"Elite" young Muslims in Britain: Generational location and political participation
Development Studies University of Cambridge Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
Two paradigms on young western Muslims have come to dominate the popular imagination: the first (clash theory) contends that current conflicts between the west and Muslim countries will, inexorably, end in a major confrontation between Islam and the west and that Muslim youth, in the Middle East and Europe, are playing a significant role in this development. The second (deterritorialization theory) claims that young western Muslims, unsettled by the dislocations of globalization and modernity, are increasingly turning towards radical politics or pure Islam to resolve a crisis of identity resulting from being territorially dispersed. Between these lie more subtle approaches which acknowledge the differentiated currents among young western Muslims. This paper situates itself in this space: by focusing on a cohort of "elite" young British Muslims, it highlights an often overlooked current of thinking whereby sectarianism/localism has been replaced with a commitment to benign cosmopolitanism and universal principles such as human rights, reinforcing the view that ethnic politics and cosmopolitanism are not mutually exclusive. This cohort of young Muslims are less home-centred (i.e. transnational) than their parents' generation and more global in political orientation. This shift is explained by inter-generational differentiation based on a combination of generational experiences and resources which combine to forge an active, strategic generation.