Ali Abou-Zeid always felt “different” growing up, he was one of few Muslims attending a Catholic secondary college – so he used that difference to shine.
“I felt that I was unable to voice my concerns because I was simply outnumbered on every occasion, I was ‘different’ and I didn’t really feel like I had the ability to make a difference,” he reflected.
So to feel involved, he got involved – “I gained the confidence and felt that I could really contribute to the school and its programs. Since then, I have been very fortunate alhumduliah to have the ability to take part in projects and initiatives, by utilising my skills and experiences to inshallah improve the community that we live in.”
Ali, 24 with a Lebanese background, is a civil engineer who also is a youth committee member at the Australian Islamic Centre (AIC) and also runs tours, handles marketing and coordinates fundraisers.
In the past he has organised youth camps, served on the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) board as an executive committee member, was awarded a BMD/RMIT Industry Scholarship and was involved in building the most advanced container terminal in the world – Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT)
Listing identity, unemployment and substance abuse as the major challenges facing youths today, Ali offers strategies to deal with these problems.
“As a community, we can help address our identity crisis by creating positive image campaigns, social media videos, educating the public and change misconceptions to create a paradigm shift in the wider society,” he said.
“The best way to address the unemployment issue would be to develop, mentor and empower Muslim professionals – Muslim Professionals Association (MPA) already exists and works towards bridging these gaps, but there’s a lot more we can do.”
“Substance abuse can be drummed out of our community through educational programs, alternative youth and mentor programs.”
Ultimately, Ali hopes to see empowered youths leading the Muslim community and dealing specifically with youth issues.
“Most communities are often led by older committee members who have great intentions and are often much wiser, however, there is usually a large disconnect and generation gap between the two and the needs of youths get left behind,” he said.