Jihad Jane is Media Catnip

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dan Gardner, CanWest News Services

The name Colleen LaRose may not be world famous but the pseudonym LaRose allegedly used in an Internet-based terrorist plot certainly is. A Google search of Jihad Jane delivers 1,760,000 hits.

What makes that number especially impressive is that it was only last week that American prosecutors announced LaRose invariably described as a green-eyed blonde had been charged with conspiring to kill a Swedish cartoonist. To go from the obscurity to worldwide notoriety is no small feat. And Jihad Jane did it without actually committing a major act of terrorism. Or a minor act of terrorism. She did it, allegedly, by discussing a single murder.

Now contrast that with Andrew Joseph Stack. If you follow the news closely, the name probably rings a bell. He is the Texas man who became so enraged with the IRS and the American government that he climbed into the cockpit of his plane, flew to the IRS building in Austin, and nosedived. The building was mauled but, miraculously, only one person died along with Stack.

That was on Feb. 18. A Google search of Stacks name almost a month later came up with around 430,000 hits.

One person crashes a plane into a building in an attempt to commit mass slaughter and his crime gets some modest attention. Another expresses an intention to kill someone, is arrested, and gets vastly more reporting and discussion. That’s quite a discrepancy.

Is it because LaRose’s case is so much more important? Prosecutors suggested so. The arrest underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face, a U.S. Justice department official said. It shatters any lingering thought that we can spot a terrorist based on appearance, the chief prosecutor added.

But is that remotely true? Richard Reid, the bumbling shoe bomber, is half English and half Jamaican. John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, is a Caucasian Californian. So is Adam Gadahn, a longtime al-Qaeda spokesman who changed his name from Adam Pearlman.

So what exactly is new about Jihad Jane? That she’s a woman prepared to murder in the name of Islam? There are plenty of those, unfortunately. Thats shes blonde? Well, yes. That’s different. But somehow I don’t think her arrest means terrorists of the future will look like Jan Brady.

So if its not the intrinsic importance of the case that explains why Jihad Jane is walloping Joseph Stack on Google, what does? One might think its the fact that LaRoses views are shared by many others and so she represents something bigger than the crime she is alleged to have committed. Andrew Joseph Stack was just some nut with a grudge and a plane.

But that doesn’t work either. Stack left a suicide note which was essentially a long anti-government tirade that bore a striking similarity to warnings in a Department of Homeland Security report issued in 2009. Domestic anti-government extremism was on the rise, the report noted, and there were growing suggestions it could turn violent. The situation was similar to that of the early 1990s, the report concluded, when right-wing extremism culminated in the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.

In the months and years after the Oklahoma City bombing, an immense amount of attention was paid to anti-government militias and other extremists. The Sept. 11 attacks erased that threat and replaced it with that of Islamist terrorism, but the reality on the ground didn’t change a great deal. It just wasn’t talked about. It still isn’t.

And that, I think, is what explains why Jihad Jane is winning the battle of Google.

The human brain is compulsive about making sense of things. It orders, categorizes, and systematizes. And once it thinks it decides something is settled, it works hard to keep it settled: It eagerly grabs onto anything that supports the existing understanding while avoiding, or waving off, anything that contradicts that understanding. Psychologists call this confirmation bias.

Now, what is terrorism? Mention that word and certain images come to mind, certain ideas and beliefs. That is the settled understanding of what terrorism is and who terrorists are.

In 1995, the horror in Oklahoma City shattered that understanding and created something new. After Oklahoma City, terrorism was about right-wing crazies. And in the years that followed, media reporting bolstered that understanding by seeking any tidbit of information, no matter how small, that supported it.

But then came Sept. 11, 2001, and the frame changed again. Terrorism was about Islamic religious fanatics.

If Joseph Stack had done exactly what he did for the same reason in 1996, the news coverage would have been massive and everyone in the world would know his name. But he did it in 2010, when he and his motives didn’t fit the popular narrative of what terrorism is.

But Jihad Jane fit the frame. Better still, she was superficially different. Thus, her story confirmed our fundamental beliefs about what terrorism is while it simultaneously delivered a delightful sprinkle of novelty catnip for the media. And that combination just happens to be a perfect formula for grabbing popular attention.

This is of more than theoretical interest, of course. Media coverage, and popular attention, is constantly distorted by the interaction of underlying assumptions and psychology. What we hear, read, and talk about is not a complete and objective reflection of reality.

Put it like that and anyone would say, well, no kidding. But ask people why they believe something to be true and, often as not, youll hear something like, its happening all the time. Just look at the news. See the problem?

As always, a little more skepticism is in order.

12-13

Terrorism: the Most Meaningless and Manipulated Word

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Glenn Greenwald

Yesterday, Joseph Stack deliberately flew an airplane into a building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas, in order to advance the political grievances he outlined in a perfectly cogent suicide-manifesto.  Stack’s worldview contained elements of the tea party’s anti-government anger along with substantial populist complaints generally associated with “the Left” (rage over bailouts, the suffering of America’s poor, and the pilfering of the middle class by a corrupt economic elite and their government-servants).  All of that was accompanied by an argument as to why violence was justified (indeed necessary) to protest those injustices:

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual” . . . . Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.

Despite all that, The New York Times’ Brian Stelter documents the deep reluctance of cable news chatterers and government officials to label the incident an act of “terrorism,” even though — as Dave Neiwert ably documents — it perfectly fits, indeed is a classic illustration of, every official definition of that term.  The issue isn’t whether Stack’s grievances are real or his responses just; it is that the act unquestionably comports with the official definition.  But as NBC’s Pete Williams said of the official insistence that this was not an act of Terrorism:  there are “a couple of reasons to say that . . . One is he’s an American citizen.”  Fox News’ Megan Kelley asked Catherine Herridge about these denials:  “I take it that they mean terrorism in the larger sense that most of us are used to?,” to which Herridge replied: “they mean terrorism in that capital T way.”

All of this underscores, yet again, that Terrorism is simultaneously the single most meaningless and most manipulated word in the American political lexicon.  The term now has virtually nothing to do with the act itself and everything to do with the identity of the actor, especially his or her religious identity.  It has really come to mean:  “a Muslim who fights against or even expresses hostility towards the United States, Israel and their allies.”  That’s why all of this confusion and doubt arose yesterday over whether a person who perpetrated a classic act of Terrorism should, in fact, be called a Terrorist:  he’s not a Muslim and isn’t acting on behalf of standard Muslim grievances against the U.S. or Israel, and thus does not fit the “definition.”  One might concede that perhaps there’s some technical sense in which term might apply to Stack, but as Fox News emphasized:  it’s not “terrorism in the larger sense that most of us are used to . . . terrorism in that capital T way.”  We all know who commits terrorism in “that capital T way,” and it’s not people named Joseph Stack.

Contrast the collective hesitance to call Stack a Terrorist with the extremely dubious circumstances under which that term is reflexively applied to Muslims.  If a Muslim attacks a military base preparing to deploy soldiers to a war zone, that person is a Terrorist.  If an American Muslim argues that violence against the U.S. (particularly when aimed at military targets) is justified due to American violence aimed at the Muslim world, that person is a Terrorist who deserves assassination.  And if the U.S. military invades a Muslim country, Muslims who live in the invaded and occupied country and who fight back against the invading American army — by attacking nothing but military targets — are also Terrorists.  Indeed, large numbers of detainees at Guantanamo were accused of being Terrorists for nothing more than attacking members of an invading foreign army in their country, including 14-year-old Mohamed Jawad, who spent many years in Guantanamo, accused (almost certainly falsely) of throwing a grenade at two American troops in Afghanistan who were part of an invading force in that country.  Obviously, plots targeting civilians for death — the 9/11 attacks and attempts to blow up civilian aircraft — are pure terrorism, but a huge portion of the acts committed by Muslims that receive that label are not.

In sum:  a Muslim who attacks military targets, including in war zones or even in their own countries that have been invaded by a foreign army, are Terrorists.  A non-Muslim who flies an airplane into a government building in pursuit of a political agenda is not, or at least is not a Real Terrorist with a capital T — not the kind who should be tortured and thrown in a cage with no charges and assassinated with no due process.  Nor are Christians who stand outside abortion clinics and murder doctors and clinic workers.  Nor are acts undertaken by us or our favored allies designed to kill large numbers of civilians or which will recklessly cause such deaths as a means of terrorizing the population into desired behavioral change — the Glorious Shock and Awe campaign and the pummeling of Gaza.  Except as a means for demonizing Muslims, the word is used so inconsistently and manipulatively that it is impoverished of any discernible meaning.

All of this would be an interesting though not terribly important semantic matter if not for the fact that the term Terrorist plays a central role in our political debates.  It is the all-justifying term for anything the U.S. Government does.  Invasions, torture, due-process-free detentions, military commissions, drone attacks, warrantless surveillance, obsessive secrecy, and even assassinations of American citizens are all justified by the claim that it’s only being done to “Terrorists,” who, by definition, have no rights.  Even worse, one becomes a “Terrorist” not through any judicial adjudication or other formal process, but solely by virtue of the untested, unchecked say-so of the Executive Branch.  The President decrees someone to be a Terrorist and that’s the end of that:   uncritical followers of both political parties immediately justify anything done to the person on the ground that he’s a Terrorist (by which they actually mean:  he’s been accused of being one, though that distinction — between presidential accusations and proof — is not one they recognize).

If we’re really going to vest virtually unlimited power in the Government to do anything it wants to people they call “Terrorists,” we ought at least to have a common understanding of what the term means.  But there is none.  It’s just become a malleable, all-justifying term to allow the U.S. Government carte blanche to do whatever it wants to Muslims it does not like or who do not like it (i.e., The Terrorists).  It’s really more of a hypnotic mantra than an actual word:  its mere utterance causes the nation blindly to cheer on whatever is done against the Muslims who are so labeled.

UPDATE:  I want to add one point:  the immediate official and media reaction was to avoid, even deny, the term “terrorist” because the perpetrator of the violence wasn’t Muslim.  But if Stack’s manifesto begins to attract serious attention, I think it’s likely the term Terrorist will be decisively applied to him in order to discredit what he wrote.  His message is a sharply anti-establishment and populist grievance of the type that transcends ideological and partisan divisions — the complaints which Stack passionately voices are found as common threads in the tea party movement and among citizens on both the Left and on the Right — and thus tend to be the type which the establishment (which benefits from high levels of partisan distractions and divisions) finds most threatening and in need of demonization. Nothing is more effective at demonizing something than slapping the Terrorist label onto it.

12-9

Farouk Shami To Vie For Democratic Party Nomination To Run For The Governor Of Texas

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Picture AD History was made this past week, when famous Owner of Farouk Systems (Brand: CHI-USA) Farouk Shami, a Palestinian-American entrepreneur, announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party Nomination to run for the Governor of Texas. Since James Pinckney Henderson of Democratic Party became the first Governor of Texas on February 19, 1846, Thirty-Nine (39) Governors of Texas have come from Democratic Party; Six (6) from Republican Party; One (1) Unionist; and One (1) Independent [Sam Houston]. If nominated by Democratic Party and then elected, Farouk Shami will become the 48th Governor of Texas. More details at www.FaroukForGovernor.Com

Amidst slogans of “Farouk – Farouk: Yes We Can – Yes We Can”, under the huge white tent in the parking lot of Farouk Systems, Mr. Shami announced that he will be vying for the nomination of his Democratic Party on March 02, 2010 during the Texas Primaries, to run for the Governor of Texas in November 2010. Other candidates within Democratic Party include businessman Tom Schieffer, Fort Worth; schoolteacher Felix Alvarado, Fort Worth; rancher Hank Gilbert, Tyler; and satirist Kinky Friedman, Austin.

Farouk Shami tabled his issues during the campaign to be: Spending more money to make people of other States of USA and countries look at Texas as the place with the highest standard of education (not merely on the basis of standardized examinations); Support entrepreneurship by lowering tariffs and as such creating manufacturing jobs for Texans along the Texas-Mexico border and utilizing the skills and zeal of both Americans and Mexicans; Make Texas a State that exports Food; Reforming Health Care; and Preserving the Environment.

Attendees at this event said they are supporting Farouk Shami because despite several odds against him, he has always persevered to not only succeed himself, but also bring positive change to the lives of thousands. We do not need a career politician to be the next Governor: We need a problem solver; a person who understands the grassroots issues of diverse communities of Texas; and has a track record of providing practical solutions for our problems here in Texas: Mr. Shami is that person and most interestingly the present Governor of Texas Rick Perry has publicly acknowledged that.

Based on the past experience, it is estimated that a minimum of $10 million will be needed to run this campaign (if not $20 million) and Farrouk Shami, who has pledged to take a $1/Year Salary as Governor, is planning to some of his own and some of the money as donations from individuals of various communities.

The 2010 Texas gubernatorial election will be held on Tuesday, November 02nd, 2010 to elect the Governor of Texas, who will serve a four-year term to begin on January 15th, 2011. The winning candidate need only garner a plurality of votes, not a majority, to be elected Governor (as was the case with the 2006 election).
The Lieutenant Governor of Texas is elected on a separate ticket; as a result, the Governor-elect and Lieutenant Governor-elect may be (and have been) of different political parties.

Texas does not have term limits for its governors. As such, the incumbent Governor (Rick Perry), who has already set the record for total and consecutive time served as Governor, is free to seek re-election for what would be an unprecedented third four-year term (and has announced his intent to do so).

The Republicans and Democrats will select their nominees based on the results of primary votes held on March 02nd, 2010 (the first Tuesday in March) and, if needed, runoff elections will be held on April 13th, 2010 (the second Tuesday in April).

Perry has announced his intention to run for an unprecedented third consecutive four-year term in 2010. He faces a challenge in the Republican primary election from U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Wharton County Republican Party Chairwoman Debra Medina.

As for Farouk Shami, he has worked for decades in the field of hair-care products development, and attended cosmetology school at the University of Arkansas. He is notable for having invented the first ammonia-free hair-color, after developing an allergy to the chemical that initially led doctors to encourage him to leave his profession.

His company, the Houston-based Farouk Systems, currently employs 2,000 Americans, and exports its line of hair and skin care products under the BioSilk, SunGlitz and Cationic Hydration Interlink (CHI) brands to over 50 countries worldwide.

Shami plans to build a hair products factory in Palestine that will employ a projected 500 people.

On July 27th, 2009 Farouk Systems announced they will be bringing back jobs to America by opening a new plant in Houston that will employ approximately 5,000 people. They plan to market the products as made in the USA. Shami is a member of the board of the American Task Force on Palestine.

11-49

Democrat Joins Gubernatorial race, Says He’ll Spend $10 Million in Primary

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Houston hair executive Farouk Shami says his focus is stimulating economy.

By Corrie MacLaggan, American Statesman

image_8677646 Houston hair care executive Farouk Shami said Tuesday that he’s definitely running for governor and that he’ll put in $10 million for the Democratic primary alone.
“I am in,” said Shami, 66, a political novice whose company sells CHI hair-straightening irons and BioSilk hair products. “I am 100 percent sure I will be the next governor of Texas.”

Democrat Farouk Shami says he’ll put in $10 million.

For Capitol watchers who weren’t paying close attention to Shami’s declarations in recent months that he was thinking of running, his promise of $10 million of his own money might make them listen.

“Nobody else can begin to say that,” said Chuck Herring, president of the Central Texas Democratic Forum, which hosted Shami at a lunch meeting Tuesday.

As of July, the leading fundraiser in the Democratic primary for governor, former U.S. Ambassador Tom Schieffer, had $454,000 on hand. In the GOP race, Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison had $9.3 million and $12.5 million, respectively.

Shami, a native of Palestine who arrived in the United States in 1965 and likes to say he’s “living the American dream,” said he’s planning a formal campaign announcement Nov. 19 at CHI USA in Houston.

Shami, founder and chairman of Farouk Systems Inc., said he’s not looking for fame or money and that he’d accept a salary of $1 as governor. (Gov. Rick Perry earns $150,000 a year and accepts about $115,000 of that, a spokeswoman said.)

“The people of Texas are really tired of career politicians who talk and work for special interest groups,” Shami said.

Shami, who recently announced that his company is bringing 1,200 manufacturing jobs from South Korea and China to Texas, said his campaign’s top priority is stimulating the economy, particularly with green jobs. He said that, as governor, he would create about 150,000 jobs by opening factories that would hire Texans to produce solar panels.

Shami “has a sincerity and a genuineness that are very attractive,” Herring said. “He’s untrained politically — that’s clear as well.”

Andy Brown, chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, said an Austin reception for Shami on Monday evening drew people Brown hadn’t seen at party functions, particularly members of Austin’s Arab American community. “If his candidacy brings new communities to the active Democratic party structure, I think that’s a great thing,” Brown said.

Feras Mousilli, president of the Austin chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was also at the reception and called Shami refreshing.

“Obviously, he’s got a tremendous uphill battle ahead of him—he doesn’t have a typical name, the look, the background of most career politicians,” Mousilli said. But he said he found it appealing that Shami is not indebted to PACs or lobbyists.

“It’s rare to find somebody without those kind of ghosts in their closet.”

11-48

Iran’s Cyber Battle

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Noah Shachtman, Wired

2009-06-15T185045Z_01_TEH202_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-ELECTION More and more of Iran’s pro-government websites are under assault, as opposition forces launch web attacks on the Tehran regime’s online propaganda arms.

What started out as an attempt to overload a small set of official sites has now expanded, network security consultant Dancho Danchev notes. News outlets like Raja News are being attacked, too. The semi-official Fars News site is currently unavailable.

“We turned our collective power and outrage into a serious weapon that we could use at our will, without ever having to feel the consequences. We practiced distributed, citizen-based warfare,” writes Matthew Burton, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who joined in the online assaults, thanks to a “push-button tool that would, upon your click, immediately start bombarding 10 Web sites with requests.”

But the tactic of launching these distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attacks remains hugely controversial. The author of one-web based tool, “Page Rebooter,” used by opposition supporters to send massive amounts of traffic to Iranian government sites, temporarily shut the service down, citing his discomfort with using the tool “to attack other websites.” Then, a few hours later, he turned on the service again, after his employers agreed to cover the costs of the additional traffic. WhereIsMyVote.info is opening up 16 Page Reboot windows simultaneously, to flood an array of government pages at once.

Other online supporters of the so-called “Green Revolution” worry about the ethics of a democracy-promotion movement inhibitting their foes’ free speech. A third group is concerned that the DDOS strikes could eat up the limited amount of bandwidth available inside Iran — bandwidth being used by the opposition to spread its message by Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. “Quit with the DDOS attacks — they’re just slowing down Iranian traffic and making it more difficult for the protesters to Tweet,” says one online activist.

But Burton — who helped bring Web 2.0 tools to the American spy community — isn’t so sure. “Giving a citizenry the ability to turn the tables on its own government is, I think, what governance is all about. The public’s ability to strike back is something that every government should be reminded of from time to time.” Yet he admits to feeling “conflicted.” about participating in the strikes, he suddenly stopped. “I don’t know why, but it just felt…creepy. I was frightened by how easy it was to sow chaos from afar, safe and sound in my apartment, where I would never have to experience–or even know–the results of my actions.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco technologist Austin Heap has put together a set of instructions on how to set up “proxies”—intermediary internet protocol (IP) address—that allow activists to get through the government firewall. And the Networked Culture blog has assembled for pro-democracy sympathizers a “cyberwar guide for beginners.” Stop publicizing these proxies over Twitter, the site recommends. Instead, send direct messages to “@stopAhmadi or @iran09 and they will distributed them discretely [sic] to bloggers in Iran.”

11-26

Community News, North America (US & Canada)

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Curtain controversy in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL— The board of the Muslim Community Centre in Chicago has voted to let the organization’s president to work on a compromise on whether to replace a curtain hung to separate the men and women’s areas of the mosque.
The curtain was removed during renovations and since then has not been replaced. In an earlier meeting the board had voted 13-2 in favour of the “Not To Raise Curtain” resolution with two members abstaining.
Despite the vote Dr.Abdul Sattar, president of the MCC, said that a majority of the community wants the curtain divider and called for last Sunday’s meeting.
The new resolution calls on the president to take into consideration how women felt and to try to please everyone.

Minister praised for interfaith work

AUSTIN,TX—The Rev.Jim Mayfield, pastor of Tarrytown United Methodist Church, who retired recently was praised for his years of interfaith work. Imam Safdar Razi of the Islamic Ahlul Bayt Association said Rev. Mayfield played an important role in supporting the local Muslim community in the wake of Sept.11 attacks.
Under Mayfield’s leadership, the organization gathered clerics from different religions to pray on the steps of the Texas Capitol and “helped the Muslim communities a lot by letting people understand that Muslims also condemn the acts of terror and terrorism,” Razi told the Statesman.

Muslims join immigrant rights rally

DES PLAINES,IL— Muslims joined hundreds others in a rally calling for immigration rights and reform in the Des Plaines suburb of Chicago.
“We come here to work. We don’t come here to do anything bad or — we come here to have a better future,” said Lizeth Rios to ABC News.
What they’re doing right now is shameful and they’re trying to take away people’s hope. But there are good people who are doing things like that. We re trying do things in a peaceful matter. God did not create any borders,” said Rita Gonzales, Latin Americans United.
The rally ended with a prayer for those who had died trying to cross the border.

Nazir Baig passes away

BALTIMORE, MD—Nazir Baig, prominent Baltimore area Muslim community leader, passed away this week. He was a board member of the Muslim Community Center of Maryland. He also served as the organization’s trustee and chairman for 5 years and as president for 10 years. His tenure saw tremendous growth in the organization. He actively took part in various community building activities. He worked as a town planner for the Montgomery County.

New mosque in San Luis Obispo

SAN LUIS OBISPO,CA—- The Islamic Center of the Central Coast is seeking a building permit to build a new mosque and community center on Walnut Street in San Luis Obispo. The new mosque will be bigger than the centre’s present one.
Architect Heidi Gibson said the mosque’s new location makes it a good fit among San Luis Obsipo’s cultural and spiritual centers.
“We have the mission downtown. We have the other downtown churches,” Gibson told the Tribune. “Now weíll have a mosque.”
The mosque has already received approval from the city’s commissions and it can take three months to a year before permits are granted and construction begins.

Eid ul Fitr poem wins Ray Bradbury award

CHICAGO, IL—Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem Eid-ul-Fitr, 1946 won the coveted Ray Bradbury Poetry Writing Contest surpassing 118 entries received from across the world. Mohyuddin, 27, teaches English teacher at Highland Park High School.
The poem is described as a wrenching, fictional ode to a little boy lost amid the prayers and politics of Pakistan.”
“[The poem] is about impending loss, a lot of violence, pain and suffering,” Mohyuddin told the Chicago Tribune.
Mohyuddin’s other entry, The Sadness, also attained a honourable mention in the contest.

Saudi culture shared at Valparaiso

VALPARAISO, IN— Saudi students at the Valparaiso University held a special program to inform the community about the Saudi culture including music, food, religion and life. Around hundred people attended the event sponsored by the International Studies Office of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Student advisor of the Saudi Culture Mission Dr.Faleh Al Hogbani told the student newspaper: “In the Saudi culture we encourage this kind of event and encourage students to spread the culture to the real people of America, not just in D.C.”
The attendees were treated to a multimedia presentation, demonstration of Azan and prayers and lectures. Dr.Nelly Van Doorn-Harder, Patheja professor of world religions and ethics at the university, discussed the history and significance of Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world.
“Saudi Arabia is a country that despite everything, upholds the true concept of Islam,” said Van Doorn-Harder, who has traveled all over the world to study religion.
There are 80 students from Saudi Arabia currently studying at Valparaiso University.

Egyptian student shares perspectives

MADISON, WI— Ahmed Ayad is computer science student working on his Phd at UW-Madison. He is one of of about 60 students from countries around the world who volunteer to share their experiences and perspectives with audiences on and off campus as part of the university’s International Reach program.
Ayad,31, says he wants to present a more realistic picture of Egyptian culture while speaking to a group of eighth graders at Waunakee Middle School. “I want them to come away with a closer-to-reality idea of what a place like Egypt looks like,” he told the State Journal.
The International Reach program was started in the 1990s by Lise Skofronick, a member of Madison Friends of International Students, and was later adopted by the university, said Merilee Sushoreba, student services coordinator, who coordinates the program’s on-campus component.
But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, International Reach was put on hiatus because of staff constraints and the need to focus on implementing new federal policies for students from other countries, said Stephanie Cowan, international student advisor, who coordinates the program’s off-campus component.
The program began making a comeback in 2004, and is now going strong after receiving a $5,000 grant from the university’s Kemper K. Knapp Bequest, which has paid for a student assistant this year to help with scheduling and other costs, such as materials and transportation.
Ayad, who came to UW-Madison in 2000, said people have a lot of misconceptions about the Middle East. “The most troubling to me is the misconception about religion,” he said.
While the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the current war in Iraq “have not helped,” Ayad said they also have sparked interest in the Muslim faith.
Though he keeps his presentations “as neutral as possible,” sticking to subjects such as history and culture, Ayad told his audience of eighth- graders, “You guys can ask me any question you want.”

Houstonian Corner for Volume 8, Issue 17

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

First-Ever Mawlid Procession in Downtown Houston
“This effort is being done to show intense love for our Beloved Messenger Mohammad (Peace Be Upon him): Also this peaceful walk through the blocks of downtown calls all the world especially our neighboring Americans of all backgrounds to appreciate by learning and knowing about the humanity-loving personality of Messenger Mohammad (s),” said one of the organizers of this first-of-its kind march in downtown Houston, which was held in the honor of the glorious Messenger Muhammad (s) during this blessed hijra month, Rabi-ul-Awwal.
Many Muslims came to the event, where the atmosphere was buzzing with nasheeds and with Islamic Poetry sung in both English and Urdu. Slogans of “Allah Is Great” and “Naray Risala” were showered on the holiest messenger Muhammad (s).
The peaceful parade started at Market Square in downtown Houston, went up about four to five blocks along Milam, and then circled around back to the starting area.
There under tents all the participants listened to stories related by imams of the many beautiful aspects of the life of Messenger Muhammad (s).
The Shahnai Restaurant provided free food to show their love for the most beloved Messenger for the occasion.
For more information on similar programs, please call 713-779-1304. -
MYBA All-Star Basketball Benefit!
Don’t Miss This Treat Next Time
By Coach
Jamaaluddin J. Al-Haidar
On Sunday, April 2nd, a small but vocal group of supporters and basketball fans filed into Northwest Houston’s spacious air-conditioned Del Mar coliseum in anticipation of an afternoon of excitement and entertainment as six Muslim All-Star basketball teams took to the court for three highly-competitive games. Indeed these were the fortunate ones for they were to be a part of making history as the Muslim Youth Basketball Association (MYBA) held its first-ever-in-Texas-of-its-kind youth and young adult basketball competition.
The afternoon started with congregational dhur prayers followed by the first game of the afternoon, between the Mecca and Medina squads at the 14-and-under age division. This game was followed by the Mecca and Medina squads 18-and-under players, and then the main event, the ever popular and exciting 19-and-older young adult division.
Over the course of two months, tryouts were held at sites on the North and South sides of the city. The six 8-man rosters included some of the best talent from across the many ISGH-affiliated masajid and centers, as well as from Masjid Al-Farouk, Madrassa Islamiah, the Islamic Education Center, and the Nigerian-American Muslim community.
MYBA Commissioner Jamaaluddin Al-Haidar was himself very involved in the talent selection process. “While we wanted to access the best basketball talent available, we went out of our way to build Mecca and Medina teams that would showcase our ethnic and cultural diversity while developing strong bonds of kinship between brothers who under most scenarios would not likely be teammates or even attend the same Masjid.”
At times, the coliseum sounded like a Rockets game at the Toyota Center. MC and play-by-play announcer Badar Alam set the stage as he introduced the starting lineups at the start of each game.
As players jogged out to center court one-by-one, acknowledging and tapping fists with the three uniformed licensed referee officials along the way, it was truly a wonderful sight to see two teams of Muslims wearing the names of these two historic Islamic cities. Team Mecca wore white jerseys with black trim, while the Medina squad wore black jerseys with white trim.
Despite disappointing ticket sales and gate receipts, MYBA Treasurer Aijaz Ahmed was optimistic about the future of these kinds of events in the local Muslim community. “This is just the beginning. This is something very new for our community. Those who were here at the event can now go back and tell others how well-organized the event was, how clean and comfortable the facility was, and certainly how exciting and competitive the games were. Insha`Allah, with more planning and marketing, the next one will be much bigger.”
The excitement on the faces of the many young children who were in attendance and the cheers from their parents as their adopted teams scored points was something new….something that hasn’t happened in a long time in this community…..something that MYBA hopes to make happen with regularity.
MYBA wishes to express its special gratitude for the efforts of dedicated volunteers and donors like Latif Bhegani, Nazeer Malik, Shabana Motors, and event sponsors, Jerusalem Halal Meats, Shahnai Restaurant and Payless/Affordable Auto Glass.
Proceeds from the event after expenses amounted to $1,200 and were presented to ICNA Relief for its Helping Hands Relief work in the earthquake-stricken regions of South Asia.
Plans are underway for a super tournament featuring Muslim teams from the Dallas Ft-Worth and Austin communities as well as our local Houston teams. The spring leagues as well as the annual MYBA Hoopfest summer-long basketball development camp, league, and tournament are currently under development as well.
Stay updated by joining the MYBA mailing list at www.mybausa.org. -