Kanye West and Muslim Leadership

“The preacher said we need leaders, right then my body got still like a paraplegic.” — Kanye West

What does Kanye West have to do with Muslim leadership?

Almost nothing. But when talking about youth Muslim leadership at this year’s LTP (Leadership Training Program) hosted by MYNA (Muslim Youth of North America) one of his lines was a great segway into the dilemma of contemporary Muslim youth activism. Confusion. Frustration. Disenchantment. And this is how I taught it:

  1. Criticizing the current state of Muslim youth leadership
  2. Teaching how to use maxims to redefine leadership
  3. Getting the attendees to create their own maxims and tweeting them during the workshop

LTP is perhaps one of the only places where I can drop a Kanye line and get away with it. It’s less about Kanye and more about the space. The space the event offers is a safe, positive exchange of conversations, knowledge, and experiences. The speakers are young Muslims and the attendees are largely composed of Muslim high school students. And then there’s crazy me, dropping a Kanye West reference in and then somehow drawing a decent lesson out of it.

Basically, it’s not your typical leadership training program.

It’s not about other people coming to LTP to empower young people. It’s about young people empowering themselves, receiving practical skills and having fun at the same time, so that when leadership dawns upon them, they are ready.

For the youth, by the youth.

I mean it. After my workshop, I didn’t just bounce as per the standard of Muslim speakers at events. I took the time to stay back and hangout with all the attendees at the sleepover. I levelled with them. With all the knowledge being dropped and the serious reflection going down, the youth still had the opportunity to be youth. They need to be themselves. And I’m cool with that. Even if it means getting pranked.

“If the youth are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down to see its warmth.” – African Proverb

We are always frustrated with Muslim Youth. We think they are rebellious. Disrespectful. Foolish. But ask yourself, have we shown them another way, besides scolding them all the time? Have we shown them warmth? Have we shared not only knowledge but also love, understanding and respect? Most of all, have we initiated them into the village?

We have a duty to uphold the legacy and tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when working with our young people. Children would play on his back while he would pray. He used to joke with his beloved homie, Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (RA). To selectively not apply the persona, morale and manners of our beloved Prophet is to selectively reject our tradition.

LTP is an extension of that beautiful tradition of relevance, introspection, and empowerment. I love LTP.  Not because I am a speaker. Not because I am MYNA Alumni.  But because to the young people of the community, I am their friend. Homie. Brother.

It’s easier to curse the darkness, then to light a candle. So light that candle, and show our amazing young people the warmth in our village.



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About ISNA Canada

ISNA Canada is an Islamic organization committed to the mission and movement of Islam: nurturing a way of life in the light of the guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah for establishing a vibrant presence of Muslims in Canada. ISNA exists as a platform for all Muslims who share its mission and are dedicated to serving the needs of Muslims and Muslim communities.