Two years ago, a new kind of mosque opened in Amsterdam. The ‘Polder’ mosque was hailed as an innovative, modern house of prayer for moderate Muslims. Now it is threatened with closure.
Is it just a case of rent arrears or are Dutch Muslims not ready for modern Islam?
No foreign languages, men and women praying together, no funding from the Middle East and debates on homosexuality and women’s rights. Native Dutch people were chuffed with this prototype for Dutch Islam.
Even the logo for the Polder mosque mixes tulips with minarets. Delegations from all over the world visited the mosque and newspapers filled their pages with articles on the new house of prayer.PolderThe Dutch word polder refers to land behind a dike. As far back as the Middle Ages, people who lived behind dikes — at below sea level — had to cooperate with each other when there is a danger of flooding. Such cooperation took place regardless of personal differences, lifestyle, or religious views.In politics, but also in business, the word poldermodel is used of an approach in which efforts are made to reach a very broad national (or, as the case may be, local) consensus on important issues, in order to ensure everyone’s participation and cooperation.The Poldermoskee (polder mosque) similarly seeks to encourage cooperation among Muslims who come from widely different backgrounds.
But the mosque was inundated by negative reactions from the established Muslim community. It was accused of bowing down to non-Islamic Dutch values. The official reason for closure is a lack of money, but did this criticism play a role? Islam expert Nico Landman says it probably didn’t:
“I think the Polder mosque was a very enthusiastic initiative by a number of young people who didn’t have much money and moved into a building with high rent. That and the fact they would not accept money from outside made it difficult to carry on for long.”
Muslim youths like Yassmine and Nurdin are the future, says Tijl Sunier, Professor for Islam in Europe. They are creating their own form of Islam:
“The Polder mosque concept has attracted enormous interest and there are enough people to support it. I think the idea behind the Polder mosque, a mosque supported by Muslims born in the Netherlands is the future of all Dutch mosques. The fact that the Polder mosque is closing due to lack of money says nothing about the feasibility of the idea behind it.”
After the festival of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, the Polder mosque will close down. Yassmine El Ksaihi is planning to continue the concept and says she has had lots of enthusiastic reactions. So the closing of the building does not mean the end of the ideal, but rather a teething problem of Islam’s new generation in the Netherlands.
Note: According to Radio Netherlands around 14,000 Dutch Christians have converted to Islam.