Muslim Youths: Opportunities and Challenges, Part -1/4, Dr Emdad Khan
God the almighty says in the Qur’an:
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ قُوٓاْ أَنفُسَكُمۡ وَأَهۡلِيكُمۡ نَارً۬ا وَقُودُهَا ٱلنَّاسُ وَٱلۡحِجَارَةُ ۡ (٦) سُوۡرَةُ التّحْریم
“O You who believe, save yourselves and your family from the Hellfire whose fuel is men and stones” 66.6
We are primarily immigrants or children of immigrants living in Canadian cities. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions migrated from Makkah to Medina for preserving and propagating the Islamic way of life. They adopted Medina as their new home land. We also migrated for a better standard of living, or getting a better education for ourselves or our children, etc. We should also adopt Canada as our new Medina, our adopted new home land.
In Canada, out of 34 million population, 9 Million are youths (15 to 34 years); about 1.1 Million are Muslims (3.5%) and over 300,000 youths.
In general, youth, in Ottawa or big cities, are diverse, connected, socially engaged and educated. Youths have good opportunities with free high school education, free health care, and good sports and recreation facilities. We also enjoy freedom of speech and may practice religion in peace and security.
All youth face different challenges, but Muslim youths face extra challenges because of faith and being visible minority. We have identified Muslim youths face major challenges to establish and integrate with identity in the society. As parent, community members and masjid management, we need come forward to actively engaged with youths and develop support networks.
The challenges are (a) Identity and integration, (b) Bullying and cyber bullying, (c) Discrimination, Racism, Islamophobic, Radicalization, atheism, (d) Social media: FB, YouTube, WhatsApp Twitter, Instagram, texting, etc., (d) Alcohol, drug, substance abuse and addiction, (f) Pornography, sexuality and struggle with Gender relations. In this article, we will discuss first two issues of identity and bullying and remaining four issues in future.
Identity and Integration: Muslim youths in general has three identities; national, Islamic and ethnic. These are : National identity as Canadian citizen, Islamic identity as Muslim way of life and ethnic identity based on country of origin, such as Pakistani, Somali, Indian, etc.
The question arises, is it possible for youth to be Somali, Canadian and Muslim at the same time? Are they compatible? These are valid questions, but they are compatible.
We as parents, teachers and community leaders should clearly sate that we are all law abiding peaceful Canadian Muslims with an ethnic background of Asia or Africa. Many of the Muslim youths are born in Canada, they have more affinity to Canada unlike their parents.
Canadian charter of rights guarantees us to preserve our Islamic identity. Canadian multiculturalism maintains and permits pluralist religious expressions and diversity of cultures.
In assimilation situation, certain diverse ethnic or religious groups merge and eventually assimilate, to the adopted country in different degrees, such as New York in America or Toronto in Canada. In marginalization situation, some visible minority groups become marginal persons, sandwiched between two cultures; the marginal individuals or groups become confused, depressed and marginalized in the society. In isolation, an ethnic group focus on keeping their cultures and identity values in ghetto areas and avoid contact with the majority culture. In integration process, ethnic groups preserve the religious, cultural, and linguistic identities and participate in the adopted country’s culture, language, and political activities.
Fortunately, in Canada, majority of the Muslims are relatively new immigrants and live in major cities. Muslim youths started interaction with each other and diverse ethnic and main stream youths at schools, playground and work place. Muslim youths should strive to get integrated with main stream culture but maintain strong ethnic and Islamic identity.
To preserve, Islamic identity, Muslims are being active in society, in family and social issues to have a voice. They organize events, interact, discuss and help by volunteering in school, hospital, library and so on. They also show our positive behaviour to the neighbours and work colleagues in action not based on color, ethnicity or languages.
Masjids are organizing family and community events with diverse groups, inviting main stream school students in their places of worship, holding open house for neighbours. They actively participate in Canada day celebrations and other national events
Children spend a great deal of their time in schools and online. Today’s school culture is diverse due to ethnicity, language, culture, and religion. Each child tries to make some friends and socialize with those friends.
Unfortunately, a small percentage of kids are bullied at schools. Further, there is a fair chance our nice quiet kids might be bullied in school. He or she may feel shy to share with parents or even with siblings. They may not even share their feelings with class teachers. A young boy or girl may suffer silently. Gradually they may lose interest in school, feel isolated and then become depressed. Many children complain of tummy pain especially when they cannot put their thoughts into words. For information about Ottawa’s public school students who are bullied, please read the survey below. (http://www.torontosun.com/2012/10/06/controversial-school-survey-results-in)
After being bullied (in-person or online), being in isolation and feeling depressed, some kids take drastic actions. Their actions could lead to a path of self-destruction, and in extreme cases, followed the path of suicide. Have you heard of Amanda Todd’s story yet? Let’s all learn from this case! (https://nobullying.com/amanda–todd-story/).
As parents, we need to be proactive about what is happening in our schools and meet the homeroom teachers. In addition, it’s important parents know what is happening in their child’s online presence. You could consider volunteering at your child’s schools to get to know the school culture and read your child’s social media posts.
We can also invite the parents and friends of our children and visit the homes of our children’s friends to ensure our children’s safety.
We also need to spend quality time with our children and join activities in a masjid as a family unit. The best gift a parent can give to their children is the quality of their uninterrupted time. Children will always remember the time that parent spend with their parents
Bullying – We can all help stop it A guide for parents of elementary and secondary school students