While Amsterdam has been considered a major secularized city, immigration—both Christian and Muslim—may move it toward more of a religious marketplace, according to a study by Martin van der Meulen (Protestant Theological University in the Netherlands) presented at the SSSR conference.
Using figures from the bi-annual survey of the Amsterdam Statistics Bureau, Van der Meulen noted that the city has an immigrant population as high as 50 percent and that two-thirds of them are religious. Christianity still remains the largest religion in the city, while half of the Christian population consists of immigrants. Increasingly, the city is segregated along ethnic, religious and secularist lines. Van der Meulen said that secularism continues to win second-generation Muslims and that Amsterdam is still “post-Christian.”
But continuing migration will likely have a religious effect on the city and it may develop into an American kind of market situation. This pattern may be distinct in Amsterdam compared to the rest of the Netherlands, according to Van der Meulen.In fact, there has been a recent shift toward a more assertive secularism in the Netherlands as a whole. In the Journal of Religion in Europe (5/3), researchers Cora Schuh, Marian Burchardt and Monica Wohlrab-Sahr review recent Dutch court cases and legislation and find a move toward “secular progressivism,” where religious freedom is increasingly being subordinated to “universalistic notions of civil liberties.”
Recent cases involving evangelical Protestants and Muslims on the issues of same-sex marriage, gender equality and ritual slaughter in particular are showing how the Dutch are moving away from the concern for pluralism and mul-ticulturalism to protect religious minorities toward a more assertive version of secularism. Each of these cases (though still being contested in European courts) ruled in favor of “non-discrimination” (including the right to reduce animal suffering) rather than religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
The authors note that this shift began during the debates about blasphemy after the killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim in 2004 and continues under the influence of Dutch politician Geert Wilders. While Schuh, Burchardt and Wohlrab-Sahr are unsure if this is a “critical juncture” that will lead to the pre-dominance of secular progressivism in the Netherlands, they note that this ideology has taken the lead in parliamentary debates.
(Journal of Religion in Europe, http://www.brill.nl)