Demand for US-born imams up as mosques struggle to retain new generation of American Muslims
Washington Post: NAHEIM, Calif. — Mustafa Umar, an imam in Southern California, is popular with the Muslim teenagers who attend his mosque. They pepper him with questions about sensitive topics like marijuana use, dating and pornography.
Umar, 31, is a serious Islamic scholar who has studied the Quran in the Middle East, Europe and India — but he’s also a native Californian, who is well-versed in social media and pop culture, and can connect with teens on their own terms.
That pedigree is rare — 85 percent of fulltime, paid imams in the U.S. are foreign-born — but the demand for people like him is growing as American Muslim leaders look for ways to keep the religion relevant for young people in a secular country that cherishes freedom of expression.
“That’s all you hear in every mosque around the country now: ‘We need someone who can connect with the youth.’ And everyone is waiting for that person, like he’s a superhero who can come and save the day,” said Umar, who started his job nine months ago.