Until March 12, 2022, the poster wall of the Hague Municipal Archive contains the exhibition Charles van Beetem Mohammed Ali (1879-1938) – a naval man and pre-war Islam in The Hague.

Charles van Beetem Mohammed Ali (1879-1938)
The Netherlands has centuries of experience with Islam through the former colony of the Dutch East Indies. Before the Second World War, hundreds of Muslims lived in The Hague. Already at the beginning of the twentieth century there were discussions about the possibility of establishing a mosque and an Islamic cemetery in the Netherlands. The first initiative was taken in The Hague by Charles van Beetem Mohammed Ali (1879-1938), a Dutch converted to Islam.

Just across the border at Oldenzaal is the small town of Salzbergen. There (formerly known as Prussia) was the cradle of Jean Louis Charles van Beetem. When he was born on July 8, 1879, he was given the nickname Charles. The addition Mohammed Ali is from half a century later, when he converted to Islam as a grown man. Charles van Beetem grew up in a large Roman Catholic family with two girls and seven boys.

Charles left home at a young age. From Delfzijl he left for Leiden in 1893 to attend the Kweekschool voor de Zeevaart, a training institute for the lowest ranks in the Royal Netherlands Navy. Charles van Beetem made two trips with the Royal Navy to the Dutch East Indies and one to Curaçao. The voyages with the navy to the Dutch East Indies and his stay in the East, made a great impression on him. His further life would be determined by what he had seen there…

Research, text and composition: Dr. Corien Glaudemans
Met dank aan: Prof. Dr. Umar Ryad, Marine Museum Den Helder, Nederlands Instituut Militaire Historie (NIMH), Tropenmuseum, Koninklijke Bibliotheek Den Haag en Kadoc Erfgoed – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Visual material from the collections of The Hague Municipal Archives, unless stated otherwise.
Design: Jerney de Jong
Printing: Guthschmidt