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Muslim American Youth: Understanding Hyphenated Identities through Multiple Methods

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Muslim American Youth
    Book Description:

    Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent "war on terror," growing up Muslim in the U.S. has become a far more challenging task for young people. They must contend with popular cultural representations of Muslim-men-as-terrorists and Muslim-women-as-oppressed, the suspicious gaze of peers, teachers, and strangers, and police, and the fierce embodiment of fears in their homes.With great attention to quantitative and qualitative detail, the authors provide heartbreaking and funny stories of discrimination and resistance, delivering hard to ignore statistical evidence of moral exclusion for young people whose lives have been situated on the intimate fault lines of global conflict, and who carry international crises in their backpacks and in their souls.The volume offers a critical conceptual framework to aid in understanding Muslim American identity formation processes, a framework which can also be applied to other groups of marginalized and immigrant youth. In addition, through their innovative data analytic methods that creatively mix youth drawings, intensive individual interviews, focused group discussions, and culturally sensitive survey items, the authors provide an antidote to "qualitative vs. quantitative" arguments that have unnecessarily captured much time and energy in psychology and other behavioral sciences.Muslim American Youth provides a much-needed road map for those seeking to understand how Muslim youth and other groups of immigrant youth negotiate their identities as Americans.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0885-9
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Foreword Designated “Others”: Young, Muslim, and American
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Carola Suárez-Orozco

    Today, there are well over a billion Muslims in the world. Many live in the diaspora in the West; an estimated 15 million live in Europe; and another 3 million to 6 million (depending on the source) live in North America, as well as the millions of others in other OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations. As a fast-growing population in a precarious moment in history, there is an urgent need to understand the realities of the diasporic and highly diverse Muslim population.

    When Americans think about Muslims after the attacks on September 11, 2001, all too oft...

  5. 1 Growing Up in the Shadow of Moral Exclusion
    (pp. 1-24)

    After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the identity negotiation of immigrant Muslim youth living in the United States became decidedly more challenging. Although their nation was underattack, theywere suddenly perceived as a potential threat to U.S. safety. The number of hate crimes against Muslims increased seventeenfold in a single year (FBI 2002). Overnight, “they,” Muslims, became the designated “others” who had to be watched, detained, and sometimes deported, in order to save “us.” Although many were already well integrated into the fabric of mainstream U.S. society, they came to be regarded as a potential security risk....

  6. Meet Aisha: Challenging and Laughing Her Way through Suspicion, Surveillance, and Low Expectations
    (pp. 25-31)

    At age fourteen, Aisha attends public school in Brooklyn, New York, taking Advanced Placement and honors courses, and averaging 90s in all her areas of study. “My goal is to get into an Ivy League school and study biology. I try to do a lot of community service as well.” With head covered with Һijiāb and religiously appropriate American clothes, she prays five times a day, studies more than ten hours a week for school, and identifies herself as Palestinian. Both her parents are college educated; her father is from Jordan and her mother is from Palestine. Aisha’s friends and...

  7. 2 Muslim Americans: History, Demography, and Diversity
    (pp. 32-53)

    There are many routes, both figurative and historical, to being Muslim in the United States. Although there is a tendency to assume that there is a single Muslim American identity because there is so much within the group, the label of “Muslim American” is misleading. A majority of Muslims migrated to the United States from all over the world, predominantly from African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian countries as well as from central and eastern Europe. They came here first as slaves, merchants, and peasants, and most recently as professionals, scholars, and students. They also brought with them their own...

  8. Meet Sahar: A Hyphen with Holes in It . . . Allowing Her to Sometimes Fall Through
    (pp. 54-57)

    Sahar is fourteen, in the seventh grade in Clifton, New Jersey, a predominantly white working-class town with a history of hostility to immigrants. Even though the schools have had an English-only policy, many immigrant families—predominantly of Dominican, Palestinian, and Colombian origin—tolerate the tense conditions because the school system’s reputation is relatively better than that of the surrounding urban districts.

    The fourth child in a family of six children, Sahar was born in the United States to parents from Rammallah. Her father finished elementary school, and her mother either graduated from high school or received a G. E. D....

  9. 3 Moral Exclusion in a “Nation of Immigrants”: An American Paradox or Tradition?
    (pp. 58-80)

    The structures, practices, and consequences of moral exclusion are at once political, social, psychological, and developmental. Susan Opotow writes that the practice of exclusion begins with a group-level “marking-off,” which leads to “harm that can befall those who are excluded from the protections of community membership, including abrogation of rights, denial of economic opportunities and physical exclusion through institutionalization.” Once so marked, those who fall outside the “scope of justice” come to be seen as less “beneficial” to society, less “similar” to a newly constituted “us,” and less deserving of fair treatment (1995, 149, 62, 347). Political theorist Michael Waltzer...

  10. Meet Yeliz: A Young Woman of Conviction, Distinct across Contexts
    (pp. 81-84)

    Yeliz’s self-portrait is of a beautiful young woman, head covered with Һijāb, with the letters MUSLIM floating overhead. An A student in most of her courses, Yeliz studies three to five hours a week, considers school to be

    “very important,” and is now readingOf Mice and Men. She describes herself as “Caucasian/white/Euro-American.” Her mother and father are from Turkey, and both are high school graduates.

    Yeliz is well aware that her behaviors, her perspectives, and her practices vary according to the situation. “I draw that because I used to live in Paterson, we used to walk around on the...

  11. 4 The Weight of the Hyphen: Discrimination and Coping
    (pp. 85-117)

    InBlack Skin, White Masks, Franz Fanon wrote about the painful shock of seeing oneself through objectifying eyes:

    Look, a Negro!

    I came into the world imbued with the will to find a meaning in things, my spirit filled with the desire to attain to the source of the world, and then I found that I was an object in the midst of other objects. Sealed into that crushing objecthood, I turned beseechingly to others. Their attention was a liberation, running over my body suddenly abraded into nonbeing, endowing me once more with an agility that I had thought lost,...

  12. Meet Ayyad: “A Regular Cute Guy”
    (pp. 118-120)

    At age sixteen, Brooklyn born and bred, Ayyad insists that he is just a “regular cute guy.” A tenth grader attending public school, he describes himself as an athlete who spends three to fi ve hours a week on schoolwork, is committed to going to college, and prays only during Ramadan. Both his parents were born in Palestine, and he visits there “almost every summer.” By all accounts, Ayyad is a “typical American teen,” and his interview revealed no tension at all in his hyphenated identities.

    Dalal: What about your identities as a Muslim and an American, where do they...

  13. 5 Negotiating the Muslim American Hyphen: Integrated, Parallel, and Conflictual Paths
    (pp. 121-150)

    Adolescence (Erikson 1980) and young adulthood (Arnett 2000) refer to a developmental period in which young people form, and then reform, their cultural identities. This may be a particularly complex psychological task for those youths living in contentious political contexts. In this chapter we consider how young people generate identities, relationships, and a sense of purpose when one social identity is contested by formal institutions, social relationships, and/or the media.

    Immigrant minority youth form their identity by becoming a member of a collective group based on racial, ethnic, or religious background and by negotiating among different cultural frameworks (Berry 1990;...

  14. Meet Taliya: Seeking Safe Spaces for Social Analysis and Action
    (pp. 151-154)

    At age seventeen, growing up in Florida, Taliya is a soft-spoken but ambitious young intellectual with exciting dreams for her future. Born in Pakistan, she came to the United States when she was two years old. In the ninth grade she moved from an Islamic school to a public school. Today she plays tennis and soccer, likes to make films, and “loves books . . . mostly historical . . . they’re very interesting and they help my vocabulary.” On her survey, the only “very true of me” item she checked was “I feel that I have to be perfect.”...

  15. 6 Contact Zones: Negotiating the Hyphen between Self and Others
    (pp. 155-186)

    Rashid describes a much repeated scene:

    Rashid: I’ve been stopped by the police once, and that was really quite unnerving because he asked me what religion I was. I was not happy with [that].

    Interviewer: Wow.

    Rashid: I felt kind of angry. On my American side I felt kind of betrayed a little bit in that.

    Interviewer: Well, what did you say?

    Rashid: I told them I was Muslim, and basically the police officer was concerned because someone called the police because I was praying near a train station.

    Sabreeha (Pakistani, age twenty-two) told us a different sort of the...

  16. Meet Masood: Grounded in Islam, Crossing Borders
    (pp. 187-192)

    Masood is a sixteen-year-old American teen growing up in Florida, the youngest son of a mother and father born in Pakistan. Attending public high school, he has earned a GPA of 3.8 and considers himself a very serious student—and a serious Muslim. He prays five times a day, goes to mosque twice a week, is reading the book the Name of the Rose, and identifi es as a “Asian/Pacifi c Islander.” He yearns to be an artist: “I would love to be an artist, a teacher. They don’t make enough money . . . But basically in our culture ....

  17. 7 Researching Hyphenated Selves across Contexts
    (pp. 193-208)

    At the end of our studies, we recognize our intellectual debt to W. E. B. Du Bois. More than one hundred years ago, in 1903, Du Bois wroteThe Souls of Black Folks, describing how dominant racist ideologies pierce the skin, soul, and consciousness of African Americans at the moment of contact with white Americans:

    Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously...

  18. Appendix A: Survey Measures
    (pp. 209-210)
  19. Appendix B: Individual Interview Protocol
    (pp. 211-213)
  20. Appendix C: Focus-Group Protocols
    (pp. 214-217)
  21. Appendix D: Identity Maps Coding Sheets
    (pp. 218-220)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 221-222)
  23. References
    (pp. 223-236)
  24. Index
    (pp. 237-244)
  25. About the Authors
    (pp. 245-245)
  26. Back Matter
    (pp. 246-246)