Against a growing anti-Muslim backlash in this country and across Europe, Pulitzer Center grantee Nick Street travels to Malmo, Sweden, where young Muslim activists are trying to forge a Muslim identity that is compatible with Western culture and resistant to the blandishments of radicalization.
For this story in the Los Angeles Times, Nick visits a madrasa where students study not only the Koran and sharia law, but also the Swedish language and social responsibility, which includes interreligious dialogue, especially with the Jewish community.
"All our education programs have the effect of immunizing our youth against radicalization," the academy's young imam, pictured above, told Nick. "They (ISIS) would never be able to recruit anyone from our group because we equip them with the knowledge and methodologies to counter any argument from groups like (ISIS). More than this, our youth are effecting positive change by stopping other youth from joining extremist groups."
Nick is the senior writer with the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California, a Campus Consortium partner. We're eager for educators from secondary schools to universities to incorporate Nick's reporting into their courses using the Pulitzer Center Lesson Builder. Click here for a lesson designed by our education team. It's easy and free to design lessons, drawing from our growing archive of reporting on religion and public policy.
THE GANGS OF ZINDER
Niger is the poorest of the world's poor countries. It ranks dead last on the U.N. Human Development Index. "Food, jobs, schools, infrastructure—the landlocked country, 80 percent of which is occupied by the Sahara, lacks it all," writes Pulitzer Center grantee Jillian Keenan. "Military coups, political instability, and ethnic rebellions have hampered tourism, mining, and other economic sectors. Jobs are scant; less than 20 percent of the population is able to read."
Its teeming urban areas are fertile ground for gang violence, which can easily transmute into Islamic extremism. Boko Haram, the notorious extremist group from across the border in Nigeria, has come looking for recruits.
Jillian, in a gripping dispatch for the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine, travels to the epicenter of Niger's gang violence in the city of Zinder, where she profiles a gang leader named Baho who, after witnessing the extreme violence of Boko Haram, has had a change of heart and is beginning to reconsider his own violent ways.
IRELAND'S FADED CHURCH
The Catholic Church has been in a steep decline across Europe, no more so than in Ireland, a country that once thought of itself as "the most Catholic" of them all. Church attendance has plummeted from nearly 90 percent in the mid-1980s to less than 20 percent today.
Michael Bodley and Meredith Stutz, two of our student fellows from Elon University, were in Ireland to look at some of the ways the church is responding to the crisis. In this story for the Huffington Post, they speak with a young man studying for the priesthood—a once common but now rare thing in Ireland—who understands the difficult road ahead and foresees a smaller church led by fewer priests.
"You just have to be honest with people, not hide behind religious fronts," the seminarian tells them. "People see if you're being hypocritical—they can feel that. You need to be authentic."
Until next week,