Seeking a Way Between Two Worlds

June 6, 2009

Author: Michelle Boorstein

Source: The Washington Post

Many had just entered high school in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks and now, eight years later, they are leaving college and choosing their path in life. Young Muslims in the Washington area are part of a generation that appears markedly different from their parents in career choices, assimilation and views of their religion.

Their youth has often been affected by the mistrust and wariness many Americans have of Islam. They are struggling with how to live their faith, from how to dress to whom to date, in a broader American society that frequently views them with suspicion.

Pollsters and researchers are just beginning to study this group of young people, almost three-fourths of whom are first- or second-generation American. One of the group's biggest issues, Altaf Husain said, is their concern that Islam is viewed as dangerous.

"There will be a silent majority among Muslim youth who say: 'I'm just not up for that. I won't be my religion's spokesperson. I'll just be spiritual in my private life,' " said Husain, a popular activist and social worker who writes about Muslim youth and speaks on college campuses.

Still others, however, are finding new avenues of activism.

Many of their parents came to the United States to study engineering, medicine and the sciences. But many in this generation are drawn to politics, journalism and public service, researchers said. The aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies, which many Muslims opposed, have motivated many of them in their 20s to pursue newly established public-policy internships and fellowships created in government and the private sector.