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The Netherlands and Islam: In Defence of Liberalism and Progress?


With the elections of 2012, the main party driving the Islam debate in the Netherlands was sidelined. The new government of Liberals and Social Democrats is trying to re-bury the contentious issue, not least because Islam-related questions have had a onfusing effect on their parties. Nonetheless, with societal concerns lingering, the topic is likely to reappear. In the Netherlands, the wariness towards (Islamic) immigration is not rooted in fears of ethnic or religious competition. Instead, it tends to receive serious political attention only when cloaked as a defence of secularist and liberal values. As such, curbing Islamic practices is presented as a way to protect a (self-promoted) image of the Netherlands as a nonjudgemental and tolerant place. The paradox remains that that self-image was traditionally meant to include minorities, not to exclude them.

Keywords: The Netherlands, Islam, Dutch politics, populism