Houstonian Corner (V10-I12)

March 13, 2008 by  


MPAC Offers Unique Programs for Nationwide Community

Houston to Receive Three Programs in 2008

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has used in Houston a unique approach of having about half-a-dozen of coordinators to organize their activities. Rather than having a hierarchical structure (President, Vice Presidents and Assistances), MPAC-Houston has these coordinators, who helped the national MPAC arrange at Hilton University of Houston a Gala Dinner with world famous Canadian Zarqa Nawaz of Little Mosque on the Prairie and Stand-Up Comedian Preacher Moss.

With the Grace of God, more than 200 people attended and to avoid standing room, extra tables and chairs were placed for the guests. With this overwhelming support, Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC Executive Director, announced officially the revivification of MPAC-Houston and said this Chapter will continue the same concept of coordinators. Also present on the occasion were Edina Lekovic, Communications Director of MPAC (you must have seen her on O’Reiley Factor, FOX TV, CNN, etc.) and Haris Tarin, Community Development Director from Washington D.C.

Edina Lekovic effectively emceed the program. After the dinner, MPAC Houston Coordinator Afshan Jelani said that many people around Muslims in USA feel we are here to earn goodies and that we are basically rich people (as such we get big smiles from salespersons at Malls like Galleria): This image needs to be changed and for this, sincere charitable, social and political activism is not a choice anymore, it is an obligation.

Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC Executive Director, informed that rather than being watch dog, MPAC has chosen the practical stance of being allies with the Media and others (although sometimes complaining is alright, but not all the time idea). Coordinators A. J. Durrani and Dr. Sayeed Siddiqui explained how the organizers had worked at grassroots level and appreciated everyone for their participation with the large gathering. Everyone was asked to contribute towards MPAC – Houston’s yearly funds of $100,000: Aim was to collect at least 14th on the Gala Night. The room exploded with laughter, while watching one episode Little Mosque on the Prairie and the Stand-Up Comedy of Preacher Moss.

Everyone found Little Mosque on the Prairie to be quite hilarious and creator of this play Zarqa Nawaz informed that since most of the Canadian watch USA programming, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was on the verge of closing down, when her hit show revived this Government Funded Station. Some people found the play to be too westernized and not totally reflective of true Islamic values: They found it to be more reflective of Pakistani-Indian culture and lacked much of the Arabian and other cultures: They said it is not all encompassing, while Islam is more diversified. However they agreed that it is quite entertaining and that brings to the American and Canadian viewers that Muslims are normal people, who also enjoy comedy and have fun within certain bounds.

MPAC Plans For Houston Civic Engagement – Islam-o-Phobia Seminars & Youth Summit

During the day-time, MPAC organized two free workshops: Media – & – Civic – Engagement. It was learnt that American media needs story to be told and there are different frames used in creating a viable story for the media. Foremost thing is to develop the capacity within the community by training many individuals especially Youth to tell the story. The stories are told within frames, which need to be positive: Like Pro-Life rather than Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice rather than Anti-Pro-Life. Proper use of words and small sentences are important to convey the story in an effective and understandable manner. Avoid using very difficult words just to impress.

Like for instance, after 9/11, President Bush made many speeches, but one single small sentence became famous and will always be remembered: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorist”. He was able to not only address the world with this sentence; he also informed people in USA that if anyone goes against the policies of the Government, it will be as if he or she is with the terrorists and as such unpatriotic.

During these seminars, it was learnt that over the years, MPAC has developed mutually beneficial working relationships with Government officials and agencies, and build coalitions with civic and business organizations. They have started a successful “New Ground Program” in Los Angeles, where ten Muslims and ten Jewish Professionals work together for one year in a committee implementing various community development and societal help projects. Every year new ten professionals from each community join this project. For more information, please check www.mpac.org

It was informed to the participants of the daytime workshops that MPAC is one of the few proactive Muslim Organizations, where rather than protesting to various stereotypes and hardships being faced by Muslims now-a-days, MPAC leadership engages public at grassroots level and decision-makers at topmost governmental levels to formulate policies in resolving issues. MPAC is that civic assistance bureau that working for the civil rights of American Muslims, for the incorporation of Islam into American pluralism, and for a productive affiliation between American Muslim Communities & their Representatives. MPAC’s policy paper ACTIVATE 08 has been out for a while, which is a policy manual for the upcoming Elections of Year 2008.

MPAC also engages media into dialogue on the contemporary issues facing USA. For this purpose, they have created the Hollywood Bureau in Los Angels, which directly talks with producers and directors making movies related to Muslims and Islam. You must also have seen Edina Lekovic, MPAC Communications Director, on various mainstream American television discussion shows.

MPAC provides training to the Muslims, especially the Youth to perform various proactive roles. Some of the salient trainings include Civic Engagement (12 Hours Two Days);” Truth Over Fear: Islam-o-Phobia” (Half-Day); and Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. where 25 Muslim Youth go to National Capitol and learn hands-on how the Government operates. Such Summits are done by Local Chapters (where ever possible) with visits to the Mayor Office, County Office, Think-Tanks (like Bakers’ Institute at Rice University Houston) and Luncheon Meeting with the major media outlets’ Editorial Board. MPAC – Houston will be bringing all of these three in town during Year 2008: First the two day workshop of Civic Engagement, after that Islam-o-Phobia Seminar and later on Local Houston Youth Summit.

For more information about MPAC Houston, please call 281-731-0092 or E-Mail: SayeedSiddiqui@AOL.Com

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