"Muslim millennials and their individual identities are making a huge impact in the current political climate."
By: Amina Spahic
Emerge USA Tampa Bay Regional Director
As a millennial, I hear many criticisms directed at my entire generation, whether one was born in 1980 or 2000 (which is a commonly accepted time frame of when millennials were born). We fall into the same pool of people that headlines will call “spoiled” “lazy” or “unskilled.” A study on Generational and Time Period Differences in American Adolescents’ Religious Orientation showed that millennials are the least likely to be religious. I have always found it counter-productive to try and fit into the characteristics taken on by one layer of identity. Researchers and analysts work very hard to generalize data collected so that we can understand what makes certain groups of people tick. You will often see people talking about intersectionality and various types of social phobias, but I believe people get so caught up in the academic terms that a disconnect forms between these words and the very human issues associated with them. We all know what an intersection is so let’s pretend that the roads that lead to that intersection are different layers of an identity. You come to a stop and the car that has the right of way goes first. Which of your identities has the right of way?
I happen to be a millennial, but I am also a very proud Muslim. I am a US citizen, but I was born and raised into a society dealing with the effects of war in Bosnia. I moved to the United States in 2001 and it has become very clear to me that those of us growing up here after 9/11 have been dealt some very unfortunate cards. Many American Muslim millennials were born and raised into a society dealing with the staggering effects of a tragic terrorist attack. We are the adults now being asked to apologize and condemn the actions of people claiming to represent Muslims. We are the generation on the forefront of the battle to clear misconceptions and educate everyone on how Islam taught us to spread peace. That’s not a terrible position to be in, if you ask me, especially in 2016 when our presidential candidates are talking about surveillance in our neighborhoods and keeping Muslims out of the country.
Misinformation is rampant these days and frequently directed at American Muslims. I am thankful for the bigotry and the hateful rhetoric that has enveloped this historic election because it has brought out the true colors of the bigots and highlighted the best of the Muslim millennials like those running the “Who is Hussain?” organization in Michigan that donated 30,000 bottles of water to Flint residents to help with the water contamination crisis. The political climate of this election has also encouraged Muslim millennials to seek knowledge and confront the misinformation with facts. We often have to confront the various identities that make us who we are and have had to decide which has the right of way at our intersections. So, while we may have been dealt some unfortunate cards, this is our collective test. I will continue to be thankful for people like Donald Trump, who constantly spew negativity towards Muslims, because I’m part of the generation that will define what it means to be Muslim. I’m part of the generation that is being called the ‘decision makers’ of this election. It’s a tough position to be in with a lot of responsibility accompanying it, but it is ultimately quite an honorable one and I think we are doing an excellent job.