In 1879, 100% of the Dutch population was religious, 95% was Christian (Roman Catholic or Protestant), and 6% had a different religion, mostly Jewish.
In 1889, we see the first case of people calling themselves non-religious (2%) in the statistics. Since then, the number of non-religious people has increased to more than half of the population (50.7% in 2017).

Another trend that can be seen is an increase in Islamic people, which is a religion that the first generation of guest workers brought with them. The Netherlands now has second-generation and third-generation Islamic migrants as well. Their numbers are fairly stable, around 4.9% of the population.

noeroel moskee
Migrants coming to the Netherlands has also led to changes in culture and in norms and values. A few examples:

  • Most autochthonous Dutch people think it is respectful to look someone in the eye when you talk to them, while this can be seen as impolite in other cultures. Especially when talking to older people, it can be seen as rude. This is the case in Surinam and Moroccan circles, among others.

  • When autochthonous Dutch people behave in a way they see as assertive, for example by bluntly sharing their honest opinions, this is often seen as rude and impertinent to cultures like the Antilles.

  • While guests are usually expected to go home around dinnertime in the Netherlands, the expectation in many other countries is that visitors to stay for dinner.

  • This is the most well-known example of culture clash for some: In 2004, Rita Verdonk (a member of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) visited a mosque in Tilburg. When she greeted the imam (the prayer leader of a mosque) and tried to shake his hand, he refused. This was big news in the media. She thought that the imam disrespected Dutch norms and values. The imam explained that he does not shake women’s hands in his religion, to avoid temptation.

  • One of the biggest conflicts between many autochthonous Dutch people and people with a migration background is the discussion about Zwarte Piet (‘Black Pete’), which is part of the Dutch Sinterklaas celebration. In 2013, a Facebookpage called Pietitie – with the slogan “Don’t let the best tradition of the Netherlands disappear” – gained over 2 million likes. Opponents started a campaign called “Zwarte Piet is racist”.

Political parties
The increasing number of migrants has also changed the political landscape in the Netherlands. The first person with a migration background in the House of Representatives was John Lilipaly. He is originally from the Moluccas and was in the House for the Dutch Labour Party from 1986 to 1998. By the end of 2018, there were sixteen people with a migration background in the House of Representatives. Some of them have parents who were born in Turkey or Morocco, and some came from countries like Iran and Afghanistan. Some of them are second-generation or third-generation migrants who were born in the Netherlands, like Malik Azmani from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and Mustafa Amhaouch from the Christian Democratic Party.


A new factor on the political landscape came in the form of Islamic parties. Islamic parties have not won any seats in the House of Representatives so far, but they have won local elections in cities like Rotterdam and Den Haag.

The political party Denk, which has been in the House of Representatives since 2017, is not an Islamic party, but the three members in the House are proud of their Islamic and migration backgrounds. The key issues that Denk fights for are reducing racism and discrimination against migrants and increasing awareness of the Dutch history of migration and slavery.

In an attempt to stop multiculturalism and Islam, the Party for Freedom was created, which has been represented in the House of Representatives since 2006. In September of 2018, the Party for Freedom proposed a new law that would make Islamic expression illegal. Mosques, Islamic schools, and people who own the Quran would be punished with a maximum of five years in prison. This proposal from the Party for Freedom was only supported by one other party: the Forum for Democracy. This party also rejects our multicultural society and proposed a law called the Dutch Values Protection Act.

1) Banning Islam goes against the constitution. Which articles forbid banning Islam?
2) What do you think are ‘Dutch values’? Give one or more examples.