Sunday, April 03, 2005
The Muslim Teenager in a Chaotic World
This article is a personal look at the world of the Muslim teenager living in Modernday Britain. It aims to paint a critical picture of the pressures and influences faced by young muslims as they grow up and the importance of Deen in overcoming and dealing with these problems. The article is not aimed at being an inclusive guide to all that Young Muslims need to know in bringing Deen into their lives, but to the contrary I hope it acts as a stimulant for further and more proper steps towards finding out more, i.e. via further reading, consultation with the Ulama and the significance of attending, if possible, an Islamic teaching institution.Anyone briefly interested in Sociology would know that many theorists argue that - The way we live our lives and grow up is not a personal thing, instead it is decided and shaped by the society we live in. Now as a teenager a number of years ago if somebody said that to me, it wouldn't mean a thing let alone make me bothered or concerned, but what would have been astonishing to hear is that, I am just another marketing target for people to make money off and that am always fed information about life according to the perspective of people who don't know or don't care anything about my religion, my family life nor my heritage.The two things mentioned above are commonly to do with:( a) Capitalism: which basically means to make huge profits (greedy amounts of money) whatever it takes! ( b) The Media: which is the name given to institutions who make money by providing news or entertainment such as Newspapers, Television programme makers, Films and Film makers, Showbiz Magazines and those to do with the Music industry.Capitalism is a very powerful system as almost all countries want to be part of it, simply because they want to become more wealthier and more advanced. In a very simplistic example it is all about competing with others and spending as less money as possible to make massive amounts of profit. There are countless examples of this dominant behaviour. For instance, many multi-national companies like Nike have been accused of getting their products made in third world countries like Bangladesh where the cost of employing someone is dramatically less than it is in Europe. They then sell them on to us in Britiain for extortionate prices (eg. a hundred pounds for a pair of trainers). Big companies like Car manufacturers would often agree to fix prices so that the customer is unaware they are paying more - again to make Billions of pounds of profit.In fact, by now you may probably be wondering well where does the Muslim Teenager fit into all this. Well, my dear brothers and sisters Capitalism is a very clever system becuase it never runs out of areas to make money and one of it's biggest places where it makes ridiculous amounts of money is in the Teenage market. Teenagers in Britain as in all western countries are big buisness, simply becuase unlike in poor countries where young people mostly seek above all a better standard of living, the modern day teenager has become addicted to a life of luxury. Therefore, teenagers via the Media (as will be discussused shortly) are bombarded with expectations to be fashionable, trendy, and be more concerned with image and lifestyle than with leading a good life. The Muslim Teenager is also part of this chaotic world simply because he or she is exposed to this material culture in almost all aspects of their life, whether it's at school, at home, or with friends.In fact, I do not wish to condem anybody but I would like to use this opportunity to point out to my young brothers and sisters that some will say to you that you are going through a phase and that when you get older you will probably laugh at yourself, but what ever you enjoy, whether it's fashionable clothes or a trendy image you have to bear in mind that Muslims have always been the icon of the rest of the world for their simplistic but yet productive way of life. Even if the simple and humble way of Islam appears very unattractive to some of my brothers and sisters I would like to ask you to consider some mere ethical questions:1. Think about where and who made your trendy gear?2. How much does it really costs to make it? i.e. Did it really cost the price on the tag?3.Who really benefits more: your image or the pockets of fat cat company executives?The second alarming thing to hear is that what you read, watch and listen to is decided by a very powerful institution called the Media. The Media is not simply one particular person or a group, infact it is the entire system of newspapers, magazines, television programmes and movies by which we get information and entertainment in society. On the outset they seem perfectly harmless but many writers and commentators. mainly non-Muslim will tell you that your lifestyle, choices and ideas are decided by what you pick up from the Media. This may seem harsh to believe but just pick up any media studies text book or watch any news programme to find out more.The media is held responsible for promoting young people to be thin, attractive and trendy like famous celebrities and seek things which everyone else is supposedly seeking: a perfect partner and poupularity amongst people. It also, for want of a better word, brainwashes you to see things in terms of , what your lead to believe is, the values of the rest of society. So, you find yourself analysing problems acording to knowledge gained from watching soaps like Eastenders and talkshows like The Ricki Lake show and you may even be directly or indirectly influenced by reading agony aunt pages in teenage showbiz magazines. Although, this seems like an extreme version of how teenage Muslims find answers to life's problems, personal inquiries tell me that the magnetic effect of drawing from these types of sources is so powerful that it overshadows other ways of seeing things. For instance, we may question the judgement of our elders and subsequently openly welcome advice given by TV personalities who may sound sympathetic despite not having a clue about our culture and family ties.Many Sociologists argue that the British Media does not represent adequately the muti-cultural dimension to British life. It is accused of discriminating against people outside London, people from ethnic minority groups and especiallyagainst the belief and views of religious groups such as Muslims. Recently, there has been an increased concern about the 'Islamophobic' attitude of the Media, as Muslims are very unfairly and poorly represented. Examples include the constant hammering of the stereo-type of practising Muslims as terrorists and a danger to public life.In summary, this article is not intended to uncover a particular conspiracy theory, but to highlight to young Muslims that although the material culture of the west is difficult to escape, it is highly imperitive that Muslim teenagers maintain a slight if not complete awareness of exactly what is going on in this seemingly cosy society of ours. Being critical does not mean you have to be a monk distant from all your family and friends, but to be a bit more aware that although we live a comfortable life in Britain we should not easily be distracted or exploited by the Media and greedy multi-national companies out to shape our belief s and values as well as rip us off.Whilst these Satanic institutions aim and try so hard to kep us busy we must bear in mind that Islam gives the young person a very high and rewarding role of being dedicated and active followers of the true Deen. There are countless rewards available for the young person who fights the ills of the temptations of this world in return for the sanctitiy of the hearafter and to those who can see beyond the fake surface of the Media and Capitalism.
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