I watched the second episode of “Extremely British Muslims” the other day and what can I say? It made me very sad.
British Muslim youth seem to have been neglected by the British authorities, media and members of the public as well as members of their own community. They seem to be in a limbo as of where they fit in.
The right-wing media portrays Muslims, especially the youth, as in danger of being radicalized and going off to join ISIL. The media plays on what ISIL is doing and making mincemeat of the general public’s minds by installing fear into them. The young men questioned on the program all said they hate these terrorists and they would never defend them, but where will you see that in the media? You won’t, in actual fact, the biggest selling tabloid in the UK, The Sun, printed an untrue headline that 1 in 5 British Muslims sympathize with Jihadists.
They were later forced to admit that their story was significantly misleading after they had seriously misinterpreted the results of a poll carried out. It didn’t matter though, the damage was already done. Unfortunately, many people reading these right-wing tabloids usually believe what is written in them. This leads to fear, mistrust and even hatred.
The young Muslims interviewed in the program faced struggles of getting jobs. They faced issues fitting into society in general, even though they classified themselves as British and identify more with British values than that of their parents origin, usually Pakistan. Some turn to a life of crime and for those very few that do decide to go off and join ISIL, it is because they are so desperate to belong to something important. And has one of the young men in the program pointed out, who is the biggest gang in the world right now? ISIL.
Not only was this realization sad, but it was also very sad that two of the main men the program focused on, who worked for a charity, helping refugees coming from war-torn countries, getting questioned by airport authorities every time they traveled to Greece to carry out their charity work. One passively said, it is for security to make everyone safe. He is used to it. But what is that if it is not racially profiling him? Isn’t it sad that he is so used to it that it didn’t make him angry, unlike his friend, who it had happened to for the first time!
What made me more upset was the fact that they do not get help from the Muslim community itself. What are the elder members of the Muslim community doing to help the Muslim youth? If you go to a mosques in the UK, you will find many of them giving the lectures and prayers in Urdu.
The young Muslims do not understand Urdu, they will misunderstand what is being said to them. Why can’t they give these lessons in English, why can’t they help the younger Muslims understand their religion in a language that they have been raised with, and are comfortable with. This is one reason many feel they are not connected with the mosque or the religion! This is why there is such a big gap in understanding and many young Muslims getting into trouble with the police.
In America, there are 3.3 million Muslims living there, that is 1% of the population. In the UK there are close to 3 million Muslims, which is 4.8% of the population, yet look at the US to see many of the influential speakers there who are appealing to the Muslim youth and bringing them back to Islam and explaining many aspects of the Qur’an. The likes of Nouman Ali Khan, Imam Suhaib Webb, Dr. Qadhi, Yasmin Mogahed all appeal to young Muslims, where are those speakers in the UK? I can’t think of any and yet we have more Muslims in the population.
The Muslim community in the UK has to take responsibility for their youth. They have to inspire them and make them love Islam. They need to come away from cultural practices and start including the youth into daily life.
The Muslim youth are left on the shelf, they face challenges from both sides and although it is very easy to blame the British authorities, the media and the people, we have to start within the Muslim communities themselves.
The elder Muslims have a big responsibility to the youth, they need to start to change the way they run their communities so the youth feel part of them and they need to start to inspire instead of pushing them further and further into the abyss.
It is not too late to help Muslim youth if the community is willing to make big changes within themselves and inspire them rather than let them down because right now, that is what is happening. Once those changes are made, then Muslims as a whole can influence British society with a much more positive view rather than the negative one that the right-wing media are currently having a field day with.