In the shadow of tolerance: The discursive context of dutch-born muslim youth

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Despite a public discourse on tolerance, anxiety about immigrants, Islam and the preservation of Dutch values has amplified fear of Muslim youth in the Netherlands. In this context, Dutch-born Muslim youth endure social and systemic discrimination that affects all aspects of their futures, including available educational opportunities and eventually their prospects for employment. Based on a one-year qualitative study conducted in Amsterdam, this article explores the lived experience of Dutch-born Muslim youth caught at the intersection of national policies and local realities. Grounded in critical literature originating in the Netherlands and in Europe, this inquiry triangulates participant observations, focus groups with youth (n = 25) and interviews with youth workers (n = 25) to disclose the hostile discursive contexts faced by Muslim youth. Findings indicate that anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant discourses permeate the everyday experiences of Muslim youth, including the practices and structures of youth programs they attend. The study raises questions about multicultural policies that appear progressive and attempt to build social cohesion but may in fact further alienate and oppress Muslim youth. It also reveals how Muslim youth navigate oppression by agentically constructing their identities while resisting the dehumanizing categories in which they are placed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-123
Number of pages13
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


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