Generation Change: The Next Generation of American Muslim Leaders

Posted by Farah Pandith
September 8, 2010

About the Author: Farah Pandith is the Special Representative to Muslim Communities.

Last night, the Secretary hosted the State Department's annual Iftar to commemorate the breaking of the day's fast. The Holy Month of Ramadan is a time when Muslims fast from sun up to sun down, and it is period of deep reflection and prayer but also a time to do more than usual for your community.

The 8th floor of the Department of State was buzzing when I arrived. Many folks were out on the balcony enjoying the view and waiting to break their fast. This year's Iftar included a special emphasis on the young generation of American Muslims. Why the generation under the age of 30? Over half of the nearly 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet are under the age of 35, and we want to do more to build stronger long terms partnerships with these young people. Our embassies around the world are focusing on engagement with this young generation of Muslims as well; whether in Muslim-majority countries, or nations where Muslims are a minority, we are finding ways to build partnerships and share ideas.

Prior to the Secretary's Iftar, I hosted a special event for 75 young American Muslim change makers -- a slice of America that I call "Generation Change" -- young, vibrant, idea-filled "doers". These Americans are poets, entrepreneurs, technology gurus, comedians, musicians, grassroots leaders, activists, and designers, to name a few. They are out-of-the box thinkers and agents of change both domestically and internationally. After several guest speakers charged with setting the mood -- Naif Al Mutawa, the creator of The 99 comic books; Herro Mustafa, subject of a film called American Herro; the co-producers of New Muslim Cool, Hana Siddiqi and Kauthar Umar; and comedian Ahmed Ahmed -- the group broke into three separate "think tanks" to discuss issues of religion, culture, identity, and global affairs. Hearing their insightful discussions, I was once again struck by the passion and potential of these young leaders.

Someone asked me where the idea came from to do this "Generation Change" event, and I told them about the Secretary's commitment to reaching out to young people all over the world. In a video message created specifically for these young people and played at the "Generation Change” event, the Secretary encouraged them to become their generation's leaders and stated her belief in their potential to change and shape the world in a positive way.

Notably, many of these youths are using technology to move ideas forward. Their ability to amplify the power of traditional community organizing with new media will allow them to lift their voices beyond their own geographic or cultural boundaries, and their ripple effect will make waves. I hear from young people in America and young people around the world that these networks of change makers can be a launching pad for action.

As we went upstairs to the Iftar, many of these young agents of change were talking to each other about how to keep the momentum going, and I was thrilled to see how excited they were about connecting with each other. Some of them were seated at the Secretary's table and talked to her about their work and passions.

After the call to prayer and the breaking of the fast, the Secretary spoke to these young leaders and other Iftar guests about America's commitment to values going back to the very beginning of our nation, recalling a quote from George Washington. Looking around the room, she said the "real story of Islam in American can be found in this room and rooms across America."

It was a great day, and I feel honored to have met such a tremendous group of amazing young people. I can't wait to see what they will do going forward.



Donald M.
Virginia, USA
September 9, 2010

Donald M. in Virginia writes:

September 8th, 2010

I think regarding Muslim Americans "Do have the right to prayer" Do have the Freedom to build Mosques in the United States. What urks my view, is when as a Christian works in the Middle East, a Muslim (Islamic Country) you are forbidden to practise Christianity. So how is this fair? You can be locked up, placed in Jail for practising you own religion. Be locked up for preaching a Christian view, or having a bible in hand. Before you slam the door on the guy in Florida for burning the holy book of Quoran, remember one other point, Countries in the Middle East have been burning our US Flag, and for all we know continue making those idols to burn. I don't agree with burning any religious book, because this could lead to the bible being burned. I believe the pastor makes a point that "Freedom means Freedom" Besides, if you have "PEACE IN YOUR HEARTS" it wouldn't matter what was being burned, because like the cartoonist in Sweeden, he made a point, that everything should NOT be taken literally, and this is how tempers get out of control. Peaceful people of religon of any kind should NOT embelish in something knowing its going to create chaos. "We as Americans open the doors to Muslims, but Muslims in the Middle East refuse to open the doors and prevent Churches, house of worship to Christians? Refuse to change its laws, or its beliefs to allow for Christians. "If a Muslim converts to a Christian, according to the Muslim belief, this could be going against the Holy Quoran and its treated like being a traitor to it's religon, and they could carry out the death penatly for changing religions." We as Christians HAVE no such belief.

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it's legal to have four brides. This practise is "Illegal" in the United States.

When all the Mosques are built in the United States and Millions of people visit these Mosques, when they start prayer calling from the top of the Mosque,7 days a week, 5 times a day, How will this effect people who are NOT Islam, or NOT muslim faith, how does one paint a picture of ONE Religon being forced upon people who are FREE to decide which religion to pick?

I would like to see more Muslim Women obtain a respect level within the Princes of Saudi Arabia, to the point where they are allowed to make votes in the laws. They should be granted a chance to decide what kind of clothes to wear, or have a voice. They also should be able to drive vehicles, and work.

God, Allah, Jesus, Mohamed, the bottom line is the Lord has many names, and has many people that follow in a multitude of different religions and faiths. When people try to destroy in his name, or a religon try to use God or Allah to acquire an escape goat for the acts of violence they committ, its still wrong. In the end God or Allah will Judge the person, and they will have to answer to a higher court. The consequences of their actions, will be written. The punishment will be by God or Allah. Which means everyone should be nice to each other, respect each others religion, and try not to push any religon on anyone. It should also include "No Burning of any holy material for which is, the written word given by the Holy Father regardless of what language, or belief it is is derived from."

September 9, 2010

Ening in Indonesia writes:

I'm just so happy to know that there are young muslim generation in USA still have time and courage to build the future of this beautiful great religion also to be involved in developing the community. Wish I could help or participate also. Anyway we are the future of the world...


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