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Sunday 23 November  
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Salafism and Dutch democracy

Published on : 9 May 2013 - 9:44am | By RNW Arab Desk ((c) ANP)
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Many young Dutch Muslims are attracted to the fundamentalist Salafi movement. Anthropologist Ineke Roex has been researching the attitudes of the movement’s followers to democracy. "Accept them as part of Dutch society, and then they become more democratic."
Michel Hoebink
Salafists condemn the idea of democracy in principle, explains Roex. Laws can only be made by God – or Allah – and not by mankind. Nevertheless, most Salafists in the Netherlands believe they should respect the Dutch democratic state. “Salafists accept the democratic rule of law for pragmatic reasons. They’re very aware that they enjoy rights in the Netherlands that they would not have in some Arab countries. They reason that you should accept the laws of the country where you live as long as you can fulfill your religious obligations."
Radical minority
There’s been concern about this form of Islam in the Netherlands since Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Salafist in 2004. An investigation carried out by the Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, concluded that only a tiny minority of the movement’s followers believes in jihad – or holy war – but questions about Salafists' acceptance of democratic values remain. Roex researched the ideology and behaviour of a number of Salafist networks in the Netherlands and concluded that apart from a handful of radicals, they do not form a threat to the democratic rule of law.
Roex acknowledges that it’s an extremely intolerant ideology. Salafists believe that theirs is the only true and correct interpretation of Islam. This intolerance does not necessarily lead to approving intolerant behaviour.  “The majority of Dutch Salafists disapprove of force and judging or demonising those with different beliefs. For instance, homosexuality is forbidden but so is violence against homosexuals. The only way in which you can bring others to follow the right path is through upbringing and education.” 
Their ideological intolerance means Salafists don’t readily accept the idea that everyone can have their own interpretation of ‘the truth’. But that very inflexibility means it’s actually a very diverse movement, according to Roex. “Because of all the quibbling, there are many schisms and factions within Salafism. In the end that means there’s actually more freedom for individuals within the movement, which itself is a democratic value.”
Dutch Salafism is full of contradictions, says Roex. If the Dutch authorities want to stimulate the movement’s democratic tendencies, they must be careful not to stigmatise its followers.  “Don’t isolate them but encourage them to participate, which will make them more democratic.”
While the religious principles of Salafism may be in conflict with democratic values, the Amsterdam-based anthropologist believes it’s not unthinkable that at some point believers will call themselves both Salafist and Democrat. “Don’t forget that there are many religious people in the Netherlands who already do this, not just Muslims but also fundamentalist Protestants for instance. They say: I have my religious ideals and I believe in democracy alongside that.”
Ineke Roex’s thesis  Leven als de Profeet in Nederland [Living Like the Prophet in the Netherlands] will be published in book form by the Amsterdam University Press in September. 


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augusto 1 October 2014 - 8:16am

I think it's true that Salafism is one of the most intolerant. And they have several factions. But anyway, the others organisation that have high tolerance also have factions.
What I love about them is they are not troublemakers. They don't teach violence to settle differences. Intolerance is the way they educate themselves in the principles they believe, not in dealing with others. If there are violences, I think it's not what they teach.

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knirb 1 June 2013 - 5:22am

"Salafists condemn the idea of democracy in principle" - end of story.
The rest of this article is gibberish. As the above line suggests they do not "accept" democracy - ever. They may tolerate it when they have no other choice.
Wherever there is a Muslim majority, democracy goes out the window or is in peril, even without the ravings of its extremists.
Almost all of the best democracies have their roots in Protestantism and Humanism. There are no violent Protestant fundamentalist sects aiming to destroy democracy, so that comparison is ludicrous.
The only way Salafists will come around to democracy is when they stop being Salafists.

manish gupta 31 May 2013 - 7:15pm / bharat/india

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But people and politicians looking for a cause just exaggerate a threat for their own agendas and glory.

Anonymous 23 May 2013 - 5:15pm / USA

All they want is attention , a true muslim does not do such public exposure .

Anonymous 22 May 2013 - 2:03am

John your statement "As long as these people are not violent and harming people then they should be allowed to practice their beliefs within the system of course." Your statement is absolutely. That is why they should not be allowed to practice their religion of hate which as harm many millions of people. They, too, practice their religion for their agenda. You should have included them. There is no exaggeration on the religion called Islam. They have given sufficient proof of their hate for non-Believers and Believers.

John m. 12 May 2013 - 4:43am / OZ

its really quite common sense. you don't need a prof to tell you that as long as you don't stigmatize a people, that people are no threat to the nation. As long as these people are not violent and harming people then they should be allowed to practice their beliefs within the system of course. If they want to believe that they are the only truth then what harm csn words have for everybody else?
But people and politicians looking for a cause just exaggerate a threat for their own agendas and glory.

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