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Young Muslims Advisory Group holds their first meeting with Hazel Blears and Ed Balls

Published 12 February 2009

The Young Muslims Advisory Group (YMAG) will hold their first formal meeting with Communities Secretary Hazel Blears and Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls today.

The group launched late last year and was set up to help Government deepen its engagement with young Muslims. Today will see the first formal meeting with two cabinet ministers.

On the agenda for the first meeting will be discussions around the work the group is planning to take forward in the coming months - this could include:

  • An evidence based piece of work which looks at how Government could better its communications with regard to young Muslims
  • Looking at what more can be done to empower young people to get involved in activities in their local communities, government, media etc in their area and
  • Looking at how the group can use the Internet for exploring issues relating to the causes of violent extremism among young Muslims

They will also discuss the plans for the upcoming Youth Conference which they will host in Leeds on March 21 2009 and further detail on the projects the YMAG will undertake will be available at this time.

Communities' secretary Hazel Blears said:

"I am delighted to be meeting with the Young Muslims Advisory Group today and to be hearing their ideas for how they plan to challenge prejudice and preconceptions both within their communities and in wider society.

"I am impressed at the speed with which the group have galvanised themselves; they are already looking at ensuring that their voices and those of their peers are heard by the Government through preparing a national youth conference in March this year. This shows that empowering young people with the opportunity to access constructive and democratic channels for dealing with their concerns is the right way forward and I hope it will help to improve our efforts to build strong and resilient communities. I look forward to seeing their work progress."

Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls said:

"I look forward to meeting again with the Young Muslims Advisory Group today and hearing their ideas to bring about positive change and find solutions to the challenges facing young people. This 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.

"I am impressed by the commitment of all 23 members who have already invested their time and effort. These individuals will act as role models by coaching and inspiring their peers to achieve their potential.

"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."

The group has also now elected a chair and vice chair - these roles will be re-elected for the second year of the YMAG project, but the first Chair will be Abdullah Saif, 23 from Hall Green, Birmingham and the Vice Chair will be Asma Rahman, 22 from East London.

Abdullah works as a trainee solicitor. Whilst studying at Keele University he was twice voted president of the universities Islamic Society and he also set up the first Islamic Society at the College of Law in Birmingham.

Asma is a recent graduate of Oxford University where she studied English. She is currently a volunteer mentor for the London School of Excellence in Whitechapel. Whilst at Oxford she was Vice President and editor of the newsletter for the Islamic Society.

Speaking about their appointments to lead the first ever Young Muslims Advisory Group Abdullah said:

"The strength of the Young Muslims Advisory Group comes from its diverse membership, all working for a united purpose to serve the young Muslims of Britain. I am very humbled to be chosen to Chair such a dynamic and exciting group."

And Asma said:

"I accept the role as Vice Chair in the hope that I can serve the group in a positive way. I also hope to extend my offer of support not just to the Chair (which is a given) but to anyone else who requests it. And I pray that both the Chair and I are able to fulfil our roles in the best possible way."

The Young Muslims Advisory Group's remit is to speak on behalf of their peers and communities on issues that cut to the heart of what it is to be a British Muslim in today's modern society. The group will give these young people a seat at the table of the Department for Communities and Local Government, and Children Schools and Families.
 
Muslim communities in the UK have an unusual age profile compared to the rest of the UK population. One third of the Muslim UK population of 1.6 million is under the age of 16 (compared to England average of 20 per cent); 54 per cent are under the age of 25 years and 70 per cent under the age of 35 years. Experience has also shown that young Muslims - particularly between the ages of 16 and 24 - are the most vulnerable to being drawn into violent extremism.

The Government is raising its work with young Muslims to a new level in order to increase opportunities for young people to play a greater role in civic society, give them a stronger voice in their communities and engage in discussions that will help the Government to find solutions to some of the most pressing issues.

Recently Cohesion Minister Sadiq Khan met two members of the Young Muslim Advisory Group to discuss the situation in Gaza. Watch the video below:

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