National Muslim Youth Survey Results and Analysis

Youth development occurs at a critical period of time where psychological, social and cognitive repertoires are ingrained to cope with the complexities of society. The youth age cohorts (age 14 to 29) are the future gatekeepers of society, where their beliefs, attitudes and self-perception will affect the microscopic community as well as the entire nation.

However, sparse research has been conducted on such topics pertaining to Muslim youth. Hence, a survey was conducted by the Muslim Youth (MY) Spirit, a project of DawaNet and Sound Vision, in April 2013 on topics surrounding religious perceptions, community participation, volunteerism, and relationships with peers, family, and most importantly God:

Below, you will find a summary of our survey findings and recommendations.

Section I: Demographics

  • Total of 511 participants from Canada (63.6% females, 36.45 males)
  • Ages cohort completed the survey as follows: 16-19 (32.31%), 20-24 (29.68%,), 13-16 (20.29% )and 25-29 (15.95% )  [See Figure 1]
  • Largest number of participants identified with a South Asian ethnicity (33.99%)
  • 67.55% of participants were born in Canada or have been in Canada for more than 10 years
  • 75.31% attended a public high school or are currently in university

Figure 1: Age cohorts of participants in the national youth survey

Section II: Relationships -> Family, Friends and Peer Pressure

  • 53.4% of the participants felt that they do not get along with other people
  • 48% of the participants felt that they could not tell their parents the way they feel
    • Higher number of males (52.7%) in comparison to females (45.1%) felt that they could not express their feelings
    • 63.7% of the females and 55% of the males strongly felt that they cared about what their parents think
  • Females (29.8%) felt they could converse with their parents about alcohol and drugs in comparison to males (19.8%)
    • The findings suggest that parent-child relationships are strained as a high proportion of youth feel incapable of expressing their feelings to their parents -> this showcases the presence of a communication gap
    • The communication gap needs to be addressed via creating workshops or other avenues to connect both youth and parents together to engage and promote community outreach
  • Generally, sibling relationships become better overtime
    • 20.3% of the participants (13-16 age cohorts) often get into arguments with their siblings for the age cohort of 13 to 16
    • In contrast to 0.87% for the age cohort of 25-29
  • Peer relations are important since group dynamics can potentially dictate a person’s actions and their beliefs
    • 82% of the youngest age group (13-15) have not tried smoking or drugs because their friends asked them to, in contrast to 50% of the participants aged 30+
    • Reasons for such a finding could be due to the time spent outside with friends (malls etc.), where a limitation might be placed on younger ages than older ones
  • A similar pattern was observed when the participants were asked about trying alcohol at parties due to peer pressure. The results indicated that 85.6% of the 13-16 age cohort participants strongly disagreed with such a statement in comparison to 53.6% aged 30+

Section III: Sources of Islam and Role of Masjids

  • Most crucial sources of Islam were: Parents and Friday Khutbas
    • Hence, involving both parents and imams for youth outreach is critical in equipping the youth population with the knowledge and the capability to succeed as ambassadors of Islam
  • Both male (39.54%) and female (44.93%) participants felt a lack of role models for Muslim youth in the community
  • A significant communication gap between the youth and the imams is observed as 45.4% of male participants and 61.7% of the female participants either disagreed or strongly disagreed with talking to an imam if they had a problem/issue
    • An imam’s role as a guide  is not fully fulfilled in the youth
  • 64% of younger participants (ages 13-16) either agreed or strongly agreed that youth are welcomed and accommodated at their Masjids, in contrast to the older age group (25-29) where 47% believed the same
    • This suggests that about a third of youth in (ages 13-16) cohort and over a half of the older age group (25-29) felt disconnected with the Masjids
  • Both males (70.74%) and females (55.7%) enjoy attending Khutbas on Fridays
    • Khutbas can be modified to cover topics surrounding youth challenges to promote connectivity with the imam, which will also encourage an open dialogue between the two parties

Section IV: Relationship with God and Self Perceptions

  • Many participants cited laziness for not praying
    • The finding was consistent in all age groups, especially in younger age groups (30.7%) of  13-16 
  • A  struggle to practice Islam was seen through this survey
    • This could be due to the lack of encouragement in their surroundings as many participants (41.33%) have experienced islamophobic actions
    • Struggle to practice Islam was also cited as one of the biggest challenges one faces as a Muslim 
  • The survey also found that 52.14% of males and 61.03% of females felt that they have a strong relationship with Allah 

Figure 2: Reasons that survey participants cited for not praying.

  • Reportedly, many participants make Dua or supplicate (20.3%), followed by increase in Salah or prayer (10.77%), and reading/listening to the Quran (12.75%) to fight depression

    • Interestingly, a larger number of females (42.1%) admitted to being depressed or sad for more than two weeks in a row in comparison to males (30.68%)

    • Development in dealing with Muslim youth in distress is essential in creating healthy, productive citizens who pave the road for future generations
  •  76.9% of participating Muslim youth were proud to call and identify themselves as Muslim.
    • This notion is paralleled by the fact that 55.1% of the participants either agreed or strongly agreed that Canadians are welcoming to Muslims

The Canadian Muslim identity is an important notion for which development through workshops, conferences, self-contemplation, volunteerism is required. Both males and females participants desired to develop their Muslim identity via two means:

  • Education (22.57% males and 22.3% females) and the second is volunteerism (21.21% males and 24.31% females) [See Figure 2]. Art and Creative Expression combined were the third most cited source of identity development among young Muslims.

    • Generally, all age cohorts liked to volunteer for mainstream community events (outside Muslim community), but this trend decreases as the age cohort increases due to busier lifestyle (family life, professional life, personal issues etc.
    • The highest interest for volunteerism happens at a young age

    • This seems to be a critical time to engage youth in such activities, as 38.19% of participants aged 13-16 in contrast to 23.9% of the participants aged 25-29 want to volunteer

Figure 3: Avenues through which youth want to explore their Muslim identity.

Section V: Concluding Thoughts, Remarks, Call for Action, Future Research

The National Youth Survey shed light into the key challenges Canadian Muslim youth face today. A call to action is required for the lessons learned to promote Muslim youth development, engagement and empowerment in Canada.

  • Struggle to practice Islam in public is one of the major findings of this survey; many youth are concerned about the anti-Islamic hysteria in media and public
  • Lack of mentors and role models for young Muslims is another issue highlighted by the participants
  • Two important sources of Islamic knowledge: parents and Friday Khutbas (sermons); thus involving both parents and imams for youth outreach is critical in equipping the youth population with the knowledge and the capability to succeed as ambassadors of faith
  • An imam’s role as a guide is not fulfilled in the youth age cohort
  • A third of youth in (ages 13-16) cohort and over a half of the older age group (25-29) felt disconnected with the Masjids
  • Participants desired to nurture their Muslim identity via three means: education, volunteerism, and artistic / creative expression; community organizations, youth groups, and Masjids must focus on enhancing programs that engage and develop young Muslims in these areas
  • Muslim youth like to volunteer. Highest interest for volunteerism occurs at a young age, which is when their positive energies and creative talents should be utilized and nurtured
Not surprisingly, a lot of the survey findings confirmed the findings by a Thinking Retreat on "Challenges Faced by Canadian Muslim Youth" held in December 2012, where over 50  Imams, community leaders, youth activists, MSA leaders, artists, social workers, teachers, and concerned parents, came together to brainstorm on challenges surrounding engaging young Muslims in Canada. Check out the top 10 challenges the retreat highlighted.

It is vital for all stakeholders in the youth engagement and development (i.e. parents, teachers, Imams, community leaders, social service providers, counselors, and youth leaders) to take the challenges young Muslims face today seriously. 

If we are truly concerned about engaging and educating young Muslims in Canada to produce productive, confident, and caring citizens, who are comfortable with their Islamic identity, spirituality, and heritage, then following four action steps are needed: a creative strategy, a dedicated budget, a welcoming non-judgmental environment, and compassionate people focused on reaching out to Muslim youth.

If you have questions or concerns about this survey, please contact Sidra Satti @

If you would like to help out with or collaborate with MY Spirit in its youth engagement initiatives, please contact us @