There is a specific demographic in our community which is now looked upon with a blend of dismay and apathy. Discussing them, even in jest, is usually done with serious undertones and accompanied by expressions of consternation. We look at them through Orwellian lenses, attributing to their present life a dystopian disposition and predicting in their future failure. I am talking about the ‘Youth’ of our community.
“Who are these ‘yobbos’?”, you ask yourself. They forgo a belt to showcase their Armani boxers. They limp and waddle down the street, challenging evolution’s choice for our gait. Their only contribution to society is noise pollution and the dramatization of conspiracy theories. We all know that it is this generation in particular that has taken things too far. Being a rude-boy is one thing, but smoking in the car park is too much. “They’ll be drinking and clubbing next”, says an Uncle one day. Who are you kidding? They are probably down at Tiger Tiger as we speak. Our youth are a catastrophe.
We find it incredibly easy to condemn young people as disappointments. “They’re straying from our culture and the heritage we inherited from our forefathers” is the mantra widely used. It was also the same thing a father told his young son, Ibrahim, when he came up with this radical idea there was only one God.
I care not for the reasons behind this ‘rude-boyation’ of our youth. I see this as a natural progression of our culture as it is diluted over generations. What I do care for is how our community elders react. You can’t just shrug your shoulders and sigh with displeasure. You can’t just give up on them and pigeon-hole them as outcasts. You can’t just judge them without knowing them, without trying with them. There is definitely a culture of apathy and blame when it comes to our youth and it alienates them.
Doing the opposite and actively engaging them is what is needed. I don’t mean forcing them into futures they don’t want, or squeezing the rude-boy out of them. That only breeds rebels. It’s true that they want freedom. It is also true that they want the community to trust them in their practice of freedom. If we believed in our youth and had hope for them, then the tremulous journey that is adolescence will be less turbulent for both parties. They would always have a community to fall back on, and one they feel they respect, belong and adhere to.
In a few years time, The Salaam Centre will stand tall and proud in North Harrow. It will be the youth of today who will run and represent it. Don’t judge them before you have trusted them. They are our future, and therefore the embodiment of our hopes and aspirations.
I leave you with a quote from E.M Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’:
‘I found out a way of my own.’
The phrase conveyed no meaning to her, and he had to repeat it.
‘A way of your own?’ she whispered. ’But that would be wrong.’
The question shocked her beyond measure.
‘You are beginning to worship the Machine,’ he said coldly.