SE Michigan News, Vol. 8 Iss. 51

December 14, 2006 by  


Famed Journalist Visits Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center

Bloomfield–December 9–Toronto Star Editor Emeritus Haroon Siddiqui visited the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center as a part of his promotional book-tour for his recently released Being Muslim.

Mr. Siddiqui was born in Hyderabad, India, and obtained degrees in science and journalism. He moved to Toronto in 1967, joined the Toronto Star in ‘78, rising rapidly through its ranks. He is now the “Editorial Page Editor Emeritus” for that paper, and frequently writes columns pertaining to Islam, Muslims, and Muslim nations.

About 150 people attended, paying $15 each for dinner, many of them also buying signed copies of his book for $20 each.

Mr. Siddiqui spoke eloquently on the exclusion of Muslims from discourse on Islam and of the necessity for Muslims to become involved in the public forum.

He began by explaining that the mainstream American and Canadian media provide a reflection of a cultural narrative, then described the Western colonial narrative in relation to 3rd world countries. In the US, this translates into what he described as a “buccaneer” mentality press, typified by Fox and CNN with their “hyper-journalism.” The best American journalistic tradition, he argued, is PBS.

Though the US press opposed Arab nations until 9-11 in international news, on a local level it treated Islam and Muslims with compassion, respect and understanding. All of that changed on 9-11, when the thin barrier between local news and international news was drastically breached, leading to highly intemperate coverage of Muslims.

Siddiqui briefly chronicled the history of Muslims in Canada, from the first mosque being built in Edmonton in 1938 to the mass migrations of the last 40 years, and described the culture of inclusion generally taking three generations for complete assimilation from the first generation’s inherited antipathy to engagement with what were in their home countries police states, to their grandchildren’s fully confident language and civic engagement in public discourse.

He described the immigrant mentality of wanting to be photographed with politicians rather than wanting influence with those politicians, and advised Muslims not to sell themselves cheaply but instead to discuss issues. Another focus of new immigrants, he said, is venting–try to make changes rather than complain, he said.

Broadly, the narrative theme in the media since 9-11 has been that “the West is under siege from Muslim terrorists,” when in reality it is Muslims who have been under siege from the West since 9-11. 50,000 to 600,000 Muslims have died in Iraq alone, plus uncounted thousands killed, maimed, and made homeless in Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Philippines, China, and Palestine.

Americans demand Muslims to be accountable for every act of terrorism, by two measures: (1) that they condemn terrorism (which 99% of Muslims do) but also (2) that they agree with the post-9-11 war policies (which 99% of Muslims do not agree with) as a litmus test for whether Muslims can be considered “moderate.” Ipso-facto, 99% of Muslims are excluded from being considered “moderate,” although they are.

Now Westerners are eager to put Muslims on the public stage, provided they attack Islam. Therefore most Muslims who appear in public discourse are from the radical fringe, either against Islam itself or radically against the West.

The genius of Mr. Siddiqui’s explanation was that he advocates engaging with the West on the level of civil liberties and democratic ideals, rather than on the basis of Islamic principles. Live Islamic principles, but if explaining hijab laws explain on a level Americans can understand: say Muslims should not be forced either to wear the hijab or not, same as Jews or Amish people being forced to or forced not to wear their religious clothing. If forced to say “what do you say in response to the most recent act of terror,” say nothing more than any other citizen is required to say–on the level of civil liberties it is not fair to require Muslims to say more than that.

“How Do We Explain Our Faith?”

Dearborn–December 10–CAIR Michigan, in concert with many active area Muslims, conducted a session to teach area Muslims to engage non-Muslims in the arena of public speaking.

The event was well planned and executed, with plenty of food and good speeches on the elements of public speaking.

Among the speakers were Eide Alawan, a prominent interfaith speaker from the Islamic Center of America, Imam Dawud Walid, the Executive Director of CAIR Michigan, Haaris Ahmad, Saeed Khan, and Memo Debryn.

Mr. Walid broadly stated the public-speaking guidelines of CAIR, and listed several books as recommended reading, including How to Make Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.

Mr. Alawan argued convincingly in favor of speeches by Muslim women rather than men, saying that audiences melt when women speak in hijab from their own sincerity and conviction.

Michigan Udhiyya/Qurbani (1427 H)

The Islamic Shura Council of Michigan is sponsoring a Michigan Udhiyya program for the second year. Last year, program sponsors explained, the program distributed more than 12,000 pounds of meat to needy Muslim families, and donated some of the meat through the Gleaners food bank to soup kitchens in the Detroit area with a message stating that the meat is a gift from the Muslim community in Michigan.

This year the program sponsors hope the event will be even better.

For more information, contact: administrator@islamicshuracouncil.com or call Dr. Mouhib Ayas at 248-705-9137.

Donations can be sent to Life for Relief and Development” PO BOX 236 Southfield, MI 48037 (write “Michigan Oudhia” in the memo section); or go online to www.lifeusa.org and choose Udhia/qurbani USA; or write your check to your Muslim center and write in the memo section “Michigan Oudhia.”

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