The Netherlands and the Gülen movement

In: Sociology of Islam
Martin van Bruinessen Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University, Netherlands,

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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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