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Newsletter for December 2011
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Emerging Challenges for Muslims in the USA By Nasim Hassan Delaware, USA
The straws in the wind indicate the upcoming storm. Recently a young girl wearing hijab tried to get a job in a shopping mall during Christmas season. She went from door to door in all stores in the mall. No store offered her a job. This cold-hearted attitude reflects the negative perception of Muslims in the USA.
Muslim immigrants living in the USA are proud of their Eastern values, strong family ties and long-term relationships. They believe that living in America will not impact them or their next generation. However, the reality has started to dawn and now I see no difference between the life challenges, hopes and dreams of Muslims and common American people.
Although a large segment of Muslim community has
been able to send their kids to good
I foresee a major problem of discrimination
against Muslims in a shrinking economy and growing
Who is to blame for this growing problem? The Muslim community leaders, common people and indeed all of us need to think deeply about the long-term impact of this discrimination. The religious leaders here have a special responsibility. They have to project an image of Islam to focus on peace, tolerance, charity and equality.
At this time, this issue is not being properly addressed in Islamic centers. There is a lot of emphasis on prayer rituals and very little is being said about Islamís universal message that recognizes all biblical prophets and their teachings.
Muslim communities all across North America have to take a proactive approach and condemn all acts that do not conform to the spirit of Islam. If nothing is done at this stage then gradually Muslims will suffer the consequences. Contrary to popular perceptions there is no safety net in the USA. Below poverty level people of all races suffer crime, drug abuse, malnutrition and diseases.
Divorce and separation
This issue is related to marriage. Our young people do not interact in any social forum. They follow their parents. In the older generation, the father rules the house and the mom follows. Young people start behaving like their parents and fail due to the ambiance of womenís right, equality and freedom. The divorce rate for Muslims is equal or more than that of common Americans
I have seen a number of mature South Asians getting divorce after years of married life. Ordinarily, such separation or divorce would not happen if they were living back home. Here they are living away from their parents, relatives and friends. There is no early intervention mechanism. Back home the parents and friends listen to both sides. Then the parents advise and reconcile the differences.
In the USA, the ladies talk to their friends and tell them their side of the story. Their friends listen to only one side of the story and give advice accordingly. The husband tells his grievances to his friends and the same thing happens. Ultimately the courts decide and lawyers make money. I have seen people in their fifties getting divorce with grown-up children. Children simply cannot advise their parents and let them go their own ways.
There is no mechanism for early intervention. There is a pressing need for counseling services in the Muslim community. Muslims do not like to spend money on counseling or getting help from psychologists or psychiatrists. They believe this activity is sheer waste of money. So once the process starts there is only one direction it can lead to.
A large segment of Muslims prohibit their young generation to meet or interact even under the supervision of their elders. The first generation immigrants are stuck on the sub-conscious level in the past and believe that someone will step in to help them in this matter. Boys and girls are confused. Parents suggest and kids reject. The kids are brought up in such environments that they cannot meet Muslim girls or boys. There are very few social forums where they can meet and talk. Many parents do not believe in marriage services or Internet match making. I have seen many people who are worried but who are not accepting the current situation in America where the choice for Pakistani, Arab or Indian ethnic background is limited. They insist on marrying within a small ethnic group and then place further conditions on education, job and physical appearances. Many families suffer from this anxiety as a result of this attitude.
Although the young generation brought up in this country has reached out and meets in ways unknown to their parents but many shy boys and girls are still left behind. They like to obey their parents and continue to wait.
This is about time for our older generation to understand the American conditions and come out of their shell. Either they should provide suitable forums for young people or get out of their way.
Level of Education
The first generation of immigrants that landed in the USA in the seventies has done very well. They saved money, educated their kids and built Islamic centers. These people were highly educated and understood the dynamics of success in a foreign country.
In the next wave, a large number of people who came were not professionals. These people worked very hard and made a better life. However, their long working hours and pursuit of monetary benefits resulted in the neglect of education for their children. The off-springs of the second wave immigrants are not getting the best education.
If the Muslim community has its eyes on progress then it should work hard on the education of their children. In the global village, the less educated people living in the USA will have to compete with highly educated people from developing countries.
Growing Old in America
This is a very complex issue indeed. Muslims aging in America have only Islamic centers and nothing else. In the majority of Islamic centers, people come for prayers and then quickly leave to take care of daily business. So there are hardly any people during the day time. In Jumah prayers the people come to the Islamic centers and then quickly leave.
There is no social or cultural forum or place where the seniors can meet and spend time together. Frankly, the first generation immigrants have not thought seriously about this issue. They are capable of facilitating interaction, communication and other activities to keep themselves busy at this time. This problem will emerge when a large segment of less educated immigrants starts to retire in this country. It is my hope and desire that immigrants form and develop organizations to tackle this issue.
The first step in addressing any challenge is to recognize the problem. The problem has already emerged in various forms of prejudice and discrimination. Negative image of Islam and Muslims has been steadily growing after the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.
There are so many ways for Muslims in America to improve this image. The best option and initiative in my opinion is communication with fellow Americans on individual and organizational level. People in the USA do not carry any historical prejudice against Muslims. Let us all take a step forward to create peace and harmony among people of all religions, races, creed and color.
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