January 9, 2008
Written by C.N.
It’s clear that Muslim Americans face particularly difficult challenges in American society these days in terms of maintaining their cultural and religious identity in the face of pervasive stereotypes about them as potential terrorists. We might even say that such difficulties are even more intense among young Muslim Americans who also are trying to figure out where they fit within the frequently volatile social environment of school and their peers.
In that context, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, a new book entitled The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook, written by a Muslim American family, seeks to provide a little help in negotiating this challenging cultural terrain:
Sprinkled with humor, the lively paperback describes the essential beliefs and practices of Islam and includes questions and comments from Muslim teens across the United States. “In addition to doing research of our own, we sent out a survey to 44 Islamic schools,” explains Dilara, who teaches at a weekend Islamic school in the Phoenix area.
They received approximately 150 responses to their questionnaire, which revealed that even teens attending Islamic schools vary greatly in attitudes and faith practices, from why they are Muslim to how often they pray to whether or not they wear the hijab, the head scarf worn by many devout Muslim women. . . .
So far, the response to the handbook has been largely positive, and even comes from beyond the US and the Muslim community. . . . The handbook exudes an American perspective, upbeat and nonjudgmental. It encourages teens to discuss their questions and issues with parents, friends, and others, but ultimately to make their own responsible choices about their faith practice.
“The handbook is meant to provoke discussion, not be the definitive guide to Islam,” Yasmine explains. “It’s something you work out with God. No one on the outside has a right to judge that.”
From what it sounds like, the book looks to be an informative and useful exploration of these challenges faced by young Muslim Americans and I’m also glad to hear that others outside the Muslim community have also found it enlightening.
Most of all, I commend the efforts of the Hafiz family to take the initiative to speak on their own behalf and to express their own ideas and perspective about Islam, instead of sitting by and having others portray them however they want.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Handbook for Young Muslim Americans" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2008/01/handbook-for-young-muslim-americans/> ().
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