The 9/11 Generation: Young Muslims in the New World Order
April 3–7, 2011
Over the course of this advanced seminar addressing the place of youth in Muslim societies and the place of religion in Muslim youth cultures, an important reorientation occurred. In their proposal, co-chairs Adeline Masquelier and Benjamin Soares suggested that the traumatic events of 9/11 might have shaped the consciousness of a ‘global’ generation of young Muslims. In the seminar discussions, it became clear that the notion of a 9/11 generation was not a useful framing device in the ways they had originally anticipated. This did not mean that the notion was entirely lacking, they found, but the seminar’s key questions became more focused: What possibilities and limitations did 9/11 generate for this cohort of Muslim youth? What policies, structural conditions, and representations of Islam did they produce? Moreover, how have these had an impact on young Muslims and how have they responded?
What emerged from the seminar discussions was that 9/11 has been most significant not as a central defining event that produced a particular consciousness of how the world had changed, but rather for the changed political and legal landscape that came in its wake. Shifts in immigration policies toward minorities in many countries are one example. “This landscape—produced, for example, in the ‘war on terror’—helps to illuminate the new self-consciousness Muslims acquired in the post-9/11 era. This has had major implications for Muslim youth who are often identified as potential Islamic activists and terrorists or, conversely, as victims of the so-called war on terror,” said the co-chairs.
Muslim youth respond to this new post-9/11 landscape in different ways. “Some of them might become radicalized students. Others have become well-off middle-class high school student activists who position themselves against radicals. Others are women who embrace the headscarf, the hijab, while others engage in middle-class lifestyle pursuits that are thought of as Islamic, such as Islamic ringtones,” said the co-chairs. Sometimes this manifests through forms of consumptive practices, using Facebook to organize revolutions, consuming music and fashion, and connecting with other youth in ways that are particularly productive for the construction of some notion of consciousness that seems to transcend national, cultural, and economic boundaries. Muslim youth in North America, Europe, and elsewhere (particularly in Muslim-minority countries) often feel compelled to highlight their “Muslimhood” through social activism, participation in civic activities, and such visible signs as dress or beards as they articulate who they are and want to be.
For example, Jennifer Selby documents how young, educated Canadian women of widely different cultural and ethnic origins affirm their ‘Muslimhood’ through assertive requests for mahr (bridewealth) from their prospective in-laws. Noorhaidi Hassan’s paper examined middle-class Indonesian Muslim youth and their ‘Islamic’ consumer culture and lifestyles.
Reflecting SAR’s skill at selecting timely and important topics, this advanced seminar happened to coincide with the unfolding of Arab revolutions in which Muslim youth took center stage. “Our discussions of Muslim youth as actors, producers, and interpreters of culture thus unfolded against the backdrop of heavily mediatized events in which young people have assumed the leadership of national movements in the Middle East. Images of young revolutionaries in turn have prompted debates about youth agency, visibility, and political participation in Muslim societies,” said the co-chairs. “They have also shattered assumptions that activists among Muslims are necessarily religiously focused in their demands and objectives: In Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere, people led revolutions in the name of democracy, not religious reforms. Being Muslim may well be an integral marker of young people’s identities, but it does not mean that youth are necessarily practicing Muslims.”
By drawing attention to the various structural, political, economic, economic, and technological changes in the post-9/11 era, said the co-chairs, “we can talk about a new world order in which the experience of being young and Muslim has been broadened, diversified, and complicated or facilitated by an array of tools, techniques, strategies, and media.”
|Adeline Masquelier, Chair Professor, Department of Anthropology, Tulane University Kaidan Gaskia: Truth, Ambivalence, and the Ethics of Hip-Hop in Niger|
|Benjamin F. Soares, Chair Senior Researcher, Afrika-Studiecentrum, Leiden The Sufi, the Prophet, and Satan: Youth and the Religious Economy in Neoliberal Mali|
|Irfan Ahmad Lecturer, Department of Politics, Monash University, Australia The Revolt of the Young: An Essay on Revolting Injustice|
|Hatsuki Aishima Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies, Free University, Berlin From the Naughty Boy to Upright Muslim: Repentant Actors and Dramas of Piety in the Making of Egypt’s Public Islam|
|Mayanthi L. Fernando Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz Impoliteness, or Politics Re-Imagined|
|Noorhaidi Hassan Associate Professor, Department of Political Sciences, State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga, Indonesia Synthesizing Islam and Globalization: Youth, Identity and Activism in Indonesia|
|Linda Herrera Associate Professor, Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Digital Youth, Arab Revolution and the Challenge of Work|
|Magnus Marsden Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London Young Men, Mobility, and Life Strategies in Afghanistan (Note: Paper submitted but not in attendance)|
|Hisyar Ozsoy Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, The University of Texas at Austin Between Gift and Taboo: Death and the Negotiation of National Identity and Sovereignty in the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey|
|Jennifer Selby Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Memorial University, Canada Democratizing Sharia and Religious Authority? Young Canadian Muslim Women Negotiating Mahr on the Web|
Sponsored by Paloheimo Foundation