|Imam Zijad’s Corner: Canadian Muslim Youth: A New Self
Canadian Muslim youth want to be recognized and acknowledged as full-fledged members and faithful citizens of their society, their Canada.
The young generation of Muslims is different from that of their parents. Young Muslims maintain strong ties to Islam and while Islam plays an important role in forming their new-self, they are not assured that their new self-image will be accepted by the society.
During my discussions with many of the young women and men, I often hear their narrative and the message that they often want to share with the first generation Muslims as well as to society at large and that is that Canada is where they are living as Muslims, nowhere else.
A common goal of Canadian Muslim youth is to be integrated and engaged in society with a pro-active role in shaping their environment – their homeland. Being a Canadian and being a Muslim are not contradictory to each other. Being both at the same time is a self-evident expression for them of their interests and expectations as members of the Canadian society.
They are self-aware of the message they wish to share. They do not see themselves as a minority in any way but see themselves as full-fledged and faithful citizens of Canada with its own privileges and obligations. And yet, some people question the rights and interests they also have regarding Islam as their faith.
Canadian Muslim youth want to be visibly present and wish to participate fully in the society which differentiates them from the generation of their parents and grandparents who still hold on to cultures which come from back-home and which they hold are essential reference points in their lives.
Several studies in the West which were carried out in recent years document the significant and important place Islam and religious ideas have in the everyday lives of young Muslims. However, the ways in which religion is lived out by these young adults is also very different from the ways religion is lived out in the cultures adhered to by their parents and grandparents.
The major shift in self-understanding and it is reflected in an openness towards issues that effects the lives of all people in society, notwithstanding the role that is played as Muslims in the Ummah (the Muslim community). Islam and the Muslim community continue to be important points of reference for the youth without in any way causing them to withdraw their full participation in Canadian society.
Young Muslims are often irritated by those who raise the issues as to whether or not young Muslims are integrated into Canadian society and question the place of Islam and Muslims in Canada.
The reality for young Muslims is that all the fuss about integration and belonging have nothing to do with their lives. They feel quite comfortable being Muslims and at the same time being Canadians. The self-awareness of the new-self has led young Muslims to feel most “at home” when they are referred to and called Canadian Muslims. And that is what in reality they are!