Youthful faces at ABIM’s helm

The following report was written by Shahaanaz Habib and originally appeared here.

KUALA LUMPUR: Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim), one of the most influential Muslim non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country, has embarked on a bold move by picking a totally new line-up of leaders, all graduates below 40 years old.

Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman, president for eight years, has handed over the mantle to 33-year-old law graduate Yusri Mohamad. The Kelantan-born Yusri, who has a Masters degree in law (LLM) from the prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, is the son of Mohamad Che Wook, a former Kelantan mufti besar.

The deputy president is Mohd Rumaizuddin Ghazali, an Al-Azhar graduate while the vice-president (national) is Ahmad Shaiful Alwi Md Nor, who has a degree in pharmacy from a British university and currently works for a multinational company. Both are 34. Abim’s vice-president (international) is 30-year-old Azril Mohd Amin, a lawyer, while vice-president (women) is International Islamic University lecturer Dr Mastura Badzis, 37.

Azam, 45, said he had been at the helm for “too long” and that it was time for the young intellectuals to take over. “We have decided that Abim should be led by those aged 40 and below,” he said, adding that all the new office-bearers were also graduates.

“We are talking about a new generation, a post-New Economic Policy generation, so we are looking at a new approach, a new direction and a regeneration of Abim. It is a very bold step for Abim. We have the confidence in the young to lead the movement,” he said yesterday. The new line-up took office three weeks ago.

Azam said he was very happy to have delivered Abim in “one piece” to the new leaders and that the transition was smooth. “We planned it very well. We groomed them and when the time was right, we handed it over,” he added. As for former Abim office-bearers, he said they had a lot of options such as entering other NGOs, politics or business. “They have graduated from the Abim school. Their years in Abim have instilled in them the Islamic principles and they should be able to decide how to live up to these principles,” he said.

Azam, who in recent years had become almost synonymous with Abim, said he was currently spending time with his family. As chairman of Global Peace, a relief NGO, Azam said he would focus on developing it at international level. He also has his hands full, being a founding member of the newly set up Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (Uniw) which is based in Istanbul. This, he said, is a union of various Muslim NGOs from all over the world in the field of relief, education and human rights. Asked if he would be going into politics, Azam said it was out of the question, adding in jest: “I know nothing about politics.”

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