our youth

Our Youth! Why Should We Worry? Part 2

Our Youth

dr-sibtain-panjwaniThe writer, Dr. Sibtain Panjwani (London, United Kingdom) qualified as a dentist and obtained his MA in Medical Law and Ethics and a PhD in Law, after which he went on to work closely with Marhum Mulla Asgherali M M Jaffer at the World Federation.

4. DIVERSITY AMONG YOUTHS

The fourth area to focus is one of diversity within the younger generation of our own KSI Muslim community. When we address the issue of our youth, we need to, at the outset, distinguish that whilst they may share a common age range, they may not necessarily all have the same needs. Therefore, we need to realize that there is wide diversity amongst our own youth and so their needs can also be very different. The differences may not only be at the level of practice (i.e. Imambada or non-Imambada attendee type of youth) but the differences may reside into many other areas. For example:

  1. Commitment to principles of Islam, for example, being a person who wears hijab vs. one who is practicing but doesn’t wear hijab and their experiences within the community.
  2. A youth from our community, say from East Africa who immigrated to UK as a child or born in the UK has different experiences in life and needs compared to someone who came to the UK as a student from East Africa or the India/Pakistan or as a refugee from Somalia in the late 1990’s or now from Yemen.
  3. A youth from our community who speaks or understand languages beside English such as Gujarati, French, Kutchi, Swahili, Urdu and who has travelled will have totally different experiences than someone who was born and raised and never travelled outside of UK and only speaks English.
  4. The life experiences, needs, aspirations, and ways to support a youth who lives in a low income family will be totally different compared to youth from the well-off family.
  5. Our youth who drop out of the secondary school or college have different needs than those who go on to complete university.

Dissecting these diverse needs in our own community is essential to understanding the extent of diversity and the size of the youth population which we are trying to reach out to. Coupled with this, we also have to be aware that our youth interact with many other youth from different Muslim and Non Muslim Communities as well other cultural and ethnic and religious background. So, we also need to understand that diverse youth communities exist in the UK which will directly or indirectly influence our youth. 

When we address the needs of our youth, the first question should be which youth are we considering? Are we cognizant of the fact that there is such diversity of youth out there? Sadly, we have not, as yet, carried out research based on the above type of questions or scenario. As a result, our understanding on this issue is superficial at best and our actions can be counterproductive at worst, particularly when our youth have to cope with challenges specific to their religious and cultural identity within the current geopolitical context.

5. INTERNAL CHALLENGES FACING YOUTHS

Fifth, we also need to focus seriously on the anecdotal evidences of the challenges faced by the youth themselves in our own KSI Muslim community. These were picked up from talking to the youth in the community. For example:

  1. Lack of support in terms of effective and confidential counselling for the youth within the Jamaat infrastructure.
  2. Some also express their difficulties to overcome the peer pressure to participate in activities that conflict with the Islamic beliefs. This has led some youth to secretly explore the society through different mediums.
  3. Many of our girls experience Islamophobic pressure due to the fact that they wear hijab. At times, the hijab is compromised.
  4. Lack of understanding of the complex challenges of our time means that some speakers/lecturers are not able to provide relevant answers to provide answers to the questions that the youth have
  5. There is also a perceived intra-community issue in that they feel frustrated over being neglected and not being considered in the development process of the community.
  6. There is also an external community issue in that they are frustrated  by the view of their peers outside of the community which disrespects Islam and the Muslim community.
  7. They feel it is an uphill struggle to maintain their values and beliefs in public. Therefore, they live in a bubble between their parents’ cultures and mainstream culture which forces the youth unconsciously to resolve this conflict by developing dual identities. The youth may display a religious and cultural identity at home while playing the ‘British’ identity to fit within their peers.
  8. Our communities’ often strict segregation policies even when religiously permissible result in the lack of opportunities for young people to engage in religiously appropriate gender interaction for the purposes of marriage and open dialogue.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, in order to overcome the aforementioned challenges, we must utilise our capital and human resources in the community – parents, madrasah teachers, scholars, leaders and professionals all have a role to play in nurturing a spiritual, critical-minded, skilled and confident next generation. We must realise that one solution does not fit all. Some people will come closer to Islam through lectures, while others through spirituality, while others through community activism, while others through sports. A lot needs to be done but the means to achieve it in terms of processes are already present within our institutional infrastructure be it Jamaat, Regional Federation or World Federation. What we need is to be critical of what we know about youths and then have the determination to collectively implement successful programs to meet their needs.

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