From Turks and Renegades to Citizens and Radicals : The Historical Trajectories of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Muslims in the Netherlands

In 2019 I wrote a series of posts here: A short history of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims in the Netherlands. It was an exploration of the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable Islam and Muslims resonated throughout Dutch history. In the beginning of this year the editors of the Dutch journal Trajecta. Religion, Culture and Society in the Low Countries, asked me to submit the posts as an article to the journal which I happily but also reluctantly accepted. My reluctance stemmed from the idea that I’m anthropologist not a historian. So I have chosen to explore the historical relationship between Islam and the Netherlands from a very specific angle within the context of the contemporary debates. Thanks to the useful comments of the reviewers, I think I have managed to bring together a wide variety of sources on the historical Dutch Islam (oh, and more is to come on that front) with a perspective on the contemporary securitization and racialization of Islam.

Trajecta focuses on the modern history of religion (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, ‘new’ religions) and the accompanying processes of transformation.
Trajecta is published in cooperation with KADOC-KU Leuven, Documentation and Research Centre on Religion, Culture and Society, the Historical Documentation Centre for Dutch Protestantism (1800-present) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (HDC), the Catholic Documentation Centre at the Radboud University Nijmegen (KDC) and the Archives and Documentation Centre of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands at the Theological University Kampen (ADC).


In contemporary debates on religion and multiculturalism in the Netherlands, Islam is hypervisible as a ‘problem’ originating from outside Europe ‐ the discussion of which draws a clear distinction between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims. Yet, at the same time, almost no reference is made to the Dutch history of Islam and Muslims prior to World War II. Based on a study of the literature on the history of Islam and the Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries and covering the colonial rule of Indonesia and the rise of Indonesian communities in the Netherlands during the interwar period, I trace how the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims resonates throughout Dutch history. I show how the trope of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims can be found in different, and sometimes contradictory ways and was determined by the local and global interests of the ruling elites and their desire to maintain peace and order to prevent politically dissenting Islamic ideas and transnational movements from influencing local Muslims.

You can download and read the article HERE (paywall).

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