When he was a teenager, GTA resident Yaseen Poonah faced a difficult problem.
“When I was in high school there was no one I could talk to comfortably,” “I couldn’t talk to my father, imam or anyone,” Poonah said.
In January, 2008, Yaseen Poonah, 28 co-founded the first GTA Kids Phone Help for Muslim teens. The objective has been to provide a channel for Muslim teenagers who want to speak with somebody anonymously and comfortably about range of issues including, peers pressure, domestic conflict, and cultural/religious issues.
The phone help line Idea came to him because he thought it would help Muslim teens to have some place to vent normal teenage angst.
The new hotline based in Mississauga is called Naseeha (meaning ‘advice’ in Arabic.) Four female and four male counsellors age 18 to 25, have backgrounds in social work and psychology. They run phone help line for Muslim youths nightly from 6 to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday.
There is some debate amongst Muslim and non-Muslim youths on some online forums that Naseeha runs the risk of excluding Muslim teens from mainstream Canadian society.
Donna Hansplant, Vice President of the Kids Phone Help counselling services commented on the nature of the services. “Usually we don’t integrate within our services,” Donna Hansplant said. “We can only put organizations on our website for referral.”
In addition to the existing help line Naseeha has, a Second Line of Contact (SLC), which seamlessly connects the youth with a doctor or a psychologist. If the need arises for religious interpretation from the Quran, Muslim’s holy book, young callers are connected to a Muslim scholar.
The Muslim Canadian Congress founder, Tarek Fatah has criticized the hotline’s name as sounding too Arabic and that ‘Naseeha’ is not fitting name for organization based in Canada.
“People fail to realize that there are other phone help lines,” Poonah said, “But again anything Muslims do people ask what is this all about.” Naseeha is urging those ‘critics’ call anonymously to find out what the hotline is about, he added.
The hotline number for Naseeha is 1-866-627-3342