Approaching Muslim YouthsA Reflection of Life Experiences -Mahfuz Mollah


In the last century, Muslim youth experienced with many problems and challenges such as decline of khilafat, two world wars , Anti-colonial movements and emergence of nation state.  There were also  new  ideological and cultural wave through the world regarding communist movements in Asia and africa, youth movements in 60s, emergence of  new media and communication Systems. Muslim scholars were overwhelmed and baffled by these new events and establishments. So were muslim youth and their leaders. But, at the end of the last century the world became more complicatedthan any other time. Because, after the decline of communist regime in soviet-Russia and other east-european countries, the world became more globalized in relation with emergence of neo-liberal economy and development of communication systems such as internet and satellite channels. The political and cultural hegemony got worst by way of these modes and unjust war in middle-east in last decades. The clash of civilization theory by Huntington and 9/11 Attack at the eve of new century made the Muslim world and Muslim population very vulnerable people in recent decades.  It is the scenario of world in relation with Muslim and Muslim world. If we explore Muslim world particularly, we can see the reflections of world politics in Muslim countries and adverse impact of political and cultural hegemony of west and some eastern hegemonic states. So, we have to reconsider and ponder over the responses and counter of Muslim scholars and youth leaders regarding these challenges which they have faced. In this regard, we will discuss the different aspects of approaching Muslim youth worldwide.  How Muslim scholars and youth leaders counter the new changes and challenges regarding Muslim youth.  We will evaluate the organizational and non-organizational approaches and changed approaches with emergence of new media. We will recollect the versatile experiences of approaching Muslim youth in this sub-continent and particularly in Bangladesh.
In this academic discussion, Considering organizational Approaches, we have to acknowledge the influential movements of Muslim Brotherhood and jamaate-islami in a broad sense. There were also some muslim organizations here and there, who have worked for islam and muslim youth. But, the contribution of Muslim Brotherhood and its influential personalities in approaching Muslim youth from that very colonial era to this post 9/11 period  is unforgettable and most amazing example of versatile approaches towards muslim youth. I said ‘influential personalities’ toindicate those scholars and leader who, in any time were alligned with Muslim Brotherhood. But they formed new organization in their respective region or in other communities through Asia and Europe such as MSA, WAMY, IIFSO, ISNA and IIIT. There were some new political parties with intellectual and organizational help of Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas).  Or, to indicate those persons, who personally preached Islam and fight for the cause of Allah ( Yusuf Al Qardawi, Abdullah Azzam) and these personalities have youth disciples in most cases.
And the contribution of Jamaate-Islami and its student branches in South Asian countries is very event in last century. In approaching youth with dynamic Approaches in this region and Europe (YMO, youth wing of Islamic Forum of Europe), the organizations of Jamaate-Islami and its personalities should be reconsidered with shedding new light over their activities through decades.   From beginning, these two organizations and their other branches were youth-centric and surprisingly two founders were also youth when preaching the very Ideology of Islam. Other persons of these movements were Also youth in age or in mind. Eventually, those were vanguard of these movements were mostly youth (we can see them in Arab-Israel war or in Pakistan Movement). They were attracted to these movements for their systematic and practical approaches to face the challenges which youth are facing.  Various Approaches made by these two organizations made Muslim youth conscious of their Identity and Ideology. But, there are some challenges they have faced and are facing within Muslim community. There were some Muslim nationalist organization, which approached Muslim youth for the sake of Anti-Colonial movements and later those youth engaged in politics to realize the dream of Islamic State in their country. Some organizations in Arab and central Asian countries are example of this change. There are some youth-centric organizations in those areas, where Muslims are trying to get independence from oppressive And Anti-Muslim state. In Kashmir, Chechnya, Xinxiang and other places, Muslim youth are organizing themselves under the leadership of Muslim Scholars and leaders.

Non-Organizational Approaches

Institutional: By this ‘Institution’, I indicate Those Institutions which made Muslim community Alive through centuries. The Mosques, Jameya (Islamic Universities), Madrasahs, Islamic centers and Islamic Publishing houses are examples of such Institutions. And to be very objective in reconsidering the Approaches made towards youth in recent decades, I have to acknowledge the contribution of some Tombs and Shrines of reputed Scholars which made Muslim Youth familiar and to some extent, conscious of their Identity. The mosques were centers for approaching Muslim community (particularly, young generation) repeatedly and rebuilding the Muslim unity and power in past centuries. In recent Days, Islamic centers or any welfare Associations  Attached to Mosque are increasing  But, the contribution of mosques  and these Islamic centers is not increasing in a manner ,which can pave the way to realize a Islamic Society, because of socio-political changes in last century and challenges made in post 9/11 world. Although, ‘war on terror’ has terrorized many Muslim community leaders, Imams and Social Activists but they are working relentlessly focusing on youth and Muslim community. And these jameyas and madrasahs are ‘the power house’ of Muslim Ummah as asserted by Syed Abul hasan Ali nadwi.  Many Muslim students read there and spread through the world to preach Islam and establish Islamic Institutions for young generation. They made research on Islamic issues and made Islamic intellectual tradition vibrant and Dynamic. Participation of huge number of Muslim youth in these Institutions and investing their time for coming young generation made a prospective inter-generational circle which made Islamic intellectual tradition alive.
Tablighi jamat:  Tablighi jamat, for nearly a century preached Islamic principles and ritual practices among Muslims and non-Muslims through the world.  They have touched many Muslim youth’s heart by their purity of intention and gentle behavior and made those Muslim youth devotional and conscious of Allah. Starting as a counter of Shuddhi Movement (reconverting Muslim to Hinduism), this jamat made influence over many Muslim and non-Muslim youth’s heart.
Muslim preachers, orators and writers: There are some independent Muslim preachers and orators who are preaching Islam in this Dark Age and are trying to make Islam compatible in this scientific age and thus, influencing Muslim generation. Many Thinkers writes on Muslim youth and their problems (Sheikh Muhammad salih Al-uthaymeen, ayatollah murtaza al mutahhari – To name some).
New media: New Approach
In this new century, The World has experienced with new modes of media and communication which is called ‘Social Media’. Facebook, YouTube, twitter and other social Medias have paved the way for more globalized world. This has altered, to some extent, the centuries-long preaching systems of Islam and opens the door for more inclusive and dynamic thinking in Islamic Arena. As many Muslim youths are connected or to be critical – ‘obsessed with’ these social Medias, many Muslim orators and thinkers are approaching youth by these Medias. This new Approach is more practical and engaging. These orators are dealing with intellectual, cultural, spiritual and ideological ‘matters’. They are more connected with youth than ever and preaching Islam in a manner that attract Muslim youth for their practical Islamic approach and engaging speeches or educative materials. Muslim youth can communicate with these ‘virtual sheikhs ‘about their problems, changes and challenges. Although, there is fear of extremism and militancy , but conscious Muslim speakers and thinkers have prevented this by explaining Islam in a way that teach Muslim youth hikmah instead of arrogance and hurriedness. Among them Nouman Ali khan, Yasir qadhi, Mufti Menk are famous.
Experiences of Bangladesh: In Bangladesh, the approaches made and initiatives taken by Muslim Scholars and leaders for youth are very few in number. Considering Organizational Approaches, there are some Muslim students Organizations. And, their activities are mainly confined among Students of Madrasah students when most of the Students in now-a-days are reading in general or English medium Schools and colleges. Some student organization Approached general students in past decades but because of tyrannical and un-democratic government System and propaganda spread by so called secular and nationalist intellectuals and Medias, the participation of general students in Islamic activities couldn’t be ensured. There is another problem which can be seen in traditional Madrasah, ‘Apolitical and de- politicized’ generation and this tendency can be seen among general students also. Considering institutional approaches, Madrasahs are doing good but not their best. Many of Madrasah students are apolitical in the sense of political vision and knowledge. Mosques are not doing their activities as it can be expected because of implementation of ‘war on terror’ project in Bangladesh and libraries or any other social welfare activities are decreasing in number for dreadful politicization of society.  Tablighi jamat is doing their tasks accordingly, but they can’t make their voice heard among Muslim youth for their mistaken approaches towards new generation. Islamic publishing houses made their market in recent decades, but their contents are obsolete and non-dynamic and they don’t add anything ‘original’ in market for youth. They only translate and don’t heed to children and youth in their publishing. Muslim speakers in local assemblies attracted youth but for a certain time not exceeding weeks or months and many of them arouse sectarian debates which disintegrate youth’s Islamic spirit.  And in new media, Muslim scholar’s presence is rare. There are many socio-cultural challenges faced by Muslim youth, but none is approaching them in a way that can make them conscious of their identity and ideology.
So, this is the real situation of various approaches made towards Muslim youth in the world and Bangladesh. We have many reasons to be disappointed reading these experiences, but here are some sorts of possibilities around. We have to grave these possibilities and change the scenario.
The writer is an undergraduate student of the Department of Law of the University of Dhaka.

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