Islamic Youth Group Stays Active and Hopeful for Peace

Jacob Taylor, Editor-In-Chief

The Youth Group from the local Bloomington Islamic Center pose outside their mosque. (from top left to bottom right) Amanda Adhami, Afiya Rana, Layan Hajiyer, Aziza Machnouk, Fathima Ahmed, Zaynab Ahmed, Huda Adhami , Haifa Mohamed, Amani Zaneer

Even before walking into Bloomington’s local Islamic Center, you can sense an aura of peace surrounding the mosque. There’s a nearby neighborhood, a playset outside the mosque, and people coming in and out of the busy center. The people walking around chat away, children are laughing while playing tag; there is no fear.

Haifa Mohamed is a freshman at North and is part of a group of students who participate in the Islamic Center’s youth group.

“I love being in such a close-knit community [because] I was born here and raised here and I know everyone here,” Mohamed said, when describing the mosque.

This youth group is made up of a diverse set of individuals who represent countries from across the world. Members originate from countries like Tanzania, Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia among others.

The leader of the group is Amanda Adhami. Adhami is a social worker who’s been a youth group leader since 2003. She leads a group of teenagers through prayer, discussion, and lessons about Islam.

“Keeping your faith by being humane is the essence of Islam,” Adhami said.

Amanda Adhami has been attending and leading at the Bloomington mosque since 2003.

The group meets weekly to discuss their faith and are dedicated to serving their community. They volunteer (especially during and around Ramadan) at soup kitchens, Middle Way house, and homeless shelters. In addition to this, they also try to have monthly outings where they do things like go bowling, play miniature golf, or compete in paintball.

During their meetings, Adhami will go through passages of the Quran and relate the scriptures to the students’ lives and current events. She uses the stories in the Quran to teach lessons.

“We should try to live our day to day life fulfilling how the Prophet lived his life,” Adhami said. “God wants us to fix things; he is the answer.”

While the discussion focused on being a good Muslim and having strong faith, they also spoke of the current extreme political landscape and rising Islamophobia. The ban from seven Muslim-majority countries and the refugee crisis are close to the hearts of these young people.

“It’s religious profiling,” Mohamed said. “They say it’s not because it’s from certain countries, not Muslim specific, but it is.”

She voiced the feeling of the entire group.

“I just feel really mad,” said Afiya Rana, a younger member of the group.

However, she and the other members of the group try to stay enthusiastic.  

“I definitely feel like America is going down the wrong path, but it’s important to still stay positive and do peaceful protests to try and stop what’s happening rather than just being angry about it,” Fatima Ahmed said.

Aziza Machnouk understands why non-Muslim people would fear Muslims.

“The media is like ‘all Muslims, they’re all terrorists and watch out for them,’” Machnouk said. “I think that we as a community need to show them that we’re not like this.”

Although fearful, the group seems ready to fight for their freedom and they appreciate how people of other faiths have helped protest the ban. 

These young people meet weekly at the Bloomington Islamic Center to discuss their faith.

“They’re building walls human wall — around Muslims so they can pray,” Adhami said. For these young people, Islam is a very important aspect of their lives.

“[Islam] has so much to do with … basically everything I do,” Zaynab Ahmed said.

Nothing can replace the faith that the members of this youth group follow.

Amani Zaneer, a freshman at North, also attends youth group meetings.

“[Islam] is something that I can always have,” Zaneer said. “Being able to say that I am a Muslim and that I believe in this. I can go anywhere and be in a community where I feel safe and I can have something in common. I can go to a different country and be completely [at] home with other Muslims.”

Muslims have a global community, but they also have a strong community and support system in Bloomington.

At a time with so much animosity surrounding Muslims, the local Bloomington mosque is an important place for Muslims to feel safe and at home. The students in the youth group are hopeful that in the future, they’ll feel safe in the larger United States as well.

In the meantime, they remain loyal to their faith.

“I’m proud to be a Muslim,” said Layan Hajiyer, another member of the group.

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