SECULARITY AND ISLAM
PREFACE:In some NG's as alt.religion.islam and soc.religion.islam, as well on Islamic sites often the suggestion is raised of a perfect Muslim Society all around the world for global love and peace. Such Muslims are convinced that Islam is the best solution for a secularised and in their eyes bad society.
In the below article of a Dutch newspaper, results of many researches will be shown what Islam offers to Holland, what the religion called Islam offers to a secular state. It also shows what Islam has become in Holland.
Article from Trouw, April 1998.
THE ISLAM-PILLAR IN HOLLAND IS NO MORE THAN A BRICK
The Islam seems in Holland busy with a not to stop advance. That is the image that opinion-makers as Pim Fortuyn (essay: 'Against the Islamization of our culture') and politicians as VVD-leader Frits Bolkestein - 'Never has our country faced such a (Moslem)migration of nations' offered to the community. They feel supported in their opinion by the Social and Cultural Planbureau. That predicts that the Islam in 2020 will be the second religious movement of Holland. Remains the question: is that correct?
'No', is the answer of all academics of Islam and other experts that are interviewed by Trouw in the past weeks. According them that is optical illusion. Take the SCP. That assumes that the secularisation-process is passing the Moslems. As only religious group in Holland. Reality shows that that is most unlikely.
Of the 673000 Moslems in our country - amongst them 219000 Turks, 184000 Moroccan, 145000 Indonesians and 49000 Surinam's - is about third of the men sometimes visiting a mosque.
The percentage that prays 5 times a day in the direction of Mecca is a lot smaller. The obedience of the food- and drink-laws, no alcohol for example, is also facing erosion. According the Moslem-women: 40 percent prays 'some times'.
This says not all about the religiosity amongst Moslems - there are 60000 Turkish Alevites living in our country for whom 5 times a day praying and visiting the mosque is not a must do - but it is a symptom while measuring the institutional religiosity.
When we look only at the youth - 60 percent of all Moslems in Holland is not older than 25 - then the numbers are even smaller. Amongst them the secularisation hits as hard as amongst their Christian fellows of age. The only difference is that foreign youngsters not so fast admit as natives that they do not believe no more.
Is the number of natives that has joined Islam, maybe the explanation? Probably not. We are dealing here with 1500 people, the greatest part are Dutch women married to a Turk, Moroccan, Surinam, Indonesian or other Moslem-foreigner. So there is no mass of people joining Islam at all.
The conclusion of the SCP that in 2020 the percentage Moslems in 'church'- Holland will be doubled - from 3 to 7 - because the number of conversions will balance the number of church-leavers, does not seem real. The confusion is based on the shortage of research that is done in case of secularisation of Islam in Holland. The lacuna seems to be existing because academics of Islam and other investigators shows some preferring of looking at the religious people and to leave the no-more-religious out of the question. If it all depends on untrue influences, how about the 380 mosques in Holland, the Islamic schools, how about the head-shawls, and the fundamentalism?
Wasif Shadid, professor intercultural communications of the Catholic University Brabant and teacher cultural anthropology of the State University Leiden, is one of the most authoritative experts in Holland when the position of Islam in our country is involved. His conclusion: 'In this country there is much cheap talk about Moslems'.
A fine example is the fundamentalism. A NOS-inquiry of 1995 showed that 1 of 3 Dutchman thinks that at least half of all Moslems in our country is fundamentalist.
Shadid: 'Research shows that in reality about 4 percent of all Moslems in our country is within that category. Almost nobody of them use that in a political or religious-fanatic way. It are Islamic traditionalists who can be compared to the orthodox wing of Protestantism. Pious people hurting no one.' And about the head-shawls: 'Amongst a lot of young women it does not have a religious meaning but it is part of their social-psychological emancipation'. The image that some Dutchman show of Moslems as a fundamentalist 'hidden militia', a danger of our modern, secularised and democratic society, is according Shadid not right, not at all.
An example of that is the doom-scenario of the Amsterdam historian Leo Biegel, published for 10 years in a newspaper, NRC Handelsblad. Biegel predicted that a growing number of Turkish and Moroccan youngsters would join the fundamentalist movements.
Shadid: 'The high crime-rate amongst Moroccan boys - in a city as The Hague the great majority of them is registered by the police - shows more the loss of religious requirements and values than radicalising.' And the great number of mosques? Shadid: 'From those are only 20 to 25 really deserving the name mosque. The rest are primitive prayer-rooms, from rebuild garages to two combined residents. Our horizon is really not obscured by a forest of minarets'. And how about the Islamic schools? Shadid: 'We are talking about schools for children of 4-12 and they are visited by only 4 percent of the Moslem-youth. Most of the Turkish and Moroccan parents are sending their kids to a public (60 percent) or special (36 percent) school (note translator: 'special' schools in Holland are for children not qualified in intelligence / progress for public schools). Even as native parents their choice depends more on practical factors as the distance from house to school than the religious 'colour' of it'. Shadid thinks therefore that the talking about a Moslem-pillar is nonsense. 'Till now that pillar is no more than a brick'. (note translator: the use of the word 'pillar' in Holland is a classification of a certain territory of religiosity). Pointed on the phenomena of the Islamic broadcast: 'only a half hour in a week, is that making progress?' The reason why, according to him, the development of such a pillar is facing obstacles is the great heterogeneity of the Moslem-community in Holland. In ethnic as well in religious view. 'There is a many-coloured variety of religious movements, law-schools, mystic groups and political movements that are an obstacle for the arise of a powerful Moslem-pillar'.
According to Islam, in our country there is a phenomena what I call 'romanticising of religion'. This is the conclusion of Herman Beck, professor phenomenology of religions at the theological faculty in Tilburg. He explains: 'One side shows Islam as the great bogey-man: 'all Moslems are pious, intolerant and conservative. The other side is flirting - in a country were religion did become a happening of the margin - with the tingling thought that the Islam is a religion that controls the whole life of its devotees. An idea that does not fit the all-day reality'. Because that reality is, according Beck, more coloured and difficult as the public imagines.
Mirjam Lammers dares to defend the argument that amongst many youth of Islamic origin a crisis of religiosity is existing. Lammers is working as project-co-operator religious development at the Brabant base of Youth-Care in Den Bosch. In that matrix she develops activities linked to 'life-questions' of Turkish and Moroccan youth. jongeren. Her leading explanation of the crisis of faith: 'there raise in faith at home and in the mosque is limited to commandments and prohibitions'. From conversations with hundreds of more educated Moslem-youngsters Lammers experienced a great need of talking about subjects of religiosity. Questions as 'what is the right position of a Moslem in a non-Islamic society ?' and matters, being side-paths of faith: partner-choice, raising of children. Matters where they cannot talk about with their ma and dad. And more less with secular club- and neighbourhood-workers. They are afraid of the reactions of parents and mosque.
That need of Moslem-youngsters, need of more insight in modern interpretation of Islam, is also something that the Dutch Moslem Abdulwahid van Bommel, recognises. Just as Lammers does he meet a lot of boys and girls of Islamic origin. He has the same experience: 'Young Moslem's do not get any or enough answers on matters of existential and religious basis. And that while they are confronted by natives of same age with questions as: 'what says your religion about homosexuality, euthanasia, human rights, the balance religion-science?' . On most of such questions, often aggressively asked, most young Moslems have no convincing answers'. Asked of the religiosity and practice of belief of Turkish and Moroccan youth in Holland gives van Bommel - imam and publicist - a 'very global division', that is regular used also in conversations with academics.
The following categories:
A] Youth, with thinking in religiosity and practice of religion as traditional their parents. Besides them that are believers of young age, there are also people in this group who at later age - after success in employment or because of disappointing experiences with the Dutch society - do become devotees of Islam again. In contrast to their parents, have they really chosen. 5 to 10 percent of the Moslem-youth belongs to this growing category.
B] Existential and religious out of control youngsters who are aware of their situation. The majority of this group are students and successful people in society. They feel being Moslem - but they do not pray regularly and they do almost not visit a mosque - but they do not know to give it a more modern try. They are emancipated boys and (and especially amongst Moroccans) girls, searching for a way to survive spiritually in a individualised and secularised society. That results in the end in a transformed, 'modern' way of experiencing their religion or in rejecting of Islam. Their percentage is between 20 and 30 percent.
C] Too early school-leavers, young unemployed and other unsuccessful people in society. They have a social weak position and try to find their way in society by adaptation. This group would have become farmer in the homeland. They call themselves, when asked, still Moslem, but do not practise Islam. They never pray, never visit a mosque, smoke, and drink alcohol. In case of fasting during ramadan, they do it only because they do not want to become strangers for their parents and family. The possibility that they leave their religion, definitely, is great. 50 to 60 percent of the Moslem-youth in our country belongs to this category.
Moslem-women are often more sceptic about certain dogma's of religion than men, research shows. Nico Landman, academic of Islam at the University of Utrecht, is not surprised. 'The Islam has more restrictions for women, compared to the men. And they are facing more difficulties in the migrate-context: is a girl allowed or not to go alone, by herself, to a disco?'. Not mentioning traditional Moslimah, modern society has, according conversations with academics of Islam, a great influence on a lot of Moslem-girls, it moves their borders. When everybody walks in short skirts, you want to wear something different than a long skirt or a boring coat. That leads to conflicts at home, but also to remarkable examples of Moslem-emancipation. The result is more and more seen in amongst Moroccan. There are walking, well dressed and educated, ambitious young women. They call themselves Moslem, but they simply ignore when they hear the imam preaching that the only right place for a Moslem-woman is at home, that they have to surrender to the wishes of the husband and that she only is allowed to study when the goal is a better raising of the kids. But what about the parents? Amongst them there is still a strong bond with the belief of the fathers. This first generation practices Islam precise as they did in the homeland: a permanent ritual without many questions.
Cultural Anthropologist Thijl Sunier: 'It is often more a psychological survival-strategy than being convinced. The belief functions as a beacon within a world of confusion. Being almost not educated, there is a little or none insight in Islam'. Sunier, working in the research-group religion and society at the University of Amsterdam makes a statement: 'Even the first generation is not a static, monolith block, when looked at cultural and religious habits and traditions. They are also not immune for the influence of the new, secularised environment.'
Researches seem to agree with Sunier. The result of a inquiry amongst Moroccan in Holland is that 61.8% were saying that they do not pray daily, however 16.4% of them did confess that this was still done by them in the homeland. One can conclude that the last percentage is including the older people. Even amongst them the borders are moved, slowly.
ONE COMES TO THE MOSQUE TO PLAY TABLE-SOCCER
One would think that the Turks - having faced secularisation already in their homeland - are in Holland sooner saying goodbye to their religion than Moroccans. But according the academic of Islam Nico Landman and the anthropologist Sunier that is not what happens. Both groups face the same speed of the secularisation-process. In Holland, according Sunier, are only 20 percent to 25 percent of all male Turks between 15 and 25 years old visiting a mosque regularly. Also their religious co-operation is scanty. Researches show that most of the Turkish youngster is not interested in Islam.
Sunier:'Even when they come to a mosque it is more to play a game of table-soccer and to watch tv than to pray'. Supposing that the Turkish girls are more interested, is doubted by Sunier: 'Never experienced'.
How is it possible that a research amongst 55 Turkish youngsters, male and female, age 17-26 years (Rooijackers, 1992) the majority, 60 percent, says that Islam is an important to very important factor in their life? Without directly mentioning the inquiry, Landman gives the answer: 'To say, 'I don't believe no more' is still a taboo. To take a distance from religion and religiosity is seen as betrayal of the own community. Not keeping the laws is not so bad because: 'We have to face that the human is weak'.
Sunier tells: 'Some 10, 15 years back the regular Turkish mosque was a boring old men-club. That is changing. There are arose several unions trying to pull the youth to the mosque and/or to connect them in some way to a mosque, there can be said: 'what has a soccer-club to do with Islam', but that can also be said of the Ronduit-clubs of the EO (note translator: an Evangelical Broadcast). The conservative Milli Görus and Suleymanli's started first. They offer young males a position, even in the board, in their mosque. The Dyanet-mosques - in Holland the majority; the imams are appointed by the government of Turkey - follow, but very slowly. In such boards of mosques the first generation likes to have control and the younger generations has almost no influence in matters of the board. That does not stimulate. But also there are more organised activities for the youth: starting with weekly Quran-lessons to all kind of education done at home. The youth does not have any imam that has modern answers on religious and moral question which are important for them to have answered. Prayers in an unknown language - the youth does not know Arabic anymore - and preaching by an imam that does not know the situation are responsible for a great distance. And after a while such youth does not come back. Do not think that the parents do not know this. But when it is time to change, the step is too big, and there is nobody willing to take the lead'.
According Sunier there is a disconnection seen amongst many Turkish boys and girls of the Islam and its ethnic connotations. 'The words Turk and Moslem, as mark of identity, are separated from each other. That is not so extreme amongst Moroccan youth. Young Turks think it is ridiculous to give 'the Turk' a special place within Islamic history. They reject the thought of parents and imams that there are nations - read: the Turks - that are more equipped to confess Islam as others. They see that as an irritant transforming of the religious message'.
ISLAM OFFERS NO MORE THAN ASSISTANCE
The visiting of mosques amongst Moroccan, a diagnose of imam and publicist Abdulwahid van Bommel, is mainly limited to men of the 1st generation. And also amongst them is the percentage that prays in the mosque, not so great. That has to do, he explains, with their place of origin. '60 to 70 percent of the Moroccan in our country is from the Rif-territory, in the north-east part of Morocco. It is an environment were the formal Islam is not so important and in some places of secondary importance. The visiting of graves of saints (marabous) and the belief in ghosts (djinns) is more important for the people than to visit the mosque regularly.'
Anthropologist Wasif Shadid confirms that. He quotes from a research of mid 1980 that was done in a number of mosques in Casablanca. There was discovered that during the obligated Friday-prayer no more than 10 percent of the believers did show up. Shadid: 'There are no comparing figures of mosques in Holland, but expecting that there are more people visiting the mosque in this country is most unlikely' Also because Moslems do not get a day-off from their boss every Friday. This disobeying of the religious laws - also the obedience of the food-laws - is in Holland not enough compensated by folks-devotion' Therefore especially women of the first generation suffer. Because they are cut off from the symbols of their homeland, that important there (marabous, djinns). Therefore they are in a spiritual vacuum that sucks dry their religiosity. Most of the Moroccan youngster do not feel at home in the world of the mosque, were elders are ruling, tribe-structures dominate - 'a Berber never goes to an Arabic mosque and in return the same' - and were less communal sense and solidarity rule. The imams, according Moroccan youth, are not their biggest problem. Some of them are willing to find modern solutions, instead of members of the board. And while every imam is paid by the board of the mosque, he remains silent.
Religion-academic Herman Beck: 'Generally the second generation shares - even when they never saw the inside of a mosque - the vision of the first generation that Islam is a part of the Moroccan culture. But, unlike the first generation, they do not agree that Islam is an absolute norm and value system that also here, in Holland, has to be continued from generation to generation. In teaching, social and political way the youth does not recognise or want an all-controlling role for Islam in society. The religious commandments and prohibitions are more sort of ethnic assistance instead of accepting them as absolute demands. The rituals are relativized by them. The pressure of the first generation, with social control or not, on the second generation to keep the Islamic laws accurate, are experienced by the youth as an irritant restriction of their personal freedom.'
The older generation is, according Van Bommel, in mind still in Morocco. Many of them are not so blessed in the material way, therefore their self-confidence is get from the immaterial, their 'authentic' religiosity.
The claim that Islam is a 'medicine' for society is not true. Also claims as 'there are more people converting to Islam than to other faith' are doubted and are in case of Holland false statements. It is better to be honest than to spread false propaganda. I hope this research of Islam in Holland will open some eyes.Oving. 19-06-1998.