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Oklahoma City Islamic society hires new youth director

The Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City has hired a new youth director.
by Carla Hinton Modified: February 15, 2013 at 3:17 pm •  Published: February 16, 2013

Young people walked away from a popular video game console and large flat screen TV.

Similarly, a nearby ping-pong table gained little of their attention.

Even the enticing aroma of fresh-baked pizza on a Friday night did not distract the group of youth from listening intently to Abdur-Rahman Taleb as he discussed Islamic teachings on love.

Taleb, the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City's new youth director, said while activities like ping-pong and video games are fun aspects of the small-group gatherings he leads, Islamic studies will always be the key ingredient.

“I'm responsible for developing young people through programs that will nurture every aspect of their lives so that they will become members of society who strive for God consciousness, social justice and who will convey Islam with utmost clarity,” Taleb said.

Several local Muslim leaders said Taleb's hiring is a sign of the times: the need for the youth director arose because of the growing metro Muslim population.

“This is the final brick in building the community,” Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Oklahoma chapter, said, noting that the Islamic Society now has an expanded mosque and a school complex. “The youth are the future and I think that's for any community — they want to hand the community over to young people at some point.”

Imad Enchassi, the Islamic Society's imam and president, shared similar sentiments.

“Our community in Oklahoma City is growing, the American Muslim community is growing and so are the challenges of raising well-balanced citizens in our nation,” Enchassi said.

Focusing on youths

Taleb, 24, said he was born and raised in Richardson, Texas. He said growing up he took part in MAS Youth, the Muslim American Society's thriving youth program that attracted Muslims from the large Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Taleb said much of the programming he is developing for Oklahoma City area youths is a smaller-scale version of The Dallas area programs he participated in. He said he also visited a youth director in San Diego, Calif., to get other ideas for programs and activities.

Taleb said Enchassi initially asked him to consider the youth director post in Oklahoma City. He said he visited Oklahoma City in September 2012 and presented an Islamic sermon first at the society's Islamic school called Mercy School, 14001 N Harvey, and later at the society's mosque, 3815 N St. Clair. He said he was hired shortly afterward and his official start date was Nov. 1.

Taleb said he is responsible for an after-school youth program at Mercy School which includes tutoring and homework help as well as recreational activities like foosball, video games and basketball in the new youth center at the school complex. Taleb said another program gaining in popularity is Friday Night Lights, a weekly youth program that has been attracting between 40 and 50 young people each week.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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