On April 25, 2015, Islamic Center of South Jersey hosted a family night that was vastly different than its predecessors. The guest speakers were European- and young. The theme for the event was “Making Sense of Who We Are, Where We’ve Come From, and Where We’re Going”. The poster captured my attention but the fact the speakers were young Muslim women around my age made me click “going” on the Facebook event page immediately. On the night of the event, I left my 1.5 month old baby with my mama and rushed to the Masjid.
The following day, my curiosity led me to have breakfast with our European guests at Sister Nertila’s place and soon realized they were exactly the leaders we needed for our global Muslim community. I could not get enough of their narratives and wanted to absorb it all in.
Here are the AMAZING women I met:
1. Mersiha Hadziabdic , 25 – German + Bosnian
Islamic Cultural Center of Bosnians in Berlin
2. Dilek Yucel , 30 – Austrian + Turkish
3. Soufeina Tuffix Hamed, 25 – German + Tunisian
Comic artist and illustrator
Vice President of Germany’s biggest Muslim social entrepreneurship network (Zahnräder Network)
4. Rafiqa Younes, 30 – German + Palestinian
Research Assistant Academy Programs of the Jewish Museum Berlin, where she is in charge of the Jewish-Islamic Forum.
Network for German Muslim Social Entrepreneurship – Zahnräder!
Salaam-Shalom Initiative Supporter
Soufeina “Tuffix” Hamed was here as part of the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship, which is about cross cultural dialogue and social entrepreneurship. The program took place in Ithaca (New York) with some design thinking and leadership classes at Cornell University. Her three friends decided to accompany her, taking advantage of this opportunity to visit America. The family night took the form of a discussion panel in which the young women shared their experiences as Muslims living in Germany and Austria. Similar to American Muslims, the women talked about their struggles with balancing Muslim and national identities. The main point discussed was that they see themselves as BOTH German+Muslim and Austrian+Muslim without any problems. The tough part is convincing the non-Muslims around them this new hybrid identity while embodying confidence.
Flaunting the Hybrid Identity
- Muslim Youth Austria was started to give young Austrian-Muslims a chance to establish their identity and not only to come to terms with it but to be confident accepting that identity. Dilek stated that “You need to know who you are. You need to have strong roots by knowing about your Islamic heritage. Any part of your identity must not be ignored. Remember, if you don’t have strong roots, a simple breeze will throw you aside; but if you have strong roots, no tornado will be able to shake you.”
- Interestingly, Dilek and Muslim Youth Austria encourages young Austrian Muslims to accept their hybrid identities and make their own labels, rather than letting someone else label them. In order to recognize and nurture this identity, Muslim Youth Austria focuses on educating its members through lectures and workshops. It scouts young Austrian Muslim talents and guides those talents and abilities towards positively impacting the community. Community service projects such as “Fast, Share, Help” focus on using one’s abilities towards helping the global Ummah, starting with Austria.
- Check out Muslim Youth Austria!
The young ladies spoke along the theme of Youth empowerment. “Before we can empower ourselves, we need to understand how power works.” Rafiqa stated. Working as a leader, Mersiha and Young German Muslims
have developed projects such as the Jummah project which focuses on empowerment rather than de-radicalizing. With the focus shift, German Muslims are given a platform outside from mosques where their voices can be heard and the need for de-radicalization never comes up.