Community News (V13-I31)

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

New Mosque in Staten Island

STATEN ISLAND,NY–The Muslim American Society is opening a new location on Staten Island.

The mosque and community center will be housed at the site of a former Hindu temple on Burgher Avenue in Dongan Hills.

Renovations are underway, and the center is not open to the public as of yet reports NY1.

St. Louis’s Imam Ansari Passes Away

ST.LOUIS,MO–Samuel Ansari, a much beloved leader of the St.Louis Muslim community, passed away on July 24, after suffering a heart attack. He was 62. He owned a bakery and served as a volunteer imam at the Al Muminun Mosque.

Mr. Ansari was born Samuel Hicks on Nov. 20, 1948, in Huntingdon, Tenn., and moved to St. Louis as a child. He graduated from Vashon High School and did a stint in the Army in the 1960s that took him to Alaska. When he came home, he was disillusioned with the United States. Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, a social movement of black Muslims, appealed to him.

“When I heard him say the white man is the devil, it hit home,” Mr. Ansari told the Post-Dispatch in 2006. “We wanted white Americans to feel what we felt.”

But after Elijah Muhammad died in 1975, Mr. Ansari followed the leadership of Muhammad’s son, W. Deen Mohammed, who focused on the universal teachings of Islam, not separatism.

Imam Ansari had worked hard to build bridges between the immigrant and the African-American Muslim community of the city. He was also active in interfaith efforts.

DOJ Asked to Probe Michigan Bias

DETROIT,MI–The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether local planning officials in that state are violating the religious rights of Muslims by denying a permit to build a school on property they own.

On June 16, the Michigan Islamic Academy (MIA) went before the Pittsfield Township Planning Commission for land usage approval on a newly-purchased property to be used for educational and religious purposes. The planning commission voted on a preliminary procedural motion to deny MIA’s request after concerns of disruption of neighborhood harmony were raised and derogatory comments were made about the religious practices of Muslims. (A final vote will be taken at a commission meeting on August 4.)

Ali Mushtaq Wins Piano Competition

WASHINGTON D.C.–Ali Mushtaq, a statistical contractor and an amateur pianist, came first at the ninth annual Washington International Piano Artists Competition.  The competition is open to amateur pianists 31 years of age or older. The event had competitors from around the world and was hosted by the French Embassy.

Arts Midwest Launches International Program to Bridge American and Muslim Cultures

Arts Midwest, the non-profit Regional Arts Organization (RAO) serving America’s upper Midwest, announces the launch of Caravanserai: A place where cultures meeT, a groundbreaking artistic and cultural exchange program supported by the nation’s RAOs. Caravanserai is funded by a one million dollar grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) Building Bridges program.

“The name Caravanserai was carefully selected for this program,” says David Fraher, Executive Director of Arts Midwest. “Historically, in the east and middle-east, stopping places for caravans were called caravanserais. Safe places to come together and exchange stories. The name evokes that imagery of travelers in a safe haven, a place where cultures meet.”

Betsy Fader of DDFIA says Caravanserai is a natural fit for their Building Bridges grants program. “Caravanserai beautifully illustrates our mission to promote the use of art and culture to improve Americans’ understanding and appreciation of Muslim Societies. We believe this pilot program of music and film will start many conversations and open many doors to understanding.”

Nearly two years in the making, Caravanserai begins with a pilot program in five US communities comprising performing arts and film programs featuring art and artists from Muslim cultures. The pilot program focuses on Pakistan. Future programming will feature other geographic regions and artistic disciplines and will travel to more US cities.

After receiving applications from across the country, Arts Midwest selected the following communities to present Caravanserai:

•    The Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire; Littleton, NH
•    Artswego SUNY Oswego; Oswego, NY
•    FirstWorks; Providence, RI
•    Monmouth University; West Long Branch, NJ
•    The Myrna Loy Center; Helena, MT

Each organization will host three arts experiences in their community, including music residency tours featuring traditional and contemporary Pakistani musicians and a film residency, featuring a Pakistani filmmaker. Residency activities will include educational workshops, public performances, film screenings, and localized community outreach.
Curated by artistic director Zeyba Rahman, Caravanserai features a roster of outstanding contemporary Pakistani artists.

•    Arif Lohar – Folk singer
•    Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin – Qawali singers
•    Sanam Marvi – Folk and Sufi singer
•    Ustad Tari Khan – US-based tabla master
•    Ayesha Khan – Filmmaker, “Made in Pakistan”

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Imam Yassin Aref Transferred from CMU

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

In a surprise move by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Albany, New York’s Imam Yassin Aref, who was serving a ten year sentence inside the Communications Management Unit (CMU) in Marion, Illionois, has been moved to the general prison population. Aref stated in an email to his friends dated April 13, 2011:

“Finally and thankfully they accepted my request and agreed for me to come out of CMU. Now I am just a regular human – I mean regular prisoner! I am no longer in CMU, so if any of you come and visit me I promise I am going to hug him! Hopefully after six months they will transfer me to somewhere close to my family so I can see my children but as for why and how? Believe me I don’t know anything more than you! They just told me to pack up. 25 days before that I had a team review. I asked for transfer as usual and they told me they would do the recommendation for me but the decision its not theirs. When I called my son Salah, he told me, “Daddy how is it they let you out?

What has changed?” I told him I am still Yassin and they did not tell me anything. However, I am very thankful they allowed me to be in the regular general population.”

Aref was inside the CMU in Terre Haute, Indiana from May 2007 until March 2009, when he was transferred to the Marion CMU. As of April 10, 2011, Aref is in the same prison building but in a different unit. Now he has more space to walk and more recreational activities. He has more lenient social, visitor and phone call rights. There are some African American Muslim brothers in his new unit and they pray the Friday prayer together. Whenever he leaves his unit to dine, go to the yard or library, and to visit the chaplain, he walks by the door of the CMU. Imam Yassin describes his past experience:

“After spending about 20 Months in total solitary confinement at a county jail, I arrived at CMU Terra Haute, Indiana to find a small Middle Eastern community where inmates from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Yemen among others were already there. In CMU, most inmates are Arab or Arabic speakers.

“We are separated because of our nationality and religion. Of course they deny that, but the reality in the CMU proves this segregation is the whole point of a CMU. Otherwise what did I do? Why am I classified as a high risk inmate? How can it be dangerous if they allow me to hug my children? Why do they need to limit my communication? Who I am going to call besides my family?

“All my life in Iraq I was treated as a second degree citizen and half human because I was Kurdish. I left my country to regain my humanity and live free, not to be targeted, imprisoned and placed in a CMU.

When I learned CMU prisoners don’t have the same rights like other prisoners in the BOP, and I found that 65 to 75 percent of the inmates in CMU are Muslim and another 8 to 15 percent are Spanish speakers, I became sad and it seemed like this country is going backward to the dark days of its history when Black people were slaves or treated like slaves. Many inmates in CMU are not criminals. They are political prisoners and victims who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Some like me never committed any crime. Yet they treat us as the highest risk inmates!

“My youngest daughter is still a child and she was born while I was in jail. I never carried her or kissed her and I could never buy a candy for her. She doesn’t have any memory with me. Until she was four years old she used to think ‘daddy’ means the phone! That’s because whenever I used to call home, her brothers and sister would run to the phone saying “Daddy, daddy!” So, she thought daddy means phone! Whenever anyone asks her, ‘Where is your daddy?’ she would point or run to the phone and say, ‘That is my daddy!’ It’s heart breaking but I am laughing. In Arabic they say the worst trial is the one which makes you laugh!

“Thank God with all of these unjustices still my heart is full of peace and Love. My faith saved me from hate. I believe God allowed this to happen and that is why it happened. I look for His reward for all my pain and all of what my family going through.”

Aref is involved with a civil rights lawsuit which questions why Muslim prisoners who are considered a low security risk are being put under high security communication restrictions without any legal recourse.

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Attorney Alexis Agathocleous told NPR, “Our clients were designated to the CMUs without due process or oversight, even though they have no significant history of disciplinary infractions.”

However, Aref does not believe that his transfer has anything to do with the lawsuit.

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Community News (V11-I53)

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Malcolm X’s daughter speaks

Ilyasah Shabazz, the third daughter of the late American Muslim leader Malcolm X, is the keynote speaker at the eighth annual Martin Luther King Jr. and Days of Dialogue (MLK/DOD) celebration Jan. 18-22, at the University of Wyoming.

Shabazz, an author, lecturer and human rights activist, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, in the Wyoming Union Ballroom. “Poverty, Politics and Race” is the theme of this year’s event. MLK/DOD renews UW’s commitment to making campus a more welcoming and empowering place for people from different backgrounds, heritages, orientations or abilities. UW events celebrate the continuing impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and ideals.

Author of “Growing Up X,” Shabazz is committed to developing educational programs that foster self-empowerment; expanding government to teach individual responsibility for improving society; and capitalizing on the arts and entertainment to encourage the understanding of history, culture and self expression.

She is the daughter of Malcolm X, an African-American Muslim minister, public speaker and human rights activist. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, but his detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy and violence. Malcolm X has been described as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. Shabazz was only 2 years old and present when her father was assassinated in 1965 in New York.

Shabazz produces “The WAKE-UP Tour,” her exclusive youth empowerment program designed to inspire young people to think and act critically to safeguard their futures. She also is corporation president and trustee of her parents’ legacy, The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational and Cultural Center, Inc. at The Audubon, the place of her father’s assassination.

Among other highlights of MLK/DOD are the annual MLK March and Willena Stanford Supper; panel and book discussions, observation of National Service Day, movies, art reception and entertainment.

Lawsuit claims religious bias

CHICAGO, IL–The Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a lawsuit on behalf of an African-American Muslim who worked as a truck driver in the Chicago area, and who says he was harassed both for his race and for his religion.

Reginal Exson worked as a truck driver for the Cook County location of USF Holland, according to a news release form the council.

Exson says a company representative made insulting remarks calling him a “liar,” making derogatory remarks against African-Americans and telling Exson that lying “must be part of your gene pool.”

In November 2007, Exson suffered severe injuries in an accident that wasn’t his fault, and the company would not honor the work restrictions recommended by his doctor, the lawsuit said. Exson was also punished based on unspecified false allegations, the council said.

Furthermore, a worker’s compensation coordinator allegedly called Exson a “terrorist,” and remarked, “Did you think I was going to let you and Osama bin Laden get off with all this money that we’re paying you?” the council said.

Exson also alleged that his benefits provider, USF Holland parent company YRC Worldwide Inc., would not compensate him for his injuries, nor accommodate his work restrictions.

Iowa poultry plant receives state loan

CHARLES CITY, IA– newly  poultry plant in Charles City with plans to do halal poultry has received a $250,000 loan from Iowa’s Department of Economic Development.

Custom Poultry Processing plans to purchase the former Allstate Quality Foods facility in Charles City and convert it to a poultry processing facility. The plant is expected to process 14 million chickens every year and employ 126 people.

The company will focus on specialty market segments including fresh organic, halal and antibiotic-free poultry. It will offer private label processing as well as developing its own brand. Production is expected to begin by April.

Half of the loan will be forgiven if the company reaches $20 million in sales in three years.

Pakistani and Indian Americans meet

NEWARK, CA– Americans of Indian and Pakistani origin would be meeting on Dec. 25 in New Ark to discuss issues such as running an ethical business and educating their children.

Billed as “Vision 2047: First 100 Years Conference, Creating New Values and Principles for New World Powers,” the conference is sponsored by Universal News Broadcasting and WBT Television. The event will be held at the Chandni restaurant in Newark and will include dinner and classical Ghazal, the Mercury News reported.

“My parents came from the India side of Pakistan in the 1950s,” said Farrukh Shah Khan, a key organizer who grew up in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan before coming to the US when he was 17. “I have always thought of India as the motherland and Pakistan as the fatherland and I’ve always thought of the shared values the two countries have had.”

Khan, a TV producer at WBT Television and co-founder of San Jose’s Pakistani American Cultural Center, lined up an array of speakers to talk about business, government, culture and education from a South Asian perspective, purposely choosing entrepreneurs, philosophers and educators with nondogmatic viewpoints to speak to an audience of predominantly Hindus and Muslims.

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