By Umar Lee
I was contacted over the weekend by a very thoughtful sister concerned about the issues surrounding Muslims sisters as outlined in my blog who thought it would be a good idea to include some resources for helping sisters and has said she is working on compiling a list of Muslim organizations set-up to counter domestic violence and the like. This weekend I also was moved by the comments of sister Musleema referring to the number of Muslim youth from broken homes who are angry and teetering on the edge of disaster. These comments led me to begin to wonder about practical things we can do to help some of those in our community who are in a state of anger, disillusionment, frustration, and at the doors of apostasy. Of those who are in this group one of the largest would be our Muslim youth especially those whose parents were a part of “movements” that gave them false hopes of an Islamic Utopia that turned into nightmares for their children.
In crafting an effort to help the youth we must first recognize that many are wounded, may have conflicted or negative perceptions towards many aspects of Islam, may not have a great relationship with at least one of their parents, and have heard all of the corny one-liners and catch-phrases of those who do not recognize any problems and have an Islamic Utopian mentality before, namely their parents and those adults they grew-up with.
These young people are from a generation of Muslims in America who have either grown-up in Muslim schools, been home schooled by Muslim parents, have grown up in the masjid and went to public schools, or are the products of parents who made “hijrah”. They read Quran, have memorized a significant number of suras, possibly speak Arabic, have never celebrated a non-Muslim holiday, have never eaten pork, and have a fairly high level of knowledge and understanding of the deen.
For the most part I am talking about the children of converts, but there are children of immigrant Muslims who fit into this category, but regardless of where their parents came from, they are all in the same boat now as many of them have grown up amongst one another and their identity is firmly that of Muslims.
The disillusionment and anger of many of these youth comes from the fact many of these children of movement Muslims, whether their parents be Salafis, Sufis, Tabliquis, or whatever, do not share the same idealism and fervor that their parents have. Rather, they see that they have moved all over the country (or world) and never been able to settle into a regular life for kids as their parents have sought the best Muslim community on the “Haqq”, have only known poverty while additional siblings were being added every year, if their parents have not been married and divorced multiple times they have many friends whose parents have, and they have seen no tangible benefits to being Muslim or shunning the dunya.
It is likely that these kids have non-Muslim relatives who attended the same schools throughout their academic career, have not moved around, are stable, and seem to be enjoying life while they feel as if they are captives of their family’s vision of Islam which forbids enjoying life.
Some of these kids come from two parent families; but we are going to have to face the reality that many of these kids have fathers who have no relationship with them and do not support them while they are out buying new thobes and the latest “must have” CD of Islamic lectures (or even giving the lectures). The other reality is that we have kids that have known 3, 5, and even 10 or 15 Muslim stepfathers in their lives and this colors their bitter vision of life as a Muslim. Having watched their mothers being treated poorly by the Muslim men in their life the girls can develop a negative attitude towards Muslim men and the boys see the hypocrisy in the talk and action at the masjid.
This is leading to an angry young generation and some will be isolated Muslims, some will strive for a better and more balanced way, some will develop emotional problems and personality disorders, and others may even leave the deen as some already have. I can point to examples of all of these things; I know Muslims who grew-up like this who are sincere practicing Muslims but having seen false-piety so much they don’t come around Muslims that often, others are trying to correct the errors of their parents and find a more balanced deen; but it is unfortunate that I know of a number of Muslim kids who grew up the children of active members in the community and given a full Islamic foundation who are now in prison, are mentally ill, or just out of balance. And then, and then you have those we all fear, who are not Muslim at all.
People may say I should not talk about this, I should leave this one alone, but the reality is that some of the young are leaving Islam, and if we do not get our act together more will do so as they are being raised by fanatical parents. Several Muslim kids I know from strong Muslim backgrounds are now in the streets selling drugs or in gangs. One sister I know has several children by a drug dealer and whose tattooed body and tight-jeans look is far from the niqaab she wore when she was 12. Her sisters are still Muslim, masha’Allah, but they have both been divorced three times before the age of eighteen, and I have to wonder what kind of a view the children of such unions will have towards the deen. Yes we can tell them the deen is the middle path and that we treat our women well and the Muslims are the standard bearers for all things good; but what will these empty words mean to them after they were raised in chaos? If a young girl has had six Muslim step-fathers can she then look at marriage in the idealistic and naïve way like her mother did? If a father had had twenty or thirty wives and children by several of them then is it a far step for the son to say he can have that many girlfriends and “baby mammas”? Or, on a more educated level, how will this negative experience from the deen growing up help them, say if they do go to college, combat the assault from secular humanism, outright hedonism and atheistic liberalism?
Can we expect healthy identity from Muslim kids who were say; born in St. Louis, raised in New Jersey, DC, and South Carolina before being hauled off to Yemen as their father studied deen only to get some kind of rare disease while they lived in Third World poverty? How balanced will they be? Or will they be as angry and bitter as a family of Muslim kids I know raised in Saudi Arabia who barely speak English and have been kicked out of the country only to come to America to live in a ghetto they do not understand with no job skills or edcuation.
Within the next ten years we are going to see tens of thousands of such kids coming of age all over the country who are products of parents with various Muslim movement mentalities and if we do not prepare for them now then we are going to have a wide scale disaster on our hands. One way that we can guarantee failure is to ignore the problem and pretend like it doesn’t exists because, who knows, maybe the kufar are reading and we don’t want to look bad. Already, right now, there are masjids that are dealing with this problem on a wide scale basis. There is a masjid I know of right now full of sisters who have been divorced multiple times and their angry children who they cannot control. The anger of the children is not only being directed towards their bearded and studied fathers; but towards Islam itself, as the only image they have of Muslims in their mind is of dysfunctional and unsuccessful people. Will those kids who were raised without as their fathers glorified the merits of being broke and shunned the “dunya” and education not be bitter when they look at their non-Muslim cousins living comfortable lives? Will they notice that their aunt has not been married ten times and their uncle has had the same job for 20 years?
We need to start moving towards solutions right now and not wait for the problem to grow into a calamity. All of us have the potential to bring something to the table. Some brothers and sisters like me may be able to help with youth sports (in my case boxing and wrestling) but others may be able to contribute in various ways.
This issue is so big that I think we are in need of a working meeting over one day to address the issue that can start a sustained campaign. I am sending out a call to all concerned Muslims in the Washington, DC metro area, where I currently am, to email me at umarlee at gmail.com if you are interested. This means brothers and sisters and Muslims form all backgrounds and anyone with good ideas. After I get the emails insha’Allah I will secure a location and a date and time. Please do not miss this opportunity to be a part of a solution and I will be writing about this as things develop.