Muslim youths urged to speak up

    The Muslim Student Association presented a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Lang on Feb. 18 regarding the disillusionment of American Muslim youth and how it should be resolved. The event is part of the MSA’s American Muslim week.

    Rachel A. Garcia

    Lang, a professor at the University of Kansas, converted to Islam in 1982 and has since been advocating issues concerning Muslims living in the United States, particularly the Muslim youth community. One of his main concerns is that second-generation Muslims who are serious about their religion are scarce, and that most of the Muslims who attend mosque are immigrants or foreign students.

    “”A great majority of American Muslims were born here, and my question is: Where are they?”” said Lang. “”This group, this great majority of Muslims in America, are nowhere to be found.””

    One of the main reasons why the American Muslim youth seems to be waning is because of its lack of voice, Lang said.

    “”If you have a patient, you’re not going to figure it out unless they complain,”” Lang said. “”That’s the problem … the community isn’t complaining.””

    Lang also stated that Muslim youths born in the United States are bound to have different values.

    “”They’re as American as apple pie,”” Lang said. “”A lot of what America values were incorporated in them, and they develop a Western personality.””

    What contributes to this imbalance of Western and Muslim values, Lang said, is the way the youth is taught in America. Lang said that Western scholars are teaching Islam to the youth in America, and although knowledgeable about what they teach, they are bound to be biased. His solution to this problem is attaining “”both sides of scholarship”” by employing both Muslim teachers as well as non-Muslim ones.

    Lang’s reasoning as to how disillusionment forms within the community is the clash of American and Islamic cultures.

    “”The mosque culture and the American culture clash, and they are torn as to which one they should devote themselves to,”” Lang said. “”Young people are torn and pulled by the intellectual divide.””

    For example, he said that Muslims follow the tradition of conformity, that which is eternal and certain limitations on complete free speech. He explained that American values contrast because they involve individualism and free speech.

    However, some members of the audience thought differently. A few said that American upbringing and the instilling of American values is not the factor in disillusionment among the second generation of Muslim youths, and that their faith in the religion is the main drive to maintain devotion to Islamic culture.

    MSA President Ahmad Bailony said, “”Here, it’s not a matter of culture, it’s a matter of faith. With any faith that you are, it’s always hard. For me, it’s a matter of my own faith, and that’s what keeps me going.””

    Eleanor Roosevelt College sophomore Don Tran, a Vietnamese-American Muslim, agreed.

    “”The disillusionment doesn’t come from living in America,”” he said. “”It’s more of the way the first generation raises you, and it’s in the faith within ourselves.””

    Several first-generation parents of Muslim children attended the lecture as well.

    “”Mainly, if there is any disillusionment, it comes from the parents,”” said one unidentified Muslim parent. “”The religion starts from home.””

    When asked if discrimination toward Muslims living in America contributed to any disillusionment, one student disagreed.

    “”It really depends on one’s own faith and support surrounding them,”” said ERC sophomore Anbar Mahar.

    ERC junior Sarah Abukar said that being black and Muslim, living in America has not been a challenge.

    “”No matter what race you are, you’re going to face the same types of problems,”” she said. “”One of the good things is that once a lot of different groups come together in the Muslim community, there will be a lot of support for each other.””

    Abukar said that being Muslim is not the only factor that causes disillusionment among youths.

    “”Growing up as a teen, you’re going to feel disillusionment anyway,”” Abukar said. “”It’s still harder to find your place in society no matter what, especially if you’re a teen.””

    Some questioned why disillusionment among the Muslim-American youth seems to be more worrisome than the disillusionment among Asian-Americans or Latino-Americans. Bailony said that it’s not a worrisome issue, but that it is an issue fairly new to America.

    “”Right now, Muslims don’t have that rich history, such as the history of Irish immigrants in America. The growing pains of adapting into a new environment is just setting in,”” he said.

    Besides altering the way students are taught Islam in America, Lang mentioned other things one can do to stop the process of disillusionment among youths. He said that focusing on God and the Koran is the major issue, as is allowing higher tolerance among each other.

    MSA is presenting the “”Dynamics of Islamic Identity in America”” at 7 p.m. in Center Hall 113 on Feb. 20, and is also holding “”American Muslims & U.S. Foreign Policy”” on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in Center Hall 101.

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