Druze religion sees youth disaffection

The Druze religion is facing a pattern of defection and inactivity among its young people, according to The Economist magazine (September 21). The approximately one million members of the Druze are spread across Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, but the esoteric religion does not proselytize and only accepts members whose parents are both Druze. The faith is marked by a two-tier structure. The “uqqal” receive religious training and can read and understand Druze sacred texts, with men in this category donning black robes and women wearing white veils. Most members are “juhhal” who are largely uneducated in the faith and respect and follow its dictates even if they do not interpret the scriptures themselves. Although only anecdotal, Druze leaders and activists report a downturn of involvement by the younger generations. In the past, even if a young person “did not know the ‘mystery’ of the Druze religion, he would still follow the rules and limitations imposed by the sheikhs. However, with the penetration of knowledge, information, and education into our villages, young Druze are believing less…. They challenge all the prejudices that were imposed on us as kids,” says Amir Asad, a young Druze activist. But Mowafaq Tarif, the spiritual and political head of the Israeli Druze, says that recent protests that members have made against a law in Israel that emphasizes the Jewish character of the state have boosted their standing in the eyes of youth and convinced some to return to the faith.