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The End of Tolerance?

Prof. dr. James Kennedy (Amsterdam University)


If there is one word with which Dutch history is associated, it is its fabled tolerance, especially during it Golden Age. That seems to be in short supply now, with many Dutch actively questioning how good it actually is to practice forbearance toward those with unacceptable ideals. This is especially the case in respect to Islam. The Dutch model of principled pluralism - in which each religious minority was given great leeway to organize its own affairs - is under pressure. This presentation offers a bird's eye view of the Dutch history of tolerance, showing what that concept has  - and has not - meant.  Then it focuses on more recent developments: the unchurching of the Netherlands, the substantial influx of religious immigrants, and the effects all of this has had on Dutch politics, and on Dutch traditions of tolerance.  Finally, it ties the Dutch experience with those in Western Europe, where similar but not identical debates are taking place.

James Kennedy is professor of Dutch history since the Middle Ages at the University of Amsterdam.  An American citizen and trained in the United States, Kennedy has been professor of history in Amsterdam since 2003.  He is particularly specialized in the period after 1945, and has written books about the cultural changes of the 1960s, Dutch euthanasia policy and on the social position of Dutch churches.  He is also a Trouw columnist and a frequent commentator in the media.