Young American Muslim Leaders and Activists of a New Islam:
Freedom in Sacred Boundaries and the Liberating Horizons of Pluralism
Earlier this year I began work on my dissertation which is the cumulative project of the PhD work, to provide evidence that I am capable of contributing meaningful, fresh research to my field. This project studies how young college Muslims and recent graduates are making sense of and articulating their faith within their American context in 2013-2014. As religious sources are always interpreted through the lens of one's own social-historical situation and certain forms of Islamic revivalism from the 19th century has encouraged Muslims to look at their faith afresh and adapt it to the needs of current society, very compelling debates and negotiation is occurring as to what Islam should look like and Muslims should practice it in this country, although conclusions arrived at are frequently normalized and claimed to be the global standard for all Muslims. These debates are strongly influenced by emerging global ethical ideals of unity in diversity, inclusion, peaceful forms of problem solving, gender equality, and inter-religious respect and cooperation. My project looks at how young adult American Muslims are approaching their Scriptures anew to create forms of Islamic belief and practice that sometimes challenges but is often a harmonious yet unique reflection of these salient global moral principles.
A recent abstract I wrote on my project explains it in this way:
A pluralism of engagement and collaboration, with its concomitant ideals of socio-economic equity and gender equality, is among the highest ethical ideals many Americans are striving to realize for our nation in this century. This is also one of the key lens and standards by which we evaluate the characteristics of religious groups of our country. Young Muslim American activists—who have been and are at the forefront of publicly articulating the terms by which an American Islam is defined—have not at all been insulated from this moral principle and its related debates. Rather, many of them are making fresh investigations into their authoritative sacred sources to find injunctions that are not only in harmony with this value but encourages them to create spaces more inclusive of Muslim diversity of belief and practice, as well as weave deeper friendships and constructive partnerships with non-Muslims individuals, ethnic, and religious groups. Through participant observation and semi-structured interviews of the leaders and members of college Muslim Student Associations, I am investigating the nuances of this dynamic, its implications for the pluralistic ethic itself, and its consequences for how Muslims and the broader America might come together in mutually enriching, close integrative relationships.