The Dutch Integration Landscape

  • Marieke SlootmanEmail author
Open Access
Part of the IMISCOE Research Series book series (IMIS)


The changed landscape of Dutch integration politics forms the backdrop of this study. Literature shows that, as in many other European countries, the Netherlands has experienced a ‘culturalization of citizenship’ in which belonging has become defined in cultural terms. The dominant integration discourse dictates that immigrants and their children internalize the progressive ‘Dutch’ norms and identify as Dutch. Based on the zero-sum presumption that one can be only loyal to one country and culture, identification as Moroccan or Turkish is deemed suspect. Particularly Muslims, whose religion is portrayed as inherently incompatible with ‘Dutch culture’, are seen as the Other. Moroccan and Turkish immigrants are most stigmatized in the current integration discourses, and together with their offspring comprise the largest ethnic-minority groups in the Netherlands. They arrived in the Netherlands around the 1970s as labor migrants to work in low-skilled jobs. Most came from rural areas and had very low levels of formal education. Given their backgrounds, it is quite an achievement that nowadays a large and ever-increasing share of their offspring enters higher education levels. Despite some sociocultural differences between the Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch, the commonalities warrant a joint study.


Integration discourse Culturalization Belonging Citizenship Second generation Netherlands 

As in many other countries since the start of this millennium, Dutch integration politics has seen a significant turn from a relative tolerance of diversity to an ‘assimilationist’ or ‘culturalist’ intolerance of cultural diversity. This evolving political landscape forms the backdrop of the lives of the second generation that I studied. Their identifications are hard to apprehend without knowing about the culturalist turn and the change in the tone of voice that affected the early second-generation Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch since early adulthood. I discuss the changing political landscape in the first section of this chapter (Sect. 4.1). Additionally, to understand the second generation’s social relations and struggles, it is essential to know about their immigration background and their evolving socioeconomic and sociocultural positions in the Netherlands, which I describe in the second Sect. (4.2). The chapter concludes with a summary (Sect. 4.3).

4.1 The Dutch Integration Context: Voices and Policies Over Time

In this section, I will describe how a strongly exclusivist ‘culturalism’ has ascended, claiming that ‘the Dutch culture and identity’—defined in terms of progressiveness—should be defended against immigrants and their presumed illiberal, intolerant, traditional, and non-secular cultures and religions (Uitermark 2012; Uitermark et al. 2014). This development parallels the situation in many other countries that have seen the popularity of populist parties grow in the last decennia. The Turkish Dutch, and particularly the Moroccan Dutch, both with Muslim backgrounds, have been the primary targets. In the Netherlands, this culturalism is accompanied by a new-realist discursive style, characterized by a bold ‘frankness’ and ‘the nerve to break taboos’ (Prins 2002). To elucidate the significance of the change, I describe this emerging discourse and its resonance in a relatively detailed way, including the changing themes that the integration politics center on, the shifting demands placed on immigrants and their offspring, and the monumental change in tone. Before discussing the figureheads of the emerging culturalist discourse and the culturalist resonance with mainstream actors and integration policies, I first briefly describe the recent history of Dutch politics.
  • A History of Pragmatism Rather than Multiculturalism

    Roughly until the second half of the 1980s, the Netherlands was relatively tolerant of ethnic and religious diversity. As a result, the Netherlands was renowned for its multiculturalism, but this view predominantly misperceives the underlying reasons for this tolerance (Duyvendak and Scholten 2011, 2012). Rather than expressing a multicultural ideology that values and nurtures cultural diversity, this tolerance was based on widespread pragmatism. This pragmatism was a legacy of the Dutch system of pillarization, in which various ideological segments were institutionally and socially separated (Uitermark 2012). Pillarization started to decline in the late 1960s, but the Dutch poldermodel remained, characterized by compromise, consultation, and accommodation rather than confrontation. This poldermodel had become ingrained in the Dutch civil sphere (2012). This model was reflected in an approach to integration that did not emerge from ideological bases but was driven by finding solutions that were practical and efficient (Scholten 2011; Uitermark 2012). When workers from Morocco and Turkey arrived in the Netherlands in the late Sixties and Seventies, and when their families arrived ten years later, it was generally assumed that their migration would be temporary, so immigrant policies were directed towards facilitating their return. In view of the prospected return to Morocco and Turkey, the retention of their cultural identities and group structures was promoted and supported.

When in the 1980s it appeared that many of the immigrants would stay permanently, the goal of the integration policy shifted from facilitating return to socioeconomic participation and the prevention of sociocultural segregation (Scholten 2011). This did not lead to an adaption of the integration instruments. Group-specific facilities were maintained or supported, as the cultivation of minority language skills and identities were seen as means for simultaneously preventing social insulation and promoting socioeconomic integration. The underlying idea was that knowledge of the ‘own’ language and culture would contribute to a positive self-image, facilitate acquisition of the Dutch language, and reduce the gap between children and their parents (Bouras 2012, p. 90). Combatting discrimination and inequality was seen as the mutual responsibility of both the minority and the majority; mutual adaptation was emphasized and combating discrimination was one of the policy aims (Scholten 2011).

Thus, the institutionalization of ethnic and religious differences was not ingrained in a multiculturalist ideology, but promoted for instrumental reasons. The accommodation of sociocultural differences does not express an appreciation of cultural diversity, but rather, it is the pragmatic consequence of the aim to facilitate return and socioeconomic integration. Yet, the Dutch pragmatic approach resembles multiculturalism in the view that a certain level of cultural and religious diversity is acceptable and does not necessarily threaten integration and national cohesion. It is a groupist way of thinking that is not necessarily exclusivist. This changed sharply in 2001, foreshadowed by developments in the integration debate in the preceding decennium.
  • Culturalism on the Rise

    In the early Nineties, a more exclusivist way of thinking emerged, which, particularly after the turn of the millennium, severely challenged the tolerance for cultural diversity. Whereas cultural diversity was previously tolerated for pragmatic reasons, it became increasingly formulated as a social problem that needed to be resolved urgently, and those who were presented as cultural Others were increasingly regarded as outsiders. This move away from the accommodation of cultural diversity is observed in many other European countries (see e.g. Joppke 2004, see also the literature mentioned by Tonkens et al. 2010, p. 233). As I describe in this section, in the Netherlands, a discourse of ‘culturalism’ ascended and gradually became one of the most dominant voices in the Dutch integration debate. It was voiced in a style of ‘new realism’ or even ‘hyperrealism’ (Prins 2002). Dutch culturalism can be described as ‘a discourse organized around the idea that the world is divided into cultures and that our enlightened, liberal culture should be defended against the claims of minorities committed to illiberal religions and ideologies’ (Uitermark 2012, p. 15). The ascent of the culturalist discourse strongly relied on particular discursive leaders, who left clear marks on the integration debate in the Netherlands in the last two decennia (ibid.). This description is largely based on the detailed analyses of Prins (2002, 2004) and Uitermark (2012) of the Dutch integration debate.

In 1991, culturalism was freed from its association with the extreme right by Bolkestein, the leader of the rightwing liberals and appointed ‘Godfather’ of culturalism in the Netherlands (by Uitermark 2012, p. 85). Bolkestein argued that Islam is fundamentally different from the ‘Enlightened’ Western cultures, which need to be protected against Islamic influences (Bolkestein 1991). He presented himself as voicing the concerns of the ‘ordinary people’, the lower-class ethnic Dutch, whom he portrayed as the real victims of immigration. After 2000, the support for culturalist ideas also increased among more leftist people following an opinion article in which Scheffer, a member of the Labor Party, sketched Dutch society as a ‘multicultural drama’ (2000). Scheffer blamed the Dutch elites for being relativist and consensual, and held them accountable for a large number of socioeconomic problems among ethnic minorities such as unemployment, poverty, school dropout rates, and criminality. Scheffer envisioned a strong national identity that articulates what holds society together as a sociocultural solution for these socioeconomic problems.

The discourse that unfolded was not only culturalist, but can also be described as what Prins refers to as ‘new realist’ (2002). According to Prins, a new realist ‘dares’ to state the ‘facts’ that have supposedly been covered up by the elites, thereby ‘unmasking’ a formerly hidden truth and ‘frankly’ addressing social issues that should not be ‘smothered’ but ‘solved’. A new realist presents him or herself as a spokesperson of the ‘ordinary people’ (lower-class ethnic Dutch) and blames the (leftist) establishment whose evasive ‘political correctness’ has caused the social ‘problems’ we are now supposedly facing. In this new realist discourse, being frank, straightforward, and realistic are presented as characteristic features of Dutch national identity. According to Tillie, the new-realist ‘frankness’ led to violations of the basic principles of a democratic debate, which are non-violence, non-exclusion, and the respect of human dignity (Tillie 2008).

In the period after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the politician Pim Fortuyn emerged in the political arena and dominated Dutch national politics prior to the national elections of May 2002. Fortuyn, who was very explicit with his homosexuality, outshone his political opponents with his controversial and flamboyant appearance. He caused ‘political correctness’ to become suspect and passionately fulminated against what he called the ‘retarded’ Islam, the ‘imminent’ ‘Islamization’ of Dutch society, and the ‘paternalizing’ ‘left church’ (Prins 2002). He argued that the progressive Dutch achievements were under threat and that he did not feel like ‘doing the emancipation of women and homosexuals all over again’ (Fortuyn in Poorthuis and Wansink 2002). Prins explains that frankness is no longer a means for unmasking the truth, but that the unrestrained venting of one’s feelings is now valued for its own sake, and she calls this ‘hyperrealism’ (2002). Fortuyn was shot dead a week prior to the elections by an ethnic-Dutch environmental activist. Many people blamed the Left, as the Left had (supposedly) demonized Fortuyn. Fortuyn’s political party (List Pim Fortuyn, Lijst Pim Fortuyn) became the second largest party in the subsequent elections and joined the government, which fell after only 87 days in office (Prins 2002).

Hirsi Ali, a novice politician, also challenged both Islam for its orthodoxy and Dutch politicians for their inert politics. She was confident, eloquent, determined, and above all, she was raised as a Muslim in Somalia. She experienced genital mutilation and fled to the Netherlands to escape arranged marriage. This all contributed to her legitimacy as a culturalist spokesperson and even made her into an ‘icon that cultural elites, too, could support or even adore’ (Uitermark 2012, p. 148). In 2002, she was allotted a seat in Parliament for the right-wing Liberals, which led her to break with the Labor party. Hirsi Ali advocated a confrontational style, which she saw as the only way to achieve the social change that she deemed urgent. Numerous death threats against her meant that she had to live with constant security. In her fight for the emancipation of Muslim women, she called the prophet Mohammed a pervert and a pedophile. The short film Submission, which she made with the controversial columnist and filmmaker Van Gogh (who consistently referred to Muslims as ‘goatfuckers’, geitenneukers), embodied her confrontational style. Many Muslims found the film offensive (Van Tilborgh 2006). It portrayed Muslim women as suffering abuse and showed a naked woman with a semi-transparent veil and Quranic verses painted on her body that can be interpreted as justifications of the subjugation of women. Hirsi Ali not only had supporters among the ‘ordinary people’ like Fortuyn, but also among the cultural and political elite. Although her approach led many Muslims in the Netherlands, particularly women, to speak up, they reacted mostly in opposition to Hirsi Ali’s stereotypical presentation of Islam and Muslims (Van Tilborgh 2006). In November 2004, Van Gogh was publicly murdered in the name of Islam by an extremist. In those years, the theme of ‘Islamic’ extremism was prominent in the media. The media extensively covered an extremist Dutch network of young Muslims, de Hofstadgroup, the ‘Capital City group’, the ideological home of Van Gogh’s murderer. Several of the youth were arrested and sentenced for being members of a criminal and terrorist organization. This was the time of the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the attacks in London in 2005, both carried out in name of Islam. In 2005, Time Magazine ranked Hirsi Ali among the 100 world’s most influential people. In 2006, she moved to the United States.

Although the media-focus on ‘Islamic’ extremism gradually subsided, the success of yet another culturalist figurehead cannot be ignored. In recent years, the politician Geert Wilders has drawn a lot of media attention (although he was not included in Uitermark’s analysis, I assume he has high resonance). His success is also visible in political terms. Wilders broke from the right-wing Liberals and participated in the 2006 elections with his newly-founded Freedom Party (Partij Voor de Vrijheid). In the 2010 elections he managed to expand the presence of the PVV in the Dutch parliament from 9 to 24 of the 150 seats, making PVV the third biggest party, giving them a strong say in the formation of the new cabinet. Wilders fiercely opposes Islam and presents Islam as a totalitarian and fascist ideology lacking any shades and nuances (PVV 2010a). In the 2010 election program, the PVV advocated a ‘combat against Islam’ (islambestrijding) and a stop to the current (presumed) ‘mass-migration’ (ibid.). Wilders explained:

The second choice the PVV makes is less immigration and less Islam in the Netherlands. Mass-immigration needs to be halted. (…). We need to rid ourselves from cultural relativism. Cultures are not equal, and our culture is better than the Islamic culture. (…) Islam is a violent, totalitarian ideology, which squarely opposes freedom, democracy and tolerance. The Netherlands should not further Islamize. (PVV 2010b, p. 3; translation MS)

In Fitna, the short film he produced in 2006 that created an international uproar even before its broadcast, he connected atrocities around the world to Islam and sketched a looming future in which Europe is overwhelmed by Muslim immigrants. Like others, such as Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali, he received many threats that have resulted in his need for continuous protection. His style is highly confrontational and not only serves to deprecate Islam but to also dissociate himself from the elites and seek connections with the ‘ordinary people’. He employs crude sound bites, presents himself as the ultimate advocate of free speech, and casts those who oppose him as threats to free speech. In 2010, he was charged with inciting hatred against Muslims but was cleared by the court—a verdict Wilders celebrated as a ‘victory for free speech’. He proposed a tax for headscarves, which he referred to as a ‘head-rag tax’ (kopvoddentaks); he wanted to halt the ‘tsunami of islamization’; and introduced stickers resembling the Saudi flag, with the virulent anti-Islam statements ‘Islam is a lie, Mohammed is a criminal, the Quran is poison’ (in Arabic). In the spring of 2014, he made a room full of supporters chant that they wanted ‘less Moroccans’.
  • Culturalism Gained Ground

    The ascent of these loud, culturalist voices does not mean that a uniform ‘Dutch discourse’ or a uniform ‘Dutch climate’ exists. Uitermark shows, based on an analysis of the Dutch integration politics between 1980 and 2006, that multiple voices and discourses resound in the integration debate. He identifies three alternative discourses: pragmatism, civil Islam, and anti-racism. Pragmatism has always been the discourse with the most followers (2012, p. 57). An example of a well-known pragmatist is former Amsterdam major Job Cohen, who was committed to ‘keeping things together’ (de boel bij elkaar houden). Another discourse is the emerging ‘Civil Islam’. In reaction to culturalist thinking, people such as Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, who has a Moroccan background, assert the compatibility of Islam and civic virtues (p. 138). This discourse shares with the culturalists the idea of norm-enforcement and adaptation to civic norms. The third alternative discourse, anti-racism, highlights the dangers of racism, discrimination, and prejudice. As also described by Vasta (2007), anti-racism has been weak in the Netherlands, particularly compared to countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, and has only become weaker over time (Uitermark 2012, p. 123). Anti-racists are accused of smothering criticism of cultures and religion (p. 127). Uitermark shows that anti-racism is more often identified as a problem than racism itself (p. 126). He concludes that the denial of racism is commonplace among the Dutch elite (p. 129). Anti-racism is a marginalized discourse that encounters strong opposition and has great difficulty accessing the central stages in the public sphere.1

Despite the variety of existing discourses, the culturalist discourse has come to dominate the public sphere. Although Uitermark does not use this exact qualification, he describes other discourses, including the pragmatist discourse, as discursively subordinate to that of the culturalists (2012, p. 137). Pragmatists are highly fragmented, while culturalists band together around discursive leaders and gripping icons (p. 113). The culturalists have the most power to attract attention and stir debate (p. 117), and, more so than their discursive opponents, they have agenda-setting power (p. 148).

The influence of the ascended discourse stretches beyond the culturalist discursive leaders. Culturalist thinking and new-realist rhetoric have also gained ground with more mainstream politicians and parties, both in their discourses as well as in proposed and actual policies and measures. Views on integration as projected by the various political parties clearly show culturalist influences, as Sleegers demonstrates based on an analysis of election programs (2007). She shows that, since 2000, most political parties have adopted the language of ‘multicultural drama’ and have increasingly formulated immigration in terms of problems, which the parties attribute to cultural differences and which supposedly can be solved though clarity about the Dutch identity and the broad adoption of ‘our’ (presumably undisputed) norms and values.2 They argue that immigrants should be loyal to ‘western key norms’ of ‘modern society’, such as gender equality, freedom of speech, and individual autonomy as inherent aspects of the national identity (Spijkerboer 2007, p. 24 in Sleegers 2007, p. 49, translation MS). There was a telling case in which a parliamentary investigation committee, led by politician Stef Blok, concluded that immigrants had advanced relatively well in socioeconomic terms and that the assessment of a ‘failed’ integration process was unjust (Blok 2004). The fact that this report did not support the impressions of the members of Parliament did not lead to an adjustment of their opinions but to a broad rejection of the committee’s results (Dutch Parliament 2004). In 2007, at the presentation of the report ‘Identification with the Netherlands’ by the Dutch Scientific Council, the speech of then-Crown Princess Máxima Zorreguieta, who had immigrated to the Netherlands from Argentina seven years earlier, created a commotion. She praised the Netherlands for its rich diversity and explained that in her introduction to Dutch society, she had not encountered ‘the’ Dutch identity and ‘the’ Dutchman.3 She was severely criticized for this statement.

The fact that cultural differences were increasingly formulated as problematic cultural distances (Scholten 2011, p. 79), lead to integration policy shifting from the ‘cultivation of one’s own cultural identities’ to a one-sided bridging of differences. Whereas ethnic-minority group formation was previously tolerated in order to facilitate the expected return and for emancipatory purposes, group formation was increasingly regarded as undesirable, as it supposedly hampered integration and social cohesion (Koopmans et al. 2005; Veldboer et al. 2007). This led, for example, in Amsterdam, to the abolition of structural subsidies for organizations with minority signatures in favor of the support of incidental, small-scale initiatives (Uitermark and Van Steenbergen 2006, p. 268). That the higher educated are not exempted is illustrated by the fact that many feel the need to counter the idea that ethnic-minority student associations are examples of self-segregation and reflect estrangement (see for example Van Riel 2006; Algemeen Dagblad 2007; Trouw 2007; Brouwer 2010). In reference to the policy shift, Scholten describes: ‘[c]ommon citizenship means that people speak Dutch, and that one abides to basic Dutch norms’ (2011, p. 78). The aim of the current integration policy is that those ‘who choose to build their future in the Netherlands, should be oriented towards Dutch society. Newcomers are in the first instance responsible for their own successful integration’ (Asscher 2013). In terms of measures, this led to the implementation of compulsory ‘civic integration programs’ for permanent immigrants from outside the European Union, including those who have lived in the Netherlands for decennia. This also led to another measure: the Participation Declaration, which attempts to morally bind new immigrants to Dutch society and which was in its pilot phase in 2014. Immigrants are asked to sign a declaration affirming their intention to be self-sustaining, embrace existing values, and actively participate in society (Asscher 2013). Although signing the declaration is presented as a moral obligation, officially it is voluntary. It is hard to say whether immigrants feel pressured to sign.

Additionally, the new-realist tone of voice has affected the public arena. Politicians and media refer to the overrepresentation of citizens with Moroccan backgrounds in social problems such as school dropout rates, public nuisance, and criminality, using the terms ‘Moroccan issue’ (Marokkanenprobleem) and ‘Moroccan drama’ (Marokkanendrama).4 Another term that became a slur with broad resonance was ‘kut-Marokkanen’, which translates literally as ‘cunt Moroccans’. This term was introduced accidentally in 2002 by Amsterdam alderman Rob Oudkerk at (what he thought was) an unguarded moment (Uitermark 2010, p. 175). In 2011, then-Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen emphasized that concerns about ‘foreigners’ (buitenlanders) changing society and threatening people’s positions are ‘understandable’ and ‘justified’ (begrijpelijk and terecht).5 This did not escape the attention of many, including Golden Calf winner Nasrdin Dchar.

Culturalized thinking not only permeated the political and governmental arena but is also present among the population, which increasingly tends to fear the political influence of Islam (EUMC 2002; Scheepers et al. 2002; Entzinger and Dourleijn 2008). Ethnic Dutch, as well as Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch youth, have the impression that cultural differences have grown over time (Entzinger 2009). Ethnic Dutch do not have warm feelings towards immigrants and their offspring. On a temperature scale between 0 and 100 ℃, they evaluate Turkish-Dutch, Moroccan-Dutch and Muslim citizens with scores of 57, 38, and 47, whereas they rate their feelings towards ethnic Dutch with a score of 68 (Entzinger and Dourleijn 2008, p. 104). A large majority of the ethnic Dutch do not subscribe to the opinion that most Muslims in the Netherlands respect Dutch culture (Huijnk and Dagevos 2012, p. 45). This might explain why support for cultural assimilation of immigrants of ethnic Dutch has increased between 1999 and 2006 (Entzinger and Dourleijn 2008, p. 101). Various ethnic-minority groups share the negative evaluation, particularly of the Moroccan Dutch, as nearly all rate the Moroccan Dutch with lower temperatures than the Turkish, Surinamese, Antillean, and ethnic Dutch (Huijnk and Dagevos 2012, p. 50).
  • The Culturalist Demands

    Although the Dutch political integration arena includes diverse players and discourses, it is clear that culturalist voices have become louder and other voices have become more culturalist. As I explain here, this means that very intrinsic demands are currently placed on immigrants and their offspring. Following Duyvendak, I argue that there are also emotive and nativist demands. Not only are immigrants required to adapt to highly progressive norms, they are also required to feel at home in the Netherlands in emotional terms. Furthermore, even if they comply with these demands, their belonging is not self-evident because of ‘nativist’ conceptions of citizenship.

Along culturalist lines, successful integration and good citizenship are increasingly defined as adherence to norms and values that are considered inherently and undisputedly Dutch. The discussion of the culturalist voices clearly showed that progressive values such as secularism, sexual freedom, and gender equality are presented as the core values of ‘Dutch culture’, which is supposedly under threat by non-western, Muslim immigrants (see also Uitermark et al. 2014). In the Netherlands, a broad progressive consensus has formed among the Dutch since the 1960s. More than other Europeans, let alone Americans, they adhere to progressive norms (see SCP 1998; Uitterhoeve 2000; Arts et al. 2003; Duyvendak 2004; Halman et al. 2005). However, the idea of an all-encompassing, undisputed consensus ignores the recent homophobic past in the Netherlands and the continuous moral diversity in Dutch society, also among ethnic Dutch (Uitermark et al. 2014). These progressive standards are used by politicians of various backgrounds to demand cultural assimilation, particularly of Muslim immigrants and their offspring, who are portrayed as outsiders because of their presumed moral distance (ibid.). As Ghorashi formulates: the right to be different is under threat (2010). Clearly, the demands placed on immigrants go beyond the procedural commitment to liberal-democratic principles outlined by Joppke. In describing the European move away from multiculturalism, he states: ‘With the exception of language, the only explicit impositions on newcomers are liberal impositions, most notably a procedural commitment to liberal-democratic principles’ (2004, p. 254). In the Netherlands however, immigrants—more so than non-immigrants—are not only expected to respect liberty and equality, but also to have internalized progressive norms as their own personal principles.

The demands placed on immigrants and their offspring go even further: citizens are increasingly expected to be ‘loyal’ and to ‘feel at home’ in the Netherlands, as Duyvendak argues (2007, 2011, see also Slootman and Duyvendak 2015). The Dutch Scientific Council concludes that ‘integration has increasingly become an issue of identification and loyalty’ (Meurs 2007, p. 28). This is illustrated by the quotes of the Dutch politicians Verhagen and Lilian Marijnissen. ‘People must feel connected to our society if they want to be naturalized, they have to feel at home in it. It is necessary to feel Dutch’ (Dutch Parliament 2000, p. 363 in Duyvendak 2011, p. 93). ‘If one is not prepared to conform to our values and obey our laws, the pressing advice is: seek a country where you feel at home’ (Marijnissen 2004 in Duyvendak 2011, p. 92). Clearly, cultural assimilation in the Netherlands includes emotional and identificational aspects. Feeling at home and feeling Dutch have become central requirements for citizenship. Because these feelings cannot easily be observed, certain actions become their symbolic stand-ins (Verkaaik 2010 in Duyvendak 2011, p. 92). For example, in the eyes of various Dutch politicians, having dual nationality expresses a lack of loyalty to Dutch culture (Meurs 2007; Driouichi 2007). Belonging and identification is regarded as zero-sum, as singular in nature, which is why loyalty to other countries and cultures are regarded as threats to an emotional attachment to the Netherlands. This explains the demand that immigrants who want to stay in the Netherlands adapt to ‘Dutch’ norms, values, and emotions, which supposedly requires the abandonment of any other norms, values, and attachments. Having positive emotional bonds with Dutch society is not articulated as a national aspiration but rather as a demand that is placed on individuals (on immigrants) and that is formulated as a condition for belonging. In other words: the personal, intimate side of belonging (feeling at home) is set as a condition for the political side of belonging, that is, being accepted as an insider (see Antonsich 2010 for a reflection on these two dimensions of belonging). This demand ignores how personal feelings of belonging are influenced by the politics of inclusion and exclusion. It ignores the responsibility of society in processes of belonging. After all, it is hard to feel at home when one feels rejected or unwelcome, as Jayaweera and Choudhury note (2008 in Antonsich 2010, p. 649).

However, even when immigrant citizens have adapted to the progressive norms and meet the demands to ‘feel at home’ in the Netherlands and to ‘feel Dutch’, this does not guarantee their belonging as accepted citizens. The discourse contains yet another exclusivist layer; it is also nativist (Duyvendak 2011, Slootman and Duyvendak 2015). The nativist discourse argues that ‘original’ inhabitants own the place, the nation, because they were there first. This nativist conception is reflected in the consistent and persistent use of the terms ‘autochthonous’ and ‘allochthonous’ to refer, respectively, to ethnic-Dutch and non-western immigrants (and their children and even sometimes their grandchildren6). These are originally geological terms, meaning respectively, originating and not originating from the soil where it is found (Geschiere 2009). Using this terminology renders the distinction between those who belong and those who do not belong immutable; it creates a ‘commonsense’ justification for asking newcomers to adapt and also creates a hierarchy of belonging. Fortuyn used this argument when he stated that ‘Christian inhabitants, like those living in the Veluwe [a relatively religious and conservative area in the Netherlands], morally have more rights than Islamic newcomers, as Christians have contributed to the construction of our country for decennia’.7

The shift from integration politics that were relatively tolerant of cultural and identificational diversity to politics that are relatively intolerant of diversity and contain culturalist, emotive, and nativist layers is characterized by Entzinger (2006) as a ‘change of the rules while the game is on’.

4.2 Moroccan and Turkish Immigrants and Their Offspring

The Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch have occupied central positions in the debates on integration over the last two decennia of the culturalist turn, but this is not the only reason why they offer interesting focal points for research. Numerically, they comprise the largest ethnic-minority categories in the Netherlands and have second generations that are currently coming of age. Around 5% (4.5%) of the 16.7 million Dutch citizens are Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch (636,000 and 696,000, respectively), of which roughly half belong to the second generation (CBS 2012). The eldest of the second generation are now reaching their forties. The share of first- and second-generation Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch is much higher in the larger cities. In some Amsterdam and Rotterdam neighborhoods, Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch comprise between 40 and 50% of the population,8 Rotterdam: Accessed 15 January 2013. making them the largest and often most-established groups in these neighborhoods, particularly among the younger cohorts (Crul and Schneider 2010). In this section, I describe the current situation of Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch in the Netherlands in socioeconomic and sociocultural terms. I show that both in structural as well as in sociocultural respects, on average, the situation of both Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch is characterized by a distance from the average ethnic Dutch; and, in many respects, this distance decreases over time. But first, I sketch the immigration background, which helps us further understand how the positions have developed.
  • First-Generation Moroccan and Turkish Immigrants

    The social position of Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch shows many similarities, which warrants a joint study. They also differ in some respects—which I will also mention here. However, this phenomenological study is primarily based on the commonalities in their stories and on the similarities in their experiences and interpretations. The sample size of the qualitative approach is too small to make a well-founded comparison between the Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch.

In the second half of the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, many Turkish and Moroccan migrants arrived in the Netherlands as labor migrants to fill shortages of low-skilled labor. These were mainly men. Many were married and left their wives and children behind. Although the Dutch government had recruitment agreements with Turkey and Morocco, as well as with other Southern European countries, many of the immigrants migrated via informal channels (Bouras 2012). The large majority of the Moroccan immigrants came from the rural areas of the Rif region in northern Morocco (Nelissen and Buijs 2000; Bouras 2012). In Morocco, the interests of the Amazigh, or Berber, peoples in the Rif were put behind those of the rest of the country (Van Amersfoort and Van Heelsum 2007), and in order to alleviate economic suffering and reduce political pressures, the Moroccan government directed the recruitment to the Rif (Bouras 2012, p. 55). The Moroccan men who arrived generally had extremely low formal educational levels, partly due to the inadequacy of the Moroccan education system at that time (Nelissen and Buijs 2000). Around a quarter had slightly more than primary school education and over one-third had not attended any school at all (CBS 1986 in Nelissen and Buijs 2000, p. 179). The background of most of the Turkish laborers is largely comparable. The majority came from villages and provincial cities and had low formal education levels (Böcker 2000). Three-quarters had only attended primary school. The first oil crisis halted the immigration of workers. Although most workers arrived with the intention of returning to Morocco and Turkey (hence the label ‘guest workers’), in the latter half of the Seventies they had their families come to the Netherlands.

Both groups are predominantly Muslim and originally came to the Netherlands around the same period as temporary labor migrants to work in low-skilled jobs. As we have seen in the previous section, this temporary stay was one of the main reasons that both the Dutch government and the individual immigrants themselves cultivated their Moroccan and Turkish identities. This was also strongly stimulated by (governmental) institutions in Morocco and Turkey which did not want to lose control over their citizens abroad (Bouras 2012; Sunier 1996). In the end, many immigrants stayed in the Netherlands longer than they originally intended and had their families join them. Later, the economic crisis and the fact that their children attended Dutch schools prevented many of them from returning to Morocco and Turkey. Most of these immigrants came from rural areas and had low levels of formal education. Most of the first generation remained in the lower socioeconomic strata. Furthermore, what are generally seen as typically Moroccan or Turkish cultural elements is described in very similar terms.

Although many individual differences exist—and it is disputed if ‘the Moroccan culture’ exists (De Jong 2012, p. 88)—the broad literature study of Pels and De Haan on socialization practices of Moroccans and Moroccan Dutch (2003) reveals dispositions and trends that are shared by many Moroccan Dutch. This concerns family structures and gender roles in particular. The literature reviewed by De Jong in her description of cultural patterns among Moroccan families in the Netherlands reveals a similar picture (2012, pp. 88–90). Pels and De Haan describe norms and practices that were common in families in Morocco and formed the background of many Moroccan families that migrated to the Netherlands. They also describe patterns of socialization practices observed among Moroccan families after migration. In the more traditional Moroccan family life, age and gender were important social markers and expressed hierarchical relations (p. 24). The adult members represented authority, and there was a strict division between the sexes. Women were primarily confined to the private sphere and the home, while men dominated the public sphere (p. 25). Core values were based on conformity with Islamic law and living in accordance with the community, although actual social practices often had ‘agonistic and individualistic’ aspects (p. 16, 28). The control of passion and desire was important; impulsive, thoughtless, irresponsible behavior was to be avoided, especially with regards to matters of sexuality, and this was particularly applicable to women (pp. 28–30). De Jong also points to the value attached to honor, which refers to the importance of upholding an impeccable public image (Van der Meer 1984 in De Jong 2012, p. 88–89). Moroccan families that came from rural areas and had no formal schooling were relatively traditional and experienced a large gap with the Dutch context in which they arrived (Pels and De Haan 2003, p. 51). However, these traditions were already undergoing change before the moment of migration, only to change more since then. Tensions between Moroccan communities that originated from different regions fragmented social networks and weakened social control (p. 48). The number of children per family sharply decreased (p. 49). The father’s authority declined, partly due to ‘role reversal’, as children became mediators between their parents and outside institutions (p. 53). Girls obtained a growing amount of freedom to study and enter the labor market, provided they uphold the key values of respect, chastity, and family honor (p. 52). However, the shift in balance between the young and the old and between women and men that took place in practice has not been accompanied by a parallel shift in ideology (p. 54). Contrary to many ethnic-Dutch parents, most Moroccan parents do not value the idea of a ‘hedonist’ youth phase and they fear the ‘permissiveness’ of the Dutch (p. 61).

Often, in literature on the sociocultural positions of Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch, these categories are taken together (see for example Douwes et al. 2005; Nabben et al. 2006; Pels and De Gruijter 2006). Although Turkey is a more modern and secular society than Morocco (Van Amersfoort 1986), the cultural characteristics of the Turkish immigrants, particularly those with rural backgrounds, are described in roughly similar terms (see Böcker 2000; De Vries 1995). Like the Moroccan Dutch, many Turkish Dutch hold relatively traditional views on gender roles and family structures. Turkish family structures are often characterized by a great interdependency between the generations. Women in general have limited freedom and are subjected to high social control. Chastity and modesty are considered highly important, and many dislike the Dutch liberal attitude towards the interaction between the sexes.

Differences exist alongside these similarities. Since their arrival in the Netherlands, the Turkish Dutch in general have been more strongly-oriented towards their ethnic group, or rather ethnic subgroups. Despite differences of opinion among the Turks and despite rigid ethnic, political and religious dividing lines (Böcker 2000), for Turkish immigrants, their country of origin and national identity have been stronger sources of bonding and pride than for their Moroccan counterparts (Nelissen and Buijs 2000). Most Moroccan immigrants had a troubled history with the Moroccan State because, as Amazigh from the Rif area, they were second-class citizens. Furthermore, the Moroccan immigrants were more fragmented than the Turkish Dutch, as Moroccan immigrants often reconstructed the social units that existed before migration, which were based on patrilineal and regional lines, and tensions between these social units frequently occurred (Van den Berg-Eldering 1978 in Pels and De Haan 2003, p. 48). Whereas most Turkish immigrants shared the same Turkish language, Moroccan immigrants with different subethnicities spoke different languages. This difference in cohesion is also reflected in the level of organization.. In the Netherlands, there exist twice as many organizations and mosques with Turkish signatures than with Moroccan signatures (Van Heelsum et al. 2004, p. 3). Furthermore, the Turkish organizations form a much more cohesive network than the Moroccan organizations (Fennema et al. 2000, p. 17). The landscape of Turkish organizations in the Netherlands largely reflects the organizational and ideological landscape in Turkey, and many Turkish organizations are closely affiliated with the Turkish State (Böcker 2000; Sunier 1996; Yükleyen 2009), while this is far less the case for the organizations of Moroccans in the Netherlands (Van Heelsum et al. 2004; Bouras 2012). This weaker coethnic cohesion among the Moroccan Dutch is often seen as an explanation for a stronger orientation towards the Netherlands. This weaker cohesion is also seen as one of the causes for the relatively high rates of criminality among Moroccan Dutch (Vermeulen and Penninx 2000, p. 219).

  • Socioeconomic Position of the Second Generation

    While most of the first generation remained in the lower socioeconomic strata, the second-generation Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch show considerable advancement, although their averages still lag behind those of the ethnic Dutch. When the entire Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch populations are compared with the entire ethnic-Dutch population (which, as I explained in Chap.  2, does not do justice to differences in class background),9 they show considerable disadvantage (see Fig. 4.1). For example, Turkish Dutch and Moroccan Dutch between the ages of 18 and 25 lack a ‘starter qualification’ (a diploma of middle to higher education levels, which are considered to have good employment prospects) nearly twice as often as ethnic Dutch.10 This is twice as prevalent among men than women: 23% of Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch male youths who left school lack a starter qualification, compared to 12% of ethnic Dutch male youths; the corresponding percentages for females are 14 and 7 (CBS 2012, p. 82).
    Fig. 4.1

    Education levels per ethnic group and age group (CBS 2012, p. 88)

Yet, many of the younger generation Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch show strong upward mobility and are closing the gap with the ethnic Dutch. There is a sharp rise in the number of Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch entering higher education, which leads Crul and Doomernik to speak of a ‘polarization’ among the second generation (2003). In 2011, nearly four out of ten young adult Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch men and nearly five out of ten women entered higher education (HBO or university) (Table 4.1). Only eight years earlier, in 2003/2004, this was still roughly three out of ten men and women (CBS 2012, p. 85). Roughly ten per cent start at university. Although the percentages lag behind those of the ethnic-Dutch respondents, of whom nearly six out of ten enter higher education and two out of ten enter university, it is still a percentage (and a rise) that cannot be ignored in assessments of ‘integration’. The idea that the Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch second generation has unambiguously ‘failed’ is unjust when we look at their educational achievements at the high end of the spectrum. These figures furthermore nuance the idea of the disadvantaged position of Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch women, as women achieve higher education levels more than men.
Table 4.1

Inflow into higher education (average percentages of population groups at the age of entering higher education) (CBS 2012, p. 85)


Moroccan Dutch

Turkish Dutch

Ethnic Dutch







Entering HBO or university















Entering university








The position of the Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch in the job market is precarious. This has become particularly apparent in the current economic crisis, both for the higher and lower educated (Huijnk, Gijsberts and Dagevos 2014: 43, see also Vasta 2007). Around 10% of the Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch with an HBO or university diploma are unemployed, versus 5% of the higher-educated ethnic Dutch. Among the lower educated the difference is even greater. Unemployment among the lower-educated Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch is over 20 and 15%, respectively, while only over 5% of the lower-educated ethnic Dutch are unemployed.

  • Sociocultural Orientations of the Second Generation

    As the incorporation of immigrants is not only assessed in socioeconomic terms, but also—and as we have seen, even more so—in sociocultural terms, I discuss various aspects of the sociocultural position of Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch, focusing on social interactions, language, and specific practices, as well as aspects that are central to the culturalist discourse and relate to normative demands placed on immigrants: religiosity and progressive norms. I compare the Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch, and consider developments over time. I also analyze if the higher educated differ from the lower educated. The description is partly based on the TIES data, which focuses specifically on the second generation and enables me to compare the lower- and higher-educated second-generation Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch. The description is furthermore based on data from the national research body SCP (Netherlands Institute for Social Research), as published in the report written by Huijnk and Dagevos (2012). This data contain longitudinal information about the first and second generations combined and some information about the differences between the first and second generations. The data of TIES and the SCP are partly complementary and partly overlapping and reveal rather similar pictures.

  • Social Interactions

    Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch appear to have a strong social orientation towards both coethnics and people with other ethnic-minority backgrounds, such as ethnic Dutch. This refutes the idea that a strong coethnic orientation precludes a strong orientation towards ethnic Dutch. When asked about the ethnic background of their three best friends, over half of the Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch second-generation TIES respondents indicate that the best friends of the majority of each group are coethnic: 63% of the Turkish Dutch and 55% of the Moroccan-Dutch respondents have two or even three best friends who are coethnic; 92% of the Turkish Dutch and 85% of the Moroccan Dutch who are in a relationship have a partner with a coethnic background. When we zoom in on their broader networks of friends, the picture is more diverse. For both categories, only 18% indicate that ‘most’ of their current friends are coethnic. The SCP data are rather similar. They reveal a coethnic focus for people who are close, such as best friends and partners (p. 60, 62), but at the same time, 74% of the second-generation Moroccan Dutch and 82% of the Turkish Dutch indicate that they have a lot of contact with ethnic Dutch in their leisure time (p. 59). The majority of the Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch respondents indicate that they also have leisure time contacts with people from other ethnic-minority backgrounds (p. 61). The ethnic Dutch appear to lead the most segregated lives; 38% of the ethnic-Dutch SCP respondents in the four largest cities (where most ethnic minorities live) hardly ever have contact with ethnic minorities (p. 63).

The Turkish-Dutch second-generation TIES respondents are slightly more oriented towards coethnic others than the Moroccan Dutch, although this difference is only significant with regards to their best friends (see values for gamma and levels of probability in Appendix B). Education level significantly influences the ethnic composition of the social network. Lower-educated Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch TIES respondents more frequently have coethnic friendships and a coethnic partner than higher-educated respondents. Whereas 43% of the lower-educated Moroccan and Turkish Dutch (taken together) have three best friends who are all coethnic, this percentage is 27% of those who attended or graduated from higher vocational education (HBO) or university. Regarding their broader network of friends, 22% of the lower educated have friends who are ‘mostly’ coethnic, compared to 10% of the higher educated. Offering an explanation, Entzinger and Dourleijn point to the different compositions of the student populations at higher education levels (with relatively few ethnic-minority students) and lower education levels (with relatively many ethnic-minority students). The SCP data show that social contact with ethnic Dutch has not increased over the years, contrary to what we would have expected based on straight-line ideas of incorporation. The various indicators reveal that this has remained roughly the same or has (slightly) decreased (p. 53, 54, 56).

  • Language

    Regarding language, we observe a development towards adaptation. The SCP data shows that the use of the Dutch language at home has steadily increased among the Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch since the end of the Nineties, and that their language proficiency has improved (pp. 65–72). This is the case both for Moroccan and Turkish Dutch, although the Moroccan Dutch speak Dutch at home more often and report a higher proficiency (ibid.). The TIES data confirms this difference between the Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch. Whereas two-thirds of the Moroccan-Dutch second-generation respondents mostly speak Dutch with their friends (68%) and siblings (66%), this is the case for only one-third of the Turkish Dutch (respectively 33 and 29%). Consequently, this difference in language use is reflected in a significant difference in proficiency: more Moroccan-Dutch respondents than Turkish-Dutch respondents report that they speak Dutch excellently (57 and 45%, respectively). Turkish Dutch are more fluent in their parents’ language than the Moroccan Dutch; 47% of the Turkish Dutch indicate they speak their parents’ language very well or excellently, compared to 37% of the Moroccan-Dutch respondents who feel this way.

Higher-educated second-generation TIES respondents speak Dutch more often with their friends than those who are lower educated, which is not surprising considering the composition of their social networks. With their friends, 63% of the higher educated speak mostly Dutch, whereas this percentage is 42% for the lower educated. This is also the case for their communication with siblings. This difference in language use is reflected in their proficiency. Higher-educated respondents report on their Dutch language skills more positively than lower educated, whereas the lower educated report slightly higher proficiency in their parents’ language than the higher educated.

  • Other Practices

    When we look at other aspects, again we see that the Turkish-Dutch second generation have a stronger coethnic orientation than the Moroccan Dutch. Second-generation Turkish-Dutch TIES respondents watch coethnic television channels more frequently than Moroccan-Dutch respondents, and also more frequently go out to places where second-generation youth gathers, visit the country of their parents, and participate in organizations with a coethnic signature. Differences between the lower and higher educated are less pronounced. The lower educated watch coethnic television channels significantly more often and also participate in organizations with a coethnic signature significantly more frequently.

  • Religiosity

    Over the last decennia, the Netherlands changed from one of the world’s most religious societies to one of the most secular (Van Rooden 2004 in Uitermark et al. 2014, p. 246). In such a secular society, the religiosity of the Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch stands out. According to the SCP data, less than half of the ethnic Dutch (45%) see themselves as belonging to a religion (nearly all as Christian), compared to 98 and 95%, respectively, of the Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch, nearly all as Islamic (p. 78). The TIES data reveal that the difference between the ethnic categories is even larger among the younger generation: 90% of the Moroccan-Dutch and 88% of the Turkish-Dutch TIES respondents declare a religion, whereas only 20% of the ethnic-Dutch TIES respondents declare a religion. Nearly all religious second-generation TIES respondents are Muslim (98 and 97%), while most of the religious ethnic Dutch respondents are Christian (82%; 11% choose the category ‘Other’). Although equal shares of Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch respondents call themselves religious, the level of religiosity appears higher among the Moroccan Dutch than among the Turkish Dutch. Moroccan-Dutch respondents more frequently said they ‘totally agree’ with the statement that they see their religion as an important part of themselves (56% vs. 48% for Turkish Dutch); more frequently indicated that they pray more than once a day (49 vs. 13%); and also were slightly more likely to agree with the view that religion should be represented in politics and society (28 vs. 24%). Moroccan-Dutch respondents do not visit the mosque more often. Slightly more Moroccan women wear a headscarf (42 vs. 37%), but this difference is not significant. In short, on average, Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch are much more religious than ethnic Dutch, and Moroccan Dutch even more so than Turkish Dutch. This is supported by the SCP data (p. 78-81). There is no evidence that the religiosity of Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch is dropping; religious attendance has even increased in the last decennium for both ethnic categories (ibid., p. 80).

The higher educated hardly differ from the lower educated in their religiosity: 93% of the higher-educated Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch second-generation TIES respondents declare a religion versus 89% of the lower educated. They do not significantly differ from the lower educated in the personal significance they attach to their religion, how often they pray, or how often they visit the mosque. However, the lower educated want religion to be represented in politics and society more often than the higher educated, and the lower-educated second-generation women wear headscarves (46%) more often than the higher educated (29%).

  • Progressive Norms

    Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch are not only more religious, but are also more traditional than the ethnic Dutch, specifically in their attitudes regarding gender roles, homosexuality, ethical issues such as abortion and euthanasia, and ‘traditional’ values such as respect for parents, obedience, courtesy, and conservatism. The SCP data show that around one-quarter of both ethnic categories agree with traditional gender statements, compared with around 10% of the ethnic Dutch (Huijnk and Dagevos 2012, p. 72); 28% of both ethnic-minority categories approve of same-sex marriage compared to 80% of the ethnic-Dutch respondents (p. 76). Regarding abortion and euthanasia, Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch are also more traditional than ethnic Dutch (p. 74). Another study shows that Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch have much more appreciation for traditional values such as respect and obedience than ethnic Dutch (Entzinger and Dourleijn 2008, p. 47).

Regarding these various norms, Moroccan Dutch are not clearly more traditional than Turkish Dutch or vice versa. It is only with regard to traditional values such as respect and obedience that the Turkish Dutch are more traditional than the Moroccan Dutch (Entzinger and Dourleijn 2008, p. 47). According to the SCP data, there is no notable difference in progressiveness between the first and second generations except regarding euthanasia and abortion (ibid., p. 73, 75, 76). This does not mean, however, that there are no developments over time. Measured between 1998 and 2011, the Moroccan and Turkish Dutch have become slightly more progressive (ibid., p. 73). Entzinger and Dourleijn’s data also indicate that Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch have also become slightly more progressive over time with regards to partner choice and ‘traditional’ values such as respect and obedience. Furthermore, the data of the Integration Report 2009 (Gijsberts and Dagevos 2009) show that children of Turkish and Moroccan immigrants had more progressive values in 2006 than in 1998, for example with regard to ‘modern values’ such as individualization, emancipation and secularization.

Zooming in on the second generation, the TIES data show that the Moroccan and Turkish second-generation respondents are more traditional than the respondents of the ethnic-Dutch control group (CG), but the gap varies for different norms. The differences are smaller regarding ‘gender roles’ than regarding ‘abortion’ and ‘female sex before marriage’ (Table 4.2). It is possible that their religious interpretations leave more room for emancipation of women than for issues like abortion and sexuality. Furthermore, across all ethnic categories, the higher educated are more progressive than the lower educated. For the norms regarding gender roles, it appears that the higher-educated second-generation Turkish and Moroccan Dutch are at least as progressive as the lower-educated ethnic Dutch, sometimes even as progressive as the higher-educated ethnic Dutch. This is also the case among the SCP respondents (p. 73).
Table 4.2

Answers to normative progressive statements (% of category)





Mor & Tur









Women having sex before marriage: ‘always acceptable’








Abortion for medical reasons: ‘always acceptable’








Women with small children can work outside the house: ‘totally agree’/‘agree’








It is okay if women in leading positions have authority over men: ‘totally agree’/‘agree’








Study and higher education are equally important for women and men: ‘totally agree’/‘agree’








Data TIES data for the Netherlands, 2007, NIDI and IMES

CG control group (ethnic-Dutch)

4.3 Summary

The Netherlands has experienced a turnaround in integration politics in the last two decennia. Paralleling the developments in many other countries, the Dutch landscape has become increasingly culturalist. Increasingly, assimilative demands have been placed on immigrants and have become conditions for belonging. Immigrants (and their offspring) are not only required to internalize progressive cultural norms, but also to express an emotional and identificational attachment to Dutch society. The demand for moral and emotional assimilation coincides with an essentialized view that presents Islam as intrinsically incompatible with being a Dutch citizen and equates ‘Moroccan’ and ‘Turkish’ with being Muslim. The culturalist demands have been accompanied by an increasingly exclusivist language and with a nativist conception of citizenship, which reduces immigrants and their (grand-) children to second-class citizens who are portrayed as backward and conservative. In other countries, similar framings have emerged that center on the supposed incongruity of national citizenship with Islam; as Uitermark, Mepschen and Duyvendak show based on a range of international literature (2014, p. 236). The changing landscape of integration politics formed the backdrop of the lives of Moroccan and Turkish immigrants and their children in the Netherlands.

Besides their position in the lower ranks of the Dutch integration discourse, the Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch second generation have much in common, which warrants a combined study. In the structural domain, large percentages of both groups remain in the lower strata, and the second generation still lags behind the average of the ethnic Dutch. Nevertheless, considerable numbers of second-generation Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch overcome their lower-class backgrounds and reach high levels of education.

Also in the sociocultural domain, the picture of Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch is rather similar. Religion plays an important role in their lives, including the second generation. This strongly contrasts with the ethnic Dutch, who are relatively secular. Furthermore, both Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch combine a strong social orientation towards coethnics in friendships and frequent leisure time contact with people from other ethnic backgrounds, such as ethnic Dutch. With regard to religiosity and social relations, the figures show no developments over time, which can hardly be called surprising, considering the increasingly exclusionary national atmosphere. Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch on average are substantially less progressive than the average ethnic Dutch, although they become slightly more progressive over time. These groups are not homogeneous. For example, education level matters. The higher educated on average have more friendships with ethnic Dutch, report a higher usage of the Dutch language and better Dutch language skills, and are more progressive. Although the joint phenomenological study is based on the commonalities, differences also exist between Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch. Turkish Dutch on average show a stronger coethnic sociocultural orientation, while Moroccan Dutch appear to be more religious.

In my view, there is a need for serious reconsideration of the assumption that attitudinal uniformity among all its citizens is prerequisite for a country. Nevertheless, those who propagate cultural assimilation out of fear that an incongruence of different cultures impedes the incorporation of people with a Moroccan or Turkish background, can feel somewhat reassured. Conceptions of ‘the’ Moroccan and Turkish cultures as static and incongruent are contradicted by the differences between the Turkish Dutch and Moroccan Dutch (the latter are more negatively portrayed but actually show a smaller sociocultural distance), the shifts over time, and the differences between the lower and higher educated. These observations refute the idea that a ‘cultural distance’ is an inherent reality for all Muslims, and that ‘Muslims’ form a homogeneously traditional group. In the next chapters, I further explore the affiliations and orientations of the higher-educated second-generation Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch.


  1. 1.

    The recently reinvigorated discussions about the Dutch custom of Zwarte Piet, who features as a dark-skinned helper of a white-skinned Saint in a national children’s celebration, has probably increased the resonance of the anti-racist discourse in the last years. I doubt, however, if its consonance has increased as well, as the anti-racist criticism of Zwarte Piet has triggered fierce and emotional opposition, in which Zwarte Piet is portrayed as an inherently Dutch symbol and therefore as untouchable.

  2. 2.

    In 2006, the Labor party argued that ‘[i]ntegration is not only about bridging socioeconomic differences and language problems: it also has a cultural dimension’ (Sleegers 2007: 43–44, translation MS). The Christian Democrats state that: ‘Shared norms form the basis of our society. They bind us and make us proud of our country’ (ibid.: 42, translation MS). The right-wing Liberals want to protect the typical ‘Dutch’ character of society, which is a real source of pride, and needs protection from external influences (ibid.: 44).

  3. 3.
  4. 4.

    See for example the use of ‘Marokkanenprobleem’ by Wilders and national newspapers:,, Accessed 3 February 2014. ‘Marokkanendrama’ was the title of a book published in 2007 (Jurgens 2007), which was adopted by mainstream politicians. See for example the text of a Green politician on his party’s website (Dibi 2009) and the blog of the Secretary of State for Social Affairs (De Krom 2010).

  5. 5.

    In his speech of 28 June 2011, see text printed in NRC: Accessed 3 February 2014.

  6. 6.

    CBS uses (non-western) ‘third generation’ to refer to individuals who have at least one grandparent who is born in a non-western country (2010: 37).

  7. 7.

    NRC (published 6 May 2012) ‘En op de website van de LPF, stond de - vaak geciteerde - uitspraak: “Christelijke inwoners in Nederland, zoals op de Veluwe, hebben moreel meer rechten dan islamitische nieuwkomers, omdat christenen al eeuwenlang hebben bijgedragen aan de opbouw van ons land”.’ See:

  8. 8.

    Amsterdam: Accessed 15 January 2013.

  9. 9.

    This section is based mainly on data from the CBS (Statistics Netherlands, Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek) and SCP (Netherlands Institute for Social Research, Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau). These research institutes are closely affiliated with the government and tasked with conducting research and providing statistical monitors on all areas of government policy. Alternately, the two institutions produce the Jaarrapport Integratie, a yearly monitor of the state of affairs with regard to the ‘integration’ of ‘allochthonous’ groups, based on statistical data about socioeconomic and sociocultural aspects of the situation of immigrants and their offspring in the Netherlands. As mentioned in Chapter 2, the figures in the Integration Monitors are largely organized by ethnic background rather than by class background or parental education level (see for example CBS 2012). Apparently, even though the authors of these monitors suggest that the educational arrear ‘seems to be more related to characteristics of the parental environment than with ethnicity’ (2012: 70), this does not lead them to present the figures in a manner other than organized by ethnicity (and occasionally by gender).

  10. 10.

    The Dutch education system is characterized by the lack of a significant sector of private schools and by the presence of a public school system that is of relatively high quality. Fewer than two per cent of the pupils attend a public secondary school (Elsevier 2005). Nevertheless, the achievements of Dutch pupils are ranked at 10th best in the world (OECD 2013: PISA rankings 2012).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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