A courtroom sketch shows accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (c) and Judge George O’ Toole (top) listening as bombing victim Richard Martin’s father Bill (top right) testifies on the second day of Tsarnaev’s trial at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, March 5. Photo credit: Jane Flavell Collins / Reuters.
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CAIRO – Reaching out to Muslim teens in Boston, the largest mosque in New England has hired a new youth director who is conversant with American culture, in a bid to fill the gap after the departure of imam William Suhaib Webb last December.
“I don’t necessarily need kids to spend the night reading the Qur’an — if they are in good company, doing something fun and beneficial, as opposed to going to a club, or wasting their life … the positive will appear naturally,” AbdelRahman Murphy, the new youth director at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbur, told The Boston Globe on Sunday, March 22.
The 27-year-old mental health counselor and aspiring scholar based in Dallas, Murphey, has been hired by Roxbury mosque to offer support for Muslim teens and college students in New England.
The new scholar will be working with Muslim youth three days each month over the next year, as a part of the mosque building youth program.
During each long weekend he spends in Boston, he will organize a discussion at an area college, give a sermon before Friday prayer, besides giving a talk there that night.
On the following day, Murphy will dedicate his work to Muslim teenagers in Boston by introducing his series “Be Like Muhammad”.
Mixing creativity and religious enrichment, the new Muslim leader’s approach is based on selecting “what works best, using sport, cultivating a rapport with youth and teach tradition in ways that make sense to them”.
“It’s an opportunity for us to learn more about youth work he’s done and begin to build a fabulous youth program here,” said Yusufi Vali, the Boston mosque’s executive director.
Shocked by the heinous crime, world Muslims mourned the three young American Muslims in North Carolina, pouring into social media to send messages of solidarity to the victims’ families.
Twitter users started to employ the hashtag “#MuslimLivesMatter,” to comment on how the mainstream media ignored the news of the murder which did not make national headlines.
Sustainable and functional
Hiring Murphy has been praised by Roxbury mosque former imam, Suhaib Webb, who is now a resident scholar in a religious community in the Washington, DC, area.
Murphy is committed to “an Islam that is sustainable and functional within the context of America,” Webb said.
After the departure of Webb, the Islamic Society in Roxbury has set demands for a new imam, who should be credentialed Islamic scholar, teacher, and worship leader, able to recite the Qur’an from memory.
The appointment of the new youth leader, who will empower American Muslim institutions, comes as news headlines focus on the increasing anti-Muslim sentiment following the rise of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL).
“It’s a real preventive strategy against all kinds of ills and harms,” said Vali.
Moreover, an increasingly bloody Arab-Israeli conflict and the still-fresh memory of the Boston Marathon bombings, whose lone living alleged perpetrator is about to stand trial, made the demand more urgent.
“What this is fundamentally about is putting on good youth programming that is going to help young people in the Muslim community develop in a healthy way, with the right kind of understanding of Islam, and help them grow spiritually,” Vali said.
Murphy’s success to captive Boston teens during his first visit to the mosque resulted in mosque leaders asking him for regular visits monthly.
“You’ll be at a public event with 100-plus people, but the way he presents himself, it’s as if he is talking directly to you,” said Yusra Mukhtar, 13, who is active at the mosque and attends its school, Malik Academy
“He’s a person you would just feel comfortable going to talk to and getting advice from.”
Growing up in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, the son of an Egyptian immigrant mother and Irish-American father who reverted to Islam, is pursuing advanced Islamic studies in Dallas.
Since the 9/11 attacks, US Muslims, estimated between 6-8 million, have complained of discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A Gallup poll also found that the majority of US Muslims are patriot and loyal to their country and are optimistic about their future.
An Economist/YouGov poll found that a large majority of Americans believe that US Muslims are victims of discrimination amid recent attacks against the community.