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CAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator Amina Sharif spoke to the Islamic Center of Naperville Weekend School’s youth group on Sunday, November 13th, about how to be an effective Muslim leader. The audience included about 100 middle school and high school students from the Naperville area.
Sharif began by discussing how American perceptions of Muslims at home and abroad are generally negative due to lack of knowledge and familiarity with Islam and Muslims. The students then brainstormed ideas about how they can improve these perceptions. They came up with ideas such as volunteer work, organizing interfaith and inter-cultural events, writing for local newspapers, and doing internships with their congressmen, local media, and community organizations.
Sharif also quizzed the students on their knowledge about the history and demographics of Muslims in American and the Muslim world at large to gauge their level of awareness and educate them in a fun and interactive way. It also helped break down the students’ own preconceived notions about their community. In another activity, Sharif provided tips on how to be an effective spokesperson, answer tough questions, and accurately and positively represent the Muslim community. The students paired up and took turns interviewing each other using the techniques they learned.
Sharif emphasized the importance of changing negative perceptions of Muslims by becoming active American citizens.
“Amina was professional and engaging during her presentation which made the event both educational and interesting for all of us at the ICN weekend school youth program. The students enjoyed the interactive nature of the event where they had a chance to express their opinion and participate in breakout discussions,” said Naeem Hussaini, Youth Program Lead at the ICN Weekend School.
“It is our duty to teach the Muslim youth ways to build and cultivate good character so they can achieve excellence. These are key attributes that will best address the challenges faced by Muslim youth in America and prepare them for their adult years,” Hussaini added.
Sharif also discussed the need for Muslims to define themselves instead of letting others define them by becoming more outspoken, active citizens. She encouraged the youth to put their Muslim values into action by increasing involvement in social justice causes and mobilizing the community to be more civically engaged.
She also stressed to the students the importance of being a leader, developing strong communication and management skills, and taking on leadership roles in not just Muslim activities but activities that affect their greater community in order to help friends and neighbors of all faiths.
“The most important lessons I hope the students took away from this is that they must be contributing members of society, take initiative and excel in the activities they pursue while being confident and proud of their Muslim identity,” said Sharif.
Amina Sharif thanks the Islamic Center of Naperville’s Weekend School for inviting her and providing her with this wonderful opportunity to engage with a dynamic group of young Muslims. “I commend the school for all the amazing work they do to empower the youth and train them to be strong and intelligent leaders,” said Sharif.