Religion and family remain vital to Arab youth, Arabic language less so

The results for the Arab Youth Survey reveal some interesting findings regarding Arab youth identity and progressiveness

Young Arabs see religion & family as key to their identity
(Photo: ASDA’A BCW)
AMMAN — Most Arab youth say religion and their family or tribe define their personal identity, and that preserving their religious and cultural identity is more important to them than creating a more tolerant, liberal, and globalised society.اضافة اعلان

This is one of the key findings under the theme ‘My Identity’ of the 15th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey.

Sunil John, President, MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, said: “These findings reveal that Generation Z remain guided by faith, with their affinity toward their religion stronger than ever and many being concerned about what they see as the loss of traditional values and culture. What is evident is that Arab youth increasingly view their personal identity through the lens of religion, family and nationality.”

“The loss in importance given by Arab youth to the Arabic language is inevitably a symptom of the pervasive spread of the internet and social media. It is a cause for concern, most importantly, because of the Arabic language’s potentially diminished role as a unifying force among Arab nations.”

Survey results
When asked what defines their personal identity, ‘my religion’ and ‘my family/tribe’ were each named by 27 percent of respondents overall, followed by ‘my nationality’ (15 percent), ‘my language’ (11 percent), ‘my Arabic heritage’ (8 percent), ‘my gender’ (7 percent) and ‘my political beliefs’ (4 percent).

Religion was named as most important to personal identity by 30 percent of the respondents in Levant, 27 percent in North Africa, and 25 percent in the GCC states, while family/tribe was deemed most important by 37 percent of youth in North Africa, 21 percent in Levant, and 20 percent in the GCC.

A large majority, 76 percent of Arab youth said they are concerned about the loss of traditional values and culture, the highest percentage saying so in five years, while 65 percent said preserving their religious and cultural identity is more important to them than creating a more tolerant, liberal, and globalised society. This sentiment rises to nearly 74 percent in Levant, 72 percent in the GCC states and 68 percent in North Africa.

Interestingly, while 11 percent said language is most important to their identity, 54 percent of the respondents said the Arabic language is less important to them than it is to their parents. This trend is seen across the three regions surveyed, with 59 percent of GCC youth, 51 percent in North Africa and 52 percent in the Levant all saying it is less important to them.

Reflecting the importance they place on their faith, 73 percent of youth disagreed that religious values are holding the Arab world back, but 65 percent said religion plays too big a role in the Middle East. Fewer Arab youth than in previous years feel the region needs to reform its religious institutions – down to 58 percent this year from 77 percent last year.  Important to not, this year, the face-to-face interviews with Arab youth were conducted from March 27 to April 12, coinciding with the Holy Month of Ramadan.

This sense of young Arabs embracing their religious identity is further reinforced by the finding that nearly 62 percent say the laws of their country should be based on Sharia standards and not civil or common law. This sentiment is consistent across the three regions covered, with 68 percent in GCC, 53 percent in North Africa, and 68 percent in Levant saying they prefer Sharia laws to govern their nations.

ASDA’A BCW commissioned SixthFactor Consulting, a leading research company, to conduct the 15th edition of the Arab Youth Survey through face-to-face interviews with 3,600 Arab citizens aged 18 to 24 in their home nations, the largest sample in the survey’s history.

The survey covered 53 cities across 18 Arab states, including for the first time South Sudan. The interviews were conducted in person rather than online to maximise accuracy and to reflect the nuances of Arab youth opinion across the region as much as possible.

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