East Coast News (Boston & NY) (V9-I25)

June 14, 2007 by  


After lawsuit settlement, Muslims celebrate in Roxbury

Boston–June 9–The Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) decided to settle with the David Project, with both parties agreeing to drop all lawsuits including the suit filed by James Policastro to attempt to get the Roxbury mosque torn down. No future litigation can be brought against the mosque.

Interfaith director Jessica Masse said, “The ISB has made its point, which was never about monetary gain, and was always about standing up for the right of its community to worship freely. We will now focus on strengthening our ties with the broader community, and in particular, the interfaith community.”

Masse thanked the interfaith community for having the courage to the stand with the ISB when no one else would.

ISB Director, Dr. Yousef Abou-Allaban stated, “We have achieved multiple victories in court…The decisions of the Massachusetts judges who issued rulings in these cases affirming our rights should be read by all citizens. But now we want to move forward.”

The ISB held a press conference on Wednesday, May 30 at the mosque site in Roxbury and on June 9 held a “Faith and unity march” and “Minaret Capping festival” attended by over 2000 visitors, including James Policastro!

Policastro said it was a beautiful ceremony, reported the Boston Globe.

A copper cap, affixed with an American flag, was lifted by crane and attached by workmen to the top of the minaret in front of the crowd as a symbol for the Muslim community’s addition to the American melting pot.

Imam Basyouny Nehala called the adhan from the minaret for the first time.

The 70,000-square-foot mosque, which has taken two decades to complete, plans to open this Ramadan.

Muslim American Society (MAS) Boston’s executive director Bilal Kaleem expressed his joy. “The settlement was achieved a couple weeks ago,” Kaleem said, “but it didn’t hit home until I saw the 5,000-pound cap of the minaret coming down slowly with thousands of people praying and crying. It was beautiful, emotional, and a time of great thankfulness.”

Sufia Hassan, whose husband heads Masjid Alhamdulillah in Roxbury, said their mosque was not originally built as a house of worship.

“This is the first built from the ground up,” Hassan said enthusiastically. “What’s nice is that it will bring Muslims from this country and other countries together.”

The New England community has achieved a great milestone in their dream to build the largest Islamic Center in Greater Boston.

Neocons wage campaign against Palestinian American anthropologist

New York City–May 28, 2007—Nadia Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at Barnard College, is the latest target in the ongoing tenure wars against scholars, whose work is viewed as undermining the official Israeli narrative.

University faculty that have experienced such attempts at academic assassination have included Columbia’s faculty members Rashid Khalidi, Georges Saliba, Joseph Massad, and Hamid Dabashi, as well as Harvard University’s Hillary Rantisi and University of Michigan’s Juan Cole. Recently, a campaign led by Alan Dershowitz pressured De Paul University to deny tenure to Norman Finkelstein.

Neoconservatives, including Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch and the Solomonia website, which represents the David Project in the blogosphere, have targeted Nadia Abu el-Haj because of her book, Facts on the Ground: Archeological Practice and Territorial Self-fashioning in Israel (University of Chicago, 2002).

This book analyzes the anthropology of Israeli archeology as well as the role that Israeli archeology and geography play in Israeli society and self-conceptualization.

Israeli academics are unused to being the object of anthropological study by a Palestinian American scholar working at a prestigious American University.

Critics claimed Abu El-Haj’s analysis calls into question the connections of modern Jews to ancient tribes of Palestine.

Abu El Haj interpreted the city name of Tel Aviv as a contrived attempt to connect modern Jews with ancient Palestine because Tel is an Arabic word meaning a mound composed of an ancient ruin while Aviv means spring. Old-New Land, the title of a book by Zionist leader Theodor Herzl advocating the colonization of Palestine, was rendered into Hebrew as Tel Aviv.

Phil Orenstein of the Neoconservative Democracy Project implored Barnard College President Judith Shapiro to “do the right thing” and deny tenure to the Palestinian American anthropologist. He tried to argue that pro-Israel advocates were being denied tenure.

President Shapiro clarified her position on the massive campaign waged by neoconservative Israel advocates against El-Haj.

“I do not myself believe that the people who are getting in touch with me anonymously truly need to do so. Nadia Abu El-Haj has also received death threats from those opposed to her work.”

She continued, “I have not received a single student complaint about her teaching, advising, mentoring, or anything that has gone on in the classroom. There are indeed places where Jews or Zionists are endangered and marginalized, but Morningside Heights [NYC] in the year 2007 does not happen to be one of them.”

Spring festival raises funds for Al Hamra Academy

Shrewsbury, Massachusetts–June 10–Islamic School Al Hamra Academy’s annual spring bazaar was attended by families from Greater Boston.

The atmosphere at the bazaar was distinctly South Asian. The school’s lush campus overflowed with women dressed in colorful shalwar kameez by late afternoon. The aroma of Pakistani and Indian food filled the air.

All the food, rides, and art activities required tickets, which were sold on the front lawn near the main entrance of the building. Tickets were $1.00 each and a rides pass was offered for $25.00.

The food vendors sold spicy samosas, barbecued chicken with yogurt sauce, and other curry dishes. Typical American fare such as pizza, hamburgers, and hotdogs was also offered, so there was something for everyone. The complementary coffee and tea went well with the honeyed baklava and chocolate cookies.

The fun was very inexpensive. For the price of one ticket, kids were able to ride a mini train around the parking lot, bounce inside the Wizard’s Castle, or knock their jousting partner off a pedestal with an inflatable lance.

The arts and crafts area was crowded with children painting with sand, stringing beads, or having their faces painted for a single ticket. Henna tattoos were available for two tickets, and many hands were decorated with intricate flowers and scrolls.

There were items for sale including clothing, books, jewelry, and original artwork. The Academy’s Student Government Association was busy selling curly homemade fries and fresh lemonade along with books, DVDs, and videos.

The highlight of the day was the Championship Soccer Tournament, which featured the Academy’s thirteen soccer teams. All the girls and boys did their best to score while parents and siblings cheered. Trophies were handed out to all the players after the tournament. Later on, four ponies were brought onto the soccer field for the kids to ride.

The event, organized by the members of the parent teacher organization, helped to raise money for Al Hamra. The academy, whose motto is “excellence through education,” is a full-time Islamic school that offers grades PK-8.

According to the school’s website, it was established in 1994 and serves as a model for other Islamic schools. The students have won numerous awards over the past five years at science fairs, including eight prizes in this year’s Regional Science Fair.

The school sits on 2.8 acres of land and has a meeting hall, masjid, classrooms, library, and computer lab.

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