Imams And British Muslim Youth – Tackling Real Issues

The current climate for Muslim youth in the UK, as found in much of the research targeting British Muslim youth, is entrenched with obstacles to progression, a loss of belonging and multi-faceted marginalisation. However, this debilitating milieu is not solely a product of increased discrimination, apathy and alienation towards the Muslim youth by wider British society, but rather an internal issue within the Muslim community itself. With over half of the Muslim community aged under 25 and a third under the age of 15[1], now more than ever it is deemed necessary to not only hear the voices of the multiply marginalised, but understand and act in favour of their plight. This ‘home grown’ disregard to the struggles facing British Muslim youth has left many leading what has been coined a ‘double life’.

This binary lifestyle is increasingly divergent and must be addressed imminently. This void within the Muslim community is hindering not only the spiritual development of Muslim youth, but proving to encumber their socio-economic progression. When speaking of this void, there is somewhat of a propensity to misunderstand; a significant inter-generational disparity, a sense of silencing the voices of the Muslim youth, an apparent identity crisis, a lack of communication and an absence of support. These obstacles to progression are in need of resolve. This tenacity will only be met through transforming the rhetoric, allowing for discussion and encouraging debate. Only then will the voices of the British Muslim youth be heard, and only then will real solutions come to light.

British Muslim youth are not simply the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today and it is our duty as fellow Muslims to accept, encourage and breed this sense of leadership. We must allow our youth to pave ways for themselves, to realise their potential, to harness progression and transform what is meant by rebellion. The heights our youth can achieve are inconceivable, yet it is our community that sharpen the thorns on the ladder to success.

The first step is dialogue. To open the doors of success, in the eyes of the beholder, is to first speak of the obstacles to such success. Once conversation is ignited, flames of understanding, progression and development burn. This conversation, however, is one that must be inclusive, overarching yet grassroots and most importantly authentic. This rhetoric will be dictated by Muslim youth, encompassing our interests, enigma’s and pure perplexity.

When Islam and Western society intersect, we must not pit one against the other. We must refrain from criminalizing those that don’t share the same beliefs or practises. We must accept that our young Muslims are born and raised in this society and identify with it. Research has shown that Muslim youth suffer from an identity struggle, a struggle that embodies the multiplicity of identity and multi-faceted interests and contradictions. The prominent issues, as identified by academic, psychological and sociological research, centre around mental health, relationships and drugs.

The first issue questions the spectrum, diagnosis and treatment of mental health, focusing on a dire need for support. The second regards the viability, processes and avenues of relationships, both in attempts to find a spouse the ‘halal way’ and those that succumb to relationships prior to marriage. The latter refers to the use of drugs, ranging from specific medical ailments to recreational drugs and alcohol. The issue of substance use and distribution creates a domino effect, heightening crime rates and social unrest. We must recognise the pre-eminence of these contemporary social issues (alongside many others) that are affecting the Muslim community. It is not only necessary to acknowledge these problems, but to open positive discussion attempting to reconcile a new age of Muslim youth.

The gateway to understanding opens, only if the gatekeeper recognises, accepts and promotes authentic dialogue. Keys to the lock lie with religious and community leaders, whose influence is paramount. It is our Imams and intellectual leadership that can recognise, rectify and re-establish rhetoric. It is you, who can harness positive change, permit authenticity and promote trust and understanding in Muslim households and the wider Muslim community.

I, like so many young British Muslims harbouring a hybrid identity, need progressive and understanding religious leaders that include rather than exclude, that teach rather than lecture and that encourage rather than discourage. British Muslim youth are tired of being spoken of and not spoken to and now is the time to change that rhetoric.


By Muneebah Qureshi, Policy Researcher. 


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