Among the many issues concerning the Muslim community in America is the state of the youth. However, despite the temptations surrounding today’s youth, Muslim teenagers seem to still be connected to the masjid as proved by the ADAMS Winter Youth Festival.
On Saturday December 29, 2012, ADAMS Center youth hosted their first Winter Youth Festival at the mosque in Sterling, VA. South Lakes high school senior and Adams Youth coordinator, Sana Rauf, came up with the idea of having a winter festival specifically for the youth since she believes that the ADAMS seasonal festivals are usually catered to the adults.
Therefore, the Winter Youth festival featured plenty of activities local youth would enjoy such as a gingerbread house/mosque competition, a movie room , a game room with an Xbox, and a Ping-Pong room.
ADAMS youth work together to build a masjid out of gingerbread and candies at the ADAMS Youth Winter Festival. Photo by Omama Altalib.
There were over fifty youth present, dispersed between the different activities. In the main floor, where food and drinks were sold, four groups of youth were competing in a gingerbread mosque competition. One group used the floating mosque of Jeddah as a blueprint for their creation while another group strived to emulate the Blue Mosque in Turkey. Rauf got the idea of a gingerbread mosque competition from her high school, “last year, our MSA won most school-spirited because we made the Kabaa, and I thought it would be fun to do that at ADAMS,” said Rauf.
The competition started around 2:30 p.m. as the groups spread cream cheese frosting onto the graham crackers of their base. The winner of the competition was revealed at the end and was chosen by a panel of judges including ADAMS Youth director and member of Native Deen Joshua Salaam. The winning mosque was the gingerbread replica of the Floating mosque of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
One of the sweetest masajid on Earth, complete with chocolate windows, chocolate truffle mini-domes, cream cheese frosting and candy dome, gingerbread walls, and twizzler artwork. Photo by Omama Altalib.
Rauf, who is also on the Adams Youth Council which is comprised of about 15 youth from different youth programs who come up with ideas for events, described the event as “semi-successful, since word wasn’t spread out enough” despite promoting the event on Facebook and Twitter. She mentioned, “usually we have more of a turnout.”
Some past events Rauf referred to were the ADAMS fundraising dinner which was put on by the youth as well as the first Youth Conference in June, the first Youth talent show in September, and the Sisters’ annual prom.
Joshua Salaam, who has been the Youth Director at ADAMS for over six years, wasn’t as worried about the turnout. “I hope events like this help bridge the gap between the masjid and the youth to become a source of more than prayer- a source for social interaction, activism, bonding, fun, in addition to the Quranic knowledge and Islamic Studies.”
Some mosques in America have struggled in attracting the youth to get more involved; however, ADAMS does not seem to have this issue. Salaam advises other mosques to prep their regular attendees and to develop a system where if a problem arises, the leadership knows how to solve it before bringing the youth so “they don’t push the youth out.”
Salaam thinks that one of the biggest challenges facing the youth currently is “the gap between their parents. Sometimes it’s a generation, culture, or emotional gap.”
One way youth programs and events help reduce this issue is through camps. ADAMS has various camps and retreats during the year like the week-long spring camp during spring break. “We have a lot of camps for the youth to teach them how to be kind to their parents and I think that masajid have neglected to do the same for parents,” said Salaam.
Even though Salaam’s role as Youth Director is difficult at times, he still loves “seeing youth grow and grow up and get more involved.” “What I love most is seeing them become mature, going off to college, and to know I was there to get them through some things, it’s rewarding.”