Undercover in a strict Muslim student residence

Süleymancılar, a strictly religious Muslim movement, operates student residences in Austria. There, the young residents are taught an anti-Western and anti-feminist world view.

Roxane Seckauer
Roxane Seckauer Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Undercover in a strict Muslim student residence - NewsMavens
Verse from the Koran. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

"Berkan" is a former resident of the Süleymancılar. He approached Austrian journalist and feminist Melisa Erkurt to tell her about his childhood, which he spent in a student residence of the Suleymancilar movement.

He feels "brainwashed," he tells the journalist.

In her reportage, Melisa Erkurt's describes what is taught to young Muslims in these student dormitories:

"Women are to be avoided, the West is the enemy, and Jews are evil. Even celebrating birthdays is "haram", forbidden."

Much of what her informant told her was confirmed by outside sources. The living quarters were inappropriate for student housing: no books, no computers -- nothing. Boys and girls had to use separate entrances. Girls have to wear a headscarf after they turn 9.

The Süleymancılar residence is located in a small rural community in Lower Austria. Fearing that their children will lose their religion in Christian Austria, some Muslim parents send them to remote areas so they can receive a strict religious education.

"Berkan" went public with his story "so that it does not happen to other children." Whether his wish will be fulfilled is uncertain. So far politicians have not reacted.

Details from the story:

  • "Süleymancılar" is Turkish for "the devotee of Süleyman". It is a religious movement of Sunni Islam.
  • Melisa Erkurt (27) was born in Sarajevo and fled to Austria with her family during the Bosnian war.
  • She studied German, psychology and philosophy in Vienna.
  • She started writing as a freelance editor for the magazine "Biber" and is now chief reporter there.
  • She needed a male assistant to research the movement. As a woman, the male head of the residence did not want to speak with Erkurt.
  • In an earlier story, Erkurt describes the new prohibition culture that has developed among some Muslim youth in of Vienna: "Generation Haram"
  • Haram is Turkish for "sin". By abiding to a strict code of conduct, young people get to regulate the behavior and appearance of their peers -- a dangerous trend, says the journalist.
  • In 2016, "Generation Haram" was named Story of the Year by the Austrian Journalism Journal.
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