New Muslim Support
New Muslims around the world face significant challenges. Many struggle to find the support that they need to get to a stage in their new life where they are comfortable on their own, and many leave Islam within a short period of time. There are already some fantastic new Muslim projects, which vary between local, national, and global reach. However, there still exist many problems, and many areas of supporting new Muslims which have not been adequately covered. This project is aimed at developing a brand new website to address some of the most significant needs, with a strong social media element, so that wherever new Muslims are in the world, they know there's a place where they can get help and support from people just like them.
The Need for This Project
New Muslims around the world face significant challenges. Perhaps the greatest of these challenges is that in the early days of their acceptance Islam, they are extremely vulnerable, often without the knowledge or the strength of faith to overcome the huge challenges that many new Muslims face. The sad reality is that many of them leave Islam, not because they dislike it, but because they don't have the right support from the beginning.
The good news is that there are many excellent organisations addressing these needs. Having said that, there are several areas in need of improvement, including:
- Many of these organisations are local, and new Muslims may struggle to find them, or feel too shy to approach them in the first instance.
- Many of these organisations deal with very specific parts of supporting new Muslims; one may offer literature, another mentoring, and another weekly classes or quarterly retreats.
- A significant number of these organisations are struggling to support new Muslims, either because of a lack of personnel, or a lack of specialist knowledge and materials.
- While there is an abundance of material on the internet, it is of varying quality and accuracy, and is often spread across many sites, some of which may also host content which is inappropriate or confusing for a new Muslim.
- One of the biggest problems that new Muslims face is social exclusion. They often struggle to adapt to cultures which may be significantly different from what they are used to, and exclusion from their families can lead to a feeling of isolation.
- Many times, we meet new Muslims for only a few minutes, and it is easy to lose touch with them, especially when they live far away from the Muslim community.
Therefore, there is a clear need for a project which addresses these specific concerns, working with existing organisations to provide a strong support framework for new Muslims, as well as training and materials for those who support them.
Re-inventing the Wheel?
This project has very clearly defined aims. We are not intending to replace or to compete with local organisations offering support. Nor are we intending to have significant overlap with existing projects or websites. Wherever possible, we will seek to partner with existing organsiations, and to compliment their work.
There are a number of aims for this project, in it's first phase:
- To develop a website, hosted at www.newmuslimsupport.com, with the aim of being the first point of call for new Muslims, and to act as an aggregator of authentic resources.
- To develop the website have a strong social element, and strong integration with social media, making it easy to sign up, and to contact other new Muslims, particularly those who can have a positive influence.
- To make it easy for new Muslims to find the services which are available in their local area, and to provide an automated system for new Muslims to contact those services that may be of interest to them, as well as to rate the quality of the services that they access.
- To include structured links to existing material, including audio, video, and printed material, that has been reviewed and deemed suitable for new Muslims, as well as material for those who are supporting them.
- To evaluate areas where existing material is lacking, either for new Muslims or those who support them, and to produce material to fill the gap, with a Creative Commons License allowing free distribution. This is now being developed as a complete project within New Muslim Support, known as Welcome to Islam.
At this moment in time, we have a volunteer who is able to work on this project as part of their existing role of supporting new Muslims, and so we are not currently looking to raise funds for this project. The website is expected to contain links and small advertisements encouraging donations, and it is hoped that - in shaa' Allah - these will be enough to sustain the cost of running the site, which will grow proportionally with the number of users.
We aim to have completed the first version of the website by the end of 2015, in shaa' Allah. This is a slight delay from the original target, due to the need to complete the Welcome to Islam project first. In the first instance, we will only be linking to existing material. Welcome to Islam is due to be launched just after Hajj 2015, as part of the Dubai New Muslim Summit, and so this will provide much of the needed material, in shaa' Allah.
Where Are We Now?
Work started in early November, and is now 100% geared towards completing the material for Welcome to Islam, before going back to finish the New Muslim Support website.