Logo SAVE - Sisters against violent extremism

18. June 2011

This is Who We Are! Young Muslim Men in Austria

A Study by Women without Borders

Young Muslim men in Austria live in a parallel world. That world is not only ideologically different, but also provides fewer opportunities.

The educational paths of Muslim and non-Muslim young men diverge at an early age. Almost five times more Muslim boys than non-Muslim boys go to a Hauptschule*, while double as many go to a Polytechnic, and only 2% undertake university studies. The resulting feeling of exclusion extends to all areas of life: School, education, training and business.

The journey in the wrong direction often begins with educational choices: they begin their careers badly prepared, receive insufficient advice and do not follow their own dreams. As they enter adult life, they have little confidence that they will successfully gain a foothold on the career ladder.

Watch a report about this study by ORF entitled "Explosive Study about young Muslims" ("Brisante Studie über junge Muslime") in German.

*In the Austrian school system, high school is divided into three tiers. The most academically rigorous tier is Gymnasium, the second is Realschule and the third is Hauptschule. The Hauptschule and Realschule have a greater focus on practical work and apprenticeships, whereas the Gymnasium prepares students for academic studies.

Modern packaging, conservative core

Young Muslim men’s life plans are to some extent contradictory and ambivalent. One thing is very clear: individuality is not a priority; parents play a key role in plans for the future. Most of the boys’ mothers are housewives and their fathers are unskilled workers or are overqualified for their jobs. The young men want to do things differently. Career success is right at the top of their personal wish lists, closely followed by the desire to be an open, progressive person, who is at the same time a traditional man living according to his religion. They hope to find a modern, educated wife whose priorities will be caring for children and the household. These classic gender roles are also present in the visions of the non-Muslim men surveyed. At the same time, 80% of the young Muslims hope that their wife will contribute to the family income. There is a collision between modern messages and the remaining attractions of tradition.

The ambition to achieve highly in life is clearly developed. Over 90% wish for more opportunities in life.

Religion as a compass through life

Islam and its religious laws are the guidelines for young Muslims’ daily lives. Religion regulates everything: work, love, family, free time. For many, the Prophet Mohammed is their top role model. Nearly 80% of Muslim young men report that they live according to Islam’s commandments. Religious guidelines are only relevant for about one quarter of non-Muslim respondents. Almost a half of the surveyed Muslim young men argue for a European Islam, providing clear evidence of the need for a successful symbiosis of religion and everyday life. However, there is a further discrepancy here between vision and reality; a third of the young Muslims report that “only in the Mosque do I find people who accept me as I am.”

Honour appears to have not just Islamic but also male connotations. 84% of Muslims attach great meaning to their family’s honour, but 70% of the non-Muslim respondents share this feeling.

The young generation, Muslim or not, is on a search for orientation. The need for a strong role model is somewhat more important for young Muslim men than it is for non-Muslims.

Modern, Muslim, Austrian!

„I am proud to be Austrian and Muslim“: three quarters of the Muslim respondents agreed with this statement. Half of them, however, feel greatly under pressure to conform in Austria. Three quarters of them find the freedoms that Austria guarantees, such as the freedom to wear a head scarf, a positive aspect that is not enjoyed in some other European countries.

The Muslim men’s appraisal of Austrian politics is critical. Over half feel that they are not adequately considered in the political sphere. This appraisal is shared by the non-Muslim men. Criticism of foreigners irritates about half of the Muslim men, but also a third of their non-Muslim colleagues.

Identification with Austria is part of the identity of young Muslims. Patriotism and pride of their ethnic origins is another important element. 82% find criticism of their land of origin to be hurtful. Two thirds of young Muslim men judge Austrian culture very positively, but with reservations: social permissiveness causes irritation.

Social divisions in everyday life

Almost a fourth of the surveyed Muslims and non-Muslims report that they feel rejected by “the other”. The desire to get to know one another, engage in intercultural exchange and friendship is expressed above all by the Muslims; 42% would like to have more “Austrian” friends.

Positive interventions that target intercultural strategies towards education and businesses could lay the foundations for all-important bridge building within Austrian society.

To read the full report in German, please follow this link:


« Back to overviewSend a friend Print article