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Young Male Salafis in Germany—Ticking Bombs? A Biographical Approach

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Part of the Veröffentlichungen der Sektion Religionssoziologie der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie book series (DGSRELIGION)

Abstract

Religious radicalization is a phenomenon of great interest in security policy, especially when it comes to Salafists. In my contribution, however, I argue for looking less for general ideal–typical and all too general trajectories of a turn to Salafism, but rather for tracking down the concrete initiating biographical and discursive contexts of the attractiveness of Salafism for the young men. I do so by means of biographical research informed by discourse theory. In particular, the question will be answered as to which social positions the young Salafists (can) take or are assigned, and under which conditions and possibilities. This leads to a more contextual understanding of the adoption of a Salafi identity and its conditions in the cases treated exemplarily here. I will draw on data collected during a one-year field research in an Arabic- and German-speaking Salafi mosque community, at the end of which biographical interviews were also conducted with some of its members.

The analysis of the three biographical cases can show to what extent it can be said that the young men who turned to Salafism must be understood as “ticking bombs” and which concrete social and discursive dynamics led to this.

Keywords

  • Islam
  • Salafism
  • Religious Radicalization
  • Germany
  • Biography and Religion

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I want to thank here especially one of the editors, Christel Gärtner, for her constructive critical remarks and our discussions of the paper.

  2. 2.

    Riesebrodt (2004) discusses the criticisms levelled at the terms ‘fundamentalism’ and ‘Islamism’. On Salafism, see Meijer (2009) and Sedwick (2014).

  3. 3.

    This means the Prophet Muhammad’s traditional behaviour and statements.

  4. 4.

    In this framework, Christianity, for example, is understood as the change from a monotheistic Judaism to a polytheistic Christianity (‘tritheism’; ibid., p. 206). The degeneration leads for some believers to the task of regeneration by living the perfect model of original Islam, and by da’wa (‘inviting’ others to Islam). For others, degeneration leads to the apocalyptic last battle between the unbelievers and the righteous ones. For them, da’wa is only one of the necessary consequences of degeneration, the other being to leave the periphery and move to the centre in order to fight the last battle in the holy land of Syria.

  5. 5.

    Cited after Steffen (2015, p. 10; my translation).

  6. 6.

    However, Schröter’s data collection and analysis are methodologically unclear and opaque in her book, and are therefore scientifically difficult to classify. Thus, we can note her findings only as special example here, but not generalize them.

  7. 7.

    Repeated and rejected by several politicians and recently debated in 2018 by Horst Seehofer (CSU, Minister of the Interior), as well as by several politicians of the right-wing party the AfD.

  8. 8.

    My thanks go especially to Till Peters for providing the data, as well as to Habiba Rode for supporting the research in various phases. Laura Dickmann has conducted further empirical research. She conducted fieldwork for around two years by contacting several young female Salafists in Germany, and she is currently analyzing the narrative interviews with them.

  9. 9.

    Course on the basic beliefs of Islam such as the conception of God and the divinity of the Quran.

  10. 10.

    All interviews are anonymized.

  11. 11.

    This group settled in southeast Turkey and grasped the opportunity in the Lebanon War to enter Germany legally as Turks and then destroy their passports in order to apply for asylum as refugees from Lebanon. Many such cases were brought to court – including that of Arif’s parents – but they were still shown tolerance because they could not be sent back to either Turkey or Lebanon without a passport. The problem that is still current today is that such tolerance did not provide a work permit for the first generation. A criminal clan structure has developed within large parts of this Lebanese-Turkish community in Germany. On the specific history of the Mhallami, see Ghadban 2000.

  12. 12.

    In this situation, he was not able to talk about his ideas on distance from and respect for women, or about his pride in his youngest sister’s success at secondary school.

  13. 13.

    Salafi Muslims accuse Shia Muslims of practicing shirk (believing in others besides God), which means being a kafir (unbeliever).

  14. 14.

    The night prayer isha is followed by the prayer fajr before sunrise.

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Klinkhammer, G. (2021). Young Male Salafis in Germany—Ticking Bombs? A Biographical Approach. In: Gärtner, C., Winkel, H. (eds) Exploring Islam beyond Orientalism and Occidentalism. Veröffentlichungen der Sektion Religionssoziologie der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie. Springer VS, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-33239-6_12

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