Although conditions may differ for South Africa’s Muslim youth in comparison to generations before them, their struggles are no less difficult or challenging. So says activists from the Muslim Youth Movement (MYM), as the country celebrated 39 years since the tragic events of the Soweto uprising in 1976. The organisation was keen to highlight contemporary issues that youth within the community now have to contend with.
Speaking to VOC’s Drivetime, Ighsaan Bassier of the UCT MYM said many within the community were now facing something of a crisis in trying to juggle two contrasting worlds. On the one side the youth were being brought up under a more secular form of education, but they were also facing a challenge in trying to remain steadfast and in touch with their Islamic identity under such conditions. This is as opposed to prior generations, who would have been brought up with a stern Islamic background. This ‘identity issue’ amongst the youth was in turn compounded by a number of factors.
“You’ve got an Islam that is changing towards a much more conservative (approach). On the other hand you have the secular world that students are immersed in. The schools they grow up in and the material they learn is in many ways juxtaposed against that,” he explained.
In addition, younger generations were also facing an array of social challenges ranging from drug abuse and gangsterism, to a tough economic climate hampering their search for work. In this regard, he said youth were seeking a religion more orientated towards combating such social ills.
To reignite that sense of Muslim identity, he acknowledged that much of the onus need fall on the youth themselves.
“We need to be questioning a lot more and also be willing to put effort into implementing those things after. I think on the one hand it is important to be questioning a lot, but we must also put effort into consolidating what we are doing,” he stressed.
MYM Deputy President, Mohammad Groenewald said that despite the current generation having been brought up far away from the tough conditions of the Apartheid era, comparisons could still be drawn with what younger people were today facing.
“Although the struggle might be a little different, it still remains. We might not face Casspirs or the brutality of the police, but we definitely face a different brutality against joblessness, tik, and other social issues that youth are being confronted with today,” he highlighted.
Another area that has seen many bemoan the youth’s lack of interest is the upholding of both religious and cultural tradition. Whilst this has often been attributed to the youth’s engrossment with modern technology, Groenewald suggested the community as a whole was slowly losing much of its traditional values.
“A woman is now playing less of role in the mosques. If you look at the time of Tuan Guru and the moulood festivals (there would be female involvement). The very first mosque was donated by a woman, Saartjie Van de Kaap. You can see the level of advancements then and the level of backwardness now,” he said, adding that the community had become more conservative in its thinking of Islam. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)