Muslim youth groups and the formation of civic social capital in Swiss society

This research project, conducted by the Center for Research on Religion and the Department for the Study of Religions, is supported by the Jacobs Foundation with a budget of CHF 385,000. Project duration: January 2011 to December 2012. 

Due to immigration, the Muslim population in Switzerland has increased significantly over the last thirty years. In 2010, 5.2% of all Swiss inhabitants – or just under 400,000 people – had Muslim beliefs. Minors and young adults make up one third of this Muslim group, or approximately 120,000 individuals. Despite these numbers, there is a striking lack of in-depth studies looking at young Muslims, their religion, their national and cultural identities, their values and their attitudes towards Swiss society. This lack is all the more evident since these young Muslims are the future leaders of Muslim organisations, and the ideals and values of the next generation will be of vital importance for the integration of Islam and Muslims in Switzerland.

The research project strives to close this gap. To this end, it is exploring the different perspectives and attitudes of young Muslims with regards to religion and society. In addition, the project considers the extent to which extent involvement in religious associations impedes or promotes a social integration and participation in Swiss society. The study pays special attention to documenting the different religious, cultural and social activities of youth groups both within and outside of Muslim organisations. The basis for this work is based on the analytical approach and terminology of civic social capital as characterised by Prof. Alex Stepick (Florida International University, Miami, USA). The project analyses the extent to which the activities of Muslim youth groups offer and encourage the building of bridges and forging of relationships with society in the broadest sense.

This study will be of interest for social and political decision makers, authorities and the wider Swiss general public; it will provide knowledge on the different integrative and supportive activities offered by Muslim associations and propose perspectives for the civic involvement of Muslim youth groups, forums and leaders. The project will also suggest criteria for good civic involvement practices. More generally, the project will contribute new insight to research into Muslim youth and young adults in Europe.

Project team