Dutch in row over Islam

June 26, 1998

THEFOUNDINg of two Islamic study centres has stirred mixed emotions among academics and Muslims in the Netherlands.

The International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World is a government initiative based at Leiden University. The idea was under attack almost as soon as plans to open it were announced.

The Islamic University of Rotterdam is an independent Muslim initiative that plans to open in September but will only get government funding when it is officially recognised. It is allegedly supported by Saudi Arabia.

The government says it would prefer religious leaders in the Netherlands to be trained there rather than in Morocco or Turkey.

It says that full integration of the estimated 700,000 Muslims in the Netherlands can never be fully achieved while they are under the guidance of men who have little or no understanding of the culture in which they are living.

The education ministry is trying to encourage a moderate form of Islam to be taught to advance a more liberal ideology both in the Netherlands and for Muslims on their return home. Fundamentalism could be checked and the influence from abroad on Muslims in the Netherlands lessened.

But Dutch Muslim groups denounced the plans as patronising and imperialistic. Coskun

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