Assalamu ‘alaikum. I wrote this article when I was sixteen years old. Since then, my views of things, especially in regards to Islam, have changed and developed.
Recently, following a rigorous training process and campaign period, I was elected as Deputy Young Mayor of my borough (Tower Hamlets) for the term 2017 to 2019. As cliche as this may sound, this entire experience has been wonderful; I have learnt so much, about different people and their cultures, about who I am, and about politics in general.
I will not lie by attempting to claim that this process has been easy for me: following a training period that spanned over the course of three months and consisted of various meetings, interviews and training sessions, the number of candidates was narrowed from an initial cohort to approximately fifty, down to ten final candidates. Promptly after this, we were left to our own campaigns for over a month- from mid-December 2016 to late January 2017. This allowed me to develop my organisational skills, as I needed to create a necessary balance in my life, what with my political campaign, alongside preparation for imperative mock exams, as well as preparation for my entrance exams to get accepted into my desired sixth form.
Below are some of the lessons I have been taught during my campaign, which I would have given to my former self prior to my campaign. I have decided to share these words of advice in order to assist anyone who may be going through a particularly challenging stage in their lives:
1) Some people will hate you for no apparent reason.
The unfortunate reality of the world is that some people will find a reason to detest you, without even knowing you. Perhaps they are members of an opposition party’s campaign team, or even a random person from a different school. They may dislike you based on something as trivial as your accent or facial structure, but the key thing to remember is that they do not know you; they are simply attempting to fill some void in their lives. So keep your head up and try to shrug off any negativity.
2) The support you receive will be overwhelmingly heartwarming.
This process will reveal to you who your true friends are. They will rush to the streets to campaign with you, attend meetings with you and relentlessly update your social media feeds for you. However, most importantly, these friends will (metaphorically) hold their hands out beneath you, ready to catch you if you fall, and catapult you back on track.
But the support you receive will not solely come from the people you know and love: you will receive an overwhelming amount of support from people you have never even met before, and new friendships will undoubtedly be forged.
3) This will be tough.
These months will drain you- mentally, physically and spiritually, but eventually you will respond to the strenuous nature of your situation, and you will adapt to it accordingly. It takes courage and determination, but most of all, it takes a high degree of organisation. Sometimes I was forced to endure days that comprised of meetings, followed by lengthy revision sessions, followed by family gatherings, followed by an hour or so of outdoor campaigning. Thankfully, this allowed me to develop my skills (especially those pertaining to communication and organisation) and have fun with my friends.
4) Some may start to view you as nothing more than a vessel.
Through this comparatively small-scale political campaign, I have realised that people are quick to perceive political candidates as mere political vessels, rather than human beings with true emotions. The amount of hostility one can receive simply by running for a political position is absolutely atrocious. Despite this, it is important to focus on the positive rather than the negative aspects of life, for we become whatever we ponder upon constantly.
5) Hold on to who you are, but be open to positive changes.
Ultimately, the best possible advice I can impart is as follows: know yourself, accept yourself, and seize every good opportunity made available to you. Success lies not in winning, but in taking a chance, and in being the very best version of yourself that you can possibly be.
I am extremely grateful to everyone who voted for me, and I look forward to working alongside Fahimul and Shaiam over the next two years to make a positive impact on our borough.
And finally, good luck to anyone considering running for the role of young mayor in two years’ time!