Letting Muslims Shine: What MIST Means for Muslim Youth

In a society where Muslims are alienated and estranged, unity and benevolence is revolutionary.

For one weekend, once a year, Muslims of all backgrounds come to compete in MIST Nationals. The Muslim Inter-Scholastic Tournament (MIST) is an interactive program consisting of competitions and workshops, where Muslims from around the country can compete and learn from mentors and their fellow peers. The program aims to “bring high school students together to develop leadership, promote communication and inspire creativity while gaining a deeper understanding of Islam and Muslims.” The tournament is held in fourteen cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, Florida, Houston, Southern California, Richmond, Nashville, Northern California and Toronto. From there, the winners make their way on to Nationals, held in Detroit, this year.

Every year, competitors tie their work and pieces to a central theme that differs year by year. This year’s theme was: The Challenge of Beauty: Striving for Perfection in an Imperfect World

A theme that is relevant, regardless of the year.

MIST is dedicated to empowering high school students by giving them a venue to:

  1. Develop confidence and professionalism by practicing presentation, public speaking and problem-solving skills

  2. Meet and network with diverse peers who share the same talents and interests

  3. Express their thoughts and ideas through various creative mediums

  4. Learn strategies to deal with stereotypes and prejudice against Islam and Muslims

MIST allows for Muslims from all walks of life to come together for a national event that celebrates our individual talents. This tournament unifies Muslims and connects us, not only through our faith but our talents. Ranging from photography to Qu’ran memorization to debate to short film, this is a space for everyone.

With the limited positive representation allotted for Muslims, to see Muslims come from all walks of life, battling stereotypes, is inspiring. Growing up in an environment, almost devoid of Muslims, to see Muslims who are like you, is eye-opening. In the midst of our current political atmosphere, where Islamophobia is spewed, this event is radical.

“MIST was such an eye-opening experience. It allowed me to realize the talent and capabilities of the Muslim youth and the unique ways in which we express them. MIST has allowed us to express it in ways that we never had the opportunity to do before. It was my first year and my team and I had felt so welcomed, especially since we have been dealing with a rise in hate speech and harassment of Muslim students in my school. I was so grateful for the opportunity and will be coming back next year as a competitor and a volunteer after I graduate, inshAllah!”

– Yumna Salih

[caption id="attachment_89073" align="aligncenter" width="358"]Photo taken by MIST:<br /> http://getmistified.squarespace.com/ A MIST Competitor performing at the Awards Ceremony[/caption]

MIST provides Muslim youth with a platform to express themselves and let their voices be heard. In a time where Muslims are silenced and ridiculed, it is even more important, now more than ever, to let remind the public who Muslims really are.

“DC MIST is an annual event that many high schoolers look forward to every year. After months of preparation, hundreds of teenagers reunite with their close friends and even form new friendships. DC MIST has played a huge role in my social life and habits. One of the competitions I competed in this year was spoken word. The writing process behind writing about an assigned topic can be stressful but the end result always hits home. I love the themes chosen because each year, you learn new things about yourself. I wrote my piece about sexual harassment/rape. I was shocked by the caring, accepting and understanding feedback I received. DC MIST gives the youth a platform to have discussions on topics that are not often spoken about.”

– Marjan Naderi

Most importantly, the program all comes down to the competitors and everyone involved enjoying themselves.

“For me, D.C. MIST was one of the best experiences of my life. This year as absolutely phenomenal and showcased so much talent that the Muslim youth has. Every single competitor was fabulous and the organizers, volunteers, and coaches made the experiences ten times better. I meet so many beautiful souls and formed a couple great relationships. SO sad it was my last year competing but I definitely want to come back and contribute in some way next year.”

– Sidiratu Bangura

[caption id="attachment_89075" align="aligncenter" width="359"]Photo taken by DC MIST A DC MIST organizer excites the audience as they chant their schools and mottos.[/caption]

Muslims are depicted in the media as either the extremist or the foreigner, the abusive husband or the passive wife, the terrorist or the accomplice. With little to no positive representation, Muslims grow up seeing only a one-sided story. Muslims grow up with preconceived notions on what it means to be Muslim, based off the media. We grow up having to defend ourselves from the public, a task too daring for only one demographic. We deserve to see that we are more than our stereotypes and that we do not fall into a category of either the bad terrorist or good taxi-driver. We are multi-dimensional.

We are artists.

We are scholars.

We are dreamers.

We are activists.

We are Muslims.

 

MIST Nationals will take place at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI from July 28th – 30th. More information about MIST Nationals is available here.

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