By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics

Between Storytelling and Surveillance: The Precarious Public of American Muslim Youth

Drawing on the work of storytellers, civic organizations, and civically active American Muslim youth, this chapter focuses on expressive initiatives by civically engaged American Muslim youth within an often harsh Post - 9/11 climate where moderate Muslim voices have struggled to find a means of entering an increasingly polarized discussion around ‘Islamophobic’ and extremist perspectives.  In particular, we highlight the circulation of media and storytelling as a crucial dimension of efforts by American Muslim youth to express, poke fun at, network, and mobilize around their identity in the United States.  We also point ongoing in-person and online surveillance as a reality for some young American-Muslims, particularly those involved in contentious social justice campaigns. They not only worry about top-down surveillance from the government, but also the scrutiny of older, or more conservative community members. We signal that such surveillance threatens a fragile, emergent progressive American Muslim public and explore humor as a coping strategy. 


Exploring both the possibilities and vulnerabilities of participatory politics in the American Muslim youth context, we argue that the post-9/11 American Muslim youth networks included in our research are perhaps best seen as struggling to find precarious balance between vibrancy and fragility, empowerment and risk, and, as our introductory discussion of “precarious publics” suggested, between voice and influence.
This is a study of activists and community networks affiliated with the Muslim Youth Group (MYG) at the Islamic Center in Southern California and the Young Leaders Program at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). We also highlight specific projects like 30Mosques, a project that circulated through the MPAC and MYG networks. Founded by Bassam Tariq and Aman Ali in 2009, the project tapped new media to document and share American Muslim Ramadan experiences to highlight diversity and shatter stereotypes. Over its four years of existence and through various online platforms, the project shared stories, encouraged dialogues, and increased visibility for diverse American Muslims.


Media Referenced in Chapter 4

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