(MENAFN - Arab Times) The fifth annual Dutch Muslim Converts Day was held in the city of Utrecht on Sunday during which four Dutch women and one Dutch man announced their conversion to Islam. The conference was held with the support of the Centre for Cross Cultural Dialogue of Kuwait. It was addressed by many speakers, including Dr Jamal Badawi, a well-known Egyptian-born Canadian Islamic preacher and attended by a large number of Muslims from several European countries.
Noureddine Steenvorden, a social worker from the Dutch Platform for New Muslims, converted to Islam eight years ago. "I always believed in God but I didn't find a way to express my beliefs. So when I met some Muslims at my work and I saw the way they lived and the way they balanced religion in daily life and at home, I found that the ways Islam portrays God was the way I thought about God," he told the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA.
Steenvorden noted that there is a growing group of Dutch people who are interested in Islam. About two months ago an 83-year old Christian man became Muslim. He said he went to Kuwait two years ago following an invitation by the Islamic Presentation Committee to participate in a conference on new European Muslim converts.
"This conference in Kuwait was a helpful in a number of ways. It helped us experience what to be a Muslim is in a Muslim country. This is very important for us because we never grew up hearing the Adhan (the call to prayer). We experienced brotherhood and we got knowledge," he said.
Another young Dutch convert Jeroem Schilder, who works as counsellor for local councils and youth organisations, said he embraced Islam six years ago. "What convinced me in Islam was the oneness of God in a very unique way," he told KUNA. Schilder also participated in the Kuwait conference two years ago. "I liked the conference in Kuwait as it helped me to understand the role Islam plays in society. They give you a lot of tools so when you come back to the Netherlands you are better equipped to discuss about Islam," he said.
Stefanie Danopoulos' mother is Dutch and father Greek and she was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church. "For me Islam has an answer for all my questions. Why I live, where I am going when I am dead. In Islam you find peace. When bad things happen to you, you say Allah is testing me and I have to be patient," she told KUNA. Danopoulos also participated in the Kuwait conference two years ago. "There I had a good feeling about Islam. I liked the ways they were behaving and the men and women were so open. I changed my idea about Islam when I was in Kuwait. I think everybody should go to Kuwait and stay there for two weeks to see that you can be modern and a good Muslim," said Dianopoulos whose husband is also a Dutch Muslim.
Another Dutch woman Nancy Berk said she converted officially to Islam two years ago but she has been learning and thinking about Islam since fifteen years. Since she converted to Islam, Berk said, she feels an inner peace but relations with her family is tense. Berk told KUNA that she divorced her husband who was a born-Muslim because he was not practising Islam.
There are no official figures of the number of Muslims in the Netherlands. It is estimated that one million Muslims from Morocco, Turkey, Surinam and other countries are living in the country. The population of the Netherlands is around 17 million.
Lee Ravenberg whose mother is Dutch but father from Surinam said he became Muslim two years ago. He told KUNA that when the anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders claimed that "Islam is evil" he started investigating about Islam. Ravenger, who is studying computers, said he was convinced about the message of Islam which is the submission to God. "In order to be successful in this world and the hereafter you need to be obedient to your creator," he stressed.
Jamal Al-Shatti, board member of the Centre for Cross Cultural Dialogue of Kuwait, told KUNA that It is a new Centre to promote dialogue with non Muslims and secondly to take care of new coverts to Islam.
"This conference is one of the events supported by the Centre," said Al-Shatti. "We take care of the new Muslims by giving them positive knowledge to live in his country as good citizens and a positive outlook. This great responsibility can be best carried out when our fellow Muslims in these countries are trained and educated with the proper knowledge necessary for the success of this task," he said. He added that the message of Islam is best received by people when it is delivered by one of their own.
The Centre provides focused training in proficient organizational work, community development, and building a global network connection between Muslims in the West, noted Al-Shatti.