Monday, January 23, 2017

USA: Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association holds Houston summit on reaching out to communities


150 young members of the Muslim association gathered from across the country in Houston for a summit designed to foster better relationships between Muslim worshipers and their communities.

Photo: Dave Rossman, Freelance
Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Houston Chronicle
By Mihir Zaveri | January 22, 2017

Delegates from 72 cities participated in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association Youth Summit at the Baitus Samee Mosque 

A cornerstone of Rahman Nasir's faith, he says, is being loyal to his country.

As a member of a local Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, the 22-year-old works in local food banks, volunteers at homes for the elderly and signs up for blood drives.

"I don't know where I would be without this organization giving me purpose," he said.

But over the weekend, 150 young members of the Muslim association gathered from across the country in Houston for a summit designed to foster better relationships between Muslim worshipers and their communities.

The conversations gained particular significance after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, who has campaigned for restrictions on Muslim immigrants and the possibility of a Muslim registry in the U.S., said Nasir, who helped organize the summit.

"It's more important now perhaps than other times in our history," said Bilal Rana, the president of the national Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association chapter.

Poorly portrayed

With some 700 to 800 members across the greater Houston area, the association is just one segment of the nation's diverse Muslim population. Houston has been home to the largest Muslim-American population in Texas, with Muslims estimated to make up about 1.2 percent of the city's more than 2.2 million population. Nasir's youth association is part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, founded in 1889, with more than 70 chapters across the country. The pillar of the group that distinguishes it from others is an emphasis on community service, Rana said.

The two-day summit, which ended Sunday, was part of an annual meeting held across the country for the Ahmadiyya youth association. Members of the association are between 7 and 40 years old.

Nasir has been a member of the association since he was old enough to qualify. The friends he made growing up are the same ones he still has as a student at the University of Houston, studying pre-med and psychology.

The Houston group has focused since its inception in the 1970s on such community service as blood drives and food banks. After a devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, members of Nasir's group went to aid recovery efforts. Locally, they helped provide relief after the Greenspoint area was flooded during devastating storms last April.

"Islam isn't the religion that is portrayed in the media," Nasir said.

Yusuf Dosu, 27, attended the conference from College Park, Maryland. A former wide receiver for Morgan State University, Dosu came to the Houston summit to emphasize that a big part of faith is also about taking care of one's body. In College Park, Dosu teaches other members of his congregation about weight and body fat.

'An uphill battle'

Dosu said he learned at the summit about strategies other groups were using to combat drug use among their younger members. The summit also reinforced the difficulty of helping Americans understand the fundamental tenets of Islam, including peace and morality, often distorted by media portrayals of extremism.

"It's going to be an uphill battle," Dosu said.



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