Yasmeen Azam, 20, was born and raised in Los Angeles. She is of Jordanian descent and is the daughter of immigrant parents that came to America in search for a better life. She is passionate about world affairs and is currently a third year student at California State University Long Beach pursuing a Bachelors degree in International Studies and double-minoring in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies.
On August 12, Yasmeen was selected to speak before the United Nations about religious tolerance with other youth from around the world. The speaking opportunity arose after Yasmeen’s essay called “The Call to Light,” which was submitted for an international essay competition about her personal spiritual awakening, garnered the attention of one of the organizers. Instead of presenting her original essay to the UN, she tailored it to address some of the more “serious matters” facing the nation.
“When I realized that it would be at the UN, I knew this would be an opportunity to address an audience I normally would not have access to. I took the risk and spoke my mind, rather than sticking to a script,” Yasmeen writes in an email correspondence. “The response from the UN and from my community proved to me that the change in the speech was the right thing to do.”
“Truly religion is ultimately about living a life characterized by righteousness,” said Yasmeen at the UN headquarters in New York, “whether it’s the emphasis on love of others above yourself as in Christianity, the discipline of the self through higher meditation as in Buddhism, or the embedded sincerity in worship as in Judaism, or the proclamation of the Oneness of God and the humility that comes with it as in Islam. All major religions within the ink letters of their scripture call for a life of goodness.”
Part of a quadruplet, Yasmeen says she was branded with family-oriented values. She says she has a deep passion for reading, spending time with family and being with the community. She grew up around the Islamic Center of Hawthorne community, which she believes, is one of the biggest factors in her self-development. She claims to be “a byproduct of a resilient, diverse community,.. the real heroes”.
On campus, she is active within the Muslim Student Association, #WeAreCSULB coalition, Students for Justice in Palestine and the student government body Associated Students, Inc. This academic year, Yasmeen will take the reins of presidency for her campus’ MSA at Cal State Long Beach.
Recently, Yasmeen has organized a vigil in remembrance of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, with an attendance of Muslim community organizations to Black Lives Matter chapters. Outside of campus she remains active with the Islamic Center of Hawthorne and the Muslim American Society with roles as a writer, member of the youth board, Assistant Regional Youth Director, part of a MAS Convention committee and as a convention sponsorship head. She was recently accepted by Access California, a nonprofit providing social and economic resources to Southern California Arabs and Muslims, for a Transformative Leaders Fellowship with the NAACP and AmeriCorps.
“I will directly be working with young Syrian refugees, developing a youth program with the purpose of helping them learn their rights, get access to resources, and participate in educational workshops,” writes Yasmeen. “I am extremely excited for this because I get to finally walk the walk instead of simply talking the talk.”
She is also a blog writer for The Levantine Peace Initiative, a nonprofit corporation immersed in global activism, research grants and scholarships with a mission to help cultivate peace in the Levantine region of the Middle East. Her writing has covered the current situation of Muslims in third world countries and their relationship with Muslims in America. She aspires to be a Human Rights Attorney, or work for a grassroots organization or the United Nations. On LinkedIn, she writes of how her goals for the future entail a life of service and selflessness.
“We learn from a young age that we are created for a higher purpose: beyond indulgence and self-gratification. In a consumerist society that feeds off these concepts, the dichotomy between what is selfish and what is selfless is increasingly stark. I believe that, as Muslims, our priorities should revolve around how we can benefit others rather than how others can benefit us,” said Yasmeen.
“I deeply believe that the way we treat the very people that often go unnoticed–– the ones that usually melt into the backdrop of society—are the very people we should be prioritizing in our service! I want to start by serving them and by serving my community, that is why I devote my time to it.”
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