Muslim Youths: Opportunities and Challenges, Part -2/4, Dr Emdad Khan


Muslim Youths: Opportunities and Challenges, Part -2/4, Dr Emdad Khan

We are primarily immigrants or children of immigrants living in Canadian cities.We migrated as refugees, or for a better standard of living, or to get education for ourselves or our children, etc.

In part-1 of the article, we identified, our youths enjoyed a lot of opportunities like education, health, housing, etc., but they in general faces 6 major challenges

To recollect, the challenges are (a) Identity and integration, (b) Bullying and cyber bullying, (c) Discrimination, Racism, Islamophobic, Radicalization, secularism, atheism, (d) Social media: FB, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, texting, etc., (e) Alcohol, drug, substance abuse and addiction, (f) Pornography, sexuality and struggle with Gender relations.

In part 1 article, we will have discussed, two issues of identity and bullying. In this part -2, we will discuss (c) Discrimination, Racism, Islamophobic, Radicalization, secularism and atheism

In general, Canadian society is tolerant, still in some cases, when Muslim youths do not participate certain activities based on faith, such as wearing hijab or taking halal food or performing salah, reframing form free mixing, they are termed extremist or uncivilized. In some other cases, youths face job discrimination because of name, and faith.

With Islamophobia, in some media and social media, Islam has been cast as irrational, violent, it oppresses women and incompatible with western civilization. Muslim youths are experiencing attacks against their faith.

The racist messages and stereotypes that are spread in our societies have impact on Muslim youths, they feel isolated and depressed. A section of Young Muslims is feeling like they have to choose one over the other. Some of then stop practicing faith and assimilate in the society, others become secular or hide faith or some of them even become atheists.

These changes the lives of the youths forever, they become more isolated and more depressed. They are no longer with Muslim communities and families and also can not fit in with main stream societies

Internalized racism is also a serious issue in Muslim society, where members of a one ethnic minority adopt the discriminatory stereotypes they hear from others about another Muslim ethnic group.  Unfortunately, Muslim community is very diverse and internally they have division and discrimination – within the Muslim community and as a whole Muslim community also need to deal this internal racism in addition to main stream racism,

Let us discuss what as Muslim community and masjid leadership should do to help the youths.

Our creator, likes diversity and inclusiveness, as stated in the Quran

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلنَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقۡنَـٰكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ۬ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلۡنَـٰكُمۡ شُعُوبً۬ا وَقَبَآٮِٕلَ لِتَعَارَفُوٓاْ‌ۚ إِنَّ أَڪۡرَمَكُمۡ

عِندَ ٱللَّهِ أَتۡقَٮٰكُمۡ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ۬ (١٣) سُوۡرَةُ الحُجرَات

O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify/know one another. Surely the noblest/most honoured of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious/God Conscious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49.13) Surah Al-Hujraat

And the Quran also states about Human Languages and Color

وَمِنۡ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ خَلۡقُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَٱخۡتِلَـٰفُ أَلۡسِنَتِڪُمۡ وَأَلۡوَٲنِكُمۡ‌ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَأَيَـٰتٍ۬ لِّلۡعَـٰلِمِينَ (٢٢) سُوۡرَةُ الرُّوم

And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours.  Indeed these   are signs for the persons of knowledge. (30. 22)

Although, in society has racism and discrimination, let us work to promote Respect for diversity, and inclusiveness and acceptance of the ethnic, cultural and religious diversity in the multicultural Canada. The integration of ethnic and religious minorities with larger immigrants and main stream Canadian society is an important social issue for Muslim youths.

Canadian social fabric is filled with diverse cultures, ethnicity, languages and religious people of different background. As Muslims, our youths can see and feel it in class rooms, work places, at the shopping malls and just walking on the street in our neighbourhood.

Understanding Cultural Diversity:  Other cultures may be different from ours and might go against our religious and moral values.  But we are often uninformed and lacking information and may perceive as threating to us. We should learn, respect and celebrate the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity. Let us be open minded and tolerant to the diversity in culture, ethnicity and religious values. One of the scholars stated we have more in common with other cultures and religions then we think. We should be open to experience new things and volunteering with a group who are different from us. We must be aware of our differences and be able to understand them and then ready to accept the difference.

Religious freedom and Tolerance: In Canada everyone has guaranteed freedom to practice religion, build religious institutions and celebrate religious festivals. So, it is important, we all be tolerant towards those whose religion or ethnicity or opinion differs from ours. We should not oppose or discriminate other religious or ethnic minorities. We may not agree with their practices, but we should be tolerant and inclusive. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, we should this in our behaviour and real life.

Overcoming Islamophobia:  Overwhelming majority of Canadians are tolerant to Muslims and their practices.  However, still a vocal minority of Canadians openly or subtly express hatred, discrimination against Muslims or other religious or ethnic minorities. Instead of feeling victims, as Muslim youths, we can do some positive proactive actions to cope with this. Muslim youths have two important events: Ramadan and Abraham Festival of sacrifice to connect with main stream Canadians in schools, universities, sports field and social setting in neighborhood. During fasting month of Ramadan every one of us can provide iftar (evening breakfast) items to our class mates, play mates and neighbours. Also, during the Abraham festival of sacrifice, Muslim youths can share a portion of meat with neighbours. They can also distribute sweet during two Eid festivals with our neighbours, work mates and school mates. We can actively participate and volunteer in our kids’ schools as parents.

Inclusiveness: Masjids and community leaders should involve youths to create an open and equitable environment based on ethnicity, culture, race, or religious understanding. To prosper and progress, we should encourage and embrace our youths with different ideas, perspectives, skills and experiences.  The different perspective and ideas may facilitate in solving our family and community issues in new and innovative ways.

Open access to places of worship. During the time of prophet Muhammed (PBUH), a Bedouin came and urinated in the masjid. Many companions were upset but prophet (PBUH) allowed until he finished urinating. The messenger called him over and said to him, “Any kind of urine or filth is not suitable for the masjid. Instead they are only for remembrance of God, the prayer, and recitation of the Quran”.

Muslim community should open the masjids to main stream Canadians. In Ottawa, all Muslim organizations should participate with the city of Ottawa at the Door open Ottawa event, held during the 1st weekend of June, where everyone can come to visit the place of worship. Also, all masjids should visit and speak with the students of the local area high schools to educate and answer their queries about Muslims and Islam.

We, in part-1, already stated, Muslim youths find home, masjid, and community environment are opposite of school, playground, and social or work environment.

As explained, Children need family support at home, parents also need to be actively involved in the schools.

Also, as stated, the lack of communication between family and community, masjids and the young people are a concern, needs attention by parents and masjids management.

The Muslim community, masjids management along with parents must take responsibility for their youths. They must inspire them and make them love Islam.

Let us develop youth friendly programs, sports, swimming, community outing and help them in social life. They will love islam and Muslim communities and also integrate in society with identity.