Working Paper

Islam as a Symbol of Protest: Reactions of Dutch-Moroccan Youths to the Debate on Islam

Published 1 January 2006 / By Lenie Brouwer

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In the ongoing public debate on Islam in the Netherlands it is now possible to openly criticise the faith, which is associated with backwardness, women's oppression and violence. The local Dutch situation cannot be isolated from the international developments regarding Muslim migrants in Europe and Muslims in the rest of the world. I shall argue that this debate and the current policy measures sharpen the division between non-Muslims and Muslims, between 'us' and 'them', and increase the feelings of social exclusion held by Muslim youths, while making Islam more attractive as a symbol of protest. I will refer to the anthropological research I conducted in a media technology context, through two case studies: the Computer Clubhouse in Amsterdam, where youngsters learn to use computer skills, and Moroccan websites which were set up by youths as a response to prejudice against them. Islam functions as a moral frame of reference in their daily lives. By calling their religion 'backward' they feel offended and not recognised. Their transnational orientation with other Muslims encourages them to perceive Islam as an attractive religion, as a symbol of pride but also protest, stimulated by negative associations with Islam and the social exclusion of Muslims in the West.


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