Muslim Youth in Europe

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Image courtesy of http://www.europe-infos.eu/europeinfos/en/archive/issue181/article/7249.html

  1. What struggles are unique to Muslim youth in Europe? In what forms does Muslim youth identity manifest itself in Europe? What role does discrimination play in the formation of Muslim youth identities?

 

In Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, Shireen Hunter explores the unique challenges that Muslim youth living in Western Europe face. Not only is being a teenager a difficult task in itself, but Muslim youth must also forge their identities in the face of the uncertainty and discrimination onslaught by the Western European societies in which she lives. Hunter breaks down the struggles that Muslim youth in Europe face into four separate categories, each of which contributes to the difficulty of identity manifestation.

  1. Cultural Adaption: As with a majority of Muslim migrants to Europe, Muslim youth face difficulty fully assimilating into their new Western European societies. Many Muslims living in Western Europe tend to reside in predominantly Muslim communities within neighborhoods. The tendency to stick within the comfortable confines of their own culture and communities, paired with many Western Europeans’ resilience to fully accepting Islam, makes it extremely hard for Muslim youth to assimilate into Western European culture.
  2.  Balance of Integration and Tradition: Not only must Muslim youth face difficulty assimilating into Western European society, but they must also deal with internal conflicts of interests. Muslim teens are constantly trying to balance the norms and expectations of Western European societies and peers, with the norms and expectations of their Islamic faith.
  3.  Boundary Identification: Another problem that Muslim youths face is grappling with the identifiers placed on them by Western society. They are defined solely by their Islamic faith and the countries from which they hail. It seems that many times these Muslim youths cannot overcome these associations and identifiers.
  4. Discrimination and Stereotyping: Typically, discrimination and stereotyping are methods  people use to confront or deal with things they don’t understand. Muslim youth in Western Europe, along with the majority of the Western European Muslim community, face frequent discrimination and prejudice from their counterparts. There is a misperception of many Muslims in Western society as radical and dangerous, when really this stereotype is only representative of a small segment of the Muslim population. Many moderate Muslims are lumped together into a stereotype that contains radical Islam and terrorists, which is one that many Westerners tend to hold, and this is an unfair perception that impacts their daily lives.

 

  1. In what ways has the influence of Western experiences on Malaysian Muslims been contradictory? How can this be applied to Muslims worldwide?

Western experiences and Western influences appear to drive some Muslims towards a more radical Islamic view. Rather than assimilating into the Western European culture, Muslims’ experiences with the West make clear the differences between the values and ideals that divide Islam and the West. The contradiction that exists for Malaysian Muslims when it comes to Western influence is the fact that, rather than de-escalating or assimilating their beliefs,  their Western experiences actually radicalized their beliefs. Many Muslims may feel like they need to more aggressively defend their beliefs and react more strongly in light of Western culture impeding itself on Islam. This can be applied to Muslims worldwide who feel that their Islamic faith is threatened by Western ideals and that they need to react in a more radical way.

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