Houstonian Corner (V12-I16)

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Census 2010

 

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Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia Hosted Media Round-table to Encourage the Community Participation in Census 2010: Very Crucial For the Enhancement of Local Resources & Living Standards…

Avoid the knock on your Door: You can still do it by April 16th, 2010: Sheriff Garcia

“We have a challenge. I and my department are ready for it to go out; block walk, attend different community events; and encourage the diverse communities residing in Harris County, Texas to fill out the simple, but most crucial Census 2010 Ten Questionnaire Form. If people mail in this form by Friday, April 16th, 2010, the forms can still be with the Census Department by the final deadline of April 19th, 2010. Two weeks after that, people can start to expect knock at their doors by enumerators.”

These were the sentiments of Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, as he met in his new office building located at 1200 Baker Street, with the members of local South Asian media and community persons, amidst Census Reports that by April 12th, 2010, 60% of Harris County population has responded to the Census 2010 (67% in Year 2000), as compared to 66% national response rate up till now in Census 2010 (72% in Year 2000).

In Census 2010 Data for the State of Texas, the response rate is 61%, while this rate in the Year 2000 was 68% and in the same Year 2000, the national response rate was 72%. As such less percent of the population is responding to Census Questionnaire up till now, which is the challenge Sheriff Garcia had mentioned. Five top States at present include Wisconsin 77%, Minnesota 75%, Iowa 74%, Michigan 72%, & Nebraska 72%.

Present at the Harris County Sheriff Round-Table were of course Sheriff Adrian Garcia; Alan Bernstein, Executive Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Christina Garza, Media Relations Manager, Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Bala Balachandran of the City of Houston Planning Department; Mustafa Tameez, President of Outreach Strategists, LLC (a certified 8(a), M/DBE, SBE company); and Huma Ahmed, Director of Program Development and General Counsel Outreach, Strategists, LLC. Prominent community members including Shaukat Zakaria, A. J. Durrani, Sajjad Burki, & Hasu Patel; and media persons like Tariq Khan, Jameel Siddiqui, Shamim Syed, Koshi Thomas, Haider Kazim, & ILyas Choudry, were in attendance as well.

“It will cost everyone as tax payers, if more populations’ doors have to be knocked. It has been estimated, that if 100% of the households in USA mail back their census forms by April 16th, 2010, taxpayers would save 1.50 BILLION Dollars, a huge amount in these economics times. Let’s all do our part in the Asian Community and mail back our forms,” added Mustafa Tameez of Outreach Strategists, who is liaison with the Harris County Sherriff Department for the South-Asian Community (he can be reached at 713-247-9600 or E-Mail: MITameez@OutreachStrategists.Com)

The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States. The Census informs critical decisions, from congressional representation to the allocation of more than $400 billion annually in federal funds, and helps governments make decisions about what community services to provide. South Asians have been undercounted in Census reports in the past. Sheriff said many individuals don’t respond because they are afraid to share confidential information.

“It is very important that everyone understands that the information collected is protected by law. The Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including the IRS, FBI, CIA or any other government agency,” stated Sheriff Garcia, so as to help ease confidentiality concerns surrounding the 2010 Census among some members of that community.

“Even provisions of Patriot Act cannot be used to get information from Census Data,” informed Mustafa Tameez.

All Census Bureau employees take the oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. The 2010 Census form is one of the shortest in U.S. history, consisting only of 10 questions and taking about 10 minutes to complete.

The Census 2010 matters extremely to our community, in that every year, the federal government distributes more than $400 billion to state, local and tribal governments based on census data. These funds:

• Help leaders determine where to build new schools, roads, health care facilities, child care and senior centers and more;
• Help fund important community programs important to the South Asian population; and
• Assist with planning for education, housing, health and other programs that reflect diversity in the community.

The census is a count of everyone in the United States. Everyone must be counted. This includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens and noncitizens.

Households should complete and mail back their forms as soon as you receive it. Starting in May, Census workers will visit households that do not return forms to take a count in person.

A complete count is extremely important to the South Asian Community. Take the time to fill out the form and send it back. Just 10 minutes. 10 questions. We’re All Counting on You!

For more information about the 2010 Census visit www.2010.census.gov or call 1-800-923-8282.

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I14)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Unity Faith and Discipline

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Census 2010 Meeting at ISGH Main Center…

Pakistan Day of March 23 Celebrated at the Consulate of Pakistan in Houston…

Need to Revitalize the Golden Principles of the Quid: Unity – Faith – & – Discipline: Khalid Khan of PAGH – Honorable Aqil Addressed the Community Especially Media

“I have just returned from Pakistan: What I have seen on the roads, streets and public places over there and then also have closely observed the Pakistan community in USA, I reach this conclusion that individually Pakistanis are the brightest of all and most talented. Somehow when it comes to working together, we have issues. And this is because we have forgotten the golden principles of Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah of Unity – Faith – & – Discipline”: These were the words of youngest ever President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) at the Pakistan Day March 23rd Festivities at the Consulate of Pakistan in Houston. Mezban Restaurant catered sumptuous brunch on the occasion and everyone appreciate Sohail and Tariq of Mezban for as always grand food.

“We have big egos and instead of positively using our egos, we indulge in negativity.  It is time for us to make a comeback and revive Unity – Faith – & – Discipline, through which we achieved the biggest bounty of independence,” added Khalid Khan.

Before that Counsel General of Pakistan Aqil Nadeem, Commercial Attaché Government of Pakistan Dr. Zia Ahmed, various leaders of the Pakistani community, their spouses and community media joined together at the lawn besides the Consulate to raise the flag of Pakistan amidst the national anthem. Some of the distinguished members of the community like Shamshad Wali (who read a patriotic poem); Reverend Dr. Afzal Firdous; Ali Kamal (former seven times president of PAGH); Dr. Aziz Siddiqi (President ISGH); Ghulam Bombaywala (former President of PAGH); Abdul Qayyum; Zafar Khan (office bearer of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce); Mirza Ashraf; and others.

For the first time at a community event like this, members of local Pakistani media were given chance to say their feelings. Tariq Khan; Chairperson of Pakistani Media Council, informed briefly the historical significance of March 23rd and said main lesson we can take from Pakistan Movement is that without combined and unified effort, it was impossible to achieve Pakistan and that unity we need today not only in Pakistan, but living in USA as Pakistani Community, we need to rise up beyond our differences and unite. He pointed out that the community leadership at times ignore the media and do not give due respect. There is need for mutual respect between the media and the leaders of the community. He appealed to Consul General Aqil Nadeem to mediate and resolve the ongoing issue between a member of the media and community leader. Shamim Syed of Pakistan News also gave a message of hope for concord within the community. Shaikh Najam Ali of Pakistan Times said that money is not the criteria of someone being a big man.

After reading the message of President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari on the happy occasion of March 23rd, which talked about need to strengthen the democratic values and system in Pakistan after years of dictatorships; in the midst of ovations, the Counsel General of Pakistan in Houston Honorable Aqil Nadeem announced “Jinnah Scholarship” for someone of Pakistani Origin doing a four year degree program in journalism. He said in mainstream American media, there is lack of Pakistanis presence and this is one small way to enhance our presence in a positive manner. He urged all Pakistanis to help in collecting the necessary funds for this scholarship.

Honorable Aqil Nadeem showed his antagonism towards those elements in the society, including some media outlet in Houston, who gives air to disunity. He said as Pakistan is transforming back into the folds of fully functional democracy, it is also incumbent upon all the Pakistanis abroad to recognize that their motherland has given them identity and education that today they are excelling in a foreign land: One way of pay back is to strengthen the Pakistani community wherever they may be.

Census 2010 has Chosen Two of ISGH Centers for their Community Information Places

“We have more than eighteen major centers across the Greater Houston Region, where Census 2010 can establish the informational centers. Presently Census 2010 has chosen two locations, including ISGH Masjid in Bear Creek Area:” This was informed by President of Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), as he greeted staff members of Census 2010 and The Alliance For Multicultural Community Services (which mainly deals with issues of immigrants and refugees). Present on the occasion were staff members of ISGH Main Center and Shaikh Omar Inshanally, who started the proceedings with recitation of Quran.

Census 2010 Staff informed that if people need help with understanding of Census Questionnaire that arrived in all Americans mail by March 15th, 2010, they can assist in more than 50 languages’. For all the Desi and Muslim community, The Alliance For Multicultural Community Services Center located at 6440 Hillcroft, Suite 411, Houston, Texas 77081 (Phone: 713-776-4700) provides an excellent centrally location place to get help with Census 2010 Forms.

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Mayor Anise Parker: South-Asian Community & Muslim Leaders For Census 2010

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bureau Conference Room at the City of Houston this past Tuesday was brimming with the leadership from the local South-Asian and Muslim Community, as they got together with Mayor Anise Parker for the Houston South Asian Community Census 2010 Kick-Off Meeting. The event was arranged by Outreach Strategists with the help of Staff Members of Census Bureau, Texas.

Mayor Anise Parker and members of the South Asians Matter Coalition led this Census 2010 Kick-Off event today at City Hall. The event marks the beginning of a joint campaign amongst Houston’s South Asian community to raise awareness for the 2010 Census.

The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States. Mayor Parker reminded the group that the Census informs critical decisions from congressional representation to the allocation of more than $400 billion annually in federal funds and helps governments make decisions about what community services to provide.

“It is very important to the City of Houston that we have a complete and accurate count for the 2010 Census,” noted Mayor Parker. “Among other things a complete Census count in Houston will aid in the creation of two new Houston City Council Districts.”

Former Councilmember M.J. Khan pointed out that the City loses an estimated $1,700 per person per year for everyone not counted. “Each of you here today has an opportunity to reach out to their networks and raise awareness so that South Asians are counted correctly.”

Judge Ravi Sandill also presented information to the group and touched on the confidentiality issues surrounding the Census, “By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.”

South Asian Community Organizer, Mustafa Tameez stated that, “In past years, South Asians have been undercounted. This year we must work to make sure that all South Asians fill out their Census forms to ensure that our community receives access to programs to better our communities.”

Guests received outreach materials, brochures, and posters translated into Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Tamil to display at local businesses and community centers.

Language barriers often contribute to the undercount of many non-English speaking non-residents. The Census Bureau has established Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC) to assist those unable to read or understand the form.  Information about the in-language 2010 Census form can be found at: http://2010.census.gov/partners/materials/inlanguage.php

The 2010 Census form will be one of the shortest in U.S. history, consisting of 10 questions, taking about 10 minutes to complete.

Strict confidentiality laws protect the respondents and the information they provide. Partnerships with for-profit and non-profit organizations and government entities are vital to raising awareness of and increasing participation in this historic event.

For more information, one can also call Outreach Strategists at 713-247-9600.

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The Muslim Community in Chile

March 4, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

By  Salma Elhamalawy, The Society of Muslim Union of Chile

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Views of Al Salam mosque in Santiago, Chile  

The origins of Islam in Chile are not very clear. It is known that in 1854 two “Turks” resided in the country, a situation that was repeated in the censuses of 1865 and 1875. Their country of origin is not known, just that they were natives of some territory of the immense Ottoman Empire.

According to the 1885 census, the number of “Turks” had risen to 29, but there is no precise information on their origin and their faith, since religion was not included in that census. However, the census of 1895 registered the presence of 76 “Turks”, 58 of them Muslims. They lived mainly in the north of Chile in Tarapacá, Atacama, Valparaiso, and Santiago.

In the census of 1907, the Muslims had risen to 1,498 people, all of them foreigners. They were 1,183 men and 315 women, representing only 0.04 percent of the population. This is the highest percentage of Muslims in Chile’s history.

In 1920 a new census showed that the number of Muslims had decreased to 402, with 343 men and 59 women. The greatest numbers were in Santiago and Antofagasta, with 76 in each province.

In Santiago, the first Islamic institution of Chile, the Society of Muslim Union of Chile, was founded on 25 September 1926. Later, on 16 October 1927, the Society of Mutual Aids and Islamic Charity was established.

With the 1952 census, the number of Muslims had risen again to 956. The majority lived in Santiago, with others in the provinces of Antofagasta, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, O’Higgins, Concepción, Malleco, Cautín and Valdivia, without much organization among them.

Their numbers decreased again, so that by 1960 there were only 522, with the majority of 209 living in Santiago. A decade later, the number of Muslims had increased to 1,431. However, the census did not indicate whether they were men or women, nationals or foreigners. Nevertheless, they were spread throughout the country.

Through the 1970s and ‘80s, there were no religious leaders or centers for praying. Muslims who maintained the faith met in the residence of Taufik Rumie’ Dalu, a trader of Syrian origin.

In 1990 the construction of the Al-Salam Mosque began, the first of the country. In 1995 another mosque was inaugurated in Temuco, and 1998 a new one in Iquique. Sources of the Islamic community indicate that at the moment, in Chile, there are 3,000 Muslims. Many of those are Chileans who, as a result of their conversion, have even changed their names. In spite of the small number of believers, they are not a homogenous community. The majority are Sunnis, and the rest are Shiites. Sufi groups have also arisen, but their members are mainly of non-Arab origin.

“I’ll never forget that day,” says the imam of Al-Salam Mosque, Sami Elmushtawi. “The day of the mosque’s inauguration was a day where the dreams of the Muslim community became true.” The Egyptian imam says further, “For us this was a unique opportunity, because not every day we are visited by kings, nor mosques are inaugurated either.” Apart from the fact that the King of Malaysia inaugurated the mosque on 1 October 1995, the mosque is considered one of the three best ones of Latin America, after those of Venezuela and Brazil.

The mosque, built to welcome 500 people, consists of three floors. The first has reading rooms, multipurpose hall, baths and cafeteria. The second contains the prayer hall, and the third has the office of the imam and rooms for guests.

“There are some people who come to pray during the day, but due to work the majority come to the mosque in the evening,” indicated Sami Elmushtawi.

However, Santiago is not the only place where Muslims can practice their faith. The Islamic Chilean Corporation of Temuco, founded in October 2001 in the city of Temuco, has the mission of spreading the Islamic culture and traditions. In addition, today it tries to open more channels to spread the moral values of Islam, overcoming the prejudices after 11 September 2001.

Muslim women pray at the mosque and in their houses. Chileans converted to Islam describe how they live as Muslims in a country which is dominantly Catholic, and how they are perceived. The attack of 11 September generated insults and practical jokes against them.

Karima Alberto, a 35-year-old housewife married to a Syrian merchant, has two children. She met her husband in his store. “He was the reason I converted to Islam, he told me marvelous things about Islam so I began to go to the mosque and learned more about Islam. It was like self-discovery,” she says.

Karima says that some people started treating them differently because of the 11 September attack. Although she is yearning to go to Makkah, she has already met her husband’s relatives in Damascus. “It was not difficult to stop eating pork or drink alcohol. It’s God’s will, and it’s stated in the Qur’an. Although some people think it’s a big sacrifice, I don’t look at it that way at all. Islam has given me a new vision.”

Carla Olivari, an 18-year-old student in a mixed school, says, “Now I do not feel pressured to drink alcohol at parties or to lose my virginity.”

At the age of 16, she used to pass by the mosque until one day she decided to enter. She left the mosque as a Muslim. “I feel that Allah chose me.” Her parents, who are Catholic, did not oppose, but her brother did. “When he sees me praying in my room, he calls me a lunatic.” However, she not only fasts during Ramadan, but on other days as well. “Above all, I pray for the victims in Palestine and Iraq.”

Carla wants to marry a Muslim. “My husband has to be a Muslim. I want my children to grow up in a Muslim family that teaches them important family values. Then I will get veiled permanently, not like now, when I only use it in the mosque.”

Habiba Abdullah, 40 years old, is a doctor at Roberto Del Río Hospital. She emphasizes that she carries the surname of her father, “Because Islam permits us to conserve our surname and not to be Mrs. Somebody.”

A member of a family of six brothers, she has a single son who is 18 years old. All her family is Muslim. “I was born a Muslim, and I’m proud of it. I remember my father taking us every weekend to the mosque. We would learn the Qur’an, and we would study Arabic. Although it was difficult when I first wore my veil at work, but little by little people started accepting me. Now people are not very surprised to see me with veil.”

Still, these women are a minority in Chile. “There are always people coming to the mosque out of curiosity,” states Imam Sami Elmushtawi. “Nevertheless, it is very satisfactory when I see their faces after leaving the mosque, or when they return again. Some people come to learn Arabic, and some come to learn more about Islam. But definitely it gives me greater joy that the Muslim community is increasing in Chile.”

Salma Elhamalawy contacted at: salma_elhamalawy@yahoo.com.

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I10)

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

PARENTS: Get Your Children Health Insurance On March 12th At Shifa Clinic

“Houston Shifa Foundation (HSF) established a partnership with the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) some twelve months ago, when HSF was offered training by Ms. Kelli Jackson. Because of this partnership we have managed to enroll close to 150+ families in various CHIP and Medicaid programs. This has benefited the most vulnerable members of our community, our children. Now on Friday, March 12th, 2010, 1pm.-5pm., our community parents can come to our Southwest Clinic at 10415 Synott Road, Bldg “D”, Sugar Land, Texas 77478 and get their children’s CHIP / MEDICAID Applications filled out. For eligibility, documentation requirements and more details, parents can call Mahmood Marfani at 832-660-1848 or visit www.ShifaClinicHouston.org:” This was informed at a Special Press Briefing for Community Media at HSF by Rafique Jangda, Executive Director of the Shifa Clinic.

Kelli King-Jackson, Director of Outreach for CDF-TX provided information on mission of the Children’s Defense Fund: “There are 1,584,276 (24.1%) children uninsured in Texas. Just in two of the 13 counties in the greater Houston region, Harris County has 332,093 (30.7%) children uninsured and Fort Bend has 336,030 (26.2%) children without health insurance. Our motto is that every step we take to improve the lives of children improves the lives of all of us: Today – Tomorrow – Together. Our mission is to leave no child behind without proper healthcare and our partnership with Shifa is significant, as this institution is providing excellent basic health services at a very minimal cost or for free to those vulnerable in our society, who have no other place to go. We would like to invite all the eligible parents to come on Friday, March 12th, 2010, between 1pm.-5pm., at HSF located at 10415 Synott Road, Bldg “D”, Sugar Land, Texas 77478 and get their children’s CHIP / MEDICAID Applications filled out. For eligibility, documentation requirements and more details, parents can call CDF office at 713-664-1975 or visit www.ChildrensDefense.Org

Other than the Children’s Defense Fund, HSF has established partnerships with Denver Harbor Clinic and Airline Children’s Clinic, which gives opportunity for the community living in other parts of town to avail excellent low cost (some free) health services near their home. Marisa Ponti, Marketing Director of Denver Harbor Clinic was present at the Press Conference. Denver Harbor Clinic is located at 424 Hahlo Street, Houston, Texas 77020, Phone: 713-674-3326 and Airline Children’s Clinic is situated at 5808 Airline Drive, Houston, Texas 77076, Phone: 713-695-4013.

Another good resource to visit is www.CHIPMedicAID.Org

Mayor Parker & Faith Leaders Unite to Celebrate Census Sabbath This Weekend

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Census Sabbath Press Conference by Interfaith Ministries at United Methodist Church Downtown Houston…

Community Being Encouraged To Simple Mail-In The Census 10 Questions Form by March 21st, 2010

“As members of this faith-based community and the communities in which we live and work, we have much at stake going into the 2010 Census. We pledge to dedicate sermons, provide spiritual guidance, and teachings focused on a ‘higher calling’ to make every person count.”

This was the pledge read by Mayor of Houston Annise Parker at the special press conference held to announce March 5th, 6th, & 7th, 2010 as the Census Sabbath in Houston.

Census numbers are important, as they determine the representation in the US Congress and if all Houstonians are counted, there is every possibility that this region will get a new Congressional Seat. The US Constitution requires Census to be done every ten years at the beginning of the decade and the results also provide a yardstick to allocate federal and state funds for infrastructure development, health, education, and other developmental projects at local levels.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, joined by Pastor Rudy Rasmus of St. John’s United Methodist Church and President of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston Dr. Aziz Siddiqi to call on Houston’s religious community from all walks of faith to pledge their commitment to provide Census education to their congregations during Census Sabbath weekend.

“The weekend of March 5-7 celebrates Census Sabbath, a time in which faith-based institutions throughout Houston will dedicate sermons, provide spiritual guidance and teachings focused on a ‘higher calling’ to make every person count. A complete count in Houston will result in additional federal funding to help meet the growing needs of Houston’s diverse communities. We want to gain congressional seat; make sure legislative boundaries are drawn based on all the persons counted; and not lose $1,700 per person who does not get counted. It is Easy – It is Important – It is Safe.”

Mayor Parker said that funding based on the Census will help expand community centers, improve transportation and increase health care options.

Houston mail-in response rate in 2000 Census was 61%, 3 points lower than national average of 64%: So this year all Houstonians are being urged by our media outlet that they need to beat the national average this year. The moment you receive the Census Form in the mail around March 15th, 2010, simply fill out the easy 10 questions and mail them in, to fulfill your moral, national, community, and societal duty.

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