Eboo Patel Earns Award

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

eboo patel Eboo Patel, the Chicago based founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, has won the 2010 Louisville Grawemeyer award in religion for his autobiography. He was selected from among 67 nominations worldwide.

Patel’s encourages young people of different religions to perform community service, explore common values and build bridges among diverse faiths. The organization is now active on about 75 college campuses.

“Religious extremists all over the world are harnessing adolescent angst for their own ends,” said Susan Garrett, a religion professor who directs the award. “Patel urges us to take advantage of the short window of time in a young person’s life to teach the universal values of cooperation, compassion and mercy.”

The Indian born Patel immigrated to Chicago as a child. As a teenager, he struggled with what he saw as a lack of religious pluralism in America. His experiences prompted him to launch a movement to build interfaith cooperation by inspiring college students to champion the cause.

He formed Interfaith Youth Core in 1998.

A Rhodes Scholar, he is now a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations. In October, U.S. News & World Report named him one of America’s Best Leaders in 2009.

The Grawemeyer Awards are five annual $200,000 prizes given in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education, and religion. They were founded by H. Charles Grawemeyer to help make the world a better place. The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Seminary jointly award the religion prize.

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Community News (V11-I51)

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Madison mosque plan to be discussed

RIDGE LAND,MS–Consideration of a site plan for a proposed mosque north of Madison is on the agenda of the Madison County Planning and Zoning Commission this Thursday.

The Mississippi Muslim Association is seeking approval of the site plan for the mosque on a 5-acre site west of U.S. 51. A site plan depicts the architectural design of a building along with landscaping.

The Board of Supervisors in August approved a special zoning exemption for the mosque.The land was zoned R-1 residential so a special exception was necessary to build a place of worship.

The proposed mosque has met resistance from some residents. At the time the exception was granted, John R. Reeves, an attorney representing some of the residents, argued that the Muslim Association had yet to show adequate provisions for utilities and had not provided any kind of drawing or site plan to show that the proposed building is compatible with the surrounding area.

Citibank asked to apologize

CHICAGO,IL–The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today called on Citibank to apologize to a Muslim woman who was allegedly verbally abused by a security guard at a Gresham, Ill., branch because she wears a religious head scarf, or hijab.

According to the Muslim woman, the guard said it was against Citibank’s policy for customers to transact business wearing head coverings. While another Citibank employee did allow the woman to complete her business, that employee insisted on personally escorting her to the counter and watched over her shoulder as she conducted her transactions.

The guard also reportedly objected to the woman receiving service because it would encourage more of “them” to come into the bank. Throughout the process, which the Muslim customer described as “humiliating,” the guard allegedly made anti-Muslim remarks.

CAIR-Chicago is calling for the apology, a review of Citibank policies related to religious head coverings and for diversity training of bank staff.

“Denying someone the right to enjoy equal treatment in places of public accommodation is illegal and violates our most deeply held values of fairness and respect for others,” said Kevin Vodak, staff attorney at CAIR-Chicago.

“It appears that this security guard was purposefully trying to deter Muslims from patronizing the bank by harassing them. If this is the case, the bank needs to make sure this kind of discriminatory behavior is addressed,” said Christina Abraham, civil rights director at CAIR-Chicago. “It’s illegal and it’s bad business.”

Edmonton Muslims host Eid dinner

EDMONTON–Edmonton Muslims last Sunday hosted an Eid dinner for the needy irrespective of their faith at the Boyle Street Community Services Center.

Aziz Khan, president of the Islamic Family and Social Services Association said, “We hold this dinner closer to Christmas than the end of Ramadan, so it’s really a mixture of two great festivals,” he said.

“It’s part of the Islamic community connecting with the rest of the city, and you see the need with all the people we have here today.”

They prepare enough food for 1,000, and hungry people were lined up into the street.

Sofia Yaqub, an director of the association who’s involved with a variety of multicultural groups, said it’s sad to see the dinner numbers growing each year. “You wonder how all these people fell into this situation.”

Yaqub said the Muslim community encourages younger people to volunteer at the dinner. “We always get a big response, and it’s an excellent experience for them to see how fortunate they are.”

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Amid All This Chaos

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Beena Inam, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Pakistan Correspondent, from Islamabad

ZI_2
Lions’ Chairman Zafar Iqbal, with his wife Shazia Zafar and their daughter, in Islamabad.

In the midst of all the pandemonium, there are a number of people and organizations who are beyond doubt serving the humanity and making a difference.

Whether it is toward the vision disability, education, health and dowry, Lions Clubs International (LCI) is there for all and sundry and so is its Multiple Council Chairman, Zafar Iqbal.

Their 45,000 clubs and more than 1.3 million members make Lions Clubs the world’s largest service club organization.

According to their web site, LCI, founded in Chicago in 1917, has grown into a worldwide organization, helping where help is needed for nearly 100 years.  There motto is “We Serve.”

Melvin Jones, Chicago business leader, founded the Club and built its foundation. Since1925, conventions are held every year. Helen Keller, political activist who was also deaf and blind, participated in 1925 convention and about 14,000 Lions attended the convention from everywhere around the world.

Due to Keller’s challenge the club today is among some of the highest rank organizations.  She challenged, “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

The organization is preeminently notorious for combating blindness.

“From that day till today lions are working for the blinds,” Iqbal said.

In Pakistan, LCI began burgeoning in 1956. Cyrus F. Minwalla, owner of Hotel Metropole, was a Founder, and First District Governor of LIC known as Father of Lionism in Pakistan and President Iskander Mirza as Patron of Lionism in Pakistan.

Now, Iqbal monitors the whole affairs of LCI in Pakistan and coordinates all five districts, three in south and two in north which breaks down into 478 clubs.  Each district has minimum 35 clubs. Although all the clubs are autonomous in their policies, their focus, endeavor and purpose is identical.

“I am a country head of this institution in Pakistan,” Iqbal said. He visits all clubs and governors as a MCC and meets head of the state and head of the provinces.
Every district has its own governor but their jurisdiction and authority is restricted to their clubs, “my responsibility is along with the governor to see after the district,” Iqbal said.

Around the world, LCI consist of 22 boards of directors, who run the club. No women became a board of director until 1998 when Nilofar Bakhtiar, a public official in Pakistan, became the first lady international director in their board, Iqbal said. It is an immense acclaim for Pakistan.

In Karachi, LCI have 3800 underprivileged children in 22 schools in diminutive areas. Iqbal said they work from zakat fund.

They perform 25,000 cataract surgeries every year. Two years ago, when he was the sector coordinator of campaign SightFirst from 2005 to 2008, they campaigned world wide for blind people and helped raised two hundred and twenty two million dollars all over the world, Iqbal said.

“More than four million people will be cured for blindness. About 17,000 people everyday becomes blind. Every five seconds one person is getting blind. According to World Health Organization (WHO) if we didn’t do anything by 2020 this figure will be doubled. We have to join hands with them,” Iqbal said.

They begin from screening and going to schools and visiting undersized areas. They set eye camps; treat people who require surgical treatment for cataract, trachoma, river blindness, childhood blindness and glaucoma.

“We do lot of work but the main focus is toward the welfare for blind people,” Iqbal said.

He added, “White cane stick that blind people use is because of the lions’ invention. We celebrate blinds day on Oct 14. White cane safety day is because of our struggle that it was passed in American Congress. Through United Nation’s recognition it is celebrated all round the world.”

At present, Lions club is functioning in 205 countries. “We are bigger than united nations,”Iqbal said.

He said they have so great collaboration with United Nations that every second Monday of March, United Nations whole building is vacant for lions club and lions can go anywhere in the building. He further said they can even hold a conference in secretary general’s room.

“It’s a tribute or compliment from United Nations to the lions club,” Iqbal said. 

In 2007, Lions Clubs got an inimitable award that Lions Club International is the world largest service project association.

Every club has a project. They dispose eye camps, food and youth camps.

Iqbal said, “Our club is small. But even we try to do one or two projects.  Active members in our group are seven but total there are 20 people in our group….  Some clubs even have 10 to 20 projects running.”

For becoming a lion that is the member of the LCI is by invitation only.

“Attend our meetings so we can see that your thinking isn’t coming in our way. One must be service minded, should have a concept of charity and be loyal to the country. If a person believes in charity but is not loyal to the country than he can’t be a member of our club,” Iqbal said.

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Community News (V11-I49)

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistani American doctors urged to develop homeland

NEW YORK, NY–Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon Saturday urged medical doctors of Pakistani descent to make their full contribution to American economic and political life as well as play their part in the development of their motherland, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Speaking at the annual dinner of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani descent of North America (APPNA), he lauded the services rendered by Pakistani-American doctors, and hoped that their fast-growing organization would emerge as a major force in the country.

The dinner, held in Uniondale on the Long Island, a New York suburb, was largely attended by APPNA members from all over the United States. Also present were U.S. Congressman Ed Town and Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi.

The newly-elected President of APPNA’s New York Chapter Dr. Asif  Rehman welcomed the guests and enumerated the association’s support- activities in Pakistan, especially during the 2005 devastating earthquake in northern Pakistan and in easing the suffering of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Swat.

In his remarks, Ambassador Haroon traced the development of U.S.-Pak relations from their inception, saying Pakistan had always given diplomatic, political and strategic support to the the United States without any quid pro quo.

He especially referred to the support provided by Pakistan following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But he regretted that Pakistan was forgotton when the Soviets were forced to pullout of Afghanistan.

“Still, we have remained good friends of the United States,” the ambassador added.

Lilburn mosque plan denied

GWINNETT, GA–The Lilburn City Council voted down a plan last Wednesday night that would have allowed for a major expansion of a local mosque.

The mosque is on Lawrenceville Highway at Hood Road.

Residents argued the development would go against zoning laws designed to protect neighborhoods.

“It doesn’t matter what it was going to be, it didn’t belong in that area. It wasn’t zoned for that,” said Ilene Stongin-Garry, who’s against the expansion.
Attorney for the mosque said denying the project is a violation of the congregation’s first amendment right.

“They want to expand as other churches, as other religious institutions have been able to expand in your community. To deny them this right in unlawful,” said Doug Dillard, the mosque’s attorney.

Dillard vows to fight on, he’s going to take the case to federal court.

Arabic classes in more high schools in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL–The Chicago public schools will expand its Arabic-language program to three more high schools, thanks to a three-year federal grant of 888,000 U.S. dollars announced earlier this month.   Already, Arabic is offered at three Chicago high schools and is also offered at seven Chicago elementary schools and about 2,000 students take Arabic in Chicago’s schools, according to official sources.

The new federal grant will fund the expansion to three additional high schools in Chicago that have yet to be identified, the sources said.

The expansion will be enhanced by the use of technology-based instruction using the safari-blackboard virtual technology that will allow a teacher at one school to simultaneously offer a virtual class at another school as well. The teacher will change schools every two weeks so students will have personal interaction with a teacher.

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Community News (V11-I48)

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Zeba Khan, finalist in contest

TOLEDO, OH– Zeba Khan, a Toledo native and social media consultant for nonprofits, has reached the final round of America’s Next Great Pundit contest, sponsored by the Washington Post. She is one of the ten finalists selected from a pool of 4800 entrants.

According to an online biography, last year she founded Muslim-Americans for Obama, a social network dedicated to mobilizing the Muslim-American community in the presidential campaign.

Her work and writings have been featured in numerous media outlets, including Newsweek, National Public Radio, Reuters, Voice of America, Washington Post, the Guardian, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Her work was highlighted at the 2009 Personal Democracy Forum Conference in New York.

A Fulbright Scholar, Ms. Khan received a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and degrees from the University of Chicago.

The contest winner, to be announced about Nov. 24, will get the chance to write a weekly column that may appear in the print and/or online editions of the Washington Post, paid at a rate of $200 per column, for a total of 13 weeks and $2,600.

Parliament of the World’s Religions elects Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

CHICAGO, IL– – At its biannual meeting Oct. 18-19, the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions elected as its chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid. The board met in Williams Bay, Wis.

Imam Mujahid’s term begins Jan. 1, 2010. He succeeds the Rev. Dr. William E. Lesher, who has served as chair since 2003. Imam Mujahid is an imam in the Chicago Muslim community and president of Sound Vision Foundation, which produces Radio Islam, America’s only daily Muslim call-in talk show.

The Rev. Dr. Lesher said he considers Imam Mujahid “marvelously equipped” to serve as the board’s highest elected officer.

“He brings to the chair a deep commitment to his own faith tradition,” the Rev. Dr. Lesher said. “He is a recognized leader in that tradition. He has an understanding of how religion is a force in American society and also in societies throughout the world.”

The organization traces its roots to the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions, which took place in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1993 the council organized and hosted the first modern Parliament of the World’s Religions, also in Chicago. Subsequent Parliaments have been held in 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa; and in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain.

“Most older things are known to fade away, but the Parliament is a phenomenon that constantly reinvents itself,” Imam Mujahid said. “We were ahead of our ourselves in Cape Town when we started engaging guiding institutions around the world on sustainability,” Imam Mujahid said. “Now it’s the talk of the town.”

Imam Mujahid is former chair of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, and has written extensively on religion, public policy and applied aspects of Islamic living. Imam Mujahid has initiated a joint campaign between American Muslims and the National Organization of Women to declare rape a war crime.

Muslim students fast to help others

BLACKSBURG, VA–Muslim students at the Virginia Tech are going on fast so that others don’t go hungry. The Muslim Students Association’s launched its annual fundraiser and day of fasting this week.

The Hungry Hokies Fast-a-Thon collects $7 to benefit the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry from participants who refrain from consuming food for a day.

Those participating in the fast are pledged to not eat anything or drink water from dawn to dusk, which is consistent with the customs of Muslim culture.

“It incorporates the traditional Muslim traditions of fasting,” said Asif Akhtar, president of the Muslim Student Association.

All the proceeds raised through the event will be directly donated to Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry, located on Main Street. The pantry deals only with families affected by hunger in Blacksburg. More than 1300 local residents are served, and the number is continually increasing.

Vote on Lilburn mosque this week

LILBURN,GA– The Lilburn City Council will vote this week on Dar-e-Abbas mosque’s request for zoning changes. It wants to  keep the existing residential zoning on the part of the property that is closest to the adjacent residential neighborhoods.

The mosque wants the rest of the eight acres closest to Lawrenceville Highway zoned or rezoned to allow for the expansion.

One of the leaders of Lilburn’s Dar-E-Abbas Mosque said Monday night that existing trees would be preserved as a buffer of 200 feet between the mosque’s proposed expansion and adjacent homes.

More than three acres of land “will be undisturbed, there’ll be a big buffer, all natural, it will stay as it is,” said Wasi Zaidi.

Obituary: Mustafa M. Khan, 84, Cardiologist

Dr. Mustafa Khan, 84, of Cherry Hill, a cardiologist and family physician in Camden for more than half a century died last Tuesday. He had opened a family practice in Camden in 1958.  The Trinidad born Dr. Khan was loved by his patients and was know for his social work.

He served as the physician for or Camden High School, the Camden County Sheriff’s Department, and, for 18 years, the Camden City Jail.

He was active with Youth 2000, a YMCA mentoring program in Camden, and with the outreach ministries to the homeless at Solid Rock Worship Center in Clementon.

Dr. Khan grew up in Trinidad with 10 siblings. His parents were descendants of indentured laborers from eastern India who went to the Caribbean to work the sugarcane fields in the late 19th century.

As a young boy, he accompanied the local doctor on his rounds from village to village and “determined to one day also be of service to those in need,” his son said.

Dr. Khan earned bachelor’s, master’s, and medical degrees from Howard University in Washington.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, three sons, a daughter, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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Houstonian Corner V11-I45

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Atmosphere Of Fear & Terrorism Should Not Be Promoted In Pakistan – Change In Pakistan Is Expected In Few Months: Aneeq Ahmed

Picture Y An Amnesty International Report of June 2007 had shown concern for the safety of seasoned journalist Aneeq Ahmed, formerly of Talk Show Alif on GEO and now Talk Show Aaghaz on ARYOne World, as he was on a hit list of 12 journalists, who were being threatened by a political party (Muttaihidah Qaumi Movement) and many people believe that it was being done in the background by the Establishment in Pakistan.

This past Monday evening, media personalities of Houston met with Aneeq Ahmed in an informal setting, when he was invited for dinner at Usmania Restaurant by Tahir Wafaqani of Urdu Times Houston. Aneeq Ahmed was on the tour of USA, delivering lectures on Pakistan and Islam in Chicago and New York to a group of dedicated Pakistanis working under the name of FOCUS. Later on he has been to Dallas and Houston meeting personal friends and family members.

Aneeq Ahmed has been elected a member as well as office bearer of the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, which has polished many talents of arts and literature in Pakistan. He has been famous for arranging many unforgettable events at Arts Council.

Over the years Aneeq Ahmed has come forward as one of the leading Talk Show Anchors, who’s probing questions and excellent knowledge of the subject matter, makes his programs most informative and people are always looking forward to his next series. At times, some people feel he asks very tough questions to his guests to make them feel embarrassed, but actually that is not the case, as his aim is to bring out maximum useful information for his viewers from these experts of various fields.

His programs with people like Dr. Israr Ahmed, Zaid Hamid, Dr. Lal Khan, Justice Javed Iqbal, and many others, about contemporary issues of religion, economics, good governance, social justice, arts-&-literature; etc.; solutions of these problems from religious and other points of view; will always be most valuable pieces in the achieves of intellectuals of today and tomorrow. He has brought many taboo topics of the society, so as to enlighten the people. From one of his interviews to an Indian media, we have learnt that he believes in the ideology of Pakistan to be “Pakistan Ka Matlab Kia La Illaha IllAllah”, but says that does not mean that a Muslim is an extremist or terrorist.

In the discussion session after dinner, Aneeq Ahmed informed that present political set-up has made mistakes over the past one year and has become weak to the extent that within the next one to two months, we can expect a change. “Best thing for Pakistan and stability of Institutions of Pakistan is that this change should happen within the parliament and President may have to leave the scene,” added Mr. Ahmed.

Talking about his recent meeting in USA with Former President Pervez Musharraf, he said there is very little possibility that he will ever able to go back to Pakistan, due to the charges of murder against him in Bughti Baluchistan Case; hundreds of killings in Lal Masjid & Madrasae Hafza; breach of Article Six of Constitution of Pakistan which means death penalty; and other similar things. Even his former colleagues in Army, who have restored back the good image of the Army after much effort, want him to stay away from Pakistan.

Aneeq Ahmed said that nobody can deny that there are very serious problems of security, law-&-order, economic down-turn, and others. But solutions do not lie in panicking and creating an atmosphere of fear and more terrorism.

He said President Obama is facing tough choices to come out of Afghanistan or not. But if he does, it will be a big setback to India because of Indian involvement in Afghanistan.

Among those present at Houston Dinner with Aneeq Ahmed were Tahir Wafaqani of Urdu Times Houston; Tariq Khan & Jameel Siddiqui of Pakistan Chronicle / Pakistan Journal; Saeed Gaddi of Rajput Media Services (Pakistan Post and Sangeet Radio Houston); Saleem Syed of Radio Young Trang; Moin Pirzada of Radio Perdes Houston; Pervez Jafri of Aligarh Alumni Association; ILyas Hasan Choudry of Muslim Observer; and some relatives & friends of Aneeq Ahmed.

Aneeq Ahmed is a Karachiite and was brought up in North Nazimabad. His family later on moved to Gulshanae Iqbal in 1977. He did his Masters in International Relations in 1988 from the University of Karachi. Initially he started off as a journalist. Thereafter in 1990 he joined a Textile Mill as Factory Manager and worked there for 2 years. In 1992 he joined an advertising agency as a copywriter. He always had finesse for reading and writing. From 1999 to 2000 he worked for Interflow, again an Ad agency. He started working for GEO in 2002 and later on has been with ARY since 2005. He is an accomplished Anchor, Producer & Researcher.

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Sania Rahim: National Chair of Young Democrats

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Sania_Rahim Beckley Student Sania Rahim named National Chair of the Young Democrats of America High School Caucus

“Earlier this year the Young Democrats of America held their bi-annual convention in which nearly 2000 members across the nation and abroad convened in Chicago. Local student Sania Rahim was named the National Chair of the Young Democrats of America High School Caucus in the highly contested race for the High School Caucus Executive Board. Miss Rahim is the third National Chair to be elected and the first Muslim-American woman to serve on the Executive Committee of the organization.

“As always, I am very impressed with your dedications to the Democratic Party” said Congressman Nick Joe Rahall of Rahim’s campaign and recent election. “Your long list of accomplishments is a tribute to your excellent work ethic and determination”.

“Because of your involvement in the Young Democrats organization, you are an outstanding leader ready to build a brighter tomorrow for both our great nation and mountain state”, says Governor Manchin of Rahim. “You have certainly cast a positive light upon Woodrow Wilson High School and all of West Virginia”.

The Young Democrats of America (YDA) is the largest youth-led, national, partisan political organization. The YDA has been the official youth arm of the Democratic Party since 1932. The Young Democrats of America High School Caucus (YDAHSC) is an organization within the YDA specifically geared towards high school students. Members of the YDAHSC represent high school students at all levels of the Democratic Party and claim a substantial percentage of YDA’s membership with about 20,000 high school students nationwide.

Rahim is currently in her junior year at Woodrow Wilson High School. She is active in other organizations such as Key Club International, Conservation Club, Student Government, and of course, the Woodrow Wilson High School Young Democrats”

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Ladies’ Qur`an Class By Fatimah Murad

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

P1040696 A delighted chatter permeates the room, occasionally an effusive call of “Assalamu-alaikum,” or “Alhamdulillah,” rises above the general murmur as two sisters greet each other for the first time. The setting is the Qiyam-ul-Layl program, organized by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) sisters-wing’s Chicago-land unit.

The majority of the participants are the regular attendees of a Quran Tafseer Class, also organized by the ICNA sisters. The class takes place in the morning after fajr prayer in a conference call room, throughout the year it takes place every Saturday and focuses on select Surahs but during Ramadan it becomes a daily occurrence so as to complete the reading of the entire Quran, in English translation, within the blessed month. This is the third year that it is taking place and, where it started as a local meeting involving sisters from the Chicago metropolitan area, it has now grown to include sisters from various states including Michigan, Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina and even from as far as Bahrain. There is diversity not only of location but also of background, there are revert Muslimahs and born Muslimahs who hail from various different nations. Many are of African American or South Asian background but there are also sisters from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and the Philippines.  

Every morning, the sisters take turns reading a few of the ayahs punctuated by brief explanations and insights into the Surahs by Huma Murad and Amina Jaffer-Mohsin, the two moderators. Roll is called every class by the ever reliable Amidah Burton, to acknowledge the nearly forty participants. Through sharing their love for the Quran and Allah, the attendees have come to know and love each other as well. One sister, Afsheen Khan summed up the shared sentiments of many participant in commenting that though she had physically attended similar classes before “…this was special because of meeting so many sisters and [feeling such] spirituality.” Sister Shahina Begg who has been a regular attendee for all three years continued in a similar vein when she commented that she felt blessed in being introduced to the class because it “brought me closer to Islam and my sisters,” she added that though she initially only met her fellow participant on phone she felt compelled to “keep in touch throughout my life and inshallah stay spiritually connected.”

It was in hopes of fostering this bond, and to reap the most benefits from the blessed odd nights of the last third of Ramadan, that the Qiyam-ul-Layl event was organized. The class participants are given a chance to meet face to face, some sisters travelling from out-of-town to take advantage of the opportunity, and share a night of spirituality and sisterhood. As sister Jameela Karim explained, “The Qiyam-ul-Layl is the glue of the class, and having the program helps us put it all together. Seeing the people you hear every morning, you are fully connected.” Many sisters said they felt it created something akin to family ties.

The program allowed the sisters to share food and each other’s company, but also to join together for congregational prayers of Taraweeh and Tahajjud, and group discussions on spirituality and remembrance of God. Revert sisters, who constituted a majority among the nearly fifty attendees, shared stories of their early struggles with their families in the way of Islam, while their companions reminded the group that the greatest struggle took place within and that we all had our own hurdles to overcome. One of the greatest examples of triumph that the sisters witnessed at the Qiyam-ul-Layl was in meeting sisters Habiba Castulo and Hina Altaf, both legally blind from birth, who regularly attend the class and diligently read the Qur’an in Braille.

Jamila Yusuf commented to great agreement how she was “inspired by Habiba and Hina’s dedication to the Quran.” It was one of many instances where the sisters felt their faith had been strengthened by their fellow Muslimahs.

Though initiated as a rather humble project in hopes of sharing the knowledge of God’s word, the Quran Tafseer Class has grown into something unique and transcendent. It is difficult for any of the participants to explain exactly why this class, among so many similar ones, feels special. Moderator Huma Murad has a theory that it is due to its timing, the Prophet (s) spoke many times on the blessings of reading Quran after fajr. The greatest factor in its success, however, is the dedication and enthusiasm of its members. Newcomer Vonzella Matin called being introduced to it the “best gift I could have been given,” by sister Amidah, but she and her fellow participants have, with the help of Allah, given this gift to each other many times over.

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As U.S. Health Row Rages, Many Seek Care in Mexico

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tim Gaynor, Reuters

NACO, Mexico–Retired police officer Bob Ritz has health insurance that covers his medical and dental care in the US.

But every few months he drives from his home in Tombstone, Arizona, to this small town in northern Mexico to avoid the healthcare costs that aren’t paid by insurance.

“I pay $400 a month for my health insurance, and it’s still cheaper to come to Mexico,” says Ritz, 60, as he stood outside a sun-bleached pharmacy in Naco, a few hours drive southeast of Phoenix.

President Obama is locked in a bitter fight to overhaul U.S. healthcare, as he seeks to increase the number of Americans getting coverage and drive down costs of around $2.5 trillion a year.

Republican critics charge that Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress are seeking a government takeover of healthcare that will drive up the budget deficit.

With Washington bickering over how to reform the system and contain its spiraling costs, many Americans like Ritz simply head to Mexico to get care they can afford.

The total number making the trip is unclear. But a recent study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimated that nearly 1 million people from California alone seek medical, dental or prescription services in Mexico each year.

Some making the trek have little or no medical coverage. Others like Ritz are on fixed incomes and want to avoid so-called co-pays and deductibles charged by U.S. insurers on top of policies that routinely cost from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand each month.

“The very wealthy can afford whatever they want, the very poor get it through aid, but the working and the middle-class have to struggle to pay insurance,” said Ritz, who worked as a police officer in Chicago for 28 years.

“I’m very lucky to live near enough to Mexico to get good healthcare at a reasonable price,” he added.

Healthcare reform is the flagship domestic policy drive of Obama’s first year in office.

He wants coverage for around 46 million uninsured Americans and to rein in rising medical costs, and regulate insurers that already provide care to millions more.
Republican opponents say Obama’s plan amounts to socialism by stealth and argue that its trillion-dollar price tag will hurt the economy as the United States remains mired in the worst recession in decades.

While the bitter row continues to rage at town hall meetings across the United States, signs of the U.S. system’s failings are visible in Mexican border cities, where cut-price pharmacies, dental clinics and doctors’ surgeries vie for business from Americans who can’t afford treatment at home.

In Tijuana, where medical tourism from neighboring San Diego is big business, clinics offer operations ranging from cut-rate cosmetic procedures to hysterectomies and bariatric surgery to curb obesity.

“I waste up to four hours coming to an appointment, but it’s worth it as we’ll save thousands of dollars,” said Beatriz Iturriaga, a 26-year-old mother of two from Eastlake, south of San Diego, who paid $6,500 for bariatric surgery at a Tijuana clinic that would cost up to $40,000 stateside.

At the other end of the cost spectrum in Naco, Mexican physician Sixto de la Pena Cortes charges the 15 or so Americans that trek to his clinic-cum-pharmacy each week $20 for a check-up — the cost of an average co-pay in the United States.

“Most common (ailments) are bronchitis, pneumonia and stomach problems,” said de la Pena Cortes, 62, who said he has also set broken bones and arranged for an appendix to be removed at a hospital in nearby Agua Prieta at a cost of around $2,000.

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Once Upon a Destined Time

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Siddiq Ather

Step, dip, look, hop, stumble, flail, drip, drop and step. It is always an annoyance when you accidently step into a puddle, a predicament that happened perchance because a lack of perspicacity or maybe simply put in place by destiny; drip, nevertheless no matter how many more thoughts profess it makes the water soak no less, it doesn’t clean the mess.  Since there is no use crying over spilled milk, he continued to walk under the silky sky with his big white hat and waving tie, no frown, no curse, no frustration dispersed, and maybe even a smile crossed his face. Pondering over how this was his problem in life, something so small. If he were to become angry how in the world he would stand next to those who are patient in times of real hardship. How could he stand with those who have no homes, no food, or no sight to lose? Don’t be confused, wet ankles and shoes aren’t his preferred medium of walking but everything must be put into perspective, dig?

That was his explanation to him as the bus’s speed began to dim, and it stopped.  He propped up and walked off saying goodbye to him; the doors closed and the rims began to spin. The bus darkened as its final destination for the day neared and its final passenger veered toward the exit. Though he usually wouldn’t mind to stay a bit, to chat and chit, there was something waiting, in somber solitude as it had waited for ages. Its pages waiting like papyrus cages holding words heavy on the heart but light on the sight. He hastily descended to the ground and laboriously looked around to avoid any puddles in the vicinity. Then he, quite easily, made his way to the bus stop shelter, listening to the sound of the bus leaving echo into the distance.  Walking into the glass box he heard the echo of the bus mince with the profound drips and drops falling down off of roof tops making small spots of dark gray on the pavement.

This time he was sitting in the light of day; the sun’s shining rays penetrated the clouds and went past the glass hitting those golden letters on that dark cover. He shuttered at the shining spots on the silver strap and the buckle burning brightly under the sun. He sat on the bench and exhaled. The cover sat there next to the unlatched buckle. He took a deep breath and opened the book with a quick glance at the title, Stories of the Wise and Human; the first page still held the phrase one person, one page. Flipping through the blank pages, he felt an odd texture on a page and stopped. It was wrinkled, the way paper gets after it gets wet and dries. It was brittle, hard, stiff, and stubborn all at the same time.  The page was covered in curly, but neat, blue ink; they looked like thin vines and leaves delicate, intricate, and complex gripping the various faces of the page. It was a beautiful piece of art further accented by the crinkled page behind it. The sentences twisted and turned in such a fluid manner that they seemed almost alive; he was careful not to tip the book to one side because of the fear that the liquid sapphire resting on the page might drop, in essence, a baseless fear.   Realizing his foolishness, he tipped the book side to side.  It looked nice, but what did it say?

In the name of the most merciful, may peace be upon anyone reading this book or writing in it. The world works in funny ways with nigh pitch black nights, and sunny days.  With its twists and turns, it is more like a maze.  Every soul follows its own path, converging and diverging with the lives of others.

It was one of those cold Chicago days you hear so much about, with the wind chill way below zero and piles of snow everywhere. I never really thought gloves were necessary until that day. You wouldn’t be able to identify any walking passerby as a person; they just looked like moving piles of cloth. I was wearing a sweat pants under a long skirt, a sweater, jacket, and a cloth scarf. You know how in the fall when it gets mildly chilly you always chance upon seeing that one determined individual in the morning, jogging with only shorts on in the “cold” weather, it is always such a juxtaposition  and deserves that “are you crazy” stare. Well, the tables had turned and everyone was giving me that “are you crazy” stare.  I didn’t know I would be standing in the cold for this long! I thought all I needed was something warm enough to get to the car and back. Turns out my car got towed. You would think they might have a shred of mercy in this freezing weather and seeing my out of state license plate.

Turns out my wardrobe hadn’t been the only reason I was getting the “are you crazy stare.” According to a round and fluffy tan jacket with what seemed to be a raccoon hat wrapped in a beige scarf,” taxis don’t really come round here. You should try the bus stop a few blocks down.”  From where I was standing, anything was better than standing here in the cold with the glacial gusts blowing right through my clothes and freezing me to the core, I was wrong. Trudging along buildings through about a foot of snow, completely oblivious as to whether I was on the sidewalk, grass, or shoulder of the road, was way worse. I had a cozy hotel room I could’ve been in, but no, I wanted to see “the town.”  After taking a few wrong turns I found the bus stop. Luckily or unluckily, I waited next to an old purple coat with an elegant air and a small energy filled pink jacketed munchkin that wouldn’t stop running around.  The purple coat had a black fur scarf, and was extremely well versed in how the Chicago bus system worked and the history of Chicago. When the bus came I sat with her part of the way to the lot where my car would be. She said I should call anybody I knew around here in case something went wrong. I called my best friend who I had come here for in the first place, she didn’t pick up. She was probably busy preparing for her wedding, which was tonight. I was busy the whole night before I had flown here early yesterday morning, and had slept the whole day. That’s what prompted me to venture into “town” today.

I exited the bus and walked to the end of the street where I found the “prison” where my car was being held.  Because of various reasons which I couldn’t explain if I had to, it took hours for me to get my car back; luckily, I had prayed beforehand. I took some hot chocolate from the vending machine and ran to my car. I thought why I had to go through all this trouble, why all these bad things happened to me. I turned on the head lights, reversed, and drove out. It appeared that I wasn’t the only one in a hurry; some of the cars around me were driving just as fast, despite the snow. A green light turned yellow, but I needed get back fast. The light turned red, and I braked. The problem was my car didn’t stop. I had no control and no grip. I heard loud honking, and as I looked through my window I saw a car coming at me from the side, its lights getting brighter and brighter. Everything went by very slowly. Suddenly, the car skidding behind me, bumped me forward, just enough to be missed by the oncoming traffic. Not looking back I heard what I thought was the car behind me and the car that was about to hit me crash; the sound of bending metal and shattering glass permeated the air. My car got grip again and I parked on the side of a road, and called the police. A few moments later an ambulance came and took the people out of their cars. Most of them were able to walk away, but some were taken in the ambulance to have some injuries treated, at least that’s what they told me.  The police said the main cause of the accident was something called “black ice” around the intersection. I talked to the officer about the whole incident, in the end they said to drive safe and have a good night.

I sat in my car and cried thanking the most merciful. I remembered something my mum said before I left,” no matter what happens always say alhamdulila.” I said the supplication or dua before driving a vehicle and drove back to my hotel.  I received a call from the friend whose wedding I was missing. I could tell she was uneasy about something as soon as she picked up the phone.  I told her the whole story and by the end she was more worried about me than whatever had happened. Apparently, it was so cold that some pipes had burst around the hall they were using, so everyone was moved to a random empty hall in the middle of the wedding, and by the time everything was sorted out most of the guests had left. She said that I shouldn’t worry about it though, and that they were holding a smaller function at her uncle’s house with close family and friends. She sincerely apologized for not calling sooner, but after hearing about how busy she was all day, I understood.  We talked most of the night, and she said she would pick me up tomorrow, I declined.  She insisted it wouldn’t be much trouble. I told her I found out there was a bus which went straight to where she lived, and it was pretty close to my hotel, she finally accepted saying she would be waiting at the bus stop. I told her the departure and arrival times, and went to bed.

I walked to this bus shelter and found this odd but interesting book, and couldn’t help but write down the events that had transpired. I just got a call from my friend; she is actually across the street. She said she’d be waiting at the bus stop but asserts that she didn’t mention which one; she also says I should come quickly because my hot chocolate is getting cold. The snow has lightened up a bit, and is not as bone chilling as yesterday. I guess I’ll be going soon so I will end with a final bit. If you’re in Chicago or any other city, watch where you park, prepare for the weather, and if the times get tough, trust in the most merciful. With every hardship comes ease.

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IFANCA responds to rumors about halal certification at Cargill/Better Beef Plant

July 23, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Ayub Khan, MMNS

CHICAGO, IL— In response to rumors circulating in USA, Canada as well as on the internet, the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America [IFANCA]  has issued a statement assuring  halal consumers and retailers that all its certified products meet the strictest of Halal criteria and can be consumed without any doubt.

“IFANCA’s procedures have been approved by a team of Islamic scholars and scientists who have developed a very stringent & independently verifiable halal authentication system, in all of its certified plants including Cargill’s Better Beef Plant. IFANCA’s slaughter methods are as close as practically possible to the traditional Islamic method of slaughter, where at least three out of four vessels are precisely cut, while also meeting the Canadian food safety requirements. 

All cattle are slaughtered by specially trained Muslim slaughter men, who are supervised by IFANCA inspectors, the statement reads.

The press release states that the claims by a group which say that the IFANCA approved animal slaughter method do not meet the Islamic criteria are untrue. 

The group in a blog posting suggests that the vertical method of cut during the animal slaughter does not meet the Islamic criteria and that it goes against the scholarly consensus.

To the above allegation IFANCA replied, “First the cut at the Cargill/Better Beef plant is not vertical cut. It is modified horizontal cut. Secondly, The claim about the jurists being unanimous is baseless. There are several methods of slaughtering animals, generally practiced being cutting the throat to sever  four (4) passages, trachea, esophagus, jugular veins and carotid arteries. There is disagreement among the scholars even with the required number of openings to be cut. According to Imam Abu Hanifa all four are required to be cut. (Badai Al Sanaih, 6/41). According to his student Imam Abu Yusuf only one of the two jugular veins are required to be cut besides that of throat and windpipe. (ibid).  According to other scholars only cutting of the throat and windpipe is enough. (Sharh Muhazzab, 9/84). According to Imam Malik the windpipe and the two jugular veins are required to be cut in order for the animal to be halal. (Sharh Al Sagheer, 2/154). According to another reference, the Hanafi School’s ruling is that at least three of the four openings should be cut. (Nasab ul Raya, 4/185-86).  [This requirement of cutting at least three passages as well as complete draining of blood are met at the Cargill/Better Beef plant].”

“ The slaughter men trained by IFANCA are especially instructed in cutting the required number of openings leaving no doubt about this method of halal slaughter. Hence Cargill/Better Beef is halal and zabiha, as has been certified for over 10 years by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America,” the statement reads.

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Community News (V10-I39)

September 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Chicago interfaith Iftar

CHICAGO,IL–Chicago area Muslims and Christians gathered at the Islamic Foundation Mosque recently for an interfaith iftar. It was part of an ongoing effort  between the two communities relations between the two communities. More than fifty people came for the event.

Similar events are being held throughout the Chicago area.

“Had it not been for interfaith relations in the Chicago area, the aftermath of 9/11 would have been very different,” said Ghulam Haider Aasi, professor of Islamic studies at American Islamic College in Chicago in an interview to the Daily Herald. “Muslims of Chicago fortunately did not see as bad a situation (of backlash) as people in other parts of the country.”

Leaders emphasized commonalities between the faith traditions and the significance of building fellowship through the fast-breaking ritual.

“What I think is valuable about this is two communities build personal relationships first in the context of which they are then able to discuss the larger issues between them,” said the Rev. Thomas Baima, Provost at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary.

Heitage Hills Mosque plans not approved

GRAND RAPIDS,MI–Heritage Hill residents convinced city planners to reject an Islamic community’s request to convert a former school building into a mosque.
The city’s Planning Commission voted 8-0 against the request by the Masjid Muhammad Islamic Center.

Mosque officials said the daily prayers would attract only a handful of worshippers, while other gatherings rarely would draw more than 50 people.

But neighbors complained that the property has only seven spaces, with three spaces available on the street which will lead to problems.

The Masjid Muhammad Islamic Center has been looking for a permanent home for five years, since a mosque along South Division Avenue was destroyed by fire.

Bus ads spread the message

SEATTLE,WA– Adopting an innovative approach to Dawah, activists in Seattle area have turned to public transit buses. The paid advertisements on the Metro buses simply read:  “Q: Islam. A: You deserve to know,” with a phone number and Web site.

They have been designed to spark curiosity about the most misunderstood religion. The idea was initiated by the Islamic Circle of North America and now ads are displayed on the outside of six metro buses and the inside of about 25. The cost of $5,000 was contributed by ten local Muslims.

Buses in New York and Chicago will also display the advertisements soon.

Memphis Muslim clinic reaches out

MEMPHIS,TN– As the number of uninsured grows in America, Muslim doctors are doing their part to help their fellow citizens and lighten the burden.

The Memphis Muslim Medical Clinic in East Memhis has been serving the uninsured patients for the past two and a half years. With a volunteer base of 100 Muslim doctors have served over 2,000 patients who pay as little as $5 per visit.

Housed on the property of  Masjid As-Salaam the clinic is run by five directors all of whom are on the staff of University of Tennessee.

Open on weekends, the clinic has a $100,000 annual budget, which is funded through private donors, many of whom make direct monthly deposits.

Work at Boonton mosque stopped

BOONTON, NJ–More than two years after the expansion of the Jam e Masjid Islamic Center was approved by the planning board, progress on the controversial proposal has hit a snag, the Daily Record reported.

The town issued a stop-work order in early August on construction of the multi-story 4,000-square-foot expansion to the Harrison Street mosque, after a resident noticed the work on the façade did not conform to the site plan approval of March 2006.

Work on the expansion began several months ago by Perth Amboy-based Troop Construction, mosque officials said.

An amendment to the application—revisited by the planning board on Wednesday night–was denied in a vote of 5-2 following testimony from representatives of the mosque on the site plan changes and protests from several residents who oppose the changes.

Board members Richard Orlusky and Douglas Phelps approved the amended plan.

Roy Kurnos, the mosque’s attorney, said he will meet this weekend with mosque officials and architect David Singer to revise the amended plan, re-file and present it to the board again.

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Community News (V10-I31)

July 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Asif Chaudhry appointed US envoy to Moldova

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A Pakistan born agricultural economist has been appointed as the new American envoy to Moldova. Asif Chaudhry will take over the charge as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Moldova from August, the Pakistan Post reported.

In an interview with the journal, Chaudhry said he was the first Pakistani appointed as United States’ ambassador to another country on merit, and was proud to be the first Pakistani-American to take oath on Holy Quran.  

Dr.Chaudhry, a member of the US Foreign Service, was born and raised in a farming family in a small village in Pakistan, Mr.Chaudhry completed his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan, before going on to the American University of Beirut, Lebanon for a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics. He completed a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Washington State University, Pullman Washington, and had a brief stint as Assistant Professor of Economics at Montana State University, Bozeman Montana, before joining FAS.

Mr. Chaudhry’s language skills include Russian, Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, and Polish. He is an avid squash player. He is married to  Charla Chaudhry and they have two sons and a daughter.

He has also served as the Assistant to the General Sales Manager (GSM)in FAS Washington from 1999-2002, and was the GSM’s principal advisor on USDA commodity assistance programs for the Former Soviet Union and other Eastern European Countries. Prior to assuming this role in Washington, he served at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during 1996-1999, where he was assigned as the Senior Agricultural Attaché and was promoted to the position of Agricultural Counselor after one year.

In his first overseas tour (1992-1995), Mr. Chaudhry served as the Agricultural Attaché in Warsaw, Poland overseeing the USDA assistance programs designed to help with the transformation of Poland to a post-Soviet free-market economy. He worked as a Marketing Specialist and an Agricultural Specialist in the Horticultural and Tropical Products Division of CMP prior to converting to Foreign Service and starting his overseas career.

Obama campaigns hires Muslim liaison

WASHINGTON D.C.—US presidential aspirant Barack Obama’s campaign has created a Muslim liaison to reach out to the community, the Politico website reported.

The website reports that the position will likely be filled by Haim Nawas, a Jordanian-American. She had worked in a similar capacity for the campaign of Gen.Wesley Clark in 2004.

Obama’s campaign did not confirm the report at print time.

An Obama aide told the Politico.com that the job had been created, but said the campaign had not made a final decision on who would fill it.

Former prison guard files discrimination lawsuit

CHICAGO, IL—A former guard at Kane County Jail in Illinois has a filed a federal lawsuit claiming that he lost his job because of his Muslim faith. Abal Zaidi worked for a six month period in 2006 as a correctional officer at the county jail located in Geneva.

He claims that he was fired after the new sheriff mandated that all office employees be clean shaven. Zaidi objected to the order because having it was “an expression of his Muslim practice and belief.”

He was initially asked to show the religious meaning of the beard but was never given the opportunity to do so.

Zaidi claims that he was fired despite having a flawless record and good performance reviews.

The one-count suit claims violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and seeks a written apology from the sheriff’s department; all wages and benefits he would have received if not for the discrimination; compensatory damages; punitive damages; attorney fees; additional relief; and an unspecified amount of money.

Township assessor forwards anti-Muslim email

FRANKFORT, IL—An assessor with the Frankfort township in Illinois has forwarded an email containing vile anti-Islamic comments.

The e-mail, circulated last month, said America should follow the lead of Australia’s former prime minister John Howard, who said Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law should get out of Australia.

“Once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our Christian beliefs or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, the right to leave,” the e-mail said, supposedly quoting Howard.

“Maybe if we circulate this amongst ourselves, American citizens will find the back bone to start speaking and voicing the same truths,” the e-mail continued. “If you agree, please send this on.”

The assessor did not respond to a request for comments.

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Chicago Muslim Student Remembered

December 13, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Amadou Cisse, who was murdered Monday morning.

CHICAGO, IL–When it came to helping others, Amadou Cisse pulled many times his own weight. Cisse once helped International House Director William McCartney unload 1,000 pounds of weights for the I-House exercise room.

“He was very well-liked by residents and someone who was always quick to help others,” McCartney said.

Cisse, a Muslim Ph.D. student in chemistry at the University and native of Dakar, Senegal, in Africa, was shot and killed early Monday morning.

“He was an extremely gentle person, a very caring person,” said Czerny Brasuell, Director of Multicultural Affairs at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Cisse worked closely with Brasuell during his four years as a student at Bates College. Cisse graduated from Bates College in 2001 with a B.S. degree in chemistry, physics and mathematics.

“He was very concerned with injustice, especially injustices regarding children,” Brasuell said. “He was committed to doing good in this world, particularly as it related to his country and the continent of Africa. I am horrified at the senseless nature of this act that has removed from the world someone who would have done so much good.”

Cisse, 29, had successfully defended his doctoral dissertation on Nov. 1. The University will award him the Ph.D. posthumously at graduation on Dec. 7.

“He was a diligent researcher and very committed to his science and colleagues,” said his faculty adviser, Steven Sibener, the Carl William Eisendrath Professor in Chemistry. “He was incredibly happy last week. He smiled ear-to-ear and just sat back and enjoyed his accomplishment.”

For his Ph.D. research, Cisse studied how molecules diffuse and migrate through films made of large molecules called polymers. “He gave us a new way of measuring diffusion in thin films. That’s quite an accomplishment,” Sibener said.

Cisse and Sibener were interested in the purely scientific aspects of the process. This is also an important problem in the technological world, where thin films act as protective layers for materials and food.

As a teaching assistant for general chemistry, Cisse impressed fellow graduate student Miriam Freedman with his concern for his students. “I think working with students was one of the things he most enjoyed,” Freedman said. “He was always talking about how to improve his students’ understanding of the material and rooting for their success.”

Fellow students also recalled Cisse’s habit of quietly singing or humming as he went about his work. “Amadou loved Senegalese music so much that he recorded it onto tapes from Senegalese radio online,” said Nataliya Yufa, graduate student in chemistry. “That’s why he still had a Walkman. He was planning to get an iPod after graduation. His whole life was on hold til after graduation.”

Lieve Teugels, a graduate student in chemistry, recalled Cisse’s gentle smile, with graduation now in his sight. “I remember how happy he was right after his thesis defense a couple of weeks ago, talking about how he hadn’t told his family he was defending so they wouldn’t worry.”

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Community News (V9-I39)

September 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Faith communities urged to shine the light on post-911 discrimination

CHICAGO, IL—Two leading faith-based publishers – one Muslim, one Christian – urged that faith communities “shine the light” on a disturbing pattern of discrimination across America in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“We live in a xenophobic country,” said the Rev. John Buchanan, editor and publisher of The Christian Century magazine. “We thought we had [even] taken care of anti-Semitism and that has been popping up here and there. One of the things we must do is name it [xenophobia] and keep shining a light on it.”

Buchanan, who is also pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church here, was responding to a presentation from Imam Malik Mujahid, president of the largest Islamic publishing house in the U.S., who had offered some alarming statistics about what he called “the unreported domestic war on terror.”

Since September 11, 2001, Mujahid said, 500,000 Muslims have been interviewed by the FBI. Mujahid estimated 24% of Muslim American households have had a visit from the FBI. He estimated 28,000 have been detained or deported. Mujahid said special prisons for Muslim prisoners have been established since 9/11 and “Halliburton has a government contract to build more.”

Mujahid, who is imam to three mosques and chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said he constantly hears critics claim that Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism. Muslim leaders have been doing that all along, he said, pointing to a unanimous resolution of the U.S. Senate praising Muslim leaders for speaking out. That resolution got virtually no media attention, he noted.

Both religious leaders shared their thoughts on “The Legacy of 9/11 on Media, Faith and Society.” The interfaith dialogue, held on the sixth anniversary of the 2001 terrorism events, was hosted by the Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) meeting near the national headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one of the NCC’s 35 member communions.

Mujahid had many examples of what he says Muslims call “Islamophobia” but he particularly pointed to the swearing in of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim American elected to the U.S. Congress. Last December Rep. Virgil Goode (R.-Va.) had made anti-Muslim remarks regarding Ellison’s use of the Koran in the private ceremony in taking his oath of office.

“There was no statement from the Republican Party” objecting to Rep. Goode’s remarks, he said. “There was no statement from President Bush.”

Buchanan acknowledged the National Council of Church’s role in speaking up on behalf of those who are being scapegoated in our country but said, “the evangelicals have just ‘out-mediaed’ us in the past few years.” He urged moderate mainline churches to speak out more loudly on behalf of “our Muslim brothers and sisters” and protest Islamaphobia when it is seen.

“We must say no to the late D. James Kennedy’s notion that this is a Christian nation and we must do all we can to elect Christians to office to keep it that way,” Buchanan said. “We must say no to Franklin Graham’s statements…[that disparage] Muslims.”

Buchanan said, we must concentrate on the “inclusive and tolerant tradition” that is in all of our sacred texts. He read from Isaiah 19 as an example of “the inclusive view of God?that’s worth knowing about and talking about.”

“What are you going to do with information like that?” asked the Rev. Michael Livingston, NCC president, who was moderator of the discussion. “The level of ignorance and lack of awareness in the religious community, this war, this is part of our legacy,” Livingston told the church communicators. He challenged his audience to “move this legacy in a different direction.”

The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America’s Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and traditional peace churches. Those member communions represent 45 million faithful Christians in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

Chicago cabbies get tickets while praying

CHICAGO, IL–Muslim taxi drivers in Chicago have alleged that as many as 500 of them have been ticketed for parking vehicles in access lanes near O’Hare Airport while pray at a nearby prayer trailer. The trailer has been set up by the city for making it convenient for observant drivers to pray. Cab drivers claim that despite providing them with the location, the city punishes them with hefty fines for using it.

The tickets ranging from $50 to $80 can cut a driver’s daily profits into half.

“The financial impact, at least from a revenue standpoint, is huge,” says Wolfgang J. Weiss, one of the managing directors of the Chicago Professional Taxicab Drivers Association. “We just want them to back off.”

Aviation Department spokesman Greg Cunningham said authorities do not want to interrupt Muslims and their prayer habits, according to Chicago Suntimes. But he contends that cabbies must follow the rules at a facility that needs to be clear of traffic in order for operations to run smoothly and safely.

“It’s a temporary parking and holding area,” Cunningham said. “If a vehicle blocks off other vehicles from leaving the facility, it becomes a problem.”

Malaysian Fulbright scholar to visit Montgomery County

Rosnani Hashim, professor of education at the International Islamic University in Malaysia, will be at Montgomery County Community College from Oct. 18 until Nov. 11.

During her stay, Hashim will engage in scholarly activities both at the college and in the community.

In Malaysia, Hashim has taught educational philosophy, history and sociology from the Islamic perspective since 1987 at the International Islamic University.

She has written extensively on Islamic education and its roles and position in a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-faith society like Malaysia, and she has lectured abroad on the issues of Muslim worldview, education, curriculum and women.

Hashim holds a doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree in education from the University of Florida, a master of science degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin and a bachelor’s in mathematics from Northern Illinois University.

She has served as the vice president of Women’s Affairs for the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, and she has published six books and has written more than 30 articles, book chapters and papers.

“It’s tremendously prestigious that our students will have the opportunity to interact with another Fulbright scholar,” said Aaron Shatzman, dean of social science and writer of the Fulbright scholar application.

“We are among a very elite group of institutions to be awarded a visiting specialist under this program. Dr. Hashim will afford both the college and community at large a valuable perspective into higher education from a Muslim point of view.”

“The presence of a Fulbright scholar on our campuses is yet another demonstration of the high quality and excellence of the education and cultural outreach that we provide to our students and the community,” said Karen A. Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College. “We are deeply honored to welcome a scholar of Dr. Hashim’s stature to our institution.”

The Fulbright Visiting Specialist program “Direct Access to the Muslim World” is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State and administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) in Washington, D.C.

Interfaith support for Jewish temple

FAYETTEVILLE, AK–When a Jewish congregation was facing opposition from the community over its plans to construct a synagogue in the Butterfly House neighborhood, help came from an unexpected quarter. Fadil Bayyari, a practicing Muslim, approached the congregation and offered to provide contracting services at cost.

Bayyari was aware of similar opposition faced by Muslims across the nation and wanted to help.

“ Having that partnership with a practicing Muslim and Palestinian Arab, we really feel that spirit will cross religious boundaries and attract people from all walks of life, ” said Ralph Nesson, a member of the fundraising committee.

Mosque proposed in Manchester

MANCHESTER, CT–The Connecticut town may get its first mosque soon, if the plans of a group of local Muslims are approved.

The Association of Muslim Community is requesting a special exception to allow a place of worship in a residential zone. The group hopes to renovate a small, single-family house at 232 Woodland St. and convert it into a mosque, Association of Muslim Community Treasurer Tarek Ambia said.

Ambia said the group consists of about 25 to 30 Muslims, most of them Manchester residents, who now travel to East Hartford, Hartford, and Windsor to worship and who would like to establish a mosque closer to their homes.

“They feel like they should have something here locally,” Ambia said.

Town regulations allow places of worship in residential zones as long as they meet several requirements in areas such as parking and screening between the place of worship and nearby homes.

Plan to build first Mosque in Hawaii questioned

A Muslim group in Hawaii is soliciting donations to build what would be the Island’s first mosque. The “Masjid Al-Baqi Project” plans to acquire a house in the Kona Highlands subdivision and convert it into a mosque.

But the plan has already attracted media scrutiny after the seller of the house and her listing agent say that the house is in escrow but not for Syed Kamal Majid, the only person named in the documents connected with the Mosque project.

The listing agent says the buyers are “a Hawaiian family” and have noting to do with any mosque plan.

MAS Freedom Launches ‘Faith over Fear and Justice for All’ Campaign in Texas

KATY, TX—The Muslim American Society has launched a campaign to fight attempts to slander and intimidate the Muslim community of Katy, Texas. The Muslim community is facing stiff opposition for its plans to build an Islamic center.

Opponents of the center, who own property adjacent to the site of the proposed Islamic Center of Katy, have initiated an Anti-Muslim campaign, which includes the use of a misleading internet website address that continues to post extremely derogatory and inflammatory propaganda directed against the Muslim community and Prophet Muhammad (s).

The purpose of the Faith Over Fear and Justice for All Initiative, according to MAS Freedom Executive Director Mahdi Bray, is to “encourage and build a positive interfaith atmosphere that affirms the right of all people of faith to live in freedom from intimidation and hatred, and that builds bridges of real understanding and mutual respect for the good of the entire community.”

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Community News (V9-I16)

April 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Nabil Khan gets Fulbright

Nabil Khan, a senior at Swarthmore College, has been named a Fulbright Grantee for 2007. The son of Shafqat and Khalil Khan and brother of Mehreen and Hasan Khan, he is a 2003 graduate of the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., and also attended the International School of Choueifat in Abu Dhabi. Khan is one of three Swarthmore seniors to have won the Fulbright Grant this year.

Khan plans to use his Fulbright Grant to explore and elucidate contemporary understandings of mental “illness” in urban Morocco and of the cultural import of the psychiatric field in a place where it is governmentally sanctioned and is growing. “I am interested in understanding what mental health services and the worldviews they represent, so rooted in Western diagnostic and therapeutic traditions, mean to those from a country historically considered a frontier of the Islamic world,” said Khan. “Given the country’s eclectic background and demographic, I am interested in the political, religious and social dimensions of psychological understanding and how cultural currents inform daily mental healthcare practice.”

Khan is a psychology major with minors in biology and English literature. He is a Thomas B. McCabe scholar, selected as an entering student based on leadership, ability, character, personality, and service to school and community, and has been active in Swarthmore for Immigrants’ Rights, the Muslim Student group, Deshi (South Asian Students organization), and Forum for Free Speech and is co-editor of Remappings (the Asian/Asian-Diaspora literary publication). He was also a biology Writing Associate (peer tutor) and a member of the steering committee of the 2006 “Beyond the Box” conference on critical multiculturalism.

Administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards full research grants to graduating seniors and young alumni after an extensive application process. Recipients receive a stipend to cover housing and living expenses.

Four Muslims named Truman scholars

Four Muslim students have been selected for the much coveted Truman Scholarships. Sixty-five students from 56 US colleges and universities have been selected as 2007 Truman Scholars. They were elected by eighteen independent selection panels on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability, and likelihood of ‘making a difference.’

Each Scholarship provides $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Recipients must be US citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class, and be committed to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector.

Salmah Y. Rizvi, of John Hopkins University, who is from Laurel, Md., is a double-major in Anthropology and International Relations at the Johns Hopkins University, founded Vision XChange, a nonprofit organization which serves as a mechanism to create entertaining, opportunistic events while spreading awareness of important issues. She has traveled extensively as a student ambassador promoting peace and stability and teaching International Humanitarian Law. She is also an executive board member for the Johns Hopkins University Muslim Student Association and the Foreign Affairs Symposium. Currently, Salmah is a Department of Defence employee and hopes to continue her career in government.

As an active member of the Muslim-American community, Rizvi has also interned for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, published a number of papers regarding Islamic politics and volunteered with various Muslim organizations. She teaches Islamic history every Sunday at her local mosque, Idara-E-Jaferia Center in Burtonsville, Md.

Umair Iqbal was born in Pakistan and immigrated to America when he was nine. He is a junior pre-med student with a major in Biological Sciences and a minor in Political Science at the University of Anchorage Alaska. He conducts research at the Alaska Science Center on the Alaska Avian Influenza Project. After five years of avid participation in the Model United Nations of Alaska, he is Secretary-General of the 2007 conference, which focuses on the Emerging Global Pandemic. He also serves as president of the Pre-Med Club. After college he plans to study for an MPH and an MD in rural health, with the goal of working to reduce poverty and to improve access to health care for the poorest people in the world.

Asma Jaber is a junior anthropology and international studies major at the University of South Carolina. Her passions for helping immigrants and refugees continue to grow as she volunteers at advocacy centers for immigrants and with local Somali refugees. She also helps facilitate refugees’ health care access. Asma plans to pursue a law degree and attain a M.P.H. in Health Policy in order to take on public interest work in the health field and improve the lives of immigrants and refugees.

Nazir is the founder and president of the Muslim Student Association at Seattle University. In 2005-2006 he lived in Cairo and studied classical Arabic. Currently Nazir is researching code-switching among Arabs in Seattle. Nazir enjoys traveling, reading, writing, and learning languages in his spare time. He speaks Spanish and Arabic and teaches Arabic twice a week in addition to organizing many cultural and educational events on campus.

Muslim radiologist sues hospital

BALTIMORE, MD–A radiologist who was kicked out of the University of Maryland Medical Center after he performed a Muslim ritual has filed a $30 million lawsuit against the hospital.

The suit says Doctor Mohammed Hussain was at the hospital last month to undergo surgery. He was washing his hands and feet in a sink in a lobby bathroom when a security guard came in and ordered him to get out “immediately or else.”

Hussain’s lawyer, David Ellin, says the guard made references to Hussain as if he were a terrorist and hurled racial epithets at him. He says Hussain was pushed down a hallway and into the custody of another security guard, who escorted him outside.

The hospital released a statement saying medical personnel reached out to Hussain after the incident. The statement says the hospital is “disappointed” that Hussain filed a lawsuit.

Evanston’s first mosque to open soon

EVANSTON, IL–Evanston, Chicago’s suburb and homes to the Northwestern University, will soon have its first mosque. The Bangladesh Islamic Community Center are converting a former Church and have already received approval from the city council council. The building will feature prayer area, offices, a kitchen and multi-purpose meeting rooms.

The construction expected to last from eight months to a year, according to center officials.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), who represents the ward in which the mosque will be located, said the center’s presence would enhance the area’s religious diversity.

“There’s a variety of churches and different denominations,” Holmes said. “This would just be a mosque. There are churches and temples, so why not a mosque?”

Arizona Muslims celebrate Prophet’s birthday (s)

CHANDLER, AZ–Around 200 Muslims gathered at the Chandler Community Center to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The event, organized by the Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education, was open to all interested and a number of non-Muslims also attended. Sheik Sayyed Muhammed, a religious scholar from Atlanta, was the featured speaker at the Chandler event.

Paul Eppinger, executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement, praised the Islamic group’s efforts to build respect among people of all faiths living in the Valley.

“I am for interfaith dialogue so that people can begin to understand one another,” said Eppinger, 74, a former American Baptist minister for 35 years.

Slain convenience store owner remembered

EAST WINDSOR, CT–Neighbours and community members paid moving tributes to convenience store owner Javed Akhtar,32, who was gunned down on Feb.28. More than 50 people gathered at the prayer vigil held in the parking lot outside the One Stop grocery where he was slain. He leaved behind his wife Rafia and twin children Humair and Hirra. His killers have not been identified yet, the Journal Inquirer reported.

Holding candles and gathering in a circle around Rafia and her children, members of the assembly spoke in turn, describing Javed as a gentle, caring man who they clearly missed.

“When we came and moved here, I needed to have a cup of coffee in the morning, and I came here just a few times, and Rafia and Jay were just so kind,” said Bobbie Taravella, who has since moved away. “I have a coffeemaker, but I never used it because they were always so nice and made me a friend rather than a patron.”

Robert Nicholas, who lives half a mile up the road, said he was in the store buying cottage cheese 45 minutes before Javed was shot. “I used to come down here just to talk, and when nothing was going on we’d play with the kids out in the parking lot – they made me part of the family,” Nicholas added.

“He was definitely an asset to this community and well-loved,” said Officer Bruce Everitt, community resource officer for Mill Pond Village.

As for solving the case, “it’s progressing very well and progress is being made,” Everitt said. “We’re just making sure we cross all our T’s and dot all the I’s.”

Akhtar was Muslim and a Pakistani-American. His death brought outrage to the community at large, with many groups calling for justice and a $5,000 reward posted for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the killer.

Canadian Muslims give $1m to hospital

TORONTO, CANADA–Muslim community of Toronto has provided a huge boost to the William Osler Health Centre Foundation by pledging $1 million to build Brampton’s new hospital. The Muslim Friends of William Osler Health Centre, a group of community leaders,physicians and members of the public, announced their plans last week.

“This pledge represents a promise from the large and active Muslim community to ensure the best possible health care for all people who rely on William Osler to provide quality medical facilities and compassionate care,” said Dr. Farooque Dawood, Muslim Friends of WOHC chair and president of Dafina Holdings Ltd. “The spirit behind (our organization) is to gather support from various Muslim communities in pursuit of excellence in local health care for now and for the future.”

About 50 people gathered for the afternoon reception, held in an auditorium at Peel Memorial Hospital.

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Community News, North America (US & Canada)

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Curtain controversy in Chicago

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

Minister praised for interfaith work

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

Muslims join immigrant rights rally

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

Nazir Baig passes away

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

New mosque in San Luis Obispo

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

Eid ul Fitr poem wins Ray Bradbury award

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

Saudi culture shared at Valparaiso

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

Egyptian student shares perspectives

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

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