Transformations of the Secular and the ‘Muslim Question’. Revisiting the Historical Coincidence of Depillarisation and the Institutionalisation of Islam in The Netherlands

In: Journal of Muslims in Europe
Sarah Bracke Sociology of Religion and Culture KU Leuven, Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven Belgium

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This article revisits the ‘historical coincidence’ of the process of ‘depillarisation’ and the institutionalisation of Islam in the Netherlands. It critically considers the established Dutch narrative of pillarisation, i.e. the organisation of the social body along confessional or sectarian lines, and the way in which this historical formation of Dutch secularism is mobilised within contemporary discussions about multiculturalism. This article further explores how depillarisation accounts figure within ‘the Muslim question’ in the Netherlands. While acknowledging that depillarisation is a multidimensional concept, it engages the argument that, on a structural level, Muslim claims of recognition and institutionalisation vis-à-vis the Dutch state were crucial for the process of depillarisation. The article thus reverses the suggestion that Muslims arrived ‘too late’ in an already depillarized society, and draws attention to the constitutive role of Muslims in the ongoing process of nation-building and secularism in the Netherlands.

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