Community News (V13-I32)

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

San Francisco Court throws out Circumcision ballot

SAN FRANCISCO,VA–A California judge last week struck from the ballot a San Francisco initiative that, if passed, would have banned circumcision.

A coalition of circumcision opponents had gathered around 7,700 signatures to place the issue on the November ballot, attempting to prohibit something that is at the heart of Judaism and Islam. It would have had no religious exception.

Judge Loretta M. Giorgi ruled that under California law, the state has regulatory power over medical procedures, the Los Angeles Times reported. She also found that it would violate the free exercise of religion.

“[T]he evidence presented is overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure,” she wrote.

Muslim-American comedians to perform at show in Murfreesboro in August

MURFREESBORO, TN — Muslim-American comedians will step on stage with their best jokes at Middle Tennessee State University.

The comedians will take part in a free stand-up comedy show called “The Muslims Are Coming!”

The comedy tour will present a series of free shows in August that will take the comedians to Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee from Aug. 5-15, The Daily News Journal reported. One of the final stops on the first tour is in Murfreesboro on Saturday, Aug. 13 at MTSU’s Wright Music Hall.

The show comes amid controversy surrounding a proposed new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Saleh Sbenaty, a spokesman for the Islamic Center, says the entire community is welcome to attend the show. Sbenaty says he hopes everyone can find something to laugh about.

Muslim women exercise

KANSAS CITY,MO–American Muslim women are increasingly taking up healthy lifestyles including physical exercise without compromising on their religious principles, reports the Kansas City Star. The paper profiled several hijab wearing women who undertake a grueling exercise regime.

Several of the women are new to athleticism. They completed “Couch to 5K” training last fall and had their first race on Thanksgiving.

Nadine Abu-Jubara remembers being out of shape in college, going to the gym in bulky workout clothes and being sensitive to the more physically fit “cute sorority girls” using equipment nearby.

“I already felt self-conscious, and it was hard to work out alone,” she said.

After graduation, she dedicated herself to changing her eating habits and exercise. She lost 65 pounds. And she found herself surrounded by Muslim women at social gatherings, all eager to learn how she dropped the pounds and brightened her self-outlook.

San Ramon Valley Islamic Centre Reopens

SAN RAMON–The San Ramon Valley Islamic Centre has opened for the first time since April when it was closed for renovations. The old single building was increasingly inadequate for the growing Muslim community in the area, reports the Patch.

“In the past we have had to lock the doors or send people away because of room capacity,” said Hana Khan, a Dougherty Valley High graduate who has been a member of the congregation for a dozen years.

In November 2009, the Islamic Center purchased two buildings adjacent to its original site. Now, those rooms serve as additional prayer halls.

The expansion improved the capacity of the Islamic Center, which aims to cater to a community of 500 to 800 people. According to Sattar, the largely donor-funded renovations were necessary to accommodate a rapidly growing and vibrantly social Muslim community.

“From 1992 to now, the city’s population has doubled. Our community has grown 13 fold. We started with 30 families and now we have 400,” he said.

Virginia prisons asked to accommodate Ramadan diet

FAIRFAX,VA–Citing past complaints, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia is reminding jail officials to honor the dietary rules followed by Muslim inmates during the holy month of Ramadan.
The ACLU said Friday it has sent emails to jail officials across Virginia reminding them that inmates who are Muslim take their meals between sundown and sunrise during Ramadan.

The ACLU’s executive director, Kent Willis, said the courts and Congress have made it clear that inmates have the right to practice their religious beliefs behind bars, provided they do not impose a security threat.The civil liberties group said the Virginia Department of Corrections honors the dietary strictures of Muslim inmates. The ACLU said that has not always been true in local lockups.

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Making Sense Out of Christian Evangelism

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

There are many Christian missionaries that are trying win souls to Christianity. One of them is Rev. Hicham Chehab, head of the Chicagoland Lutheran Muslim Mission Association (CLMMA). He is based in Chicago and is heading a campaign to convert Muslims in to Christianity. I have not been able to easily uncover any Zionist connections, which are obvious in the case of several other “former Muslim” spokespersons for pro-Israel organizations. In his facebook bio, Chehab does not state the Lebanese militia to which he belonged (or for which he was trained). It is critical information, and its absence could make all his claims dubious. It is certainly profitable to claim to be a former Islamic extremist now taking shelter in Christianity. However, nothing that I can find in the immediately accessible data can prove that his conversion was not sincere. His problems with Islam seem to be a result of upbringing and are very similar to other complaints among Muslims in Muslim cultures throughout the world.

Chehab attended the Islamic and Arab/Lebanese Nationalist Makased school system. His main issue with their approach to religion was this:

“After a few weeks in my Muslim school the teacher started giving us books that today we call political Islam. They said, the world is divided into two parts, the world of Islam and the world of Infidels.”

To be honest, it’s kind of hard to argue with this because there is at least one hadith saying as much. The issue of concern is interpretation and context. In my experience with Arab immigrant Muslims, their cultural interpretation of such verses tends to be vastly different than the way a college educated American Muslim would interpret it. It is possible, within the context of his political and educational status, that this type of teaching could have been perceived negatively by a sensitive person seeking higher truths. He may not have realized that there are other ways to interpret Islam.

When we hear about a Jew, who is tired of the “us versus them” mentality of the synagogue, accepts Islam, we rejoice. And yet, when a Muslim, who is tired of the “us versus them” mentality of the mosque, accepts Christianity, we grieve. I am not sure that we are in a position to judge in these matters, in many cases. If the person’s personal healing path leads them in a certain way, and inspires them to be a better person, only God truly knows if that is the path most suited to accessing God, given that person’s personal peculiarities. Chehab was clearly an emotionally conflicted individual, who made a choice to reject what his parents taught him and embraced a new spiritual path as a conscious choice. Maybe the version of Islam that his parents taught him was worthy of rejection. We can’t know. What we can’t deny is that Muslim activists study Bible verses to help them approach Christians with the intention of converting them to Islam.

I think every Christian has the right to preach the Gospel to anyone that is willing to listen just as every Jew has the right to preach the Ten Commandments and every Muslim has the right to teach about Islam. We argue with the best of arguments, and he who makes the most sense will gain the largest following.

The issue with this Muslim-Turned-Christian-Minister is that he was given a job to train immigration officials and also taught an anti-terrorism course to the Army Reserve. His connection with the government creates questions as to his actual motives. I think, as a majority Christian nation, it probably does help the US understanding when a former Muslim can explain Muslims to Christians using Christian language. But if you truly want to understand Islam, you also have to talk to someone who believes in it. That is where the CAIR complaint comes in. Maybe it’s not so much an issue of getting rid of the evangelist but of including more voices in the debate.

Islam is a beautiful religion. Christianity is also a beautiful religion, and they are intertwined. The interesting thing is, when you go to Palestine and observe the oldest Christian community in the world, you don’t see these boundaries between Islam and Christianity. Muslims and Christians intermarry, they give each other gifts on their respective holidays. When the Christians parade down the street in honor of the Virgin Mary, their Muslim neighbors join in. The Christians are as happy on Eid as anybody else. There is no conflict. Christianity is a very broad belief spectrum, in fact there are sects of Christianity that believe like Muslims do, that Christ did not die upon the cross.

It is so important for Muslims to love Jesus as all prophets, and especially the five holiest prophets, Prophet Muhammad (s) who is the best of them, and Jesus (as), Moses (as), Ibrahim (as), and Nuh (as).

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Community News (V13-I22)

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Syed Ali among top Shrewsbury students

SHREWSBURY, MA–This graduation season American Muslim students are making their presence felt with academic excellence. The Shrewsbury School Committee this week honored its top ten graduating senior scholars. Among them is Syed Ali who has excelled both in academic studies as well as extra curricular activities.

Academically, Syed has shined at Shrewsbury High School.  He is an exceptional student who has taken multiple AP classes, including four in his senior year.  Syed has won multiple awards for his academics including the Harvard Book Award, the Louis DeLabriere Award, the U.S. History Award, the Robert E. Roy Science Award, and he was a Silver Medalist for the National Spanish Exam, to name a few.  A member of the National Spanish Honor Society, Shrewsbury High School has certainly benefited from his involvement and energies that he has invested in our Math Team, Model UN, Town Crier, and Varsity Tennis Team.  Syed also holds leadership positions among the activities that he is involved with including captain of the Varsity Math Team and Editor of the Editorials.

Syed is also musically talented and plays the violin.  In addition to his extra curricular activities, Syed finds time to volunteer because he enjoys helping others.  He uses his academic strengths to tutor other students in math and Spanish.  His level of commitment and dedication are impressive.  This past summer, Syed volunteered over 300 hours at the Cleveland Clinic performing research.  He helped design and implement a study to reduce artifacting and repeats in MRI scans.   He continues to collaborate on the study and is communicating online with other members of the team.  The information being collected will be published in the near future.  Syed will attend Washington and Lee University in the fall, where he will major in Physics/Pre-Med in the hopes of becoming a doctor.

Dr. Faroul Khan chosen for international board

FREEPORT,IL — Freeport neurologist Farouk Khan, MD, PhD, has been chosen to serve on the International Advisory Board on Multiple Sclerosis, which convenes this year at the annual meeting of the World Federation of Neurology in Lisbon, Portugal.

The meeting brings together thousands of neurologists who specialize in hundreds of different disorders for case presentations, workshops, practical sessions and advisory board sessions like the one which Dr. Khan will participate. The meeting also offers an opportunity for continuous educations in all fields of neurology.

In northwest Illinois, Dr. Khan cares for patients with disorders including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, neuromuscular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and strokes. He is trained in the treatment of acute strokes using “clot busters” and is a member of the Allergan Institute of Distinction — one of the top 40 Botox specialists in the United States ( Botox is used in the treatment of dystonia and migraine).

New mosque to come up in Boynton Beach

BOYNTON BEACH, FL– South Florida Muslims may soon have a new place to worship.The land for the proposed mosque has already been approved for a religious institution in Boynton Beach.

A nearby neighborhood association says a mosque would be a good “neighbor.”

If built, the building would join about 7 other mosques in Palm Beach County.An informational meeting will be held on June 7 at the Lantana library.

Washington U. students get halal options

CLAYTON, May 23, 2011 (News Agencies)–  Muslim students at Washington University, near St. Louis, now have halal options in campus dining. According to the Muslim Students Association, Washington University is the first school in the state to offer halal food, Stltoday.com reported.

“The goal was to get it started, to get halal in one night a week,” explained David Murphy, director of operations for California-based Bon Appetit. “But now we’ve expanded, to prepare something every day. The goal is to really push it.”

For the campus’ Muslim students, the halal options mean more alternatives. For Bon Appetit and the food industry at large — from manufacturing giants Kraft and Nestle, to fast food restaurants McDonald’s and KFC — halal means big business.

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Muslim Leaders Participate in Mayor Emanuel’s Inauguration

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

CIOGC Report

kareem250 (1)Imam Kareem Irfan, President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago and former Chairperson of CIOGC was one of the faith leaders that offered an invocation at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s inauguration on May 16.

“It was both inspiring and humbling for me to to speak as the first Muslim President of CRLMC as more than 6,000 Chicagoans gathered in Millennium Park,” said Imam Irfan. “Having offered the first-ever Muslim prayer at Chicago’s City Council at Mayor Daley’s 2003 Inauguration, I felt privileged as an American Muslim to now offer focused remarks and an invocation for peace at Mr. Emanuel’s personal request and to a gathering which included Mayor Daley, the Chicago City Council, Vice President Biden and several members of President Obama’s Cabinet. Considering this a critical opportunity for wise dawah, I pray that I was able to provide an informed, firm and professional Muslim perspective reflective of our heritage of sensitive outreach and compassion for all.

Excerpt from his invocation:

“On behalf of all the faiths represented on our Council, most certainly including the Muslim community, be assured we will engage sincerely with your administration and the City Council as we together tackle the challenges of economic instability, gun violence, homelessness, healthcare, education and immigration. We will especially help counter the ugly resurgence of faith-related bigotry, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism by compassionate understanding and meaningful collaboration forged across Chicago’s diverse faiths in order to realize a peaceful and prosperous society. Today marks the launch of that collective commitment as all of us Chicagoans and Americans join hands in pursuit of these lofty objectives.”

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On Being a Muslim

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

Villa Park, IL (USA)–“On Being a Muslim”

ansariSince becoming a Muslim many years ago, I have been compelled to strive for the potential I was born with, but up until that time did not use. My connection with God, through the teachings of Islam, has given me gifts of character and spirituality that I still find surprising.

Islam has made me smarter. God gave me a brain, but Islam gave me the reason to use it. For instance, being a Muslim woman has demanded that I grow intellectually. The Quran tells us over and over, “these are words for those who think.” Islam is a religion of thinking, questioning, revising our opinions, and considering the world from different perspectives. Over the years, I have listened to Muslim thinkers, scholars, and teachers who have changed, moderated, and enhanced their understanding of Islam as they themselves changed, moderated, and grew older and wiser. Islam has room for this. The message in the Quran is so layered and rich with meaning that it begs the reader to dive into the words over and over, only to surface each time at different places in its sea, leaving us gasping for breath from the complexity and simplicity that coexist simultaneously.

Being a Muslim has broadened my worldview. Being a Muslim in America means that I am part of a faith group that encompasses people of wildly different cultures and ethnicities. I have made friends and have worked with people from virtually all corners of the world. Since becoming a Muslim, I no longer view people through the lens of a television or movie camera, edited for my sensibilities; instead, I get to learn about them firsthand. I have friends who have transported me to their native land with a simple cup of tea and a little conversation. As an American Muslim, I have learned that the world is full of warm people who would give you their last meal, simply because that’s the way they have always lived.

Islam has taught me true empathy. I grew up in America’s safe neighborhoods, attending excellent public schools. With this advantage, I never experienced discrimination or disrespect from others until after I embraced Islam and wore the hijab, the Muslim headscarf. By taking on this visible identifier, I learned what it feels like to be the “other.” When someone spit on the street as I passed, just after the 9/11 tragedy, I experienced a little of what Catholics and Jews and other religious minorities in America went through in decades and centuries past. When my husband, a native of India, and I were swiftly refused a previously promised lease on a house after we faxed in our driver’s license photos to the out-of-town owner, I understood the resentment and frustration felt by those who suffer insidious bigotry. When I was made to stand with my arms and legs spread like a criminal for a physical pat down in plain view of other air travelers, I understood the humiliation of being profiled simply because of my faith. However, I consider these experiences a privilege, as they have taught me empathy for those who have suffered simply for being.

Islam has made me a stronger feminist. Contrary to common perceptions, being a Muslim woman demands that I become educated, one who questions authority and the status quo. The women who lived during the time of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad were constantly questioning the meaning of the revelations; they wanted to know where their place in society lay, and they asserted their intelligence in defining themselves. They asked the Prophet questions about their lives. They did not ask by means of their husbands or fathers; they spoke directly to the Prophet. Islamic teachings elevate women to equal status with men — the only qualifier of merit is one’s conviction of faith and actions. Islam leaves room for women to assert themselves in all aspects of community life, and while Musli ms in America are struggling against the misogyny brought from overseas, Islam gives us the strength and framework to claim equal standing with men in the mosque and in the greater society.

Islam has taught me real humility. Muslims are taught to perform each prayer as if we are in the presence of God — whose magnificence is more than any of us can fathom. Muslims must pray in a prescribed manner, and the most intimate position of the prayer is called sajud, where one kneels down and places the forehead and nose on the floor. In the very beginning for me, an American raised with a large amount of pride, it was difficult to pray in this position. I thought to myself, “This is humiliating,” but was told that this is the purpose of sajud. I performed the prayer as taught, but was disheartened when I did not find the solace promised. A wise Muslim woman told me to continue with the ritual, regardless of whether it felt hollow or not. So I persisted. Weeks passed, and I went through the motions of the daily prayers, until one day — all in an instant — I felt myself in the presence of God while in sajud. During those brief moments I gained everything I would ever need in this world — the eternal longing for that most intimate connection with my Creator.

My husband and I named our son Sajid, which means one who prostrates to God.

This article first appeared on American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith feature, Expressions of Muslim Identity.

Muslim Health Advocates

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Neveen Abdelghani

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) A delegation from American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) visited Washington, DC on June 25-26 to advocate for health reform.  The group met with a number of congressional offices and partner organizations, including Faithful for Health Reform, which held a rally at Freedom Plaza representing a coalition of faith community leaders passionate about health access and equity.   

With domestic health care reform high on the President’s agenda, AMHP felt the time was right to move forward with more direct and reaching advocacy efforts. “Both the Senate and the House were all on the right track regarding eliminating certain health care costs,” explained Dr. Yasir Shareef, neurologist from Phoenix who had the opportunity to meet with congressional staffers. “Currently, there are over 120 million people either uninsured or underinsured, and this motivates us to work harder before the problem continues to get worse.”

Members of AMHP felt a trip to Washington was critical in order to voice their concerns during this short window of opportunity for comprehensive reform.  AMHP has been deeply engaged in issues of health reform.  Last year, AMHP Policy Analyst, Rabia Akram, drafted a health policy brief comparing the McCain and Obama plans for healthcare overhaul.  Since then, AMHP has led a grassroots effort to articulate a vision for change.  AMHP organized a number of health reform seminars across the country in March of this year.  “These seminars attracted experts in the field that were able to educate and empower our communities to understand the nature of this crisis and take action”, said Dr.Faisal Qazi, President of AMHP and architect of its policy program.

“From both an Islamic and an American background, it is our duty to support these grassroots efforts in order to get things going,” said Dr. Shareef, a member AMHP’s Task Force on Health Affordability.  Members of this team have been constantly evaluating the data and following the language and committee hearings closely.

The AMHP Washington, DC delegation was an extension of this process.  Dr. Imran Khan, a member of the Task Force said, “It was a tremendous learning opportunity and we realized that these laws, even if 800 pages long, are written by people like you and me, most of whom appreciate some help writing them.”
Khizer Husain, the lead Washington-based coordinator for this recent lobby day said, “Muslim Americans need to build relationships with legislators.  We can be a conduit to our communities and folks on the Hill appreciate this.”

Besides this commitment to political engagement and health reform, AMHP enjoys the unique position of having a comprehensive public health view and has become an organization focused on education, prevention, access, delivery and policy in the realm of healthcare. The organization’s work places an emphasis on public service to all members of the community.

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