These were some of the important questions addressed this past weekend at the “Who Am I: Knowing Your Identity as a Muslim.” The event took place at the Orland Park Qur’an Academy and the panelists included well-known community organizers such as Mohammed Zeyara, Amal Ali, Islam Jaber, and Mohammed Qandil. The proceeds from the event were directed towards a Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) project to build a school in Ghana.
“Who are we? Well it depends whose narrative you go by,” said Amal Ali, the Outreach Director at ZF. “Will it be the corporate media’s narrative, or will it be that of your true tradition?”
Much of the audience was made up of Muslim-American youth. In a time and place where Islam and Muslims are consistently misrepresented or portrayed in a negative manner, it has become even more crucial for the younger Muslim generation to understand their faith and engage with a truer narrative.
“A tradition of an all-embracing truth that reaffirms and completes the teachings of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the scriptures revealed to them,” added Ali. “A tradition that leaves us the legacy of Muhammad (pbuh) whose life story is the epitome of gentleness and forgiveness; a rich tradition of invention and intellectual discovery. That is our narrative. That is who we are.”
“If they don’t have an identity, they cannot represent Islam,” said Mohammed Qandil. “We all have to create our own identity to serve our community.”
Another aspect that was highlighted was the importance of seeking knowledge. “Allah (swt) honors those who have knowledge,” stated Islam Jaber. “Reach high education to change society around you. My advice is excel in something you’re good at. Excel in it, perfect it, and then give back to your community.”
“Specifically for the Muslim youth in the West,” said Zeyara, “the lack of role models really affects our identity. If only we focused on role models that we are supposed to focus on, such as the Prophet (pbuh) and the sahaba. We don’t look up to them because we think we cannot relate, but, in fact, we would be able to if we studied their lives and their different situations.”
Although Zeyara has earned a huge following on social media for his humanitarian projects and activism, he was also quick to critique it. “Everyone wants to look good on social media,” said Zeyara. “But what about in real life? We need to focus on ourselves and what we can improve upon.”
The event was a success due to the hard work and dedication of ZF volunteers. If you have your own unique idea and are interested to work with ZF on a specific campaign, please feel free to contact us through the volunteer page.