First Generation Americans Navigate Challenges of Muslim Faith and Country

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 5:00am
First Generation Americans Navigate Challenges of Muslim Faith and Country

Three young Muslim-Americans — Kamran, Tasneem, and Zahra — struggle to reconcile their "Muslim" and "American" identities. Why don't we hear more of this in the media?

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Mikel Ellcessor (@mikelellcessor),  Head of Strategy and Partnerships for On Being
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Radio (or audio if you get yours through the interwebs) can be so simple.

A person tells a story about their life in their own words and, if they are authentic, we are drawn to them. It's instant relationship.

Humans are social creatures. We hunger for relationship and to be related to others. In John Hockenberry's conversation with three young Muslim-Americans for The Takeaway's "One Nation Under God?" series, the importance of relationship is a dominant presence. The relationship to family, faith, self-identity, self-acceptance, and lovers… this is the real stuff of life.

How is your faith changing over time? I'm struck by the participants' candor and vulnerability in this conversation. The complexity and depth of thought and experience is a welcome addition to our nearly non-existent public conversation about contemporary Muslim life in America.

2010 Muslim-AmericansI live in metro Detroit, home of one of the largest Arab and Muslim communities in the country. For the endless talk about Islam and Muslim people, it’s remarkable how little we get to hear their voices, speaking for themselves about their lives, in our media.

One of the things that made this conversation particularly appealing was the lack of exoticism. The stories of dealing with their parents as they brought home partners of a different faith, or no faith, struggling with adherence and the temptation to go cafeteria style, and the fear of loss of acceptance sounded so familiar.

It’s banal to point out the truth of our commonality, but there are very few opportunities like this in American media.

Are you coming across these kinds of stories in your favorite media? Is there anyone you know who is doing a good job bringing Muslim-American life into mainstream media? Please let us know, we’re always looking for people who are putting the thought and energy into telling different stories and introducing us to a more representative view of modern America.

Inform the discussion taking place at The Takeaway each day this week. This Friday (Oct 18) at 2 pm Eastern, participate in a live chat about the role of faith in America with John Hockenberry and Lisa Pearce, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina.

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Mikel Ellcessor

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I am so glad to hear the wonderfully stated and beautifully lucid thoughts of these young people. And I am proud and grateful that they are my fellow citizens. Thank you, Kamran, Tasneem, and Zahra, you are the personification of what this country, at its best, is all about. The suggestion I have for the older generation would be to remember why you made the decision to come here, imagine what your children might be experiencing if you had not, and just relax, enjoy, accept, open yourselves to what is good in this country and in most of its citizens, as your children have. You have already done something wonderful, your children are a testament to that.

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