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Canada: Teens with troubles get Islamic line

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  • Zafar Khan
    Teens with troubles get Islamic line Young callers bring usual dating and curfew woes to Canada-wide hotline espousing Muslim values Mar 08, 2008 04:30 AM
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 9, 2008
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      Teens with troubles get Islamic line
      Young callers bring usual dating and curfew woes to
      Canada-wide hotline espousing Muslim values

      Mar 08, 2008 04:30 AM
      Prithi Yelaja
      Staff Reporter

      http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/326378

      Typical teenage angst rather than religious fervour is
      on the minds of most callers to Canada's first hotline
      for Muslim youth, say its co-founders.

      Based in Mississauga, the Naseeha ("advice" in
      Persian) help line was launched last month to help
      young people navigate the usual challenges of growing
      up, including peer pressure, dating and curfews – but
      with advice that emphasizes Islamic values, says
      co-founder Abdussamad Khan, 27, a financial adviser.

      "In Islam, sex before marriage, drugs and alcohol are
      not permitted, so sometimes youth get confused."

      The other founder Yaseen Poonah, 28, a computer
      engineer, adds: "We're not here to judge anyone or
      come from an aggressive, negative manner. We just
      point out what the Qu'ran says."

      Most calls are about cultural/generational clashes,
      not religion, he says.

      "Youth are not calling to say: `What happens if I
      don't pray five times a day or I don't wear the
      hijab?' It's important, when they do reach out for
      help, they're speaking to somebody who has an
      understanding of their culture."

      Born and raised in Canada – Khan in Mississauga and
      Poonah in Milton – the founders come from moderate
      Muslim families and attended public schools. They had
      been planning the hotline, which they are funding
      themselves, for years. But the impetus came with
      notable local cases that cast a glaring spotlight on
      the Muslim community, post-9/11.

      In June 2006, 18 Toronto-area Muslim males were
      arrested, accused of belonging to an Al
      Qaeda-inspired, homegrown terrorist cell that was
      plotting to assassinate the prime minister.

      Then, last December, Muslim teen Aqsa Parvez was
      killed and her father charged with murder after the
      two clashed over clothing and parental rules.

      "After these two events, all eyes were on the Muslim
      community. People were asking, what influences did
      these kids have?" Poonah says.

      Khan bristles at critics like Muslim Canadian Congress
      founder Tarek Fatah, who was quoted as saying the help
      line is a tool used by hard-line Islamists to push
      their agenda.

      "A lot of mosques take that approach, but our whole
      goal is to prevent that, so Muslim youth don't head
      toward the hard-line fundamentalist mentality," says
      Khan.

      Modelled after Kids Help Phone, Naseeha has eight
      volunteer counsellors. All are second-generation
      Muslim Canadians, aged 18 to 25, who have backgrounds
      in social work and psychology or are studying in those
      fields. Callers in crisis, or where violence is an
      issue, are referred to police or the Peel Distress
      Centre.

      Right now the helpline is operating nightly from 6
      p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday, a coverage that Khan
      hopes to expand. "We're working on staffing the line
      on a 24/7 basis, but we don't have the resources yet."


      The hotline number for Naseeha is 1-866-627-3342
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Helpline for Canada Muslim Teens
      Sat. Mar. 8, 2008

      http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1203757819701&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

      TORONTO – As many Muslim teens find it hard to
      reconcile between their religion and the western
      culture, Canadian Muslim youths have launched a
      helpline intended to advise the confused, the Toronto
      Star reported Saturday, March 8.
      "In Islam, sex before marriage, drugs and alcohol are
      not permitted, so sometimes youth get confused," said
      Abdussamad Khan, co-founder of the new hotline Naseeha
      (advice in Arabic).

      Khan, a 27-year-old financial adviser, said Naseeha —
      launched late last month — offers Muslim teens a
      much-needed podium to pour out their social problems
      that might conflict with their religion such as
      dating.

      Co-founder Yaseen Poonah, 28, a computer engineer,
      agrees.

      "Youth are not calling to say: `What happens if I
      don't pray five times a day or I don't wear the
      hijab?' It's important, when they do reach out for
      help, they're speaking to somebody who has an
      understanding of their culture."

      The self-funded 1-866-NASEEHA, modeled after the
      mainstream Kids Help Phone, operating from the city of
      Mississauga nightly from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to
      Friday.

      "We're working on staffing the line on a 24/7 basis,
      but we don't have the resources yet," says Khan.

      All counselors are second-generation Muslim Canadians,
      aged 18 to 25, who have backgrounds in social work and
      psychology or are studying in those fields.

      Muslims make up nearly two percent of Canada's some
      32.8 million people and Islam has become the number
      one non-Christian faith in the country.

      Cushion

      The founders dismiss criticism that the helpline is
      having a hardline Islamic agenda.

      "We're not here to judge anyone or come from an
      aggressive, negative manner. We just point out what
      the Qur`an says," Poonah said.

      Khan added that the project rather served as a cushion
      for vulnerable youth against extremism and
      fundamentalist mentality.

      "We were all born and raised here, as well. We
      understand the issues the kids are going through.
      We're able to reach out and be able to empathize and
      say, you know what, it's OK."

      The helpline comes hard on the heels of the arrest of
      18 Toronto-area Muslim males on terror charges and the
      tragic death of 16-year-old Muslim female, who was
      allegedly strangled by her father for refusing to wear
      hijab.

      "After these two events, all eyes were on the Muslim
      community. People were asking, what influences did
      these kids have?" Poonah says.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      http://islamawareness.net/NorthAmerica/Canada/
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