Why We Are Losing Our Youth
Yahya Abdul Rahman - Dec 12, 2007
As the facts surrounding the murder of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez at the hands of her father surface, we begin to see a small sample of what many Muslim teens have to deal with on daily basis in this country. Aqsa was increasingly becoming estranged from her family because she did not wish to observe Islam in the way her parents wanted her to. As a result of her choice, her life was brutally snuffed out. She - like most other young people growing up in this country - just wanted to be a normal teenager, fit in with the rest of the crowd and have fun. But instead she was forced to live in fear and behave one way in the presence of her family while living another life-style at school or when she was with her friends. One Canadian Muslim friend of Indian extraction wrote to me and stated that: "Part of the social reality is that Muslim parents do not care about their children's upbringing and just focus on making money in the west instead of being involved with their children or even with the Masjid. Then when they see their kids going astray they go nuts even though their children's social problems and dislike for deen (religion) are the parent's fault."
I am going to say something and it is not going to make me very popular in some circles, but it has to be said regardless. Muslim parents have no right to force their children to practice Islam - or even be Muslim- if they don't want to. Each and every person has to make their own personal Shahadah (declaration of faith) and true belief cannot be physically pounded into a person. Just because one's parents are Muslim does not necessarily mean that the person is Muslim. Each and every individual has to make that step alone and the best that parents can do is offer a good example and role model of what it means to be a good Muslim.
Many young people in the Muslim community do not want to practice Islam for one simple reason: they see the hypocrisy in their own parents and many Muslim community leaders. Many Muslims behave one way in the Mosque but then behave altogether differently on the outside. Dishonest dealings, lying, cheating, back-biting other Muslims and non-Muslims, abusive to family members, etc., are what many Muslim teens witness from their otherwise "pious" families" and they are disgusted, and justifiably so. "If that is Islam," they reason, "then I don't want anything to do with it." They don't see any difference between the behavior of non-Muslims, or non-practicing Muslims, and those who are calling themselves the righteous ones.
Furthermore, teens read daily in the media reports of Muslims committing atrocities against other Muslims - sometimes quoting the Quran as justification- and they frankly want to distance themselves from all of that. Can anyone blame them?
Added to all that is the fact that Muslims are consistently portrayed in a very negative light in the media and - whether they like it or not - Muslim teens become part of that stereotype and thus it is not surprising that they would attempt to hide - or downplay - their Muslim identity given the hostile environment these media reports create.
The sad reality is that there is not enough sympathetic, compassionate and culturally sensitive counselors in our community that Muslim youth can turn to for advice when they have to deal with these issues. Furthermore, Muslim parents are living in a fantasy world if they think that they can live a hypocritical life and then expect their children to become good practicing Muslims when they become adults. In my opinion, one of the main reasons - but most certainly not the only one - that Muslim youth want nothing to do with Islam is because of the un-Islamic actions of their parents and some community leaders. Another Canadian Muslim - also of Pakistani extraction - wrote me a short note and stated that "spending time with and projecting a positive approach in teaching Islam to the kids can help parents realize WHY they should practice Islam. This is something that's obligatory upon parents anyways, religiously-speaking."
I whole- heartedly agree with these sentiments.
Let us as a community wake up from this sleep and re-establish a real commitment to our faith, toss out those cultural practices which run contrary to the teachings of Islam, and start giving our children a real role-model of which they can be proud and look up to with true admiration. If we continue along the same path we are on then don't be surprised when our children say a resound no to Islam in the future.
Yahya Abdul Rahman is the Editor of Montreal Muslim News. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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