Imam's influence on Muslims overestimated

13th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

13 November 2007, LEIDEN – Participants in the debate on Islam in the Netherlands often overestimate the authority and influence of imams. The role of the imam is especially limited when it comes to second and third generation immigrants. He only is morally convincing if he manages to persuade these Muslims of his expertise.

13 November 2007

LEIDEN – Participants in the debate on Islam in the Netherlands often overestimate the authority and influence of imams. The role of the imam is especially limited when it comes to second and third generation immigrants. He only is morally convincing if he manages to persuade these Muslims of his expertise.

This is the conclusion reached by Islamic studies expert and anthropologist Welmoet Boender in her dissertation Imam in Nederland, for which she was awarded her doctorate at the University of Leiden on Tuesday. Boender studied the public debate on Islam in the Netherlands between 1993 and 2004 and talked to imams and members of a Turkish mosque in Amsterdam and a Moroccan mosque in The Hague. She also talked to members of the Iqra Muslim student union in Rotterdam.

Boender's research shows that not only the imam in the mosque defines appropriate standards and values and behaviour for the faithful, but television sheiks, internet imams, friends and family members and (translated) books also play a role. This is increasingly the case for many young people who never attend the mosque. This holds true also for some practising Muslims who have little contact with the congregation leader. Especially in the Turkish mosque the imam reaches women indirectly, if at all.

In the public debate the imam is often seen as an instrument to integrate Muslims in Dutch society. Against the background of the 400 imams currently in the Netherlands, many of whom are regarded as conservative clerics with no connection to the Dutch society or language, the concept of an "ideal" imam has arisen, who builds bridges between the religious community and the Netherlands. In light of the limited role that imams play for many Muslims, he will most likely fall short of this task.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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