Are Canadian Muslim Youth Engaged in The Communal Activities ?,
Imam Dr Zijad
My assumption is that youth in most religious communities do not play a decisive role. It is not because they do not want to be committed, but because of a number of obstacles they have to face.
Youth should not be ever put to the side, they should be cherished in any congregation. They are not only the future of any religious community but the future of the world itself. We have no one to blame but the present generation (ourselves) if there will be no one in the future to run our religious institutions.
Youth could play a much more important role. They dissent. No wonder! We do not trust them and as a result they feel there is no place for them. We judge them as being too young, immature, and they are told they will have to grow up before they can become involved. Even when a place is provided for youth, the older people set limits and have little respect for their desires and needs. Youth feels very uncomfortable. Yet the public institutions where they work acknowledge and respect them for their expertise. What a quandary!
Muslim youth in Canada come from a religious intellectual tradition called Islam. Canadian Muslims are the newest addition to the Canadian religious tapestry. Young Canadian Muslims are a large part of the Canadian Muslim population and the median age is 28.1 years. Many things turn them away from the mosques such as the generational gap, different cultures, and different religious interpretations.
Some Muslims acknowledge their youth and give them the space! Such community is destined to succeed. However, most of the Muslim communities are not giving the needed space to the youth.
There are valid reasons for non-engagement of youth in the community.
The following apply to Canadian Muslim youth and perhaps for youth in other religious communities in Canada.
1. Immigrants are, by and large, in charge of Muslim institutions and are still trying to make peace with their “new home,” Canada. They maintain a “back home mentality,” always bringing up what is happening back home. . The mosque reminds them of back home, the one place that is a safe haven, like being back home, safe from the corruption of the world “out there.” Most mosque activities cater only to the immigrants.
2. A language barrier exists between the Imam, those in charge of the Muslim institutions, and youth. Imams themselves are new immigrants whose language skills are a stumbling block to communicate with youth. Communications are kept to a minimum, usually questioning young people about the way they dress or their hair-style, why they don’t pray properly, and for girls, why they do not wear the hijab properly or dress the way they should.
3. The cultural barriers arise because a good number of youth have never been “back home.” Youth of bi-racial or bi-ethnic background find it difficult to define “back home.” Recent technological advancements have created a new culture to which older people cannot relate. The resultant alienation of youth is not helped when there are no programs or services for them. Youth do not feel they belong to the point and they have the impression that they do not have any ownership in the running of the mosques. .
4. Khutbas, our Friday ceremony, as well as other events do not address the issues of young people. Most often young people are simply told what to do and what not to do. Most Muslim institutions consider it a success when young people are brought to the mosque, without any idea of what to do with them. Few mosques are equipped with any sporting activities or entertainment.
Muslim youth in Canada require new and pioneering ways to address their needs and every attempt must be made to understand the challenges they are facing. They must be welcomed to take leadership positions; as a community we have to talk to them in the language of the country we live in – English; we have to live Islam of Canada – a unique expression of Islam compatible with Canadian realities as well as we have to provide our youth with the activities and programs that are focused on them and their needs
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