Muslim Boy Scouts
Open to new ways

Muslim Scouts and partners from the German Scout Association of St. George;
Muslim Scouts and partners from the German Scout Association of St. George; | Photo (detail): © DPSG

As part of an international youth movement, members of the Muslim Boy and Girls Scouts Federation of Germany want to ensure peace and understanding. The organization has exited since 2010.

A colourful shirt and a narrow scarf – these are the togs, the traditional clothing of the Boy Scouts. The Muslim Boy and Girls Scouts Federation of Germany (Bund Moslemischer Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Deutschlands /BMPPD) is working to see that more and more young Muslims are wearing this characteristic uniform. The federation shares not only the external symbols of the worldwide Scouts movement, but also its ideals and interests. “There’s nothing better than to camp out and to do a good deed every day”, says spokesman Fouad Hartit.

While Muslim Boy Scouts in France have been organized into an association since 1991, the BMPPD was formed only in 2010. The federation, whose headquarters is in Monheim am Rhein, has about 150 members, mainly of Moroccan origin. “The founders were themselves Boy or Girl Scouts when they were children and are now building up new groups in Germany”, says Andreas Bierod of the German Scout Association of St. George (DPSG). The Catholic DPSG, with 95,000 members the largest Scout association in Germany, supports its like-minded Muslim counterparts – “on an equal footing”, as Bierod emphasizes. This includes training group leaders for working with young people. The BMPPD comprises five groups from North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse. There are requests to form further groups in other federal states – for example, in Berlin and Baden-Württemberg.

Independent of Islamic umbrella organizations

Once before, in 1987, Muslims in Germany had tried to found a Scout Association. This was organized as a youth association of the Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany, a body with close ties to the controversial Islamic movement Milli Görüş. Because the Scout association was not recognized as a community youth organization, it received no funding from the federal states or the municipalities, which ultimately led to its dissolution.

The BMPPD, on the other hand, wants to remain independent of umbrella organizations, but sees itself as religiously motivated. Its spiritual guidelines are the teachings of the Koran and the tradition of the prophet Mohammed. On this basis, the BMPPD provides common education for girls, boys and young adults in the ages between seven and twenty-one. Moreover, the young Muslims come to grips with the history of their German homeland and make a commitment to peaceful co-existence. In this they have received support not least from the speech of then Federal President Christian Wulff on the 20th anniversary of German Unity. “Islam”, said Wulff in 2010, “is now part of Germany”.

With the peace torch to Berlin

Through its work, the BMPPD wants to change the negative image of Muslims with which people of Islamic faith find themselves confronted in Germany and Europe as a whole. This goal is particularly evident in the action “Flame of Hope”. The federation adopted this idea from the Muslim Scouts of France. Fouad Hartit of the BMPPD explains the background of the action: in Marseille in 2006 an arson attack took place on a bus. Young people with immigrant backgrounds were involved, he recounts, and young Muslims came to be seen by the public in a bad light. The Muslim Scouts of France asked themselves: How can we use the symbols of “bus” and “fire” to create the opposite image? They borrowed a torch from previous Olympic Games and organized a bus. In 2011 they drove to 15 cities in Tunisia, Libya, France and other countries. In front of each Town Hall, they swore a public oath to uphold peace.

From 2012 to 2013, a similar action took place in Germany. On their tour, the Muslim Scouts organized concerts with oriental music and international pop, workshops and discussions. They urged other young people to formulate their ideas for a co-existence without prejudices. The ideas flowed into a charter comprising eleven points. At the end of the tour in Berlin, the BMPPD was greeted by representatives of the government and presented the charter. Federal President Joachim Gauck, recalls Hartit, later mentioned the Scouts in a message of greetings to Muslims on the day of fast-breaking: “This shows that the action has arrived in the midst of society”.