In the Nour al Houda mosque they know that prayer alone is not enough

The eyes of Khaled Mouhouti (49) shine with pride this Friday afternoon. When he talks to a group of fifteen mosque members about his past as a talented youth football player at Vitesse. Much more often you can see concern and fatigue in Mouhouti’s eyes.

On January 13 this year, he took a police megaphone in Arnhem to calm counter-protesters at an announced Quran burning: “People, please go home. It’s not worth it at all.” Since then he has served as chairman of Islamic Cultural Center Nour al Houda constantly in conclave with fellow believers. “We are bringing together legal experts to investigate whether these types of actions cannot be banned, just like in Denmark.” Not that you are not allowed to demonstrate against his faith, he hastens to say. “For all I care, go out into the street with a sign saying ‘I hate Islam’ and we will pass you by with a shrug of the shoulders.” But the fact that it has to be this way, with the burning of a holy book, “it just hurts.”

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And that it was, of all things, an openly Muslim mayor [Ahmed Marcouch, red.] who indicated that he had no choice but to facilitate this licensed demonstration? Yes, that hurt a little extra, say the fifteen men – the youngest in their early twenties, the oldest over seventy – who come together after Friday prayers to NRC to speak. But the announced Quran burnings – Wagenveld has now announced a new action for March 23 – are by no means the only concern in the former school building that now serves as a mosque. “It is the sum,” say several attendees.

That Dutch municipalities had undercover investigations carried out in mosques. That you will immediately receive a call from the bank if you make a donation to a foundation in Morocco as corona support. That after a victory by the Moroccan football team, it is “never” about the good performances of the Moroccan Dutch in that team, but “only” about the places where the festivities get out of hand. Even the suffering of Muslims elsewhere is described differently than that of non-Muslims, it sounds. “Then, for example, you read in one message that Palestinians have been killed and Israelis have been murdered. Isn’t that crooked?”

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Constantly proving

Young people in particular say they do not recognize themselves in the image that is painted of Muslims. “Fortunately there are now social media,” says one of them, “then we can present our own image.” Halfway through, one of the attendees leaves the room, swearing loudly. “This is all nonsense!” When asked, he says he does not believe that there will now be a balanced article.

What bothers him and his fellow believers, Mouhouti explains, is the feeling that even the fourth and fifth generation of Muslims are second-class in the Netherlands and have to constantly justify and prove themselves. Everyone present indicates that they sometimes want to be associated with something other than problems. Not as perpetrators, but also not as victims. “We don’t want to play the role of victim, but we are always being victimized,” says a young man with rimless glasses.

What stings is the feeling that even the 4th and 5th generation of Muslims are second class here

Khaled Mouhouti sees this as a phase in which the patience of believers is tested. “I hold on to one of the last surahs from the Koran,” he says. “It states that these kinds of times are normal, but that there will also be a time of prosperity.” And, he emphasizes, “to achieve that, it is our turn. Duas (supplications, ed.) are not only prayers, but also actions. You can sit at home and lean back, but what can you do to turn the tide?”

A number of religious communities in Arnhem decided to hand out Qurans to shopping passers-by on a Saturday. Nour al Houda is focusing on daily iftars this month of Ramadan [vastenmaaltijden, red.], for different target groups. The neighborhood is also invited. Mouhouti: “Everyone is only on their phone these days. We hope people will come out of their homes to meet each other.”