March 20th, 2009
03:16 PM ET

How many stories have you heard lately about outstanding American Muslim youth?

Eboo Patel
for WashingtonPost.com

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/02/09/muslims.america/art.sheikhwazir.cnn.jpg caption="Sheikh Salahadin Wazir discusses his Muslim community after Friday afternoon prayers in Clarkston, Georgia."]

I see the following headline in newspapers nearly every day: "Young Muslim Suicide Bomber Kills X People in Y Country." These headlines create problems that go deeper than the immediate violence, because the more sentences we read which begin with "young Muslim" and end with "terrorist", the more we expect those two things to be linked.

I usually write about the impact that the "young Muslim terrorist" frame has on non-Muslims, but I'm increasingly concerned about the impact it's having on Muslims too. My problem is not that young Muslims hear the terrorist story and aspire to that. It's that they hear the terrorist story, are repelled by it, but don't see an alternative grand narrative to aspire to because we haven't created one. As Alexander MacIntyre wrote, "I can only answer the question "What can I do?" if I can answer the prior question, "Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?"

So how do we communicate to young Muslims that we believe in their potential to create good in this world? We tell different stories…


Filed under: Faith
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Perhaps if it's not the lack of positive role models that's the problem as the overabundence of negative ones. The next time I hear 'good' Muslims unite in denouncing terrorist violence, it will be the first time. As WWII and the Nazis (who were never in the majority) demonstrated; if the majority is silent in the face of evil, they share the guilt. The 2009 good Muslim is the 1939 good German.

    March 20, 2009 at 8:18 pm |
  2. Michael "C" Lorton, VA

    You see EbooPatel, for all the "good" being done in the world by various cultures-–the only thing that is of importance is the "misery" that exist--misery = ratings =revenue-it would appear that "misery" generates more if invested into, than good--that is from a media perspective--and when money talks--the truth always remains hidden.

    March 20, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  3. Laura W

    I haven't heard any. How many have you heard?

    March 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm |