Germany is an immigration society – and there is nothing out of the ordinary about this. Immigration involves transformations and changes linked to issues and conflicts that can lead to confusion, insecurity and fear. Nationalist, racist, and religious extremist currents tap into these phenomena and challenge and polarize our diverse and pluralistic social reality with their ideologies of inequality.
The growing pull of such currents and the increasing polarization of society can also be seen as an expression of society’s diminishing ability to integrate people of different backgrounds.
But we can also see this as an opportunity – a chance for the always necessary processes of reassurance as well as for the strengthening and evolution of the values and norms in democratic society. Ufuq.de seeks to create the necessary space for such processes.
I. Our objective is to promote social cohesion within a pluralistic society. In a climate marked by conflict and controversy, we put emphasis on dealing with emerging issues in an coolheaded fashion. We bank on sensitivity rather than alarmism.
II. Ufuq.de’s target groups are youths and young adults. In order to reach these groups, we support institutions, specialists, and multiplicators who work with young people using our specially devised programmes focusing on the areas of Islam, racism, and the prevention of radicalisation. Moreover, we offer workshops that address youths directly.
III. Our goal is to empower youths and promote their civic awareness for pluralism and diversity as well as their participation in society. We aim to reach all youth groups and are keen to encourage them to discuss together and grapple with our common values as well as with society’s prejudices and discrimination. We are guided by the following question: “How do we want to live?”
IV. Islam as a religion and young Muslims’ varying forms of religiousness play a special role in this process. Specifically, Muslim youths find themselves confronted with non-belonging, discrimination, and racism. At the same time, religion and faith are of increasing importance to them in their search for identity, for example. For this reason, they need a space in which they can raise their questions and speak about conflicts. Our goal is to inoculate youths against simplistic ideological narratives and worldviews.
V. Although we are not theologians, we do stress the diversity of Muslim ways of life as well as the various ways young Muslims and non-Muslims understand religion. In doing so we stress Islam’s commonalities – rather than the differences – with other religions as well as non-religion based values, norms, and world views.
VI. We are not working against a specific group or ideology. Instead we promote dialogue, and inclusivity. Universal prevention is not primarily aimed at challenging Salafism (or other ideologies) but takes up the topics and needs of youths (before others can do so) and empowers them to become active members of society.
VII. When searching for answers, young people do not always act as one might expect or desire. Sometimes the positions they espouse and the way they behave can pose extreme challenges for educators. Our approach enables educational specialists to deal constructively with youths as they explore religion, while helping educators to better react to provocations on the part of their students. Educators do not need to be experts in the areas of Islam in order to offer support and guidance to youths seeking answers.
VIII. Our objective is not to “correct” youths (and especially not their families, religions, cultures, traditions, etc.) or to channel them down the “right” path. Instead our programmes aim to help them find their own way. Indeed, we find the signalling of recognition and belonging to Muslim youths and helping young people experience a sense of self-efficacy are the best means of prevention.
IX. Apart from our pedagogical work with educational specialists and youths, ufuq.de also hopes to influence public discourse by offering guidance to policy makers and establishing a presence in both media and academic arenas. We want to confront stereotypes and radicalisation and do our part in dealing with conflicts and controversies in a productive fashion. After all, conflicts and controversies cannot be avoided when it comes to developing natural cooperation and coexistence in a democratic immigration society.
Berlin, September 2016