Consumption and transformation of beliefs, practices, and experiences in the Netherlands

For ISIM and Radboud University Nijmegen I’m currently involved in a new project on salafism as a transnational movement.

A new generation of Muslims in Europe is becoming visible in the European public sphere. It is clear that Salafism has also become part of this public sphere. During the 1990s and with increasing speed after ‘9-11’, Salafism has developed into a social movement by building up its own mosques, websites and informal networks used for resource mobilisation and dissemination.

In particular the political wing of Salafism has succeeded in devising a political frame that is critical towards Dutch policymakers, politicians and other opinion leaders. Salafis have issued boycotts, petitions and used the internet as means of contention. The Jihadi current seems to use informal networks, the volunteer networks of Islamic aid organizations and the internet as means for resource mobilisation and dissemination (De Koning 2007). The situation in other European countries such as France (ICG 2006) and the UK (Birt 2005) seems to be more or less the same.

This sub-project will focus on the demand side of religious knowledge by looking at how young Muslims actively engage with the writings of major religious leaders of the three different Salafi currents in the Middle East and their representatives in the Netherlands.

Young Muslims are not seen as a passive audience in this process, but as agents who actively create their own notion of what the correct Islamic beliefs and practices are, which in turn are based on their religious experiences and their life-world.
Important in this regard is the emergence of lay preachers. These are young people (mostly men but also a few women) who have reached the status of authoritative speakers in different kinds of religious and political matters (De Koning and Bartels 2006). Increasingly they write their own texts, which are often based on texts of popular Salafi authorities such as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Al-Albani and Safar al-Hawali, reacting in them on local and international issues. Besides these lay preachers also local imams have sustained this transmission of knowledge from the Middle East, although even here it is not clear what selection they have made of the material they were offered. The new generation of Salafi youth is transforming Salafi concepts and adapting them to their own life world. Moreover, European Salafis have even started to influence events and ideas in the Middle East by operating their own websites and by visiting Salafi sheikhs on the Arab peninsula and asking them for fatwas. One case of a fatwa is known in which the leaders of the Dutch political salafi current is criticized. Only a few of these feedback effects have been observed by the research until now (Allievi 2003: 11). At the same time the Salafi movements in Europe are subject to change because of the local circumstances of their following. The fact that the boundaries between the three Salafi currents have been blurred and that there are alliances between different groups also indicate an important change (Nielsen 2003).

Recent research shows that Salafism offers young people a guide for being Muslim and citizen which they seem to miss in Dutch or European societies (Roy 2005; Buijs, Demant and Hamdy 2006; ICG 2006). The emergence of Salafism is explained by relating it to external factors such as the perceived discrimination by Dutch society, the adverse political situation in the Middle East, and the problems ensuing from migration. The emergence of lay preachers indicates that we also have to look at how intra-Muslim relations influence the development of religious authority among Muslims in general and in the Salafi-movement in particular (Werbner 1996). The question of how young people consume, (re-)produce and transform religious knowledge of different Salafi authorities is important because social movements and religious knowledge are in constant shift and motion (Bayat 2005: 896).

This subproject combines insights from social movement theory with identity politics of Muslim youth (Eickelman and Piscatori 1996; Eriksen 2001; De Koning 2007) and oncentrates on questions as how do Dutch Muslim youth acquire their knowledge of Islam? How do they practice it? Whom do they regard as religious authorities? Why are some of them attracted to Salafism and why do they chose one of its currents? How is the Salafi movement in the Netherlands influenced by the practices of Muslim youth?


  • Allievi, S. 2003. ‘Islam in the public space: social networks, media and neo-communities’, in S. Allievi and J. S. Nielsen (eds.), Muslim networks and transnational communities in and across Europe., pp. 1-27. Leiden: Brill.
  • Bayat, A. 2005. ‘Islamism and Social Movement Theory’, Third World Quarterly, 26(6): 891-908.
  • Birt, J. 2005. ‘Wahhabism in the United Kingdom. Manifestations and reactions’, in M. Al-Rasheed (ed.), Transnational connections and the Arab Gulf, pp. 168-184. Londen, New York: Routledge.
  • Buijs, F. J., Demant, F. and Hamdy, A. 2006. Strijders van eigen bodem. Radicale en democratische moslims in Nederland. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
  • De Koning, M. 2007. ”You Follow the Path Of the Shaitan: we try to follow the righteous path.’ Negotiating Evil in the Identity Construction of Young Moroccan-Dutch Muslims’, in L. Minnema and N. Van Doorn-Harder (eds.), Coping with Evil in Religion and Culture: Case Studies, pp. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.
  • De Koning, M. and Bartels, E. 2006. ‘For Allah and myself. Religion and Moroccan Youth in The Netherlands. ‘ in P. H. F. Bos and W. Fritschy (eds.), Morocco and The Netherlands. Society, Economy, Culture. , pp. 146-156. Amsterdam: VU Publishers.
  • Eickelman, D. and Piscatori, J. 1996. Muslim Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Eriksen, T. H. 2001. ‘Ethnic identity, national identity and intergroup conflict: the significance of personal experiences’, in Ashmore, Jussim and Wilder (eds.), Social identity, intergroup conflict, and conflict reduction, pp. 42-70. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • ICG 2006. ‘La France Face á ses Musulmans: Émeutes, Jihadisme et Dépolitisation’,  Rapport Europe No172-9 March 2006: International Crisis Group.
  • Nielsen, J. S. 2003. ‘Transnational Islam and the integration of Islam in Europe’, in S. Allievi and J. S. Nielsen (eds.), Muslim networks and transnational communities in and across Europe, pp. 28-51. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.
  • Roy, O. 2005. ‘A Clash of Cultures or a Debate on Europe’s Values?’ ISIM Review, 15: 6-7.
  • Werbner, P. 1996. ‘The Making of Muslim Dissent: Hybridized Discourses, Lay Preachers, and Radical Rhetoric among British Pakistanis’, American Ethnologist, 23(1): 102-122.

2 thoughts on “Consumption and transformation of beliefs, practices, and experiences in the Netherlands

  1. Interestingly, Salafis are one Muslim group in evidence on Second Life, and although they are not a stable group, one of Second Life’s Muslim representatives on Berkeley University’s recent interfaith conference (held in-world) was a Salafi.

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