Scholars petition Netherlands not to close leading institute on Islam

December 26, 2008

Religion reporters often get asked how they keep up with developments in different faiths. One way is to read the leading publications in the field. Keeping up with the latest trends in Islam is about to get harder for those of us who are regular readers of one of the most interesting journals on Muslim issues, the ISIM Review published in English by the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.

(Photo: Head scarf exhibit in Amsterdam Historical Museum, 6 March 2006/Paul Vreeker)

Not only is the Review closing down — ISIM itself, a Dutch academic institute set up by the universities of Leiden, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nijmegen 10 years ago — is being closed for lack of funds. The University of Leiden announced this on Dec 17 (here in Dutch) and ISIM announced it here in English. Surprisingly, it got almost no coverage in the media (here’s one short piece from De Telegraaf in Dutch).

The Dutch experience with Islam is one of the most strained in Europe, as seen by the murder of film maker Theo van Gogh and the rise of far-right politicians like Geert Winters Wilders. ISIM’s excellent research has been a useful antidote to that, presenting a much better informed view of Islam both in the Netherlands and abroad. I’ve found it very informative as background to the current issues concerning Muslim and a tip-off for scholars to consult when I’m writing about them. There aren’t enough of these publications around and it’s sad to see such a good one, and the institute that produces it, disappear.

Oddly enough, a February 2008 peer review commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Education — the same ministry now pulling the plug on ISIM — gave the institute high marks for its work. It said that “the Institute has succeeded in using its very limited means to constitute itself as a prominent centre with great international attraction. Clear indicators for this are its appeal for prominent colleagues from all over the world (cf. the success of its Visiting Fellows Programme), the great international appreciation of its research projects, and its ability to attract younger scholars (PhDs and post-docs), again from very different regions and backgrounds … this solid academic reputation … has made the institute a focal point within Europe for comparative debates, workshops and conferences on a wide array of questions concerning Islam and its rising presence in the continent.”

Alexandre Caeiro, an ISIM PhD who’s an expert on Islamic fatwas in Western Europe, told me a group of scholars associated with ISIM has been circulating a petition to the Dutch Ministry of Education urging it to reconsider. If you know and appreciate ISIM (or just discover the ISIM Review now by searching through its archive) and want to support it, you can contact Caeiro at



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That is not the first decision to close such Government -run Islamic institutes for unidentified reasons. It has already happened in South Korea too. For a little flavor of it see a TV report at the following link 482&sectionid=3510301.
I don’t understand without institutes how would you understand others?

Posted by Yasar Saleem | Report as abusive

That should be “Geert Wilders”, of course. He might also object to the characterisation of him as “far-right”, though that seems to be the journalistic shorthand for anyone who has problems with mass immigration.

Posted by Adrian | Report as abusive

I also don’t like my government spending money on such Islamic research. May be it is peaceful, may be it is tolerant. First 5 yrs you work for reputation after that reputation works for you. Sorry guys if you want to be seen as nice and friendly you got your 5 yrs ahead.

Posted by Sergey | Report as abusive

[…] Scholars petition Netherlands not to close leading institute on Islam(Photo: Head scarf exhibit in Amsterdam Historical Museum, 6 March 2006/Paul Vreeker). Not only is the Review closing down – ISIM itself, a Dutch academic institute set up by the universities of Leiden, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nijmegen . […]

Posted by Head Scarf | Report as abusive

Adrian, thanks for pointing out the typo, which is now corrected. As for the term far-right, Wilders might object, but that doesn’t mean we are obliged to use his self-description if it doesn’t fit. As for when to use this adjective, the issue is not whether the politicians have a problem with mass immigration, but how they respond to it. Far right is shorthand for a politician who responds with populism, fear-mongering, biased descriptions of immigrant groups and overt attempts to provoke a backlash against those groups. It fits the producer of the film Fitna quite well.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Dear Tom,
I understand you are somewhat biased, which is ok, but you did not really correct that curious “typo joke”. When you write “Islam is one of the most strained in Europe” (quite an innocent statement if you look over the fence a bit) and then point at Van Gogh, Wilders (and seemingly Dewinter) as if there are no mechanisms causing circumstances preceding their opinions, I think it is not such a sad thing if that wishy washy ISIM just ceases to be. Bruinessen et al better publish their work in more defiant environments.

Posted by François | Report as abusive


What is important for anyone migrating to another country is he needs to wholeheartedly embrace that country in mind,body & soul.If you seek the pleasures & freedom of the west but are irresponsible & take law into your hands & killing people in name of religion then what the dutch government is doing is absolutely perfect.When you look at every other religion they are far more tolerant & a specific religion has a issue.Despite best of filtering process of weeding out radicals you will be unsuccessful. It is time to wake upto this reality than to feign political correctness anymore.

Posted by Tommy | Report as abusive

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Posted by iJE | Report as abusive

[…] religion reporter Tom Heneghan writes: FaithWorld » Blog Archive » Scholars petition Netherlands not to close leading institute on Islam … Religion reporters often get asked how they keep up with developments in different faiths. One way […]

Posted by C L O S E R | Faithworld – Scholars petition Netherlands not to close leading institute on Islam | Report as abusive

I actually met one of the former directors of ISIM. He was quite amazing. I don’t know what kind of person Mahatma Ghandi was, but I’m pretty sure this man was the closest to it that I’ve ever met.

And now that he has soaked up the tolerant dutch culture, he has gone to Pakistan where he became head of the Islamic council, working for the spread of a more tolerant Islam every day. So in a sense, ISIM has done more to win the war on terror than practically anyone else. And they did it in a peaceful way. alid_Masud

Posted by Kim Bruning | Report as abusive

It is pertinent to note that our Lord in Quranic verse 22:41 says that every rulers of the land to follow and direct all the citizens in their land to follow quranic messages. Inspite of repeated request made to the ruler of the country, the following messages is not directed to publish in the Government Websites, all other Websites in the country and also the local News papers of the country

Our LORD Appreciated Christians as per Quranic Verses 3:55,5:82,57:27,28 Except Quranic Verses 5:14,15,16 & 57,9:31. As per Quranic Versus 4:59 and 83, it is our duty to spread the following messages to all concerns towards public peace, security, health and wealth of mankind in the world as per our website The following message ought to have published to all the members of the group so far.As per quranic versus 4:59 and 83 it is a duty tospread the following messages in the interest of public peace, health and wealth. “please download from web site WWW.GOLDENDUAS.COM for peace, security, health& wealth for mankind and the same may be published to all members of the group based on quranic verses 2:2,10:57,17:11,16,28:59,39:55,57,13:37& 65:8. Otherwise it will amount to refusal to follow our Lord Order, guidance and direction as per Quranic verses 6:26″

With kind regards


Posted by iaalimsha | Report as abusive