// City's Muslim youth issue 'call of distress'
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« on: Mar 19, 2009 03:59 PM »


City's Muslim youth issue 'call of distress'
 
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Sports/City+Muslim+youth+issue+call+distress/1403779/story.html


Many want a leader familiar with daily societal pressures
 
By Jennifer Green, The Ottawa Citizen
March 19, 2009 9:01 AM
 

 
Imam Khaled Abdul-Hamid Syed wants disaffected Muslim youth to come talk to him about how the mosque can better help them. As for remarks from his critics, he says, 'I don't occupy my mind with it ... I am outside the fighting arena.'
Photograph by: Jean Levac, The Ottawa CitizenA small but outspoken group of young Ottawa Muslims want the city's new imam replaced with someone who speaks their language, literally and figuratively.

"(It's) not the person himself, it's the language barrier and failure to understand our problems," said 20-year-old Sara Mohamed. "I really feel, when I hear this imam that, yes, he is very knowledgeable and I have a lot of respect for him, but, as a leader of those of us who have been here for quite some time, I don't feel he represents me."

Mohamed sent the Citizen an e-mail entitled "A Call of Distress from an Unheard Voice: The Muslim Youth of Ottawa."

The statement said many young Muslims are drifting away from their faith, dabbling in drugs, alcohol and dating. They have no strong Muslim leaders to identify with. "At a time when most young Muslims have multiple difficulties relating to their own parents, communicating with an 'imported imam' is simply not an appealing substitute," said the statement.

"Rarely can a foreign leader present the faith in an effective and humble way to Muslim or non-Muslim youth."

The group is criticizing 37-year-old Imam Khaled Abdul-Hamid Syed who arrived in Ottawa last July from Egypt with impressive scholastic credentials, but halting English.

Mohamed Ghadban, president of the Ottawa Muslim Association, acknowledges the imam's early sermons were difficult to understand. "His English wasn't very good." Since then, "this imam has come a long way in terms of his English, 1,000 per cent."

"Some people don't like him -- I'm being honest with you -- and some people like him." The association will have its general annual meeting April 19.

It has the option of continuing with the imam for the next two years or finding another one.

The imam spoke to the Citizen Wednesday in heavily accented, but perfectly understandable English, saying he would encourage disaffected youth to come talk to him about how the mosque can better help them.

As for the personal remarks, he says, "I don't occupy my mind with it ... I am outside the fighting arena." He likes Ottawa, even its winters, but he believes God will send him where he can serve best.

In the meantime, he has started programs for children, youth and women.

On March 27 at 6 p.m., he will hold an open discussion session for youth, something he planned before this week's e-mail statement.

Ghadban said Ottawa is a tremendously challenging community because there are so many nationalities among Muslims, from Pakistanis to Indonesians to Lebanese.

The position of imam at the mosque on Northwestern Avenue is particularly sensitive because it has traditionally been at the centre of Ottawa's Muslim community of about 65,000 people, and its imam represents the people to the Canadian government.

After the previous imam Gamal Solaiman retired in 2007, the congregation wanted a man fluent in English and savvy about modern life in the west. Many argued the imam ought to be Canadian, or at least North American.

At the time some 600 or so signed an online petition to that effect at http://www.petitiononline.com/imam/petition.html

The petition said: "We do not need to 'import' an imam from abroad. We need an imam who has a command of English, who has lived in the west, and who has a knowledge of daily societal pressures," said the signatories (some as young as 11 years old).

Finally, the Ottawa Muslim Association turned to the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Affairs for help after a global, 15-month search came up empty. Their involvement led to the selection of current imam.

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« Reply #1 on: Mar 20, 2009 01:53 PM »

Assalaamu alaikm

After the previous imam Gamal Solaiman retired in 2007, the congregation wanted a man fluent in English and savvy about modern life in the west. Many argued the imam ought to be Canadian, or at least North American.

At the time some 600 or so signed an online petition to that effect at http://www.petitiononline.com/imam/petition.html

The petition said: "We do not need to 'import' an imam from abroad. We need an imam who has a command of English, who has lived in the west, and who has a knowledge of daily societal pressures," said the signatories (some as young as 11 years old).

Finally, the Ottawa Muslim Association turned to the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Affairs for help after a global, 15-month search came up empty. Their involvement led to the selection of current imam.


You know, I kinda feel sorry for the guy.  I do understand where they are all coming from, but after the '15 month' search, they couldn't find the person who filled their criteria, so... how come they didn't come up with solutions to still try and make it work with that particular Imam?  I don't understand why some kind of committe wasn't formed so that the 'disaffected' youth still had somewhere to go to regarding their concerns. 

The fact that people couldn't understand his sermons, I've had the same exact problem when I've gone to certain places.  However, I try and ask other people at the end of the sermon what was said.  Recently I have being going somewhere else  and they have a good system in that after every few sentences, someone will translate in English.  The Imam then continues, stops again after a few sentences so that things are translated, and continues again, and so on.  He is also very approachable and will get someone to translate for him when people come up to him at the end so that he is still able to communicate with people.  It makes you respect him even more because he is very knowledgable masha'Allaah and tries to meet people halfway as best as he can.   

As for people turning to drugs etc, aren't there any clubs or societies where the youth can hang out?  I used to live in London and in one borough there wasn't anything for the Muslim youth.  So one of our friends actually set up a youth group, for boys *and* a separate one for girls, just for Muslims, not so long ago.  It's been a huge hit.

And why doesn't the Imam/mosque set up links with some counsellors/therapists etc for people to go to if they really want help and feel they have nowhere to go to?  There must be some Muslim therapists in the area, why not rope them in and make them available to the community who feel they cannot relate to the Imam at all and want someone to help them with their problems?

I think there are ways it can still work out with the current Imam until they find someone else, if they still want to get someone else.  I don't know, maybe I've misunderstood something? I think people just need to think widely, and around the situation, and see what solutions can work.

wasalaam

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« Reply #2 on: Mar 20, 2009 09:23 PM »

Assalamu'alaikum,

I live in Ottawa, alhamdulillah.

And I think that getting an imam well tuned to the community is a good option. But it is not the ONLY quality that one should look out for. There is a bigger picture that comes in the package for someone to be a good imam in North America.

I've met the imam, and really, his English has improved tremendously. I understand and appreciate his khutbahs. And personally, I think he is a wise man, he takes into consideration many opinions and thoughts and he's doing his best with many activities and counsel from the community.

I just hope that people would give him a chance. In fact he was the one recommended by Imam Gamal. Someone whom the community misses.

As for the issues of diasaffected youths. Leadership is not only on the shoulders of the imam. It is on the shoulders of all who hv the appropriate talents and capabilities that Allah has given us to do the jobs. A person doesn't hv to be the imam of the masjid to manage the issues of youths. There are terms called - delegation and teamwork.

Its not for an imam of the community to micro-manage. Its about building a vision and transmitting shared values and have the whole community work towards that. So, for them to think that this imam is not qualified for the job just because of the reasons quoted. Well, it's flawed. I'd rather that people come and piece things together rather than complaining and building ridges.

Allahua'lam



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