Methods: The insights of this study derive from 30 in-depth interviews with Muslim youth from three Canadian metropolitan cities. Participants were identified through social networks, mosques, community organizations, schools and universities in Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver, with 10 participants from each location. Convenient and snowball strategies of data collection were applied with attention to maximum variation strategy to gain a diverse religious and ethnic perspective. In all, we interviewed 18 males and 12 females between the ages 18 and 30, belonging to a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds and coming from various countries of origin including Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Palestine, and Turkey. Narrative inquiry, located within the constructionist framework, has developed as a means of exploring lived experience, making sense, communication, and the interplay of individual and social, cultural and discoursal factors.
Findings: Thematic analysis of 30 interviews with CMY from Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver, identified five major themes: a) The journey of navigating multiple, complex, and hybrid identities; b) Religious identity and spirituality; c) ‘I am not what you think I am’ - Media portrayals of Muslims; d) Claiming inclusion and belonging in the face of anti-Muslim racism; and e) Recommendations. This research contributes to the literature on Muslim youth in western countries and supports a better understanding of the concept of Islamophobia in those societies. Listening to the voices of CMY will help policy makers, practitioners, Muslim communities, and organizations to develop strategies for positive youth development.
Conclusion and Implications: Understanding Muslim youth identity formation from the perspective of youth themselves has brought forward opinions on Islam as a religion and the perceptions about the Islamic teachings and Islamic way of life. Study findings will help the Muslim communities and organizations to develop strategies for positive youth development keeping in view these shared experiences and perceptions. Overall, this study will contribute to the public discourse and policymaking to address the pressing issue of Islamophobia by supporting CMY, reiterating the need for pluralism in Canadian society.