Hydroelectric Dam Causes Ripples of Protests for Bangladesh

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

IMG_1367Protests, human-chains and rallies have emerged in Bangladeshi communities across the world this month against the building of the Tipaimukh Dam between India and Bangladesh. Bangladeshi environmentalists said the dam will affect agriculture, fishing industries, and 30 million people with possible river drying due its construction.

A joint venture was signed October 22 with India’s hydropower company National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, the Manipur state government, Manipur state enterprise Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. to continue the ongoing Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project that Indian officials said could provide electricity and help reduce flooding in Bangladesh.

A meeting was held earlier this month at the Kabob House in Hamtramck, Michigan, to discuss how Bangladeshi Americans can get involved in stopping the ongoing construction of 1,500 MW Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project by informing the US government of adverse effects in Bangladesh, and putting pressure on the Bangladeshi government to stop the project.

Professor of Finance at Eastern Michigan University Mahmud Rahman, said, India is as far as the eye can see, referring to Bangladesh’s geography. India surrounds Bangladesh on three sides. We have to approach the situation intelligently, by engaging, researching and enlisting help, he said. We need to “Unite in one voice…instead of taking separate initiatives,” in a way that “benefits both of us.”

The dam sits on India’s Barak River which becomes Bangladesh’s Surma and Kushiara Rivers. India is an upper riparian country, which has more say in how the shared bodies of water are used.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India would not support the Tipaimukh project if there was harm to Bangladesh, during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wadud’s visit to India last January. The same message was portrayed during Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September. And again to Bangladesh National Party leader Khaleda Zia, who sent a letter in November opposing the project.

Experts said politics play a role in the agreement to build the dam, while Bangladeshi people in and out of the country are against the measure. Rahman said Bangladeshi Americans need to persuade the Bangladeshi government: “There are people outside of politics, educated people…we live outside [of the country] but we look for opportunities to help Bangladesh.”

Imam Abdul Latif Azom of Masjid Al-Falah in Detroit said there are many ways to spread the word, using facts. “Do not talk without evidence…it’s like smoke which disappears.”

President of Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee, Ehsan Taqbeem said, focusing on the technical side can influence politics. “Let’s not be like Wall Street Occupy…there are steps after protests.” Let’s negotiate with India, he said.

Engineer and writer Saiful Islam of Michigan said people should talk openly. “We say we will work together but shy away from things dealing with India.” Immediate dangers should be discussed, he said.

Rahman said Bangladesh should engage in a multilateral resolution with India, by joining forces with other neighbors. “Economic power speaks.”

According to the SJVN company’s website the last roadblock in the project is approval for forest clearance near the site.

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Travels from Bangladesh

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Rahman, TMO

Lush green trees amid debris, pollution and beggars surrounded Shah Jalal International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, my husband, two-year-old son and I went for an 18-day vacation to visit family two weeks ago. We clung close to our luggage and airport authorities who guided us through the crowd to a Kuwait rented bus that would take us home to Sylhet, Bangladesh.

As the air-conditioned (a luxury in the country) battered bus jerked back and forth and the driver blared the horn through the seven-hour journey, my husband and I cradled our son and braced ourselves for possible accidents. The sky was grey and the cars, rikshaws, and even cows jammed the streets.

Two men dressed in all-black uniforms, do-rags and sunglasses, the Rapid Action Battalion authority similar to the FBI in the US, zoomed past us in a vehicle similar to a pick-up truck. I tensed at their sight. RAB nicknamed the “death squad” by humanitarian groups killed nearly 130 people last year (as of January 2011) to the UK-based newspaper The Guardian.
A mile into the village where my husband was born, 30 people came out to greet us and led us to my father-in-law’s eight bedroom cement home nicknamed “America” by the neighbors. To them we were wealthy.

Bangladesh is known for its poverty. For two weeks we lived removed from the luxuries of a computer, television, heat, and a car. We relied on relatives to set-up trips, execute financial decisions from what to eat to where to shop, and how to interact with the villagers.

The village was unlike the city, with clean air and the wind blowing through grapefruit, coconut, shathkhora (a citrus fruit), and bitternut (used for chewing) trees. Rice fields, grass and vegetation were spread between far-out buildings. Adults and kids bathed in man-made ponds, also used for washing clothes and cooking water. 

While the country seemed busy and quiet from the political rumble, posters of war crime prisoners charged by the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal were put-up in town centers and major road crossings. Five Jamaat-e-Islami and two Bangladesh National Party political leaders have been arrested and one, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, formally charged for crimes against humanity during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. His trial began November 21.

A cousin would joke of the Bangladesh Awami League meetings in the village, while he passed out literature of those who died during Jamaat-e-Islami crossfires with police, or fights with the student groups of the major political parties Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh National Party (BNP) on college campuses.

As I looked out into the river behind our home in Bangladesh two days before our journey back to the US, the still water gave me a vision of a brighter future for a country torn between the rich and poor, right and wrong, and past and future.

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Travels from Bangladesh

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Rahman, TMO

Questions arise on International Crimes Tribunal

 

IMG_1134

The main path to my husband’s village, in Sylhet, Bangladesh.     

  Photo by Nargis Rahman

Bangladesh, a country of 156 million people nudged between India and Burma, is known for its floods and poverty and to those who call this place home, a political tug-of-war.

Odhikar, a Bangladesh human rights organization, reported 14,000 people were injured and 220 were killed in political violence last year in the Annual Human Rights Report 2010.

Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy. Zubarul Chowdhury Khokon, the 13th district congressional chairman for Bangladeshi American Democratic Caucus (BADC) in Michigan said, although the government is elected, “Democracy is in a very vulnerable position.”

The country has faced outcry from human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch against Bangladesh’s police brutality on protesters and the arrest of leaders from parties opposing the ruling party, National Awami League, on war crime charges.

Peaceful protestors, mainly organized by the largest opposing party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), have been met by police and the Rapid Action Battalion; a state security force comprised of the country’s enforcements agencies to tackle terrorism.

Hafiz Raihan Uddin, Assistant Imam of Masjid Al-Falah in Detroit, said people have the right to disagree, but they should not be beaten by police or jailed and tortured without a fair trial, under Bangladesh’s Constitutional freedom of speech right. There is, “Extreme human rights violation happening,” said Uddin. “I have the right to freedom of speech…If you don’t like it, that doesn’t mean not to give me the opportunity to say what I have to say and to hurt me.”

RAB, known as “death squad,” by human rights organizations has killed over 1,000 people since its creation in 2004. Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International researcher in Bangladesh said, “The RAB has a history of using excessive, sometimes even lethal, force.”

Human Rights Watch, an international non-profit non-government organization (NGO), asked the US and UK to withdraw support from RAB; known for its beatings, taking people from their homes in the middle of the night, filing reports which are not given fair trails in court, and “crossfire” deaths.

Khokon said, everyone has a right to justice, “Even the biggest criminal in Bangladesh.”

Earlier this year the RAB director general told The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper, the group killed 622 people in the March 2010 crossfires. Awami League said they would eliminate the agency during 2009 election bids.

Protests

Protests have emerged in the past two months due to a drop in stock market prices and  the arrests of political party leaders in Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP. Last week BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia led two protests (15,000 and 10,000 people) to call for earlier elections to throw out the current government, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Department of State’s website, state.gov, said protests ranging from one to 27-days, and Parliamentary walk-outs by opposing parties have been going back-and-forth in Bangladesh’s political history.

Police beat protestors. Some are arrested.

•    September 22, 2011 Bangladesh media NTV News, a privately-owned satellite channel, and The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi daily newspaper, reported a police officer held a protestor to the ground with his boot, during an 11-hour hortal, or strike.

•    September 19, 2011 Two Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and 25 people were detained for a riot which started in Dhaka and spread to other cities according to Reuters. Half of those arrests were in Dhaka, according to Jamaat-e-Islami. The protests were in response to the detainment of leaders in the party who have been in jail awaiting formal war crime charges. Rioters clashed with police who tried to obstruct the rallies, said The Daily Star. The party denies the leaders’ alleged crimes of siding with Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

•    November 30, 2010  Amnesty International reported, “Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and other police personnel attacked peaceful demonstrators with batons in over a dozen raids,” including at least one organized protest by BNP. Peaceful protestors were beat by police on their hands, head, and legs, documented by Amnesty International. The groups Bangladesh Researcher Abbas Faiz said, “The Bangladeshi government should immediately investigate these attacks by security forces on peaceful demonstrators and ensure that any people hurt receive justice and appropriate compensation.”

•    February 2010 In a public statement Amnesty International said 300 members of Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing Shibbir were arrested from dorms or near campus in cities Rajshahi, Dhaka and Chittagong for protesting. “It is not known if any of them have been charged with a recognizable criminal offence.” 

Round-up of political opponents

•    August 11, 2011 Bangladesh Supreme Court Lawyer MU Ahmed, a BNP supporter, was arrested at his home by 20 plain-clothed policemen who did not identify themselves, sometime between 2:30-3:30 a.m. Ahmed was taken for “assaulting police and obstructing them from discharging duties on the SC premises on August 2 and 4,” reported The Daily Star. In a briefing, police said they held him for 30-40 minutes at the branch, while an anonymous officer who was a part of the raid said Ahmed was held for three hours. Ahmed died on August 26, after having a massive heart attack during the interrogation (The Daily Star).

•    December 2010 BNP Minister of Parliament Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was picked up by police in connection with a private car set ablaze in June 2010 in Bangladesh, leading to one death. There are allegations of, “Bangladeshi security forces have tortured Salauddin Quader Chowdhury during interrogations…applying electrodes to his genitals, beating him, slitting his stomach with razors and twisting his toenails and fingernails with pliers,” reported Amnesty International. Charges were changed to crimes against humanity in the Liberation War of 1971, which he denies. He was 63 during his torture.

•    June 27, 2010 Former Mayor of Dhaka, Mirza Abbas, a BNP member, was arrested along with family members and supporters attacked by RAB following allegations of violence during a textile strike. RAB claimed people threw bricks, not visible in the video obtained by Amnesty International.

•    July 6, 2011 YouTube footage from NTV International News Division in Bangladesh showed BNP parliament member Zoynul Abedin Farok chased by police during a hortal. Police beat him with sticks until his clothes came off and he passed out in Dhaka. Police tried to pull him into a vehicle, but left him behind. An officer interviewed in the video said Farok resisted arrest and was not beaten. CNN reported he was wounded and hospitalized.

Journalists picked up by RAB, police

FreedomHouse.org, an institution which rates the freedom of press in countries around the world, rated Bangladesh as a partly free press with partial civil liberties in 2010. Khokon said journalists are the constructive criticism needed by (democratic) government.“It’s healthy for a party.”

Odhikar reported attacks on journalists: 2 killed, 52 injured, 35 threatened, 29 assaulted, 15 attacked, in the Human Rights Monitoring Report from January 1- June 30, 2010.

•    October 22, 2009 M.F. Masum of the daily newspaper New Age was arrested and blindfolded by RAB-10 members. He was hit from behind, beat on his feet, and other body parts with iron rods and a blade. RAB officers accused him of being an “assistant” of his homeowner, Mohammad Salauddin in South Jatrabari, Dhaka, who was arrested for narcotics trade (Odhikar). The lieutenant responsible for his torture was withdrawn from RAB-10 (The Daily Star).

•    June 1, 2010 Editor of Amar Desh, a Bangla daily newspaper, Mahmudur Rahman was arrested by armed police in a suit against him by the former Publisher Hasmat Ali, who was suing Rahman for publishing under his name. Prior to the arrest Rahman filed paperwork to change the publisher’s name in the newspaper, a request shot-down by officials.

•    Facebook access was blocked between May 29 – June 5, 2010, by the government after Mahbub Alam Rodin posted cartoons of politicians Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Begum and Begum Khaleda Zia. He was later arrested. The government faced negative feedback and regained the social network access.

Tribunals Act: charges, trails of war crimes do not meet international standards

The 1973 International Crimes Tribunal was adopted in March 2010 by the Bangladesh Parliament to try those who sided with Pakistan during the Liberation War. The original Tribunal was formed to try 195 Pakistani Prisoners of War, who were later freed.

The current adoption has been used to charge political leaders with war crimes including genocide, rape, and crimes against humanity – nearly 40 years ago. Five Jamaat-e-Islami and two Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders have been arrested.

Human rights groups, the Supreme Court Bar Association, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, and the International Bar Association have criticized the act for not meeting international standards for war crime trials.

In January, US Ambassador to Dhaka John Moriarty told The Daily Star standards are met, but more time should be allowed for defense, which allows a trial to start three weeks after formal charges are made against the accused. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Moulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi was the first charged in early October for alleged looting, rape, and arson during the Liberation, said The Guardian. Sayeedi has denied allegations.

The Tribunals act has started a ripple effect in the US with protests in New York and small rallies in Michigan.

BADC members were recommended not to take a party stand. In an email memo Chairman Nazmul Shahin of BADC, a political wing of the Michigan Democratic Party, said to members…the party, “Shall stay neutral as an organization on political issues in the country of origin rather focus on political process, elections, and the Democratic Party activities in the USA and in Michigan,” however individuals are allowed to stand for their beliefs on the War Crimes Tribunal.

Bringing it home: local reaction

Khokon said he believes Bangladeshi people will rise up beyond the alleged human rights violations. “[Problems] should be resolved by the people [who] should raise their voice,” he said.

Uddin said people can ask US officials and humanitarian groups to put pressure on the Bangladeshi government to stop human rights violations.

Dr. Zaikirul Haque, who is on the sub-committee of Bangladesh-US relations committee of the Michigan Democratic Caucus said interaction between the countries is a “win-win” situation.

The U.S. Department of State Report says there is a good relation between the countries. The US gave $163 Million in aid in 2009, totaling over $5 Billion dollars for food and other services to the country. Bangladesh had $4.3 Billion exports in 2010 according to the US Embassy of Bangladesh exports report.

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War & Water in South Asia

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Los Angeles—April 10th—Ashok C. Shukla, an independent scholar, who has written and edited several books on South Asian security issues that are largely available in India, but, unfortunately, too often have to be imported from there into North America.  He has been commissioned by an editor to compose a chapter on energy security in the environs for as yet unnamed publisher.

Most of the presentation was on the problematic future transport of oil and gas across Pakistan into India.  Yet, the crucial issue of water came up early.  With today’s political situation, fresh water is problematical there, too — competitive to say the least. The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin provides the fresh water or part of it for all but two of the area’s nations.  This probably supplies a billion people with their drinkable supply of water.  The competition between India and Pakistan is a volatile one, and most likely will not terminate itself to the satisfaction of all parties anytime soon.  At the very worse it could become a trigger for thermo-nuclear war between the two military giants within Southern Asia that could destroy hundreds of millions of people along with its ancient civilization!

(Also, not as pressing, towards the east, there have been unsubstantiated accusations that India has been skimming off part of Bangladesh’s aquifer.)

As has been intimated, Dr. Shukla’s chapter will examine the energy insecurity of the remarkably expanding economy of India.  (Since this is the Muslim Observer, although Bharat (India’s) population is only 12% Islamic [about the same percentage as Afro-Americans in the United States], it has the second highest Islamic national numbers in the world.  In Pakistan, 98% of the country is Muslim; Afghanistan, who potentially could play a role in the transportation of oil and gas to the Subcontinent, is circa 99%.  Bangladesh is an Islamic State Constitutionally along with substantial non-Muslim minorities, though; and most of the new raw energy-rich former Soviet Republics are (Socialist) secularized Islamic States currently rediscovering their Islamic roots.  (Your essayist wishes to point to the veracity of the Islamic political issues of the discussion which were not considered by Mr. Shukla.)

Both India and Pakistan are important to the interests of Washington because of the economic rise of New Delhi and the strategic military significance of Rawalpindi.  Also, within, South Asia, there are overbearing ecological issues impacting the entire globe.  India desperately, requires propulsion sources for their spectacularly expanding industries which resides in raw form in Central Asia and Iran, but Islamabad (and to a lesser extent Afghanistan) holds the key transit routes for the necessary pipelines.  The bad feeling between Indo-Pakistan means that in any crisis the Pakistanis have the capability to turn off the valves bringing India’s burgeoning economy to a halt.  Further, the United States is against India buying Iranian gas which would, also, transverse Pakistan.  (This goes back to our bad relations with the Persians which probably will turn out to be temporary anyway.) The United States is pressing for the pipelines to go through Turkestan.  Nevertheless, added to American opposition, New Delhi does not accept Pakistan’s terms to permit a pipeline from Tehran.) 

Whatever, SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) will not involve itself in political matters between India and Pakistan by the very nature of its charter (it is only an economic organization), and, thus, will not intervene in bi-lateral matters.  (For this reason, it lacks relevance as a prospective influential territorial negotiator on dangerous political issues over the vastness of the geographical extent of the Indic sphere. 

Ashok C. Shukla ended his proposed chapter with the statement that South Asia totally lacks energy security.

(Your reporter pointed to the fact that Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, may be sitting on a sea of gas.  Although a Muslim country it is friendly to India [as is Iran and the Central Asian Republics].  One of the reasons that the gas fields have not been developed is that the technology to liquefy the gaseous energy has not been perfected yet in large enough quantities to ship it to the West and China on ships.  It would make sense, though, to send it to India through pipes, and that would solve the energy security issue for New Delhi, and, further, it would help with the ecological problem since the Republic of India depends on coal for its industrial expansion, and natural gas is much, much cleaner burning).

Dr. Shukla rejected this due to Bangladesh’s nationalistic sensibilities (which your writer finds it hard to believe, for the East Bengals badly require foreign exchange, and their gas could make them as rich as some of the Middle East oil giants! ) 

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I19)

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Picture AAF
South Asian Chamber of Commerce Organized Higher Education Seminar…

Salute to South Asian Chamber of Commerce for Organizing Higher Education Seminar

The South Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) organizes every week (Free) Chai Exchange Programs, where over a cup of tea and some refreshments in a relaxed environment, topics relevant to the business community of the South Asian are discussed. This past Wednesday’s Chai Exchange at Westin Oaks Galleria “Roof” (top floor) was quite innovative and unique and for that all the members of Board of Directors and Executive Committee need to be highly applauded.

One important thing almost all South Asians have is zeal to provide good opportunities of education to their children. If you ask an Asian Businessperson why he is involved in commerce, one of his answers will be for his children higher level learning. Keeping this in mind, SACC organized a Seminar on Education during the past Chai Exchange event.

Idea was to help parents within the community to navigate educational opportunities for all ages. Senior officials from Higher Education institutions were present like:  Awty International School (Erika Benavente); HISD Magnet School Programs (Dr. David Simmons); Rice University (Amy Longfield); University of Houston (Linda Patlan); UT Medical School (Nancy Murphy); UT Dental School (Phil Pierpont, DDS); and South Texas College of Law (Bruce McGovern).

Houston Public Library was there for people to sign you up for a library card. Test Masters and Sylvan were present there to explain how they can assist in preparation of college and graduate school entrance exams, as well as enhance writing, reading, math and other such skills. Also present were members of the joint project called “Hearts” of the Memorial Hermann Hospital and University of Texas Medical School at Houston, where they study about various heart ailments and their cures.

Jeffrey Wallace, Executive Director of SACC started the meeting. Introducing the theme of the evening, immediate past President Mustafa Tameez informed about the various topics of the evening, which included the Competitive Edges that can help get child into Ivy League Undergraduate, Top Tier Law and Medical School. Dr. Asif Ali asked various questions which attendees wrote on cards, while Asif Dakari conveyed the vote of thanks & gave recognition certificates all the speakers.

The esteemed panel answering pre-prepared question of Mustafa Tameez and Dr. Asif Ali’s questions of the participants of the seminar, generally informed that a qualified students needs to have a good balance of high academic achievement; good effort to participate in some positive & healthy extra-curricular activities; good references from someone under whom student had done some shadowing volunteer work; and a well written essay telling from the heart why the student pursuing any particular field of study and reflecting the true character of the student. They emphasized that the essay the student should write should be reviewed by three to five persons for suggestions. Also they informed that students, who plan to stay on campus away from home in other cities, should know about themselves very well; meaning they should know how they are feeling, if stressed, can they control to be not over stressed, etc. All of them said competition is going up and for instance University of Houston is soon going t tighten its standard by needing higher scores in SAT and so on.

Events sponsors included Aisha Zakaria of Lone Star Petroleum; Dr. Shahina Ali, MD of Baytown Family Practice; Gayatri Parikh of Testmasters; while Exhibitors included Zaira Ali of Sylvan Learning Centers; Marcia Chapman of Central C.O.R.E. Service, Houston Public Library; Shami Gill of World Languages Center; and  Gayatri Parikh of Testmasters.

For details on future Chai Exchange Programs (free) and membership to this most active community organization, please call 832-660-2952 or E-Mail Jeffrey Wallace, Executive Director of SACC at  Jeff@SACCHouston.Com

About South Asian Chamber of Commerce Mission

The South Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) is a non-profit organization with the mission of providing leadership that will help create regional economic prosperity and success for its members, primarily in Houston.

The Chamber’s mission has expanded to include supporting the business relationships between South Asian entrepreneurs and professionals with the broader Houston community, and to close the cultural gap by promoting the best use of talent and capital within the communities.

The Chamber was founded in 1994, by and with the dedicated patronage of multinational entrepreneurs and professionals, representing the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Today, the SACC is comprised of members of South Asian-American heritage which include professionals and entrepreneurs from small to mid-sized businesses to large multinational corporations partnering with those in the broader local community interested in fostering relationships with South Asian-American businesses and professional enterprises.

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Muslim Presence at the Twenty 20 Cricket World Cup

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

cricket world cup The shortened 20 over format of cricket is on display at the International Cricket Council Twenty 20 Cricket World Cup tournament currently underway at various sites in the Caribbean.  Matches began on April 30th, with twelve teams from all over the world chasing the title that currently belongs to defending champion Pakistan. But there is Muslim talent sprinkled throughout this year’s tournament.

The Pakistani team, unfortunately, enters this year’s tournament with a dark cloud over its head. A disastrous tour of Australia in February led not only to poor results on the pitch, but also to infighting that resulted in multiple suspensions and replacement of the team captain. But the dust appears to have finally settled, and the team, led by bowler Shahed Afridi, and batsman Salman Butt, is still one of the favorites to win this year.

Bangladesh, led by captain Shakib Al Hasan, is a team loaded with Muslim talent as well. Afghanistan is one of the Cinderella stories of the tournament. While they aren’t expected to contend for the title, they have ascended despite minimal facilities and training to establish their place on the big stage.

Several Muslim players have risen to prominence on other teams as well. Yusuf Pathan and Zaheer Khan are major players on the Indian team. Hashim Amla plies his wares as a batsman for South Africa but fell just short of this year’s T20 team. And Ajmal Shahzad is a rising all-rounder on the British team.

So, as the wickets start falling, watch for Muslim cream to rise to the top of the cricket ranks at this year’s ICC T20 World Cup.

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Negotiations with Taliban? (Part 1)

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–March 15th–Gautam Mukhopadhaya is a career diplomat in the Union of India’s Department of External Affairs (i.e., Foreign Service). He was their Ambassador Embassy to Kabul for the first time after the Taliban victory during the 1990s.  When, after the 200l American onslaught, the Indian federation deemed it safe enough to re-establish a presence in the Hindu Kush.  In many ways, New Delhi is more of a negative influence than a positive one in that area, for they have exacerbated the Indo-Pak rivalry as it was slowly cooling down.  Succinctly, your essayist sees New Delhi pulling a geopolitical pincher movement.  Rawalpindi has moved significant Divisions of their Army into new areas facing India’s Western frontier that previously Pakistan did not judge to be essential to their security.  This, curiously, has hurt the military their campaign in the Durand borderlands, for the Pak COAS (Commander of the Army Staff) has decided to move a significant numbers of his military to counter the new Indian concentrations.  Further, your author’s sources have informed him that there is a  very secret “War” being waged between the Pakistani ISI (Inner Services Intelligence) and the Indian RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) within Afghanistan itself destabilizing the efforts of foreign forces (NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and especially Washington).

Although (Indo-) Bharat is not an Islamic-majority country, it is the second most populous (“culturally”) Muslim land in the world.  Although he has a Hindu name, (Former) Ambassador Mukhopadhaya was raised in Calcutta, which is within the eastern (Indian) state of West Bengal, and borders the Islamic-majority nation of Bangladesh.  Slightly over a quarter of Indian (West) Bengalis are Muslims, which must have given him a great sensitivity for — and knowledge of — the Afghanistani Muslims, for he was the first Indian chief envoy to be appointed there after the fall of the Talibani State in 2002.

He made a notation which your reporter has heard from other knowledgeable people in field:  Iraq was/is a War of choice for the U.S.A. while Afghanistan is one of necessity.

Mukhopadhaya observed that President Barrick Obama of the United States of America is beginning the second year of his Afghan Policy.  Obama is now considering negotiations with the Taliban!  His Excellency America perceives Pakistan as aggravating the War in Afghanistan, for the District of Columbia (D.C.) perceives that the province Peshawar rules has not pursued the Taliban and Al-Qaida with the zeal for which they the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) hoped, (but the causality figures of Pakistani Army in the N.W.P. [the Northwest Provinces] belie the accuracy of his Excellency’s analysis.) 

The Obama Administration views not only the Pakistanis but the  Indians as “spoilers!”  Yet, whatever, the U.S. War effort entails, the assistance of Pakistan’s COAS, General Ashram Parvez (Kayani) and his staff, the North Americans with their European allies cannot do alone, for the regional nation-states are long-term stakeholders within their topography! 

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Islam in the Bahamas

April 1, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

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Jama’at Ahlus Sunnah Bahamas, Carmichael Road, Nassau

Introduction

Vacationing in the Bahamas, who would have thought that there are Muslims living in nice neighborhoods with a beautiful mosque. There are more than 300 Muslims in Nassau, Bahamas who are organized and have five daily prayers. Islam has come to the Bahamas more than 40 years ago via United States.

History

Which country is closest to Miami?  It is the Bahamas, only 40 miles from Miami to the east while Cuba is 80 miles to the south.  The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands, well known for their gorgeous beaches, sea of colors, vivid flamingoes, and Poinciana trees that line the edge of roads and tantalize the senses with their fragrant aromas. Christopher Columbus discovered it on October 12, 1492 and named it Bahamas (low water or sea).  The British have controlled it until the Bahamians achieved their independence on July 10, 1973.  The thirteen colonies fought the British and won the island for few years but at the treaty of Versailles in 1783, the British traded Florida for the Bahamas.

Economy

Nassau, the capital, is the queen of archipelago, most densely populated consisting of two thirds of total population of 342,000. Eighty five percent of people are of African descent with literacy rate of 95 percent. City of Nassau is decorated with architecture of British, Spanish, Indian, Chinese and flavor of southern US. In 2008, 4.6 million people visited Bahamas, 85 percent from the USA.  Its economy thrives on four areas for income:  tourism, fishing, banking, and farming.  The Bahamas, because of it strict secrecy laws, is called the “Switzerland of the West.” It has no income tax, sales tax, capital gain tax, estate tax, or inheritance tax. The nation’s stable government and economy as well as its proximity to the U.S. make it one of the most attractive areas for investors all over the world. There are 110 US affiliated businesses operating in the Bahamas, mostly in tourism and banking.

Coming of Islam

According to the old records, some of the early Muslims were brought as slaves from North Africa. In the 1960’s a Bahamian called Bashan Saladin (formerly Charles Cleare) preached Islam and converted his home into Mosque. In 1974, Dr. Munir Ahmad who returned from US as Dental Specialist and Mr. Mustafa khalil Khalfani joined hand to establish Islam. They were later joined by Br. Faisal AbdurRahmaan Hepburn. There is only one central college in Nassau and no large university.  For all higher education, the Bahamians must travel to the United States.  After independence, many Bahamians converted to Islam while studying in the US.  Everyone you meet has connection to the US.  There are many South Asian Muslims from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as Turkey and Guyana totaling to 20-30 people working as doctors, businessmen and teachers that visit the mosque.

Community Development

There are many Muslims from India, Pakistan and other countries that have helped develop this community. In 1978 when Jamaat-Ul-Islam, the Revolutionary Islamic Movement, was formed and Br. Mustapha Khalil Khalafani was chosen as its leader. The Muslims established Jamaat- Ul-Islam Mosque in Nassau runned  by Jamaat Management Consultancy Limited owned by Brother Faisal Abdurrahman Hepburn.

The Mosque

The Mosque rests on two acres of land, white in color with three domes (one large and two small) and one tall minaret.  It is surrounded by newly planted trees, a colorful courtyard and a parking lot.  Women area is separated by a perforated wooden partisan. The five daily prayers are performed punctually in congregation. Over 60 people attend the Friday sermon and prayer.  Other activities include brothers and sisters study circle as well as children’s Sunday school.

Conclusion

Islam in Nassau is growing with strong foundation for increasing the Dawa work in the area. Muslims are being ignored or marginalized in many ways, because of being a very small minority(less than 1% of the population). For example, the media refuse to air positive Islamic program and local newspapers are reluctant to cover events relating to Islam and Muslims. They are still facing problems in carrying on their activities. They could use some help and attention from US Muslims in order to energize their work. Muslims in the U. S. including doctors, engineers etc. can contribute by devoting their 1-2 week of vacation per year while doing seminars on Islam or having free medical clinics while still enjoying the scenery. The entire area is conducive to Dawa work due to high literacy, good command of English language, respect for people from US in general and religious background. The US national organizations of Muslims have special obligation to reach out and extend a helping hand. Any cooperation and coordinated activity will go a long way in establishing Islam in this part of the world. For more information about the mosque or the Islamic organization in the Bahamas, contact them at email: faisalhepburn@yahoo.com or visit their website: http:// www.jamaahlus-sunnah.com/.

Anis Ansari, MD,
Clinton, IA
Dr. Ansari is President of Islamic Society of Clinton County in Clinton, IA  and Board Certified Nephrologists. He can be reached at a.ansari@mchsi.com.

Tough to Leave the Devastated Place

March 25, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

By Ilyas Hasan Choudry, MMNS

TMO Editor’s note:  Houston editor Ilyas Choudry spent a week helping earthquake victims in Haiti.  This is his report.

Haiti Downtown - See Buildings Leaning Lets’ say for seven days in a row, you wake up to see dire situation around you. When you woke up the eighth day, you are going to take an airplane to a place, almost like paradise on this earth, as compared to the everyday anguish of the past seven days. But instead of feeling happy to leave the devastated place, you have this extreme lingering sadness inside; telling that you should not leave. May be there is a way to delay your departure and that you can stay for few more weeks or may be months or even years, to see this torturous place come out of the ruins.

This is what I felt on Sunday, March 15th, 2010, when I went through a long queue for more than two hours to aboard American Airlines Flight 1908 from Port-au-Prince to Miami International Airport. I did not want to leave my fellow Haitian human-beings in desperate situation, while I had to begin my journey back to luxurious life in USA. For the past seven days, I had to take cold showers early in the morning (first time after 1987); sharing one bathroom with six other persons, when on few days suddenly realizing that I was the last of the six and that there is very little water left for me; got to eat rice & beans and for a change of menu, I used to eat beans & rice the next day; fridge not laden with food and Coke / Pepsi as electricity was unpredictable and not strong enough for the fridge to work. If it was not for immediate responsibility of my own family in Houston and to earn a living for them, I would have preferred to stay back in Haiti, as so much is needed to be done there, while we live in heaven on earth called USA.

Leogane Haiti - Temporary Wooden Shelter Homes By HHRD Hopefully To Fare Well As Compared To Tarp Tents World came out in a big way to respond to Haitian crisis after the devastating earthquake of January 12th, 2010. Everyone has tried their best in the manner they know to assist. But to be really honest, the world has failed the Haitian people. I feel the hype created about safety and security situation was not appropriate. I drove & walked on the streets of Haiti during these seven days, the Haitians that I have seen on the whole are very nice hardworking people and not threatening (especially after what they had gone through). Provision of safety and security are important things, but the way this fear of insecurity was created and blown out of proportion, it hampered the overall response and made several agencies and NGOs to confine their services to few thousands, the lucky ones who could reach the so-called safe compounds, while real masses were neglected.

Still there have been individuals and non-governmental organizations, working independently or together with the resources of international agencies like UNO, UNICEF, etc. who have tried their best to provide food and health services at grassroots levels in an amicable manner. I am part of one of them called “Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD)”. Visit www.HHRD.Org for more details.

With the help of donors from USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Pakistan and elsewhere, HHRD has provided food and healthcare services at rotational clinics in various communities within Port-au-Prince (like Nazon, Leogane, Ave Lamartinier, Masjid Taweed, Masjid Ya-Sin, etc). Between January 26 and March 19, 2010, HHRD in all have organized 55 clinics, taking care of more than 11,000 Haitians, with the voluntary help of doctors from USA, Turkey, Bangladesh and of course Haiti (paid and volunteer). After March 19, 2010, HHRD will work on establishing some permanent clinics.

I was in Haiti from March 7 till 14, 2010 and was appalled to see that two months have passed, but no real effort has been done by the world community. Near me, what was expected of the Governments of the world was to bring necessary heavy machinery and equipment into Port-au-Prince to remove the rubble. Two months have passed and despite traveling east-&-west and north-&south of Port-au-Prince, the number of heavy machinery that I could see was about six (6). One can go to Centerville (Downtown) Port-au-Prince and see several five to eight story buildings leaning on one side and can fall down onto the pubic anytime. There is rubble all over the place. All the work that one can see on the rubble is that people cutting the steel and securing it for any future reconstruction work.
When Tsunami 2004-2005 & later on last year Earthquake 2009 came in Indonesia and Earthquake 2005 came in Pakistan, the action was swifter in removing debris and rebuilding efforts started within one month or so. But not in Haiti, where more than two months have passed and genuine work to remove the rubble is far from sight. Question is not why work was swiftly done in Indonesia and Pakistan: Query is why not in Haiti: I have no idea why??

I was most impressed to see the resilience of common Haitians, who despite the world almost ignoring them, are coming out every day in the morning, to earn their living. Marketplace is full of people, doing small little businesses to survive and few seen begging. Their high spirits need to be saluted.

Many small NGOs like HHRD are doing their little roles at grassroots level as per their capacities, but they usually get no or little attention of the media, and as such are unable to reach out to larger audiences and people to bring more and more assistance to the common masses.

Like the next immediate need for Haitians is proper shelter with rainy season coming in April 2010. HHRD has come up with an unique idea of taking Youth during their Spring Break from USA, to work on a Shelter Home Village project, where 100 wooden small homes are being constructed in another devastated area called Leogane, Haiti (35 miles west of Downtown Port-au-Prince along Leogane Highway). These Shelter homes will hopefully sustain the rainy season and provide safe haven for three to five years. HHRD contacts in the field for this and other projects are Shahid Hayat 1-347-400-1899 and Saqib Ateeque 1-609-575-7474. For general public to participate in this project, details can be found at www.HHRD.Org

As I write these lines, after a long time, we can see a reassuring response from the world, when our very own former US Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are seen standing with President Rene Preval in front of the earthquake damaged Haitian Presidential Palace. They are reassuring the shattered Haitians that world has not forgotten them 10 weeks after the deadliest earthquake of modern times. The still crushed Haitian Presidential Palace with no work being done on it in the past ten weeks, clearly show that world has not done the real work of rebuilding the Haitians’. Hopefully these words of the former Presidents will bring a different response in the right direction towards true recuperation & reconstruction efforts and not merely handouts.

Otherwise the human spirit is very strong. Long-term micro financing initiatives, physical rehabilitation, and reconstruction of infrastructure work is needed: Not merely a box of food here and there. Haitian people together with the non-governmental entities, including HHRD will continue to exert efforts and rebuild a new Haiti soon, providing common human beings worldwide with an opportunity to serve their fellow Haitians and indeed all this will be possible through the Grace of God.

12-13

Celebrating Extraordinary Muslim Women

March 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Salma Hasan Ali

Washington, DC – On 10 March, three Muslim women will be honoured alongside philanthropist Melinda French Gates and human rights activists Panmelo Castro from Brazil and Rebecca Lolosoli from Kenya, by Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington, DC-based organisation that works to empower women around the world.

The need to recognise the work of Muslim women is important. Type the search terms “Muslim women” or “women in Islam” online and chances are that a majority of English-language hits will consist of stories relating to what Muslim women wear on their heads or how women in Muslim-majority countries are subjected to physical abuse, or subjugated under the false pretext of religious principle.

But there is another side to Muslim women that is too infrequently recognised, reported or discussed. The Vital Voices Global Partnership awards ceremony, taking pl ace two days after International Women’s Day, provides an opportunity to celebrate this not uncommon, yet too frequently overshadowed, side to Muslim women.

Andeisha Farid grew up in a refugee camp outside Afghanistan. As a teenager, she lived in a Pakistani hostel for six years, where she studied and tutored others. In 2008, at the age of 25, she started her own non-profit organisation, the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO), in Kabul. Today, AFCECO runs ten orphanages in Afghanistan and Pakistan for over 450 children of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

In a country where non-governmental organisations that work with women and girls are frequently targeted by religious extremists, Andeisha is constantly on guard. But she remains committed to providing Afghan children not only with food and shelter, but with a sense of mutual respect, regardless of ethnic differences, a feeling of khak – connection to the earth as their homeland – and a s ense of empowerment to shape their own future, and that of their country.

“The happy faces of these children give me hope,” she says. “It helps me conquer fear.”

Afnan Al Zayani is a wife, mother, social activist, television personality and CEO of a multi-million dollar business. It’s no wonder that Forbes and Arabian Business magazine call her one of the most powerful women in the Middle East. In addition, she helped ensure the first written personal status law that protects the rights of Muslim women in cases of divorce and child custody was passed in Bahrain.

She attributes her ability to juggle so many responsibilities to her strong faith. “God will judge us on whether we use our gifts of life and health towards good or evil,” she says. Immaculately dressed in her hijab, or headscarf, she shatters the Western stereotype of the downtrodden Muslim woman. Her guiding philosophy: “Live your life as if you will live forever; live yo ur day as if you will die tomorrow.”

Then there is Roshaneh Zafar. While studying development economics at Yale University in the United States, she came across the story of Khairoon, a woman in Bangladesh who owned only one sari. Khairoon borrowed $100 from the microfinance organisation Grameen Bank to invest in a business, and now owns a sweetshop, a poultry farm, a call centre – and a collection of colourful saris.

Roshaneh met Khairoon many years after her initial loan, and saw firsthand the miracle of microfinance in changing women’s lives. She decided to start a microfinance organisation in Pakistan called Kashf, which means “miracle”. It is now the third largest microfinance organisation in Pakistan, with 300,000 clients and a goal to reach more than half a million in the next four years.

Roshaneh’s message encapsulates the sentiment of many: “Women matter to the world. We need not accept the status quo. Freeing the world of poverty and disenfranchisement of women is possible. But it will only happen when 50 per cent of the world’s population is allowed to recognise its latent strength.”

It is these stories that must be reported, not only to herald the achievements of remarkable women, but to dispel falsely created perceptions of the role of Islam in defining the fate of Muslim women.

###

* Salma Hasan Ali is a Washington, DC-based writer focusing on promoting understanding between the West and the Muslim world. This article first appeared in Washington Post/Newsweek’s On Faith and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

12-11

U.S. Bangladeshis Track Climate Changes Back Home

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By New America Media, Ngoc Nguyen

Mohammed Khan was a child when the deadliest cyclone ever recorded struck Bangladesh (at the time East Pakistan) in 1970. The cyclone brought torrential rains and winds stronger than those seen during Hurricane Katrina. As many as half a million people were killed. Then river waters rose and claimed the land.

“My family lives on an island called Bhola,” Khan recalls. “They have some land, but a lot of the land was taken by the river during a great flood.”

Khan, 51, who now lives in Queens, N.Y., has a daughter and more than 200 family members in Bangladesh. He’s worried about how his large extended family will fare when the next cyclone strikes, and he fears climate change will worsen such disasters.

“As the water levels rise in the next few years, much of southern Bangladesh will go into the womb of the river,” he says.

Concern about climate change among the public has waned, but the issue is foremost among many Bangladeshi Americans, because of the vulnerability of Bangladesh to climate change. Some community members are organizing seminars to learn about how rising seas and extreme weather will play out in their home country, and they’re making their voices heard on the political front.

Bangladesh is often considered ground zero for climate change. Crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers, much of the country is a massive flat delta, extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. As global warming pushes sea levels higher, Bangladesh would have the most land inundated among its South Asian neighbors, according to the World Bank. If sea levels rise by one meter, as much as a fifth of the country could be submerged, displacing about 20 million people.

In the last few years, awareness about climate change has grown among Bangladeshi Americans.

Hasan Rahim, a software engineering consultant based in San Jose, says Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was a wake-up call for him and many Bangladeshis in Silicon Valley. Rahim, who also teaches math and statistics at San Jose City College, says he organized screenings of the film in his community.

Rahim connected the film’s dire predictions about climate change to his homeland. “We live here, but we have roots there,” he says. “We are connected and we have got to become more aware of [climate change impacts].”

More than a dozen rivers, including the mighty Ganges, Brahmaputra, Jamuna and Meghna, flow across Bangladesh, emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The southern part of the country is a massive delta, with its fertile land known as the country’s rice bowl.

“It’s really a concern. We’re a small country with 150 million people, so lots of people would lose their houses, land, and become homeless,” says Abu Taher, editor of the newspaper Bangla Patrik, in New York. He says people want to know the future consequences of climate change on the country so they can tell family members to take precautions.

When he travels to Bangladesh, Khan says he notices changes in the environment. There used to be three crop seasons, he says, but now there’s one. “Normally, we would have floods during the rainy season, but now there is no one season for floods anymore,” Khan adds.

A construction worker, Khan also heads up a group made up of immigrants from Barisal, a southern province that is frequently hard hit by cyclones and flooding. The group has organized seminars to learn more about how climate change will affect Bangladesh. From the United States, Khan says he sometimes feels powerless to help his family back home.

“There’s nowhere for them to go. Bangladesh is a small country,” he says. “Where would they get the land? Who will give us the money? I can just advise them to use the deep tube wells to get clean water.”

Khan says his group wants to share the information with U.S. elected officials, and tell them they want the United States to curb its own pollution and help vulnerable nations.

“America as a leader should help all the poor and affected countries, including Bangladesh,” Khan says. “Affected families are dying without food, without a roof over their heads. We should provide financial assistance and even bring them here.”

In the last two decades, Bangladesh suffered the most deaths and greatest economic losses as a result of extreme weather events, according to Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index 2010.

At the climate change summit in Copenhagen in December, the United States and other developed nations pledged $100 billion in aid to countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

“It would make all the difference in the world if the aid were used not to buy finished products like solar panels, but to develop local indigenous talent,” says Rahim.

Bangladeshis have already had to adapt to higher sea levels, Rahim says.

“People who raised chickens are now raising ducks,” he says, and farmers are experimenting with “floating seed beds” to save crops during floods.

Until more funds are directed to helping people adapt to climate change, more frequent and more intense storms and floods will create more environmental refugees.

Queens resident Sheikh Islam says refugees have already poured into the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, which the World Wildlife Federation ranked as the city most vulnerable to climate change impacts out of 11 Asian coastal cities.

Islam says there’s more recognition now that climate change is causing the refugee surge into the city.

“They thought the migrants who came to the city were just jobless and landless. Now, the government is mentioning that they are jobless and landless because of climate change,” he says.

Islam says there’s also a growing perception that Western developed countries bear more responsibility for the problem because they contribute the most to carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

“Now, people know about climate change and they are talking about it,” Islam says. “Three to five years ago they don’t talk about it. They thought it was our problem. Now they think it is a global problem.”

12-4

Community News (V12-I3)

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Dupage County denies permit for Islamic facility

WHEATON, IL (News Agencies)–The Irshad Learning Center, an Islamic educational institute, suffered a setback after it was denied permission to build a facility near Naperville. The DuPage County board voted 10-7 this Tuesday to deny a conditional-use permit. The board members said they were concerned about operation of the facility in a residential neighborhood and the accompanying problems.

They suggested it was time the board re-examine a special zoning proposal for religious institutions.

Officials from Irshad were upset by the decision and suggested legal actions against the county could be on the horizon.

Mahmood Ghassemi, chairman of the center’s board of trustees, said he didn’t feel the county decision was in keeping with the rule of law.

Muslim cabbie returns $21,000 left in taxi

NEW YORK, NY–A New York City Muslim cab driver is being praised for returning $21,000 left behind a tourist from Europe.
Italian Felicia Lettieri, 72, left her purse in a Manhattan taxi on Christmas Eve. It contained travelling money for her and six relatives.

Police told them not to get their hopes up about finding it.

But the cabbie, Mohammad “Mukal” Asadujjaman, drove about 50 miles, to a Long Island address he found in the purse. No-one was home, so he left his phone number and later returned with the money.

The 28-year-old driver, from Bangladesh, said that as an observant Muslim he could not accept a reward offered by the grateful passenger.

Free Admission To Ali Center On Champ’s Birthday

LOUISVILLE, KY–Muhammad Ali turns 68 years old on Jan. 17.To celebrate this occasion, the Muhammad Ali Center invites the community to tour the center’s award-winning exhibits for free and to participate in the day’s activities. The Center is also expanding its Sunday hours for this festive occasion; doors will open at 10 a.m. and close at 5 p.m.

Leading off the special events for the day will be a short program at 1 p.m. in the Ali Center’s Main Lobby. At 2:30 p.m., in the Auditorium, will be a showing of “Facing Ali,” an Academy Award contender this year for Best Documentary. Producer Derik Murray will be in attendance to introduce the film and answer questions about the production of this compelling film.

Other special activities for the day include a trivia contest, prizes, drawings, light refreshments, and an opportunity for kids to design birthday cards for Ali. Special Muhammad birthday merchandise will be available to purchase in the center’s retail store.

This event will also kick off a year of significant historical events for Ali: the 50th anniversary of his first professional fight (in Louisville) and his 1960 Olympic Gold Medal received in Rome.

12-3

Muslim City Councilmen Elected in Hamtramck

December 31, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Nargis Hakim Rahman

Two new Muslim faces have joined Hamtramck City Council on November 3, making the city council 50 percent Muslim.

According to the Detroit Free Press the number reflects the most Muslims, “in a municipality in the United States.”

Kazi Miah, 30, won with 1652 votes, the highest votes. Mohammed Kamrul Hassan, 42, received 1390 votes, 40 more than he expected. 

Hassan said he did not campaign a lot during the general election as he was working 12-hour shifts and did not take any days off from his job as a manufacturing expert at Faurecia Automotive Seating Inc.

“I had confidence. I knew I was going to get 875 votes in the primary, and 1350 votes would get me a seat,” Hassan said.

Hassan ran for city council after seeing discrimination to immigrant populations by police officers and city officials.

“I have been seeing the city administration and corruption and discrimination from police officers, how they talk when immigrant people go to the city hall,” said Hassan.

He said the city is not going in the right direction, and has changed since his move to Hamtramck in 1994.

Hassan moved from New York to Michigan to pursue his education. He holds a Bachelors of Science, with honors, and Masters in Mathematics from the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh.

Miah, a 10-year-resident of Hamtramck, works at National City Bank in Hamtramck. He ran for office to make local government more citizen-oriented, and to encourage the youth to run for public office.

Miah holds various board positions around Hamtramck, and is the founder of Bangladeshi American Youth Action. The youth group is focused on advancing in education, engaging in community service and having recreational activities for youth.

Miah said serving city council is his way of giving back. He said he was inspired to run for government by Sayu Bhojwani, founder of a similar youth group in New York.

Hassan said taxes, budget utilization and cutting salaries are on the top of his list.

He said everywhere in the world people are cutting salaries.

“I’d like to cut salaries to survive,” he said.

Miah said the city will face tough times ahead with economy.

“This city has been in a deep end before, as far as financial stability, but we can get out of it,” he said.

Hassan said spending money better and reassessing the budget will help the city.

Miah said his priorities include being a voice for the Census. Immigrant populations are often reluctant to fill out the forms, fearing the government will come after them. He wants to stop that trend.

The Census is correlated to taxes, government funds, and public safety, as police officers are assigned based on city populations, he said.

“We have 20,000 Muslims, Bengalis, Yemenis. The Census doesn’t tell us that,” Miah said.

He said higher numbers will make politicians pay attention.

Miah’s website, www.voteforkazi.com, has a poll, asking for public opinions on local matters. He said he wants to be as accessible as possible, following the Obama campaign, where he served as Captain of the Voter Registration Drive.

“I’m not trying to take anything away from Hamtramck. I’m trying to add to the richness this city has,” Miah said.

“If we fail, we’ll be failing as a whole.”

Hassan said he is proud to be a Muslim city councilman.

“Some people questioned me because I was Muslim. This is not a Yemeni city, a Bangladeshi city, or a Polish city. This is the city of Hamtramck.”

He said the city is his first priority, but he will not go against his religion.

“I’m going to respect my religion 100 percent,” Hassan said.

He said Islam is the religion of peace. It’s always going to be good decisions for politics.

“Our prophet Muhammad (s) got respect from all religions. He helped everybody. I’m going to treat everyone equally.”

Miah said Islam taught us to be good to your neighbors, not only Muslim neighbors. He said he wants to be a voice for everyone.

“Throughout the election no one asked me what religion I was. I sincerely believe citizens of Hamtramck just want to be taken care of,” Miah said.

Miah and Hassan are Bangadleshi Muslim Americans. They are married with two children.

Both said they are looking forward to working with the new council.

12-1

Israt Ahmed Makes Scientific Discovery, Wins Siemens Award

December 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

6EF0
 

NEW YORK, NY–The research of 11th graders Israt Ahmed and Xiao (Cathy) Zhou of Francis Lewis High School and Stuyvesant High School student Stephanie Chen helped them place third this past week at the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. The team will split a $40,000 scholarship for their work, which is thought to prove hominids migrated from Africa to Eurasia 200,000 years before scientists had previously estimated.

The teens made their discovery studying samples of teeth and tools found in France and Russia. The students’ findings have implications in the field of evolution and in climate change research. 

The students devoted months of hard work—over 800 hours apiece, their advisor said—to their project, spending summer days, vacations, and weekends in the lab. Their research culminated in an 18-page research paper and a presentation at the Siemens competition.

“They’re going to rewrite the history textbooks that we use in school,” their faculty supervisor, Dr. Bonnie Blackwell, said. “These students have done a fabulous job.”

Ahmed lists English, physics, world history, government and biology as his favorite subjects in school. His interest in government and history is evidenced by his participation in AP Government and his leadership role as President of his school’s Global Warming Awareness Club.  He is a member of the RFK Science Research Institute. He hopes to one day become both a geneticist and a neurologist in order to use the potential of stem cells to help cure diseases.   In his free time he plays tennis and is involved with video editing and production. He was born in Bangladesh and speaks Bengali, Japanese, Spanish, Hindi and Latin.

11-53

Houstonian Corner (V11-I50)

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Helping Hand For Relief & Development Has Started Office in Royal Center Houston

   

Eminent Islamic Scholar Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf Islahi inaugurated the US South Central Region office of Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD), which is located at 11945 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77099, Phone: (713) 984-4558, Fax: (713) 429-1421, Webpage: www.HHRD.Org.

Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf Islahi met with several people from the community, as they kept coming to the OPEN HOUSE of HHRD from 1:30pm. till 4:30pm. Also present on the occasion were ILyas Hasan Choudry, Coordinator of HHRD for US South Central Region; and Maaz Adil, Administrative Assistant of HHRD for US South Central Region.

HHRD is considered most proficient in the field of Basic Healthcare & Disaster Relief Services (Emergency; Short-Term; & Long-Term Recuperation) and are still involved in the field works of Tsunami 2004-2005 (Sri Lanka & Indonesia); Earthquake 2005 (Kashmir & NWFP, Pakistan); Floods of Bangladesh 2006-2007; Earthquake 2008 (Ziarat, Baluchistan, Pakistan); Floods 2008 (NWFP, Pakistan); & IDPs 2009 (Swat & now Waziristan, Pakistan).

Due to the works of HHRD, they have recently received grants of over $3-Million from the World Food Programme of UNO and World Health Organization (WHO).

This year HHRD crossed the record 8,000 mark in the performance of Qurbanis, booked by people from USA and Canada in 60 different countries.

HHRD most famous project is “Orphan Support Program”, where with just $365/Year (or automatic deduction of $30/Month), one can sponsor an orphan (age 0 till 19), to bring food, clothes, education and much happiness to his or her life. These orphans are in about 15 countries, including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, Palestine, and Iraq.

In his communiqué, the Executive Director of HHRD Farrukh Raza has remarked: In recent years, HHRD works have been recognized by Americans and International Relief Agencies. This has been due to the Blessings of God; most generous donations by people of USA & Canada of various backgrounds; hard-work of our field & office staff and our partner agencies; and so on. HHRD Office in Houston has brought opportunities of benevolence near the people living in the South Central Region of USA. Our office and programs need the moral & monetary support from all the members of the society. With the end of year approaching us, this is a reminder that general public, professionals as well as businesspersons; need to start thinking and consulting experts to determine their tax status, so that they are able to mutually benefit by donating to a 501 (c) organization. In this case, they must strongly consider HHRD for their contributions in our “Orphan Support Program”; “Water For Life” Wells Projects; “Give the Gift of Eyes” Surgery Program; “Wedding Box” for Needy & Orphan Girls; and Ongoing Disaster Relief Projects. They must consider HHRD because of our credible work in the field and track-record of delivering competent services, due to the Grace of God. Visit www.HHRD.Org for this purpose.”

Cold Front Could Not Stem the Heat in the Run-Off Elections

Temperatures are expected to hover between low 40s and high 50s as the first week of Early Voting started on Monday, November 30th, 2009 in the City of Houston Run-Off Elections, with the last day of Early Voting being Tuesday, December 08th, 2009; and Saturday, December 11, 2009 is the actual voting day. For all election details, one can visit: www.harrisvotes.com.

Despite the cold weather, the Mayoral Race got heated up on the first day of Run-Off Elections, as Candidate Gene Locke launches a damaging commercial against his opponent Annise Parker, who promised to retaliate in kind. Earlier at his fundraising event, City Controller Candidate M. J. Khan said he is very lucky to have got a candidate, who has Federal Liens on his Properties.

Before the end of the first day of Early Voting, Annise Parker did hit back, with an E-Mail Press Release from her Campaign Staff Sue Davis, asking Gene Locke to come clean on several charges of Conflicts of Interest.

Now in the negative commercial, Mr. Locke has criticized Parker for saying she would “take apart the police department”. Ms. Parker has made such remarks on several occasions, including recently at the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Monthly Luncheon, where she said she would not only change the face of METRO, but also change HPD Chief.

Locke defends this advertisement, saying it is accurate and gives chance for voters to reflect on the number one issue of the campaign (Public Safety).

Parker said this Ad is deceptive, and said it shows desperation in Gene Locke’s Campaign.

Later on in the afternoon, Annise Parker Campaign for Mayor called on Gene Locke to say whether he will take himself out from voting on lucrative city contracts that his law partners will bid, if elected mayor.

“Lawyer-Lobbyist Gene Locke continues to demonstrate his disdain for open and transparent government and his disrespect for the voters,” said Adam Harris, Parker’s Campaign Manager. “He still refuses to say whether or not he will vote on millions of dollars of city contracts for his law partners if elected mayor.”

Locke is a partner in the politically connected law firm of Andrews Kurth. The firm has made more than $17 million in the last six years alone from the City of Houston, METRO, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority and the Port Authority of Houston, the same public agencies whose board members Locke would appoint as Mayor – while his law firm, Andrews Kurth, continues to bid for contracts from the city and each of those agencies.

Locke has billed local government agencies like METRO at rates of up to $640 an hour. He billed $574,000 in fees to the Sports Authority alone in the last 30 months.

Gene Locke has refused to release his tax returns for weeks after Ms. Parker voluntarily released hers, and agreed to release them only after being cornered by a Texas Watchdog reporter the week before Thanksgiving.

In one setback to Annise Parker Campaign, the Houston Police Officers’ Union has come up with a stark question for voters’: How would you feel if someone had stolen your identity? The Today, the Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU) put out an all-points “press” bulletin asking Houston voters to be wary of false and misleading radio and television ads by mayoral candidate, Ms. Annise Parker. HPOU, Houston’s largest and most respected police officer organization, is warning Houston voters not to be misled by Parker’s radio and television ads, which falsely imply she has the police group’s endorsement. The police organization has endorsed Gene Locke for Mayor in the upcoming runoff election.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I50)

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Helping Hand For Relief & Development Has Started Office in Royal Center Houston

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Sheikh Yousuf Islahi In Houston As Guest At The OPEN HOUSE Of Helping Hand For Relief And Development.

Voting In City of Houston Run-Off Elections Is On December 10, 2009…;

Eminent Islamic Scholar Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf Islahi inaugurated the US South Central Region office of Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD), which is located at 11945 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77099, Phone: (713) 984-4558, Fax: (713) 429-1421, Webpage: www.HHRD.Org.

Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf Islahi met with several people from the community, as they kept coming to the OPEN HOUSE of HHRD from 1:30pm. till 4:30pm. Also present on the occasion were ILyas Hasan Choudry, Coordinator of HHRD for US South Central Region; and Maaz Adil, Administrative Assistant of HHRD for US South Central Region.

HHRD is considered most proficient in the field of Basic Healthcare & Disaster Relief Services (Emergency; Short-Term; & Long-Term Recuperation) and are still involved in the field works of Tsunami 2004-2005 (Sri Lanka & Indonesia); Earthquake 2005 (Kashmir & NWFP, Pakistan); Floods of Bangladesh 2006-2007; Earthquake 2008 (Ziarat, Baluchistan, Pakistan); Floods 2008 (NWFP, Pakistan); & IDPs 2009 (Swat & now Waziristan, Pakistan).

Due to the works of HHRD, they have recently received grants of over $3-Million from the World Food Programme of UNO and World Health Organization (WHO).

This year HHRD crossed the record 8,000 mark in the performance of Qurbanis, booked by people from USA and Canada in 60 different countries.

HHRD most famous project is “Orphan Support Program”, where with just $365/Year (or automatic deduction of $30/Month), one can sponsor an orphan (age 0 till 19), to bring food, clothes, education and much happiness to his or her life. These orphans are in about 15 countries, including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, Palestine, and Iraq.

In his communiqué, the Executive Director of HHRD Farrukh Raza has remarked: In recent years, HHRD works have been recognized by Americans and International Relief Agencies. This has been due to the Blessings of God; most generous donations by people of USA & Canada of various backgrounds; hard-work of our field & office staff and our partner agencies; and so on. HHRD Office in Houston has brought opportunities of benevolence near the people living in the South Central Region of USA. Our office and programs need the moral & monetary support from all the members of the society. With the end of year approaching us, this is a reminder that general public, professionals as well as businesspersons; need to start thinking and consulting experts to determine their tax status, so that they are able to mutually benefit by donating to a 501 (c) organization. In this case, they must strongly consider HHRD for their contributions in our “Orphan Support Program”; “Water For Life” Wells Projects; “Give the Gift of Eyes” Surgery Program; “Wedding Box” for Needy & Orphan Girls; and Ongoing Disaster Relief Projects. They must consider HHRD because of our credible work in the field and track-record of delivering competent services, due to the Grace of God. Visit www.HHRD.Org for this purpose.”

Cold Front Could Not Stem the Heat in the Run-Off Elections

Temperatures are expected to hover between low 40s and high 50s as the first week of Early Voting started on Monday, November 30th, 2009 in the City of Houston Run-Off Elections, with the last day of Early Voting being Tuesday, December 08th, 2009; and Saturday, December 11, 2009 is the actual voting day. For all election details, one can visit: www.harrisvotes.com.

Despite the cold weather, the Mayoral Race got heated up on the first day of Run-Off Elections, as Candidate Gene Locke launches a damaging commercial against his opponent Annise Parker, who promised to retaliate in kind. Earlier at his fundraising event, City Controller Candidate M. J. Khan said he is very lucky to have got a candidate, who has Federal Liens on his Properties.

Before the end of the first day of Early Voting, Annise Parker did hit back, with an E-Mail Press Release from her Campaign Staff Sue Davis, asking Gene Locke to come clean on several charges of Conflicts of Interest.

Now in the negative commercial, Mr. Locke has criticized Parker for saying she would “take apart the police department”. Ms. Parker has made such remarks on several occasions, including recently at the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Monthly Luncheon, where she said she would not only change the face of METRO, but also change HPD Chief.

Locke defends this advertisement, saying it is accurate and gives chance for voters to reflect on the number one issue of the campaign (Public Safety).

Parker said this Ad is deceptive, and said it shows desperation in Gene Locke’s Campaign.

Later on in the afternoon, Annise Parker Campaign for Mayor called on Gene Locke to say whether he will take himself out from voting on lucrative city contracts that his law partners will bid, if elected mayor.

“Lawyer-Lobbyist Gene Locke continues to demonstrate his disdain for open and transparent government and his disrespect for the voters,” said Adam Harris, Parker’s Campaign Manager. “He still refuses to say whether or not he will vote on millions of dollars of city contracts for his law partners if elected mayor.”

Locke is a partner in the politically connected law firm of Andrews Kurth. The firm has made more than $17 million in the last six years alone from the City of Houston, METRO, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority and the Port Authority of Houston, the same public agencies whose board members Locke would appoint as Mayor – while his law firm, Andrews Kurth, continues to bid for contracts from the city and each of those agencies.

Locke has billed local government agencies like METRO at rates of up to $640 an hour. He billed $574,000 in fees to the Sports Authority alone in the last 30 months.

Gene Locke has refused to release his tax returns for weeks after Ms. Parker voluntarily released hers, and agreed to release them only after being cornered by a Texas Watchdog reporter the week before Thanksgiving.

In one setback to Annise Parker Campaign, the Houston Police Officers’ Union has come up with a stark question for voters’: How would you feel if someone had stolen your identity? The Today, the Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU) put out an all-points “press” bulletin asking Houston voters to be wary of false and misleading radio and television ads by mayoral candidate, Ms. Annise Parker. HPOU, Houston’s largest and most respected police officer organization, is warning Houston voters not to be misled by Parker’s radio and television ads, which falsely imply she has the police group’s endorsement. The police organization has endorsed Gene Locke for Mayor in the upcoming runoff election.

11-50

Houstonian Corner (V11-I40)

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Astounding ‘Eid-ul-Fitr Celebrations as ISGH Organized Eid Prayers at GRBCC

Picture Q As per last week’s prediction by Pakistan Publications Inc., hundreds and thousands of Muslims thronged George R. Brown Convention Center (GRBCC). According to an estimate, more than 30,000 Muslims of all faces and facets of life responded this last Sunday, September 20, 2009, to the call of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) and attended ‘Eid-ul-Fitr prayers at the GRBCC. The prayer hall overflowed, and thousands had to stay outside due to fire-code regulations’ and were accommodated in a subsequent prayer.

Pakistan Publications Inc. extends Heartiest Congratulations and Kudos to the ISGH for organizing such a mammoth gathering in the most efficient and effective manner.

The Special Supplications and Presence Slogans (called the Takbeerats of Eid-ul-Fitr Prayers) by the attendees thundered in the hall since before 8:00am., while thousands of impressively dressed people in traditional dresses of almost the whole world, like the Far-East Australasia; South Asia India – Bangladesh – Sri Lanka – Pakistan; Middle East; Africa; Europe; and the Americas; made their ways through every door and into the Hall.

The meaning of these is Takbeerats is as follows : “Allah is Great, Allah is Great: There is no one worthy of prayer but Allah, and Allah is Great; Allah is Great, All praise be to Allah, It is He Who Guides.”

These Takbeerats continued for about one-hour, when around 9:00am. Shaikh Omar Inshanally, Imam at the ISGH Main Center Masjid, stood up to lead the prayers, which includes Seven Extra Calls of Allah is Great (Allahu-Akbar in Arabic) during the First Phase (called Rakat) and Five Extra Calls of Allah is Great (Allahu-Akbar in Arabic) during the Second Phase (called Rakat) of the Prayers.

During these Two Phased Eid-ul-Fitr Prayers, Shaikh Omar Inshanally recited from the passages of Quran that convey Allah’s unfathomable love for believers; remind believers of the inevitability of an end of everyone’s earthly life & the ultimate destination in front of Allah; and that Allah forgives all sins of those who sincerely repent and uplift their morality. Without exception, those interviewed after the prayer said that they felt deeply moved, and complimented the Imam’s Recitation (called Qiraa’at in Arabic) – The choice of passages, fluency, voice control, and mellifluousness.

After the prayers, ISGH President Dr. Aziz Ahmad Siddiqi provided in a positive fashion the State of Affairs of ISGH and the Muslim Community in the Greater Houston Region. He cited several major developments that whoever will seek, will benefit many, regardless of ethnic background or country of origin. President also mentioned that this year the ISGH membership has experienced an unprecedented growth of more than 25 percent. It was nice that Dr. Siddiqi’s presentation was not long and contained linguistic beauty.

Houston Mayor Bill White also addressed the audience, noting the size and importance of the local Muslim community. Mr. White is seeking higher state office, and a positive impression on him could be to the advantage of Muslims. The Chairman of the ISGH ‘Ulema Committee, Shaikh Abdul ‘Aziz of the Brand Lane Masjid also graced the occasion.

After the prayers and addresses the crowd filled the air with mutual bright smiles, cordial ‘Eid greetings, and warm expressions of love and unity. This all made for a truly awe-inspiring ‘Eid-ul-Fitr celebration organized by the ISGH. For more information, one can visit www.isgh.org.

Farouk Shami to Run For Texas Governor

Picture R He is the famous Houston hair-care millionaire Farouk Shami (originally from Palestine), seriously considering a run for Governor as a Democrat. He has already appointed a Treasurer, but has not yet filed papers.

At his Annual Ramadan Dinner at the Arab Cultural Center (ACC) Houston, the 66 year old Shami asked hundreds gathered if he should run or not and he got a tremendous “Yes,” with everyone standing and clapping.

One may recall that Farouk Shami first got some attention in the political arena during 2006 governor’s race, when as his business partner; he supported the independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman.

Farouk Shami got much appreciation last month for his decision to move 5,000 jobs from Asian manufacturing plants in China to Texas over the next five years to manufacture his famous hair-care products of BioSilk and CHI brands. He invented ammonia-free hair color products, was the official hair care sponsor of the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants and has sales that top $1 billion a year.

Farouk Shami in an inspiring speech said that Texas needs a change and he through his entrepreneurial spirit will bring fresh ideas to increase the tax base, create new jobs of the future, brings dignified healthcare for all, and make Texas the best place to live in the USA.

11-40

Thailand Accused of Mistreating Muslim Refugees

January 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Simon Montlake, The Christian Science Monitor

2008-05-06-Rohingya_1
The Rohingya Muslim people, subject to horrible state persecution  in Burma, have sought refuge in Bangladesh; recently hundreds were refused entry into Thailand.

BANGKOK, THAILAND – Hundreds of Muslim refugees from Burma (Myanmar) are feared missing or dead after Thai troops forced them onto boats without engines and cut them adrift in international waters, according to human rights activists and authorities in India who rescued survivors. The revelations have shone a spotlight on the Thai military’s expulsion policy toward Muslims it sees as a security threat.

Nearly 1,000 refugees were detained on a remote island in December before being towed out to sea in two batches and abandoned with little food or water, according to a tally by a migrant-rights group based on survivors’ accounts and media reports. The detainees, mostly members of Burma’s oppressed Rohingya minority, then drifted for weeks. One group was rescued by Indonesia’s Navy, and two others made landfall in India’s Andaman Islands.

Photos of refugees on a Thai island show rows of bedraggled men stripped to the waist as soldiers stand guard. In a separate incident, foreign tourists snapped pictures of detainees trussed on a beach. Thailand’s Andaman coastline, where the abuses took place, is a popular vacation spot.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva has launched an investigation. Military officials have denied any ill treatment of refugees, while offering conflicting accounts of how they ended up lost at sea. The military has accused the Rohingya, who often travel via Thailand to Malaysia to work or seek asylum, of assisting a Muslim-led insurgency in southern Thailand.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is pressing Thailand for access to 126 Rohingya that it says are in Thai custody. These include 46 boat people reportedly detained on Jan. 16 and handed over to military custody. It said a second group of 80 Rohingya, which reportedly had previously been pushed out to sea and drifted back, had been transferred to the tiny detention island.

There was no sign Thursday of any detainees there, said a Western source in the area. Villagers said boat people had been held there by local guards under military command, before being towed out to sea by fishing vessels. Rickety vessels said to have carried the refugees were beached on the island, the source said.

Amid accusations of a military cover-up, the Thai government has promised a full accounting. “The military has agreed to a fact-finding investigation … [but] we’re not dependent on their input alone,” says Panitan Wattanyagorn, a spokesman.

That probe will expose Mr. Abhisit’s weak command of the military, which sees the Rohingya and other undocumented Muslims as a threat, says Paul Quaglia, director of PSA Asia, a security consultancy in Bangkok. He says there’s no evidence that the Rohingya, who speak a Bengali dialect, have joined insurgents in the Malay-speaking south, where more than 3,500 people have died since 2004.

“Abhisit is … beholden to the military for getting his job – and keeping his job,” he says.

Thailand has long been a magnet for millions of economic migrants as well as refugees escaping persecution in Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Human traffickers often play a role moving both groups, exposing those on the run to egregious abuses. Thailand has a mixed record on hosting refugees.

Most Rohingya, who are denied legal rights in Burma, begin their journey in Bangladesh, where more than 200,000 live in unofficial camps. A further 28,000 are registered with the UNHCR. From there, men pay smugglers for passage across the Indian Ocean to Thailand, usually as a transit stop to reach Malaysia, a Muslim country with a sizable Rohingya population. Some Bangladeshis also travel there.

In recent years, boats crossing during winter months have increased. Between 2004 and 2008, the number of Rohingya detained by police rose to 4,866, up from 2,763, says Kraisak Choonhavan, a government lawmaker.

Some of these Rohingya have been repatriated to Burma. Others have paid smugglers to complete their journey to Malaysia, or become victims of traffickers, say rights activists. That appears to have changed as the military has got involved.

In security briefings, military officials repeatedly draw a link between Rohingya refugees and separatist violence in the south, says Sunai Pasuk, with Human Rights Watch, which has received reports of sea “pushbacks” since 2007. “This is not just an isolated incident. There must be a policy behind it,” he says.

Mr. Kraisak, a deputy leader of the ruling Democrat party, criticized the violation of human rights. But he said the outflow of refugees from Burma was a problem that Thailand can’t handle alone. “We have to confer on the international stage. Thais have been too tolerant,” he says.

In interviews with Indian security officials, survivors said uniformed Thai personnel shot four refugees and tossed another into the sea before forcing their group to board a wooden barge. Some 400 crowded onto the barge, which was towed to sea for about 18 hours with armed soldiers aboard. They shared two bags of rice and two gallons of water, according to a transcript in the South China Post.

The barge drifted for more than a week. Of 300 people who tried to swim to shore, only 11 survived. An additional 88 were rescued by the Coast Guard.

The Rohingya people are very oppressed in Burma.  The people, from western Burma’s Arakan State, are forbidden from marrying or travelling without permission and have no legal right to own land or property.

Not only that but even though groups of them have been living in Burma for hundreds of years, they are also denied citizenship by the country’s military government.

For decades this Muslim group of ethnic-Indo origins have been considered the lowest of the low in this mainly Buddhist country. In 1992, 250,000 Rohingyas, a third of their population, fled over Burma’s border into Bangladesh to escape the persecution. Years later more than 20,000 of them are still in the same refugee camps and around 100,000 more are living illegally in the surrounding area.

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SE Michigan Events Volume 8 Issue 17

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Mawlid Fills Hearts of IIK Worshippers with Love for Prophet (s)

Dearborn—April 15—The Islamic Institute of Knowledge (IIK) in Dearborn celebrated the blessed birth of our holy Prophet (s) this past weekend at a very popular meeting attended by about a hundred Muslims who sang praises and rejoiced at his coming into this world with the message that is the light of our lives.
The event was by open-invitation to the community. There were three main speakers at the event, being Imam Abdul Latif Berry, Imam Baquir Berry (the son of Imam Abdul Latif Berry), and the Chairman of the IIK, Dr. Ali Sobh.
The elder Imam Berry spoke on the importance of education, emphasizing that the first revealed verse was “Iqra,” read. He also spoke on world events, discussing the impact of Islam on those events, and saying that it is important for Muslims to be educated, to participate in politics, education, and the media. In support of this he quoted Qur`an and `ahadith.
Imam Baquir Berry and Dr. Sobh echoed this theme, the first saying that those closest to God are those who are well-educated, and the doctor emphasizing the hadith to “seek knowledge even if it is in China.” Imam Baquir Berry said that it is important to raise children in the ethnical and moral way that Islam was founded on. There were many children at the event, and one of the speakers mentioned a hadith that when your children look at you with love in their eyes, it is as if you are paying charity. Candy bags and balloons were given to the children to make them happy on the blessed occasion of the birth of the holy Prophet (s).

Women’s Mawlid at IIK Dearborn Heights

April 12—The women of several mosques gathered at the IIK to celebrate Mawlid together on Friday. About 75 women were in attendance at the event, at which Imam Baquir Berry spoke.
The event began with a brunch of fruit and other nice food. Then Imam Baquir Berry spoke.
He spoke on different issues of how Prophet (s) was—as a role model, how forgiving and compassionate and understanding he was. He spoke for a few minutes.
Then two women, Linda and Hanan, read anthems or songs of praise including Tala’al Badru ‘Alayna and other songs. A first-grade class from the neighboring Islamic academy also sang songs of praise for Prophet (s).
Following this, the ladies had a raffle event, for which they competed in answering questions about the life of Prophet Muhammad (s) and Companions, wives and descendants—the winners receiving different prizes.
Hajja Khalida Beydoun, when asked about the event, quoted a hadith of Prophet (s) that “Live howsoever you like but you will surely die; love whatsoever you like but you will surely depart from it; do whatsoever you like but you will certainly meet it (and receive its reward). The honor of a Muslim believer is his midnight prayers, and his nobility is his refraining from ruining the reputations of people.”

Sunni-Shi’a Dialog

Canton—April 15—A packed house greeted IIK’s Imam Baquir Berry this past weekend in celebration of Shi’a-Sunni unity.
This event was held at the Canton Mosque, the Muslim Community of the Western Suburbs, on 40440 Palmer Avenue, in Canton. This mosque is a huge and sprawling center with a large mosque, cafeteria, and school, with until now signs of recent construction—unfinished landscaping and some building debris close to the mosque.
About 130 people were in attendance in total, roughly evenly split between men and women. MCWS is primarily considered, in its community’s eyes, as a south-Asian mosque composed of peoples from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India.
The evening began with words of welcoming and an introduction of the evenings main speakers, firstly MCWS’s own imam, Shaykh Ali Suleman Ali, and then of the visiting imam, the guest of honor at the evening, Shaykh Baquir Berry, the son of Imam Abdul Latif Berry and an imam in his own right at the Islamic Institute of Knowledge in Dearborn. Their topic, chosen by the mosque, was “Shi’a-Sunni relations—how to keep unity.”
Imam Berry spoke first at the behest of MCWS. He said that he was impressed by MCWS, and reflected that it is the result of 100 years of hard work by Muslim immigrants to this country. He quoted an ayah of Qur`an that Allah made Muslims the best nation to grace human beings. He said that Allah made this ummah appear as the best. He said that Prophet (s) had one mission, which Imam Baquir Berry emphasized was to lead people from “dhulumaty `ila nur” to guide people from darkness to light.
In view of this single mission that Prophet (s) did, we must continue his work of bringing guidance and nur to humanity. He said that in order to accomplish this we must work, hand in hand with other Muslims—by means of this ayah he emphasized the importance for all Muslims of all different forms of practice to come together to further this message.
He emphasized Prophet’s (s) example of bringing brotherhood between people by means of pairing the ansar with the muhajiroon. He emphasized that although the Companions disagreed over things at times, they would set aside their disagreements in light of their respect for and love of the Holiest Messenger (s).
He emphasized that we should, firstly, focus on this overriding mission rather than on the minor differences between Sunni and Shi’a, and secondly, that we should come closer together in order to know one another because just opening enough knowledge to bridge gaps of ignorance will solve by itself many problems.
He minimized differences of practice between Sunni and Shi’a, saying that even the differences between the Ja’fari madhhab and the Sunni madhahib is not that much, and emphasizing that the founders of the madhahib used to keep mutual respect and used to pray behind each other without disputing differences of practice—even following the practices of another madhhab’s imam when in his presence rather than arguing with him.
Imam Ali Suleman Ali also emphasized similar issues. Imam Ali is a Ph.D. holder who received his doctorate from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.
He emphasized that in his early days in Michigan, decades ago, he and other Sunni imams including Shaykh Musa, now of the Bloomfield Unity Center, used to visit Shaykh Berry’s father on Fridays and sit and joke together and spend pleasant time with one another.
He said that in fact there are no problems between Sunni and Shi’a here in the US, but that historically there have been some differences. He said we should bury these issues and focus on what’s good for Muslims as a community. He emphasized shahada, of clinging to “hablil Lah jami’an,” and emphasized that there are many efforts today to divide Muslims based on sex, race, and differences of practice and belief like Sunni and Shi’a.
He thanked Shaykh Berry for coming, and emphasized several definite plans for Sunni Shi’a cooperation in the immediate future.
In their questions and answers the people of the mosque asked questions for which there are not easy and clear-cut answers, (1) trying to establish universal acceptance of an ‘ied day, (2) to establish that Sunni and Shi’a zabiha-halal meat is mutually acceptable (Shaykh Ali said unequivocally that Shi’a zabiha halal meat is acceptable for Sunnis), (3) how to prevent the terrible division between Sunnis and Shi’a in Iraq from spreading here and to other places (Shaykh Berry said that in fact America is the shining example for the rest of the Muslim world, because we have held so many mutual Sunni-Shi’a gatherings since the terrible Samarra boming, and Shaykh Ali said that no Muslim could have bombed that shrine), (4) what we can do as Muslims to come together (Shaykh Berry said that religious people are open to come together, but that some people in the community are not religious and therefore not open to relations with people of different ethnicities), (5) asked whether Sunnis and Shi’a can pray behind each other.
Shaykh Berry’s response to this last question was very nicely worded, emphasizing again that the founders of the madhahib used to show respect to one another by following the rulings of the other major jurists when in their presence in order to show respect and mutual love and honor, and would pray behind one another even in a manner out of keeping with their own practices for the sake of mutual respect—therefore we also should adhere to this practice of mutual respect despite differences of opinion and law.