There is a lot of diversity among Muslims. But in the media, in discussions between Muslims themselves and by non-Muslim Dutch, Islam is often associated with Moroccan and Arab culture. Too often, many Muslims without a Moroccan background believe. It bothers them. ‘Not all Muslims are Moroccans.’
The Netherlands has Muslims with, among others, Turkish, Somali, Syrian, Afghan, Pakistani, Indonesian and yes, Moroccan backgrounds. Still, in the media discussion about the term ‘sugar party’, we heard mainly Moroccan Dutch people wanting to replace it with the Arabic ‘Eid al-Fitr ‘. The liaison body Muslims and Government also sided with ‘Eid al Fitr’. Many Muslims are not happy about this. Some argue that it is ‘Arab dominance’ that imposes the use of Arabic terms and excludes the many types of non-Moroccan Muslims from the discussion.
Turkish-Dutch Muslims do not want each other ‘Eid al Fitr’, says Mehmet * (47). ‘That expression is almost unknown in my family and in my environment. We use the term ‘bayram ‘ or ‘Ramadan Festival’. Earlier, in the Ottoman era (1299-1922, ed.), The term ‘Eid’ was used. But as this empire expanded, the term came Bayram instead.’
Mehmet works in the Fatih Mosque in Amsterdam and gives tours to those interested. During his tours, he teaches about Islam and the different interpretations of the faith. He explains that the term “sugar party” has its origins in the secular history of modern Turkey.
‘In the secular period, it was from 1923, the term’Shukur ‘ or ‘Thanksgiving’. Since people at that time could not all read and write, the word was’Shukur ‘ with the word ‘of course’ (Turkish for ‘sugar’, ed.) confused. During the 1960s, when there were tensions between left and right, the term ‘sugar party’ was normalized by the secular Turks. ‘
According to Mehmet, the discussion about ‘Sugar Feast’ and ‘Eid al Fitr’ is of little use. ‘We need a name that is acceptable to all and that is also easy to pronounce. By using the Arabic term, you give it a certain direction. People should also take into account the composition of the Islamic community in the Netherlands. Moreover, the term Eid al Fitr does not come from the Qur’an. This name has its origin in a hadith – or tradition – of the Prophet Muhammad. Unfortunately, this negates the argument that the term comes from the Qur’an. ‘
‘My mouth opened in surprise’
Many Muslims with non-Arab or non-Moroccan backgrounds get surprised reactions from non-Muslim Dutch when they tell them that they are Muslims. Raoul * (42) from Amsterdam gives an illustrative example that happened to him when he discussed the preparations for Ramadan with a Surinamese-Dutch friend in a pool center in Amsterdam.
‘Then I met a colleague of my friend; this was a woman from Amsterdam Jordaan. She overheard our conversation and suddenly said, ‘Hey, are you Muslim? But you’re not Moroccan, are you? ‘ My mouth opened in surprise. After all, I am a practicing Muslim, I pray five times a day, and I give too zakat (donation in Islam, ed.). But despite that, many Dutch people do not think I am a Muslim. I nicely explained to the woman how the fork is in the handle. Not all Muslims are Moroccans. ‘
According to Raoul, it is not surprising that mainly Moroccan-Dutch Muslims can be seen in the media. ‘Moroccan culture is simply more open. Other cultures, such as the Surinamese, Turkish and Indonesian cultures, are more self-centered. Moroccans integrate more easily: Just look at the media, how many Moroccan actors and TV hosts there are. The Moroccan footballers also present themselves as Muslims. ‘
On the other hand, Surinamese mosques have become more accessible to Muslims of other ethnicities and therefore more visible to those as Muslims, he notes. ‘Where former Surinamese mosques primarily preached in Urdu (a language of India and Pakistan, ed.), My current Surinamese mosque does so in Dutch. Still, I think we as Surinamese Muslims should put our hands in our own pockets and become more visible Muslims. ‘
‘Many Dutch people do not think I am a Muslim’
The Turkish-Dutch Mehmet also experiences that the Dutch have a preference for Moroccan Islam. “We regularly receive requests to film in the Fatih Mosque. Very often the manuscripts are written in such a way that it focuses on the Moroccan tradition of Islam. For example, a film script that we were offered described a scene in a mosque where the imam is wearing a djellaba. It is a Moroccan traditional clothing style. The filmmakers also insisted that the furniture should be Arabic and that Arabic should be spoken. We in the mosque did not agree with that, because the Arab tradition does not fit into our mosque. ‘
Another example was during Museum Night in Amsterdam, says Mehmet. ‘Two fashion designers were eager to visit our mosque and said they would love it if people would walk around the djellabas inside the mosque. As in a kind of Fata Morgana, so to speak. This again shows that many Dutch people expect that the Moroccan tradition will always be followed in the mosque. ‘
The emphasis on the use of Arabic terms such as ‘Eid al Fitr’ is particularly noticeable among the younger generation of Muslims, says Lindau *, himself 53.
It started in the 1990s, when Muslim clerics in mosques began speaking in Arabic and began to proclaim a ‘new Islam’. Suddenly they knew what ‘shirk’ (idolatry, ed.) was. Or one had to abide by certain dress codes. From Islamic friends, I understood that these clergy even went home to get in touch with Islamic elders and to teach them about the new Islam. ‘
He continues: ‘In the past, so before the 1990s, the atmosphere between me and my Muslim friends was much more relaxed. We never cared about faith and we were interested in each other’s culture. But as there were more and more Arab influences, suddenly rules came about how to behave and what is haram. Islam was from then on interpreted very black and white. There is a lot of shouting, but there is little room for discussion about the meaning of faith. The lightness was gone. ‘
Lindau itself is of Surinamese-Javanese descent. He and his family wish each other after Ramadan Tides in Bodoh, or a nice sugar party. He says he often receives insulting remarks from Moroccan friends.
‘The atmosphere used to be relaxed between me and my Moroccan friends. We felt connected to each other because we had all migrated to Holland at a young age and experienced a cultural change. But that has changed since the 1990s, and I often experience disapproving reactions. During the celebration of Bodoh I showed videos of a Javanese dance. It is a tradition among Javanese Muslims to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan with traditional dancing and singing Sasi Poso, as we call it, to close. My Moroccan friends made dirty faces and called the dancers devil worshipers. ‘
Since the rise of Salafism in Javanese mosques, a new Islamic movement has emerged among Javanese, Lindau observed with suspicion, both in Suriname and here in the Surinamese-Javanese community.
‘These Javanese belong to santriflow. They are more orthodox and have a tendency towards Arab Islam: for example, they do not wear colorful clothes and have stricter rules for what is allowed according to the faith and what is not allowed. That santri is still a minority in Javanese society in the Netherlands, but as Salafism grows, the number of Javanese Muslims joining the Orthodox santri connects. ‘
Because of the Arab influences there are santri a condescending attitude towards the traditional Javanese-Dutch Muslims because they are less good Muslims, Lindau says.
‘They ridicule the traditional Javanese names. Parents who want to come up with a name for their child are warned against using the traditional Javanese names, because according to santri would no longer be of this time. Instead, the Arabic names that they associate with progress are recommended. “
Surname known by the editor.
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