New Series: Questions for Working-Class Muslim Families in America

( Note: The coding problem has been fixed so you can view the spot properly and comments are closed to the end of the series but I really look forward to the discussion insha’Allah)

I recently spoke to a brother who is amongst the brightest minds and a leader of what is known as the second-generation immigrant Muslim community in America. These are Muslims who grew-up in America and are the children of Muslim immigrants. The brother and I talked about efforts from second-generation Muslims to reach out to African-American Muslims and we both noted that while there is goodwill there is also a lack of understanding of the nuance and complexities in the African-American Muslim community and a cultural gap for many. After speaking with him I have become motivated to write a short seven-part series on raising Muslim children in America.

This article is geared towards what I have titled Working-Class American -Muslim families. These Muslim families are overwhelmingly African-American; but there are other indigenous American- Muslims such as myself that fall into this category. Our struggles on many levels are not those of second-generation immigrant Muslims so I will write from a standpoint of the challenges and perils as we see them from our religious, social and economic perspectives.

One of the issues that separates many of our communities is the issue of class and how that affects the family situation and the raising of children. Not only does there seem to be a different approach regarding the raising of children and interaction with the non-Muslim society between indigenous American-Muslims who are friends of mine; but there also seems to be different way in which class alters our decision-making process regarding the raising of children. As an example, American-Muslims such as myself tend to look at universities, law-enforcement, and other institutions of this society with a weary eye, while many first and second generation immigrant Muslims view them in an idyllic light. As an example I am no fan of academia, but I love pro sports; and many of my second-generation Muslim friends love academia and hate sports. It is a mater of culture and taste.

Religious immigrant Muslim families tend to look at things much differently than indigenous Muslims (or at least those I have known). Because most came to America for business and to make money they will choose to live where they can get a job or where they can make the most money. Not to sound pompous; but just as my friends and I talk about moving places where there are the most Muslims they will often talk about where they can move to make the most money. This does not mean they are greedy or irreligious; it just means they came here with a purpose, and that is to get an education and make money, and that is going to be first and foremost on their mind. They figure since they are Muslim and are teaching their children deen and sending them to the masjid and even to a Muslim school that the deen of their children will be fine no matter if they live in small, isolated, and backwards Muslim communities. What we are witnessing today is that many of the children of such immigrant families are growing up and becoming religious just as their families anticipated; but many are not. Many have very little if any connection to the Muslim community, know few Muslims outside of their family, and are marrying non-Muslims and holding views contrary to Islam. Some are outright leaving Islam. The parents cant be blamed; they thought by earning a good life and providing for their children’s education they were doing the right thing and just as none of their family back home left the deen or stopped practicing or made up a “new” Islam they could not imagine their children doing so. The parents did not realize the importance of socialization with other Muslims, population-clustering and the dangers of public schools and universities. Immigrant Muslim families in older and more established communities have a different set of issues to deal with but their children largely benefit from socialization. You will find in these large communities Muslim identity is more rooted and young Muslims are more forward with their Islam and while some areas of vibrancy are shared with indigenous Muslims in the Northeast there are some areas that are uniquely vibrant for immigrant Muslim communities (Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Michigan, Cleveland, Boston, and possibly even Minneapolis-St. Paul).

The less traditional and conservative, yet active, younger generation of Muslims also happen to be the group the most prone to want to reach out to indigenous Muslims and more specifically work to heal the rift between immigrant Muslim communities and African-American Muslims. These brothers have good intentions; but since they tend to be more liberal, and the bulk of indigenous American-Muslim families more conservative and traditional, and since there is an economic-class divide, it can be difficult for these activist oriented second-generation immigrant Muslims to relate to the issues I am going to speak of. Recently a well-known second-generation Muslim who is very steadfast in trying to bring immigrant Muslims and African-Americans together spoke at a gathering. As good as his intentions were he could not connect culturally. He spoke in a very bland and academic manner with a soft voice and wore tight-fitting yuppie style clothing and several brothers asked me afterwards if he was gay (and not with an approving tone).

I am writing this series for Muslim families like mine. Conservative in their outlook, traditional, and working-class.  Muslims who struggle economically yet strive to follow the Sunnah. Indigenous Muslims not at peace with the norms of this society and not wishing for their children to return to the kufr they may have come from. Muslims like my wife and I whose main goal for our children is that they be Muslim and we hold that goal for them higher than any dunya goal. This is for those brothers and sisters who struggle and make mistakes and often have a hard time finding a home in the community. I pray that this can be of some benefit to you.

The difficulty of raising Muslim children is enormous. The deck is stacked against us. For even within the Muslim community at this time, especially among the second-generation there are  a lot of people who claim to be Muslim yet mock the religion, disagree openly with Quran and Sunnah, seek to change the religion, espouse feminist and other un-Islamic views, advocate sexual deviancy, and in general give supremacy to secular ideas over the Islamic . I seek to save my children from the horrors of falling into such deviancy.

This is my platform and while I am not the best spokesman I will nonetheless use what I have been given. I am not setting myself up as the model or as someone with all of the answers. I am just someone who may be able to shed a little light but have more questions than answers. In my life I may have a few things right; but I have more things wrong. As I wrestle with these questions regarding the future of my family along with other Muslim families I pray Allah guides me towards what is good.

Part One: American-Muslims in Vibrant Communities

Part Two: American-Muslims Living in Isolated and Backward Communities

Part Three: Moving To a Better Muslim Community

Part Four: “Hijrah”

Part Five: The Mainstreaming Option

Part Six: Marriage for Your Children

Part Seven: So, What Will Umar Do?

As customary on my blog when I am writing a series I close the comments until the end and I eagerly await your input.


9 thoughts on “New Series: Questions for Working-Class Muslim Families in America

  1. How many generations have to pass before muslims born and raised in this country cease to be called ‘second-generation immigrant Muslims’?

    What a weird term.

  2. I use firefox 3.04 browser and after the words ” family along with other Muslim families I pray Allah guides me towards what is good.” I see nothing but css code. Am I the only one seeing this?

  3. salaam, Im only seeing codes at that point too. the headlines to the different parts are showing up and then more codes. man, i really wanted to read this! lol .. looks like a very ineteresting break down of issues..

  4. It’s not just Firefox and it’s not just you. The same coding shows up in Explorer also. I checked both, just to be sure.

    Inshallah, Brother Umar will get that fixed.

    I’d rather talk about his intentions for this series.

    I can understand how difficult it is to raise Muslim children in this country. I was born Muslim, though both of my parents converted from Christianity. I was raised in Brooklyn which has a vibrant and long-standing Muslim community, divided though it may be. I had many Muslim friends as a child, and practically grew up listening to Siraj Wahhaj.

    But it wasn’t until I left America and went to study Islam in West Africa that I got to truly understand this way of ours. I went to Muslim schools as a kid, but by the time I got into high school, I only knew four surahs.

    I learned to read Arabic from a cassette tape series, and my mother had to bribe me with $15 in order for me to do so. Nonetheless, after I learned to read, I hardly ever used it.

    I didn’t even know what the word “SAHABAH” was. I had heard of some of them, but I had no idea what the word actually meant or who it was referring to.

    I know it’s possible now, Inshallah, but growing up in the 80’s era of Reagan, Gherri Curls, G.I. Joe, Dif’rent Strokes, and Nintendo (the Duck Hunt version for those that know), there just wasn’t much opportunity to study what Islam really was.

    I had to leave AMERICA to really get it. Studying Islam overseas did more than just increase my knowledge of Islam. It increased my LOVE for Islam.

    And now that I’m grown and have kids of my own, I wonder if I will have to send them away also to obtain that love of Islam that I got in Africa.

    Only time will tell. Inshallah, I hope Allah guides me to making the right decision.

  5. What you say is so true about second generation Muslims trying to relate and mend the rifts between the indigenous Muslims and their culture.

    I, as a “second-generation Muslim”, feel the same way. Definitely culturally different. Want to mend the gap but cultures are different.

    Having been born & raised in Boston I can totally relate – having seen the super-educated yuppies try to connect with the indigenous Muslims (oftentimes african american). It’s so weird. It’s hard to close the gap when sometimes the other side doesn’t accept you because you’re just culturally different.

    What can be done about that?

    Love this series by the way.

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