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Muslims and violence

June 6, 2010

A study conducted by the German authorities has found that the more devout young Muslims become, the more prone to violence they get. The study says the phenomenon is not due to Islam itself, but to the way it is taught.

German and Turkish flags flank a minaret
Violence is a growing problem among young devout MuslimsImage: AP

The willingness to commit violent crimes grows among young Muslim immigrants in Germany the more religious they become, according to a joint survey by the German interior ministry and the Institute for Criminology Research of Lower Saxony (KFN).

By comparison, the study found that just the opposite was true for Christian immigrants. The willingness to commit violent crimes, such as armed robbery or assault and battery, among young Catholics and Protestants decreases with religious fervor, the KFN study revealed.

The study said the reason for this difference had to do with the very different image of masculinity. Muslim devotion promotes the acceptance of macho behavior, said Christian Pfeiffer, the director of the Lower Saxony research institute and one of the authors of the study.

KFN Director Christian Pfeiffer
Muslim devotion breeds macho behavior, says PfeifferImage: picture alliance/dpa

Pfeiffer said that in their religion, and in the family at home, young Muslim immigrants are frequently exposed to a more conservative world view and lay claim to a variety of male privileges.

The problem with imams

In an effort to explain their results, the study's authors draw on the findings of Rauf Ceylan, a religious education expert and himself of Turkish extraction, who points to the number of non-German imams, or Muslim priests, preaching and teaching in Germany.

Ceylan maintains that these foreign imams are generally only in Germany temporarily, speak no German and have little contact with German culture. Most of them, he says, call for a return to a more conservative Islam and retreat into the practitioner's original ethnic culture. For them, male dominance is normal and their teachings demand the same from Muslim youths, Ceylan says.

Christian Pfeiffer, from the KFN, also points out that the phenomenon is not due to Islam itself, but to the way it is taught.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere presenting crime statistics last month
Maiziere wants to discuss the study's results with Muslim groupsImage: AP

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has called for the study's results to be put on the agenda of the next Islam conference.

Different levels of integration

The KFN study interviewed a total of 45,000 14-16 year-olds in 61 cities across Germany between 2007 and 2008. Of these, 10,000 had an immigrant background.

It found that the best adjusted and most integrated immigrants came from non-religious families. More than 41 percent of these were looking to get a high school diploma, nearly 63 percent had German friends and 66 percent viewed themselves as German.

The figures among young Muslims were strikingly different: only 16 percent were pursuing a high school diploma, 28 percent had German friends and about 22 percent considered themselves German.

Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa/AP/AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer