What Type of Islamism for Europe? Islamism in Germany and the Netherlands

By Tol, Gonul | Insight Turkey, January 2009 | Go to article overview

What Type of Islamism for Europe? Islamism in Germany and the Netherlands


Tol, Gonul, Insight Turkey


While Milli Gorus (1) in Germany is an Islamist movement that has a strong anti-Western rhetoric and is treated as an "Islamist extremist group" by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, (2) Milli Gorus in the Netherlands cooperates with the local Dutch authorities on establishing programs that aim to further integrate the Muslim community into Dutch society. While Milli Gorus in Germany has a radical outlook on Western institutions in general and German society in particular, Milli Gorus in the Netherlands is quite moderate and is considered a legitimate actor in the Dutch public space. The question is: What is the reason for this difference? Why did an Islamist group that started as the European extension of the same Turkish Islamist movement in the 1970s become a government-identified Islamist extremist group in Germany while it turned into a democratic partner in promoting the integration of Muslims into the host society in the Netherlands? The aim of this study is to answer these questions by comparing the two cases. It is argued that the policies, rules and regulations of the host society in Europe determine the course Islamism takes within a country. (3) Islamism is defined as a modern ideology that turns traditional Islam into a sustained and systematic program that supports social and political activism. (4)

This study is primarily based on fieldwork carried out among Islamists in Germany and the Netherlands in the years between 2004 and 2007. The methodology is based on a number of qualitative techniques including elite interviews, long face-to-face interviews with Milli Gorus members and participant observation and quantitative techniques such as surveys. (5) Germany and the Netherlands were selected for comparison based on the most similar system design.' Germany and the Netherlands are both Western democracies with similar levels of economic development. They both have Muslim immigrant populations as a result of labor treaties signed with Muslim countries at the beginning of the 1960s. Milli Gorus has been operating within these countries since the 1970s, and it constitutes one of the most important Islamist movements among the Turkish immigrant community both in Germany and the Netherlands. The countries differ in their policies, rules and regulations that govern immigration. Comparing these two cases makes it possible to isolate the factors responsible for differences in the level of radicalization of Milli Gorus.

Milli Gorus in Germany

Milli Gorus and German society: The State of Distrust and Skepticism

Milli Gorus in Germany has developed as a counter-hegemonic force that challenges the norms and values of German society. Building on the economic, social and political marginalization of the Muslim community due to the ethnocentric citizenship laws and discriminatory regulations in Germany, Milli Gorus has created a sense of victimization among its members and brought them together around a sense of common destiny and shared interests. This sense of victimization of the Muslim immigrant community by German society and its institutions legitimized the creation of an alternative social space outside the cognitive and institutional structure of German society where the common sense of the dominant culture is challenged and a critical understanding is developed. This critical understanding is a manifestation of an already existent counter-hegemonic force and therefore an important indicator of the level of radicalism.

An article by Ilhan Bilgu in IGMG Perspektive, (7) which is the official publication of Milli Gorus Germany, is one of many Milli Gorus writings that display the distrust and skepticism of Milli Gorus towards German society and its institutions. According to the article, there is an increasing racism among the German public that is fueled by those politicians who use Islam and Islamophobia for political mobilization. The author states that immigrant children are always accused of being violent by both the German public and the authorities, but it is in fact the German education system that is responsible for the increasing violence among immigrant youngsters. …

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What Type of Islamism for Europe? Islamism in Germany and the Netherlands
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