Remembering the Tragedy of 9/11

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

One of the most corrosive elements in our society is Islamophobia, a well funded and staffed industry which, to the surprise of no one, shifted into high gear after the tragedy of 9/11.  Muslims have been its victims, and Muslims have, through their community outreach, been its stalwart opponents. Their solution has been simple, but not easy: to persevere in the truth.

The Los Angeles area remembered and commemorated the tragedy of 9-11 that took place a decade ago. Two events were held: a Health Fair that honored first responders which took place at the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC), and an ecumenical prayer service held in the historic Los Angeles down town area at St Johns Cathedral. 

The ICSC is the site of the first Masjid in Los Angeles. Saturday it played host to first responders and city officials, including keynote speaker, Kevin James, a Muslim firefighter who was at the World Trade Center when the planes struck. Mr James spoke of the first responders he worked with, many of whom were injured or killed in the line of duty.

Mr. James further said that he was puzzled when recent Muslim immigrants to the United States spoke as if being Muslims made them outsiders. He reminded his audience that Islam was a part of the America fabric and that Muslim explorers from Africa were here before Christopher Columbus. In addition, he continued, one third of the slaves brought to this country were Muslim though many were forced to adopt, albeit superficially, the Christianity of their masters.

Also honored were: Captain ll Sean W. Conway of the Los Angeles Fire Department; Reserve Chief Michael Leum of the LA Sheriff’s Department, and Officer Mike Odel of the Los Angeles Police Department. Like Mr. James, emotion cloaked their acceptance speeches as they recalled comrades injured and killed.

City Council President Eric Garcetti recalled the events of 9/11 and its aftermath. He said that in Los Angeles people seemed to be dividing and standing alone because of the tragedy. It was the ICSC and its members that wove together the tapestry that was and again could be Los Angeles. In the midst of considerable hate and suspicion, these Muslims made us all stand together.

Dr. Maher Hathout, the founder of ICSC and a man celebrated in the area by Muslims and non Muslims alike, summed up the program. He said that in the beginning of fear is the voice of courage. It tells one to enter a burning building that others are exiting. It is, he said, the voice of God.

Sponsors of the event were the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); The Islamic Center of Southern California; the UMMA Clinic, the American Muslim Health Professionals, The Council of American Pakistan Affairs; American Muslim Women’s Empowerment Council; UPLIFT, and the Guibord Center.

On Sunday September 11th an interfaith service was held at St John’s Episcopal Church. The event was sponsored by the Guilbord Center, an interfaith organization dedicated to celebrating what the different American religions have that unite them. The service was titled: Finding Hope in the Holy. Representatives of different faiths read from their holy books. Jihad Turk, the Religious Director of the Islamic Center of Southern California, spoke for the Islamic faith. Each speaker poured water into a cistern upon the completion of his or her address.

The congregants answered each spokesperson with a prayer of hope and commitment

Children born since September 11, 2001 were presented with saplings watered by the above cited cistern. These children are the hope of the future and the event was a pledge that all those who were present would work to make that future a just and peaceful one for them.

Among the co sponsoring groups was: MPAC, the South Coast Interfaith Council, The Islamic Center of San Gabriel, Progressive Christians Uniting, and the ICSC.

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Community News (V13-I27)

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Hamid Khan named Soros Justice Fellow

picNEW YORK,NY–The Open Society Foundations this week announced an award of $1.6 million to an outstanding group of advocates, journalists, lawyers, grassroots organizers, and filmmakers working on a range of vital criminal justice reform issues at the local, state, and national levels.

The 2011 Soros Justice Fellows, who hail from 14 different states and Washington, D.C., will explore a wide array of issues, including prosecutorial misconduct, federal immigration enforcement, and the harsh treatment of youth. Among the fellows is Hamid Khan who in  collaboration with a diverse cross-section of individuals and groups, Khan will challenge Los Angeles Police Department surveillance and profiling practices that criminalize benign and legal activity, normalize racial profiling, and render people in certain communities as criminal suspects.

Khan has a long-standing and deep commitment to social justice for marginalized communities in Southern California. As founder and executive director of the South Asian Network, Khan helped to create the first community-based organization dedicated to informing and empowering South Asians in Southern California. He sits on the boards of various organizations, including the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Generation FIVE, and is a founding member of the Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance and the Allies Collective. In 2010, he was selected by the Liberty Hill Foundation as one of six Grassroots Leaders to Watch.

Arif Khan named curator of Clay Centre

CHARLESTON, W.Va–Arif Khan has been named the Clay Center.

Clay Center President and CEO Judy Wellington said there were about 25 applicants, 10 of whom were interviewed initially online through Skype. Three were chosen for face-to-face meetings before the final selection was made.

Wellington said, “Arif comes from a good background. He’s very smart and enthusiastic about the challenge of integrating arts and science, which he has some experience doing in his current position.”
Khan is serving as gallery director of the Tamarind Institute at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque. He curates all exhibits in Tamarind’s gallery. His duties have also included fundraising and organizing, attending and installing exhibitions at art fairs through the country.

“He’s familiar with a number of galleries around the country,” Wellington said. “We think that’s a real asset.”

Khan has a master’s in art business from Sotheby’s Institute of London and a master’s in American studies from the University of New Mexico, where he also minored in art history. He also has a foundation certificate in art law from London’s Institute of Art and Law.

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Community Town Hall at Islamic Center

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) hosted a community town hall meeting this past Sunday. The event featured representatives of law enforcement agencies on the local, state and national levels. 

The ICSC was filled to capacity as the attendees listened to each representative discuss the role of his or her agency and what sort of services that agency provides. A question and answer session followed the brief presentations, and the speakers stayed beyond the scheduled meeting for discussions.

The agencies represented were: the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (Muslim Community Affairs Unit), the presenting agency; Los Angeles Police Department; City of Los Angeles; State of California (Emergency Management Agency); State of California Office of the Attorney General; U. S. Department of Justice  (FBI); U.  S. Department of Justice (Offices of the US Attorneys), and the Department of Homeland Security (Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties).

Saadia Khan of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) was the Master of Ceremonies.

The representative of the FBI said that her organization has a valued Multicultural Advisory Committee. She further said that her organization worked with all of the agencies represented in the auditorium. In addition the FBI Field Office in Los Angeles has a Citizens Academy where selected members of the community spend an evening each week for eight weeks learning about the inner workings of the FBI.

Nadia Bacha, a Senior Policy Advisor for the Department of Homeland Security, said that her office is a watch dog. “We push for civil rights protection, and we have to work with our partners.”  She cited the recently discontinued NSEERS program (National Security Entry/Exit Registration) as an example of what citizen activism can accomplish. This program mandated an alien to reregister after 30 day and one year of continuous residence in the United States. NSEERS was unpopular with civil liberties advocates, and, according to Ms Bacha, was discontinued after continuous pressure by concerned citizens on the government.

Members of the audience were warned to be careful when consulting attorneys who advertised themselves as immigration attorneys. It is best to inquire about the bona fides of these people before engaging them.

A representative of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was asked to address the audience. She said that in October of the past year, MPAC trained 2200 TSA officers in cultural sensitivity.
“I have learned a great deal by coming here” said one young man in the audience.

The first question was from a woman who wanted to know how best to raise her children with respect to civic participation. All of the speakers answered, and their advice was remarkably similar. Participate in civil matters yourself and get your children involved at an early age so that civic participation becomes a duty.

For further information regarding the Muslim Community Affairs Unit within the office of the Los Angeles County Sheriff, please contact Deputy Sheriff Sherif Morsi at: ssmorsi@lasd.org.

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