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Religious organizations a brake on polarization

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM – Dutch religious organizations are not fueling the polarization between Muslims and the Islam on the one side and other groups on the other side. Instead, they have reacted to the recent spate of anti-Islamic comments by forging ties mainstream Islamic, Christian and Jewish organizations. That is the conclusion reached in the recent study Religie, binding en polarisatie (which could be translated as Religion, bonding and polarization), jointly compiled by Prof. Gerard Wiegers and Dr Sipco Vellenga of the Religious Studies research group at the Faculty of Humanties. They analyzed the way religious leaders responded to anti-Islamic statements, as well as the factors behind these responses. They focused on five anti-Islamic statements: the films Submission (2004), Fitna (2008) and An interview with Mohammed (2008), as well as the Danish cartoon affair (2005) and the Swiss prohibition on minarets (2009) and involved 21 different spiritual groups in the Netherlands. These included ten Islamic, five Christian, three Jewish, one Hindu, one Buddhist and one humanist organization. The anti-Islamic statements evoked different responses. Among Islamic organizations the responses ranged from calm/evasive to defensive/negative to attacking. Amongst non-Islamic organizations the responses ranged from supportive to cooperative to impartial to critical. Geert Wilders’ production Fitna evoked most responses. Most organizations are positive about the government’s response to Fitna. Various Islamic groups feel that the government supported them in their decision to respond calmly and dignified and defend Dutch interests in Islamic countries. Others were less impressed with the government’s response and felt that it had itself be guided too much by anti-Islamic views, the reason they remained silent after the controversial film’s release.