ten years later | September 08, 2011

Generation 9/11: Andrea Elliott on Young Muslim Americans Today

In The New York Times this week, Andrea Elliott writes about the generation of Muslim Americans who came of age in the decade following 9/11. Drawing on a polyphony of voices, Elliott discovers that, in the ten years since September 11th, some of this country's young Muslims have embraced their faith with a new-found vigor. Others have left it behind. In 2007, Elliott won the Pulitzer Prize for her three-part investigative series “Muslims in America,” an engaging look at the contemporary struggles of one imam in Brooklyn. Arguably the most distinguished chronicler of Muslim life in America, Elliott, a repeat guest on the Charlie Rose show, brings a human touch and deep analysis to reveal a portrait, full and vibrant, of a community still in search of itself. 

Here’s Elliott writing in The New York Times, on “Generation 9/11”:

It is not fully known how this era has shaped America’s younger Muslims. There is limited academic study of this group, despite the attention drawn to it by the recent Congressional hearings into domestic radicalization. But a growing cadre of sociologists, demographers and others who are examining the effects of 9/11 on this generation note several striking patterns. Some young Muslims have turned away from their faith, distancing themselves from their community and even changing their names. 

“In some ways, they became the tragic experiment in what happens when people are bumped from belonging to not belonging,” said Michelle Fine, a professor of psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York who has studied Muslim American youth.

Yet for others, the last decade has brought a very different outcome: a spiritual and civic awakening. In the aftermath of the attacks, the children of Muslim immigrants became the first line of defense against a stream of queries by non-Muslims. They were already accustomed to being ambassadors “of all things Muslim,” said Musa Syeed, 27, a filmmaker from Plainfield, Ind. But the task took on a new intensity as their faith came under scrutiny. In the search for answers to complex theological questions, many drew closer to Islam.

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