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Growing up as a young Muslim

Omar Shahid

123098427 300x232 Growing up as a young MuslimThe Muslim youth, who by and large, were celebrating the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr this week, account for more than one million in Britain. One will find an eclectic nexus of, for example: the largest group of young teetotalers, the most opposed to government, arguably the most estranged and disenfranchised and possibly even the most pious. There is, without doubt, a feeling of consternation amongst young Muslims – many elements of society are viewed as unwelcoming.

Establishing a Muslim identity is becoming increasingly more difficult for young Muslims, especially when many feel obliged to neglect their spiritual dimension in the quest for materialism and sensual pleasures.

Imran Ali, a recent graduate from City University and the former head of the Islamic society, said: “The greatest fitna (a trial or test) for a young Muslim in Britain is maintaining his or her identity. As more and more of us grow up in a society which is not entirely compatible with some of our values as Muslims, the greatest trial is choosing between these values or compromising them. Do I grow a beard? Wear a headscarf? Or do I leave them behind at home to so I can feel included in our society?”

Indeed, at the core of a religious experience is identity. For the Muslim youth, religious identity is far more important than racial and cultural identity. Pakman, a Muslim rapper, commented: “I’m a Muslim before a Pakistani. My culture comes second. My culture didn’t make me who I am.”

In the west, we do not allow for the denigration of race, it’s regarded as completely unacceptable. But on the other hand, religion seems to be fair game. Although the colour of your skin is not something you choose – and religion is – for a young Muslim, the attitude is: if you denigrate my religion you are doing something far more egregious to me than denigrating my race.

Mohamed Harrath, the son of Mohamed Ali and CEO of Islam Channel, said: “The words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ are a major part of our identity. But we have to recognize that we are British. But when you’ve got certain rhetoric from the media and the government that doesn’t support your views then it becomes problematic for our identity.”

At the heart of the issue is that young Muslims are constantly having to define who they are. This ultimately leads to either a defensive response, whereby a young Muslim says: ‘No I am not such and such’ or an aggressive response, whereby they say: ‘I am a Muslim and I won’t do what you want.’ Both responses are elicited as a reactionary mechanism to justify oneself as a Muslim in a liberal society.

Some young Muslims, like many other youths, struggle with issues like low self-esteem, particularly given the negative media attention surrounding their identity and faith community. And it is often the case that when one suffers from low self esteem they mask it with an outward pretense of extroversion.

Unfortunately, this can lead to radicalism or propounding extreme views in order to be heard.

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  • shaffiq

    Sorry, Omar but you only partially correct. Many young Muslims are doing well, defining their own identity and gettting on with it. Don’t take your own limited experiences and apply them across the entire population set.

  • greggf

    “I’m a Muslim before a Pakistani. My culture comes second. My culture didn’t make me who I am”

    Where is Pakman, in Britain?

  • http://twitter.com/omar_shahid Omar Shahid

    Yes, he’s a British rapper

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisSeddon2 Chris Seddon

    Omar, Thank you for your interesting comments. It is clear that alienating a group of people so large and with so much potential to contribute to our society is frankly stupid (Given, there are some stupid people in our society). The answer in my opinion is understanding and then tolerance. I, for example, as a man who is not of faith (but may have strong moral opinions) must understand your beliefs, then I must accept them and be respectful of them. And you, for example, as a Muslim (or any faith or belief) must do the same in return. This is clearly easier said than done. As for government, what is it about or government that you oppose? This isn’t a loaded question I’m genuinely interested in this issue. Thanks again.

  • http://twitter.com/omar_shahid Omar Shahid

    I’m not opposed to government per se. But I know many young Muslims are. Mainly because of their foreign policy, endorsement of capitalism and there unwillingness to act upon many of the immoralities in our society, for example.

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisSeddon2 Chris Seddon

    I see, and to be honest I think that many other groups agree, including myself. I can see that the issues you have raised in this blog are very important to the future of our country as a whole, not just to British Muslims. Alienating members of our larger community because of ignorance or any other reason can only lead us further down a very dark path. As for our government, well unfortunately our politicians seem to be, on the whole, self serving and spineless, voting someone else in may help that. I agree that our foreign policy is lop-sided, we intervene in one country while we stand by and watch another’s government kill civilians, it’s disgusting. And much the same can be said of our willingness to sell our public services to the lowest bidder and encourage the rich to get richer as the poor get poorer. I must query your reference to immoralities in our society, what, do you think, would some young Muslims like to see the government take action on? 

  • http://twitter.com/omar_shahid Omar Shahid

    I hope to address many of your points in my next blog.

  • SummerHerald

    “there unwillingness to act upon many of the immoralities in our society”
    Bit of a sticky wicket there since most people in this country like our legal system broadly the way it is. Ask Britons whether they want a legal system based upon religious morality and most will give you a resounding, “No!”.

  • greggf

    So, is Pakistan part of Britain, or Britain part of Pakistan?

  • BayouCoyote

    Nothing like ending the article with a veiled threat.

    That’s islam for ya!


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