Of Mipsters and Model Citizens: The Politics of Muslim Youth Civic Engagement

Authors: David Marshall*, Elon University
Topics: Religion, Political Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Civic engagement, youth, citizenship, public, Islam
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Studio 6, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In response to a rising number of hate crimes against Muslims, the increased visibility of police violence against people of color, as well as a number of terrorist attacks and shootings, faith-based organizations and activist groups alike have called for greater civic engagement in general, and amongst Muslim youth in particular. However, there are divergent and contested understandings of what civic engagement should look like. Muslim youth engage in volunteer efforts aimed at improving the lives of others. They are also active in more disruptive forms of protest confronting racism and state violence. Likewise, Muslim youth have taken to social media to challenge longstanding negative portrayals of Muslims. While these youth activist trends challenge stereotypes and seek to create new forms of solidarity, they also raise questions about what constitutes appropriate forms of religiously informed activism. There is a tension between “showing a positive face” of Islam and striving for more transformative, even prophetic, forms of social justice. There is also a tension between challenging negative stereotypes and reinforcing youth niche-marketing practices. To what extent do these diverse forms of engagement confront or conform to existing race, gender, age and class-based inequalities within the Muslim community? Moreover, to what extent are these debates of concern to “average” Muslim youth who are neither civically engaged nor radicalized, and neither “on fleek” nor “woke”? This paper presents the early findings of a research project examining understandings of civic engagement and activism among Muslim youth and discusses methodological challenges and possibilities going forward.

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