THE HAGUE, March 2, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – Dutch Muslims have urged the government to adopt their own version of qualifying and training imams with some help from experts and specialists across Dutch universities.
“The Muslim Council of the Netherlands, which liaise with the government on behalf of the Muslim minority, held talks on February 18, 19 with Dutch officials to direct the qualification programs for imams and preachers,” the Council’s deputy Secretary General, Edris Boujoufi, told IslamOnline.net Tuesday, March 1.
“We are now addressing how to translate the recommendations of these talks into action, including the right of the Muslim minority to prepare their imams with the help of Dutch experts and socialists.”
There are some 450 mosques in the Netherlands, 1,000 Islamic cultural centers, two Islamic universities and 42 preparatory schools, according to recent estimates.
Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population. Turks represent 80 percent of the Muslim minority.
Dutch Muslims were reportedly subjected to religious discrimination and racist attacks on their places of worship in 2004.
Even before the November killing of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, following his insulting documentary about Islam, Dutch Muslims have been targeted by the extremist agenda of the influential right-wing parties.
Boujoufi roundly rejected Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk’s plan on imams and immigrants, regarding it as a ruse to interfere into Muslims’ affairs.
Along with qualifying imams, the plan would make everyone who has not spent eight years in the Netherlands during the period of compulsory education (from six to the age of 16) take integration classes.
The government has so far put forward 10 plans to qualify imams, but endorsed last month a program introduced by Amsterdam University.
The government will grant the university 1.5 million euros to that end and decided to deny visas to imams as of 2008, according to an education ministry’s official.
“Verdonk’s interference into the Muslim affairs violates the secular nature of the Western countries, particularly the Netherlands,” Moroccan-born Boujoufi added.
“It takes 10 years to prepare a qualified and professional imam and not just one year as suggested by the minister.”
Representatives of the Turkish minority, on their part, said they are committed to an agreement signed between the Turkish and Amsterdam governments, entitling Ankara to qualify and train imams for the Turks in the European country.
The issue of imams training has recently taken central stage in several European countries.
Major Swiss Christian groups put forward a proposal to establish a government-supervised institute to educate imams on the “liberal” lifestyle in western societies, which split Muslim activists in the country down the middle.
German integration minister Marieluise Beck has released a 20-point strategy recommending that imams coming to Germany should have knowledge of the German language and society.
French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin pressed last year for teaching imams the French language and culture.