Global Muslims

Islam and Muslims in the Netherlands

This article is part of a series that explores the culture and lives of Muslims living in different parts of the world. The purpose of this series is to build bonds among Muslims and between Muslims/non-Muslims and to celebrate our differences as Muslims and people.

The areas with the biggest populous of Muslims are: Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. A majority of the Muslims in the Netherlands are Moroccan/Turkish because of migrant worker-contracts in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Many migrant workers brought their wives and kids to the Netherlands under the framework of “family reunification” after they settled in the country. There are also a few Indonesians and a fair amount of South Asian(Desi) people.

The cultural influence of the different race groups is present in some ways. The younger generation of Dutch-born Muslims are integrating well in Netherlands; as they belong to more than one cultural group, they face challenges with clashing norms and cultural identities. The greatest cultural influence comes from the parents and grandparents. Netherlands is a Western country and thus, it has a Western society (and standards) too. It is also known that the Western standards in a Western society are more popular and these standards get the upper-hand over cultures such as Asian, Arab or Turkish. This has resulted in the culture of many young Muslim children gradually degrading over time.

When it comes to interaction between the different races, in general Muslims will come together with one another first, but there is also a culture of ignorance where people don’t know about madhaahib/ikhtilaf and call other groups of Muslims “weird Muslims”. This causes them to stick to their own and it will eventually result in minor conflicts. Aside from that, many cultures coming from outside Europe have many similarities and thanks to that, they interact well with each other. It sometimes happens that cultures overlap others but in the end, they stay loyal to their culture.

The influence of Islam is not prominent but there has been a revival going on lately whereby people come to the religion on their own instead of through family/culture. This is usually after a life-changing experience like the passing away of a relative. Temptations of the Shaytan/Satan are immensely enticing in the Western countries. Added peer-pressure from friends that aren’t Muslim(or non-practicing Muslims) makes haraam/forbidden activities like drinking alcohol or consuming drugs(legal in some parts of Netherlands) much more tempting.

The topic of drugs or weed is looked upon from the religious perspective as bad, but some Muslims justify it as self-medicating or claim it doesn’t affect them; therefore it’s not haraam. Unfortunately, some Muslims(and teenagers), including Moroccans, Turks and Indonesians ‘deal’ drugs or even smoke them. An ironic but sad relation to this is that those teenagers mostly don’t excel in school/society and they end up failing in their education. This increases the risk of criminal behavior.

Many young Dutch Muslims enjoy participating in activities like ice-skating, socializing or attending parades. This mixture of popular Dutch activities highlights the opposite of claims that Muslims are isolated and insulated in their communities.

There are about 150 Mosques in Amsterdam, another 75 in Rotterdam and quite a few in The Hague. Mosques are also common in major cities. Where there is a lot of space (open ground suitable for construction), big and fancy mosques will be found. The known major ones are fancy and designed in a way that its user-friendly for everyone. The bigger mosques usually have comfortable areas designed for people who wish to do wudhu/ablution.

There is no allocation of Mosques along racial lines, but congregants go to the Mosques they are familiar with. Fortunately the major mosques are run by responsible individuals and not specifically Moroccan, Turkish Desi or other people along racial lines.

Mosque attendance varies. Fajr is almost near-empty and you will only see elders, devout youngsters/millennials and imams in the mosque. Zuhr/Dhur is the prayer where most people come together to pray. Asr has less congregants than Dhur but is still somewhat busy. Maghreb gets many congregants but less than Asr and Isha is roughly the same as Maghreb. At Jumu’ah, mosques are packed but most people are kind enough to sacrifice their comfortable space for fellow Muslims. The Eid-ul-Fitr prayer is on a whole different level. Mosques are so packed and full that they have to lay carpets outside and place speakers on the exterior walls so that everyone can join the Eid prayer. The air in the mosques during Eid is hot and humid and can be a little stifling. The atmosphere in the mosques makes up for the humidity. You feel so united and peaceful as the Imam starts talking about this special day which marks the end of the blessed month Ramadhan.

There are a lot of programs organized by the mosques and Islamic organizations in collaboration with the mosques. Quran Halaqah’s (circle of people whereas 1 person recites the Quran and the rest listen and corrects when necessary), lectures and collection events(for the poor or financing development of new mosques) happen frequently. There are programs for kids as well. Races, quizzes and fun competitions are organized for the kids. These programs are quite well attended. Many parents take their kids along with them to take part in the events. There are many volunteers who help the event go fluently. These events help parents socialize and help children make other Muslim friends.

The Netherlands is an enriched mix of cultures deriving from all over the world. This way, there is no limit on unique food in the Muslim communities. Couscous, Tajine, Pani Puri, Biryani, Baklava, Sucuk, Börek, Chatpati, Ayam Goreng, Kabuli Palaw, Paella, Tapas, Gulai, Lemang. Those are just a few of the many unique foods that can be found in Dutch Muslim communities.

There are many Moroccan and Turkish stores that sell halal food as well as import branded products (also halal). Those stores are common and quite well visited by people. Even native Dutch people prefer to shop there because of the variety of products the stores have. The prices on those products are much lower than the Dutch supermarkets.

You cannot slaughter animals yourself for meat. If you want a slaughtered sheep or cow, a halal butcher/store has to do this for you. It happens frequently that Muslims order fresh slaughtered whole sheep from halal certified slaughterhouses on Eid-ul-Adha. The price of a whole slaughtered sheep ranges from €100 to €400.

There is a large variety of halal restaurants across the Netherlands. In some districts there might be around 75 to 100 halal restaurants or snackbars in Amsterdam only. You could sample a bit of everything and see what you enjoy. For people interested in visiting, the Dutch way is to take your time and cherish the food.

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