Netherlands: Study of Muslim youth

For many young Muslims religion is not something that seriously engages them in daily life. They feel Muslim, show themselves as such by wearing a headscarf for example and keeping Ramadan, and think the laws of Islam are important. But they don't observe them strictly, certainly not if they are yet young.

That is one of the trends among young Moroccans, Turks and Muslim Surinamese, described in Geloof en Geluk (Faith and Happiness), a study about tradition and renewal among young Muslims by the Institute for Multicultural Development FORUM.

Researchers of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) interviewed 32 'key figures' from Amsterdam (students, middle school students and working youth, educators, social workers, neighborhood agents and volunteers in the mosque). Through their network they got insight into the world of about 900 young Muslims 15-29 years old.

The youth emphasized more and more strongly that they, besides being Muslims, are Dutch citizens. They talked easily about mutual differences in religious notions, although it isn't appreciated if other Muslims openly talk against Islam.

(Click to enlarge)

Young Muslims could appreciate fellow youth who took religion seriously, provided that they also followed the religious laws strictly. Korf: "The feeling that you have with a nun; you respect them, but you shouldn't think of it yourself."

The orthodox colleagues shouldn't be intrusive. Dirk Korf: "Most young Muslims really like Western freedoms." They must not radicalize or preach violence. Support for such youth has dropped in recent years, the researchers observe. Particularly because radical fanatics stand in the way of faith and happiness for young Muslims.

'Faith and happiness' is a follow up study to 'Van Vasten tot Feesten' (From fasts to holidays, 2007), that studied particularly trends among highly educated Muslim youth in the Netherlands and ''Van Allah tot Prada' (From Allah to Prada, 2006), which studied the life of all Muslim youth. 'Faith and happiness' concentrated on the lower educated Muslim youth (MBO, vocational education). Besides the study of key figures, 347 Muslim students (from ROCs in Amsterdam and The Hague) answered a questionnaire. The age of ROC students is 16-20 [ROC gives adult vocational training]. These youth adhere more to the laws of religion than students and adolescents.

Of the ROC students, 85% agreed with the following statement: "Muslim means for me particularly that I keep the laws of the faith." 12.5% of ROC students visits mosques often, 15% regularly and most (67%) goes now and then to rarely, a small group never.

Less than half (42%) prays often, 17% regularly, 33% now and then to raraely and 9% never. In comparison with ROC students, twice as many students never go to a mosque, and twice as many never pray. At the same time, almost half of ROC students think it's more important to be a good man than to precisely follow the religious laws.

Dirk Korf, UvA researcher: "Saying that you think the religious laws are important is yet somewhat different than also actually following them. Praying five times a day is one law. But also doing it is a second. If they're in the tram or apprenticing, prayer loses. They do say often that later, when they're older, they will keep the laws."

A process of renewals and individualizing is visible particularly among highly educated adolescents: they more often live independently and less often leave home only when they get married. Notions of marriage are changing, youth more often think they should be able to choose their own partner. They also think differently about emancipation: many youth think that married women should be able to continue working. Girls lead, particularly Turks. Boys don't escape growing as well, though they stay more traditional in their attitudes, particularly Turkish boys. "The Turkish boys and Turkish girls will yet have trouble when they'll marry," says UvA researcher Dirk Korf.

Because Muslim youth prefer marrying somebody from their own group. 67% of ROC students think it's more important that their future partner have the same ethnicity as their own, almost 25% say it doesn't matter so much and 10% think it's not important at all.

For most ROC students it's important that their future partner be Muslim (91%). Barely 3% think it's not important. 80% of ROC students think their children shouldn't decide on their own whether to be Muslim or not, 10% think the children should decide and 10% are in between.

Resarcher Marije Wouters, who administered the ROC questionnaire, thought the youth were markedly decent youth. Also the Moroccon youth, who think they appear too often negatively in the news due to a group of trouble makers. Wouters: ""They all have black jackets with colored collars, shaved necks and black cap on their heads, they look a bit like loitering youth. but they fill in the questionnaire seriously and say 'please ma'am'.

And most are (very) optimistic (73%) about their future, which they see in the Netherlands. On average the ROC students estimate their chances of living in the Netherlands in five years at 82%. Wouters: "After the MBO they want to go further with an HBO education, have great expectations of life and they will go do it."

Source: NRC, FORUM (Dutch)


Iftikhar Ahmad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Esther said...


If you want to advertise on this blog, please contact me.