“The Silence of ‘Others’” documents the lived experience of young Muslims in Western countries. By studying their experiences, it is an attempt to decipher how various issues—social, political, legal, cultural and economic—are fuelling the alienation of Muslim youth.

I am not a Muslim but the ceaselessly deepening chasm between Muslims and non-Muslims concerns me immensely. As a teenager, I spent countless afternoons playing cricket in the courtyard of a large Mosque in India. Even today, some of my closest friends are Muslims. And alongside the many Muslims in America and Europe, I share a common socio-political history and the broader experience of being an immigrant. Their struggles with identity or belongingness are very much like my own.

Therefore, it pains me to observe how an unhealthy obsession with the “war against terror” has given birth to a perpetual climate of paranoia and xenophobia. And how a resentful minority section of Muslim youth in the West has begun to heed the pied pipers of Islamic jihad.

Of course, expert solutions are being offered on how to effectively “integrate” young Muslims in Western societies, but I think it is more important to analyze why has the need arisen to “integrate” people who were born and belong to these countries. It is important to understand what factors persuade young Muslims to adopt an isolationist or radical approach to the place of their birth.

Since 2012, I have been documenting how religious discrimination coupled with other issues—ethnic profiling, institutional racism, poverty, dilapidated housing, high unemployment, rampant crime and drug abuse—contribute to the disillusionment and alienation of young Muslims in France. My work observes how everyday events influence the “lived experience” of young Muslims.

I photograph my subjects at their homes and on the streets. Rejecting the clutter of reductive assumptions and prevalent stereotypes—like veils, beards, skullcaps, prayers, Mosques, animal slaughters, Eid hugs—I am attempting to document what it truly means to be a young Muslim in the West. I am photographing their activities, behaviors, hidden emotions, personal opinions, private lives and public interactions. I believe that these photographs can help bring forth an understanding of how Muslim youths view their personal identity, democratic citizenship, social relationships, political participation, economic equality and most importantly, their wellbeing.

—Bharat Choudhary