Growing up as a young Muslim
The 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.Tagged in: Eid-ul-Fitr, faith, islam, Mohamed Harrath, muslim, Race, Religion
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