August 9, 2010
Muslim youth gather for networking program
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN
The Edmond Sun
EDMOND — The Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium of Oklahoma recently had its networking dinner program at the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University. The event was sponsored by the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Council on American Islamic Relations that is known by the acronym CAIR to encourage activism among young Muslims in Oklahoma and also to work to foster a positive public image of Muslims in America.
Among the attendees was Bilal Ittiq, a graduate of Edmond Santa Fe High School who will start his junior year at the University of Oklahoma later this month where he is in the pre-med program. He explained that most of the other young people present were students at either the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University, the University of Central Oklahoma or Oklahoma City Community College. Many of them are studying accounting, finance or preparing for medical school.
Razi Hashmi, the executive director of the Oklahoma CAIR chapter, welcomed the young people from throughout the state to the two-day event.
Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan CAIR chapter and an imam at a Detroit mosque, addressed the gathering and reminded them that many leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, began their activism while they were still in their 20s. He also spoke about Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who began that company while he was under 30.
Walid said that all issues in American life would impact them and their families, and urged them to become involved in the political process as a result. An authentic Muslim culture is currently being created in the U.S., the imam asserted, and the young people who were participating in the youth leadership symposium are part of it.
He related that he had never been in the state of Oklahoma before and that he was impressed by the friendliness of the people he had come in contact with here. He also said that after meeting many of the young people present he thought that they already should be leaders.
Robert Henry, who recently was installed as the 17th president of Oklahoma City University, also addressed the gathering, and told them that OCU was founded by the Methodists of Oklahoma to “provide education to people of all faiths,” and that he shared that commitment. Henry engaged in a dialogue with many of the attendees in which he asked them their perception of what politics is like in American today, and encouraged them to get involved to improve the political process in both the state and nation. He also urged them not to be cynical about politics.
The university president pointed out that he had been elected to the Oklahoma state House of Representatives while he was 23 and still a student at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Law.
He also said that as American citizens the Muslim youth in attendance had rights that were denied to many other young people in the world today, and that with those rights came responsibilities to take an interest in American society. That obligation, Henry said, could be satisfied in a variety of ways, including running for office, supporting political candidates and participating in activities that would assist the less fortunate or protect the natural environment.
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.