The Netherlands and the Gülen movement

In: Sociology of Islam
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  • 1 Utrecht University, Netherlands

The Gülen movement has been active among immigrant workers from Turkey in the Netherlands since the 1980s. Its first institutions—educational centers, boarding houses, schools, business associations—were established when a (partly) Dutch-educated second generation came to adulthood in the mid-1990s. Ağabeyler (“older brothers”) dispatched from Turkey remained in the background, while students and graduates of Dutch universities and colleges built up support networks in Dutch civil society and municipal administrations, finding official endorsement as well as subsidies for some of their initiatives. They encountered increasing opposition from a coalition of Kemalist and former leftist Turks and anti-Muslim Dutch politicians and journalists, reflecting changing attitudes towards Islam in Dutch popular discourse as well as power struggles in Turkey. Activities that had previously been praised and supported by Dutch counterparts, such as homework assistance centers, dormitories, and (secular) schools came under suspicion when public opinion was alerted that these were the initiatives of a non-transparent Muslim piety movement. In response to negative publicity that accused these schools of brainwashing and Islamic indoctrination, and to prove that it made positive contributions to social integration, the movement closed its dormitories for secondary school students. This was followed by intensified efforts to show success in secular ventures. The result turned the Gülen movement into arguably the most successfully integrated immigrant-based organization in the country.

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  • 1

    In 1998, the leading daily Volkskrant had published a long and praising article on the boarding house and educational center Beatitas in Utrecht, citing a Dutch school coordinator on the positive impact of the center on the pupils’ attitudes (Volkskrant, 12 September 1998). A decade later, the political climate in the Netherlands had changed dramatically; immigrants and Muslims no longer could count on much goodwill, and the fact that the educational center was associated with a Muslim movement had become a reason for suspicion. See for instance an alarmist report in the daily Trouw of December 15, 2010 and the subsequent series of further “revelations” on the weblog http://notdeleted.net, which appears dedicated to the “unmasking” of Gülen supporters and their activities. The most recent affair began with a report in the television news show Nieuwsuur on April 5, 2013, which “revealed” that a number of schoolchildren in Amsterdam lived in student apartments (ıșık eveleri/dershane) owned by a Gülen-affiliated foundation (http://nieuwsuur.nl/onderwerp/492457-invloed-gulenbeweging-neemt-toe.html).

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