Growing up Muslim in today’s world can be very difficult. In Western society, teens are forced to deal with multiple issues like Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and bullying, on top of peer pressure, and hormones. Sadly, on top of everything else, just being Muslim has put our safety at risk due to the current political climate.
If you’re a female, you’d better believe it’s ten times harder.
Muslim parents are having a hard time addressing the issues their children are facing, whether it’s in school, or in society around them. Unfortunately, given the level of exposure in the modern world, it’s entirely possible that the parents themselves may also be dealing with similar issues.
More often that not, the plethora of challenges faced by the Muslim community are often swept under the rug in order to preserve the family name.
Some parents are victims of trauma, or war, domestic violence, sexual assault, and some are victims of generational cultural conditioning. So, how can they really address the issues that their children face? The truth is, they can’t. The parents need to deal with their issues first, so that they are healthy enough to support their teens.
More often that not, the plethora of challenges faced by the Muslim community are often swept under the rug in order to preserve the family name. It should suffice to say that ignoring the problem certainly doesn’t make it go away.
So, how can we simultaneously support our teens and parents, as a community? What advice can we offer to ensure growth and improvement as a unit?
One way is to become allies, instead of gossipers or enablers! Create safe spaces for our youth and our adults. They need somewhere they can go to get support and counseling when needed. Genuine safe spaces can save community members from violence, abuse, trauma, and even suicide. Our people need to be able to talk about the urges, and the feelings they are having. You can’t just issue dead-end judgments for that is certain to cause more damage.
“What’s wrong with you!”
“This is haram!”
“You will burn in hell!”
“We don’t do that!”
Statements like these are counter-intuitive. They will not work. Each issue needs to be addressed in a non-judgmental manner, whether it’s about wanting to claim another faith, another gender identity, sexual urges, or talking about abuse they’ve suffered. They need intervention, support, love, and guidance.
Also, ignoring red flags are only going to cause bigger problems. So many teens are turning away from religion because they think Islam is strict, or extreme. They aren’t getting the proper education to understand religion. Our youth need to be educated, so they don’t feel peer pressure to fit in. They need to feel confident and proud, instead of depressed, anxious, or confused.
Help them, instead of shaming them.
Additionally, it’s safe to say that our teens lack proper education and support about religion and sex. Yes, I went there. We have to educate our youth about their bodies and help them adjust to everything they’re feeling. Help them, instead of shaming them. After all, if they don’t get this education from their own community, they may get it from a source that doesn’t mean well. The implications are endlessly sinister.
Sexual assault is happening, but more often than not, the victims or witnesses are too afraid to come forward. Or sometimes, they don’t even realize they are victims which comes down to a lack of knowledge about sexual abuse.
We need to listen to what our youth are saying. How will we help them? How will we help each other? We need to be willing to take on the tough conversations, and that starts with becoming more genuine, open, and accepting as a community. We need to be willing to seek out help. Don’t turn anyone away because the narrative could get awkward. Additionally, know that there are Muslim organizations who can help.
As Muslims, we are supposed to be kind and compassionate to everyone, especially to each other. Let’s reclaim our communities and help guide each other through our frustrations, and hardships. Let’s be the light we desperately need.