Growing group of young Salafists increasingly isolated from society: report

A woman with her head covered stands on an Amsterdam bridge with a mosque in the background
A woman with her head covered stands on an Amsterdam bridge with a mosque in the background. March 13, 2017Ale_MiDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

There is a growing group of young salafists in the Netherlands who politicians can't get a grip on, according to a study by Mohammad Nazar Soroush at Tilburg University, for which he is receiving his doctorate, NOS reports.

Nazar Soroush studied salafist Muslims in the Netherlands for 15 years. He visited 64 religious meetings over the past three years, and listened and watched young salafists at mosques, foundations and leisure activities. Salafists are Muslims who try to live as strictly as possible to the authentic, pure form of Islam. 

The young salafists seek the protection of a closed community, that has traits of a family, Nazar Soroush said. What struck the researcher, was how negative the young people are about the world outside theirs. "They can not spend time with old friends, or people who are not their ideological brothers", he said to NOS. "A girl asked what she should say to a colleague who says salam aleikum when she comes in. The answer: do not say 'As-salamu alaikum' (peace be upon you) but 'Aleikum' (upon you), because the colleague as non-Muslim is not worthy of peace."

Nazar Soroush also noticed a rapid growth in the number of young salafists. In 2004 he only saw a few young people at Salafist lectures, now there are hundreds. "And I see that they marry young, have children young and also involve these children in their religious currents at an increasingly younger age, starting with group 5", he said, according to NOS. "These are people who grew up largely without having to deal with other views and who also learned from childhood that people who think differently are not worth a penny."

Religious organizations see the young people as missionaries to spread the faith, according to Nazar Soroush. That task will also keep them in the Netherlands, he believes. "Over the past years they thought that if they did not succeed here, they could always go to the caliphate. But now that this possibility no longer exists, I see the young people mourning. Radical youth, who lost hope, but in whom frustration is increasing. That is a worrying development."

That does not mean that the salafist youths he spoke to are terrorists, he added. "They reject Western values, but only one found violence acceptable." He also saw that mosque authorities actively control radical young people.

But he still thinks the growth of young salafists is a worrying development. "Most of them work on a powerful community that is becoming better organized and does not want to participate in our society."