Saturday, June 21

City Circle: The Futures Project - Investing in the Talent of the Youth Click for more info

The only real reasons for me to attend a City Circle event these days is either the promise of an entertaining and engaging discussion or the fact that a close friend would be hosting it. Sometimes, like today, I'm even lucky enough to be treated to both (and I'm not just saying that because they might be reading either).

My first and only direct experience with the Muslim Youth Helpline was applying for and being consequently declined for a position on the helpline itself in 2005. From my rejected (and so possibly bitter) position I found the organisation to have had a slightly unfocused aim and message back then; for example when I asked whether the fundamental objective of the helpline was to either help or Islamically guide, I got the impression that the MYH didn't really see a difference between the two.

But a lot changes in three years and although I've had a light exposure to the recent and subtle transformation of the MYH tonight was the first time it would be direct and formal and I was interested in seeing in what way they may have changed. Joining MYH chair Mohammed Choudhury was fellow trustee Dr. Rabia Malik and between them they did a good job of addressing most of the concerns the sparse yet engaged audience had.

Via various case studies and real life stories, we learned why the faith-based help the MYH was providing was so crucial - Islam wasn't just a facilitating common ground between client and counsellor but an important source of identity for those seeking help, and so a baseline or reference on which their own solutions were hoped to be built.

That said it was good to see that the helpline had been thinking about the question I had posed three years earlier - Dr. Malik nailed it when answering a question about the Islamic credentials of the MYH by explaining how they weren't really there to provide technical answers to Islamic questions but to more facilitate a use of a callers own judgement and responsibility. I've been a big fan of Dr. Malik's for a while and it's stuff like this that makes me think it's great move on the part of the MYH to have her on as a trustee.

Mohammed on the other hand dealt more with the structural and strategic design of MYH. He explained how their efforts were now more definably split between support and advocacy and talked about the non-helpline initiatives they were driving - a case in point being the video project we were asked to watch toward the end of the talk. It was encouraging to see the MYH had thought about the more business like aspects of running such a project (as opposed to just winging it like many other similarly helpful organisations would).

Whether the intention behind tonight was to publicise or inform, my feelings towards the MYH has changed from indifference to an interest beyond passing, although probably not enough to become actively involved myself. With their fresh and focused attitude I can pretty much see them affecting major change both in the lives of those they intend to help and quite possibly for the rest of us too. It'll be interesting to see how further they'll be in three more years.