Islamic Sciences and Research Academy (ISRA) hosted a Fundraising Gala Dinner on Sunday 1 December 2019 in Somerton, Melbourne with all proceeds supporting youth programs, in a celebration to encourage youth to flourish and navigate in society.

Opening with a Quran recitation, a panel discussion was held amongst a selected group of passionate and articulate young people. Amongst the group was Tasnim Alam, a qualified life-coach and social media influencer who spoke about the significance of social media has on maturing minds and its adverse influence to create a false “illusion of perfection”.

Image: From left to right, host Zeinab Mourad, followed by panellist Tasnim Alam, Sajda Yakub, Ayan Suhale and Dr Bekim Hassani. Source: ISRA.

Drawing from her psychology background, she explained that young people between the ages of 13-20 are at a critical stage of ‘socialisation’ and their belief systems are highly susceptible to be influenced by their role models and peers. 

Ayan Suhale, a young science student and youth leader advised that young people feel empowered when able to“look inwards” and reflected and are allowed to think for themselves. He explained that organisations should delegate responsibility to young people and allow them to make decisions and be prepared to pass the baton to the next generation. 

Sajda Yakub, a law student and social justice advocate acknowledged the relevance of addressing critical issues relating to skin colour and sexism within the Australian Muslim community. 

“In the Muslim community, we are not speaking about the effects of discrimination (experienced) within communities. These topics are difficult to talk about; but they are necessary,” elucidated Sajda. 

Image: Quran recitation presented at ISRA’s Youth Fundraising Gala Dinner. Source: ISRA.

The panel spoke about the relevance of instilling wholesome values by cultivating resilient young people.

Dr Bekim Hassani, a human rights advocate and Imam at the Albanian Australian Islamic Society (AAIS) spoke of the importance of teaching young children of the value of prayer.

Youth panel discussing the importance of instilling good Islamic values. Source: ISRA.

“Young people can understand the values of Islam when taught from a place of love,” encouraged Dr Hassani.

He highlighted that young people are the foundation of Islam. They should not be overlooked and should be given responsibility and encouraged to make their contributions.

Image: Muslim youth discuss critical issues of community engagement and how they can best be supported. Source: ISRA

Zeinab Mourad, a youth worker, presented her latest academic research on the hurdles faced by many young people in the Muslim community. 

Her findings recognised that 50% of Muslim youth felt they were not able to contribute to Islamic organisations and a greater percentage (70% of youth) felt deprived of making a contribution.

The question arises: what are the limiting factors that are holding back our youth from expressing their opinions and rising to leadership roles in the safety of their own community?

To fully embrace young people, we may need to provide ample opportunity for leadership positions with mentoring and support.

Image: Poet Zaynab Farah eloquently presenting an assortment of poetic pieces to an eager audience. Source: ISRA.

Capping off the night was a poetry rendition by Zaynab Farah, of a heartfelt reflection of her mother and her values.

Finally, to conclude the night, a powerful short film was presented called ‘Bittersweet’ directed by Ayan Yusuf, which followed the journey of a young Somali-Australian girl forced to stay with her Grandmother reminding the audience of the significance of elder generations.

The stunning story-telling was full of heart, showcasing how our younger generations can develop a positive relationship with their seniors, whilst maintaining an appreciation of their cultural identity.