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South Florida News

June 22, 2006 by  


Country declares June “Turkish-American Friendship Month”

The Broward County Board of Commissioners has proclaimed the month of June to be “Turkish-American Friendship Month” in Broward County, and a collection of classical Turkish Islamic art is currently on display in the lobby of the Broward County Government Center at 115 South Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale.

The free exhibit—which has been on display and open to the public since June 2—will last through June 23 and is the result of cooperation between Broward County and the local Anatolia Cultural Center, who are co-sponsors of the collection. It was assembled by the Turkuaz Fine Arts Center of Ankara, Turkey.

Artwork featured in the exhibit include works by contemporary Turkish calligrapher Ms. Muhsine Duygu, “an internationally-acclaimed artist who has exhibited her works in a number of American metropolitan areas, as well as internationally,” according to the Anatolia center’s executive director Mustafa Yucekaya.

Approximately 100 pieces are on display at the government building, including a variety of traditional art forms. Calligraphy, illumination, marbling, and miniature work are all included.

A formal opening ceremony for the exhibit took place on the morning of Tuesday, June 6 with Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Christine Teel, the Broward County Board of Commissioners, a number of public officials, representatives of the Turkish-American community and Ms. Duygu all in attendance.

Yucekaya, a fresh-faced young man with boyish looks under thin-framed glasses, greeted the declaration of the official month as “fantastic news” for the local Turkish-American community. “It recognizes this art exhibit as furthering diversity and understanding among different communities in Broward County,” he said.

In their official declaration on the exhibit and the month, the County Board of Commissioners stressed the diversity of the county’s 1.7 million residents—“ a microcosm of the United States of America, with a diverse population representing many races, religions, nationalities and cultures”—and the merits of the exhibit.

“This unique art collection, assembled by internationally acclaimed artist and art historian Muhsine Duygu, seeks to familiarize Broward County residents with a style of art known for its refinement and aesthetic and spiritual qualities,” reads the declaration.

“The Turkish Islamic Arts Exhibition has been assembled to communicate the artistic and historic aspects of Turkey’s rich heritage and culture.”

“The United States and Turkey have been strong allies for nearly half a century, united in the belief that democracy, freedom and stability are fundamental to our mutual interests and to world peace.”

“Broward County embraces the belief that cultural exchanges among nations and groups of people ultimately leads to better understanding, friendship and amity,”

For more information on the exhibit, the Anatolia center or its events—which include a monthly Turkish coffee night and regular religious celebrations—call 954-956-8828 or visit www.anatoliaculturalcenter.org. The site currently features a full and informative rundown on the background of the various kinds of classical Turkish/Islamic arts featured in the exhibit. The exhibit had been on display at the cultural center from May-June prior to moving to the government building.

More information on the exhibit can also be found on the County’s official website at www.broward.org

Art and Islam have not been strangers throughout the religion’s 1400 year history. Islamic arts have been vibrant parts of every Muslim culture. Arabic calligraphy is one of the oldest traditional Islamic arts, though different handwriting styles developed in beautifully divergent ways throughout the Muslim world. Miniature painting came to the Muslim world through the Chinese Mongol invasion in the 1200s.

Islam-hater strikes again in Boca Raton—or tries too

FAU President refutes criticism, says ‘Muslim speakers posed no threat’ 

The Palm Beach Post reported on May 11 that Florida Atlantic University president Frank Brogan told his school’s board of trustees there was no threat posed by Muslim speakers at a recent FAU Muslim Students Organization event in April.

This despite an inflammatory online article about the event posted by local Islam-hater Joe Kaufman entitled “An Annual Hatefest” on his obscure website sponsored by fellow anti-Islam conservative demagogue David Horowitz.

Both the site and Kaufman have become regular annoyances for the Muslim community and other groups in the area, and have been declared extremists in the media for supporting a group calling for the indiscriminant killing of Muslims and their peculiar style of attempted web vigilantism post 9/11.

Most recently, a January St. Petersburg Times article by staff writer Sara Rosenbaum questioned if Kaufman and Horowitz’ circle of fear-pandering blogs weren’t more of a cause for hate than a reaction against it. It pointed to recent Kaufman articles that lead to death-threats against local religious leaders in Tampa for preparation of a Muslim recreational camp.

At FAU this May, a faculty member brought up Kaufman’s most recent article at a May board meeting.

Brogan said that while no views expressed at the April 22 “Believe It or Not You Were Born a Muslim” event should be attributed to the school, things said at the event were also “open to interpretation,” The Post reported.

A longtime educator and state politician, Brogan is a Cincinnati native who went on to earn his master’s degree in education from FAU, worked as a teacher and school administrator in the state and was eventually elected the state’s Commissioner of Education in 1994. From 1999 to 2002, Brogan served as the Republican assistant governor of Florida under Jeb Bush. That year he resigned the job to take up his new position as president at FAU.

Kaufman, himself a failed local politician and 35-year-old legal assistant who lives in Tamarac, said speakers at the April event “denounced non-Muslim religions, verbally attacked Jews, and proclaimed a future worldwide dominance of Islam,” the article by Post staffer Kimberly Miller stated.

But Brogan, while not directly responding to the article or to anything said by speakers at the event in question, said no danger was posed by the speakers. “Universities are host to incredibly divergent schools of thought, not only among faculty and students, but among people invited to come to the universities,” Brogan said. “It is unfortunate that there are from time to time people who suggest that because we host these types of things that we take on an extremist point of view,” The Post reported.

He also told the Post that the university is under watch by national and state security groups which would alert him if a scheduled speaker at the school posed any actual threat. He shared the local Muslim group’s concern about how the school and student group were being portrayed in online article, though.

“People do have the right to speak,” Brogan told the Post. “As the host site for speakers on a myriad of provocative issues, in no way, shape or form does that mean we support those views.”

Kaufman has tried repeatedly to show the Islamic Center of Boca Raton as a terror-sponsoring group, as well as virtually every Muslim student association (often called MSAs) at every college in the area, as well as just about every single area mosques. Most MSAs in South Florida—and in the country—are simply undergraduate concerns with rotating executive committees made up of a new crop of students every semester or two. They usually organize a small number of informational or religious-based events each semester, with the specific ideology of the group varying to reflect whatever mindset is prevalent amongst active students at a given time, some more liberal, some more conservative.

The presence of hatefully anti-Western leaning MSAs—usually groups that are short-lived unless they forgo standard election procedures or other university club norms, and who fail to realize the irony of their anti-western stance as western college students—has never been dominant as a factor in the area. Such groups have become virtually non-existent or completely muted since the events of Sept. 11th, 2001.

Summer events roll on at Islamic Center of Boca Raton

7th Annual Summer Camp, New Boy Scout Troop, Aikido Classes, Lectures included

“An exceptional, fun-filled educational program in a nurturing Islamic environment,” is how organizers at the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR) are describing the center’s seventh annual Summer Youth Camp, beginning on Monday, June 19, through Firday, July 21. The five week day camp will be held from Monday to Friday between 9 AM and 2 PM for children and teens ages 4-14.

Camp fees are $60 per week with discounts given for siblings. Each group age will have on a daily basis a class in Islamic studies, arts & crafts, and get to play together. Other activities will include swimming, playing on the playground and sharing in numerous larger group activities. A field trip has been scheduled for every Thursday.

Parents with boys 6 and up are also encouraged to register their son to the ICBR Boy Scout troupe for $10.80 per year to earn merit badges for activities conducted at the summer camp.

The new mosque Boy Scout program was kicked off with a Sunday May 21 training session for all cub and troop masters, den leaders and volunteers.

The program is intended to help build character, train in the responsibilities of participating in citizenship, and develop personal fitness for the community’s boys and young adults, say organizers. It is divided into a Cub Scout Pack for younger children from 1st-5th grade, and a Boy Scout Troop for 6h graders-18 year olds.

“The boys will learn character and responsibility and being part of the scouts will give you the opportunity as a parent to share activities with your son,” reads a message from organizers. Forms for the scout troop can be found at httep://www.scouting.org/forms/index.html.

The center has also been hosting a busy summer weekend schedule including Friday Aikido for children ages 5-10, Arabic classes for youth and adults ages 16 and older, and community lectures on Islamic topics with speakers such as Mokhtar Maghraoui, Salah Nomani, and Houcine Chouat. Recent topics have included “The Love for the Messenger,” “The Legal Authority of the Sunnah,” and “Social Nurturing & Development within an Organizational World – an Islamic Perspective.”

These and other events are ongoing at the center throughout the summer.

A set of three week-long summer day camps, also including activities and field trips, is already underway at the Nurul Islam Academy in Broward County throughout June-July.

More information on the ICBR Summer camp and other center events can be found at http://www.icbr.org or by emailing masjid@icbr.org. For Nurul Islam’s summer activities call 954-434-3288.

Local CAIR participates in interfaith activities

CAIR Office seeks staffer

As of May 17, the South Florida office of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was looking for a summer staffer for their Pembroke Pines office, according to the office’s executive director Altaf Ali. The group sought a college student looking for a summer job to fill the position with responsibilities including office duties such as taking phone calls, organizing office files, typing correspondences and contacting various officials.

CAIR volunteer Raid Khan was also received some press attention on May 12, declared a National Day of Prayer, when he offered a “prayer in Islam through song” at the city of Plantation Mayor’s Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El.

The event was presented by the Plantation Clergy Association and the Greater Plantation Chamber of Commerce to mark the national event.

Khan is a local Muslim youth leader and aspiring poet and rapper from the city’s West Indian Muslim community. His participation was mentioned in a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on the day which contributed to this report.

About 230 people were in attendance at the breakfast, which featured a number of singing and music performances from each of the city’s houses of worship in attendance.

Other participants included the Rev. Robert Deshaies of St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church, Plantation Mayor Rae Carole Armstrong, the Rev. David Massey of Plantation Presbyterian, Edward Maline of Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El, Cantor Sharon Hordes, Rabbi Andrew Jacobs of Ramat Shalom Synagogue, the Rev. Edwin Nicklas of Our Savior Lutheran Church, and the Rev. Robert Tenglin of Covenant Village. And a benediction was given by Monsignor Noel Fogarty of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church.

Other events were also held throughout the area to mark the day drawing hundreds of participants from churches and chaplains throughout the area. The predominant theme at the events was one of patriotism and faith through song.

In other local CAIR news, Ali was featured in a Sun-Sentinel’s letters to the editor page on May 20, in the article “CAIR-FL: MUSLIM COMMUNITY MOURNS TEEN, TOO.” There, Ali responded to a letter that had claimed that Muslims had not reacted to the death of local Jewish teen as a result of a suicide bombing attack in Israel this past April.

Daniel Wultz, 16, was killed during a family visit to Tel Aviv when a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated about 10 pounds of explosives at a restaurant there. Ten others died in the attack and dozens were wounded. He was flown home for burial in May.

Ali wrote to the Sun-Sentinel saying:

Re the Tuesday letter, “Where is outrage over teen’s death?”: Contrary to the author’s assertion, “once again, our Muslim brothers here in South Florida have missed an opportunity to show some humanity by publicity,” our response was not of publicity, it was one of sorrow and repudiation.

I share part of a letter written to Rabbi Yisroel Spalter and Dr. Laurence Kutler Director of David Posnack Hebrew Day School.

“On behalf of the Muslim community in Florida, I would like to sincerely express our condolences and sorrow. We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Daniel Wultz.

“As I followed the story in the media about Daniel, I could not help but be touched by what I learned of his character, his faith in God and most impressively his desire to serve and become a rabbi. For a young person such as Daniel to have such aspirations, he must have had positive influences in his life such as his parents, his family and the institution of his education at the David Posnack school.

“We repudiate acts of violence in the strongest possible terms. Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram — forbidden — and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not `martyrs.’ All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam. It is also haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.

“It is our hope that Daniel did not die in vain. Our community hopes that we work together striving for peace, harmony and justice. These are the common characteristics of the people of the Abrahamic Faith.”

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