Date published: 07 October 2008
Photo: David Butterworth
Rochdale's member of the UK Youth Parliament has joined a new Young Muslim Advisory Group, which was launched today by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears and Children and Families Secretary Ed Balls.
Usman Nawaz, 18, joins 21 other other young people who will act as advisors to deepen the Government's engagement with young Muslims. The advisors will talk to ministers and policy makers first hand about the issues affecting their day to day lives.
Usman is also a member of the Sufi Muslim Council where he coordinates activities for young people. Through this role he has developed an understanding of how vulnerable young Muslims can be susceptible to radicalisation and this has helped him to develop strategies to deter Muslims from organisations linked to terror.
The Young Muslim Advisory Group (YMAG) will have direct access to senior cabinet ministers and will work with Government departments to find solutions to a range of challenges including tackling discrimination; increasing employment levels; preventing extremism and boosting civic participation.
Hazel Blears said: "There are over 800,000 Muslims under the age of 25 living in the UK but we don't hear enough from them. Ensuring young Muslims have access to constructive, democratic channels for dealing with concerns and frustrations is crucial to our efforts to build strong, resilient communities.
"The contribution young people can make to finding solutions to issues in society often goes unrecognised and untapped. Young Muslims have a vital role to play in challenging prejudice and preconceptions both within their community and in wider society and I want to hear directly from these young people on a wide range of issues.
"The group will help to highlight what it means to a young British Muslim today, what the challenges and issues - social, cultural or economic - are and how we can best work together to address them, making sure that their voices and those of their peers are heard by the Government. These impressive individuals represent the next generation of Muslim community leaders and I look forward to working with them."
Ed Balls said: "The Young Muslims Advisory Group is part of our long term vision to empower young people to shape the society they live in by being active citizens and making a positive contribution.
"We must all work together to create more cohesive, safer communities, increase civic engagement and help young people develop a sense of belonging and appreciation of those from other backgrounds. There are many good local projects already getting young people to explore sensitive issues in creative ways. But young people are most influenced by their peers and this is why we have established this group, to build a platform for young people to articulate their views to Government.
"I congratulate all 22 members who have already shown fantastic commitment through the time and effort they have invested. These individuals will act as role models by coaching and inspiring their peers to achieve their potential. I look forward to working with all of them, hearing their ideas to bring about positive change and find solutions to the challenges facing young people today."