Community News, week ending May 31

June 1, 2006 by  


Ruling against mosque site upheld in Somerville

SOMERVILLE, NJ—A New Jersey Superior Court Judge upheld last year’s ruling by the town’s zoning board to deny conditional use variance for a property by the Muslim Center of Somerset County. The Muslim group had asked for permission for the use of a Tudor house as a mosque.
Judge Peter A. Buchsbaum ruled that the zoning board’s denial of the application of the mosque to continue to use the house as a mosque was not unlawful. He also found that the potential “negative impacts of the institution on the character of the neighbourhood outweigh the public interest.” He cited the community’s long-standing concerns of increased traffic, noise and parking problems, etc. According to a report in the Courier News, as many as 150 people attend the Friday prayers at the facility.

“The site is arguably not appropriate for a substantial religious institution that would serve Somerset County,” Judge Buchsbaum wrote in his 25-page decision.

The mosque’s attorney Marguerite Schaffer expressed her disappointment at the judgment.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” she said. “We think he (Buchsbaum) didn’t properly apply the law. In our view, the town should work with the religious organization, not against it.”

Student’s project on Pakistan fosters understanding

FREDERICKSBURG, VA— A high school student’s project is breaking down barriers of misunderstanding and opening up new avenues of awareness. Anum Shaikh chose to do a year-long project on Pakistan for the Commonwealth Governor’s School at Riverbend High School.

As part of the project she hosted an exhibit on May 21 at the Salem Church Library. The event featured ethnic food, games, marriage customs, home decor, clothes, accessories and the music of Pakistan. Books on related topics like Islam and human rights in Pakistan were also available.

The event was well received with many residents saying that they felt informed and educated about Pakistan. Anum plans to do this project on a larger scale next year.

“I really hope that people learned that they shouldn’t judge others before getting to know them, to be open-minded and accept diverse cultures, to learn more about people around them, and to accept the fact that everybody’s different,” she said.

Interim Imam appointed at the Islamic Center of Cleveland

CLEVELAND, OH—Imam Mohamad Samer Altabaa has been appointed as the full-time interim Imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland. The position has been vacant since the conviction of Imam Fawaz Damra on charges of lying when he sought US citizenship a decade ago.

The Plain Dealer reports that Imam Altabaa, 33, led the much smaller Lorain Islamic Association. The mosque has been looking for a suitable imam since January. Area Muslim leaders praised Altabaa and said that he is suitable for the challenging position.
Meanwhile, the search committee continues to look for a permanent imam.

Islamic Circle introduces the faith

LAWRENCE, NJ—The Islamic Circle of Mercer County held an open house at its premises to introduce Islam to people of other faiths. The focus of the open house was the personality of Prophet Muhammad (s).

Guest speaker Alaa Zeineldine said, “It is important to have these gatherings. It helps us to get to know each other more and increases understanding. This is not an attempt to compare religions, but to convey Islam’s beliefs.”

Zeineldine presented an overview of Islamic beliefs on creation, prophets, resurrection, etc. The event was attended by a dozen guests and several members of the mosque.

Muslim Council helps school

BALTIMORE, MD—The Howard County Muslim Council, in cooperation with the Baltimore Muslim Council and Baltimore Jewish Council, sponsored a day to clean up and make repairs at Falstaff Elementary School, 3801 Fallstaff Road, Baltimore.

The group painted the locker rooms and landscape and participated in other projects from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

A sizable number of students and adults participated in this community work.

Imam Wahy ud-Deen Shareef recognized

NEWARK, NJ—There is a growing recognition in the United States that Muslims are part of the national fabric and are here to stay. One indication is the slow but growing recognition of high achievers among the Muslim community in the news media. One such example is the profile of Imam Wahy ud-Deen Shareef published by the Star Ledger. A dynamic community leader, Imam Shareef’s biography is most impressive.

Imam Wahy ud-Deen Shareef is the second son of John and Laura Wilson’s 4 children. He and his wife, Helima share their lives with four children, 7 grandchildren and many nurturing family members. He is a graduate mechanical engineer practicing his profession as an entrepreneur and CEO of his own consulting company—Shareef Professional Services LLC—providing Project, Program and Construction Management services, staff development, team building and project coordination from design through implementation. He is a retired Engineering Project & Program Manager from Kraft Foods Inc. where he designed, planned and implemented major capital equipment installation projects for Kraft/Nabisco for 25 years.

He attended Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, transferring to New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, NJ, where he completed his Bachelor of Science Degree.

He has been instrumental in the formation, establishment and renovation of Islamic and Cultural Centers in Newark, East Orange, Elizabeth, Hillside and Irvington, New Jersey. In 1984 he co-founded WARIS Associates Inc., a group of concerned Muslims and Christians focusing on community concerns. This resulted in the establishment of the WARIS Cultural Research and Development Center and Masjid Waarith ud Deen located at 62-70 Howard Street, Irvington New Jersey. These organizations develop and implement spiritual, educational, recreational, cultural and social programs that address the challenges facing American families today. Imam Shareef serves as their imam (Religious Leader) and Director of Religious Affairs.

WARIS Cultural Research and Development Center, Masjid Waarith ud Deen and Imam Shareef follow the leadership of Imam W. Deen Mohammed. Imam Shareef had the honor of representing Imam W. Deen Mohammed, one of the presidents of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, at its conference in Tokyo, Japan in March of 1998.

In August of 2000 he participated in the first convening of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations in New York City, New York. In September of 2002, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, awarded Imam Shareef a Certificate of Service toward the establishment of world peace for his participation in the Kraft Foods/United Nations UNISTAR Mission to The Gambia.

He is the Convener of the Council of Imams in New Jersey. A body of Muslim leaders from various mosques and centers located in New Jersey who cooperate to develop and implement initiatives to improve the quality of life of the citizens in the communities they reside.

He is the current 2nd Vice President of the Associated Ministers Economic Network (A.M.E.N.). An inter-faith association of leaders formed to establish programs and projects designed to improve the socio-economic condition of the economically disenfranchised.

He is a founder and board member of ComWealth Economic Development Corporation serving to help improve the quality of life for low income individuals in the greater Newark area; by providing training programs focusing on financial literacy, homeownership, real estate development and entrepreneurship.

Imam Shareef has been recognized for his engineering, professional and community service excellence by being presented the Dean’s Special Recognition Award as an Honored Nominee for the Black Engineer of the Year Award.

As a consultant he serves as a director on several boards in addition to conducting lectures, workshops, counseling, educating and training people in ethics, moral guidance, personal and professional management, social responsibility and how to achieve ethically, intellectually and materially balanced lives.

Turkmenistan firefighters train in Reno

RENO, NV—A group of firefighters from Turkmenistan is now training in Reno as part of a cultural exchange program reports the Reno-Gazette Journal. They trained with some of the local firefighters at the Regional Public Safety Training Center in Reno. The exchange is aimed at enriching their skills.

In its fourth year, the exchange is an annual event of the Partners In Peace Program through the Nevada National Guard. Each U.S. state has a nation as part of the program. During their time abroad, firefighters exchange information designed to enhance their careers.

They worked on interior fire fighting and ladder truck operations last week.

The U.S. Central Command funds the program and costs vary depending on the type of equipment and number of people attending.

Nevada Department of Forestry safety officer Mike Smith said he was among the Nevadans who went to Turkmenistan in February. He said firefighters there are in the military so there are more people to fight fires and people to substitute for someone who can’t get to work.

Florida Islamic school has new building

MIAMI, FL—The Islamic Foundation of South Florida has outgrown its present 9,500 square foot facility and is now building a new one, reports The Miami Herald.

The school has 140 full-time students and as many as 500 people attend its Friday prayers. The new facility will be 12,750 square feet, with a playground. A 5,000-square-foot prayer hall will be next door. In addition there will 200 parking spaces, accessible from the main entrance.

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