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?
The largest difference between Muslim elders in society and Muslim youth is that the internet and social media have made it possible to see the discrimination that they face on a daily basis. Their identity is constantly being questioned and challenged on a scale that older Muslims never experienced until now. Besides technology itself, which highlights all of these struggles, there are four main categories of struggle that the authors discuss in Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, which I will explain below.
Cultural adaption is one struggle for Muslim youth that immigrate to European nations. It is difficult to abandon your nation state which may have consisted of mostly Muslim men and women. The language is different, the people dress differently, and you are forced to try to assimilate. However, most Muslims take solace in a Muslim community that embraces them, which sounds comforting except for this further isolates them from their European neighbors who view them as outsiders. Another struggle is the balance of integration and tradition. Like most of us, we don’t agree completely with our parents beliefs. Sometimes they can be outdated and the pressure to conform to their ideas and beliefs can be overwhelming. Muslim youth experience this type of disconnect between wanting to assimilate in some ways to European life and keeping their roots in tact. Youth are always trying to push the boundaries, so it is the same situation with Muslim youth who do not want to experience Islam in the same archaic ways their parents and grandparents did. Boundary identification plays off of this need to break away from traditional Islam. Youth must decide the role that Islam will play in their lives. Will they choose to make their faith the defining factor about them? They want to be accepted, yet in European nations, Islam is a religion that is feared, not revered. This puts youth in a particularly difficult spot because they must decide how they want to be perceived. Lastly, discrimination and stereotyping make this decision about identity very difficult to mold. To bring the internet back into the conversation, everyday since 9/11, Muslims have seen their identity wrongly stereotyped across every possible media platform. They are blamed for things that are out of their control and tied to Islamic extremism, which then becomes generalized to account for all Muslims. With so much Islamophobia it is hard to balance as a Muslim youth because you have a stronger want to be part of your European community.
In what ways has the influence of Western experiences on Malaysian Muslims been contradictory? How can this be applied to Muslims worldwide?
After having the opportunity to study in Spain this past summer, I grew an appreciation for the Spanish lifestyle. The relaxed flow of the day and importance placed on social interaction were things that I took away and tried to implement into my own life. Many students who study abroad have a similar experience. However, when Malaysian Muslims studied in Europe, they were able to learn more about Islam than in their home country. They were able to reinterpret and read scholarly findings that their country didn’t necessarily allow for. They didn’t learn as much about the culture they were immersed in, like in my experience. They instead learned about their own religion and were able to understand what living in a non-Muslim state was like. For many, they returned to Malaysia with a more strict view of Islam and a more extreme platform. The free intellectual climate allowed for Muslims to think critically about questions involving identity and assimilation in a non-Muslim state.
The irony is that many of the Malaysian Muslims that studied in Western nations seemed to return with a greater dislike of Western values than when they arrived. They seemed to become more radicalized by studying in another country. This example can be generalized to Muslims worldwide because oftentimes, debates about Islam originate in the West and are then accessed and participated in by people overseas via the internet. This shows the impact that globalization has had on the world.