Community members discuss solutions to social issues at the “Voices of Muslim Youth” town hall meetingWritten by Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
It was mostly a gathering of the youth, and their message was clear: Muslim community leaders should take care of the community's most vulnerable.
The first town hall meeting of the “Voices of Muslim Youth” (VOMY) was a moving experience. Some 85 people attended, mostly but not all youth, including a big number of sisters. The evening included presentations, maghrib prayers (sunset prayers) and questions, as well as comments from the floor. Some 30 to 40 people stayed until the end.
Though the invited panelists had their say, many members of the audience spoke out, passionately, forcefully, with the plea: “Do not close your eyes to the problems that the community, especially the youth, face. They need your help.”
The organizers must have been elated because VOMY “believes the youth with their energy, unique perspectives and experiences are a critical element in finding solutions, hand in hand with established organizations, for our societal problems. As the future, [youth] will strengthen our place in Canada, and are ambassadors for our community and our faith.”
”[Voices of Muslim Youth] “believes the youth with their energy, unique perspectives and experiences are a critical element in finding solutions, hand in hand with established organizations, for our societal problems. As the future, [youth] will strengthen our place in Canada, and are ambassadors for our community and our faith””
The panelists were Saad Rashid, of the Investors Group, Mohamed Saeed, a social worker for Children's Aid Society, Imam Zijad Delic of South Nepean Muslim Community and Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan, the founding president of the Muslim Coordinating Council of the National Capital Region.
Mr. Saad Rashid emphasized that Muslims have the options of halal (permissible) investment and that they can and should increase their assets. He offered to help through advice. Mr. Mohamed Saeed stated that raising children competently is the parents' responsibility, but that, when they fail, the Children's Aid Society steps in, which sometimes creates complications. He advised the audience to make family raising a priority and to become familiar with the child protection system. Imam Zijad advised the youth to serve the community and the country. Mr. Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan emphasized the need for God-consciousness, unity, discipline, team work and wisdom to uplift the community and also to serve Canada. If we follow Islam faithfully, he said, we will be successful and will become leaders in Canada in all fields. He spoke of the Muslim Coordinating Council's efforts to uplift the community through unity, reaching out, inclusiveness, accountability and mutual respect.
However, the evening clearly belonged to the audience. They spoke unhesitatingly about the need for Muslim organizations to work together and to focus on the real needs of the community.
The panels were given the following instructions to seek “Unity Through Purpose”:
- How can we unite our families?
- What are the experiences of Muslim children with the Children's Aid Society?
- Why is youth representation in our organizations so low?
- Where should we invest as a community?
- Halal investments: where to start?
- Why are Islamic schools in Ottawa not more widely supported?
- How do we show Islamic values are Canadian values?
- Where, as a community, can we get our voices heard?
- How do we form a lobby?
The panelists praised VOMY for its productive approach and said all Muslims and Islamic organizations should work closely to serve the Muslim community and Canada.
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