting you when I went to Egypt!

Anyway, the situation there sounds like the situation here. Many foreigners are willing to integrate, but many locals are not ready to accept, imo. Also, there is a difference between assimilation and integration. Many locals, too, would rather the foreigners assimilate (act and become like them). Integration requires, however, acceptance of another culture/religion which is not so simple.
Looking forward to hearing more about Islam in Holland!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Hi Umm Omar! Yes, I'd been planning the move for around 6 months, but I didn't say anything cause I didn't want to jinx it :P I'll still be visitng Egypt so inshallah we'll get to meet soon!

I've been trying to post on your blog but for some reason this computer won't let me :S Love your new post...I also hate people who let it all hang out, especially when they don't have the body for it.

nadia said...

Since it doesn't look like a typical masjid in the first place, how can it be out of place?

It's just the same in the Philippines, where I lived for a decade while attending university; Muslims are famous for not wanting to integrate with the non-Muslim majority. People are very ignorant about Islam, and some actually fear Muslims.

When non-Muslims, like class mates and colleagues for instance, get to know me, they often say: "You're a very different Muslim; you're friendly."

PS: The pictures are beautiful!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Nadia: that's exactly what I thought - it doesn't look like a typical masjid so how can it be out of place?

Haha @ that comment about you being a friendly Muslim.

sabrina said...

Holland is so beautiful, isn't it? Make sure you pick up one of those ceramic kitchen pieces with the boy and girl drawn in with the blue paint -- those are way cooler than the puffer bird measuring cups from Anthropologie;) Keep an ear open for any Dutch opinions about the Marwa el-Sherbini case happening in Germany. I'm sure you've heard of it, right? The woman who was stabbed to death in court by that German man who shouted racial slurs at her while she was at the playground with her kid. Ugh. It was so sad. And, not that anyone is surprised, but we haven't heard anything about it in the American media.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Hey Sabrina :)
Holland is one of the most beautiful countries there is, I think. But I''m half-Dutch so I'm kind of biased.
Yes I know about the Marwa case. No one here really knows about it, it's not in the media at all, even though Germany's next door. I'm still shocked at the story! Seriously, how did that happen in a court room?!
Well at least the story was on the BBC.

rahma said...

Thank you for that interesting look into perceptions of muslims in holland. My holland experience lasted all of 8 hours - on a lay over on the way to Cairo, I decided I'd take the train to amsterdam. I bought a ticket, got on the train and was consulting my map enthusiastically, when a kind dutch person interrupted me. Excuse me, are you going to amsterdam? Why yes, yes I am. Oh no you're not, you're going in the wrong direction. Oops! I hopped off at the next stop, and managed to find my way to amsterdam. Alas, I was too frightened to go anyplace, lest I get lost again, so I ended up back at the airport with 6 hours left on my layover.

So, in short, my experience with dutch people (all 2 hours of it) was quite positive :) I do hope to go back longer, but with the anti veiling sentiments I'm feeling, I don't know how welcome I'd be as a hijabi anymore.

Looking forward to more posts on being a muslim in holland :)

Lisa said...

It sounds like one of the problems is that the older "Great" generation is not as willing to allow Muslims to assimilate (your Grandfather)), while the younger "Baby Boomer" generation (your aunt) is more excited about it.

Certainly the rightest movement, the Van Gogh incident, 9-11, and a society who is okay with prostitution and gay marriage factor in to the few who don't accept Muslims.

I think the rightest population fears what they do not know. They hear stories throughout Europe of "Londonistans" and think that Muslims are getting the healthcare and welfare that belongs to them. They are pedaling this to the people who need only a tiny bit of hearsay to run with.

I was so sad to see that this beautiful masjid has come down. It's disappointing that a society "free" enough to allow gay marriage and legal prostitution can't seem to allow freedom of religion.

This masjid looks no different than the pole on a Mormon Church for goodness sakes!

The pictures are so beautiful Cairo! It looks so flat there. Does global warming and green energy still seem to be at the forefront of everything done by the Dutch? Love you, another AWESOME post.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Rahma: yes, I've found that Dutch people are very nice, helpful, and friendly :)
There's a big difference between main cities and the countryside, where I am. I went to The Hague twice last week (that's where I'll be living inshallah) and noticed nothing off there. Many many women were veiled and no one was really bothering or looking at them.
So come visit again! For longer than 2 hours :P

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Lisa: this mosuqe is the new one, it's not the one that was burnt down. You're right, it looks like an average building that could be anything, I don't know why people were so annoyed by it.

There are definitely generational differences: the oldest generation like you said is not willing to let Muslims assimilate, the middle one is, and the youngest one isn't: that's the worrying thing. My cousin is 19 and she had almost the same views as my grandfather.

Global warming and green energy are definitely at the forefront of everything done by the Dutch. It's so nice and refreshing! On my KLM flight to Holland they give you the option of donating money for the amount of CO2 spent on the flight so you don't feel bad!

Lisa said...

"On my KLM flight to Holland they give you the option of donating money for the amount of CO2 spent on the flight so you don't feel bad!"

Awe...Rock on KLM! When I went to Turkey KLM was always the cheapest and had all the 6:30 am flights. So I decided to avoid KLM and choose Turkish Airlines higher prices like an idiot :) I really thought that if it was the cheapest, it must not be the best.

After reading this, I'm with KLM for all future flights!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Lisa - Yeah i found klms prices weird too...they were the same as Egyptair. I love KLM, but their flights are always at bad times, like you said.
Ive heard that Turkish airlines isnt that good - what did you think?