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|In the Ghetto....?????|
|06/28/02 at 12:51:25|
I was talking yesterday to one my fav sisters and she was telling me about a revert she met recently. The brother is a counselor for teens who have drug problems, he said that , 1 out of 10 teens that come to him with drug problems are Muslims. We were shocked to hear the number and than i read this article today !!!
In the Ghetto?? Youth Gangs and American Muslims
by Jamshed B
You?re walking down a crowded sidewalk in urban America as you go about your daily activities: going shopping, to work or around the corner to get some coffee, when you see a group of young people walking your way. At first, nothing seems unusual about them, but as they come closer, you see the tightly shaved haircuts, the goatees, the ski hoods, and the baggy pants as they bump, hug and occasionally spurt out ?That s-t is phat.? You think to yourself, ?Another bunch of criminals. What a disgrace. Look at those clowns. If they haven?t done anything yet, they will in a moment or so,? and clutch your jewelry, purse, wallet or briefcase as they come closer. But they walk by and nothing happens.
But as they pass, something doesn?t look quite right about these ?American? kids. Sure, they all may have one skin color: white, black, brown or yellow, or a mixture of any or all of them. But that?s not it. Maybe it was that one or two or all remind you of someone you know, maybe it is someone you know. But that?s not it. Maybe they look exactly like you when you were younger, or look like you now. But that?s not it. Or maybe it was the Ayat al-Qursi dangling on a chain from around a neck or two. That?s it.
<http://www.americanmuslim.org/8young8b.jpg> For some American Muslims, this scene is no longer rare or shocking. Sadly, it has become common. Yes, Muslims who have either lived in regions of the United States where this phenomenon is rare, even among other population groups, or Muslims who have recently arrived in the United States, may not be aware that some American Muslim young adults participate in such activities; but this lack of awareness is shrinking.
The most obvious thing one asks oneself is: ?How could a young person raised as a Muslim behave in such a manner?? Yes, it is a na´ve question, for we cannot deny that there are criminals amongst us who call themselves Muslim, but one must start somewhere. And from here we can try to briefly initiate some sort of analysis of what might actually be occurring and why.
To answer this question, we have a choice of two main possibilities that may be acting by itself, or in conjunction with one another. I hypothesize that they will act in conjunction.
One possibility is the classic pattern of ethnic/religio-group development within new environs which has occurred with every group that has immigrated and/or been considered a minority group in America.
The other possibility is following fashion, or what I deem ?wannabe-itis?, and is a bit more complicated than it may seem at first glance.
Before starting however, I would like to recognize that although I am talking about ?ethnic? development patterns, it should be noted that the term ?Muslim? cannot be placed into an ethnic group categorization, for Muslims are not an ethnic group. Obviously, Muslims are believers in Islam, a religion. However, Muslims comprise a minority, a categorization signifying distinction from a majority (in America, different from Judeo-Christian culture), in the sense that they lack numbers and are underrepresented in American society. Therefore, in the present case, we may juxtapose ?ethnic? for ?minority?, and ?minority? to include religious minorities.
In addition, the patterns addressed below describing ethnic minority tendencies can be applied to situations where religious minorities are involved, for they are not much different for our present purposes. We can further justify co-opting ethnic and religious minority status by recognizing the fact that the majority of American Muslims in the United States are members of ethnic populations who are not in the majority. Therefore, the descriptions asserted below shall not only apply to an individual Muslim?s religious status, but their ethnic status as well. But in all situations, patterns along ethnic and religious affiliation will not be the same, and we shall leave those important distinctions for another time. For our present purposes they are not of critical importance.
With this in mind, let us first look at patterns of ethnic population development in the United States. Ever since the first major mass immigrations of people from Ireland in the mid-1850s, and continuing with the Italians, Jews (another religious minority treated as an ethnic minority) and Hispanics, and well into the present period, a combination of poverty, concentration in urban ghettoes and scarcity of opportunities for those who do not possess specialized skills suitable for employment in the United States, has contributed to the phenomenon of youth gang activity.
Theses youth gangs have at times either co-opted or developed into organized criminal syndicates. But this development is neither automatic nor inevitable. Youth gangs are abundant within all ethnic or religious groups, however not all (in fact, the majority) ever expand into major organized criminal activity.
Briefly, both minority and immigrant communities, once in the larger society, show a strikingly repetitive pattern possessing a common economic theme. Within all minority groups, the scarcity of skilled labor, lack of qualitative education and limited occupational opportunities lead to a sizeable portion of dissatisfied members of a community that opt to resort to other means in order to live.
Whether this exact pattern explains what is occurring within the American Muslim community remains to be seen, and it does not seem that this adequately explains the emergence of the youth gang phenomenon.
Within the American Muslim community, poverty exists, but not to the extent as required to fit into the classical pattern mentioned above. In the past, Irish, Jewish, Italian and Hispanic immigrants, and African Americans, suffered much harsher economic and living conditions than American Muslims presently do. Most American Muslims do not live in rat-infested and disease ridden ghetto slums without running water. Yes, some Muslim Americans live in lower economic income neighborhoods, but nothing like those experienced by other groups during their respective periods of mass immigration to the United States.
Compared to other groups, Muslim Americans have had it much easier. Muslim Americans proportionately possess greater occupational skills, personal contacts, and higher education than those of previous groups. (The question of occupational opportunities is another matter). Muslim Americans possess a greater proportion of their members in professional and white-collar occupations (doctors, engineers, information technology) in the first initial wave of mass immigration than of any other groups that arrived previously. In addition, Muslims in America who arrived here without the benefits of a qualitative education or the possession of any specialized craft or industrial skill have showed an impressive entrepreneurial streak starting small businesses catering not only to the Muslim community, but to the larger society as well. And then there are those that find work at the blue-collar level, including within transportation services.
In short, economic conditions of American Muslims are not bleak enough to fit perfectly into the classic pattern of gang activity within ethnic groups in America. We may have to look elsewhere in order to locate an explanation for the rise of youth gang phenomenon within the American Muslim community.
The other possibility, ?wannabe-itis?, could offer another explanation. Within the urban communities within which many American Muslims reside, many live in close proximity and attend school with ethnic groups that fit into the classic pattern described above. In order survive or be accepted within that particular peer group, one must act in the manner of one?s peers in order to coexist in relative harmony. It must be noted that at present, these other groups (African American and Hispanic) did not initiate the youth gang phenomenon, but merely followed a pattern established by those they themselves had lived in close proximity with (Irish, Italians, Jews).
The fact that modern American Muslim youth gang members follow the mannerisms of African American or Hispanic gangs is not because those groups inherently possess those qualities themselves, but rather because they developed their patterns from a previous example. For instance, if Muslims had begun immigrating en masse to the United States during the period of American culture when the Irish and Italian youth gangs were in prominence, Muslim American youth might at that time have worn fedoras, spoke like stereotypical 1930s style gangsters and carried Tommy-guns. But they don?t live in that period. Muslim American youth today live in an urban world of baggy pants, fades and Wu-Tang Clan.
However, before one judges a young gangsta? Muslim by their appearance, let us caution ourselves by looking at the true nature of these ?gangs?. And let us also address other Muslim youth that put on the persona, but may not necessarily commit acts associated to typical youth gangs.
If one wants to place technical term upon this trend, lets call it a pseudo-gang mentality. The term is apt because it implies that although individuals may play the part of a gangsta?, in actuality they are not. They may listen to rap music (which, by itself, is not condemnable act), shave their heads, wear goatees and talk and act like modern-day youth gangs of other minority groups, but they are more often playing the part, rather than behaving like actual criminal gangs. This holds true even when members of one ?crew? have problems with another crew concerning ?turf? or personal insults resulting in acts of violence towards one another. But this violence is limited and directed towards other gangs/crews and not the larger community as a whole. Organized racketeering and/or extortion of community businesses (classic criminal activity of real organized crime) are activities that these psuedo-gangsta?s do not involve themselves in. Their activities are limited more towards putting on the persona, playing the part, ?wanting to be? like the real thing.
Another interesting aspect of this phenomenon is the fact that it is seemingly more prevalent among Muslims from South Asia. An explanation may be that South Asian Muslims share a culture and language(s) with non-Muslim South Asians who also have sizeable recent immigrant communities within the same urban areas as Muslim South Asians. Teenagers and young adults from South Asia, regardless of religious affiliation, concentrated in lower economic communities and in close proximity to other clearly separate ethnic populations within major urban cities, have seemingly chosen to form gangs/crews defined by either religious affiliation, area-specific regions of South Asia, language or combinations of these to distinguish themselves from one another. With the previous discussion in mind, we may aptly categorize such affiliations and activities under the same pseudo- heading.
Within this extremely terse overview, one can get a general feel for what may be actually occurring among some Muslim youth. To summarize, it seems as if the current youth gang phenomenon is a mixture of both classical immigrant/minority development theory, and following fashion. In no genuine sense can this activity solely be explained through a classic interpretation of immigrant development activity, for the American Muslim community, in the aggregate, does not contain a qualifying factor, extreme deprivation and/or poverty to the point of desperation and desperate criminal activity.
The only other explanation is the pseudo-gangsta?. The lifestyle contains no genuine reasons for its existence, only that of fashion. The only relevance classic immigrant/minority interpretation has among Muslim American youth is that it gives an explanation by providing some of the other factors involved: living in lower economic communities in close proximity to other minority groups in which the classic pattern does apply, mass immigration to the United States, and perpetuation of competing rivalries carried over from the country of origin. To put it mildly, its ?I wannabe??.
|06/28/02 at 12:53:35|
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