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Religion and Law in the Netherlands

Religion remains an influential force in our time despite the prophesy of secularization theory which argued that religion will fade away. In the context of migration this expectation hardly came through even in Europe where secularization is deeply rooted because presence of Muslim and other faith groups poses many challenges. This article examines the trajectory of state-religion relations in the Netherlands and looks at impact on Muslims in this country.

Religion and Law in the Netherlands
A woman taking part in a countermarch against a rally of the far-right group Pro Deutschland which staged a protest under the banner “Islam does not belong to Germany” near the mosque in Berlin marking the end of Ramadan, on August 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO / B
 

Historic Background

The last explicit change to the model of church and state relationships in the Netherlands took place in 1796. In that year, “separation of church and state” was first proclaimed. The proclamation of separation of church and state– a quite novel step– came as a reaction to the system under the Republic of the United Netherlands (1579-1795) in which the Dutch Reformed Church was the established or privileged church. The proclamation of the separation of church and state constituted a fundamental change. At the time, it was obvious that both the Republic and its church and state system had outlived themselves. The period that followed (1796-1813) was politically and constitutionally quite turbulent. After being a Kingdom under the rule of Louis Napoleon, a brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, from 1810 to 1813, a fresh start was made in 1814. In this year the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a decentralized unitary state, was established, of which Belgium formed a part from 1815 to 1830.

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