The Dutch cinematographer Theo van Gogh’s short film Submission about Muslim women was shocking to many Muslims, and eventually provoked his murder in November 2004. This event brought the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the Netherlands to a head and incited much discussion about crushing Muslim fundamentalism.
However, the real change in relationship between the nearly one million Muslims in the Netherlands and the rest of the population took place about five years ago. The liberal elite in the Netherlands was – until that time – proud of its multicultural and multireligious society. When it was discovered that an important part of the second- and third-generation Muslim migrants criticised these liberal convictions, the sentiments changed. As a result many Muslim youth feel that they are held accountable for what a few do in the name of Islam. Many Muslim youth (particularly among the Turkish population, which is the largest immigrant group) have been loyal to Dutch society for years. Some are even returning to Turkey in disillusionment, but not all have that opportunity.
Gaps in the Netherlands
The large gap between Muslim youth and the Church has not diminished in recent years. While there is certainly a growing awareness of Islam in the Dutch Church, most Dutch Christians are still not sure how to deal with Muslims. But there is a ray of hope. Muslim youth are forced to think about the values of Islam far more than their parents. The parents of Turkish and Moroccan immigrant youth are mainly villagers who followed the traditional Islam of their village imam. In the Netherlands their children are faced with many movements: preachers who want to recruit them for the violent jihad, as well as the mystic and humanistic movements from within Islam. Pressure from society forces them to make their own choices. Many young people create their own Islam through the internet and meetings outside the mosque.
The Challenge for the Netherlands
The challenge for the Church is to show second- and third-generation Muslim youth that there is another way to find their identity: through following Jesus as Saviour and Lord. In a few places churches have found a way to reach Muslim young people. They have discovered that only through much prayer and perseverance can the gap of distrust and prejudices be bridged to get to the heart of these young people. Many Christians in the Netherlands are shocked to discover only recently that Muslims have lived among them for the past 40 years. For many it is still a big step to overcome this shock and be a witness of Jesus Christ with boldness, compassion and wisdom.
Pray for the Muslims in the Netherlands:
* Pray that Muslim youth in the Netherlands will not be recruited by politically-inspired preachers for violence in the name of Islam.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will make those Muslim youth who are seeking for answers restless until their hearts find rest in Christ. This is what happened to Augustine, and he – like many Dutch Muslim youth – came from North Africa (Algeria and Morocco).
* Pray that Muslim youth discover that Christians view them differently because they see them as people created by God who cares for them as a Father.
* Pray that Dutch churches will have creativity and perseverance as they do youth work among Muslims.
Background on the Netherlands (World Factbook)
The Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU), and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999.
Economy of the Netherlands
The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy, which depends heavily on foreign trade. The economy is noted for stable industrial relations, moderate unemployment and inflation, a sizable current account surplus, and an important role as a European transportation hub. Industrial activity is predominantly in food processing, chemicals, petroleum refining, and electrical machinery. A highly mechanized agricultural sector employs no more than 2% of the labor force but provides large surpluses for the food-processing industry and for exports.
About the Netherlands
Population: 16,805,037 (July 2013 est.) World rank #65
Life Expectancy at Birth: 81.01 years. World rank #21
Ethnic groups: Dutch 80.7%, EU 5%, Indonesian 2.4%, Turkish 2.2%, Surinamese 2%, Moroccan 2%, Caribbean 0.8%, other 4.8%
Religions: Roman Catholic 30%, Dutch Reformed 11%, Calvinist 6%, other Protestant 3%, Muslim 5.8%, other 2.2%, none 42%
Languages: Dutch (official), Frisian (official), English, German, French – excellent
School life expectancy: 17 years
EuroNews – Europeans- The Netherlands’ debate on Islam – Video
An interesting debate about Islam in the Netherlands.