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Radicalization Prevention Information Service

Deniz Greschner

is a research assistant at the University of Osnabrück, Institute for Islamic Theology and member of the post-doc research group "Social work in the migration society". In addition, she works here in the research project "Work with girls and women in the context of promoting democracy". Greschner completed the master's degree "European Culture and Economy" at the Ruhr University Bochum. For four years she headed the Dortmund office of the Multicultural Forum, a provider of social work.

The landscape of Muslim organizations in Germany is diverse and in motion. Some Muslim youth organizations make offers for young people - independently of the established mosque umbrella organizations. The article highlights their fields of activity, challenges and perspectives - especially against the background that they are partly financed from funds for prevention work.

Many mosque communities in Germany offer youth work in the form of leisure activities and educational events. (& copy Bob Dmyt from Pixabay)

This article takes a critical look at the fields of activity of Muslim youth organizations and deals with the following questions: How is Muslim youth work outside of Germany defined? What challenges does it face? How can it position itself successfully in the future? Why is it important to deal with it? As part of an ongoing dissertation project, field studies are being carried out (qualitative social research), the first results of which form the basis for this article. The investigation does not claim to be representative.

The subject of the field studies is an organizational sociological analysis of selected Muslim youth organizations and the question of their needs, legitimation strategies and perceptions as well as evaluations of the institutionalized expectations placed on them. Furthermore, the explanations in this article are intended to provide food for thought for the practical and scientific examination of fields of activity of Muslim youth organizations.

The Muslim organizational landscape in Germany is in a constant and rapid process of change. The mosque associations of the established mosque umbrella associations [1] offer a platform for spirituality and religious practice in Germany (cf. Klausing 2010, p. 1) - despite the massive criticism of the associations, which, however, will not be the subject of this article (cf. Mediendienst Integration 2018). According to the Islamic scholar Kathrin Klausing, there are "no other places that can reliably offer and organize relevant core offers such as community prayer at all times of the day, Friday prayer, Hajj organization, Zakat acceptance and administration, celebratory prayers, Koran lessons, washing the dead and funerals, etc." (Klausing 2010, p. 2).

The approximately 2,350 municipalities in Germany [2] take on social services in addition to these tasks, but only have "semi-professional structures" (cf. Ceylan and Kiefer 2016, p. 121). The services offered include more or less standardized approaches to youth and family support, work with women and girls, educational work, prison chaplaincy, prevention work and much more (cf. Ceylan and Kiefer 2016, p. 121). Mosque communities in Germany have been offering youth work in the form of leisure activities and educational events for many years. However, with a few exceptions, very few municipalities have recognition as child and youth welfare providers according to Section 75 of the Child and Youth Welfare Code and meet professional standards (cf. Ceylan and Kiefer 2016, p. 9).

In the course of the upheavals in the Muslim organizational landscape in Germany, more and more organizations have emerged in recent years that are founded with a Muslim self-image, but operate independently of associations in their work and structures. A decisive part of these organizations is founded and led by young Muslims of the second and third generation (see Hamdan et al. 2014). In contrast to the Muslim associations, they define themselves predominantly as actors of German "civil society" and are for the most part interested in bringing the socio-political concerns of their members to the public stage.

At the same time, depending on the focus, they are based on Islamic values ​​with different emphasis. For example, while an organization such as the Muslim Youth Organization. V. justifies its commitment to the environment and against climate change with respect for creation, the youth organization JUMA e. V. backs its social commitment to the fight against injustice and racism and is based on universal values. They do not want to offer a platform for spirituality or religious practice, but rather locate themselves as "Muslim" women's, educational or youth organizations (cf. Klausing 2010; Ceylan and Kiefer 2016; Mediendienst Integration 2019). The members of these clubs and organizations are often of different ethnic and denominational origins. Examples of non-association Muslim youth organizations in Germany are:
  • Muslim Youth in Germany V. (MJD)
  • Muslim Youth Organization V.
  • JUMA e. V. (young, Muslim, active)
  • M.A.H.D.I. e. V.
  • Association of Muslim Scouts and Scouts V. (BMPF)
  • MOSAIQ e. V.
  • Stand up against racism e. V.
  • MUJOS e. V. (Muslim youth community Osnabrück)
An important part of Muslim youth work in Germany is carried out by Muslim umbrella organizations and their youth organizations; The youth work of actors such as "DITIB Youth - Association of Muslim Youth (BDMJ)" or "IGMG Youth" should be mentioned here. However, this article deliberately sheds light on the fields of activity of such youth organizations as listed above. These act in their organizational structures and fields of activity independently of Muslim umbrella organizations such as DITIB, IGMG, VIKZ and thus do youth work by young people for young people.


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Why is it important to deal with the fields of activity of independent Muslim youth organizations?

Germany's Muslims are young. [3] In contrast to their parents or grandparents, the younger generations in Germany were socialized and usually speak another mother tongue in addition to German (cf. Hamdan et al. 2014, p. 10). The upcoming generational change and the upheavals in the Muslim organizational landscape described above give reason to expect that the group of young Muslims will play an increasingly important role in social processes in Germany in the future (cf. Hamdan et al. 2014, p. 10 ).

At the same time, it can be stated that social science research on institutionalized forms of Muslim life can be expanded (cf. Peucker 2017, p. 3). Studies on institutionalized Muslim life and the specific functions of communities or other organizations for their members now exist (cf. Beilschmidt 2015, Gorzewski 2015, Rosenow-Williams 2012), but the forms and content of communalization among Muslim young people have not yet been adequately researched. Isolated studies deal with the structures of Muslim youth organizations (Hamdan et al. 2014, Jagusch 2011), but neglect the perspective of their members. In view of the increasing importance of Muslim youth organizations, it is important to research their structures, contextual conditions and fields of activity from an internal perspective.

If young people express that Islam plays an important role in their lives, then it can be assumed that this importance can have very different dimensions and characteristics (cf. Bochinger 2015). Above all, this meaning can refer to the social marking as "Muslim" or "Muslim" as well as to a self-perception that does not have to go hand in hand with an extraordinary interest in religious knowledge. The trick for social science research lies in the attempt to find out and differentiate between which of the motivation (s) and influences this self-designation is based on. To what extent do effects such as "religionization" [4], "Muslimification" [5] or questions of identity development and peer group effects play a role? How can this challenge be resolved and how is this attempt designed when it comes to 'Muslim youth organizations'?

Muslim youth organizations and their understanding of Muslim youth work

"Muslim youth organizations" and their understanding of "Muslim youth work" can be as diverse as "Muslim youth" themselves are. It can be stated - without claiming to be representative - that the members of some of the organizations mentioned do not have a uniform understanding of "Muslim youth work". The interviews conducted as part of my research make it clear that the organizations run by young Muslims give them, on the one hand, the opportunity to independently design and take advantage of more or less religious-denominationally oriented leisure and educational offers. On the other hand, they make it possible to influence social debates and policy-making by participating in youth committees, state youth associations or federal youth associations. Just like young members of other faiths, young Muslims also design their own projects and, for example, spend holiday camps together. At least, however, their commitment shows us that young Muslims in Germany have a right to participation, a say and a say in shaping things.

If you take a look at the activities of the organizations mentioned, a wide range of education, leisure activities, environmental projects, projects against discrimination and prevention work in the field of religiously based radicalization becomes visible (see Niehaus 2019). The Muslim Youth Office, for example, deals with the topic of inclusion and develops concepts for how young Muslims with physical and mental disabilities can be involved in youth work (see Beklen 2020, p. 184). The association wants to create role models for young Muslims and thus contribute to greater visibility in society (see Beklen 2020, p. 184). The JUMA e. V. in turn offers its young members qualification measures in the field of public relations so that they can represent their own perspectives in the social discourse. By implementing campaigns or blog posts, they want to be a possible voice for young Muslims.

However, if you take a closer look at the projects funded by public funds, it becomes apparent that an important part of the funds, which are used in particular by association-affiliated and non-association Muslim youth clubs, come from funds for prevention work and / or the promotion of democracy. These include prevention projects such as "Extremism - not with US", "Forming the future!" or "Qualifying Muslim youth in Hamburg's mosques", to name a few.

Challenge: youth work as prevention work

"Prevention and repression, prevention and prosecution are mutually dependent. They are both important. Prevention work is also a smart security policy" (de Maizière in Habermalz 2016). With this statement, the former Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière made it clear that educational measures in youth work - understood as prevention - can definitely represent an essential part of state security policy in Germany (cf. Hecking 2019, p. 115).

This political agenda was also reflected in federal funding programs such as "Live Democracy!" (2015-2019; 2020-2024) or the "National Prevention Program against Islamist Extremism" (NPP). Alone within the framework of "Live Democracy!" The federal government made a total of 431.5 million euros available for the funding period from 2015-2019 (Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth 2019). Among other things, these were intended to carry out prevention projects to prevent religiously based radicalization, especially in the area of ​​Islamism. The funding amount for 2020 is 115.5 million euros (Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth 2020). As part of the NPP, 100 million euros will be made available annually from 2018 to 2020 for projects in the field of radicalization prevention (Federal Ministry of the Interior 2016).

There were increasing public demands that Muslim clubs and associations should participate in the fight against Islamism (cf. Ostwaldt 2020, p. 171). In doing so, these voices neglected to take into account the controversial debate about the role of religion in the radicalization process and to question the role of religious institutions in connection with radicalization prevention (cf. Kiefer 2020, p. 15). Muslim associations were included in the prevention work by being asked to develop projects to prevent religiously based radicalization. Little attention was paid to the fact that they have hardly any experience in the field of prevention work (cf. Ostwaldt 2020, p. 115).

The more serious problem was the marked assumption that Muslim organizations, especially associations, would inevitably be familiar with radicalization. Due to the target group orientation, especially in the first funding period of the program "Live Democracy!" Youth groups from Muslim associations that are increasingly involved in prevention work against religiously based radicalization and that have carried out corresponding projects. But what consequences does this have for Muslim youth organizations and their work? How do these projects and the underlying funding logic of prevention programs influence the openness of Muslim youth work and the freedom of young people in extracurricular youth work?

In the Eighth Code of Social Law, which regulates child and youth welfare, among other things, it says: "Every young person has the right to support his development and to be educated to become an independent and socially capable personality." (Social Code VIII 1990, Section 1 Paragraph 1). To this end, youth work should "promote young people in their individual and social development and contribute to avoiding or reducing disadvantages" (Social Code Book VIII 1990, Section 1, Paragraph 3). Child and youth work is subject to principles such as openness, voluntariness, independence, participation and life-world orientation (see Ilg 2013, p. 21).

When a young Muslim woman living in Germany says with a view to preventing religiously justified radicalization: "Of course we accept it (with a view to the accusation of radicalization), and we work on it if something is directed at us" [6 ] then that is legitimate and welcome. However, it would make sense to consider this statement in the context of the dominant security discourse about Islam and Muslims, which is based on a suspicious thesis. It is noticeable that the promotion of Muslim youth work is often based on security concerns - for example, the prevention of radicalization (cf. Hanke 2020, p. 71). Reducing Muslim youth work to such a topic obscures the essentials of what youth work can achieve and how diverse it should actually be (cf. Hanke 2020, p. 71).

The events of September 11, 2001 perpetuated one-sided attributions, stigmatization and racism towards Muslims in media, political and academic discourses. They have been associated in public debates with anti-democratic, radical and authoritarian mindsets, dominated by security concerns, which can be described with the "securitization" theory of the Copenhagen School of Critical Security Studies. Essentially, the securitization theory assumes that threats from language are first constructed in a discourse (cf. Balzacq 2010, p. 60). Accordingly, Muslims in Germany are brought to the fore in media discourses through negative attributions as a security problem. This construction of reality is also evident in social action - also on the institutional level of educational action.The self-image of Muslims, especially young people who are in the process of identity development, is not insignificantly influenced by this marking.

A not insignificant part of the model projects promoting democracy in the funding phase 2014-2019 and 2020-2024 of the program "Live Democracy!" and the measures within the framework of the NPP are aimed at the target group of Muslim youth. The NPP specifically called on Muslim actors to submit project concepts. The effects of the educational offers funded in this way must be critically questioned. Preventive measures usually aim to prevent negative or undesirable events, developments and behaviors or to prevent them (cf. Ceylan / Kiefer 2018, p. 18ff.). This can contradict the intended effects of resource-oriented youth work such as broadening horizons, promoting political thinking or tolerance of contradictions (cf. Milbradt et al. 2019).

Instead, prevention projects often run the risk of giving the intended target group blanket negative attributions and thus stigmatizing them (cf. Ceylan and Kiefer 2013, p. 102). Michael Kiefer emphasizes that a prevention logic is to be equated with a "logic of suspicion" and is therefore always problem-centered (cf. Kiefer 2017, p. 127). In the case of the prevention of religiously based radicalization, for example, social debates with blanket negative attributions are often held about the alleged "endangerment group" of Muslim young people (cf. Hasenclever and Sendet 2011, p. 212), not to mention the general one negative connotation of the discourses about "Islam" and "Muslims".

Another challenge: prevention projects can have undesirable effects. In the case of groups of people who are addressed as addressees of specific preventive measures, certain experiences, backgrounds or behaviors are interpreted as evidence of possible radicalization. Compliance with religious regulations or wearing religious clothing, for example, are used as a guide and, as a consequence, all too often leads to "exaggerated or even incorrect risk assessments" (Kiefer 2017, p. 127). Above all, this effect can be seen in the logic "Discrimination can be seen as a radicalizing factor" and can lead to serious misunderstandings in the educational practice of prevention work (see also the information service article "Experiences of racism as a radicalizing factor: a (counter) example") ).

An educational practice of prevention work (specifically: against religiously based radicalization), in which security policy perspectives are increasingly gaining in importance and risk expectations are the focus of the work, is deficit-oriented. Youth work, on the other hand, is usually more resource-oriented and focuses on the strengths and empowerment of young people. A possible follow-up problem in prevention practice is that positive objectives in one's own work as a body responsible for youth work can become less relevant.

Independence and voluntariness are among the most important premises in youth work. The aim here is not only to emphasize independence from adults, but also independence from topics and, above all, independence in finding topics. If, however, Muslim youth organizations take on the topic of preventing radicalization due to the limited funding available to them and due to the dominant discourse, it must be questioned whether they actually do it voluntarily, or whether the underlying funding logic drives them to do so.

The aim of radicalization prevention is to prevent undesirable behavior. It is therefore also advisable to question whether and how in such a narrowed field of activity, freedom for the development of criticism of power and domination can arise. Because youth work lives from free spaces in which structural criticism is carried out.

What should "resource-oriented, Muslim youth work" look like?

In the case of "Muslim youth work", the circumstances listed above would have to be taken into account as contextual conditions. It is therefore necessary to question what effect a deficit-oriented youth work that follows a (criminal) preventive logic can have on Muslim youth and their organizations, and whether, under these conditions, it is possible for Muslim organizations to carry out resource-oriented youth work aimed at strengthening the Adolescents sets.

The imparting of civil society competence and basic pedagogical skills and standards for youth work as well as further development and networking with the established structures should not only be the focus for so-called "Muslim youth work". Youth work that initiates reflection processes in its pedagogical practice, develops skills and empowerment through community offers, strengthens the resilience of young people.

Some of the Muslim youth organizations understand religion and religiosity as a source of emancipation and resource and shape their youth work according to these values. But not all organizations that describe themselves as "Muslim" orient their activities on religious values. The organization JUMA ("Young, Muslim, Active") in Berlin, for example, deliberately refrains from adopting a religious orientation in order to address as diverse (including "non-Muslim") audiences as possible from an ideological point of view. The Muslim Youth Office, in turn, is involved in the topic of "promoting environmental awareness and nature conservation" and approaches the topic from a religious perspective, "by rediscovering (young people) Islamic values ​​in a kind of Islamic renaissance" (Beklen 2020, p. 185).

A marked, purely prevention-oriented Muslim youth work fails to recognize the diversity within this organizational landscape and its fields of activity (cf.RAA Berlin 2019 :, p. 11). The youth work of Muslim organizations can have a preventive effect, but it should not claim to work primarily against religiously based radicalization. Muslim youth work in Germany has its raison d'etre, which can be legitimized by the Eighth Child and Youth Welfare Code; regardless of whether it works preventively or not. Your approach should therefore be a resource-oriented one that is geared towards self-knowledge, emancipation and independent action.


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