of Youth in Enhancing the Value of Dialogue”
Youth in Europe and the challenge of identity
Dear friends, Assalamu Alaikum,
My heartfelt thanks to the organizer for giving us and me the
opportunity to talk about Opportunities
and Challenges facing the youth today / Youth cultures of dialogue and cultural
One of the main challenges facing the youth - especially the
migrant youth of the second and third generation in the European Union - is the question of identity. And here I
would like to concentrate on Muslim youth. Nevertheless it is important to see
that Europe as a continent and the EU as a union are also facing a serious
challenge in the very same point of identity: in the sense of a certain lack of
feeling to belong and to be a part of society. This may be a reason why Muslim
youth are viewed somehow as “under watch”. In a common crisis of identity they
often serve as a kind of projection screen to put the blame on them.
I would like to emphasize, that this is not primarily my idea, several
Muslims and thinkers in Europe have already discussed that before, but there is
still the needs to be put it into praxis and it deserve to be promoted and
deposited with best practice from the daily life.
Muslim youth in Europe is often confronted with the question: Do you feel as a Muslim or as an Austrian
(European)? As if these categories
were contradictory! Or: Are the religious laws and rules of Islam
more important for you than the laws of the country? And the most
aggressive and tricky form of this question: How important is the Islamic Sharia for you?
These are complex questions. Put under trial it doesn’t come to mind how
silly they are. Would anybody ask a Christian if the Bible or the Rule of State
were dearer to him? Instead of refusing the question as an attempt to build up
a kind of incoherency between a Muslim identity and loyalty towards the state,
many Muslims would answer with knee-jerkreaction: “Of
course my religion is the most important issue for me ... what else?” Next day
we read in the newspapers: "Muslim
Youth do not accept the laws of the country"or "Muslim youth is primarily for Sharia" or “Muslims exclude themselves from society”
I would like to promote the concept
of “multiple identity”. A feeling of
belonging can cover out for various areas of life. There is absolutely no
contradiction between being Muslim by religion, European by citizenship and
Arab, Pakistani, Turkish etc. by origin – all simultaneously! In this
pluralistic world multiple identities get more and more common – and they may
foster a commitment to mutual respect and togetherness. All these factors play their
role in building cultural identity. Americans speak about “hyphenated identity”,
a term they have developed through scientific discourse and implemented for a
Dear friends, it is not a secret, that the concept of integration in
Europe has arrived its limits. There is no clear definition between the
“majority society” and the “new comers”. The question is not: Who is going to integrate whom? The
question is: How can we achieve social cohesion in our society facing upcoming
challenges together. Answering this challenge is essential for the
self-definition of Europe and also for the Muslims who claim to be an integral
part of Europe.
What can we do for the youth in order to promote this idea? Being
“United in Diversity”
Many Muslims are more than confused when they daily hear: Freedom, human
rights, equality, right of self-determination, especially for women and girls,
non-discrimination, freedom of mobility, but also the right of visibility of
religious symbols and manifestation of religion are European values. I
would definitely prefer to call them Universal Values in order not to put a
contradiction between them. From an Islamic perspective these values are
enshrined in religious teachings – and not a lesson of the West to be taught to
the world. We can create a common basic for a mutual understanding by this
approach of accepting different approaches to values who nevertheless aim at
the same goal.
Muslim youth in Europe needs to be educated to step out of the negative
social destiny of the less trained. Equal chances can only be gained with equal
access to promotion prospects.
Youth should be engaged and committed to the common well being. The
system must provide them with ways to participate in all sectors of life: politically,
economically, socially and also as an integral part in interfaith cooperation.
chances especially for Muslim girls
It is an on-going problem in Europe that Muslim girls with headscarf
have fewer chances to get an adequate job.
Emancipation of young Muslim girls cannot be achieved through dress code
and limitations, but through inclusion and equal opportunity. We have to
support them being well educated and financially independent, irrespective of
them covering their hair or not.
Let me please appreciate again that this conference was entitled to deal
with youth issues. With interfaith dialogue we see that this is a program for people
mostly 50+ - with some good, but rare exceptions. I would encourage all of us
to have the bravery to put more trust in our youth and to give them opportunities
of taking responsibility. At the same time we should stay behind them with all
our experiences and efforts whenever these are needed.
This concept reflects a benefit, not only for the Muslim society in
Europe, but also for all and also for the indigenous European population.