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Abstract

This paper takes a closer look at the debate over the value and meaning of Islam for Dutch society and politics in the aftermath of 9/11. It presents a case of how global events since September 11, and particularly the violence perpetrated by Muslims, accelerated the call for integration of Muslims in the country. The relationship between Islam and violence in particular, and Islam and anti-social values in general, had moved to the centre stage of the political debate. Furthermore, there was intense argument between those who felt that Islam in general was inimical to Dutch and Western values, and those who argued that Islam could be a conduit for such values. In this new context, integration increasingly came to be seen by the government as an antidote to radicalization. Ordinary Muslims not directly linked with radical groups and movements found themselves trapped among the calls for integration/assimilation, anti-Muslim rhetoric and radical recruitment. A limited but telling number of interviews with some Muslims who were not directly involved in any form of radical politics illustrate the impact of such a debate. The responses in these interviews present the extent to which Muslims were creatively engaging with the whole spectrum of the integration debate in the Netherlands. But more significantly, they exposed the assumptions of the broader Dutch public debate about Islam as a distinctive culture and value system.

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