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Muslim American Youth

Understanding Hyphenated Identities through Multiple Methods

Selcuk Sirin, Michelle Fine

Publication Year: 2008

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent "war on terror," growing up Muslim in the U.S. has become a far more challenging task for young people. They must contend with popular cultural representations of Muslim-men-as-terrorists and Muslim-women-as-oppressed, the suspicious gaze of peers, teachers, and strangers, and police, and the fierce embodiment of fears in their homes.

With great attention to quantitative and qualitative detail, the authors provide heartbreaking and funny stories of discrimination and resistance, delivering hard to ignore statistical evidence of moral exclusion for young people whose lives have been situated on the intimate fault lines of global conflict, and who carry international crises in their backpacks and in their souls.

The volume offers a critical conceptual framework to aid in understanding Muslim American identity formation processes, a framework which can also be applied to other groups of marginalized and immigrant youth. In addition, through their innovative data analytic methods that creatively mix youth drawings, intensive individual interviews, focused group discussions, and culturally sensitive survey items, the authors provide an antidote to "qualitative vs. quantitative" arguments that have unnecessarily captured much time and energy in psychology and other behavioral sciences.

Muslim American Youth provides a much-needed road map for those seeking to understand how Muslim youth and other groups of immigrant youth negotiate their identities as Americans.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. ix-xii

First we thank the Muslim teens and young adults and their families who have been gracious and generous in giving us their time and trusting us with their experiences because they believe, as we do, that another story had to be told about Muslim youth in the United States after the attacks on September 11, 2001. We also specifically thank the young people ...

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Foreword: Designated “Others”: Young, Muslim, and American

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pp. 14-17

Today, there are well over a billion Muslims in the world. Many live in the diaspora in the West; an estimated 15 million live in Europe; and another 3 million to 6 million (depending on the source) live in North America, as well as the millions of others in other OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations. As a fast-...

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1. Growing Up in the Shadow of Moral Exclusion

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pp. 18-41

Aft er the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the identity negotiation of immigrant Muslim youth living in the United States became decidedly more challenging. Although their nation was under attack, they were suddenly perceived as a potential threat to U.S. safety. The number of hate crimes against Muslims increased seventeenfold in a single year (FBI ...

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Meet Aisha: Challenging and Laughing Her Way through Suspicion, Surveillance, and Low Expectations

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pp. 25-31

At age fourteen, Aisha attends public school in Brooklyn, New York, taking Advanced Placement and honors courses, and averaging 90s in all her areas of study. “My goal is to get into an Ivy League school and study biology. I try to do a lot of community service as well.” With head covered with ħijāb and religiously appropriate American clothes, she prays five times a day, studies more ...

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2. Muslim Americans: History, Demography, and Diversity

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pp. 32-53

There are many routes, both figurative and historical, to being a Muslim in the United States. Although there is a tendency to assume that there is a single Muslim American identity because there is so much diversity within the group, the label of “Muslim American” is misleading. A majority of Muslims migrated to the United States from all over the ...

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Meet Sahar: A Hyphen with Holes in It . . . Allowing Her to Sometimes Fall Through

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pp. 54-57

Sahar is fourteen, in the seventh grade in Clifton, New Jersey, a predominantly white working-class town with a history of hostility to immigrants. Even though the schools have had an English-only policy, many immigrant families — predominantly of Dominican, Palestinian, and Colombian origin — tolerate the tense conditions because the school system’s reputation is relatively better than that ...

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3. Moral Exclusion in a “Nation of Immigrants”: An American Paradox

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pp. 58-80

The structures, practices, and consequences of moral exclusion are at once political, social, psychological, and developmental. Susan Opotow writes that the practice of exclusion begins with a group-level “marking-off ,” which leads to “harm that can befall those who are excluded from the protections of community membership, including abrogation of ...

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Meet Yeliz: A Young Woman of Conviction, Distinct across Contexts

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pp. 81-84

Yeliz’s self-portrait is of a beautiful young woman, head covered with ħijāb, with the letters MUSLIM floating overhead. An A student in most of her courses, Yeliz studies three to five hours a week, considers school to be “very important,” and is now reading Of Mice and Men. She describes herself as “Caucasian/white/Euro-American.” Her mother and father are from Turkey, and both are high school ...

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4. The Weight of the Hyphen: Discrimination and Coping

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pp. 85-117

In Black Skin, White Masks, Franz Fanon wrote about the painful shock of seeing oneself through objectifying eyes: ...

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Meet Ayyad: “A Regular Cute Guy”

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pp. 118-120

At age sixteen, Brooklyn born and bred, Ayyad insists that he is just a “regular cute guy.” A tenth grader attending public school, he describes himself as an athlete who spends three to five hours a week on schoolwork, is committed to going to college, and prays only during Ramadan. Both his parents were born in Palestine, and he visits there “almost every summer.” By all accounts, Ayyad ...

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5. Negotiating the Muslim American Hyphen: Integrated, Parallel, and Conflictual Paths

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pp. 121-150

Adolescence (Erikson 1980) and young adulthood (Arnett 2000) refer to a developmental period in which young people form, and then reform, their cultural identities. This may be a particularly complex psychological task for those youths living in contentious political contexts. In this chapter we consider how young people generate identities, relationships, ...

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Meet Taliya: Seeking Safe Spaces for Social Analysis and Action

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pp. 151-154

At age seventeen, growing up in Florida, Taliya is a soft-spoken but ambitious young intellectual with exciting dreams for her future. Born in Pakistan, she came to the United States when she was two years old. In the ninth grade she moved from an Islamic school to a public school. Today she plays tennis and soccer, likes to make films, and “loves books . . . mostly historical . . . they’re very interesting ...

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6. Contact Zones: Negotiating the Space between Self and Others

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pp. 155-186

Rashed and Sabreeha told very different stories of contact with non-Muslims and their reactions. We have collected many of these stories, along with responses as varied as these. In this chapter we move from an analysis of the intrasubjective work of hyphenated selves to a look at the intersubjective work of social relations at the hyphen. In order to understand ...

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Meet Masood: Grounded in Islam, Crossing Borders

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pp. 187-192

Masood is a sixteen-year-old American teen growing up in Florida, the youngest son of a mother and father born in Pakistan. Attending public high school, he has earned a GPA of 3.8 and considers himself a very serious student—and a serious Muslim. He prays five times a day, goes to mosque twice a week, is reading the book the Name of the Rose, and identifies as a “Asian/Pacific Islander.” He ...

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7. Researching Hyphenated Selves across Contexts

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pp. 193-208

At the end of our studies, we recognize our intellectual debt to W. E. B. Du Bois. More than one hundred years ago, in 1903, Du Bois wrote The Souls of Black Folks, describing how dominant racist ideologies pierce the skin, soul, and consciousness of African Americans at the moment of contact with white Americans: ...

Appendix A: Survey Measures

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pp. 209-210

Appendix B: Individual Interview Protocol

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pp. 211-213

Appendix C: Focus-Group Protocols

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pp. 214-217

Appendix D: Identity Maps Coding Sheet

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pp. 218-220


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pp. 221-222


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pp. 223-236


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pp. 237-244

About the Authors

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pp. 245-245

E-ISBN-13: 9780814708859
E-ISBN-10: 0814708854
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814740392
Print-ISBN-10: 0814740391

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 298283174
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Muslim American Youth

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ethnicity -- Research -- United States -- Methodology.
  • Youth -- United States -- Interviews.
  • Muslims -- United States -- Ethnic identity.
  • United States -- Ethnic relations -- Research -- Methodology.
  • Social psychology -- Research -- United States -- Methodology.
  • Youth -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • Youth -- United States -- Psychology.
  • Muslims -- United States -- Interviews.
  • Muslims -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • Muslims -- United States -- Psychology.
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