Muslim youth in Brussels grow up with multiple identities in a super diverse urban environment. Three quarters identify as Muslim, but also as Brussels residents. In contacts with security and police personnel, young Muslims feel discriminated against twice as often as non-Muslims.
Those documents from an investigation into Muslim youth research, described in the study ‘Entre Sécularisation et Rupture. Jeunes musulmans bruxellois: pratique, identités et croyances’ by Islam expert Corinne Torrekens (ULB), and political scientists Nawal Bensaïd (ULB) and Dimokritos Kavadias (VUB).
1,870 secondary school students took part in a survey for the Debest study by the VUB and Erasmus University College Brussels, 905 of whom were of Muslim origin. The authors supplemented the report with a qualitative part, for which they included focus group discussions and individual interviews with 125 Muslim Muslims between the ages of 16 and 25.
Muslim youth in Brussels grow up with multiple identities in a super-diverse urban environment, the researchers write. “Those identities can be rooted in identifying with events and people they don’t know personally (Islamophobic reactions in the media), but they can also be the result of personal experiences (such as excessive identity checks). Developing an identity in such a context is for the most personal search.”
Muslim youth in Brussels in general most often associate with the Islamic world (76 percent), closely followed by identification with Brussels (73 percent), Belgium (65 percent), and the municipalities in which they live (59 percent). However, some Muslim youths feel they do not belong in any community. It only concerns a minority; it feels connected to different things and feels Muslim as well as Belgian, Brussels or Turk, and so on.
A distinction has been made between Muslim and non-Muslim students who are connected to each other. So it’s definitely about being discriminated against. The percentages among Muslim youths are higher than among non-Muslim youths. This difference is most apparent in contacts with the police and security personnel: the percentage of young Muslims who feel discriminated against in that case is twice as high. In the school context the mutual differences are much more limited. Young people in Brussels who feel strongly about the Islamic world and their religion also more often feel discriminated against. (Read more below the chart)
Country of origin
Young people in Brussels with a migration background often maintain a strong bond with their country of origin. The VUB/ULB research has shown that this applies even more to young Muslims than to young people of other faiths. Many go on holiday regularly for fun. Yet these young people indicate that they do not feel completely at home there either. There, too, they are seen as ‘foreigners’. They therefore see no future at all in their parents’ country of origin.
In Brussels, the city where they live and are, they find a place where they feel at home. The young people are even more involved with Brussels than with Belgium.
“It is a joke that Brussels is the most diverse city in the world after Dubai,” the researchers write. “The practical consequence is that Muslim youngsters in this super diverse city have a place where they feel at home, where they can be themselves and of which they are also proud. More than seven out of ten Muslim youths feel at home.”