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Being Young and Muslim in America

Younus Abdullah Muhammad, the founder of Revolution Muslim, a controversial group that does not condone or condemn acts of terror.
Today, terrorism in the United States and overseas is often associated with one specific religion - Islam.'s Heba Kanso takes a closer look at how this connection brought Islam to center stage and now has some young Muslim Americans fighting for their identity and belonging.

"You really have to be a hundred times more careful than most people because whatever you do is going to be scrutinized," said Adel Elsohly, a Graduate Student Advisor for the Columbia Muslim Student Association.

Born in Mississippi, 26-year-old Elsohly dealt with the struggle of being Muslim in a predominantly Christian state.

"There were many times when I was at a grocery store, for example, leaving and if I happen to bump into someone you know you get called names," Elsohly said.

Elsohly isn't alone. Louis Cristillo served as a coordinator for a research project called "Muslims in New York City," and looked at the struggles of young Muslim Americans in New York.

Cristillo said that prejudice toward Muslims has heightened since Sept. 11, damaging their sense of belonging in American society.

One controversial Islamic group doesn't feel the need to "belong" in America.

"We would like to see the Islamic identity reign supreme over other identities in the Muslim community," said Younus Abdullah Muhammad, the founder of Revolution Muslim.

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This controversial group preaches their view on the streets of New York City. Although Abdullah Muhammad does not condone nor condemn acts of terror in the United States, he thinks Muslim Americans should look at the reasons behind these violent acts before judging.

"They [Muslim Americans] should look at the cause, and they should understand that terrorism is caused by American foreign policy. Once they make that awareness they should not ridicule nor condemn their brothers and sisters," said Abdullah Muhammad.

Fadhel Al-Sahlani, Sheikh of Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center, disagrees.

"Nobody can act individually in the name of Islam, we [Muslims] cannot. So those who act in the name of Islam especially when it hurt[s] the others they are definitely doing something wrong," argues Al-Sahlani.

With the Islamic religion frequently in the media and violent acts of terror still being committed on U.S. land, Muslims in America are under a constant microscope. And some young Muslim Americans just want to be treated as equals.

"We want to live happily, peacefully with everyone around us. And if we are given that chance and people really do see it as a sincere opportunity, I think they will be pretty pleasantly, surprised," Elsholy said.