By Nasreddine Djebbi, IOL Correspondent
THE HAGUE , October 9, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – A Dutch woman has reverted to Islam in a live interview on a Muslim-oriented radio in the Netherlands .
Meranda Houtenbos asked the presenter on Nio radio to make public her reversion with the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in the northwestern European country.
The 26-year-old woman was invited to the program to opine on Islam and Muslims in view of spreading stereotypes fueled by media and the rightists.
Raised Catholic, Houtenbos said she started reading about the Muslim faith after it had come under the spotlight in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
“I preferred reading to giving my ear to media,” she said. “My Muslim friends have made the task easier for me and gave me books written by trustworthy scholars.”
“It was also thanks to a mosque nearby, whose imam has answered many of my questions.”
Radio Nio took to the airwaves on September 4 as a special service for Dutch Muslims. It is aimed at removing wrong notions on Muslims.
Muslims in Holland —estimated at one million out of the country’s 16 million—have established over the past 30 years hundreds of religious, social, and cultural organizations, many of which receive grants from the Dutch authorities.
Houtenbos said she embraced Islam out of her own volition.
“Every person is entitled to choose his/her religion and I have singled out Islam,” she said in an impromptu interview.
She touched on clashes with her family over the new religion and how they tried hard to convince her to backtrack on her decision.
“Of course I feel alienated from my family, and my parents refused to cope with this new reality.”
Rami Sukraman, the imam who was present during the interview, said more Dutch people are reverting to Islam from all walks of life.
“Scientists, doctors, students and teachers have embraced Islam recently,” he told IslamOnline.net Sunday, October 9.
“At least one Dutch reverts to Islam monthly in my mosque,” he added.
Sukrman called on the new reverts to take difficulties into their strides and maintain close ties with their families no matter how harsh they treated them.
Rafik Ahmad Vris, who reverted to Islam in 1960s, said his parents had thought of embracing Islam at that time when they saw themselves how his behavior and life have changed for the better.
“But it’s not that easy nowadays since we see an avalanche of media outlets which tarnish the image of Islam and help spread Islamophobia,” he said.
Dutch Muslims have been experiencing hard times since the killing of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh at the hands of a Dutch-Moroccan.
Arsons on mosques and verbal assaults drove Europe ’s main rights and democracy watchdog, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to express concern in August at the increasing Dutch intolerance towards Muslims and the “climate of fear” under which the minority was living.