Young Muslims in US feel pressured over their pro-Palestinian stance

Wed, 3 Jan 2024 7:58 GMT
Muslim youth are hesitant to participate in protests, worried about losing their scholarships, academic careers, jobs due to their social media posts.
Young Muslims in US feel pressured over their pro-Palestinian stance

Muslim youth are hesitant to participate in protests, worried about losing their scholarships, academic careers, jobs due to their social media posts.

Young people living in the US showed great interest in the congress organized by the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which are Muslim umbrella organizations in the US.

The youths who attended the MAS-ICNA Congress told Anadolu that they hesitated to express their views on Israel's attacks on Palestine.

They hold the Biden administration responsible for the increasing pressure in all areas, from social media to university campuses, against expressing pro-Palestinian views.

The three-day congress, held annually in the city of Chicago in the state of Illinois, was marked by the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza caused by Israeli attacks and the intense interest of Muslim youth.

As the countdown begins for the November 2024 US Presidential Elections, all eyes are on the crucial role of young people in the ballot and campaign process.

Despite feeling pressured by the Biden administration's Gaza policy, Muslim youth, seeing the solution in taking a more active role in US politics, anticipate the upcoming elections.

Tarek Khalil, the American Muslim Education Coordinator for Palestine, has been actively involved in US politics since his student years.

In his current role, closely connected with university students, Khalil said that students feel under attack.

"Students are under attack, and the reason why they're under attack is not because they're ineffective. Quite the opposite, it is because they are effective with the grassroots organization that they've been doing for the past decade," Khalil said.

"I think it's crucial that we as activists, we as educators, we as political agents here in the US and elsewhere that we provide the students the tools and provide them the legal defense and political defense that is necessary so that they don't feel stifled so they are they're able to continue their work," Khalil added.

Khalil, the protection in question could alleviate the pressure on Muslim youth. He mentioned Muslim youth who face the risk of losing their scholarships, academic careers, and jobs due to "antisemitic" accusations resulting from their support for the Palestinian cause during the occupation of Gaza.

"This new generation is willing to put up with those consequences because it's just a different mindset has grown in these days. Because they are the future leaders, they are the ones that are going to eventually create a free environment for Palestinians and create a free Palestine," he added.

Muslim youth in US are angry sad but hopeful

Medical student Rend Nayfey, who volunteered to go to Gaza in August, noted that throughout the summer, she provided support to local healthcare teams in many hospitals there along with her colleagues.

The young medical aspirant described the US administration's policy on Gaza and its unconditional support for Israel as a "disappointment."

"Especially when I heard that Al-Shifa Hospital was mainly being targeted being there and walking those halls, it felt really strange," Nayfey said.

"These are people with lives, the people with hopes with futures with dreams and just a drive to help other people and they're being treated like there are nothing like dirt," she added.

"I'm looking for somebody that's going to be not chasing after look so excited. I want somebody who is more focused on humans and helping humans and understand that we're all equal and that you know everybody's life matters," she said.

Texas Medical School student Elias Nasser, originally from Gaza, was also among the volunteers who once went to Palestine.

Shortly after returning to the US, Nasser, who lost many relatives in Israel's attacks on Gaza, pointed out that those who survived were also at risk of dying in the Israeli bombardment if they crossed to Southern Gaza.

While Nasser acknowledged being warmly welcomed as a Palestinian at his university, he expressed concerns about the pressure on Muslim youth nationwide, sometimes escalating to physical attacks.

Recalling an incident where three young people were attacked with weapons for wearing Palestinian keffiyehs and speaking Arabic as they headed to a Thanksgiving dinner, Nasser emphasized the challenges faced by Muslim youth.

"As a student myself, I called for our Representatives, our leaders to protect us, to protect us as students, protect our rights as students, and support the work that we do as students to support the people in Gaza," he said.

A young individual who is not hesitant to share their views on Palestine but prefers not to disclose their name to avoid being identified in internet searches related to their opinions said that in the face of the situation in Gaza, there is no significant difference between Republicans and Democrats.

According to this person, both parties fall short in terms of human rights, highlighting a perceived lack of distinction in their approaches to the Palestinian issue.

"I think there's going to be some pressure to say that there's going to be some magical president that appears pro-Palestinian, but it's a bit of a stretch. At the end of the day, they need the vote and they know that the youthful vote is going to be a large majority.

"There's been research that shows that youth under the age of 35 have generally been Pro Palestinian. I think our purpose is just a quick pressure on governments to address this in one way or another," he said.

Muslim youth want to exert pressure on American politicians with their votes, but they also face pressure in their daily lives to support Palestine.

The youth are hesitant to participate in protests and carry concerns about losing their scholarships, academic careers, and jobs due to their social media posts.

Another Muslim youth, who prefers not to disclose their name, describes this situation through their personal experience:

"I know it's a pressure that I had to deal with and I spoke to my dean personally about it. It's one thing to be pro-Zionist and speak up and it's another thing to be pro-Palestinian and speak up. While in the middle of the applications and applying for residencies, we just heard about a resident who got kicked off his program for being pro-Palestinian," another Muslim youth -- who prefers not to disclose his name -- said.

President's expectations for youth vote are at risk in the upcoming elections

Oussama Jammal, the Secretary-General of the Council of American Muslim Organizations (CMO), one of the major Muslim umbrella movements in the US and a participant in the MAS-ICNA congress held in Chicago, underlined that those disturbed by the Biden administration's Gaza policy are not only Muslim youth.

"The polls show almost 70% of the youth are not happy and disfavor Biden on his policy. That is significant. That is not just the Muslim youth; it is the nationwide youth. I think that's something that the president has to pay attention to.

Despite the one-sided coverage of the occupation of Gaza by the US media, Jammal believes that social media plays a significant role in revealing the reality of what is happening.

He stated that all of that was happening despite the mainstream media bombarding the public with the Israeli version of what was happening in Gaza.

However, he added that Americans had the chance to access the truth through social media, which allowed them to see what was happening in Gaza, leading to a significant change in the American perspective, especially among the youth.

He also noted that although the youth vote had been crucial in previous elections, he believed that the president's expectations for the youth vote were at risk in the upcoming elections.

Jammal acknowledged that the helplessness regarding Gaza and the US government's supportive stance towards Israel have left the youth disappointed and angered.

However, he also issued a call for caution among Muslim youth against propaganda related to acts of violence.

"Venture energy and anger through a freedom of speech and engage in positive political activism. That's the best way that you can change.

Otherwise, anger is not going to be good for anyone, but sending your message to those who make policies will help them understand," he added.


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