There are some Muslim leaders and imams who deliver a message of “relevance.” They say that if Muslims are going to be able to preserve their faith in non-Muslim societies, they have to be open to adopting the native cultural forms, to integrate with common social practices (so long as they are permissible), and let go of cultural baggage that the previous generations brought to the West.

This message is coming from a good place and it has truth in it but it should be exclusively directed to the older generations of immigrants, i.e., those over 45 or 50 years old. The same message, however, should not be given to the average Muslim youngster or young adult who will very easily misinterpret it.

The average Muslim teen or young adult, for example, has no trouble “fitting in.” In fact, he is a professional at it. Telling these kids to plug themselves into the wider culture is preaching to the choir. They are already plugged in to the max and most of the time need to be unplugged, if anything.

Being able to distinguish what components of wider social practice are aligned with Islamic ethics and values and what components are contrary to them is not a trivial task. But figuring that out is necessary before Muslims further engorge themselves at the socio-cultural buffet.

High school prom is a simple example. Nothing is more “relevant” and culturally significant in the American high school experience than prom. If Muslim kids are to fit in, attending prom is a given. And that is what these Muslim kids want to do anyway, and now, after hearing what shaykh fulan has said about being a part of the melting pot, they see their actions as religiously justified, so much so that even the thought that attending prom might be something bad, unseemly, or sinful never occurs to them. Until you have a generation of Muslims where 90%+ are attending prom. Some of them even attend prom in hijab and feel like they are sending a powerful message to their non-Muslim classmates: See, Muslim women are empowered! And the hijab means choice! And freedom! And blah blah barf.