D:Islam: 'German Islam' as Alternative to Islamism? Responses to Islamist Threats in Muslim Associations, Communities and Lebenswelten

Funding information

The Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM) is funded with approx. 700, 000€ for a 3-year research project commissioned by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) in the funding line "Societal Causes and Effects of Radical Islam in Germany and Europe".

Within the framework of the announcement, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding a total of 24 research projects (six individual projects and seven collaborations) to the amount of approximately €15 million in two main thematic areas: On the one hand, the social causes of the rise of Islamism in Germany and Europe are being investigated, and on the other hand, the societal effects of Islamism in Germany and Europe. In addition, the transfer project is supported by the joint research project RADIS, which networks the research projects internally and externally, brings together scientific findings, supports the society- and practice-oriented transfer of results and knowledge, and conducts public relations.

Title and practice partners

The project "German Islam as an Alternative to Islamism? Responses to Islamist Threats in Muslim Associations, Communities and Living Environments // D:Islam" is funded in the thematic field II: "Societal Effects of Islamism". It will be located in the Integration Research and Social Policy Department of the BIM and will be carried out as participatory research over the next three years together with the practice partner "Alhambra Gesellschaft".

Short summary of the project

Research on Islamism in Germany is centred around attitude surveys, security and communication aspects, as well as psychological and theological issues and international relations. From a sociologial perspective, the impact of Islamism on Muslim communities is not sufficiently researched. At this point we can see a research gap that needs to be closed. Islamists build up pressure on Muslim communities by using various strategies, for example by accusing the mosques associations in the diaspora of having lost access to the "true Islam" or by aggressively recruiting young people in associations and schools or, for example, by bringing missionary material and handing it out free of charge – in order to manipulate and recruit community members. The strategies on how Muslim organisations, (mosque) associations and individual Muslim initiatives and individuals deal with the phenomenon of Islamism does vary. Awareness-raising actions and coachings for community members are just as much a part of it as attempts to expel the Islamists from the community or to integrate them into the community structures in order to neutralise their influence. In some cases, external help is also sought – which gives opportunities for new structures of prevention, such as counselling telephones, deradicalisation trainings, self-help or opt-out groups.

Research questions

The project D:Islam will pursue the research questions (1) whether Muslim communities are exposed to threats by Islamist phishing strategies and how these threats take shape; (2) whether and with which defence strategies they react to them and (3) whether in the course of the reactions hybridisation processes in the practice of the Islamic belief and the practice of a Muslim identity are recognisable, which could indicate a "German Islam"?


Module 1 - Phishing Strategies: The specific threat the Muslim communities are exposed to by Islamist recruitment strategies is explored in Module 1, in which (1) online strategies are explored using Big Data and discourse network analyses and (2) offline strategies are explored using expert interviews with actors involved in prevention and deradicalisation work.

Module 2 - Defence Strategies: In addition to this, Module II, based on 80 qualitative interviews conducted throughout Germany, examines the defence strategies of Muslim communities (organisations, (mosque) associations, individual Muslim initiatives and individuals) in response to the threat of radicalisation and Islamism.

Module 3 - Forms of Hybridisation/German Islam: Parallel to the mapping of the potential dangers of Islamism for the various community actors and analysing community reactions, the project team will investigate questions of the hybridisation of Islam in Module III. Analogous to historical forms of an adaptation of the Islam, in which there is mentioned a "Turkish Islam", "Indonesian Islam" or even a "French Islam" etc. in different contexts, in this project it will be examined whether a specific form of a "German Islam" is recognisable and if so, how it is articulated? The research question that will also be pursued in this project is whether a "German Islam" is perceived as an externally enforced concept - keyword: imposed "state Islam" - or whether the concept can be explained by a diasporic hybridisation that possibly also arises from demarcations from Islamism or religious controls by the former countries of origin.


The approach is multi-methodological: quantitative Big Data and discourse network analyses combined with qualitative expert interviews with actors involved in prevention and deradicalisation work, mapping of the potential dangers of Islamism for various community actors and qualitative analysis of community reactions, as well as comparative narrative and discourse analyses (e.g. on French, British, Dutch or Turkish Islam) conduce to address the research questions in the three modules.

Aim of the project

The aim of the project is to work out the potential contours of a "German Islam" that seeks to establish itself in the field of tension between Islamist and anti-Muslim threats. The project results will be transferred into the development of prevention programmes together with Muslim communities threatened by radicalisation and Islamism and the Alhambra Society.

Project collaborators

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan, BIM, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Co-Project leader: Dr. Özgür Özvatan, BIM, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

PhD students: Emeti Morkoyun, Nader Hotait, Rami Ali, Fatima El Sayed

Student assistant: Enes Saydam

Project leader for the Alhambra Society: Dr. Aydın Süer, Berlin Institute for Islamic Theology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


04/2021 - 03/2024


Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan

Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan

Director, Head of the Department "Integration Research and Social Policy"

Fon: +49 (0)30 2093-46255

Dr. Özgür Özvatan

Dr. Özgür Özvatan

Deputy Head of Department "Integration Research and Social Policy" and "Foundations of Migration and Integration Research"

Fon: 030-2093-46027