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Religion and the immigrant experience


How can we explain that Islamic immigrants from Turkey used to adopt a more negative attitude towards Dutch society than Christians from the same country, and even the same region? How come they were less successful? It seems natural to sug-gest that this has something to do with the most conspicuous difference between the two groups: their religion. But if this is the case, how does one explain that the same group of Christian immigrants from Turkey has had much more success in settling in Sweden than in Germany or the Netherlands? Should we not also look at factors such as the government policy towards immigrants and the attitude of the receptor society? And what is the role of religious institutions in all this? Do they facilitate or constrain immigrant adaptation?
This course discusses the scholarly debate on these matters (mainly in the United States), and introduces the student to our own fieldwork in this area, based on the experience of members of Christian minorities who left the Middle East and are now living in Europe and the Americas.


  • Developing an awareness of the possible roles of religion as part of the immigrant experience, and its limitations

  • Determining one’s own position in this debate Developing an awareness of the role of religious institutions and faith communities in facilitating and constraining immigrant adaptation

  • Getting acquainted with Leiden fieldwork in Diaspora communities of Eastern Christians such as the Coptic and Syriac Orthodox (Assyrians) Developing presentation and writing skills

Required reading

  • Michael W. Foley and Dean R. Hoge, Religion and the New Immigrants: How Faith Communities Form Our Newest Citizens (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Additional articles to be announced.


Register for this course through Blackboard. Go to “Courses”; under “Course catalog” choose “Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen (2009-2010)”, where you will find this class under “Wereldgodsdiensten” (World Religions). Click the “enroll” button.


Dit vak is onderdeel van het keuzevakkenpakket Migration, Society and the Individual, keuzetraject (minor i.o.) op het gebied van de multiculturele samenleving. Dit wordt in samenwerking met de Faculteit Letteren en de Faculteit der Sociale wetenschappen (FSW) georganiseerd.

Voor meer informatie, neem contact op met:

  • prof. dr. R.B. Ter Haar-Romeny, email:

  • studiecoördinaat: Elizabeth den Boer, email: