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 9/11…as 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?

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