Muslim youth in Europe are no stranger to struggles in their daily life. They are not excluded from the hardships that affect their elders in European societies. In Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, Shireen Hunter breaks down these struggles into four different categories: cultural adaption, balance of integration and tradition, boundary identification, and discrimination and stereotyping.
- Cultural Adaption: though more noticeable among recent immigrants, many Muslim youth are unfamiliar with the cultural aspects of European countries, such as their language and specific ways of life. Many immigrants travel from an Islam-dominant country to a country where Muslims are a vast minority. Being intimidated by the cultural uncertainty, Muslims tend to stick to their own communities rather than assimilating to the country. This tendency escalates the difficulty of cultural adaption because, by sticking to Muslim communities, they further themselves from the European community and emphasize their differences.
- Balance of Integration and Tradition: Muslim youth also have an internal struggle between integrating with the culture and their surroundings while maintaining the traditions of their Islamic faith. The Muslim youth is “largely dissatisfied” with the Islamic culture of their parents and believe their parents are trying to live in the past. They detest the old ways of Islam and want to adjust more with the culture of the European country they are a part of.
- Boundary Identification: Muslim youth are forced to decide whether they want to be identified by their Muslim faith and to what extent they want their faith define them. Their migration to a new place means a new identity and new kind of Muslim faith, as Islam changes from place to place. Especially in the West, some view Islam as a religion to fear, and Muslim youth need to refine Islam as a good, safe religion that should not be feared, rather accepted. Muslim youth must choose the role Islam plays in their life and their identity and transition this identity into one that assimilates well with their European communities.
- Discrimination and Stereotyping: obviously, Muslims in Europe are confronted with endless forms of discrimination and stereotyping. The views of Westerns tend to sway towards traditional views of the area, which depict Islam as a religion to be feared and rejected. In addition to traditional views, the violence inflected by some Islamic extremist furthers the negative beliefs toward the Muslims in Europe, which is termed “Islamophobia.” Very few Muslims in Europe associate with the extremist groups, yet they are still stereotyped as dangerous throughout Europe. Many Europeans are looking for someone to blame for their constant fear of attacks, rendering harmless Muslims as victims of discrimination. Though this discrimination and stereotyping affects all Muslims, Muslim youth seems to be the most affected because of their higher desire to be assimilated into the European communities.
Though most Muslims who travel to Europe return with more moderate views of Islam, many Malaysians who studied in Europe returned to Malaysia with much more radical views than before they had traveled. This is a huge contradiction between the massive amounts of assimilation and deescalation of Islamic beliefs in Europe and the Malaysian pattern of radicalizing their beliefs. Not all Malaysian Muslims shifted to violent groups of Muslims, the shifting to a more radical view exemplifies the influence on Muslims spreading outside of the Arabic world and assimilating into European countries. Extremist beliefs have exited the boarders of Islamic-ruled countries and have penetrated countries globally. In addition to extremists inside the boarders, the availability of the internet worldwide has increased the ability of Muslims to radicalize the religion in countries they are not currently in. Muslims cannot escape the possibility of radicalization by simply immigrating to a new country.