Blending a committed Islamic faith with American culture presents a
challenge for 15-year-old Nureen Syed.

On one hand, she’s on the debate team at Maize High School and a member of
the Spanish Club.

But on the other hand, she doesn’t date, avoids clothes she thinks are
immodest and doesn’t eat pork products.

Besides her Islamic family, she finds peer support for this unusual
lifestyle in a 2-year-old Muslim youth group.

“We have more in common,” Syed said of the youth group. “We used to live in
Chicago. There are fewer people here who know about Islam.”

The youth group was organized under the auspices of the Wichita chapter of
the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an Islamic community service and
advocacy group.

It is divided into two age divisions — middle school and high school —
and draws about 30 youths for a variety of bi-monthly events.

Social outings range from bowling to pizza nights. However, the youth group
gathers more often for volunteer service projects.

Those have ranged from mowing lawns at a Muslim cemetery to taking part in
community food drives and serving meals at homeless centers.

“The idea is to build bridges not just in the Muslim community,” said Donna
Sibaai, an adult coordinator for the high school youth group. “The things
we’re doing is a requirement of our faith. It’s giving back to our
community and an obligation to God.”

The idea of a youth group with a male and female membership is a distinctly
American phenomenon, organizers said.

Many Muslim countries discourage coed youth groups, said Sayyid M. Syeed,
secretary general for the Islamic Society of North America, a national
association of Muslim groups and individuals.

Some Muslim cultures also discourage interfaith events, even if they are
charitable in nature, he said.

He said he doesn’t know how many Muslim youth groups there are nationwide
but most medium to large cities have one or more.


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