Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North
BEING YOUNG AND MUSLIM – Book Sample
About the Book – BEING YOUNG AND MUSLIM
“This is an excellent collection of essays on youth in a number of Muslim majority (and minority) societies in the context of globalization and modernity. A particular strength of this volume is its ability to highlight the multiple and contested roles of religion and personal faith in the fashioning of contemporary youthful Muslim identities.
Such insights often challenge secular Western master narratives of modernity and suggest credible reconceptualizations of what it means to be young and modern in a broad swath of the world today.”– Asma Afsaruddin, Professor of Islamic Studies, Indiana University
In recent years, there has been a proliferation of interest in youth issues and Muslim youth in particular. Young Muslims have been thrust into the global spotlight in relation to questions about security and extremism, work and migration, and rights and citizenship.
This book interrogates the cultures and politics of Muslim youth in the global South and North to understand their trajectories, conditions, and choices. Drawing on wide-ranging research from Indonesia to Iran and Germany to the U.S., it shows that while the majority of young Muslims share many common social, political, and economic challenges, they exhibit remarkably diverse responses to them.
Far from being “exceptional,” young Muslims often have as much in common with their non-Muslim global generational counterparts as they share among themselves. As they migrate, forge networks, innovate in the arts, master the tools of new media, and assert themselves in the public sphere, Muslim youth have emerged as important cultural and political actors on a world stage.
Introduction: Being Young and Muslim in Neoliberal Times
The current demographic shift heavily tilted toward a young population has caused a remarkable change in the social composition of Muslim majority countries. Youth have assumed a central, if complex, place in the politics and cultures of these societies, as well as in societies where Muslims make up a sizable minority.
As a result of a combination of the shifting moral politics at home, the relentless process of neoliberal globalization, the geopolitics of neo-imperialism, the rise of a civilizational discourse in which “Islam” is positioned in opposition to the “West,” and unprecedented levels of school and university graduates combined with crises of unemployment, youth cultures are developing in novel ways with consequences of historical signiﬁcance.
Their expressions of interests, aspirations, and socioeconomic capacities appear to be producing a new cultural politics. In other words, the cultural behavior of Muslim youths can be understood as located in the political realm and representing a new arena of contestation for power.
While often referred to as the builders of the future by the power elite, the young are also stigmatized and feared as “disruptive” agents prone to radicalism and deviance. Although gender, class, and cultural divisions may render untenable a homogenous treatment of youths, or even call into question “youth” as an analytical category, it is equally true that the young undeniably share a certain important habitus and historical consciousness that is recognized by both the young themselves as well as by the political establishment and moral authorities.
The complex status of Muslim youths in these neoliberal times is what we intend to explore in this book.
The objective of this volume, then, is to address questions about the cul- tural politics of Muslim youth from the perspective of the youths themselves; from the viewpoint of political and moral authorities who consider it their role to discipline, control, and formulate policies for the young; and from an under- standing of market and media forces in which youths are both consumers and producers.
Furthermore, this volume explores intersections of the global with the local, with special attention on how speciﬁc attitudes, cultural behaviors, and tendencies are instigated among the young, and how these may have changed since September 11, 2001. The “construction” of Muslim youth, there- fore, represents a dialectical interplay between different forces and actors.
Youth are at times described as the new proletariat of the 21st century. A combination of the youth bulge (when young people from 15–29 years com- prise more than 40% of the adult population), youth unemployment, and exclusion is believed by many to be a dangerous recipe that leads to political instability and civil wars, especially in the global South. Major civil conﬂicts from the 19th century to recent times are attributed to a youth bulge during conditions of scarce livelihoods (Cincotta et al. 2003: 45–48; UN Ofﬁce for West Africa 2005).
Recent studies suggest that young men account for “about 90% of arrests for homicide in almost all countries” surveyed, and more than three quarters of violent crimes worldwide (UN Ofﬁce for West Africa 2005: 44).
Currently, the world’s most “extreme” youth bulge societies, where cohorts between 15 to 29 years make up more than 50% of the population, are located in 27 counties in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South and Central Asia, 13 of which are Muslim majority states and several of which contain size- able Muslim minorities (ibid).
There is a general feeling that the marginality of a very large young Muslim population incurs not only major economic human capital costs (in education, health, and training for employment), but also accounts for a new age of instability (Chaaban 2008).
A prevailing claim made in media and policy circles is that Muslim youth constitute the driving force behind radical religion and pol- itics in the Islamic mainland and in Europe, and hence pose a serious security threat worldwide (Beehner 2007).
Youth marginality, in short, is said to be responsible for Islamism, Jihadi trends, and a range of illiberal extremist behavior among the young—all of which stand against commonly perceived youthful interests. Such assumptions position Muslims as “exceptional” in relation to their global counterparts.
These exceptionalist claims about Muslim youth are made not simply because of their objective marginalization, but especially because of their “Muslimness”—an attribute often equated with religious
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