Gjesteskribent

Demografi og religiøsitet påvirker hverandre. Flere land i Midtøsten har store ungdomskull. Selv med utdannelse får de ikke jobb. Uten inntekt kan de ikke gifte seg. I ren frustrasjon vender de seg mot religion. Egypt er ett av landene som merker økt religiøsitet blant de unge.

Here in Egypt and across the Middle East, many young people are being forced to put off marriage, the gateway to independence, sexual activity and societal respect. Stymied by the government’s failure to provide adequate schooling and thwarted by an economy without jobs to match their abilities or aspirations, they are stuck in limbo between youth and adulthood.

Islam blir den rådende ideologi som fortrenger og erstatter pan-arabisme, nasjonalisme og sosialisme.

In their frustration, the young are turning to religion for solace and purpose, pulling their parents and their governments along with them.

With 60 percent of the region’s population under the age of 25, this youthful religious fervor has enormous implications for the Middle East. More than ever, Islam has become the cornerstone of identity, replacing other, failed ideologies: Arabism, socialism, nationalism.

Myndighetene frykter den religiøse vekkelsen, og forsøker å ta brodden av den ved å vise seg imøtekommende.

The wave of religious identification has forced governments that are increasingly seen as corrupt or inept to seek their own public redemption through religion. In Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morocco and Algeria, leaders who once headed secular states or played down religion have struggled to reposition themselves as the guardians of Islamic values. More and more parents are sending their children to religious schools, and some countries have infused more religious content into their state educational systems.

Økt religiøsitet fører til puritansk moral, som igjen øker den seksuelle frustrasjonen og den religiøse fanatismen.

More young people are observing stricter separation between boys and girls, sociologists say, fueling sexual frustrations. The focus on Islam is also further alienating young people from the West and aggravating political grievances already stoked by Western foreign policies. The religious fervor among the young is swelling support for Islam to play a greater role in political life. That in turn has increased political repression, because many governments in the region see Islamic political movements as a threat to their own rule.

While there are few statistics tracking religious observance among the young, there is near-universal agreement that young people are propelling an Islamic revival, one that has been years in the making but is intensifying as the youth bulge in the population is peaking.

In Egypt, where the people have always been religious and conservative, young people are now far more observant and strict in their interpretation of their faith. A generation ago, for example, few young women covered their heads, and few Egyptian men made it a practice to go to the mosque for the five daily prayers. Now the hijab, a scarf that covers the hair and neck, is nearly universal, and mosques are filled throughout the day with young men, and often their fathers.

Antall moskeer har økt radikalt:

In 1986, there was one mosque for every 6,031 Egyptians, according to government statistics. By 2005, there was one mosque for every 745 people — and the population has nearly doubled.

Konservativ trend

Egypt has historically fought a harsh battle against religious extremism. But at the same time, its leaders have tried to use religion for their own political gains. The government of President Hosni Mubarak — whose wife, Suzanne, remains unveiled — has put more preachers on state television. Its courts have issued what amount to religious decrees, and Mr. Mubarak has infused his own speeches with more religious references.

«The whole country is taken by an extreme conservative attitude,» said Mohamed Sayed Said, deputy director of the government-financed Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. «The government cannot escape it and cannot loosen it.»

Ekteskap og familie

Islamske samfunn bygger på familien. Men de unge har ikke råd til å gifte seg.

Across the Middle East, marriage is not only the key to adulthood but also a religious obligation, which only adds to the pressure — and the guilt.

«Marriage and forming a family in Arab Muslim countries is a must,» said Azza Korayem, a sociologist with the National Center for Social and Criminal Studies. «Those who don’t get married, whether they are men or women, become sort of isolated.»

Marriage also plays an important financial role for families and the community. Often the only savings families acquire over a lifetime is the money for their children to marry, and handing it over amounts to an intergenerational transfer of wealth.

At prisen for ekteskap har økt, vendes til frustrasjon mot myndighetene. En stor andel ugifte menn i sin beste alder er en politisk risiko.

But marriage is so expensive now, the system is collapsing in many communities. Diane Singerman, a professor at American University, said that a 1999 survey found that marriage in Egypt cost about $6,000, 11 times annual household expenditures per capita. Five years later, a study found the price had jumped 25 percent more. In other words, a groom and his father in the poorest segment of society had to save their total income for eight years to afford a wedding, she reported.

The result is delayed marriages across the region. A generation ago, 63 percent of Middle Eastern men in their mid- to late 20s were married, according to recent study by the Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Brookings Institution and the Dubai School of Government. That figure has dropped to nearly 50 percent across the region, among the lowest rates of marriage in the developing world, the report said. In Iran, for example, 38 percent of the 25- to 29-year-old men are not married, one of the largest pools of unattached males in Iranian history. In Egypt, the average age at which men now marry is 31.

Egypts utdannelsessystem er utdatert. Det utdanner folk til jobber i offentlig sektor, som er dårlig betalt og begrenset i antall. Systemet kan ikke utdanne folk til moderne jobber. De er ikke kvalifiserte. Likevel føler de seg for fine til å ta fabrikk-jobber. Utdannelse øker forventingene og når de skuffes, stiger frustrasjonen. Folk blir desillusjonerte over myndighetene og samfunnet, og vender seg mot Allah.

Stifled, Egypt’s Young Turn to Islamic Fervor