First International Conference of Young Urban Researchers (FICYUrb)
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Synnove Bendixsen

New religious organisations as social movements: relations to young Muslims and their urban social practises

Synnove Bendixsen
European Ethnology, Humboldt Universität (Berlin)/ Social an

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     Last modified: March 14, 2007
     Presentation date: 06/11/2007 11:30 AM in ISCTE-II B202
     (View Schedule)

Movements within the second and third generation of immigrants in Germany either demand reforms of their parents’ established religious organisations or create new organisations. I have conducted a longer term fieldwork with young women participating in a religious organisation established by Muslim youth for Muslim youth in Berlin. In this organisation women provide lessons to each other focusing on the teaching and studying of Islamic scriptures, social practices, and forms of bodily comportment considered relevant to the cultivation of the ideal virtuous self. Can this religious organisation be considered as a social movement? How is participation in this organisation influencing the women’s identification in Berlin?

The paper argues that the religious organisation has elements of social movements because of its focus on the participants’ social behaviour and its relations towards the non-Muslim society. For the majority of these females Islam is both an individual and a collective practice. The form of piety the movement seeks to realize is determined on, and alter, many aspects of the women’s life-choices in the urban space. The paper will indicate on the one hand, how participation affects more individual choices like working places and interaction with urban ‘strangers’, and on the other, how the organisation, by arranging inter-religious dialogues and seminars tries to influence how ‘Islam’ is viewed upon in the general urban environment. The organisation is an example of how many young Muslims in European cities endeavour to improve the general stigmatised identity of Islam today.

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