British Muslims: Time to Correct Misperceptions
Crisis of Muslim Youth
The Muslim community’s demographic profile shows that young people constitute a great proportion of the community when compared with other age groups. Moreover, they live for the most part in socially and economically deprived neighborhoods, and their parents are likely to be unemployed.
There is a big problem of role models, and young people seem to be polarized within two groups:
1. Those who have managed to break out of this suffocating environment through education and their own willpower
|The reality is that up and down the country, young British Muslims within their local, regional, and national groups are quietly working away for their communities and building the nation.|
2. Those who have lost hope and ambition and thus spiraled down to become society’s rejects The work of Muslim community activists, like in the Muslim Council of Britain’s Youth Committee, is to provide encouragement and pathways to those young people in the latter group in order to move them to the former group.
Media MisperceptionsBut when one sees the depiction of young British Muslims in the media, most often than not it has to do with their extremism and disloyalty to the state, along with other negative connotations one can think of. The message portrayed is blunt: Young Muslims are a liability for the country. A few agenda-driven think tanks and a section of our political class want to make sure that Muslims remain marginalized in society.
British Muslims’ Activism
This is far from the truth. The reality is that up and down the country, young British Muslims within their local, regional, and national groups are quietly working away for their communities and building the nation. Many young Muslims have shown themselves to surpass the names that have been attached to them, and to continue with their inherent drive to help others by volunteering their time and their energy for amazing projects. Traveling across the country, I have witnessed the passion and commitment by them to improve the future of young British Muslims and the future of Britain. Furthermore, a Gallup survey showed that 82 percent of British Muslims are loyal to this country. Having strong religious identities does not prevent strong national sentiments.
As a way of showcasing and inspiring excellence, the Young Muslim Beacon Awards was launched by the Youth Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain. In 2008, many projects were submitted to the Award Committee, showing excellence, vision, and action to improve the fortunes of local constituents. Last year, three outstanding projects were selected for their unique commitment to working with young Muslims:
1. The Association of Muslim Researchers (AMR), which worked on strengthening family structures within the Muslim community by carrying out intergenerational work through residents striving to reduce the generation gap
|It is time to recognize and support the great work the organizations dealing with young Muslims do.|
2. The PEACE (participate, activate, communicate, empowerment, and equality) Youth Project, which trains youth workers specifically working with young Muslims.3. The Federation of Muslim Organizations (FMO), which celebrates the achievements and contributions young Muslims have made locally in Leicester and Leicestershire.
This year’s winners included
- The disability charity RADAR for its contribution in training and encouraging young disabled Muslims to take part in civic and community activities.
- The Leicestershire-based BUILD Development Project working in madrasahs (Muslim community schools) and community centers tackling issues such as crime and substance misuse with boys and girls.
- The national student body the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) for its sustained work and services over decades to help more than 90,000 Muslim students and to foster community and global leaders such as Dr. Hani Al-Banna (founder of Islamic Relief), Abdullah Gül (president of Turkey), and Dr. Abdullah Naseef (former secretary-general of the Muslim World League). This year, FOSIS helped raise £350,000 for orphans around the world — all of this with a volunteer workforce.
The silent work continues, and the standard continues to be very high. As a judge of the Young Muslim Beacon Awards, I have been humbled by the magnificent work going on across the country with even more excellent submissions of different projects. It is time to recognize and support the great work the organizations dealing with young Muslims do. It is time to make a stand; it is time to stand up and applaud what they have quietly and tirelessly been doing — more importantly, what they will continue to do. Let the real work tell the story rather than the attitudes of the negative press toward all young British Muslims.