Wary Dutch promote path to more 'liberal' Islam

October 26, 2001

A new course in the study of Islam at Amsterdam's Free University is to train students to become spiritual "carers" rather than imams because the university fears interference from Muslim groups outside the Netherlands.

The course, which forms part of the new bachelors and masters degrees being adopted by Dutch universities, will lead to a qualification in spiritual guidance.

Students may choose to further their studies and train to become imams after graduation.

The Netherlands has a population of about 700,000 Muslims, and there is an unspoken desire by the Dutch government to minimise outside influences on the Muslim population. One way it can do this is by ensuring that a moderate form of Islam is taught at colleges and universities.

The Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World opened in 1998. It is funded by the Dutch education ministry to promote a liberal form of Islam.

Critics claim that the institute is an attempt to quash any growth in fundamentalism within the country.

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