Rotterdam , Netherlands

Urban Citizenship and Identity

Erasmus University

March 5, 2009

"Integration is a concept from the past. "Contribution" is the concept of the future." - Dr. Tariq Ramadan

September 2009. It has come to our attention that Dr. Ramadan has been removed from his posts as community adviser to the city of Rotterdam and visiting lecturer on religion at Erasmus University. Regardless of this recent turn of events, Cities of Migration remains impressed with the initiative taken by the City of Rotterdam to co-sponsor an academic appointment with the university to help interpret and implement its integration policies and advance its “urban citizenship” model. — Editor, Cities of Migration, September 3, 2009.

Cities around the world are seeking new ways to create and encourage effective dialogue between cultural communities, new immigrants and the larger community.

As part of their efforts, the city of Rotterdam has recruited a high profile and recognized international commentator to draw greater attention to integration issues and foster the sort of proactive discussion that can prevent racial and religious tensions from building.

As a platform for this, the municipality of Rotterdam has provided the funding for the creation of the Chair in “Identity and Citizenship” (Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of History and Arts) at Erasmus University. This Chair is part of the city’s commitment to urban citizenship.

On May 11, 2006 the City announced an official commitment to “Urban Citizenship” in reference to their adoption of an integrated framework for all activities in Rotterdam during the 2006-2010 political term – with a focus on the areas on integration, participation, emancipation and citizenship.

Following on this commitment, on January 1 2007, renowned philosopher and theologian Prof. Dr. Tariq Ramadan was appointed as the Visiting Professor in charge of the Chair: “Citizenship and Identity” at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, a position he will hold for a two year tenure. In this role, he will advise the city of Rotterdam within the context of the “Citizenship, Identity and Sense of Belonging Project.”

Ramadan is a Swiss Muslim academic with a focus in Islamic Theology. He has been ranked by Prospect and Foreign Policy as the 8th most influential contemporary intellectuals in the world. He holds an MA in Philosophy and French literature and PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva. In Cairo, he had training in classic Islamic scholarship at Al-Azhar University.

He is also a Senior Research Fellow at St. Antony’s College (Oxford), Doshisha University (Kyoto, Japan) and at the Lokahi Foundation (London), as professor of Islamic Studies. He is also the president of the European think tank: European Muslim Network (EMN) in Brussels.

Dr. Ramadan is recognised for his reformist views on Islam, including his emphasis on the difference between religion and culture (which he believes are too often confused) and belief that citizenship and religion are separate concepts.

Urban Citizenship for all Rotterdammer

There are over 1 million Muslims living in the Netherlands and they represent 5.8% of the population and are mostly concentrated in the urban areas such as Rotterdam.

The City of Rotterdam hopes that by appointing an international figure to the lead the integration debate it will help to build trust and mutual knowledge between the both Muslims and Non-Muslims. Dr. Ramadan will be working not only at the university but will also bring the debate to schools, mosques and community centres particularly around the issued of education, employment and media and perception.

Ramadan conducted an extensive city tour of Rotterdam in the spring of 2007, asking various groups how to to develop a model of urban citizenship that recognized the contribution of each citizen and could contribute to a collective sense of belonging. Among the programs resulting from this consultation are a series of education initiatives aimed at building bridges between cultural communities.

For example, with Tariq Ramadan’s co-operation, the City of Rotterdam has recently launched the ‘Joining Hands against Forced Marriages’ campaign. The project began as a local initiative led by SPIOR and is aimed primarily at the Muslim community.

The Europe-wide campaign on forced marriage has been launched in other cities, including Brussels, Paris, Madrid, London, Berlin and Bologna. A booklet published by SPIOR about forced marriages has been translated for the purpose of the European campaign into English, German, French, Italian and Spanish and will be distributed in six European countries.

Making it Work for You:

  • Using a high profile figure to champion your cause sends a strong message to your stakeholders.
  • Controversial topics in religion and culture are best met with a proactive, frontal approach that encourages discussion and helps reduce misunderstanding based on lack of information.
  • Sometimes a good idea is untested and may require some risk-taking in the interests of the cause. Calculate the risks and then be bold!
  • The City of Rotterdam's collaboration with the local university strengthens institutional connections and brings increased authority to the cause