Growing Up Muslim

Apr. 16, 2014 / By

New America Media, News Report, Peter Schurmann,

SAN FRANCISCO – There are a quarter million Muslims living in the Bay Area, and nearly half of them are under the age of 35. Many describe an intense personal and spiritual struggle as they look to reconcile their faith with the mainstream of American society.

These young Muslims are the face of American Islam in the 21st century, and yet their stories are rarely heard.

“I prayed five times a day, fasted on occasion and went on Hajj [pilgrimage],” said Omar Raza, who is 16 and a student at Averroes High School in Fremont, the Bay Area’s first Islamic high school. The son of Pakistani immigrants, Raza did these things “because my parents told me to. I never questioned them.”

It was in ninth grade, he says, that he first began looking for answers. “I went through this stage … I was trying to find my purpose.”

Raza delved into Islamic history and theology, which deepened his relationship to the daily rites he had observed since childhood. In that process he also came to see himself in a clearer light. “I realized my identity was in my heart,” he said.

Raza joined a panel of speakers who shared their experiences growing up Muslim at a forum in San Francisco on March 26 sponsored by several Bay Area community foundations and the One Nation Bay Area Project. Organized by New America Media, the event put a spotlight on the voices of young Muslim Americans in the Bay Area.

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New America Media

New America Media is the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 3,000 ethnic news organizations. Over 57 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries and to America through 3000+ ethnic media outlets, the fastest growing sector of American journalism. Founded by the nonprofit Pacific News Service in 1996, NAM is headquartered in California with offices in New York and Washington D.C., and partnerships with journalism schools to grow local associations of ethnic media.