Grappling Anew With an Old Problem

Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)

You got that right! Youths – a class of social members who have remained paradoxically elusive for the older generation of all times. The youths want freedom – of speech, of action, of expression; the elders demand involvement – of responsible action, of conformity to set roles, and of their physical and mental energies in the forward stride of the community. An impasse.

The elders prefer to call them the leaders of tomorrow, but the youths know better and so they don’t understand why they cannot lea today, afterall education, science and fluency of speech is on their side. The youths accuse the elders of not letting go of past ritual practice, but the leaders are wiser, and thus they regard this train of thought as immature and devoid of religious knowledge. Another Deadlock.

The community jumps at the thought of rejuvenating the youth by organizing lectures and discussions, and now workshops to repossess the straying ‘’cubs’’, but the youth feels that the lion will remain king of the jungle and so this is only meant to further influence them in accepting what they consider their imposed ideas. A tie.

So where do we go? Should the community give up on its most fundamental asset, and let the youth adopt their own lifestyle? Or should the youth see reason beyond the veil of their so-called wisdom? The answer does not lie in any of the polar suggestions. What we now need is a happy medium.

Firstly, both parties should eliminate this finger pointing and agree to sit down and deliberate on this burning issue. Leaders should for once show seriousness in keeping their word. One secret of doing this is by not taking the lot for granted, this is one attribute that the youth cannot live with. He/she needs importance – not preference, but deserved regard to what he/she thinks or feels. We have heard many disgruntled individuals, some of whom have actually crossed the youth age group, of how they were maligned, mistreated or disregarded. The sons and daughters of these individuals cannot be expected to fall in love prima facie (at first sight) with the institution. Their extremist behavior and generalized opinionating is bound to emerge. Therefore, the leaders, who by no means are infallible, should definitely strive to be honourable. Understanding what the youths want may be the key to unlocking this mysterious dilemma.

On the other hand, the youths have to be prepared to accept opinion. The attitude, some times is that of a know-all, and this is bound to cause conflict. For it is difficult for the adult member to comprehend how “the tail can lead the head”. Yet at times the elders go out of the way and congratulate the positively aggressive behavior of the youth. But eventually, they are bound to hurt.

One feels compelled to borrow some ideas from our brothers in the West who are trying to develop programs that would curb any further discords. A book published some years back in Canada has touched on the subject rather immaculately. “A Vision for Youths and Proposed Action Programs for it’s Realization” is really a follow up to an earlier seminar that discussed the Youth Dimension. It talks about the psychological and educational development of “young persons” (note the change in lingo), the improvements to traditional institutions (Majlis and Madrasah) to help better cater to the needs of the youths, and so on. This is just one example, there could be lots of other opportunities which we may have overlooked.

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