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News ->The next generation of Muslim community leaders.

The next generation of Muslim community leaders
(7 October 2008)

Hazel BlearsCommunities Secretary Hazel Blears and Children and Families Secretary Ed Balls today launched a new Young Muslim Advisory Group (YMAG) and unveiled the names of the twenty two young people who will act as advisors. The group will work directly with Government to help deepen its engagement with young Muslims. The advisors will talk to ministers and policy makers first hand about the issues affecting their day to day lives. Ranging in age from 16-25 this unique group is comprised of individuals from across England and across denominations and includes students, undergraduates as well as a trainee lawyer, youth leaders, a speech and language therapist.

Commenting on the launch of the Young Muslim Advisory Group of twenty two young British Muslims to advise the government on ‘Muslim issues’, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, said: “This is another example of the government engaging with the British Muslim communities on the basis purely of their faith. There are many issues that face young people: drugs, unemployment and housing, to name but a few.

“To select a group of twenty two young people, however talented they may be, to advise the government on ‘Muslim issues’ is patronising and deeply concerning. When will the Government learn that the Muslim community is not a homogenous block, and the issues its young people face are predominantly the same issues that all young people in this country face, whatever their background, race, or religion?

“Actions such as this are a continuation of the Government’s policy of state multiculturalism, which creates a more divided Britain.”

The Young Muslim Advisory Group (YMAG) will have direct access to senior cabinet ministers and will work with Government departments to find solutions to a range of challenges including tackling discrimination; increasing employment levels; preventing extremism and boosting civic participation.

The young advisors will bring a wide range of experience. All are already heavily involved in their local communities through volunteering, youth work or as representatives on local groups. The advisors have a huge reach into communities and this contact will help to generate debate and discussion amongst the widest possible audience.

Hazel Blears said:"There are over 800,000 Muslims under the age of 25 living in the UK but we don't hear enough from them. Ensuring young Muslims have access to constructive, democratic channels for dealing with concerns and frustrations is crucial to our efforts to build strong, resilient communities.

"The contribution young people can make to finding solutions to issues in society often goes unrecognised and untapped. Young Muslims have a vital role to play in challenging prejudice and preconceptions both within their community and in wider society and I want to hear directly from these young people on a wide range of issues.

"The group will help to highlight what it means to a young British Muslim today, what the challenges and issues - social, cultural or economic - are and how we can best work together to address them, making sure that their voices and those of their peers are heard by the Government. These impressive individuals represent the next generation of Muslim community leaders and I look forward to working with them."

Muslim Communities in the UK

Muslim communities in the UK have an unusual age profile compared to the rest of the UK population. One third of the Muslim UK population of 1.6 million is under the age of 16 (compared to England average of 20%); 54% are under the age of 25 years and 70% under the age of 35 years. Experience has also shown that young Muslims - particularly between the ages of 16-24 - are the most vulnerable to being drawn into violent extremism.

The Government is raising its work with young Muslims to a new level in order to increase opportunities for young people to play a greater role in civic society, give them a stronger voice in their communities and engage in discussions that will help the government to find solutions to some of the most pressing issues.

The Advisory Group will give these young people a seat at the table of the Department for Communities and Local Government, and Children Schools and Families. They will speak on behalf of their peers and communities on issues that cut to the heart of what it is to be a British Muslim in today's modern society.

The first meeting of the young advisors will be chaired by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears and Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls.

Activities of the group will include:

* Delivering a youth conference for around 300 young people to discuss the challenges they face as young Muslims and their vision for their future as British Muslims

* To work with a range of departments across government to develop a wider programme of work with young people to encourage active citizenship through increased volunteering.

* Work with the DCSF on a shadow youth PSA board. This board will focus on addressing issues such as reducing the number of 16-18 year olds not in education and employment; reducing teenage pregnancy and tackling use of drugs and alcohol by young people.

* The Government keen to get the views of the group on a wide range of issues that affect them including:

* The development and delivery of faith projects, including addressing issues of theology;

* Work to tackle radicalising material on the internet;

* An examination of how best to boost the representation and participation of young Muslims is civic life such as becoming local councillors or school governors.

The members of the Young Muslims Advisory Group appointed today are:

Arzoo Ahmed, 22 from East Didsbury, Manchester

Recently graduated from Oxford University with a physics degree. A member of a number of organisations including Islam and Muslim Awareness Project she is also on the executive board of the Federation of Student Islamic Studies and whilst at Oxford served as Vice President, Secretary and events coordinator at the Oxford University Islamic Society

Magda Ali, 20 Islington, London

Works as a freelance journalist and has worked as a volunteer for Islamic Relief and a fundraiser for Muslim Aid. Magda is an undergraduate at City University where she studies Journalism and economics.

Aziza Al-Yassin, 18 from Brent, London

A 2nd year student studying medicine at Kings College London, she is the chairwoman of Noor Youth, a subcommittee of the Ahlul Hayt Society at Kings.

Mohammed Shaiful Amin, 18 from East London

Just starting a degree in medicine at Kings College London. He is currently the President of the Islamic Society of Tower Hamlets and works locally with young people as an outreach worker.

Faheem Ayyub, 24 from Brixton

Youth work coordinator in Lambeth, Faheem is a qualified mentor and also counsels young people who have been in prison or are in trouble with the police.

Raffein Azzam, 25 from Derby

Currently works as a speech and language therapist. Alongside her career commitments she has also been heavily involved in local voluntary work in Derby for the last two years. As well as acting as chair of Lil Muslimah, a voluntary Muslim women's organisation which represents women in the city, Raffein is a member of the Derby Muslim Forum and works as both presenter and part of the management team at the local community radio station Radio Ikhlas.

Farah Elahi, 19 from Willesden Green, London

An undergraduate at the School of Oriental and African Studies studying Economics and Development studies, Farah is a member of the association of Muslim researchers, the SOAS Islamic Society and the South Asian Society. She has recently completed an internship at Christian Aid.

Zahrah Foy, 20 from Blackburn

Currently studying for a degree at the University of Lancashire.

Talha Ghannam, 18 from Knowle, Solihull

Currently studying maths and economics at the London School of Economics. He is a member of the Solihull Muslims Community Association and during 2006 -07 worked with the UK Youth Parliament as elected member for Solihull. He is currently employed as a consultant for the National Youth Agency.

Kulsam Gulamhusein, 17 from Harrow, London

A committee member of the youth panel at the Shia Ithna'ashari Community of Middlesex (SICM) Kulsum also teaches the Quran, has established an Islamic society at his school and founded a cross country team.

Bilal Khalid Hanjra, 19 from Surrey

Currently studying accountancy and Business Law at Portsmouth University and is a representative for the Kingston Muslim Youth Association.

Aisha Iqbal, 24 from Selly Park, Birmingham

She is an active member of Hear My Voice - an organisation that encourages young people to have a say on issues that matter to them.

Sabiha Iqbal, 17 from Heaton, Bradford.

Currently studying at Leeds University she is from Heaton in Bradford. A member of the Bradford Youth Service she set up her own not for profit organisation how to drum and perform poetry. She is a member of the Bradford Socialist Workers Party and of the organisation Love Music Hate Racism. She also volunteers part time at the Barnados Charity shop and writes on a freelance basis for a number of magazines.

Khadija Aqil, 16 from Whalley Range, Manchester

Currently at college, she has taken part in a number of conferences discussing issues relating to topical issues around Islam and British Society.

Fahad Khan, 21 from Leeds

A student from Bradford studying International Relations and Security Studies at Leeds University. He is a project development worker for the Leeds Muslim Youth Forum. Following the 7/7 attacks Fahd took part in a consultation event in Leeds where he raised issues with the former PM Tony Blair and has since engaged with former Lord Nazir Ahmed and Baroness Warsi on a range of issues.

Ibrhaim Khan, 17 from Thornaby, Durham

Currently studying for 7 A levels, he is also part of the Islamic Awareness group which works with Muslims and non- Muslims, Thornaby Muslim Association, Thornaby cricket club, works at Al-Haaydiyah (an Islamic school that teaches Muslim children Islam) as well as serving as an Imam in the local mosque. He has previously attended the Global Young Leaders Conference in Washington DC and New York - which bought together 400 academically gifted teenagers from across the world to educate them about world leadership.

Ali-Abbas Khimji, 18 from Watford

Previously worked as a secretary at the local Ansar Youth project organising various events for young people in the local area. Currently studying, Ali-Abba has previously worked as a youth worker where he helped to engage parents in workshops to see what they perceived to be their children's greatest concerns in Britain today.

Usman Ahmed Nawaz, 18 from Rochdale

A member of the UK Youth Parliament for the Borough of Rochdale. Usman is also a member of the Sufi Muslim Council where he coordinate activities for young people. Through this role he has developed an understanding of how vulnerable young Muslims can be susceptible to radicalisation and this has helped him to develop strategies to deter Muslims from organisations linked to terror. Also a local DJ, he works as a presenter on Crescent Community radio station and currently hosts a phone in programme which often deals with controversial issues around Islam.

Senay Nihat, 21 from Ilford Essex

Senay recently graduated from Oxford University, (modern History and politics) and is hoping to be a barrister. Currently taking a year off before starting law school she is working as a project officer for the organisation MyBnk, a social enterprise which teaches financial and enterprise skills to young adults and disadvantaged groups in inner city London.

Saad Qureshi, 20 from Brixton in London

Alongside studying for a degree in Business Management, Saad has also taken up a post as an assistant teacher at the London College of Business. He is a member of the Stockwell Green Youth Project and represents young Muslims in the borough through his role on the board of the Lambeth Muslim Forum.

Asma Rahman, 21 East London

A recent graduate of Oxford University where she studied English, Asma is currently a volunteer mentor for the London School of Excellence in Whitechapel. Whilst at Oxford she was Vice President and editor of the newsletter for the Islamic Society.

Abdullah Saif, 22 from Hall Green, Birmingham

As well as working as a trainee solicitor for the last year he has been a cub scouts leader for the Birmingham 304th Muslim cub scouts group. Whilst studying at Keele University he was twice voted president of the universities Islamic Society and he also set up the first Islamic Society at the College of Law in Birmingham.

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