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'Have an answer ready! A fallacy if need be...'

The As-Soennah mosque in the Schilderswijk, The Hague. The mosque where young Muslims of all kinds, moderate to orthodox, find a place. We, students from the Honours Class Denktank: Islam in Nederland (Think tank: Islam in The Netherlands), paid a visit to the mosque and went to talk with its imam.

Unexpected hospitality

Armed with questions and slightly tensed we arrived at the mosque on Wednesday the 14th of October. After a quick final brainstorm outside, we entered the mosque; an enormous, modern building, which hardly looked like a mosque. After a generous welcome (with drinks and food included!) all tensions faded. Once the imam had arrived, we moved to a professional conference room and the conversation started.

Double standards

Our aim for this conversation was one ‘simple’ question to be answered: do young Muslims feel like Dutch government and society use double standards concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict and conspiracy theories? After a short introduction of our aim, the imam began to speak. He spoke about the main problems of the Islam in the Netherlands, about radicalisation among young Muslims, about the Israel-Palestine conflict and about what he is trying to do about these problems. ‘Encourage dialogue’, ‘stay in touch’, were the main answers. Dutch government and society do not recognise young Muslims’ feelings and cut off the dialogue. This leads to radicalisation and the rejection of society.

A well-needed break

After the imam’s impressive monologue we were astonished. The imam turned out to be much more open, his answers much sharper and his opinions more nuanced than we had expected. What to do now?! Luckily we were saved by the call for prayer. It gave us the opportunity to deliberate. Which questions remain unanswered? What do we really want to know? After the prayer we had plenty of vigor and questions for the second part of the conversation.

Earn respect

The imam responded with a snicker to our question whether the Israel-Palestine conflict and conspiracy theories were present in Muslim communities. Of course they are! Many young Muslims feel they are not being recognised and use the Israel-Palestine conflict to oppose Dutch society. They are continually exposed to negative triggers and start to believe conspiracy theories. The imam rejects this ‘victim mentality’. According to him, Palestines and the entire Muslim community have to stop complaining. They have to earn respect in order to be able to command it.

Have an answer!

How to change this attitude and prevent young Muslims from opposing society and radicalization? The imam puts it very straight: “pursue the dialogue and have an answer ready! A fallacy if need be. It prevents them from wallowing in their own delusions”.

(28 oktober 2015 / Fleur van Lit)

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