The present work explores from a religious-studies perspective the responses of leaders of various religious and humanist
organizations in the Netherlands, both Islamic and non-Islamic, to criticism of Islam. In particular, it asks what the factors
are that shaped those responses. Our focus is on the responses to five expressions that can be seen as critical of Islam and/or
anti-Islamic (henceforth, the Islam-critical expressions):
- the film Submission by Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh and
Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali (August 2004),
- the Danish Cartoon Affair (September 2005 - 2006),
- the film Fitna
by Dutch politician Geert Wilders (March 2008),
- the internet film An Interview with Mohammed by Ehsan Jami (December
- the Swiss ban on the building of minarets (November 2009).
Two types of responses to these expressions can
be distinguished: responses towards the general public and responses towards each other. Our main questions are, first, whether
the leaders have responded in public to the Islam-critical expressions, and second, whether these responses have changed their
The concept of ‘social capital’ is important in this regard. According to the American sociologist Robert
Putnam, the term ‘social capital’ refers to connections between people (as friends, neighbours, strangers), groups, and organizations,
as well as to the standards of mutual trust and engagement which these connections engender. Putnam lucidly distinguishes
between two types of social capital, i.e. bonding and bridging social capital. The present study focuses on the bridging type:
the social relationship between institutions. Such relationships have at least two dimensions, that is participation and trust.
The present study limits itself to the dimension of participation, i.e., contacts and collaboration. We try to establish whether
and how the above-mentioned expressions have affected the contacts and cooperation between religious and humanist institutions
and to which factors this can be attributed.