Academic Research into Islam in Europe and the Netherlands

Studies on Islam in Europe address multiple subjects such as the development of mosques and Muslim associations, the struggle to establish Muslim schools in the European context (Daun & Walford, 2004; Doomernik, 1991; Wetering & Miedema, 2012), the status of religious leaders such as imams (Boender, 2007; Ghaly, 2008), the history of Islam in the West (Berger, 2014), and social responses to the establishment of Muslim institutions (Boender, 2006; Esch & Roovers, 1987; Rath, 1996, 2005; Rath et al., 1997, 2001; Waardenburg, 1991). Others have elaborated specific social or institutional aspects of Islam in Europe, such as the problems of Muslim youth (Nilan, 2017; Vertovec & Rogers, 1999), political participation (Cesari, 2013; Klausen, 2005; Shadid & Koningsveld, 1996b), legal questions and secularism (Berger, 2013; Cesari & McLoughlin, 2005; Ferrari & Bradney, 2000; Nielsen, 1979, 1987; Rohe, 2007),  radicalization of Muslims (Coolsaet, 2008; Pargeter, 2008), and conversion to Islam (Bruinessen, 2011; Köse, 1996), the complexity of the increasing presence of a multitude of Muslims (Vinding et al., 2018). There is hardly a topic relating to Muslims or Islam that has not been researched in Europe (Cesari, 2015).

Islamic studies has also become a well-established discipline in the Netherlands (Berger, 2015). From the 1980s onwards, scholars increasingly turned their attention to the religious beliefs and practices of Muslim migrants in the Netherlands (Broex, 1982; Custers, 1985; Koningsveld & Shadid, 1992, 1997). Initially, the focus was on Islam in general (Jansen, 1987; Koningsveld, 1982) and the ways in which it was practiced by Muslims (Landman, 1992b, 1992a; Waardenburg, 1983). Some of the literature was about Islamic education and how it should be provided by schools (Esch & Roovers, 1987; Genç et al., 2011; Rietveld-van Wingerden et al., 2009; Ter Avest & Bakker, 2013; Ter Avest & Rietveld-Van Wingerden, 2016; Wagtendonk, 1987). Some studies focused on Islamic minority law (fiqh al-aqalliyāt) (De Kroon, 2016; Shadid & Koningsveld, 1996a).

After the 1990s, a tradition of anthropological and ethnographic research developed concerning Muslim experiences of religion and religious identity (Andree & Jonge, 1990; Dessing, 2001a, 2001b; Rath et al., 1997; Sunier, 1996; Verkuyten et al., 2012; Verkuyten & Thijs, 2010; Verkuyten & Yıldız, 2009).

In the 2000s, while the public and political debate on integration focused increasingly on Muslims, academic research rose to the challenge in order to answer basic questions such as: Who are the Muslims?, What do they want? and What is the role of Islam in their lives? This research into the praxis of Islam would soon dominate the study of Islam in the Netherlands (Berger, 2015). This resulted in studies on a diversity of issues, such as religion and culture (Buijs, 2009; Buitelaar, 2006; Huijnk, 2018; Phalet & Wall, 2004), Muslim youth (Bartels, 2000; De Koning, 2011; Heijden, 2009; Nabben et al., 2006; Pels et al., 2006; Phalet et al., 2000; Roeland et al., 2010), everyday lived Islam (Dessing, 2013), mosque architecture (Arab, 2013; Roose, 2009), female circumcision (Bartels, 2004; Dessing, 2001a; Kolfschooten, 2004; Smith & Longbottom, 1995), choice of marriage partners (De Koning & Bartels, 2005; Hooghiemstra, 2003; Speelman, 2001), experience of the public sphere (De Koning, 2010), headscarf issues (Hoekstra & Verkuyten, 2014; Lorasdağı, 2009a, 2009b; Moors, 2009; Motivaction, 2011), socio-psychological matters (Hoffer, 2009; Martinovic & Verkuyten, 2012; Speelman, 2016; Verkuyten, 2010; Verkuyten & Martinovic, 2012), use of multi-media (Konijn et al., 2010). After that, many studies on radicalization and orthodox trends among young Muslims began to appear (Cherribi, 2010; De Koning, 2009, 2013; Gielen, 2008; Komen, 2014).

Challenges in Studying Islam

As is understood from this large body of research, the examination of the religiosity of Muslim individuals has gained increasing salience, and the ‘native voice’ has become an important topic nowadays. However, very little information has been gathered about the daily practices of Muslims in ways comparable to how information has been gathered about other religious groups. In this regard, sociology, psychology and anthropology of religion - specifically the European social sciences - still remain marginal when it comes to Muslims and production of data that can be compared to those existing for Protestants, Catholics, or Jews (Cesari, 2015, p. 3).

One of the problems here is the scant attention paid to non-Christian religious experience. In the last few decades, approaches to religious orientation employed to measure various ways of being religious have emerged strongly in Western scientific literature, focusing in particular on Christian religious experience. The divisions that have been applied in the study of religion draw on a range of terms such as ‘authoritarian’ and ‘humanistic’ religion (Fromm, 1950), ‘primary religious behaviour’, ‘secondary religious behaviour’ and ‘tertiary religious behaviour’(Clark, 1958), ‘committed’ and ‘consensual’ religion (Spilka & Allen, 1967), ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ religiosity (Allport & Ross, 1967), ‘mythological’ and ‘literal’ religion (Hunt, 1972), Religion as ‘ends’, religion as ‘means’ (Batson, 1976), ‘high-involvement religion’ and ‘low-involvement religion’ (Beit-Hallahmi, 1989) and so forth. To a certain extent, these various terms and propositions used in different disciplines exhibit characteristics comparable to those of ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ religiosity, as conceptualized by scholars studying Islam.

Although the notion of elite and popular religiosity has been in circulation since the 17th century, its usage in both theoretical and practical Islamic studies was vague and ill-defined until the last few decades, when there was an increase in studies with this angle. However, field studies in this area have been few compared to theoretical studies (Çapçıoğlu, 2004).

This religious diversity forms a challenge for Turkish research in sociology of religion of Islam. The challenge lies in the task to find the appropriate measurements that will allow us to comprehend the different characteristics of religiosity in Turkey. The measurements which assume a monolithic and one-dimensional Turkish Islam no longer seem to be sufficient. There is a growing need to assess the varieties of religious orientations, such as intrinsic versus extrinsic, ultimate versus instrumental, personal versus institutional motivations in ritualistic dimensions; esoteric versus exoteric, differentiated versus undifferentiated knowledge in the intellectual dimension (see section 3.3).

Adaptation of Scales in Studying Islam

At the end of the 20th century, scholarly interest expanded to include living Muslim peoples as a subject of study, and studies in the field of sociology gained in importance through this time.[1] Many multidimensional religiosity scales have been proposed in recent years (see Appendix five: Measurements in Turkish Sociology and Psychology of Religion). They are either inspired by or adapted from European or American religiosity scales and have been translated into Turkish (Zuhal Ağılkaya-Şahin, 2012). The most influential approach to developing religiosity scales in Turkey is the multidimensional approach of Glock and Stark (Glock & Stark, 1969). Early efforts (e.g. Yaparel’s (Yaparel, 1987) Religious Life Inventory) as well as later attempts (e.g. Ayten’s (Ayten, 2009) Brief Islamic Religiosity Scale) referred to Glock and Stark’s (1969) model and developed multidimensional religiosity scales for the study of Turkish Islamic religiosity.

Allport & Ross’ concept of religiosity is another inspiration to Turkish sociology and psychology of religion research, when it comes to developing measurements of religiosity. Scales based on religious orientation (Hoge, 1972) have been identified as suitable for measurements in different religious contexts since they do not refer to a single explicit religious system (Karaca, 2001). Kayıklık (Kayıklık, 2000) was one of the researchers who adapted the Religious Orientation Scale by Allport & Ross (1967) to Turkish culture. With minor differences, Gürses (Gürses, 2001) advanced an equivalent measure. According to their results, religion is an aim for the intrinsic religious person. Hökelekli (2005) defined this kind of religiosity as ‘psychological needs religiosity’ in relation to the functions of religion. In contrast, for the extrinsic religious person, religion is a means by which he/she intends to achieve goals such as social acceptance.

The religiosity scale I have developed for my doctoral thesis bears the characteristics of both the Glock and Allport approaches, yet it represents a completely novel and thoughtful endeavor. This scale has been painstakingly crafted with a keen eye towards the sensitivities of Muslim societies, ensuring its alignment with their unique spiritual and sociocultural contexts. It embodies the blend of these two esteemed frameworks, while also integrating key nuances to capture the complex tapestry of Muslim religiosity. This innovation in the study of Islam paves the way for deeper understanding and opens up new avenues for discourse and exploration.


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[1] Over the last two decades, the number of field studies has exceeded theoretical studies in Turkey. According to Şerif Mardin, field studies in sociology of religion that are conducted to explore the Islamic understanding of the masses supply more important and valuable data than theoretical or normative studies of the country’s religious landscape (Mardin, 2012).