Moroccan adolescents – more Muslim than Moroccan
Given the negative reporting about Islam, you wouldn’t expect adolescents to be happy to identify with it. However, that is exactly what’s happening, research by Susan Ketner of a large number of Moroccan adolescents has revealed. They often deliberately choose to emphasize their Muslim identity. This supports them and gives them a feeling of belonging. Ketner will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 2 October.
‘It goes without saying that their religion is something that they are born into’, according to Ketner. ‘But what I found particularly interesting in many conversations is that there’s also a large element of choice on their part, too. You can choose whether or not to be a Muslim. That’s the opposite to being Moroccan.’ This clearly less strong link with their Moroccan identity can certainly be attributed to discrimination, among other things, argues Ketner in her thesis. ‘They are also discriminated against as Muslims, but it appears that that group identity is much stronger.’ Incidentally, discrimination does not have a negative influence on all adolescents – some of them want to play a leading role in improving the image of Moroccans.
Trust and support
During adolescence, Moroccan teenagers are confronted with challenges, including living in several cultures, bargaining with parents, experiences of discrimination and giving shape to their Muslim identity in a non-Islamic context. One explanation for the strong identification with Islam, according to Ketner, is the support and the trust that a religion can offer. These adolescents can observe a lot of things from the viewpoint of a Muslim. In Islam they can find many points of references to bridge the contradictions between cultures and they can use their own knowledge of Islam in negotiations with their parents.
Contemporary interpretation of Islam
There’s a high degree of exploration in the field of Islam: adolescents do not automatically adopt the customs and habits of their parents but have their own ideas about a Muslim identity. About 95 percent of the adolescents indicate that they are independently seeking information about their religion. ‘That can be in a mosque, but also on the internet or in a library’, according to Ketner. ‘They also use each other as sources. As a result, many adolescents have a unique, contemporary interpretation of Islam. They are involved with it in a different way to their parents.’
Letting adolescents speak for themselves
Ketner deliberately chose not to interview adolescents from the major cities. ‘So much research is being done there already. For the same reasons I have not confined my research to problem youths or radicalization.’ No professionals or specialists have a say either – Ketner has let the adolescents themselves talk about the various themes that are important to them as teenagers.
Susan Liesbeth Ketner (1976, Wageningen) has a degree in Religious Studies from the University of Groningen. Her PhD supervisors at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies are Prof. J.N. Bremmer, Dr M.W. Buitelaar and Dr H.A. Bosma. Her thesis is entitled ‘Marokkaanse wortels, Nederlandse grond; exploratie, bindingen en identiteitsstrategieën van jongeren van Marokkaanse afkomst.’ [Moroccan roots, Dutch soil; exploration, commitment and identity strategies among adolescents of Moroccan origin’] Ketner currently works as a researcher for Variya, a support organ for social development and integration in Overijssel.