WHY ARE YOUNG MUSLIMS FALLING INTO EXTREMISM?
The continuing failure of our political leaders in the West, elders, Muslim community leaders and ordinary Muslims to tackle these extremists head-on with intellectual argument is among one of many indirect reasons why young ignorant Muslims continue to commit horrendous acts in the name of Islam today.
Though knowledgeable, some Muslim community leaders lack the language skills and cultural fluency to connect with demoralised Muslim teenagers and youth, build relationships with interfaith leaders and challenge misconceptions about Islam in non-Muslim countries today. Made worse by the 24/7 anti-Islamic propaganda repeated on TV and on the internet, the looming gulf between today’s youth and community leaders is widening further by the day.
However, instead of simply pointing the finger at Imams (who act as important ideological shields against the ISIS-like propaganda) and community leaders living in your district town or city, introspectively try asking: “How much have I done for young and old Muslims in my own community who feel disadvantaged?”
HOW CAN MUSLIM LEADERS HELP?
Muslim scholars and community leaders need to focus on fresh ways to increase community engagement, not only prioritise Dawah (proselytizing) and mosque-building programmes but identify new ways to encourage the local Muslim youth and teenagers let alone women participate in mosque related issues. Put simply, Muslim scholars and community leaders need to help women and youth increase their visibility within the Muslim community in the areas of leadership, representation and community programmes.
Instead of historically relegating women and youth in our midst to the role of a shrinking violet, we need to integrate more women and youth as equal partners in all forms of decision-making, and thus thrice as much if not more, can be achieved. The current status quo has to, needs to change.
As one of many examples of what an ordinary Muslim woman at a very minimal can achieve: The photograph of Saffiyah Khan, the young woman [from Birmingham] staring bemusedly at an EDL “activist” while a policeman holds him back comes to mind. By simply staring at him in the heat of the moment, she strikingly appeared absolutely magnificent and almost all at once, demonstrated how one ordinary person can make a difference. Hands in her pockets, deeply unbothered by angry ranting men, her smile has spread far and wide because it is an image of undeniable strength and power. (Source: In dark times, this image has a glorious message – resistance is not futile, Suzanne Moore, 10 April 2017, The Guardian)
HOW CAN YOUNG MUSLIM WOMEN HELP?
Perhaps a productive way to make a real, meaningful difference may be to reach out to people in the Muslim community who are in need, especially those struggling to educate their children. While it is no doubt important to fight for women’s roles in mosque leadership and maintain the right of women to worship at the local community mosque, someone needs to help fellow Muslim women in our community in uneven relationships by establishing some sort of local grassroots programme aimed at women and girls in your own district or town.
Some other initiatives may include reaching out and mentoring young Muslim girls in your cities living in culture-dominated Muslim migrant families, often from the sub-continent or some parts of Africa. One could serve as a key mentor or inspiration to these girls or their mothers who need help with learning about true Islam and the rights of women in Islam or in plain simple terms, help out in English, Math and Science.
Women meanwhile could also consider bypassing patriarchal systems well entrenched at many local community Masjids and find ways to make a difference by running for office at the district, county or wider, state-level to generate in influence when negotiating for change within respective communities.
In fact, this will not only help Muslim women themselves but in the battle against Islamophobia, political presence will help give voiceless Muslims a much-needed platform to be seen and heard, regardless of the inherent risks: “If you’re a visible Muslim . . . you’ll be a target 100 percent of the time,” said Nadeem Mazen. After winning his seat in 2015 by landing the most votes of any of the candidates seeking re-election, he started a nonprofit called JetPac, which helps Muslims get more involved politically . . . Among other things, JetPac’s training focuses on teaching potential candidates to lead canvassing and phone campaigns, to analyze local issues, and to respond to vitriol that targets their race or religion. Some of these skills Mazen learned on the job. (Source: In Response To Rising Biased Rhetoric, Muslims Run For Office, Kat Chow, 27 February 2017, NPR)
In the fine words of Hend Amry, published on Twitter on 12 March 2017: Ironic that it took rising Islamophobic hysteria about a nonexistent Muslim political movement to get Muslims involved in politics.