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Our community responds well in times of crisis. After 9/11, all of us started communicating with the media. But after the crisis passed, our outreach ceased. We lacked effective and coherent communication plans to sustain the effort.
After the documentary “UnMosqued” came out, the Muslim community engaged in plenty of discussion about the importance of involving our youth. Consequently, some token positions were created, but in the absence of compelling strategies to bring the youth into our organizations, meaningful, genuine changes have not taken place.
The December attack in San Bernardino, combined with the election season, has caused a large increase in Islamophobia. In response, we are currently discussing more outreach programs.
However, these attempts are also likely to act as temporary band-aids which allow us to go back to our old ways once the urgency has passed. But a larger crisis is coming, one that will affect all of us and have a much greater impact on our community. A crisis like this one cannot be dealt with using superficial responses. This crisis is associated with the massive wave of change in the culture of the Muslims in America.
Muslim children in the U.S. are culturally American. Many Muslim American children who have lived most of their lives here enjoy living within a fully developed culture. However, Muslim children of recent immigrants are in a different position. They are discovering and defining what it is to be an American Muslim. Their faith is Islam but their culture is American, and they are the only ones able to define their mixed identity.
For example, Egyptian American Muslim children have more in common with Pakistani American Muslim children than they do with children back in their native countries. Likewise, they may have more in common with non-Muslim children in the U.S. than with Muslims in their native countries.
Continuing to focus on preventing our children from making this shift rather than preparing them for it is positioning our children to choose between their culture and their faith.
There are some positive aspects to this transition. The rise in outreach programs guided by our youth is one. Another is the growing number of imams and scholarly leaders who were raised in the U.S. and can help us understand how Islam fits in the American culture.
The real point here is that the cultural change is inevitable and will massively increase over the next decade. Sadly, many Islamic organizations have not felt the need to realistically prepare. Preparing our institutions to manage this shift requires a high level of professionalism, organization, and strategic thinking. Many organizations are failing to see the need for a fundamental change and are likely to be oblivious to the tsunami of destruction which quickly approaches our communities. There are many things we must do, but it all begins with professionalizing our organizations. We must develop more welcoming cultures in our organizations so that everyone’s views can be genuinely expressed. We must be forward thinking and operate in sync with how other organizations are managed in America.
Furthermore, it is important to begin to strive for real changes now. We cannot expect to make a few changes as problems arise and think everything will be fine. Substantial and deliberate transformations must be our immediate goal.
Our institutions must be rebuilt to accommodate our children’s needs by developing a welcoming culture and promoting professional programs to cease the appeasement of immigrants’ homesickness by building ornate but hollow structures.
The goal needs to be to change the culture of our organizations. Once we begin to make these revisions, it may take three to five years until it becomes absorbed in all we do as a society.
Once we have done so, our community will have a vehicle for embracing Islam and becoming a part of the larger community in which we live.
We must start the changes now!
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