There are numerous conclusions as to why the majority of us respond to such situations of living nowhere close the true teachings of Islam in a non-Islamic nation, the most obvious factor being peer pressure. At times we tend to overlook our ability to make our own decisions, independent of society and its expectations. We all know Islam is about doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds.
Living in a non-Muslim society in which alcohol, music and usury are as abundant as apples, it is often difficult to closely follow Islam and its true teachings. When everything revolves around money, status, gossip and trends, we must admit that the moral fabric of society isn’t exactly up to notch. With the ultimate war of power, beauty and wealth between society and its members, it is hard for any individual to build up enough self-esteem to stand up to the world and practice what (s)he truly believes, especially when it comes to Islam.
However, as much as we like to sit back and critique the world at large for the downfall in the quality of Islamic followers rather than pinpointing our own flaws, we must come to the realization that the culture around us is not about to take a sharp turn and miraculously reflect the Islamic way of life as lead by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny). Having said so, we must acknowledge that the real issue is faced when society negatively influences the Muslim youth, steering them away from Islam and carving the next generation of Muslims into a Westernized Islamic creed hardly representing the true practices of Islam. However, society is not to be blamed alone. It is our own unfortunate lack of self-control and direction which causes us to become vulnerable and adapt to the Western world’s non-Islamic environment, rather than taking a lead and showing the world who we are as Muslims and what we are about.
There are numerous conclusions as to why the majority of us respond to such situations of living nowhere close the true teachings of Islam in a non-Islamic nation, the most obvious factor being peer pressure. At times we tend to overlook our ability to make our own decisions, independent of society and its expectations. We all know Islam is about doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds. So, if peer pressure and the media are steering us away from Islam, as intelligent beings we must detect that we are being steered in the wrong direction. We live in a society with a double standard: on one hand, it portrays peer pressure as bad and a major contributing factor towards crime rates and abuse amongst youngsters, while on the other hand the entire functioning of society is based on the media and popular culture influencing and pressurizing people in one way or another.
When it comes to wearing the Hijab, questioning a restaurant in order to establish whether the food is 100 percent Halal, offering prayers at the correct times, or simply respecting our parents, why is it that we think of society’s perception of our personalities rather than that of Allah? The culture and the environment we live in is a contributing factor which may determine the extent to which we openly practice our faith; however, we should never allow society and the onlooker’s opinions overpower our purpose in life, which is to offer complete submission to Allah and live in accordance to the Islamic way of life.
The key to survival for a Western Muslim youth is to fully understand the basis of Islam and the benefits of living an Islamic way of life. It is easy to say we are Muslims, but when it comes to applying Islam to our daily lives, it seems as though everyone looks away. As most people will notice, the functioning of Western society is not based on very strong moral or ethical grounds. Having said so, be alert and don’t let peer pressure affect you or your faith in any way. Do not be intimidated by what others will think of you if you leave the library to offer Salat or fast during the month of Ramadan every year. Soon the people around you will establish that you are a person of dedication and commitment, not just one who boasts with pride. The truth is that until we are proactive as Muslims, the world will very soon be almost extinct of true and dedicated Muslims.
Every human being in this world has the ability to make his/her own decisions, and this is known as free will. Stand up for what you truly believe, and let your Islamic faith shine right through you every day of your life. You will find that once you step out of your comfort zone and practice Islam more accurately, whether it be practicing correct Hijab or avoiding prohibited acts, rest assured you will bring a revolutionary change to your life. With no more dramatic effects on your life from negative peer pressure, you will no longer be asking yourself “what will they think?” You will be in control of your life, and you will steer yourself towards the Right Path.
Zara Syed is studying law and accounting and is the Hajj Coordinator for the Panjtan Society Youth Group in Melbourne, Australia. She has kindly agreed to write about issues related to Muslim youth living in the West.