“UNDERSTANDING ISLAM TO FIGHT RADICALISM”
This project aims to enhance and update the knowledge of the phenomenon of radicalisation in prisons, to provide professionals with the necessary skills to interpret and promptly identify signs of violent radicalisation.
AIM OF THE SYLLABUS
Syllabus is the product of a collaboration between different experts and institutions; an instrument to support prison staff work to prevent violent radicalisation in prisons; a facilitator of intercultural dialogue based on mutual respect and the correct understanding of the precepts of the Islamic culture and religion
Syllabus is not a complete course of “Islamic studies”; an ideological, theological, or political dissertation.
It is the result of an experience which put together both people and institutions coming from very different contexts.
Our syllabus originated in fact from the need to face the risk of radicalisation in prison and to help the prison operators to detect the signals. At the same time, the syllabus aims to help to comprehend and solve a series of problems, which may arise in specific contexts such as that of a prison. It has been elaborated as one of the tools of common information flow among prison staff with the aim of supporting them in improving their capacity to detect and to monitor the signals of radicalization occurred in prison setting.
Support understanding of new and extreme interpretations of Islam in order to identify early signals of potential radicalization
To provide useful information in order to understand the new and extreme interpretations of the Muslim doctrine. They arise from deep social and cultural distress resulting in Europe as well as in other countries, in forms of violent militancy and propaganda. I would say therefore that the first aim of the syllabus is to provide the necessary tools to identify any signs of possible radicalisation.
Understand Islamic culture
Provide basic knowledge of the main features that define the identity of Muslims (traditions, rules of conduct, cultural behaviors, etc.) to support the common information flow of communication of prison reporting procedures.
- Correlated: understand religious rituals and cultural behaviors to distinguish them from signs of radicalization In some ways this particular aim derives from the former, as only on the basis of thorough and correct knowledge of Muslim beliefs, rituals and resulting behavior is it possible to identify the signs of radicalisation and, at the same time,
- Respect prisoners’ fundamental human rights to guarantee the religious rights of Muslim detainees/inmates. In brief, the syllabus has been conceived as an instrument of knowledge, based on a respectful, non-ideological approach. Today’s presentation is based on the structure of the syllabus. I’m therefore going to illustrate certain fundamental traits of the Islamic identity
- Practical information to interact with Muslim prisoners giving at the same time some practical information, which could be of help in interacting with Muslim detainees.
The Muslim world
Islam is the second most widespread of the world’s religions, with more than one billion believers: according to data collected there are 1,8 billion Muslims in the World .
Majority in 48 countries (Asia and Africa) ; Muslims constitute the majority in forty-eight countries (such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, etc.)
Minority in many countries and are a significant minority in many others. Even if we are used to think of the Arab world as the heartland of Islam, actually the largest Muslim communities live in Asia and Africa.
Recent grow in Western countries. In recent times, due to labor immigration and many other factors, Islam has grown significantly in the West.
Second religion (number of adherents) in many European regions and now it is the second largest religion in many parts of Europe.
Third religion (number of adherents) Italy and the third largest in Italy.
The term Islam is derived from an Arabic root s-l-m, which means “peace” or “submission”. A Muslim thus him or her who surrenders to God’s will or law, rendering them at peace with themselves and with God. So, they are members of a worldwide faith community (called Umma). Like Jews and Christians, Muslims are monotheists and they believe in one God. Like Jews and Christians, Muslims are monotheists. They believe in one God: the creator, ruler, and judge of the universe. Muslims believe in prophets, not just the Prophet Muhammad but also the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, including Abraham and Moses, and of the New Testament, Jesus and John the Baptist. They also believe in angels, heaven, hell, and in the Day of Judgment. Islam acknowledges that God’s revelation was received in the Torah, the Gospels, and the Quran. They who embrace Islam become members of a worldwide faith community and share a religious identity that is both individual and collective, and implies a responsibility to obey and enact God’s will in their personal and social life.
General notions should be contextualized in the individual and collective history of the Muslim believer. However, we should avoid generalizations and never forget, just as for other religions and cultures, that any general notions about Islam must be considered in the context of the individual and collective history of the Muslim believer.
Muslims belong to different ethnic groups, speak different languages and have political as well as social traditions, which may vary considerably. We know that, being the language of the Quran, Arabic is adopted by all Muslims. Nevertheless, Muslims use various languages as their everyday languages: Persian, Turkish, Pashtu, Urdu, Kurdish, Indonesian, Albanian, Bosnian, Kazakh, Turkmen, Uzbek, Kirghiz, Tajik are only the main ones. The environment, the social class, the gender, the urban or rural context are important factors to fully understand how the islam faith is experienced in practice.
We must consider all these factors to avoid the risk of overestimating the role of religious identity in explaining phenomena that have little or nothing to do with the Islamic faith. Therefore, a twenty-year old young man living in Rabat, speaking Arabic and working in computer programming shares a common faith with a peasant girl living in Sumatra, speaking Malay and working in rice fields, but not much else. On the other hand, even amidst the rich diversity of interpretations and experiences, Islam provides certain core beliefs and observances, a religious identity based on a shared set of values, practices and beliefs.
Seen from a comparative perspective with European culture, Islamic political thought is shaped according to different historical and religious premises.
Seen from a comparative perspective with European culture, Islamic political thought is shaped according to different historical and religious premises. Islam addresses both the religious and political affairs of the Muslim community, the (umma), which represents a self-sufficient entity, which goes beyond the secular rules of states and non-religious societies.
Some contemporary Muslim thinkers have used the phrase that Islam is din, dawla wa-dunya to emphasize that Islam is not a religion (din) in the western secularized sense of the word but also something, that affects matters of state and government (dawla), and the society (dunya, lit. this world) as a whole. In this perspective, any form of atheism is to be rejected.
According to this perspective, we can observe a stricter coincidence between political and religious thought than in the Christian world where political and historical developments have determined a substantial difference between secular and religious contexts.
As previously mentioned the Umma is a self/sufficient, worldwide faith community expressing the essential unity and equality of Muslims.
Doctrine divided in branches and schools. However, Umma witnessed very early on deep internal strife and disagreements. The former, and maybe the most significant, regarded the issue of who should be the successor to the Prophet Muhammad. The majority of Muslims, who came to be called.
Sunni are the majority; believe that Muhammad did not establish any succession system; Refuse hereditary; Caliph: Abu Bakr. Sunni, or followers of the Sunnah (meaning example) of the Prophet, believed that Muhammad had died without establishing a system for selecting a successor. After an initial period of uncertainty, the elders or leaders of Medina selected Abu Bakr, one of the most authoritative Companions of the Prophet, to be the caliph. A minority of the Muslim community.
Shii are a minority; Succession should pass to Muhammad’s daughter Fatima and her husband Ali; Caliph: Ali.
The Shii, or Party of Ali, opposed the selection of Abu Bakr as the caliph, believing that succession should be hereditary. Since Muhammad had no sons who survived infancy, this minority believed that succession should pass through Muhammad’s daughter Fatima and that her husband Ali, Muhammad’s first cousin and closest living male relative, should be the leader.
Historically, Sunni have usually ruled over Shii. Because Shii existed as an oppressed and disinherited minority, they understood history to be a test of the righteous community’s perseverance in the struggle to restore God’s rule on earth. There are 3 main branches of Shiis today: the Zaydis, the Ismailis and the Imamis or Ithna Asharis
So, from a historical point of view the Islamic world is far from being a monolithic entity and has experienced in its fourteen centuries of history many internal divisions and has been ruled by different forms of government. The contemporary Muslim world is ruled by monarchies, republics and emirates and in its past has been ruled by caliphal authority, sultans, emirs, khans shah and so on. None of these forms of government, exception made for the caliphate, is especially legitimated over others in Islamic political thought.
The sacred scripture of Islam: the Quran.
As we all know the Quran is the book of Islamic revelation, it is the Holy Book of Islam. It Is the central religious text of Islam. Was orally revealed by God (Allah) to prophet Muhammad. The term means “recitation”, it is believed to be the word of God transmitted through the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe it contains the revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad from God through the angel Gabriel. Muhammad, who was illiterate, acted merely as God’s intermediary; he was told to “recite” the revelations he received.
It is the eternal and literal word of God, so, for Muslims, Muhammad was neither the author nor the editor of the Quran. The Quran is the eternal, literal word of God.
Should be recited in Arabic, the language of revelation, preserved in the original Arabic language. These are two very important features to keep in mind: the Quran is believed to be the direct word of God and Arabic is the language of the revelation. All Muslims, thus, regardless of their native language, memorize and recite the Quran in Arabic, the language in which it was revealed, whether they fully understand it or not, like Catholics in Latin in the past. So too, all over the world, when Muslims pray they do so in Arabic. Until modern times, the Quran was printed in Arabic only.
Translations lack the original sacred character Even now, in translations, which are viewed by them as “interpretations,” the Arabic text is often printed a long side.
Is composed of 114 suras (chapters) . The Quran is divided into 114 suras (usually translated as “chapter”). They are arranged by descending length rather than by chronological order beginning with the longest chapter and ending with the shortest, not edited or organized thematically. Its first chapter (the Fatiha), the “Opening sura”, is frequently used for ritual aims. The other chapters, different in size, deal with different subjects and provide oracular, legal or prescriptive information together with a strong and throughout affirmation of tawhid, unity of God
Many Muslims memorize the Quran. Recitation of the Quran is central to a Muslim’s life; many Muslims memorize the Quran in its entirety, a practice that is followed in traditional schools called kuttab where students are taught to read and write through the study and the memorization of the Quran.
Quran is recited in the daily prayers and community events. Muslims recite passages from the Quran in their five daily prayers; musical and poetic recitations of Quranic verses serve as an introduction to every community event, from weddings and funerals to lectures and business dinners. Many Muslims experience deep aesthetic pleasure from listening to the quranic rich, rhyming prose, with its repetitions and subtle inflections.
How to handle the Quran
The Quran is sacred and should be touched with a respectful attitude. It cannot be covered by other objects. Generally, it is kept in special cases or covered by a textile. As a sacred book the Quran cannot be touched without a respectful attitude. Muslims should make ritual ablutions before handling the Quran or reading from its text. A non-Muslim should not handle the sacred text when printed in Arabic, but may handle a non-Arabic translation or interpretation. It cannot be covered by other books, or objects. Generally, it is kept in special cases or it is covered by a cloth.
The Five pillars ( plus one ) of Islam
Shahada (Testimony declaration of faith); Salat (Five daily religious duties); Zakat (Mandatory charitable contribution); Sawm (Abstinence during Ramadan); Hajj ( Ritual pilgrimage to Mecca) They represent the core and common denominator that unites all Muslim and distinguishes Islam from other religions. Meeting the obligations required by the Pillars reinforces an ongoing presence of God in Muslim’s lives and reminds them of their membership in a single worldwide community of believers.
The first Pillar of Islam is the declaration of faith.
A Muslim is one who bears witness, who testifies that La ilah illa Allah wa-Muhammad rasul Allah (There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God). This declaration is known as shahada (witness, testimony). When pronounced with two witnesses, in any place, it represents an explicit conversion to Islam. So, to become a Muslim, one need only make this simple proclamation. The first part of this proclamation affirms Islam’s absolute monotheism, the uncompromising belief in the unity of God the second part asserts that Muhammad is not only a prophet but also a messenger of God, a higher role also played by Moses and Jesus before him. As a ritual used sentence the shahada covers also a symbolic value. It appears in various flags (for ex the Saudi national flag) and in the black background of the ISIS flag.
The second Pillar of Islam is prayer (salat).
Muslims pray five times a day: at daybreak, noon, midafternoon, sunset, and evening. These five obligatory prayers have to be performed in Arabic, regardless of the native language of the worshipper. In many Muslim countries, reminders to pray, or “calls to prayer” ( adhan ), are made by a muezzin from the minaret, proclaiming that God is the Greatest (Allahu akbar). Salad is preceded by a ritual ablution, or cleansing, because the believer must be purified now of prayer. Such ritual ablution is made to ensure that the believers are in a state of spiritual and physical purity. First, they cleanse their minds and hearts from worldly thoughts and concerns; second, they wash hands and face, arms up to the elbow, and feet. The objective is for the mind and body to be clean as Muslims approach in the presence of God. Because of the need for cleansing prior to prayer, most mosques have a spot set aside for performing ablutions away from the main prayer area. Muslims can pray in any clean environment, alone or together, at home, at work or on the road, indoors or out (this is the reason why you can sometimes see people praying even on the pavement or in a park). Anyway, it is considered preferable to pray with others, if possible in a mosque. The mosque’s main purpose is to serve as a place for formal worship in daily and Friday prayers. Both men and women attend although women are in general segregated in a separate area. The mosque’s main prayer area is a large open space. An important feature of the prayer area is the mihrab, an ornamental arched niche set into the wall, which indicates the direction of Mecca (which Muslims always face when praying). Next to the mihrab is the minbar, a raised wooden platform (similar to a pulpit). The prayer could be led by an imam, a prayer leader, who addresses a speech to the community, dealing with current issues from the steps of the minbar. The mosque, as the sacred space for individual and collective worship, has social and intellectual significance for Muslims. It serves as a center for the collection and distribution of alms and provides shelter and sustenance for the poor and homeless. Mosques have served as places for prayer, meditation, and learning as well as focal points for the religious and the social life of the Muslim community throughout its history.
The third pillar of Islam is the charitable contribution, or ritual charity (zakat).
It is clearly attested in the Quran. This is a real tax on the annual income of the believer. It amounts approximately to a range between 2,5% and 5% of the value of all liquid assets and income generating properties owned by the believer.
The collected money is used to feed the poor, relieve debtors, defend the faith and any other purpose deemed to be appropriate. Zakat, which developed fourteen hundred years ago, functions as a form of social security in a Muslim society.
The fourth Pillar of Islam is the Fast of Ramadan, which occurs once each year during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the month in which the first revelation of the Quran came to Muhammad. During this month-long fast, every Muslim whose health permits must abstain from food, drink, and sexual activity during the daylight hours. In particular conditions (illness, nursing, travelling or in particularly difficult circumstances) the believer is allowed to abstain from fasting. Any fasts broken or missed due to these reasons must be made up whenever the person is able before the next month of Ramadan. For all other cases, not fasting is only permitted when the act is potentially dangerous to one’s health, but this must be made up by giving some offers of various entity. Ramadan is particularly important in the believers’ life. It is the occasion for family meetings, which occur after sunset. At dusk, the fast is broken with a light meal popularly referred to as breakfast. Families and friends share a special late evening meal together, often including special foods and sweets served only at this time of the year. The month of Ramadan ends with one of the two major Islamic celebrations, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, called Eid al-Fitr, which resembles Christmas in its spirit of joyfulness, special celebrations, and gift giving.
The last of the five “pillars” is the pilgrimage (hajj) to the holy city of Mekka
During the first ten days of the month of Dhu l-hijja. Every Muslim who can afford it and is physically capable of making the trip and performing the prescribed rites is required to make the hajj at least once in his or her lifetime. The essential rites of the pilgrimage involves the ritual walking around the Ka‘ba, a cubic building at Mecca (today’s Saudi Arabia) which is considered the first house of worship of the one God, originally built by Adam and replicating the heavenly House of God, circumambulated by the angels. This heavenly ritual is reenacted during the hajj by pilgrims, who walk around the Kaaba seven times. In the following days pilgrims participate in a variety of ritual actions and ceremonies symbolizing key religious events. It is not rare to find photographs of the holy places of Pilgrimage among the private images kept by an inmate.
The so-called “Sixth Pillar of Islam” that is Jihad.
Contrary to what most people think, the word jihad it is not associated with the words holy war anywhere in the Quran. Jihad is a concept with multiple meanings, roughly corresponding to struggling (the literal meaning of the word jihad) in the path of God and in the example of the Prophet Muhammad and his early Companions. So, depending on the circumstances in which one lives, it also can mean fighting injustice and oppression, spreading and defending Islam, and creating a just society through preaching, teaching, and, if necessary, armed struggle or holy war. Jihad is the only legal warfare in Islam, and it is carefully controlled in Islamic law. Not every war, therefore, can be deemed jihad. A duly constituted state authority must call it, it must be preceded by a call to Islam or treaty, and noncombatants must not be attacked, and so on. In recent times, the concept of jihad has been redefined in broader terms to encompass ideas of resistance to colonial rule, the struggle for emancipation and the fight against injustice and tyranny as well as ignorance. Contemporary thinkers offer a wide spectrum of views on jihad, including radicals who promote a violent jihad against Muslim and non-Muslim rulers. To justify their struggle against other Muslims extremists they brand them as unbelievers and therefore legitimate them as targets against whom violence and killing is justified. In recent years a radicalized minority (jihadists), have combined militancy with messianic visions to mobilize an “army of God” whose jihad is to “liberate” Muslims at home and abroad. They are very active in propagating their views through the internet and social media and turned out to be very effective in their call for a transnational jihad, based on sophisticated propaganda portraying jihadists’ combatants as heroes of early Islam, or knights under the Prophet’s banner, as in the words of a well-known title of the jihadi literature.
For this reason, in order to effectively counter the phenomenon of jihadi radicalization, traditional repressive measures alone are not sufficient and have to be accompanied by alternative methods of prevention, rehabilitation and dissuasion.
Radicalization, in and outside the prison, is a complex global phenomenon, the push and pull factors that mobilize people are usually highly localized and may differ from country to country. Therefore, any measure aimed at preventing it, or at rehabilitating radicalized individuals, should be carried out based on a deep knowledge of the political, cultural and religious features of Islamic societies, accompanied by a specific analysis of the personal motivations and background leading an individual to jihadi radicalization.
In order to combat violent extremism and radicalization, it is a matter of proposing counter-narratives to radical arguments, rather than re-enacting the interpretive scheme Muslim vs. non-Muslim civilization, that can be perceived as a late-colonial attitude.
Food and dietary laws
In general, Islam connotes which is appropriate for use and practice as halal (licit, permitted) and which is prohibited as haram (what is forbidden, or inviolable under Islamic law). In particular the terms halal and haram refer to the permitted, or not, categories of food and drink. Among the licit food are all the vegetables with the exclusion of those containing poisons and narcotics. Among the living creatures, three categories must be considered: animals of the sea; animals of the earth; and flying animals. All kinds of fish can be eaten, as long as it has scales. That means that whales, sharks, turtles, crabs, lobsters, eels, swordfishes, moray, brills, squids, mussels, clams and oysters are considered illicit.
The consumption of the meat of various domestic animals such as cows, goats and sheep, is considered licit.
The meat of permitted animals has to been ritually slaughtered, bleeding them completely and pronouncing over them the name and praise of God. Birds of prey, blood, scavenger animals, carrion, and pork are among the prohibited categories of food, although these may be eaten in cases of extreme necessity. The dietary prohibition against pork comes from the Quran. Further, some Muslims believe that because the pig is an animal known to carry germs and diseases, the consumption of pork products is unhealthy and unhygienic, in addition to being prohibited by the Quran.
Even the use of pork fat and pork by-products for uses other than nutrition could create serious problems (for example for shoe polish, or the grease used for mechanisms and gears). Islamic law also prohibits the consumption, sale, and purchase of alcohol by Muslims; although in rare cases, its use is permitted for medicinal purposes. Physical contact with alcohol, as with pork and other impure substances, is believed to render a person or object impure, although washing or removing the offending substance can remove this impurity. Some animals should not be touched, as in the case of the pig, the dog, and a ritual ablution is required for anyone or anything being exposed to dog saliva (as it may happen during a dog search). There are some general rules that are typical of Muslims’ public and private life.
Decent versus indecent behaviors
Clothing should be characterized by decency and modesty, the body should not be exposed and nudity in public is taboo. Exposing the intimate parts of the body is unlawful in Islam as the Quran instructs the covering of genitals and for adult females the breasts. Precisely which body parts must be covered varies between different schools of Islamic thought. For the more intransigent, any physical contact between man and woman should be avoided, and any occasion of mixing in public or private spaces should be limited. The concept of modesty, much felt among Muslims, makes them, in general, quite reticent to show themselves naked even among people of the same sex. Nonetheless in particular places, as in the case of hammam, nudity is not a problem.
Many, though not all, Muslim societies practice some gender segregation—the separation of men and women—to various degrees, in public spaces such as mosques, universities, and the marketplace. Thus in many mosques men and women have separate areas for prayer or are separated by a screen or curtain. Unmarried men do not mix with unmarried women outside of very specific contexts, such as family gatherings or a meeting between two potential spouses that occurs in the presence of a chaperone.
Although gender segregation and seclusion are practiced in some Muslim societies, in many countries, from Egypt and Tunisia to Malaysia and Indonesia, men and women, especially in cities and towns, increasingly study and work together. In our modern, globalized world, where two incomes are often necessary to maintain a household, women are increasingly joining the workforce and breaking down traditional notions of gendered space. Islamic law sets rules in particular for women’s clothing. According to Islamic law women have to cover their body integrally, except for the face, hands and feet.
The Islamic style of dress is known by many names (hijab, burqa, chador, and so on) because of the multitude of styles, colors, and fabrics worn by Muslim women in countries extending from Morocco to Iran to Malaysia to Europe.
The practice of covering the face is common in several Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman. It is not common in other majority Muslim countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, present-day Iran, Turkey and majority of south Asia, and there are other countries where women may circulate leaving their hair ,as well as other parts of the body, uncovered (like Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt).
These differences reflect different interpretations and understanding of Sharia regarding wearing or not a niqab (that is a garment of clothing that covers the face). Salafi dress code requires women to cover their entire body, including their face. Men do not have to follow particular prescriptions even though nudity is considered indecent.
Salafists, however, require men to follow a specific dress code: they must cover the part of the body between the navel and the knees (called awra, literally “INS”).
Before going on to describe some general features about sexuality in Islamic law and societies a premise has to be made. That is that we are talking of a set of rules, behaviors and practices originating from a patriarchal culture, as existing in Arabia in Muhammad’s time and from the other cultures with whom Islam came into contact. In such an environment, Islamic revelation raised the status of women by prohibiting female infanticide, abolishing women’s status as property, and establishing women’s legal capacity.
However, due to historical more than religious reasons it can’t be denied that most Islamic societies have been patriarchal, and women have long been considered to be second-class citizens within these societies. Patriarchy and its legacy, legitimated in the name of religion, remain alive in various Muslim countries, although also being challenged on many levels. The realities of women in the Arab and Muslim countries present a complex picture of individuals in different situations and varied social contexts. Many are subject to powerful forces of patriarchy and religion, but significant numbers of other women are far more empowered and respected in their own cultures than one might think. The status and roles of women in the Muslim world vary considerably, influenced as much by literacy, education, and economic development as by religion. Marriage is a sacred duty in Islam, and asceticism and celibacy are not encouraged.
Sexual fulfillment within marriage for both partners is considered the ideal and sex is not restricted to procreation, although it is considered central in the life of a believer. Sexual relations are permitted only within the legal and normative frame provided by marriage; any other sexual intercourse is considered zina, i. e. unlawful sex, a legal definition that encompasses very different categories of sexual activities like sex between married or unmarried partners, prostitution, incest, rape and homosexuality. In Islam, homosexuality is prohibited. In some areas, it is treated as a crime punishable under Islamic law, while in others, homosexuality is tolerated but homosexuals are still set apart socially. Today a small minority of gay Muslims in some countries are pressing for recognition of their rights within the community. As previously mentioned any pre-matrimonial or extra-matrimonial sexual intercourse is deemed unlawful and virginity is a value for men as well as for women.
Women in particular are asked to protect family honour and are seen as fully responsible for maintaining family and community honour, preserving their virginity and avoiding any “immoral” behavior that violates social norms, modesty and sexual codes. So, in Muslim communities single mothers (and to a lesser degree divorced and widows with children) face the challenge of being single women and single parents and often are stigmatized by society. In the Middle East and North Africa, women can be subjected to “virginity testing” in various circumstances, including at the behest of their families. In recent years, several female protesters in Egypt who had been arrested reported that a military doctor subjected them to “virginity testing”, a state-enforced practice typically ordered to intimidate and discourage women from occupying public space and participating in political activity. Prostitution, as sexual activity falling into the category of unlawful sex, is illegal in almost every Muslim country. Notwithstanding its prohibition it has been, and still is, widespread in many Muslim countries. Given that sexual relations are permitted only within a legal and normative marriage, in Shi’I islam it is possible to contract a temporary marriage between a married or unmarried man and an unmarried woman. However, some Sunni and Shia scholars hold the view that this kind of temporary marriage in the present age amounts to prostitution. It permits the circumvention of the ban on prostitution by legally paying the prostitute in the form of the bride’s dowry.
The Youth Muslims generation.
The Muslim world comprises countries that are very different from a demographic, as well as socio-economic and cultural point of view. Arab countries, where youth between the ages of 15 and 29 years old represents over 100 million of the current population, stand out as one of the youngest age profiles in the world. Compared to previous generations, they are in general better educated and they tend to live in large cities.
Young people are less subject to family and traditional authority, especially when living in urban contexts. They have developed identities and value systems very different from those of their parents. In this process social networks, which have become more and more popular among Arab youth, have proved to be fundamental, substituting traditional ways of socialization and information. Since youth are such a large portion of the population, they have the ability to create social change or movements by uniting and mobilizing with social networks, which constitute an important tool of communication and mobilization. They allow the dissemination of information and the development of different forms of solidarity. They provide youth with alternative means of political action and enables them to voice their opinions and views in large numbers across all media platforms, working around the restrictions of authoritarian regimes and conservatives societies.
The picture is, however, complex and far from being optimistic. The region’s exceptionally high rates of youth unemployment and in general the unsustainable economic, political and social exclusion of youth (exacerbated by a dramatic demographic bulge) are among the main causes of diffuse discontent and anger. This discontent stems from unequal access to state services and spaces of participation. Youth do not have equal access to education or employment, and there are major disparities between rural and urban areas.
However, young people are not only the victims of exclusion but are also agents of change. They have manifested their responses to exclusion and policy constraints by engaging in various kinds of non-traditional organized political and civic activities, such as volunteer work and social entrepreneurship. Recent protests in the Middle East and Mediterranean region have highlighted that young people are capable of new forms of effective political mobilization. Excluded from the job market and from participation in public life, Arab youth can be described as a generation blocked in their transition to adulthood. Such a blocked transition promotes the search for alternative sources of income, going from illegal trade to micro-criminality to criminal activities on a larger scale such as drug, weapons and human trafficking. An increasingly alarming phenomenon is the rising use of alcohol and drugs among Arab youth. There is a lack of reliable information on this issue due to the strong social taboos concerning these practices in Arab countries.
Such an explosive mixture of unemployment and social and economic inequalities, not to mention ongoing-armed conflicts, is a strong motivation for young people, especially men, to emigrate to Europe or to the Arab countries of the Gulf.
From this point of view, to face the many issues arising from legal and illegal immigration in Europe, it will be necessary to take into consideration the overall situation in a region strongly characterised by high unemployment, social inequalities, and authoritarian regimes.