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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Muslim associations in Malmö and Lund - a snapshot [part 2]

originally published as  'Muslimska föreningar i Malmö och Lund – en ögonblicksbild' in on December 2nd, 2010 and translated from the Swedish original by Spyros A. Sofos

By Erica Li Lundqvist & Leif Stenberg

If we compare with the Lund municipal statistics from 2006, 136 different countries of origin are represented, with the largest group coming from Nordic countries (21%) followed by Germany (7.1%), the US (4.9%), Poland (4.8 %) and Iraq (4.7%). A total of 1635 people originate in Asia, with Iraq being the single largest country. The district of North Fäladen has the largest proportion of foreign nationals (1468), representing 13% of its population. [13] According to Imam Ali Ibrahim, of Lund's Islamic Center, there are approximately between 4 and 5,000 Muslims in the town, however, not all of them practicing. [14] During a typical Friday visit, for example, to the mosque, there are around 90 people while the larger festivals can attract upwards of 500 visitors.

The Study
The present study includes 24 Muslim associations. A search of the keywords
islamiska, muslimska, muslim, muslimer and islamic at the website yielded a total of 47 hits on associations and organizations related to Islam in Malmö and Lund. An additional 12 were found without the help of the above keywords. 11 of a total of 59 were located and were sent questionnaires through personal contacts and through visits in autumn 2007. In the autumn of 2008 a further 36 questionnaires were distributed to associations in Malmö and Lund. Of the total of 59 identified organizations, only 24 responded. The reason for the large number of non responses in this study is partly because 21 of the 36 questionnaires sent out in autumn 2008 were returned with the addressee is unknown indication. The remaining 14 associations identified have chosen not to participate. The number of Muslim associations identified in this study should not be regarded as absolute. Only those organizations that responded to the survey are presented.

In the course of the research, numerous mosque visits were undertaken, and comprised interviews with members as well as video footage of the Friday sermons made. Parts of some of the interviews are appended at the end of the study.

It is difficult to determine the extent of religious commitment. This study thus focuses on organized religious Muslim groups, but also examines the religious daily life of Muslims in the area. [15] That is, the focus is on what we choose to call everyday Islam rather than an abstract theological study that describes how Muslims should be in accordance with different conceptions of Islamic ideals. At the same time from a non-Muslim point of view, expectations of Muslims in terms of the practice of Islam can be synonymous with naive notions about particular atire, sexual conservatism, food habits, rituals, and fixed. Assumptions and beliefs shape the images of Islam in Swedish society and influence how Muslims are expected to practice their religious traditions. Religion is often seen among both Muslims and non-Muslims as a single universal, specific, clearcut "Islam". 

The total sum of registered members, according to the associations looked at, amounts to about 9000. The number unfortunately does not provide a completely accurate picture of how many of these are practicing Muslims. Even in this case there are a number of factors that are pertinent. To begin with, many associations have several non-registered members participating in community activities, which means that the number of participants can be significantly higher, and also, there are people who are registered in more than one Muslim association. Other factors that come into play may be that many women are not registered members of any association and do not participate in any activities, but practice their religion at home. This means that a further distinction can be made between pacticing Muslims and active members of Muslim associations. An additional category should be added in order to not exclude religious Muslims who are non-practicing. Furthermore, in most organizations a distinction should be made between passive and active members, that is, paying and non-paying members. Another factor that should be taken into consideration is that only one person in a household / family can act as the registered user (that is, pay membership dues), while several others in the family are active in associations and participate in their meetings regularly. It should also be noted that the associations' own statistics, can be somewhat exaggerated. The figures may give an indication of how many active Muslim association members are in the area. Consequently, Malmö's Muslims are not a homogeneous group in terms of approach to Islam, but they belong to a pluralistic mass comprising several Muslim trends and a range of ethnic and political affiliations.

Islam has basically two major denominations- Sunni and Shi'a. Somewhere between 85 and 90% of all Muslims in the world belong to the Sunni denomination. Although Shi'a Muslims are a minority in the Muslim context, they form a majority in countries such as Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq. In Lebanon, there are also numerous, but there is no census that can determine the size of the country's Shi'a population. [16] Sufism can be understood as a label for movements within Islam whose unifying substance comprises various piety rituals. Sufism is mainly encountered in the Sunni community but can also be found among the Shi'a denomination and has some similarities to both Jewish and Christian mysticism [17].

In Malmö and Lund all of Islam's major trends are represented, including the Ahmaddiya. Two out of a total of 24 organizations presented here,
the Al Hussein Cultural and the Lebanese cultural association in Malmö belong to the Shi'a tradition. In Lund there is one organization with a Sufi orientation - the Sufi Cultural Centre, and another one in Malmö - the Semerkand Association, together with one belonging to the Ahmadiya. The rest belong to the Sunni tradition. Many of the associations can also be categorized in terms of ethnicity. Consequently, there is one association with predominantly Turkish ties, one with Lebanese, two with Bosnian ties, one comprising mostly Iraqi members, one  Albanian, and Islamic Relief whose members are mostly from Afghanistan. Most associations and their communities constitute part of larger networks, linked to organizations in their home country or to one of Sweden's three Muslim national organizations. [18] The associations in Malmö and Lund currently supported financially by the National Board for State Aid to Religious Communities (SST) are the Islamic Center & the Muslim Students in Lund, Islamic Culture, the Al Nour Drita Assembly, the Malmö Islamic Assembly, the Bosniak Islamic Assembly and the  Malmö Muslim Assembly. Other organizations are for the most part self-financed through membership fees or supported by study groups from different educational and other national and international organizations.

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