Working Class Muslim Families Series Part Three: Moving To a Better Muslim Community

I cannot tell you how many dozens of Muslim friends I have from St. Louis and other parts of the Midwest who have one desire burning in their heart and that is to get out of the Midwest ( or South or wherever they live where the community is weak) and go to the East Coast. This is a desire I have had (and still have) and a desire that has left St. Louis empty of most of its most ardent young Muslim converts who have left for the East Coast.

The reasons for this departure are partially covered in the post above. But, one issue not covered, is one that comes up before there is children, and that is marriage. In communities such as St. Louis there are many more brothers than sisters. It is often very difficult for indigenous brothers to get married and some resort to marrying non-Muslim women. These interfaith marriages often result in the brothers feeling even more isolated than they did before they were married. Before they were just isolated at work, school, or with old friends; but now they even feel like strangers with their own spouses.

Brothers look to head to the East Coast (or even Chicago or Atlanta). For single brothers and sisters this is a place where they can easily find a spouse and for Muslim families these are places where their Muslim children can be socialized and out in Muslims schools with other children like them. If Muslims make these moves they often come with hardship. Particularly, East Coast cities tend to be tribal and nepotistic. This means getting a good job can be difficult without personal connections or a network and job security is minimal in places where you just doubled your cost of living. For this reason you see a flow of Muslims moving back and forth (I include myself in this category). I have several friends who I can never keep track if they are on the East Coast or back home in the Midwest. If they are back home I can assure what I will hear from them when I talk to them “Oh akh I’m just trying to hustle up some money to get back to the East Coast”. We move to the East Coast to be in a vibrant Muslim community; but because we are poor in our own cities where we are connected we become dirt-poor on the East Coast where we are not connected and living is more expensive making life very difficult.

The children going with the Muslim family to the East Coast often do not see the benefit of moving away from their grandparents, cousins, and friends. Everything they know is back home and they may not be as enthusiastic about the deen as their parents anyway. They will really not see the benefit if they are forced to continuously move back and forth or if their mother has to go through several marriages just to say situated.

These children, if not nurtured in the right way, can end up victims of the street on the East Coast and instead of embracing the Muslim culture embracing a thug lifestyle or they can run back home and live with non-Muslim family and may end up leaving the deen. I have seen it go both ways. However, not to despair, I have also seen these moves work out and seen Muslim families benefit from putting their children in a better situation. It is good for the parents and good for the children.

What is the alternative? Staying at home in a depressed city with an even more depressed Muslim community fighting off depression and feeling you are missing out on living a full Muslim life? Watching your children grow up having no relationship with Islam? Become apostates with no shame (as the children of several dear friends of mine have)? It seems that if you are going to be Muslim, and stay in America, live in one of these dead communities and raise your children to be Muslim, then it is to big of a gamble to raise them in such a place and the move must be made.

It is unfortunate that, just as the case with the Ansar and Muhajir in Pakistan, the Muslim moving to the East Coast, alone or with family, may not find Muslims welcoming them with open arms. These cities tend to be cliquish with less than friendly cultures. For the sake of your children and their Islamic education and socialization you may have to live in a place where it may take you several years, if ever, to carve out a group of Muslim friends. However, even if you never make a ton of Muslim friends, you have your family and you are living in a place where you can receive knowledge that is being taught, shop halal easily, and not feel strange walking the street as a Muslim. You are living in cities like Philly and DC where the masjids are full of second and third generation Muslims and that has to give the Muslim parent solace in knowing that their children can one day too grow up to be like them.


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