The youth organisation Muslimische Jugend in Deutschland (MJD)/Muslim Youth in Germany was founded in 1994 and has gained popularity in recent year especially among the very religious of young Muslims. The organisation has local groups (so called Lokalkreise) in many German cities. On average, the around 900 registered members are well educated and between 13 and 30 years old, but the organisation explicitly addresses all Muslims regardless of nationality and background. On their website, the MJD describe themselves as “multicultural”, “Islamic” and “hip”.
Each year, around 1,000 young Muslims participate in the annual meeting, which offers a wide range of activities: A rap workshop, origami class and Quran reading as well as debates with representatives from Greenpeace (in 2008) or with a member of the Central Council of Jews (in 2009).
The MJD is under observation of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, who accuse it of having personal and organisational links to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Germany and Europe. For this reason, the Ministry of Family Affairs and Youth cut their funding towards the MJD in 2003. In the past years, the Muslim youth organisation has tried to regain the confidence for example by incorporating non-Islamic civil actors such as for interreligious dialogue.
But discussion on the organisation’s youth work continues. Indeed, the MJD reaches out to a young and religious audience that does not feel represented by conventional youth work and neither by the classic mosque communities. But their positions touch upon moderately Islamist views: Many of the MJD’s events are gender segregated and religious commands are usually interpreted in the narrow framework of traditional Islamic scholars. Critics therefore accuse the MJD of uniformity and question whether the organisation helps to integrate young Muslims into the German society or whether it actually prevents this.
A controversial project to build a mosque in Bologna has been scrapped, due to lack of agreement from local Muslims concerning two key conditions. The city’s Islamic Cultural Centre failed to reply to a letter laying town two essential conditions for the mosque to go ahead; the city’s councillor, Virginio Merola says this indicated a disagreement with the city council over the project. The city council’s letter asked for (1) a foundation to be set up to ensure transparency over funding for the planned mosque, and (2) that Bologna’s Muslim community distance itself from Italy’s largest Muslim group – the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy (UCOII). While plans for the mosque construction have now fallen through, Bologna’s Islamic Cultural Centre says it remains committed to building the mosque, despite opposition. A former coordinator for the mosques in the Emilia Romagna region, Hasan Giulio Soravia , criticized leaders for failing to break away from the UCOII, the largest Muslim group in Italy. The UCOII has many members that belong to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, and as such, Muslim projects in Italy have been encouraged to sever ties with the association. However, Soravia remains hopeful, that Muslims in Italy will e able to forge their own Islam that distances itself from the logic of Arab states.
Souad Sbai, the president of the Association of Moroccan Women in Italy claims that some Muslim women in the north of the country are being kept chained in their homes. Sbai also claims that Egypt’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood organization is slowly infiltrating Italian politics. In northern Italy, there are women that live chained at home, from the kitchen to the bathroom, without being able to open the door,” she said. Her claims took place during the presentation of a new book by Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, called _The Cost of the Veil – Islam’s War Against Women.’ Sbai praised the book as a gift to Muslim women who have suffered or died at the hands of extremism.