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American Islam, the Next Generation: Young Adult Muslim Americans on Campus — Faith, Identities, Citizenship, Gender, and Pluralism


This dissertation highlights context and the contours of the religious discourse of young adult Muslim Americans on university campuses in the Pacific West of the United States. It specifically focuses on the second generation children of Muslim immigrants and their leadership approaches to college Muslim Student Associations [MSA]. Based off data from eighty in-depth interviews with this population and some converts, extensive participant observation, and an online survey, this study also employs sociological analysis, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and comparative ethics to identify the ways this demographic draws on scriptural sources to articulate the significance of their faith in an American environment. Chapter One explores the social matrix in which heritage Muslims come to embrace and assert Islam as a central facet of their personal identity. In particular it identifies the importance of family upbringing, peer relationships, prejudice and stereotyping of Muslims, and multiculturalism. Chapter Two discloses many core features of a “Muslim” identity, and how it relates to their nationality “American” and various other demarcations and activities of their personal identity. Chapter Three presents MSAs’ institutional practices and individual interpretations related to envisioned binaries of male and female, analyzing how they believe women and men should relate to each other on campus, in families, and in their roles in public life. It also presents their perspectives of homosexuality. Chapter Four tackles the question of how young Muslims conceptualize and deal with religious, ethnic, and racial differences. This chapter discloses dynamics of inclusivity, prejudice, trans-ethnic friendship, marriage ideals with ethnic others, and young Muslims’ sometimes embracing and sometimes censuring Islamic sectarian diversity. It also divulges their perspectives on soteriology of non-Muslims. This research counters previous simplifications of young American Muslims on campus as fundamentalist, exclusive, uncritical, and militant yet also complicates reifications of them as liberal, democratic, and inclusive, presenting their diverse interpretations to their faith and detailing the particular ways and for what purposes they perform conservative, exclusive, liberal, and inclusive approaches to Islam. This dissertation reveals young adult Muslim Americans on campus creatively negotiate what they learn about their Islamic tradition with American ideals, constituting diverse expositions of their Faith.

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