Young Muslims practice less religion than their parents

According to a large-scale sociological research conducted by the University of Utrecht Muslim youth in the Netherlands are secularizing. Belief is less important to them then to their parents. They also practice the Islamic rules and practices less. Of girls of whom their mothers wear headscarves one third does not. Almost a third of the boys goes less to the mosque than their fathers.

The research does show however that the process of secularization is slower in comparison to Christian youth. Even though secularization is proceeding religion remains important to a large part of the Muslim youth. For tree quarters of them belief is at least as important to them as to their parents. “This identification as Muslim remains strong amongst youth but the practicing of religious requirements is decreasing”, according to professor of sociology Frank van Tubergen who conducted the research.

A link to the digital version of the research mentioned in this article can be found here:

[press release] Declaration on the occasion of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2016

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) held a series of meetings throughout the period of several months with women, French citizens of the Muslim faith, who are engaged in their communities and in civil society.

The objective of this dialogue and exchanges is to understand the visions, the expectations, and the suggestions of Muslim women, and to examine, together, the problems linked to the condition of women within society.

At the end of the last meeting, which was held Saturday, March 5, 2016 in Paris, the CFCM and all women who participated would like to remind on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016:

  1. That since the beginning of Islam, women acquired and merit full legal status and that the Sainted Qur’an, Message of Wisdom and Equity, confers complete equality for men and women. “Women have the same rights as the men have on them in accordance with the generally known principles.” (Coran, 2:228)
  2. That it is established in Islam, without argument, the spiritual equality between man and woman and that there can be no limits to their spiritual progress.
  3. That man and woman come from a vital essence both the same and different, they are equal in humanity. To this, the Prophet proclaimed: “Women are like men.”
  4. That the Muslim woman plays a primordial role in society, that she must assume this role, without reservation, or constraint. Also, in regards to professional life, Islam advocates for the equality of salaries for workers, men and women, who hold the same job. This underlines the notion of equality among man/woman that is actively sought today in the work and business world.
  5. That the right to express their opinions on public, social, and religious affairs was recognized by Muslims since the advent of Islam. In effect, women can share their thoughts and choices on any public position. Also, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, second Caliph after the Prophet, entrusted the position of sales manager of contracts and purchases of Medina to a woman, Shifa Bint Abdullah, one of the rare people versed in art and writing in a society dominated by illiteracy; he also entrusted a woman to run the Market of Mecca, Samra Bint Nouhayl.
  6. That Islam gave man and woman their respective rights and obligations that allowed them to live in harmony. Sadly, in many cases, the principles of equality and equity are not respected by the Men who, at times, continue to impose their point of view. It is therefore necessary to continue to support pedagogy, study, and education so that Muslim women are not the objects of discrimination and submission.

The CFCM and the participating women proclaim on this occasion their solidarity with all women, of any faith and belief.

They reaffirm their commitment to work for the emancipation and development of the role of women in French society for today and tomorrow.

UAMO organizes third annual meeting

March 12, 2016

On Saturday the Muslim community of Orléans gathered at the Parc des expositions for a day dedicated to “faith and responsibility.” Tariq Ramadan took part in the annual event, which included round table discussions.

The Union of Muslim Associations of Orléans (UAMO) described the day as a “cultural” event, which scholars and exhibitors attended. “Faith and Responsibility: a requirement,” was the theme of the conferences and round table discussions.

For speakers, the UAMO invited several noted intellectuals: sheikh Fatih Aksay (youth and radicalization) and Michèle Sibony, vice-president of the French Jewish Union for Peace (in Palestine) and the (very controversial) professor of Islamic studies Tariq Ramadan.

The initiative aimed to encourage “active participations of the Muslim community of Orléans.” The UAMO, created in 2013, is comprised of nine associations present at the conference for “a platform offered to those living in the Central-Val de Loire region, so that they can express themselves, share and bring about a new future.”

Islamic Theology: Turning over a new page

Theology and paedagogy can offer young Muslims a better alternative to the hate preachers operating on the sidelines of the faith. By Harry Harun Behr

In 2010, the German Council of Science and Humanities recommended introducing the subject of Islamic theology to German universities. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research recently decided to continue the funding. How is this relatively young subject faring today?

Theology entails academic research into the fundamentals of religion. It serves a clarifying function, and this makes the subject interesting. German Islamic theology is not only appealing to Muslim intellectuals from the nations between Casablanca and Surabaya. Under the heading “Dialogue with the Islamic world” it is also integral to foreign cultural policy.

Take an example from Tunisia. Last year, social scientists gathered for a conference in Sousse. They discussed Islam and politics in the countries affected by the Arab Spring movements, which had in the meantime yielded so many disappointing outcomes. I was asked to speak about how religious, pedagogical and political-scientific theories arise. Verses of the Koran describe how emotional and social motives can be skewed in conflicts. The interesting point here is that the question of faith itself is secondary. Expertise, pragmatism and questions of religious epistemology take precedence.

No Islamisation of the secular constitution

With respect to the constitutional discourse taking place in Arab nations, participants reached a consensus: there should be no Islamisation of the secular constitution; sharia should be seen, in the literal theological sense, as standard Islamic guidelines and methodology; the code needs to be re-formulated in accordance with democratic, civil society and constitutional standards.

Firstly, the Koran’s discourse on humanity, the world and God has a cultural-historical predetermined breaking point: sacred texts divulge how religion and law were negotiated at the time of their emergence and elsewhere. But the Koran is also grounded in a third domain, which lies between the religious and the secular: in the non-negotiable human norms of the moral good. This is where the timeless dimension of the Koran is unfolds. From a historical point of view, it is both the outcome and the starting point of theology.

This ushers in an anthropological turning point in Islamic theology, which should not be seen as a renunciation of the religious traditions of Islam, but as a shift in the controls: less traditionalism, a greater understanding of the situations in which people live, less bondage to the collective, strengthening of the individual, away from Islam as a particular system and closer to Islam as a resource that enriches life.

More courage to focus on intellect and reason

The intention is to mobilise the ethical substance of Islam within the universal perspective. This also involves how the Koran is applied. Where the early Koranic commentator at-Tabari was still searching for clear meaning in the 9thcentury, the Persian Fachruddin ar-Razi was asking about the intention of the interpreter some 300 years later.

This marked an initial move away from the surface of the Koran into the depth of its meaning. Today the focus should be on citing the Koran in its own informative tradition. Having greater courage to focus on intellect and reason is the right way to respond to apotheosis of the document. Incidentally, there is nothing significant on this in the Koran, which describes Muhammad as “the entirety of the oration” (jawami’ al-quran).

Consequently, Islamic theology should give orientation. With its introduction to the canon of university disciplines comes a cultural-political expectation: its translation into existing cultural codes and its involvement in the public discourse on overall concepts. These may currently seen to be flaring up owing to the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne.

The latter leads on us to the question of what has to happen in the biography of a man for him to only experience sexual arousal in the context of violence. Such behaviour is associated with totalitarian structures in which ethical and moral codes are perverted to enforce assimilation. The fragmentation of physical and emotional identities this produces is thus also a problem for political systems in which Islam is used to legitimise injustice.

With this in mind, Islamic theology is continually required to grapple with phenomena that are not a result of Islamic traditions, but arguably of Muslim living environments. The romantic fantasies of girls, who glorify the IS terror militia among other reasons because it appears to them to be the best way to liberate themselves from patriarchal submission is another issue.

From a material to a functional understanding of religion

Herein lies one of the missions of Islamic religious tuition. It does not help to make young Muslims believe that all these terrible things have nothing to do with Islam, that God is actually really nice and Muhammad is an Arab Father Christmas. Some things are so wrong that not even the converse is right. Positive discriminatory constructions are rejected by Muslim students just as much as negative ones.

Hiding behind shrill contradictions helps just as little as token Muslims at flashy conferences, because this only serves to fuel the loss of normality. Spiritual vulnerability drives many Muslim youngsters to make themselves experts on Islam even if they are not at all religious. They look for answers and want neither sermons nor soapboxes.

To cite a concrete example: the new core curricula in the state of Hessen for secondary level Islamic studies are courageous in this regard. They gently shift the controls from the material to the functional understanding of religion, because the focus is not on the special features of a religion, but on religious learning as intellectual agility in aesthetic, spiritual and analytical matters.

That this is happening with the blessing of two notoriously conservative Islamic communities is only baffling upon first glance: Hessen is thus far the only federal state to have granted them religious community status.

They now need to grow into the shoes in which they find themselves put. And as a result they are looking to academic theology for assistance. In this respect, the ministry’s strategy has paid off. It is time, with the help of Islamic theology and pedagogy, to offer the better alternative to that which claims from the sidelines to be the true Islam. Only then is faith in the universal sociological standard justified – that nonsense will not prevail.

Harry Harun Behr

© Sueddeutsche Zeitung 2016

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

Americans may be getting less religious, but feelings of spirituality are on the rise

The phrase “spiritual but not religious” has become widely used in recent years by some Americans who are trying to describe their religious identity. While Pew Research Center does not categorize survey respondents in such a way, our surveys do find that the U.S. public overall appears to be growing a bit less religious – but also somewhat more spiritual.

Americans have become less religious in recent years by standard measures such as how important they say religion is to them and their frequency of religious service attendance and prayer. But, at the same time, the share of people across a wide variety of religious identities who say they often feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being as well as a deep sense of wonder about the universe has risen.

Manufacturer stands by policy on Muslim prayer breaks

MILWAUKEE — An American-Islamic civil liberties group is asking a Wisconsin manufacturer to back away from a policy that doesn’t allow an extra break for prayer for Muslim employees.

Ariens Co., however, said Tuesday that it can handle the matter internally and that it’s not interested in negotiating through the Council for America-Islamic Relations.

The friction comes after 53 workers left their jobs in protest after the company decided to enforce a policy of two 10-minute breaks per work shift. The workers, all of whom are of Somali descent, who joined the company last summer through an employment services contractor in Green Bay. Ariens — which is based in Brillion, about 90 miles north of Milwaukee — initially had allowed the newly hired Muslim employees to leave their work stations a third time to accommodate Muslim prayers.

Racial and Religious Identities Collide Leaving Black Muslims Overlooked

As pundits, political strategists and talking heads debate Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, there is one group of individuals still left out of the conversation.
African American Muslims are reacting to the statements of the GOP front-runner from a different set of lenses; lenses that not only involve their religious identity, but also their racial identity — realities often overlooked and neglected in such conversations.
It is a sentiment shared by many within the African American Muslim community, Kameelah Rashad points out. For a very long time, she says, the public imagination of what is Muslim has excluded Black Muslims.
“Part of the reason is because people want Islam to be foreign to them – outside,” she told NBCBLK. “But my ancestors built this country. I usually lead with, ‘Hi, I am a descendent of enslaved Africans brought to this country by your people.'”

British jihadist in Syria: ‘I’m fighting Islamic State and Assad’

Sitting in Syria, and speaking via the internet, “Abu Dujana” told me: “I’m not a big fan of the suicide attack or exploding oneself.” But after giving it careful consideration, the British Muslim convert said he was prepared to be martyred, to kill himself for his cause.

He is perhaps in his mid-20s, has been fighting in Syria with the Islamic Front for the past three years, and comes from “somewhere’ in England. He came, he says, with the intention of giving humanitarian help, but soon picked up a gun. His identity is hidden, the biographical details are scarce, because he realises that by killing in Syria, he risks arrest at home. Yet, still, he could be the British government’s ally on the battlefield against the so-called Islamic State group.

Prime Minister David Cameron believes there are 70,000 “moderate” rebels fighting in Syria – a figure that many believe is an overestimate – ready to face IS, also known as Isis, Isil or Daesh. Abu Dujana is one of those moderate rebels. He meets Britain’s “moderate” criteria on two points: first, that he’s prepared renounce terrorism, and second, that he will accept a post-conflict Syria that includes all faiths and religions.

David Cameron admits it is too much to ask for “ideal partners” in the fight in Syria, and has asked: “Do we wait for perfection?” Abu Dujana sees fighting in Syria as his religious duty – jihad – but says he’s no different from other British citizens who have gone to fight IS and that he should be treated the same.

More than 700 Britons have gone to Syria to fight, mostly with IS, but no-one knows how many have taken up arms with other groups.