Soroush’s dissertation De institutionele reproductie van salafistische jongeren in Nederland (‘The institutional reproduction of Salafist youth in the Netherlands’) caused quite a commotion when it was published in September. Over a three-year period, the Iranian-Dutch sociologist conducted participatory research at 24 Islamic institutions. He concluded that in any case, 14 of them were Salafist, and that there was an anti-democratic bias to be found in the vast majority of this group.


Subsequently, complaints were made by four of the institutions. Among the points raised in their complaints, the institutions denied they were Salafist in any way, and they expressed doubts regarding the researcher’s integrity. This led to Tilburg University’s Executive Board commissioning the university’s Scientific Integrity Committee to launch an investigation led by Utrecht University’s professor Ton Hol.

In the report released today, the committee asserts that the researcher is “culpably negligent” if he concludes that the majority of institutions he described were Salafist. The committee members are also critical of the role played by the researcher’s promotor and copromotor.

The university paper Univers has identified them respectively as Ruben Gowricharn, currently professor by special appointment at VU University Amsterdam, and the Tilburg-based Arabist Jan Jaap de Ruiter; they should have anticipated the criticism of this dissertation, stated the committee, and they could have shielded the researcher from criticism by “inducing him to not include unfounded qualifications in his dissertation or by providing a more detailed context for these qualifications”. The committee also expressed criticism regarding the manner in which De Ruiter approached the media with the dissertation upon its publication.


Tilburg University’s Executive Board has told the researcher to not further distribute the dissertation without including the findings of the Hol Committee, and instructed him to publish retractions in two anthropological journals. The board saw insufficient cause to revoke his title of doctor. Even though the researcher’s actions were ‘culpably negligent’, there is no reason to cast doubts regarding his ethical intentions.

Promotor Gowricharn will no longer be appointed as a promotor or member of a Tilburg University doctoral committee. His current employer, the VU University Amsterdam board, will be informed of this decision. Copromotor De Ruiter will be formally reprimanded. The executive board also announced that in the future, PhD candidates and external PhD candidates will be better prepared for their research project and there would be an increased focus on issues related to academic integrity in their training.

The subjects of the inquiry now have six weeks to lodge an appeal with the National Board for Research Integrity.