Thursday, 29 February 2024 08:47

Ramadan in the Netherlands: traditions reflecting a multicultural society

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

In the Netherlands, home to almost one million Muslims from different cultures and backgrounds with Turkish and Moroccan dominance, the Holy month of Ramadan is a reflection of unprecedented Muslim cultural diversity in terms of traditions and gastronomy.

In the Bazaar, the largest covered market in Europe located in the city of Beverwijk, 20 km east of Amsterdam, Everything says Ramadan: the flags of these countries, including Morocco, floating in the market’s entry, give a taste of the hundreds of visitors of different nationalities of the Oriental bazaar.

In the Bazaar, originally an illegal market, hence its name in Dutch Zwarte Markt (Black Market), we find absolutely all the products and dishes prepared especially for Ramadan according to the traditions of all the countries of origin coexisting in the Netherlands.

Besides the displays of Moroccan and Turkish businesses that dominate the square, the oriental bazaar atmosphere, takes guests on a journey to the Middle East and North Africa. It contains products from Indonesia, Iran, Syria, Iraq and many other Muslim countries to the delight of foreign communities in the country.

In Amsterdam, a cosmopolitan city where nearly 170 nationalities cohabit, Muslims, whose nostalgia is felt especially in this blessed month, do not lack anything as regards to the food and dishes from their respective countries.

In predominantly Muslim neighborhoods of the capital, the souks and supermarkets have nothing to envy to those of the countries of origin, a specificity to the Dutch capital. The Meloui, Chabakia and all kinds of bread and Moroccan pastries and cakes rival the Turkish, Egyptian and Iranian ones.

And as in Muslim countries, Ramadan in the Netherlands cannot be reduced to the iftar table, but is by far the month where Muslims, including Moroccans, immerse in spirituality and fervor without forgetting their duties as well integrated citizens into their host society.

Within some 400 mosques of the Netherlands, the faithful take every day to do their prayers including Tarawih, in which places of worship are stormed by thousands of people from different categories and ages.

Recognizing the commitment of Moroccans of the world to worship, Morocco has once again decided this year to send 53 Moroccan imams to teach the faithful the precepts and principles of Islam and try to contribute to efforts against radicalization of youth in particular.

This initiative, which is gaining importance in the sense that the number of Moroccan imams dispatched in the Netherlands has almost doubled compared to 2014, is also part of the Moroccan-Dutch cooperation in the fight against radicalization that the head of the Dutch Foreign Ministry, Bert Koenders has described as exemplary.

"If we have to learn from each other (...), we must be open. The cooperation between the Netherlands and Morocco is a good example of this state of mind," said Koenders opening on June 8 an international meeting in The Hague.

On the occasion of Ramadan, the Netherlands "will have the pleasure of welcoming Moroccan imams who visit mosques across the country talking to young people, visitors and Dutch imams about radicalization and their responsibility as religious leaders, "said Mr Koenders.

The members of the Moroccan community, animated by a spirit of openness and sharing, insist that their compatriots from other countries get to know Moroccan customs in this holy month by organizing collective Iftars across the country.

These operations provide opportunities for Moroccans to meet, reconnect with the atmosphere of Ramadan in Morocco, and exchange about some community concerns in the Netherlands in particular regarding youth, integration and social cohesion in the framework of respect for diversity of the host country.

Also known for their generosity and sense of sharing, the Dutch Moroccans conduct charitable actions for the needy especially illegal immigrants, including Muslims who find in the Iftars organized by the Moroccan community an opportunity to live enjoyable moments.

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