Rotterdam—Politicized Religion

  • Carolina Ivanescu
Part of the Religion and Global Migrations book series (RGM)


“Europe’s first immigrant mayor for a big city would be a ‘Moroccan job chaser’ who ‘sleeps in an Ajax pajamas’ at home, according to Ronald Sørensen, chairman of the Leefbaar Rotterdam group in the Rotterdam city council,” reported NRC Handelsblad (NRC) , one of the main Dutch newspapers, in September 2009. “The first Muslim mayor of Europe,” as the Moroccan born Ahmed Aboutaleb was called, during an incident close to his appointment as mayor of Rotterdam in 2008, by the president of the right wing nationalist party, Leefbaar Rotterdam (LR), is a turn of phrase that captures the complex image of intertwined categories and collective identities relevant in the politics of contemporary liberal democracies. In the eyes of his political opponents, and also of the more general public and the media, it was a Muslim, the son of an imam and a former deputy mayor of Amsterdam (hence the Ajax link), who was named responsible for the role of the state in the city of Rotterdam, orchestrating the local government, and linking the national and the local. But one of the tensions behind this rhetoric (which was soon revoked) was the lack of ease concerning issues of national loyalty and citizenship, voiced through concerns raised by the mayor’s possession of both a Dutch as well as a Moroccan passport. “Should a Moroccan born mayor be considered one of us?,” asked LR, talking on behalf of the native working-class population of Rotterdam (NRC , 2009 Sept.11).


City Council Religious Organization Muslim Woman Migrant Woman Integration Policy 
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© Carolina Ivanescu 2016

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  • Carolina Ivanescu

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