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News / Volunteer Showcase: Hasnan Hussain

Volunteer Showcase: Hasnan Hussain

Volunteering / Staff Showcase

F&BF

24 / 02 / 21

Hasnan has recently joined F&BF as a research volunteer with the Parliamentors Universities team – we caught up with him recently to find out what has driven him to the door of the Faith & Belief Forum…

Your name and job title: 

Hasnan Hussain, Research Volunteer for the Parliamentors Universities Team

 

Tell us about yourself:

I was born and brought up in London as a Muslim, in a deeply religious and spiritual family. Our family is affiliated with an international religious organisation called Minhaj-ul-Qur’an (The Way of the Qur’an (the holy book for Muslims)). Amongst its other goals, Minhaj-ul-Qur’an promotes peace, tolerance, and interfaith harmony. The founder of this organisation is Dr Tahir ul Qadri, who is famously known for publishing a 600-page Islamic verdict denouncing acts of violent terrorism carried out in the name of Islam. In this environment, I was motivated to take part in initiatives which promoted peace, love and unity within society.

Within our local branch, we would hold yearly interfaith gatherings with local church leaders. I was particularly interested in how similar ideas, beliefs and experiences are expressed differently in the languages of different faiths. Even to this day, I still feel that interfaith work should be concerned with that unifying essence existing within all faiths. When it came to deciding what to study at university, it felt very natural for me to study religion.

What motivates you now? Why is interfaith work still relevant?

As Brexit and the rise of the far right have shown, the United Kingdom is a deeply divided country. A large part of this has to do with socio-economic inequalities, alongside misrepresentations of different religious and ethnic minority groups. In such an environment, it is very easy to exploit the grievances of people and pit groups against each other. Interfaith work cannot remain innocently on the backwaters of this crisis. Interfaith engagement has the potential to bridge community divides, build solidarity around common struggles, and encourage collective action against social injustice and towards social growth. Interfaith engagement is not the answer alone, but it surely is an integral part of the solution.

Another reason why interfaith engagement is important is because within the increasing climate of secularisation, there have been increasing challenges to religious identities, particularly the identities of young religious people. This can leave young people feeling disorientated, conflicted, and disempowered. It is important therefore for young religious people to collectively and openly discuss common challenges faced by them, and come up with common solutions.

Another reason for interfaith engagement is to deal with the very conflicts that have the risk of pitting religious communities against each other. A prime example of this is the Palestine-Israel conflict. Interfaith engagement cannot merely be about discussing commonality. It should also involve these difficult discussions which nevertheless need to be had.

What  do you think are the most common misconceptions surrounding faith work?

The main common misconception faith work gets is that it is inherently apolitical work. This is far from the truth. In fact, faith work can even be revolutionary. Religious people can discuss and work with each other to see how the allegiance to their faith can motivate/empower them to do good things within society and to collectively tackle injustice.

How did you first hear about the Faith and Belief Forum?

I first heard about it from my brother who took part in the ParliaMentors programme. He told me about the good experience he gained and the fact that it gave him more awareness about the political process. This appealed to me a lot which is why I am currently volunteering for this organisation.

What are the main issues relating to faith you feel need addressing on a societal level this year?

  • Using the power and teachings of faith to make sense of the lockdown situation and making unique faith-based contributions which are meaningful to people’s lives during this time.
  • Dealing with hard, difficult conversations which divide groups on religious or communal lines, e.g. the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. An example of a divisive issue within the UK would be the Relationship and Sex Education Curriculum. Interfaith and inter-community engagement can allow each side to put themselves into the others’ shoes, which is sorely needed if we are to resolve these divisive issues.

What floats your boat during your free time?

The work I do for the Faith and Belief Forum is what I am currently doing during my free time. I had also been involved in the hosting of a radio show during the past few months known as Dialogue Beyond Borders, where we talked about interfaith and human rights related issues. We are currently working on an initiative known as the Peace and Education Programme (PEP) where we carry out interfaith work associated with the aforementioned Minhaj-ul-Qur’an organisation.

Aside from this, I like to listen to music, play video games and carry out reflection/meditation exercises.

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