Friday, September 07, 2012

Friday Journal Club: Limits of Secularization? Turkish and Moroccan-Dutch Muslims in the Netherlands

by Salman Hameed

Here is an interesting paper by Maliepaard, Gijsberts, and Lubbers: Reaching the Limits of Secularization? Turkish- and Moroccan-Dutch Muslims in the Netherlands 1998-2006 published this year in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2012), 51(2):359-367.

The paper looks at the trends of religiosity amongst Muslim minorities in the Netherlands. In particular, it focuses on the trends of mosque attendance between 1998 and 2006 in amongst the Turkish- and Moroccan-Dutch Muslims, which represent the two largest Muslim ethnic groups in the Netherlands.

The authors wanted to see if some of the prevailing ideas about secularization hold up. Two factors, in particular, may play an important role: a) generational replacement - the idea that individuals from minority groups growing up are imbued with the values of the majority culture (a secular Dutch society, in this case), and b) that obtaining higher education usually associated with lower levels of religious participation - both in majority and minority populations.

From this perspective:
It is therefore expected that the second generation and the higher educated Muslims attend the mosque less frequently than first-generation, lower educated Muslims. Because the second generation has grown relative to the first, and educational levels have risen in the decade of our research (Gijsberts and Dagevos 2010), this would have led to lower average levels of mosque attendance among the Muslim population.
However, there are also factors that may work in keeping religious participation at a higher level. For example, the presence of ethnic in-group members within close vicinity can create opportunities for religious practice to be enacted together. But there are also certain life stages that may lead to religious participation:
In addition to the local context, certain life stages have also been associated with reli- gious (re)vitalization. Whereas young people are often found to be less religious, when they start settling down (i.e., marrying and having children) religious practice often increases. This has been found both among Christians (Firebaugh and Harley 1991) and Muslims as well as other religious groups (Van Tubergen 2006). It is therefore expected that Muslims who live in neighborhoods with many ethnic in-group members and/or a mosque, and Muslims who are married and/or have children will attend the mosque more frequently than Muslims who live in neighborhoods with few ethnic in-group members and without a mosque, and who are single, without children. Again, because segregation in Dutch cities increased (Vervoort and Dagevos 2011), and because the second generation started forming families in the period that we study (De Valk 2006), we expect this has led to higher average levels of mosque attendance.
So what did they find? Here is the figure that summarizes their findings:

I should mention that these results are based on close to 7000 individuals who identified themselves as Muslims. And out of those, roughly 47% never attended mosque or do so only a few times a year. However, the figure above shows the change in the frequency of attendance over the years amongst the first and second generation Turkish and Moroccan-Dutch immigrants. The striking result is that the mosque attendance is has increased over the years amongst this group of second generation Muslim males (and these results are controlled for age, education and neighborhood composition):
Members of the second generation, who were originally much less inclined to attend a mosque, show a revival over time. Importantly, this cannot be explained by the fact that the second generation on average is getting older and is settling down. The secularizing effect of education also diminished over the years (also when controlling for generational replacement). So even if generational replacement and educational attainment were related to a decrease in religiosity in the early late 1990s and early 2000s, it seems that these forces previously seen as “driving secularization” (Phalet and Ter Wal 2004) lost power in predicting religious attendance. Mosques, rather than being places mainly first-generation (Turkish-Dutch) men visit, increasingly attract higher educated, second-generation (Moroccan- Dutch) men. Qualifying this as a general religious revival would be too strong: mosque attendance is not increasing among the Muslim population as a whole. However, the lack of generational and educational differences in later years indicates that a downward trend among the Muslim population in the future is doubtful.
Some of it is indeed the result of increases ethnic residential segregation of Muslim groups. But this doesn't explain the revival in groups such as Moroccan-Dutch second generation. For that the authors think that the "increasingly strained relation between the (secular) majority and Muslim minorities in the Netherlands" may be playing a role in this. And religion may form an alternative reactive identity:
That processes of labeling and othering, in combination with religious socialization, strengthen the religious identity of young Muslims has been shown previously (De Koning 2008; Ketner 2008). Our findings suggest that these processes may also extend to religious practices in the communal domain. Especially the higher educated second generation perceives most exclusion and discrimination in the Netherlands, and mostly so the Moroccan-Dutch (Tolsma, Lubbers, and Gijsberts 2012). It may therefore not be coincidental that it is especially these groups in which an increase in religious practice is found.
This is fascinating. I think this opens up room for a number of questions. For example, it will be interesting to see if these trends hold up for a comparable sample in other European countries and/or if these changes also have links to political and social changes in Turkey and Morocco. However, I'm also interested in exploring the contents of Islam that become part of this increasing religious identity as well as its source(s). The internet and satellite television channels are playing a crucial role in forming a globalized "acculturated" Islam (from Olivier Roy) and it will be interesting to see what aspects of this Islam are picked up (and emphasized) by the different Muslim ethnic groups in Europe. For example, a comparison of this data with Moroccan-French and Turkish-Germans will be fascinating, as that may tell us about the impact of various state policies towards ethnic minorities and, possibly, on the form of religious identities in different contexts. This last bit is of particular interest to me, as we are trying to understand the perceptions of modern science amongst Muslims in diverse political and cultural contexts.

In any case, a very interesting paper. Your comments are welcome.

You can find past Irtiqa Friday Journal Clubs here.

Also, see this earlier post on recent Pew poll regarding religiosity in various Muslim countries. Turkey and Morocco are both included in the survey.

Maliepaard, M, Gijsberts, M, and Lubbers, M (2012) Reaching the Limits of Secularization? Turkish- and Moroccan-Dutch Muslims in the Netherlands 1998–2006, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (Volume 51, Issue 2, pages 359–367; DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2012.01647.x)


Anonymous said...

I wonder if they controlled for the supply side—if this is mosque attendance, I would like to see how if the availability of mosque in close proximity influences mosque attendance. Also, since the second generation, presumably, better integrated into labor force, they may need to attend mosque (to conduct their prayers) compared to first generation (who may pray at home). It would be also relevant to see the number of cultural centers (Turkish/Moroccan) for some of the first generation may take their socialization from mosques to cultural centers.

Salman Hameed said...

They did look at neighborhood segregation and found a correlation with religious attendance. The proximity of mosque had a gender component:
"The availability of a mosque does not seem to play a role in the frequency of attendance. Upon further inspection it is shown that the presence of a mosque is only related to the religious attendance of women. In areas with a mosque, the difference in frequency of attendance between men and women is diminished by a third. Seemingly, women mainly attend mosques when there is one in the vicinity, whereas men take more efforts to travel, likely because mosque visits for them is a prerequisite."

However, after controlling for ethnic neighborhoods, they still found an increase in religious attendance. By the way, mosque attendance is only variable they look at here. Apparently, other religiosity indicators follow the same trend.

Your comment about labor force integration is an interesting one. Though I wonder how different it would be between 1998 and 2006. Nevertheless, that is something to keep an eye on.

Your comment about cultural centers is also interesting. I don't know if there is a stark difference in mosques and cultural centers in the Netherlands. The authors mentioned that the mosques are already quite segregated based on ethnicities. If that is the case, then I would guess that mosques would also serve as cultural centers.