Public policy responses to Muslim immigration in the Netherlands are often presented as crucially shaped by ‘pillarization’. This article takes issue with this perception by challenging two related assumptions. On the one hand, that the Dutch church-state model is essentially about pillarization and, on the other, the idea that strategies of pillarization were applied to accommodate Muslim immigrant groups. The latter claim comprises three main hypotheses: first, that there actually exists an Islamic pillar in the Netherlands; second, that the forming of an Islamic pillar was a policy objective; and third, that pillarization shaped institutional and discursive opportunities for the institutionalization of Islam. On the basis of a reconstruction of public policy over 35 years, the article concludes that pillarization did not play this crucial role in shaping the development of Islam in the Netherlands.
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This view of the background of Dutch Islam policies has also been popularized by Ayaan Hirsi Ali who writes in her autobiography Infidel: ‘But I was beginning to see that Muslims in Holland were being allowed to form their own pillar in Dutch society, with their own schools and their own way of life, just like Catholics and Jews. They were being left politely alone to live in their own world …. They should be permitted to set up Quranic (sic) schools on Dutch soil. There should be government subsidies for Muslim community groups’ (2007, p. 245).
Schools have to be attended by a minimum of 200 pupils (depending on the degree of urbanization), the language of instruction should be Dutch, teachers have to be qualified and the curriculum has to comply with stipulations laid down in the Primary Education Act (Versteegt and Maussen, 2011).
In France, for example, the semi-public property management associations that provided housing for immigrant workers also set up a scheme to create Islamic prayer rooms in hostels (Maussen, 2009, pp. 115–117).
The Church Building Subsidy Act existed between 1962 and 1975. One group of Muslims managed to make use of the Church Building Act to receive a subsidy for the building of a mosque in Almelo in 1975 (see Maussen, 2009).
The fact that there is no consensus on what ‘representative institution’ should take the lead in organizing programs for a Muslim audience has led to recurrent problems over the past 20 years. In 2010, the Dutch Muslim Broadcasting (Nederlandse Moslim Omroep, NMO) ceased to exist because of mismanagement and financial problems.
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I would like to express my gratitude to the editors of this special issue, Christophe Bertossi and Jan Willem Duyvendak, for their comments and encouragements and to two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions to improve this article.
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Maussen, M. Pillarization and Islam: Church-state traditions and Muslim claims for recognition in the Netherlands. Comp Eur Polit 10, 337–353 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1057/cep.2012.11