THE BLOG
08/06/2015 12:49 BST | Updated 08/06/2016 06:59 BST

For African-American and Muslim-American Youth Is Violence The Only Answer?

As Summer begins to heat up tensions are not cooling down.

Here in the US food is still scarce on grocery store shelves in West Baltimore weeks after the violence in the streets protesting the death of Freddie Gray. In Les Banlieues, neighborhoods of Paris, young French Muslims protest abhorrent living conditions and the scarcity of jobs. Worldwide the unrest among our youth is reaching a feverish climax.

In the aftermath of Ferguson, Staten Island, LA, North Charleston and Cleveland disenfranchised young Black men and women in towns like Baltimore can only anticipate the very next time a tragic shooting, beating or an unwarranted incarceration may transform their neighborhood into the latest example of justice gone haywire proving to them once again that Black Lives May Not Matter.

For Muslim youth worldwide the stakes also seem to be growing higher on a daily basis.

Muslim women and girls whose only offense is piety and commitment to their faith suffer the humiliation of torn head scarfs and verbal abuse from intolerant Americans reacting irrationally to other forms of prejudice and hatred.

Violent clashes erupt in Newcastle, UK as 400 anti-Islam protesters demonstrate - part of the Pegida movement.

In reaction to these brutal acts here in the US, the UK and elsewhere some young Muslim men and women are confronted with choosing a violent path to counter the disconnection they feel from their own society and the hatred they experience from their fellow citizens.

With the 24 hour mainstream and social media documenting every step of these tragic events, Black youth take to the streets to gain attention, recognition and support while what is mostly covered are images of young men and women going head to head with local police while inhibiting firefighters from putting out blazes in their own neighborhoods.

It is now 50 years since the Watts Riots of August 1965 and 23 years since the Rodney King beatings in 1992.

Not much has changed.

Despite all the efforts toward racial equality from the Emancipation Proclamation to the 13th Amendment, from Plessy vs. Fergusson to Brown vs. the Board of Education, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Poor Peoples March on Washington to the election of the first Black President in 2008, the economic and social divide between White and Black Americans stubbornly persists....we still remain separate and unequal.

For Muslim youth worldwide it is a daily struggle to balance their desire to be like all the other American, British and French youth while at the same time remaining true to their religion.

Young Muslim Americans and young Black Americans are both disaffected and disconnected for many of the same reasons.

They are uniformly portrayed in the most negative way - highlighting the actions of the worst members of their community as stereotypical of the whole community.

Unfortunately, the A student, community leader and model citizen from either group simply isn't "news".

In America this is especially ironic since this is a nation that was founded as a haven for religious freedom and a place where, if you were willing to work hard, you could carve out and secure your own destiny.

'The American Dream' - what previous generations considered a birthright, for the disconnected and disenfranchised youth it is only a cruel fantasy, something to be mocked and scorned.

Where is our American and global society going wrong?

Are we at a generational, moral or economic crossroads?

The answer is an affirmative Yes to all three.

According to 'Generation Opportunity' - a national, non-partisan youth advocacy organization, in announcing its Millennial Jobs Report for May 2015 - youth unemployment rate, those between 18-29 year olds, including those who have given up looking for work is as follows:

Youth Overall - 13.6 % ; African-Americans - 19.2% ; Hispanics the rate is 13.9%

Interestingly the unemployment rate for Women in the 18-29 year old age range is 11.6 %

In Great Britain where it is being called "The worst youth unemployment rate in 20 yrs",

the percentage of the unemployed ages 16-24 is 14.4%.

The overall unemployment rate in the UK is 5.7%. Not far off from the States at 5.5%.

The US and UK almost seem bullish however, compared to France with 25% and the rest of the EU averaging around 21% of unemployed youth.

Why are these statistics so important?

Because behind every number is a young person feeling the full force of fear, anxiety, prejudice and even hopelessness.

Disaffection and discrimination block the opportunities for so many of these young Millennials to gain the tools and respect necessary to fully participate in main stream society.

In America education and the opportunity to get a good job were the building blocks of a strong middle class - just ask anyone who is successful today and you will hear a story that echoes that theme.

White, Black and Muslim Americans of all ages need to find new ways to engage with one another - more mistrust and violence cannot be the answer.

There are too many dangerous and evil individuals just waiting to take advantage of our disillusioned youth including ISIL.

They stand ready to pounce on our vulnerable young people here in America, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

We have seen the slick successful recruiting tools of ISIL pledging to offer a glorious alternative to the hardships confronted daily by our own children throughout the global community.

In my recent conversations with some members of the Muslim-American youth community the question that inevitably comes up - Is Islam compatible with our western culture?

The answer has been an overwhelmingly positive Yes!

The broad consensus is that Islam and American culture are 100% compatible and that people who follow this view are the true American Muslims. They believe they are the patriots, the activists, the volunteers, the unseen heroes, as well as devout followers of their beloved prophet and religious creed.

The good news is that their numbers are growing, and that they're on a "righteous and stable American and Muslim path."

However, the number of Muslim youth in America who do not yet see themselves as American Muslims are at risk from being influenced in the wrong way by their western friends of diverse background or by being deluded by organizations claiming to be of the same faith, like ISIL.

All Muslim youth want is just to be accepted in the community, among their family and friends and most importantly in the eyes of God.

Those basic wants become harder and harder to achieve each day the media over exposes the "wretched actions of the few lunatics." This paints an ugly illusion called "cultural clash" to the whole of the American public.

It creates an identity crisis for the already at-risk Muslim youth in America.

Those who I've spoken to also believe that the media needs to "fix their broken lenses and see us as part of the solution."

And that Muslims should be the greatest solution to the Muslim problems of the Middle East. "Utilize the true American Muslims as both ambassadors of Islam and ambassadors of the West, and maybe you'll end groups, like ISIL, even thinking of approaching our vulnerable youth."

The challenge for all of us is clear. Now is our time as a nation along with our allies Great Britain, France, Germany and all the EU along with our partners in Africa, the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsular and Russia, as members of the global community, to start listening to one another and begin walking in our brother's and sister's shoes perhaps for the first time.

And if you think this is just "feel good" rhetoric, have another think...Civilization depends on our next generations not succumbing to the seduction of evil.

This is a challenge that cannot be won alone with military might whether on foreign soil or on the streets of our American cities. It must be won by changing the hearts and minds of individuals on both sides of the divide - to learn to see each other as a reflection of who we are and not as strangers.

MORE: