On the 25th of August 2007, Affinity Intercultural Foundation held their 2nd annual Youth Panel. The topic of this year panel was ‘I am a Young Australian Muslim because…’
The event began about 7:30pm and Makiz Ansari opened up the panel with a welcoming note to all our guests. It was good to see that although the turn out was low, the 100 to 150 people that did com, were those among the youth, especially from the Muslim community.
All up there were 5 speakers in this panel and they included:
· Assoc Prof Christine Inglis- from Sydney Uni
· Zainab Alttahir-from Auburn Girls High (Yr 12)
· Maher Yaghmour-from AIA (Yr 12)
· Mahsheed Ansari-from UWS (President of UWS Affinity Club)
· Ziya Sahin-from Sydney Uni (President of Sydney Uni Affinity Club)
All speakers added their own touch to the topic and especially the youth speakers who had prior to the event rehearsed rigorously to get their speech and timing perfect. And this they did.
The first speaker up was Christine Inglis who stated that her talk was on the research she had carried out on migrant young people. She basically touched on the fact the migrant youth can be great contributors to their society. That the cliché views that they are outsiders, they don’t fit in and more, are really concepts that stop the full impact the migrant youth can have on our society. She also touched on identity and how this is such an issue with migrant youth, an issue she says can be dealt with through education. It is through education she says, that we can help the youth and the public be aware of one another, and also use education as a tool to help build their sense of identity.
You could tell that the youth speakers were NERVOUS! But as the first youth speaker, Zainab took to the stage, it all changed. Her topic was titled ‘The Collision of My Two Worlds?’. Her speech was based her personal experiencing of being a migrant who grew up in Australia and her struggles to try and balance her ‘2 worlds’. She stated that developing ones identity is very much needed within the youth and that this is not something that can easily be achieved. She however said that it was the struggle of finding her identity in Australia that actually helped her find her place, and her faith, Islam. Her idea was that her two worlds do not conflict with each other, but rather compliment one another. This is concept that was touched by many of the youth that night.
Maher Yaghmour was the second youth speaker for the night, and he certainly delivered! His topic was on ‘To be or not to be’. He basically talked about the rip in the ocean, stating that you either try to fight the rip or you go along with it. Maher said that he sees this ‘ripe’ as the peer pressure that many youth face today. He gave a personal example of how he was conflicted about fighting someone at school, because on one side his friends were telling him to fight and on the other hand he had his conscious which was reminding him chapters from the Quran about patients and forgiveness. In the end he chose not to fight….! He stated that friends play an important role in your life, especially he said in his and that we always think before we re-act.
The third youth speaker was Mahsheed Ansari. Her topic was on ‘Spirituality in Generation Y’. Mahsheed talked about the yearning that the youth have of wanting spirituality. She stated that just because it might not be something that we see often, it does not mean its not there. She went on to say that society should look more to youth and the spirituality that they have to offer, that we should nurture them and give them faith the makes seme to them. All humans she states ask these 3 questions (1) who am I? (2) What is my purpose? And (3) where am I going? Once these questions are satisfactorily answered youth are able to discover their spirituality within the society. She ended her talk by stating that all living begins need to full 2 things in order to be alive, Growth and Contribution. Without either humans are not truly living. It is for this reason that the youth of today need to be nurtured, so that they may grow and contribute to their society.
The final speaker for the night was Ziya Sahin. His topic was ‘Maturing Shoots Bearing Fruits’. Ziya started of talking about his early years in Australia in which he hated to be called an ‘aussie, because he felt a strong tie to his Turkish background’. And how this perception changed as he grew up in Australia and realised how much he was attached to it, i.e. his home, studies and friends. He calls himself a hybrid of the two backgrounds, in that he takes the good from both and fuses’ it together. Ziya also touched on the importance of his faith in his life and how much it has helped him be where he is today. He touched also on the idea of helping our society, especially as youth through education and other venues.
After tea and coffee everyone gathered back for a little entertainment provided by comedian Nazeem Hussain, who by the end of the night had us all in stiches. May God reward the brother who flied from Melbourne purely for this event and ended up missing his flight! God willing he has now safely reached home.
Question and answer time followed and many people in the audience were keen to ask questions. Some of the ones that were read out included, ‘what is the key challenges facing the Muslim youth today’? and ‘do you think universities should give classes on interfaith in order to learn or spread tolerance’? Another question was ‘can Australia except migrants from a different faith background, as they do of migrant who are of the same faith background i.e. Christians?’
The great thing about this panel for me was the fact that each speaker brought their own flare to the topic. I felt as if I was at 5 different panels, all in one…!
Overall the panel was both entertaining and enlightening. In his vote of thanks Mehmet Ozalp summed the night up well when he stated that we need to listen to our youth, we need to give them more attention, and that our society at the moment is not doing so. He stated that the speakers of the night are the emerging Muslim youth of Australia, and that they need to be listened to.