Interview with Dr. Ineke van der Valk about “Monitor Moslim Discriminatie”

Hi all,
This evening I would like to introduce you to the new research written by the Islamophobia expert from the Netherlands Dr. Ineke van der Valk of the University of Amsterdam about Islamophobia in the Netherlands. It is entitled “Monitor Moslim Discriminatie”.
 As you already know, we had translated her previous work about Islamophobia in the Netherlands, entitled “Islamofobie en Discriminatie“, into German and Italian.
For more information about the author see here:
For the German and Italian translation see here:
The new report can be downloaded in Dutch from here:
Hereby we are mentioning the English summary, before giving the word to the author we interviewed about her new report.
The present report Monitor Muslim Discrimination is my second publication on
islamophobia in the Netherlands. It discusses the Dutch situation from where the first report
ended, in particular the time period after 2011. The underlying research project builds on this
earlier research. It is part of a longitudinal Monitor project that collects data, analyses this
phenomenon and highlights contexts and backgrounds. The objectives of this project are:
1. to increase insight into islamophobia as a form of racism, its causes, incidence,
impact and consequences;
2. to obtain public and official recognition of islamophobia as a separate form of
discrimination comparable to anti-Semitism, in order to better monitor it in the
3. to contribute to the development of counter policies and practices to be used by
municipalities, national governments, civil society organizations and the public at
These objectives are achieved through data gathering, secondary analysis of research data of
academic and specialized institutes, empirical in-depth research on specific issues (desk
research, interviews, surveys), dissemination of research outcomes via lectures, academic
conferences, (press)interview and advocacy activities and through contributing to capacity building
by empowering ethnic minority civil society organizations with knowledge, insight
and policy recommendations. The idea behind it is in short that hate speech and acts must
not take place without reply based on facts and voice.
Although it has sometimes been claimed that the Netherlands is ‘the front line in the clash of
civilizations’, islamophobia is not only a Dutch but equally a European and international
problem. Everywhere in the western world extremist actors abuse existing economic and
social crises to set Muslims apart and make them scapegoats. This research project is
therefore equally relevant for international audiences of scholars, politicians, policy makers
and ethnic minority communities, in particular for its for its assistance in shaping policies.
This report discusses the phenomenon of Islamophobia in a number of ways in which it is
expressed in the Netherlands. In the first instance and more theoretically inspired, it looks at
both the concept and the phenomenon of islamophobia as a form of racism. Racism and
islamophobia are contested social phenomena and thus controversial concepts that evoke
public debate. A clear definition may help the acceptance and normalization of the concept.
After this short theoretical introduction, an assessment is given of how Islam/Muslims are
viewed in the Netherlands. This is done historically on the basis of a comprehensive study of
their representation in history. Subsequently a number of surveys of contemporary attitudes
towards Islam/Muslims are critically discussed. A separate chapter reports findings of
studies about attitudes and discriminatory practices of youngsters and secondary school
pupils, as well as findings about the representation of Muslims in textbooks and stereotypes
that teachers come across in educational practices. Almost two in three secondary school
teachers report to have witnessed cases of Muslim discrimination in their classes. The
educational needs of teachers, for themselves and their pupils, in relation to these issues are
equally discussed.
The changing image of the Netherlands from a country of tolerance to a country of
intolerance that has evolved in the last decade, is mainly due to the politics of Geert Wilders
and his PVV. Expressions of Islamophobia and discrimination in the political and public
arena by the PVV are also covered. They show that not only Islam (and thus Muslims) are
targeted using a ‘policy of small steps’, each time claiming more restrictions on
manifestations of the Islamic religion, but his discourse increasingly targets immigrants and
in particular Moroccans, in more general racist terms. An increase of mobilization outside
parliament for social action in neighbourhoods against the presence of mosques is equally
Since the collapse of the last government in 2012, political leadership, mainstream political
parties and civil society actors have not only increasingly distanced themselves from and
protested against the PVV and its discourse on Muslims, but have also taken concrete action.
The sometimes ambivalent stance of mainstream political parties towards islamophobia is
equally discussed as are the changing attitudes and policies of the Dutch government that
show a growing awareness of the danger of islamophobia. Wilders and the PVV are gradually
becoming isolated at the political level. They are more and more turning to alliances with
traditional right-wing extremist political parties, not only formally at the level of European
Union politics, but also more informally and back stage in the Netherlands where these
groups are small but try to increase membership and mobilize support by building upon the
success of the PVV and imitating its discourse.
Data on discrimination in general and of Muslims in particular from different institutions
and specialised agencies, from press articles and court cases show that it is a difficult task to
present an accurate report on the ‘state of the art’ knowledge on these issues in the
Netherlands. Institutions, organisations and academics depend on notifications and reports
by victims or – in addition – they have to do empirical research themselves. It is striking to
see the gap between the discrimination experienced, as it is reported in surveys on the one
hand and on the other hand, the numbers of complaints and reports to the police and
antidiscrimination agencies as well as the incidents reported in the media. Considering the
large number of media releases on topics related to the multicultural society and interethnic
relations, only very few report on discrimination of Muslims. Hence it is important not to
focus too much on numbers and statistics of reported acts of discrimination alone. In
particular, qualitative analyses are lacking. This holds for discrimination and racism in
general and the more so for discrimination on the basis of the Islamic faith and Muslim
background. This topic is, sometimes more or sometimes less, underreported or made more
or less invisible, using number- and category games.
Finally an overview is provided of acts of violence against the presence of Islamic places of
worship that have been perpetrated in the last decade. For the first time administrators of
mosques are asked to report their experiences and give their opinions on this issue. This
study is based on a survey of them, on in-depth interviews with some of them, on informal
discussions with representatives of organizations as well as on desk research. It gives an
informative insight into the situation related to violent incidents against mosques, its
prevalence, character and effects. The outcome of this study is that an estimated more than
one third (39 %) of the 475 mosques in the Netherlands have been the target of
discriminatory aggression in the last decade. Another one third (30 %) did not experience
discriminatory aggression. Of the last one third (29 %) it is not known if they have been
targeted. Discriminatory incidents that occurred took place in mosques all over the country
but more in medium sized and small municipalities than in big cities. The number of
incidents in 2013-2014 were relatively high and often serious in character, such as the ten
cases of arson. Mosques that may be identified as such, e.g. by a minaret, are more easily
targeted than places of worship in more general buildings that were previously used for other
functions. In particular new mosques or those that are being renovated or under construction
are more often targeted. It is not excluded that perpetrators feel encouraged by the
islamophobic discourse and actions of the PVV and related movements.
Of 84 mosque organisations that have answered the questionnaire of the survey on
islamophobic aggression against them two third (68 %) had experienced such aggression
while one third (32 %) had not. This is a remarkably high percentage. 19 of them reported
having experienced aggression in the last year,17 in the last five years and 17 in the last ten
years. Smashing windows occurs most frequently (66%). In addition there have been many
cases of arson (38%) and graffiti (39 %). Also threatening telephone calls and emails occurred
(16%). The depositing of remains of pigs or sheep (heads/ legs/blood) (13 %) occurred too as
well as aggression against employees of the mosque (5%). Other incidents that occurred more
incidentally were the throwing of eggs or bottles, stealing a camera, putting pornographic
photographs or videos in the post-box, removing flags and dropping a suitcase with a (fake)
bomb. Altogether 57 respondents reported 118 incidents/ acts of violence and aggression.
In addition to the resulting material damage (85 %) a majority reported psychological
damage too (58 %) while 11% reported physical damage. Although 27 % of all interviewees
fears aggression in the near future there is no overall climate of anxiety. A majority of the
interviewees reported a general hostile attitude towards Muslims/Islam as the main motive
for aggression. Only 13 % of the mosques that were targeted did not report it to the police
while only very few reported to antidiscrimination agencies. Thus unexpectedly a high
number (85 %) did report to the police, although for many of them (51 %) with disappointing
results. The police did not seem interested, did not do anything or only after a long delay. In
65 % the mosques had no information at all about the perpetrators. The mosques that were
targeted not only reacted by reporting to the police but also engaged in discussion with local
authorities (46 %), organised a meeting with the faithful to inform them and discuss how to
react (30 %), informed the press (22 %) and organized security procedures (35 %). When
asked about the causes of aggression interviewees pointed to political propaganda (74 %),
prejudiced media messages (76 %), lack of knowledge about Islam and Muslims (78 %),
reactions to terrorist attacks (53 %) and international developments (42 %). As a solution
they emphasized that the general public should get better information and they pointed to a
need for dialogue and education. They did multiple suggestions about what the mosques
could do to establish more harmonious relations. They also pointed to the necessity for media
and politics to assume their responsibility to counter prejudices and give more objective
In addition to the aggression against the mosques, 22 % of the interviewees experienced
islamophobic or racist aggression directed against themselves and 46 % knew of people with
such experiences. In 64 % these incidents of discrimination were not reported to the police.
Notice that this percentage of non-reporting to the police is much higher than the reporting
of incidents against mosques. It illustrates the high value that is given to the mosques and
how aggression against them is experienced as an act of not only discrimination but
desecration as well.
The report concludes with a reflection and recommendations.
Thank you all for reading and sharing to oppose to Islamophobia in Europe, and to say NO to religious, ethnic, and cultural discrimination of all kind.
Thank you
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi – ProMosaik e.V.
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: What has changed in the Netherlands since your old book?
Dr. Ineke van der Valk: The government has changed. PVV is now in the opposition and no longer supports the government which it used to do in 2009-2011. The PVV radicalized (see chapter on PVV, p. 32-39); the rise of IS and its terror adds to a breeding ground for prejudices and discrimination against Muslims. The incidence on discriminatory violence against mosques has relatively speaking high in 2013-2014: 55 incidents in 39 mosques (see chapter 6).
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: What are the most important objectives you would like to reach with this second publication about Islamophobia in the Netherlands?
Dr. Ineke van der Valk:
The objectives of this project are:
1. to increase insight into islamophobia as a form of racism, its causes, incidence,
impact and consequences;
2. to obtain public and official recognition of islamophobia as a separate form of
discrimination comparable to anti-Semitism, in order to better monitor it in the
3. to contribute to the development of counter policies and practices to be used by
municipalities, national governments, civil society organizations and the public at
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: How important are the studies about Islamophobia in Europe and why?
Dr. Ineke van der Valk: Muslim discrimination and underlying ideologies are often denied, downplayed and depolitized. Studies may highlight the phenomenon in order to gain insight, knowledge about its structure, prevalence, cause and effects. In order to better deal with it
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: How can we promote a culture of acceptance and respect between Islam and the Western culture?
Dr. Ineke van der Valk: Creating a culture of openness, acceptance, tolerance, contact between different social groups (religious or not), dialogue, information and knowledge about all world religions.
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: How does a culture of tolerance avoid radicalization of Muslims?
Dr. Ineke van der Valk: When people, in particular youngsters, feel accepted they do not need to flight/ seek refuge into lethal ideologies.
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: What have you reached with your studies about Islamophobia and what do you want to achieve in the next future?
Dr. Ineke van der Valk: My research has been essential in putting the issue on the media and political agenda’s in the Netherlands; compared to the situation before 2011 there are now many social actors working in this field (CSO’s ). Together we are working for solutions. See also p. 43-45 concerning the changes in politics of the government
Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi: Why is the exchange of data and experience between the Netherlands and Germany so important to oppose to Islamophobia?
Dr. Ineke van der Valk: Not only with Germany but with other European countries as well (see p 66-67). It is not only a Dutch but a European and even western and international problem, comparative work is necessary.