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East Coast News (V9-I26)

June 23, 2007 by  


Non-citizens may win right to vote in Boston

Boston–June 18–The Green Rainbow Party of Massachusetts, Boston Chapter voted unanimously to support a petition to allow non-citizen residents of Boston to vote in municipal elections, which was introduced on April 11, 2007 to the Boston City Council by city councilor Felix Arroyo and supported by city councilors Chuck Turner, Charles Yancey, Sam Yoon, and Michael Ross.

Boston is home to over 150,000 immigrants, representing over 25% of the population and nearly 30% of the work force. Immigrants own over 8,000 businesses in Greater Boston, and generate $12.3 billion of economic activity in the region. Nearly two-thirds of those immigrants are currently not eligible to vote.

Arroyo believes that excluding such a significant portion of the City’s population from voting on issues that effect their lives undermines the health of our democracy.

“They are already paying taxes, they are already authorized to be here, and they are participants in the life of the city,” Arroyo argued.

Until 1926, twenty-two U.S. states and territories permitted non-citizens to vote.

If the non-citizen voting petition is approved by the Legislature, about 95,000 legal immigrant residents would get the right to vote, and the number of eligible voters in Boston would increase by as much as one third, although non-citizens still could not vote in state or federal elections.

There are currently about 280,000 registered voters in Boston, according to Election Department figures.

To move forward, Arroyo’s petition must receive approval from a majority of councilors and be signed by Mayor Thomas Menino, who is still undecided.

Ali Noorani, director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said, “Boston is a big fish. It does change the dynamics.”

It is believed that immigrant voting will encourage civic education and political literacy.

Several U.S. cities allow all residents to vote regardless of their citizenship status, and similar initiatives are being considered in New York, San Francisco, and Denver.

The State of Massachusetts risks losing one of its ten congressional seats due to resident departures. Thanks to legal immigration, the state’s population did not decrease. The largest immigrant population in Boston as of 2000 is Caribbean. Because of immigration, non-whites became the majority in Boston in 2000.

All legal permanent residents must agree to take up arms for the United States. Tens of thousands of non-citizens serve in the U.S. armed forces and hundreds of non-citizen soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Muslim Homechoolers Graduation Ceremony

Revere, MA–June 14–Their parents clapped and cheered as twelve Muslim homeschoolers received certificates of promotion and gifts on Thursday evening, June 14th. The End of School Year Celebration was held at the Boston Dialogue Foundation, an Islamic center in Revere, Massachusetts.

The celebration was a combined potluck and awards ceremony for the students. The third, fourth, and fifth grade students gave presentations on character building, while the first and second graders sang Islamic songs.

“Your children are very smart, MashaAllah,” A school staff member told the parents before introducing each student and the subject of their presentation.

Myssa, a third grader, whose presentation was on good manners said, “Every Muslim should be polite so other people can see how polite we are.”

“I should have self-control to set an example for little kids,” Elaf, a fifth grader, said about the importance of self-control in her life.

Sara Erritouni, a second grader, gave a final presentation on Eid Al Fitr. She explained that on the Eid, Muslims wear their best clothes. They go to pray in the mosque, and children get a lot of gifts from their parents.

The students, who come from Revere and other nearby cities, are part of a homeschooling organization called Ace It Education. The organization offers first through fifth grade. The students learn Qur’an, Arabic, and Islamic studies in addition to regular school subjects. They meet Monday through Friday for six hours a day at the Boston Dialogue Foundation and are taught by a staff of five full and part-time teachers. Ace It Education functions like a full-time Islamic school, but for various logistical reasons, such as lack of space and the difficulty of complying with Massachusetts school regulations, the organization has chosen to keep its homeschooling status, at least for another year.

At a recent parent’s meeting, a staff member from the Boston Dialogue Foundation said that the mosque is interested in buying a building or renting classroom space in an unused Catholic school in Revere in order to establish a full-time Islamic school.

If a school is formed, it would be the first Islamic school in Boston’s North Shore.

The Boston Dialogue Foundation was founded in July 2000 to serve the Turkish community and other Muslims. According to its website, its mission is to promote mutual understanding, respect, and collaboration between followers of different religious traditions.

As for the upcoming school year, Ace It Education has extended its program to include sixth grade and is accepting a limited number of new applications.

Center for Arabic Culture holds Open House

Newton, MA–June 17–The Center for Arabic Culture hosted an Open House to meet the teachers on Sunday, June 17. Twenty persons attended the event. Because twelve new families signed up during the Open House, the number of classes was increased from 3 to 5.

CAC wants to provide a permanent and visible presence of Arabic culture in the Boston area.

CAC hopes to become the first choice for Arab-American social expression.

Its programs include visual arts, film, dance, and theater productions from the Arab world, lectures, conferences and workshops focused on Arabic culture, history, and the Arab-American experience. CAC promotes Arabic culture in all of its regional and historic varieties.

Salma Abu Ayyash, who is on the CAC Board of Directors, told TMO, “I was interested in promoting Arab culture to present an alternative to the vilification of Arabs after 9/11. I think through art, music and cultural exchange we can assert our humanity and fight the prejudice and misinformation that is widespread in the USA about Arab culture.”

CAC offers Arabic language classes on Sundays to kids and adults. The classes are only 1 1/2 hours, with a light homework load, ideal for those families who are overwhelmed by the intense Sunday School Arabic school curriculum at area mosques.

This fall will be the second semester of the Arabic program, which takes place in three classrooms at Mt. Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts, and offers qualified teachers and small class sizes. Arabic classes will begin September 9. Tuition is $300 per semester.

CAC focuses on both academic empowerment and cultural enrichment activities to equip Arab-American youth with the tools to speak, read and write Arabic. The curriculum for ages 4-16 includes language, culture, music, dance, art and calligraphy.

Six year old Giacomo, a Palestinian-Italian American who attended CAC last year, told TMO that he liked “the games that [kindergarten teacher] Khitam did.”

An adult language course is offered for ages 16 and above. This course is a beginner level course in Modern Standard Arabic. Adult students will learn the alphabet, reading and writing.

The CAC’s Arabic language program enables Arab-American children and young adults to experience the beauty, flexibility, and heritage of the Arabic language.

CAC does not endorse any religion; the curriculum is respectful of all religions.

In its resolve to maintain its independence and objectivity, CAC has no affiliation with any government or any non-cultural organizations.

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