The Islamic Garden
‘Muslim Youth Foundation
- Working With Everyone
By Selma Cook
The Muslim Youth Foundation was founded twenty years ago in Manchester, England. It aims to provide religious, social services and facilities for the Muslim community, especially the youth. A Muslim for more than five years, Scott Hill has been working with the Foundation for many years and he also works with deaf Muslims through his work with this organization. When the Muslim Youth Foundation began there were not many such places in Manchester serving Muslims, particularly the youth. After all these years, they are still working with the youth but have extended their programs and now work with the general Muslim community as well. They have established good links with universities and have many youth volunteers in their various projects.
Part of Hill’s work with the Muslim Youth Foundation is to create educational DVDs for regular schools, as well as comic strips. These DVDs and comic strips are specially designed to cater to non-Muslims in the UK. This is part of the Muslim community’s attempt to bridge the gap of misunderstanding about Islam and Muslims. Another aspect of Hill’s activities in the Foundation includes going on school trips to tell people about Islam in the UK. The Foundation has many converts and people from a wide range of nationalities. One of its important projects is its educational project. They have produced an educational supplement for teacher resources, a comic strip series, a website for teaching resources, and an interactive DVD for schools that caters to non-Muslims called, Muslims in Britain. This DVD talks about what Muslims are doing in Britain, rather than focusing on what Muslims are doing overseas. Moreover, they have a Bosnia children’s project that began after the genocide about 15 years ago. They have organized orphanages in Bosnia and do fund raising in the UK to provide funds for this project. Part of the work of the foundation in Bosnia is based on da`wah.
Hill took a group of deaf Muslims to the Living Islam camp in Lincolnshire, 2008. An important part of this effort was to make a private meeting between the deaf Muslims and Islamic scholars so they could have the chance to ask their questions and be answered properly. Hill managed to get Ajmal Mashroo, a well-known da`i and speaker into a tent to give more intellectual talks to the deaf community and give them a chance to ask questions that were of a more academic nature. Hill said the deaf community commented that they really enjoyed the speech made by Tariq Ramadan. They observed that the main theme of the camp was the need for harmony that should be achieved in practice as well as theory.
Hill added that the aim of Islam is to achieve harmony; however, achieving harmony in everyday life is difficult because in many cities Muslims have ghettoized themselves and are isolated to a large extent from the rest of the world.
After working with the Muslim Youth Foundation for a long time Hill had some interesting comments to make regarding what we, as Muslims, need to do to improve our condition. He noted that we should not be on the back foot; that we should always be confident about our faith and practice. He added that da`wah should be spread by practicing Islam in practical ways, not just talking about it. He noted that positive contact with Muslims is the key. He cited the Living Islam camp as an example of this. “Events like these provide close and positive interaction in the right settings,” Hill commented. He continued saying that turning theory into practice and letting people see what we do is the key to spreading the message of Islam. He said that the differences between Muslims can be talked about and that Almighty Allah might spark a fire of debate because the Muslims are not doing or talking enough. He added that sometimes Muslims need a fiery debate to open up the floor and that we should never be offensive but rather, talk about issues. Hill commented that we do not always have to be discussing issues the media want to talk about as there are many issues the Muslims need to discuss and explore. He rightly added that most of all we should not be afraid to be ourselves. If we really believe our religion is the truth we should not be afraid to come out into the open, and talk about it and live it while interacting with people.
Hill noted that working in an organization like the Muslim Youth Foundation is an essential step to putting our belief into practice and letting people see the mercy, harmony and peace that exists when Muslims make the effort to get involved.