Advancing Muslim American Leadership (AMAL)

Project Overview

A leadership program to involve more young Muslim Americans in the political and civic processes of the United States.

Identifying the Problem

The young Muslim American community is facing a crisis of leadership. In the Muslim community, there is often a tendency to encourage children to focus on becoming doctors, engineers or businesspeople. Many Muslim families always consider these three careers as the only path to success. There is no doubt that these careers are noble professions, but there are many other career paths that young Muslims are discouraged from pursuing. The focus on traditional careers has prevented Muslim Americans from having a critical voice in the important political, economic and social discussions in the United States. Muslim Americans are under-represented in journalism , law and film, which indicates that Muslims lack a strong presence in occupations that influence public policy and public opinion. In addition, some Muslim religious leaders deter young Muslims from pursuing careers in political or social fields, as they consider themselves to be the leaders of the Muslim community. 

Since September 11, 2001, the rate of discrimination and profiling against Muslims has increased, further contributing to their marginalization as a community. The discrimination, harassment and Islamophobia that young Muslim Americans face on a daily basis has led them to feel angry, resentful and skeptical that the American political climate is a friendly place for Muslims or conducive to constructive dialogue.

Muslim American youth do not see role models in their communities who are speaking up about the issues that matter to them. The alienation of this demographic is not only unjust but dangerous, as it can cause violent ideologies to appear appealing. Hasher strongly believed that Muslim Americans must become involved in the political arena if they want to successfully tackle pervasive Islamophobia, the rise of extremism among Muslim youth, and address the issues that concern them most.

Creating A Solution

Hasher decided to develop Advancing Muslim American Leadership (AMAL),  a leadership program that seeks to involve more Muslim youth in the American political and civil processes. The first step will be to create a website that will serve as a space for experienced and young Muslim American professionals in non-traditional careers – such as politics, media, technology and law – to share their stories and offer advice. When young Muslims see examples of other Muslims in these fields, they will be more likely to consider them as legitimate and fulfilling career paths. The website will also have a resource page to inform Muslim American youth about different internships, scholarships and fellowships that can assist them in becoming involved in the political and civic arena. While many Muslim youth qualify for these opportunities, they often do now know that these possibilities exist.

Hasher is currently working with a colleague to develop the website. In the meantime, he is reaching out to Muslim professionals to write blog posts for the website. His goal is to make sure that he has enough material for the first two to three months before he officially launches the project.  Hasher has spoken with the Muslim chaplains on his university campus and they have agreed to not only write blog posts, but have also put him in touch with other experienced Muslim professionals. He has also spoken with a number of young Muslim activists who are willing for writing pieces that share their stories and offer advice. 

Once Hasher launches the website, he will reach out to relevant organizations to raise awareness about the blog posts and resource page. He also plans to expand his project to include a mentorship program, an annual leadership training conference, and a mini-grant project fund for the implementation of civic- and/or political-oriented projects.

Lessons Learned

Hasher encountered two main challenges while creating this project. First, he did not have any experience developing websites, so he had to reach out to friends and see if they would be interested in helping him with this aspect of AMAL. Because Hasher did not have funds to cover the development of a website, he looked for people who could do this work for him free of charge. He found that people are often willing to volunteer their services because they can add your project to their portfolio.

He also had difficulty figuring out the best way to launch a project that required recurring material. After speaking with numerous people, Hasher realized that he would need at least two to three months of material ready to go in order for this project to be successful. Therefore, if your project involves a blog, he recommends thinking ahead and making sure you have enough content on hand before launching the project.

Get Involved!

If you are interested in contributing to Hasher’s project, he would love to hear from you! There are a few ways people can become involved in AMAL. If you are a Muslim who has pursued a non-traditional career, he would like to feature your story on the website. Or, if you know of other Muslims who fit the criteria and may be interested in contributing, you can let them in touch with Hasher. Finally, if there are any fellowship, internship or scholarship opportunities that you would like to raise awareness about, Hasher would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with Hasher here.

Funding

So far, Hasher has only had to pay about $100 for the development of his project's logo and website. The next phases of his project will require considerable funding, and he plans on applying for grants to cover those project-related costs.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

France France 2014

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