Herrera, Linda, and Asef Bayat, eds. Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. xv + 428 pages. Paper, $29.95.
This compilation of twenty essays plus an introductory and concluding essay written by the editors is a fine piece of work. The approaches taken in the essays are varied but common themes unite them. Some come from a more historical perspective while others are based upon case studies. Most focus on the micro level of, for example, Muslim youth in Niger or France or Brooklyn, or Muslim youth and Western music genres, or street racing, or Rastafarian hair and dress. The essays, combined, cover a large geographical swath which illustrates the near ubiquitous presence of Islam on the planet. Some deal with youthful responses to traditional Islamic mores and practice while others narrate the intrusion of Western culture into the Islamic world, particularly through the Internet and, most particularly, through music. Some essays narrate stories of faithfulness to traditional Islam among youth; others tell of youthful abandonment of aspects of traditional Islam. Radical Islam is also touched upon, particularly its allure for some young Muslims, mostly young men. Overall, this is a very diverse set of essays that maintain a high level of readability and kept this reviewer's interest throughout.
To begin, the essays define "youths" as "roughly between 15-29 years old, born in the years ranging from 1979-1993" (p. 9). The definition of being Muslim is much broader, from those who are devout, to those who self-identify as Muslim but do not go to Mosque or otherwise practice Islam, to those who set themselves against Islam such as fans of metal music. The fundamental question addressed "... is how does this generation of Muslim youth operate within the multiple constraints and opportunities of being young, Muslim, marginalized, and subjects of social control?" (p. 11).
There are several broad themes which appear throughout these essays. One is that of the youth boom in the Global South as well as Muslim communities in Western countries. This boom, coupled with high youth unemployment, even for university graduates, is discussed by many of the contributing authors to this volume. For some youth, this problem is solved by turning to the active practice of Islam. For others, it is solved by embracing radical Islam. Still others turn to street racing or metal music. The...