Unveiling Muslim Youth Work

Interview with Sadek Hamid

Sadek Hamid is the programme leader for the new degree course in Muslim Youth Work at the University of Chester. The BA in Muslim Youth Work is a unique development in Britain and has attracted widespread interest. Shofique Ullah caught up with Sadek to ask him about the initiative and what he hopes to achieve.

S.U: Just to clarify for the readers, what is youth work?

S.H: Youth work is in essence about helping young people to help themselves. It’s more than the common perception of just playing pool or taking kids out on a day trip. It is about helping the youth realise that they have the ability to change their lives and the society around them for the better by encouraging and supporting them to get the knowledge and skills to do so.

S.U: What are the issues amongst the Muslim youth in the UK?

SH: Some Muslims are doing very well and making major contributions to British society, but many are not.From approximately 2 million people in the Muslim community more than 50 per cent are under the age of 25 and aproximately 33 per cent are under the age of 16. We have the fastest growing youth population among all the ethnic groups in the UK but have increasing rates of involvement in crime, drugs use, anti-social behaviour. Around 11 per cent of the prison population is Muslim young men. This is in addition to difficult problems around relationships, mental health and relative educational underachievement among other challenges.

S.U: We already have mainstream youth work so why do we need youth work focuaing on Muslims? Don’t you think that it will segregate the communities even further?

S.H: That’s one of the first things people ask. The fact is that over the last 10-15 years young people from diverse ethnic backgrounds increasingly identify themselves as Muslims, whether they practice their religion or not. Young people from Muslim backgrounds are amongst the most socially disadvantaged and suffer discrimination and exclusion in many ways which affects their adult life prospects. Majority of Muslim youth do not use mainstream youth services for different reasons, one is that the religious aspect of their identities are ignored or not understood. What we’re trying to do is train people to be able to have the understanding and skills to be able to address to these complex issues.

S.U: Would the graduates from this course only specialise working with just Muslim youth?

S.H: No. Most people who come on our course want to naturally help improve the condition of Muslim youth in their own communities, but we also teach our students how to integrate young people from different backgrounds. Our values are guided by the view that both our faith and good youth work should bring different young people together in positive ways.

S.U: Would this qualification be recognised in the mainstream?

S.H: Yes, it is the same as any nationally recognised youth work degree qualification.

S.U: Would the Muslim youth work course address Islamic issues?

SH: Well, it depends what you mean or how narrowly you define ‘Islamic issues.’ For us, it is about promoting Islamic values including promoting knowledge, development, positive change and justice. We are interested in putting Islamic values into action so to speak and not there to preach or teach theology and law which can be learnt elsewhere.

S.U: What qualities and qualifications are required for entrance on to the degree?

S.H: If you are under 21, you should have two A levels or equivalent, if you are over that age, the requirement is more flexible. The main qualities we are looking for is experience and a passion of working with young people and a commitment to learn.

S.U: What are the job prospects on completion of the BA in Muslim Youth Work?

S.H: There will always be a need for youth workers in the local authorities, voluntary sector and now Muslim organisations are starting to employ youth workers. Some of our first year students have already got part-time jobs.

S.U: If any body would like further information who should they contact?

S.H: That would be me! Please call 01244 511 031 or email me at s.hamid@chester.ac.uk