Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium (MYLS) Roundup

The tenth installment of Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium (MYLS)-Chicago initiative took place on Saturday, March 29th. The symposium was  sponsored by CAIR-Chicago  and hosted by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) at the UIC Student Center East.   The full-day symposium, themed “Community Dialogue & Activism in the Age of Social Media”, welcomed a select group of about 20 Muslim American junior high and high school students from across the Chicagoland, including the Muhammad University of Islam (MUI) in Chicago,  Aqsa School and Universal School in Bridgeview, and the College Preparatory School of America (CPSA) in Lombard.

The panels touched on key issues revolving around the online realm and its uses in carving a raw space for community conversation on taboo issues facing the millennial generation, particularly those in the Muslim community, as well as how social media can be most efficiently utilized for activism, coalition building, and amplifying one’s voice.

The Spring 2014 speakers included Imam Sultan Muhammad (@ImamSultanM) of the Nation of Islam International, Deanna Othman (@deannaothman) of Islamic Horizons magazine, Eleanor Peck (@Eleanorpeck) of the Niagara Foundation, Sami Kishawi (@SMPalestine) of Sixteen Minutes to Palestine, Adam Garner (@garntastic) of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), and Imam Abdul-Malik Abu Noor Ryan (@chaplainabunoor) of DePaul University. Our program also included a Know Your Rights Online workshop with CAIR-Chicago’s Staff Attorney, Rabya Khan, as well as a Google+ Hangout with Haisam Yehya (@jarelkamar), the head of YouTube at Google in the Middle East and North Africa.

The symposium capped off with an inspiring keynote address and performance by hip-hop artist Jessica Disu aka FM Supreme (@FMSupreme). Disu, immediately opened up by speaking to the students regarding her own spiritual journey, walking the audience members through the life-changing events that led to the production of her hit, “Push”. Students raved calling her “super inspirational and powerful”.

One key aspect of the symposium were its workshops, where students embraced debate about online etiquette and modesty, with CAIR-Chicago’s Youth Development Fellows Nour Zein (@nourzein23) and Adham Sahloul (@AdhamSahloul) moderating, offering counter points of views to ensure open discussion and reflection.  Following the workshops, a “Twitter Convention”, using the #MYLSChiCon to broadcast the conversation about the popular #Mipsterz “Somewhere in America” video.  This gained strong, live traction on Twitter, and connected the MYLS-Chicago participants with the online community in an incredibly honest and stimulating conversation about conceptions of modesty and expression in the Muslim American community—the double standards that Muslim women face and the need for more safe spaces in mosques, Islamic schools, and college MSAs for a more inclusive, diverse, and empowered community.

With the presence of the Youth Development Fellows, this symposium will be followed up by year-round programs to expand the scope and reach of MYLS-Chicago. One initiative to look forward to is the ubiquitous community service objective of MYLS-Chicago, a new project development effort dubbed the Project Incubator, which will help  Muslim students develop solutions for local issues and consult on their projects’ blueprints as well as help connect the students to the wide array of resources and allies within the Muslim community as well as communities across Chicagoland.  This is but one way that MYLS-Chicago seeks to plug young Muslims into the rich tradition of civic engagement and activism in Chicago and promote the Islamic principles of active citizenry, volunteerism, and stewardship of our community, city, nation, and planet.

If you would like to learn more about MYLS-Chicago, follow us on Twitter @MYLSChicago or visit our website at You can also contact CAIR-Chicago’s Youth Development Fellows by emailing Nour Zein at or Adham Sahloul at