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Social Work and Muslim Welfare: A Women’s Grassroots Association

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Part of the Muslims in Global Societies Series book series (MGSS,volume 9)

Abstract

Religion, religiosity and spirituality are gaining importance for social work in Germany as a discipline and as a profession, especially in the context of Muslim people seeking advice. Most Muslims regard Islam as a social religion which helps in different life situations. For them, the central elements of their belief, such as mercy, charity, solidarity and assisting each other, are core elements of help in society. The purpose of this chapter is to show the importance of the real life experiences of people who seek advice in social work. In this context, the chapter shows that counselling is subject-, task- and context-related. Counselling deals with life realities and can address and solve specific problems, support individuals in making decisions and coping effectively with crises. At the least, a sensitive attitude towards religious questions provides an ability to deal constructively with the reality of life. Within this perspective, the practice model, the Meeting and Further Training Centre for Muslim Women, shows how it is possible to gain access to welfare issues in the context of religion and social work.

Keywords

  • Social work
  • Religion
  • Muslim welfare
  • Counselling

Introduction

This chapter aims to provide an overview of the significance of religion-sensitive social work and professional opportunities to connect to the life-worlds of the addressees in relation to religion and migration. It also shows that Muslim thinking in social work hardly differs from the humanistic approach to social work and the values represented in it.

Impacted by constant flows of migration, the countries of the so-called global North have become homes for very diverse worldviews and religious traditions. Subsequently, social work in these countries has been challenged to open up to worldview and religious issues in order to foster the further development of the people it addresses. In the context of increasing pluralisation and current social and political discussions on challenges facing refugees and forced migration in Europe and Germany, for some time now, religious migrant organisations seem to be actors of major significance for social work (Weiß, 2016, 105). Based on linguistic, cultural, and social competences, they could act as bridges between old and new migrants.

In a similar way, particularly in recent years, there have been arguments in support of locating social work within Muslim contexts (Ströbele et al., 2018). Until now, different institutions have mainly carried out non-statutory welfare in the context of social work in Germany. At the same time, however, it is also apparent that these established welfare providers face the challenge of adapting their social services with regard to religious and cultural diversity. This can be explained – among other things – by the fact that religious values are no longer explicitly communicated here nor is religious affiliation a condition for being able to make use of social services of established welfare organisations (Weiß, 2016, 107).

Furthermore, in the course of the internationalisation, professional social work has recently become more common worldwide. Since more social work models also emphasise the importance of understanding the worldview of addressees for effective social work, there is an increasing demand for the integration of religion into social work (Nauerth et al., 2017).

International social work must, therefore, be understood as recognising that social action, related problems and conflicts do not end at national borders. In a globalising world with diverse migratory movements, social problems can no longer be understood without taking into consideration the relevant transnational and cultural context. On the other hand, globalisation and migration now also represent the essential basis for the internationalisation of social work (Ramseier & Božić, 2011). This means that social work takes on an analytical perspective on social conflicts in the different realities of the lives of its beneficiaries (Thiersch & Böhnisch, 2014).

The primary purpose of this chapter is to discuss ways in which religion and social work respond in the context of Muslim diversity in Germany. Proceeding from this context, the contribution focuses on the following aspects: the first section discusses the terms religion and social work both from an international perspective and in a Muslim context. The second section describes the tasks of social work in a plural religious worldview context, based on the example of the social welfare organisation Begegnungs- und Fortbildungszentrum muslimischer Frauen (BFmF, Meeting and Further Training Centre for Muslim Women).

Conceptual Reflections on Islamic Social Work

Obviously, religions are still present in Germany, shaping the lives and actions of people in their everyday life. Years ago, Jürgen Habermas had already focused on religions, reflecting on their significance for independent and free thinking. His starting position for this assumption is that religion is essential, especially for modern, liberal, and egalitarian societies. He emphasises that religiosity persists and remains significant in secularised life contexts. He even sees new attention being given to religions, not only in the private sphere, but also in the social, public sphere. According to Habermas, just the power of religious thoughts could articulate forms of a way of humanely living together, granting each person his or her individual dignity (Habermas, 2001, 2012).

According to Lutz and Kiesel (2016, 11), religion and religiosity must be considered in their life-world significance, especially as a resource of meaning making. In so doing, they differentiate between religion, religiosity, and spirituality in social work. Religion means the organisation of a culturally-defined religious community, which has a recognisable and regulated structure and is based on common practices. Religiosity, on the other hand, refers to an individual’s subjective experience, as well as practice, of a specific faith and in the practice of religions. Spirituality stands for spiritual experience and the spiritual search for sense and transcendence, which can be a search for God within a religion, but which can also involve other things. The current individual quest for religiosity or spirituality seems to be a social aspect that at its core offers experiences of transcendence which reach deep into everyday structures and communicate meaning. Given the impact of religion on life conditions, its relevance for social development, as well as its plurality, social work should engage with it more intensively than ever before.

The relevance of religion for social work has so far been widely neglected in social research. Subsequently, there are currently barely any studies that address the issue of Islamic social work in Germany. This is largely because, in Germany, being Muslim is an elusive state, as it refers to a very diverse population (Aslan et al., 2017; Amirpur, 2013; Spielhaus, 2011). Indeed, Muslims in Germany are characterised by heterogeneous sociocultural, linguistic, religious, and political tendencies. Accordingly, they differ in their affiliation to Islamic organisations too.

Even though there have been a few studies on counselling and social work in Muslim contexts in recent years (Şahinöz, 2018; Yanık-Şenay, 2018; Aslan et al., 2015; Ceylan & Kiefer, 2016; Ucar & Blasberg-Kuhnke, 2013), there are currently no homogeneous answers to the question as to what exactly the adjective Islamic means in the term Islamic social work. Islam is a dynamic religion that has adapted to the realities of life in a variety of places and, in context of Islamic social work, confirms the plurality of daily life. This is emphasised in the revelations of the Qurʾan as an intended plurality (Q 49:13). Therefore, one can speak of a common Islam only in its core contents, such as the divine teachings, the histories of the prophets, and the principles as well as the pillars of faith.

Today, Muslims make up about 5.7% of German population. They are an ever-growing social group and belong to the major religious minorities (Halm & Sauer, 2017, 15). The majority are now fourth generation post-immigration and are therefore represented in all social groups, from kindergarten children to students, workers and professionals up to retirees. According to the Religion Monitor 2017, approximately 4.7 million people of Muslim faith were living in Germany in 2015. Between May 2011 and the end of 2015, approximately 1.2 million Muslims migrated to Germany. As a result, both the number and the composition of the Muslim population in Germany has changed. Nearly every second Muslim comes from a country other than Turkey. Muslims from the Middle East have now become the second largest group of origin in Germany, with a share of 17.1% (Halm & Sauer, 2017, 15–17). To sum up, the Muslim population in Germany is heterogeneous. The diversity of Islam and Muslims in Germany has led to a differentiation in relevance for different social arenas. As Islam cannot be presented as a uniform entity, Islamic social work needs to be differentiated accordingly.

According to Ramseier and Božić (2011), the definition of social work is time- and context-dependent. They also argue that the focus of social work depends on cultural, historical, and socio-economic conditions. In general, a definition of social work is not static, because it should remain dynamic in order to develop (Ramseier & Božić, 2011, 36). The history of social work is based on the development of social support and traditional welfare work. Social work in Germany has evolved from the social constellation, based on traditions of helping and parenting. As a result of historical development, the activities, tasks, and objectives of social work have constantly changed (Thole, 2012) and are expected to further evolve in the context of globalisation, the increasing differentiation of societies and with regard to challenges arising in the context of religion and migration.

The development of social work also has implications for the professional identity of social workers. The increasing differentiation of society and globalisation means the requirements for social work will increase. The professional identity of social workers therefore also needs to adapt to these changes, including religious and migration-related ones.

As in all religions and religious communities, there are different tendencies in Islam. For this reason, Islam in the context of social work can only be referred to on core issues, such as the principle of faith, the prophets, the Qurʾan and the five pillars. Moreover, besides Sunni and Shiite Islam, there are also other, minor movements and traditions, as well as ‘secular Muslims’ who strive for a separation between religion and society. Culturally, there is evidence that from the sixteenth century in India, Iran and today’s Turkey, Islam experienced different developments and was shaped by local cultural traditions (Ramseier & Božić, 2011, 26). This brief description of Muslim diversity in context of social work shows that Islam is not a uniform construction, neither as a religion nor as a social phenomenon. It always depends on the individual situation of those seeking advice, who we encounter in social work.

Due to worldwide social changes and movements, as well as developments in the profession itself, the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) revised its definition of social work in 2014. With this revision, the term ‘indigenous knowledge’ found its way into the new global definition of social work, which has professional and ethical implications for social work associations around the world. The wording is as follows:

Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central for social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance well-being. The above definition may be amplified into national and/or regional levels. (IFSW, 2014)

The central tasks of social work in the context of this definition include the promotion of social change, social development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Social work is a practical profession and a scientific discipline which assumes that interlocking historical, socio-economic, cultural, spatial, political, and personal factors can offer opportunities for human well-being and development, but also present obstacles. Structural barriers contribute to the perpetuation of inequalities, discrimination and oppression. Measures to remove structural and personal obstacles are essential for emancipatory practice. In solidarity with all those who are disadvantaged, social work also aims to combat poverty, liberate the defenceless and oppressed, and promote social inclusion and cohesion. The need to eliminate and change the structural conditions that contribute to social exclusion and oppression is the motivation for social work action. Gender equality is an important issue in this context, which is also addressed by social work. Although Islam is sometimes considered an obstacle to the emancipation of women, one can see a convergence between feminist or gender-sensitive social work on the one hand (Hicks, 2015) and Muslim thought on gender justice on the other hand (Amirpur, 2020). The Muslim Women’s Meeting and Training Centre in Cologne can be seen as an example of self-empowerment at the interface of social work and religious activism.

According to an international agreement, social work sees itself explicitly as a human rights profession that works for the enforcement of rights and for social integration of all people-even with regard to religion, because religion proves to be a dimension of the everyday life of social work which has grown out of life contexts within people themselves. In this sense, religious education is a constitutive part of social work (Schweitzer, 2018, 1306). Migration and increasing religious pluralism in Germany have given a new visibility to religion within social work. It may thus be assumed that social work plays some role in all religious communities, which implies social consequences for the relationship between Islam and social work. It opens up new possibilities for religious bodies from various organisations to take care of a growing population affected by physical and mental needs (Gabriel, 2018, 1296).

The overarching principles of social work are respect for the value and dignity of the human person, the principle of not harming any human being, respect for diversity, and the defence of human rights and social justice. Social work as a profession stands for the fact that human rights and shared responsibility are inseparably linked. The idea of shared responsibility highlights the fact that individual human rights can only be guaranteed if people take responsibility for each other and for the environment and underlines the importance of establishing mutual relationships in communities. One of the main priorities of social work is therefore to defend people’s rights at all levels and to support achievements in people taking responsibility for the well-being of others; and to take into account and respect interdependence between people, and between people and the environment.

Social work is legitimised and justified by the fact that it intervenes at the juncture between people and their environment. The environment includes the various social systems in which people live, as well as the natural, geographical environment, which has a strong influence on people’s lives. The participatory approach adopted in the context of social work is reflected in the fact that people and structures are involved in order to overcome existential challenges and improve well-being. In social work, as far as possible, work is done with, rather than, for people. Social work aims to strengthen people’s hope, self-esteem, and creative potential in everyday life.

Until the 1970s, the care and support of immigrants was not understood and perceived by the regular healthcare system as a task. According to Cyrus and Treichler (2004), the few measures and offers, such as private lessons, tutoring help for school and language support, were deficit-oriented and not integrative until then. Until the 1990s, the care, social counselling, and support of immigrants were mainly delegated to the social counselling for foreigners, which was mainly implemented by welfare organisations (AWO Bundesverband, 2002, 74; Ceylan & Kiefer, 2016). Caritas was given responsibility for immigrants from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and for Catholic immigrants from the former Yugoslavia; Diakonie was responsible for people from Greece; and Workers’ Welfare for immigrants of the Muslim faith, such as those from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, and the former Yugoslavia. In 1999, the allocation of nationalities to certain charities was abolished. Since then, institutionalised social counselling for foreigners has developed into migration social work.

Research studies increasingly point out that the needs of immigrants are much more complex than previously assumed (Amnesty International, 2018; El-Mafaalani & Toprak, 2011; Hamburger, 2018; Kunz, 2015; Marschke, 2014; Weiss, 2014). These needs can no longer be met by migration social work measures alone, although these have become better differentiated, especially in the last decade. This has led to a demand for intercultural and inter-religious openness in mainstream services, which has become louder and louder and still represents a major challenge for social work institutions and organisations today (Freise, 2016; Oelkers et al., 2016).

In recent years, there has been growing interest among organisations and services about culturally and religiously sensitive approaches to working with people of the Muslim faith (Nauerth et al., 2017; Yanık-Şenay, 2018). This includes the use of interpreting services or the employment of bilingual or bicultural specialists. In addition to multilingualism, the individual faith of the addressees is emphasised as an emotional resource for coping with the demands of life, especially in the context of flight migration. Yanık-Şenay (2018) addresses specific prerequisites and conditions for Muslim family counselling with special care structures and concepts of assistance. In her work, she highlights the importance of Muslim counselling as a significant aspect of social participation. Nauerth et al. (2017) show the challenges and requirements of religious sensitivity in counselling in the context of social work: religion and spirituality represent a resource for resilience and must therefore not be overlooked by social work. With a view to Islam, the importance of religious sensitivity in youth welfare, to which Muslim families and young people increasingly belong, is addressed.

In the following section, a practical approach to the issues of welfare provision in the context of religion and social work is presented. Since 1996, the Muslim Women’s Meeting and Training Centre has been a successful example of organisational development for education and social work in Muslim contexts.

The Muslim Women’s Meeting and Training Centre

The Muslim Women’s Meeting and Training Centre in Cologne is considered a model project (Ceylan & Kiefer, 2016) for Muslim education and social work across Germany. The centre, founded in 1996, was launched as a self-empowerment initiative by Muslim women of different ethnic backgrounds. Until then, mosque communities and cultural associations in particular had mainly been managed in the language of origin of the different ethnic minorities. Linguistically mixed or wholly German-speaking groups were often not addressed by this offer. Due to the linguistic heterogeneity of its founders and visitors, BFmF was founded as a German-speaking women’s institution.

In this capacity, BFmF was intended to be a place of encounters and education for all interested Muslim women, regardless of their linguistic or ethnic origin. Above all, mothers who could had difficulty finding an outside social environment with their children in other places or were unable to continue their education should be given the opportunity to do so at BFmF. This has also been made possible by the childcare offered since the beginning, parallel to all courses. The centre also seeks to be a place where Muslim women, who are often disadvantaged in the society and viewed as uneducated and oppressed, could develop themselves, pursue their interests, satisfy their needs for social exchange and further education, and make all the decisions themselves.

Even though the initiators are all Muslim women, the centre was not founded explicitly for religious reasons nor on the basis of a specific Qurʾanic verse or Hadith. Rather, the centre was established on an unspoken Islamic motivation to help each other, to support the needy and to receive further training. Reflection on the religious motives for establishing such a centre arose over time. To support the fraternity, the Qurʾan verse (49:13) was used: “O mankind! Truly We created you from a male and a female, and We made you peoples and tribes that you may come to know one another. Surely the most noble of you before God are the most reverent of you. Truly God is Knowing, Aware”Footnote 1 This message is reinforced by a Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad handed down by Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī: “The true believer stands by the other believer as if they were a solid construction: each part holds and strengthens the other. In order to show the mutual solidarity, the prophet put the fingers of one hand around those of the other.” (Tirmidhī, Muḥammad ibn ʿĪsā, 2007)

Religious education and the preservation of Islamic identity are still important aspects of the centre. Initially, however, the focus was not on building a professionally functioning Muslim educational and social institution. This arose instead from a necessary reaction to growing demand. One reason why this need appeared to BFmF is that people looking for help turned to a counselling centre with a similar religious and cultural background, particularly on such sensitive issues as education, marriage and family problems. They hoped for a greater understanding of their situation and more realistic or appropriate solutions to their living conditions. The work performed was initially carried out without government funding and was only financed later by government agencies based on evidence of need and the services provided. The centre has always worked in advance before recognition and funding were granted. In this way, the professionalism of their work was demonstrated in advance. Over time, BFmF became a well-known and professional institution. Thanks to its professionalism, more and more people seeking advice from counselling centres at other social institutions were forwarded to this centre.

The founders were education-oriented young women, some of whom were looking for work, in vocational training or in college, and initially brought their diverse skills to the new institution on a voluntary basis. At the beginning, specific inquiries from visitors about educational and meeting opportunities for Muslim women were foremost and were the driving force for further development. For the initiators and employees, it was more important to find quick solutions to the everyday problems of visitors than to deal theoretically with women’s rights at that point in time. Dealing with socio-political issues and becoming involved in relevant committees resulted from the growing recognition and relevance of the centre in the community. As a result, a first course programme was quickly created, which was actively accepted and expanded accordingly. The newly founded centre was located near the University of Cologne and thus became a meeting point for Muslim students at the university. Rent for the rooms was earned through a monthly membership fee as well as course and seminar fees.

Programmes in the area of education, advice, meeting and support have been expanded in line with growing demand. Both through demand from visitors and the fact that many Muslim women were unable to get jobs due to being veiled, the possibility of creating paid jobs was developed under the umbrella of BFmF. For example, job creation measures (ABM) by the Employment Agency opened new employment opportunities for previously unemployed Muslim women. This was the first step towards professionalising the institution. Other Muslim women who experienced discrimination on the labour market, especially graduates from the nearby University of Cologne, were attracted by BFmF as a potential employer. Over time, a professional, multi-ethnic and multicultural team of women was formed. State recognition of the educational work carried out to date followed within two years, which meant the institution could be put on a more solid financial footing. This development was made possible, on the one hand, by the strong commitment of the women involved and, on the other, by their knowledge of the sociocultural, legal and economic structures of both German society and immigrant Muslim communities, which enabled them to make the correct decisions for the further development of the centre. They were able to respond quickly and adequately to the needs of primarily Muslim visitors and became an important point of contact for them.

BFmF should be seen as a pioneer in the development of an innovative, model Muslim social institution. By connecting both German and various migrant cultures with each other, the institution took on an important bridging function in intercultural and interreligious exchange. A further innovation was its claim of taking responsibility for social tasks as a Muslim institution, on an equal footing with other organisations and being treated as a financial equal in this regard. However, this commitment was not welcomed by all bodies in the social arena: both established German and Muslim institutions often distanced themselves from BFmF. It was not uncommon for the centre to face deliberate hurdles when allocating project funds or inquiries about cooperation. It was therefore very important to win supporters in public life right from the start and to make the centre a place for encounters and, above all, for interreligious and intercultural dialogue. The strong commitment at the city, state and federal level also raised the centre’s profile. In addition to numerous local and regional engagements, employees of BFmF were also involved in several working groups at a federal level to develop the National Integration Plan, the German Islam Conference and other high-level bodies.

Since its foundation, the centre has been open to visits from various public institutions, such as schools, universities, police, German Army, prisons, kindergartens, media, foreign guests of the Goethe-Institute, theologians, and thus has contributed to multiplying intensive social dialogue. Among these visitors were high level politicians such as the President of the Federal German Parliament, the Federal Interior Minister, and Ministers of the Government of North Rhine-Westphalia. Muslim women also provide important information and education about the Islamic religion and Muslim life in Germany, thereby assuming an important role in building mutual understanding and maintaining social peace in society. In addition to educational seminars on Muslim life, the centre also offers important information on social, cultural, religious and legal relationships in the Federal Republic with seminars, courses and advisory services aimed at migrants. By assuming various organisational tasks in socio-spatial activities such as joint demonstrations against budget cuts, at conferences or district festivals, BFmF employees show that they are just as interested in the important issues of their social space as other social institutions and can also work competently to solve them. As a result, many reservations and prejudices have been reduced over time. Not only the open nature, but also the professional work of the centre, its active participation in all relevant committees at local, state and federal level have contributed to the further recognition of BFmF. Over time, BFmF has developed important expertise, especially in the area of integration work for (mainly Muslim) immigrants and is called on as a reference by many Muslim initiatives and organisations across the country. Its pioneering work has meant that the centre is the first Muslim organisation to be recognised and promoted by the state in social work and it serves as an important role model. Non-Muslim organisations also appreciate BFmF’s cooperation, particularly where they have created an intercultural opening in their social work. Cooperative actions have been established with counselling services, family centres, educational institutions and government institutions.

Responding to social changes is a key reason for the centre’s growth from a small women’s initiative to a large education and counselling centre. Even though from the beginning the centre was open to all people who supported its values and goals, most of the educational and counselling programmes established by Muslim women were aimed at Muslim women and families. The work of the centre developed through the arrival of new migrant groups in Germany. Even if the focus of educational work (especially family education, but also seminars on Islamic topics) is on Muslim people, programmes are generally open to all interested people. Depending on the focus of the advice, the consulting work can be aimed at different target groups (families, migrants, debtors, the unemployed, parents, etc.). In principle, all those seeking help can find advice and support within BFmF, regardless of their identity.

When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, migrants from these countries came to Germany and needed support in almost all areas of life. Since then, people from this group have been another of BFmF’s target groups. With the admission of Bulgarian migrants, the educational work of the centre was extended to male visitors for the first time (outside of family education programmes which were already open to men). Since then, almost all of the centre’s programmes have also been opened to men. This was a development that was not intended in the beginning. The male visitors also made it necessary to hire male employees; until then, there had been male support in a voluntary form. From this development, male educators and course leaders were also hired. This fact, once again, illustrates the flexibility and openness of the centre to continue to develop according to social needs. With the admission of Syrian refugees since 2015, the centre’s offer has expanded to include this group. Finally, the target group was expanded to include all migrants who are required to attend integration courses and professional German courses. Due to the multicultural composition of BFmF team, most clients can be served in a language they know, and the open and friendly welcome enables a good learning atmosphere among the course participants.

The centre provides more than 20,000 teaching hours annually, across its three recognised educational institutions. In addition, there are thousands of hours of advice given by the various advisory services. At the end of 2019, the number of employees subject to social security contributions was around 80. Approximately 30 employees work on courses on a fee basis. There are also 20 voluntary supporters in education and advisory work (as translators). In addition, there are numerous volunteer language mediators who, as refugees with a good knowledge of German, accompany other refugees to official appointments if necessary. The majority of employees are still women and all management positions are currently filled by women. The centre has around 600 visitors a day from educational and counselling services, including over 360 people in language courses, 42 people attending three secondary school classes (to obtain the 9th and 10th class grades). Approximately 50 children from 0 to 3 years of age attend parallel childcare to the courses, 24 children under 3 years of age attend day care in the kindergarten and around 80 school children get daily homework help. Together with the employees, the centre is visited daily by more than 1000 people on average. Beyond this, employees participate in over 50 external working groups at all levels.

It should be emphasised that all educational programmes are carried out under three educational institutions as sections of BFmF: Muslim Women’s Education, Muslim Family Education and the Muslim Academy. The programmes are aimed at people aged 16 and over. The family education courses also include children if they take part with their parents. While some of the counselling services are aimed specifically at migrants (e. g. migration counselling, refugee counselling), the other counselling services are generally for all those affected (educational counselling, unemployment counselling, debt counselling, etc.). Such educational and advisory work would not be possible without membership of a welfare association, since most project funds are distributed through umbrella organisations. BFmF is the first Muslim organisation to be a member of the German Parity Welfare Association (DPWV), which is one of the largest welfare associations in Germany, alongside Workers’ Welfare, Caritas and Diakonie.

With its educational as well as social work and its social engagement, BFmF seeks to contribute to better social participation and, above all, to the integration of Muslim women and families, and thus for all to reach a better and more friendly coexistence. Even though the path to professionalisation was paved with many difficulties, especially prejudice against Muslim people and in particular Muslim women, BFmF shows that with the necessary commitment and the right decisions, it is possible. It was necessary to focus on people’s needs and look for solutions. In order to achieve this goal, good cooperation with all those involved was important. Thanks to the open nature and transparent way of working of BFmF, many prejudices were eliminated. Through such social engagement, a contribution can be made to more positive perception and better social acceptance of Muslims.

Conclusion

Orientation towards the individual realities of those seeking advice is considered a central principle of social work. Religion, religiosity and spirituality can be of essential importance for social work as a discipline and as a profession. In this context, significant concepts of social work such as social justice, environment, resources, difference, solidarity, empowerment, participation, coping and resilience are undoubtedly compatible with a sensitive approach to religious realities in everyday life. Islam is regarded as a social religion of assistance: for Muslims, charity and welfare, solidarity and mutual help are the central elements of their faith. From the Qurʾan, the idea of solidarity with a call to mercy as means of charity arises, taking place from a person-to-person perspective. Social work in Muslim organisations in Germany is based on employees’ social commitment and is indispensable to cover basic needs when necessary, for example, if access to state benefits is lacking.

The experience of BFmF makes it clear that Muslim assistance seekers need religiously and culturally sensitive advice in certain subject areas and it is therefore important that Muslim organisations do professional social work, just as other religious communities do in Germany. Using the BFmF example, it can be shown that professional educational and social work with Muslim sponsorship is both necessary and possible. As religiously and culturally sensitive work, it can complement and support the existing offers of state and independent providers.

The participation of Muslims, especially Muslim women who are perceived as a disadvantaged group, is an important signal both in Muslim communities and in society as a whole. Compared to the social responsibility of mosque communities, which is carried out on a voluntary basis, the BFmF’s professional work makes it clear that Muslims, as socially responsible people, not only work for their own community, but for all those in need.

Of course, there is not only one answer to the question of what it means to be open to religious questions in social work. At the least, a sensitive attitude towards religious questions can provide an ability to deal constructively with the reality of life. In this context, it is time to address the question of how social work can successfully shape an assistance process when working with people seeking advice, for whom religious aspects of life matter.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Translation by Seyyed Hossein Nasr (The Study Quran).

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Schröer, J., Ürek, B. (2022). Social Work and Muslim Welfare: A Women’s Grassroots Association. In: Schmid, H., Sheikhzadegan, A. (eds) Exploring Islamic Social Work. Muslims in Global Societies Series, vol 9. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-95880-0_13

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