In previous years, having an identity crisis was primarily associated with young people who came from mixed backgrounds. Today, whilst the phenomenon of an identity crisis and disenchantment is not unique to young British Muslims, it is certainly prevalent in their community today.
So what continues to be the inherent problems and difficulties facing young British Muslims?
It appears that many have become rebels without a cause. Life is one of mere existence with no direction, no ambitions, no moral compass and no purpose. Young Muslim men walk around shortening their names to Mo (Mohammad) and Bill (Bilal) in the hope that they will be accepted as by their British peers. Teenage Muslim girls parade in shopping malls as fashionistas sporting headscarves similar to the hats of the ladies at Ascot. They crave the success of their modern day heroes, television celebrities, pops stars and fashion icons.
At home the void between parents and their children is vast. Communication is limited and confused. ‘Many parents just don’t know what it is like to be a teenager in Britain today and all the realities that come with it’ is the teenage rhetoric. For many, religion appears no more to them than a cultural noose. Being Muslim merely bares the same connotation as the titles Mr, Mrs and Miss. The young British Muslim feels a victim of his culture and beliefs.
A 17-year-old Muslim in full-time work in Tottenham, North London, told researchers of an episode when he was stopped by police on his way to school when he was 13: “One of them said to the other one: ‘Mate, why don’t you ask him where Saddam [Hussein] is. He might be able to help out.'”
Dominated by its misconceptions, modern British society does not yet fully accommodate and support the needs of young British Muslims. However a vast number of young Muslims now consider themselves more British than anything else. It seems that their dilemma is three-fold: the desire to be accepted as British, their lack of understanding of what it is to be Muslim, and the mutual lack of understanding between them and their elders. These problems combined with the difficulties they face cloud the real potential of these young people and the valuable contributions they can make to modern British society.
Positive role models who educate and guide the young on what it is to be a Muslim are fundamental in bringing about change. By comprehending and embracing Islam, our youth can begin to understand that being Muslim enriches all facets of their Britishness, equips them with the life skills to positively contribute to society in a multitude of ways and enables them to be able to communicate effectively and maturely with their elders. Let us also not forget that whilst education and guidance through positive role models is key, there are times when drastic and fatal events in a young British Muslim’s life is the only catalyst which drives them to change from a rebel without a cause to a Muslim with a purpose.