By Milad Ahmed
In the future, what would I want? A world without the need for telephone helplines services providing listening ears and safe spaces for many members of our societies with no place/s to turn. As Head of Support Services of the Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH), Britain’s first and only telephone helpline service dedicated to Muslims, which may sound like a very peculiar wish, not to mention a “resignation letter”, for myself. So why make such a statement?
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is an age old philosophical riddle which at first hand raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality. However, dig a little deeper and it can be applied to a subject that is more synonymous with our daily lives, whatever strand of society we may arise from. To rephrase, if there no one there to listen, has something actually been said, or EVEN existed in the first place?
The many great orators and stories of modern and previous times would simply have not existed or been shared in the first place. Would a teacher have been able to teach if there had been no student to listen and absorb? When put within an Islamic context, how would the prophet Muhammed (pbuh) have propagated his message, if there had been no one able to listen and propagate his message to?
Although such examples may reside within the philosophical realm and also due to history may be difficult to relate to, what relevance would the art of listening have in our modern and more interconnected world? How would it feel, in both an individual and communal context, to live in a world where listening were to become a lost art? How would we share our lives, both the high and lows, with those around us, in such a society, and what effect would this have on us as individuals and as a community?
Would community thus cease to exist? Some may even argue that we live in such a world already, whilst for some members of the community, such a world is not just confined to this piece, but is lived by them every day. Our experience at MYH shows that young Muslims are increasingly reluctant to access mainstream support services for fear of being discriminated and misunderstood, and conversely mainstream support services are struggling to serve hard to reach minority Muslim youth.
What do we see as the as the key to overcoming such daunting challenges with deep seated roots? Many complex and varies “solutions” have been proposed, from various bodies, institutions, think tanks etc, but what of the art of listening? My vision for 2020; a world in which every person has someone who will listen to them, communities who will listen to each other, institutions and bodies who will listen…each empowering themselves and being empowered by each other. That is my vision for 2020 and one I will happily work towards, even if I work myself out of a job.
Milad Ahmed has been working in the field of youth and community work, primarily focusing on individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. He is the Head of Support Services of the Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH). MYH is a free and confidential peer support service that provides pioneering non-judgemental and non-directional support. The service is operated by trained volunteer staff and can be accessed by phone, email, Internet chat or letters.
Reclaim Your Stage:
The Platform is a groundbreaking blog that provides current affairs and cultural commentary. Our pieces offer challenging opinions from a range of spectrums; that’s why we love hosting a platform for them.