Canadian Muslim youth seeking to engage in society

New study focuses on youth political and civic engagement

(June 23, 2011) – Canadian Muslim youth are highly engaged in volunteering in their local communities, and are open to being more involved in the political process, according to a new study from the Tessellate Institute.

The study, “A Willingness To Engage: Canadian Muslim Youth and Political Participation,” funded by the Olive Tree Foundation, and co-sponsored by Muslim, Education, Training and Outreach Service (MENTORS), is co-authored by Drs Katherine Bullock and Paul Nesbitt-Larking.  The report is a pilot study, based on in-depth interviews with 20 Muslim youth, aged fifteen to twenty-four, male and female, in the GTA and London, Ontario.

It will be released at the Olive Tree Foundation’s gala dinner at the Novotel Hotel, Toronto, on Sunday June 26, 2011, 5.00 pm.

The report finds that Canadian Muslim youth fit the same broad patterns of political participation as other Canadian youth – mostly not involved in formal politics, but highly engaged in informal politics, or civic engagement and volunteerism.

“The interviews revealed that in spite of a media narrative that focuses on Muslim youth as alienated from Canada, to the contrary, our interviewees feel a deep and positive attachment toward Canada and are willing and interested in engaging in the political community,” says Nesbitt-Larking.  “It is important for government and community leadership, the media, and citizens to acknowledge, affirm, celebrate, and foster such attachment, as it will set in place a virtuous cycle of encounter, opportunity, joint agency, and political achievement among young Muslims as well as between them and the wider political community.”

“The youth’s attachment to Canada is, however, fragile,” adds Bullock, “as many feel that with security certificates, the treatment of Omar Khadr by the federal government, and worries over being targeted as ‘terrorists,’ that Muslims are being treated as second-class citizens in their own country.”

Bullock and Nesbitt-Larking hope the study will improve our understanding of the positive contributions Canadian Muslim youth make to Canada.  They urge governments and community leaders to capitalise on Muslim youth’s willingness to engage with outreach programmes designed to involve them in the political process.