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Teen rallying other youth to combat hate

Speakers Corner is back! CityNews wants to hear from you. We’ve been asking you to send us interesting stories, videos or questions you want answered. The Queen Street booth maybe a thing of the past, but we’re still listening and want to hear what’s on your mind.

This week we hear from a 16-year-old in Scarborough who is working to rally other teens her age to combat a growing problem.

Alisha Aslam has already accomplished more than many people twice her age.

“Ever since elementary school, I always joined the leadership councils and other clubs,” she said. “I just loved being involved and getting others to get involved as well.”

She’s a Riding Representative at Ontario Provincial Youth Council, where she represents the youth of Ontario and presents their concerns to Ontario officials.

Alisha is also a media host and journalist for Street Voices, an online platform that helps at-risk teens share their stories.

She’s a writer, speaker and currently working with the U.S. Consul General in Toronto in a program to bring more women into politics.

It was a gruesome and horrifying scene in early June on the streets of London, Ont., which sparked her new mission.

On June 6th, five members of the Afzaal family were struck by a driver, four of them died, in what police call a targeted attack.

The family, like Alisha, are Muslim.

“I first heard the news with friends and we were devastated. It was obvious that they were Muslim because they were wearing cultural clothing and wearing the hijab,” Alisha said. “I don’t wear a hijab but a lot of my friends and family wear it, so it hit home.”

Alisha knew she had to do something.

“It shouldn’t be a matter of life and death. I’ve been public about my faith and have received hate for it,” she said. “My friends have received hate because of their looks and because they wear a scarf.”

The natural born leader jumped into action to begin combating Islamophobia — and all forms of hate.

“What people don’t hear about as much are the everyday experiences of those who are Muslim, Black, Brown — all minorities,” she said. “We need to stop those microaggressions because if we allow that type of discrimination to happen then worse things, like London, keep on happening.”

Alisha resurrected the Muslim Student’s Association at her school, Agincourt Collegiate Institute. She developed a website documenting how to recognize and stop Islamophobia and spoke in front of the T.D.S.B’s equity forum.

While she’s happy people of any age learn from her message, her main goal is to target teens.

“Youth are the future. We can either carry the same traditions into the next generation or we can break it, and we’ve broken a lot of stereotypes and barriers so I’d really like people to know especially if you’re young use your platform and use your voice.”

She encourages other teens to speak out against hate on social media but is also asking them to do much more. She teaches others how to get involved in organizations working to make real change on a social and legal level.

“Social media is good for bringing awareness but activism doesn’t stop there. It continues with making policies, joining councils. There are so many opportunities for youth voices to be heard, but teens have to get involved.”

Alicia has already received a tremendous response to her work. Work she says is only in the beginning stages.

“Now more than ever, hate is a topic of concern. I just hope we don’t brush it under the rug.”

If you’d like to learn more about Alisha’s work, you can visit here:

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