Why Do You Want to be a Journalist?

April 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Editor’s note:  The TMO Foundation conducted a scholarship essay contest and TMO is now printing the essays of some of the entrants to the contest.

The following is the winning essay, by Zuleqa Husain, on the subject “Why do you want to be a journalist?” She received First Prize, a $1500 scholarship.

By Zuleqa Husain

ZHusain-Photo American’s fourth estate, the press, is one of the most influential game-changers in US living rooms. As an undergrad who majored in marketing and PR, I was always fascinated with the public’s information intake and subsequent behavior change based on that information. I joined the nascent International Media program at American University because of my desire to straddle the worlds of media analysis and mass communication.  Having worked at a policy shop—the Muslim Public Affairs Council—and an international media organization—Voice of America—I had an acute appreciation for the role of good journalism and its impact on the globe.  As I honed my interests through internships in radio (WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi), TV production (Story House), and international broadcast news (Al Jazeera English’s Riz Khan Show); I became increasingly interested in long-format programming. As I gain international media experience, I hope to join the policy-making community in the public diplomacy sector of the federal government.

When I quit medical school back home and came to the US, two months before 9/11 hit the nation, I wasn’t quite sure which direction my life would take. I knew that a good liberal arts education would help me decide what I wanted to do with my life. Marketing and PR seemed a good choice and I was good at it and so I majored in those subjects. Speaking skills, presentation skills and selling ideas, this came naturally to me. As America sought to understand Muslims and Islam, I co-founded the nation’s first publicly funded Muslim student organization at the University of Minnesota. Here, I was able to conduct workshops and presentations on Islam at high schools and community centers, churches and hospitals. I joined the Islamic Speakers Bureau and created packets of useful information on Muslims so that I could help contain the hysteria Americans were facing with George Bush’s War on Terror.

I graduated in 2004 and moved to Washington, D.C. That same month, Muslim Public Affairs Council’s national office offered me a position. Working at a policy shop such as MPAC was the best place to get the pulse of the Muslim American community and be able to define a unique Muslim identity for ourselves. Planning national communication strategies for MPAC’s ‘Countering Terrorism’ initiatives, helping abate the media frenzy during the Danish cartoon crisis, and fighting Islamophobic rhetoric stateside and abroad, helped me develop an appreciation for a focused strategy in media communications and an understanding of framework and messaging that is utilized in brand management.

The more we were in the spotlight of the media, and the more we were meeting with top government officials, the more I saw the need to change the paradigms that were present in our media systems. It wasn’t enough that we had a civil liberties organization like the Council on American Islamic Relations, looking out for our best interests. It wasn’t enough that top government liaisons for the Muslim community understood the predicament that American Muslims were facing because of the actions of a few misguided Muslims halfway across the world. To make the American people understand what was going on in the world, you had to get into their living rooms. I felt that if any change was to happen, it would be through the American media system. And that’s when I realized I wanted to be a journalist. I was busy telling the story for so long, I didn’t realize that the mike was turned off.

When I got a job as a reporter for Voice of America, for the first time, I felt like I was making a significant contribution. I was telling the true American story to the people of Pakistan and there was a considerable effect. We would get calls from viewers in Pakistan amazed that a hijabi Muslim in America was able to report on a story without being attacked on the street for being visibly Muslim. At VOA, I was able to bring the American-Muslim story to light for the Muslim populations worldwide. Our show was broadcast to 11 million viewers across the world.

Having worked for VOA for a year, and done numerous stories on American Muslims, concluded that the way forward was not to remain in the reporter track, but to become a producer. Producers control the content of the show. They decide what to air and what not to air. They have the final say in what stories get covered and how the show will be structured. I realized that if you wanted to change the dynamics of America’s newsrooms, the best route is to be a producer.
And for this, I went back to school.

During my three-year joint degree Masters program in International Media through the School of International Service and School of Communication at American University, I developed a solid academic grounding for how international media and communications work in today’s ever-shrinking world. In my coursework, I learn about international communication theory and why certain countries manage their journalists the way they do. I learned about propaganda, its role in mass media, the elements which make it effective and how to turn them in our favor. I also learn the art of producing a well-crafted news show that has a multi-media platform, including radio, video, web, and social media networks. I am also working on becoming a producer trained for long-format programming that is more conducive to good story-telling.  My final Masters project is a biopic documentary highlighting the historic tolerance and pluralism found in pre-independence India between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority. Such narratives of tolerance and harmony need to be told, both for the American Muslim audience and for the Muslims around the world.

I have had the opportunity to learn the art of journalism at various prestigious media institutions during my degree program. I was a research assistant with The Kojo Nnamdi Show at NPR’s local affiliate in Washington DC. My input was most appreciated not when I was giving them a story idea about Muslims or Islam, but when I was giving them a fresh perspective on an existing story idea. They appreciated my nuanced insight on various subjects, political or otherwise.

I was also the assistant producer intern at the internationally acclaimed Riz Khan Show on Al-Jazeera English. There, I provided research and story ideas for the live daily talk show. I was able to direct the show to do stories that are under-represented in the media. Al-Jazeera English is keen on becoming the ‘Voice of the South’ and was open to my suggestions. 

Just last week, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale rolled out a new communication strategy with the Muslim world, one that involved pro-actively shaping global narratives. In a statement to Congress, she announced a redefining of the State department to include a position for Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Media. This would bolster communications outreach to “inform, inspire, and persuade target audiences and to counter misinformation.” There is a visible paradigm shift in such a strategy compared to previous administrations that were trying to ‘win hearts and minds’ by bolstering those voices that helped their cause. Countering misinformation is a bigger, more challenging task and media efforts weakening the effects of disinformation is a more powerful strategy.

After working for a number of years in the news networks, I see myself working for the Public Diplomacy arm of the State department as an international media expert. Having worked with international media networks, I will have insight into what are the effective ways to utilize messaging to generate a positive response vs. those that create media trauma.

As for the Muslim American community’s media needs, there is a significant gap between the effort that the Muslim American media outlets are putting into getting the word out on the peaceful nature of Islam and the impact of this effort. This gap needs to close, if there is to be any change in the minds of the American people about Islam and Muslims. Public relations efforts and putting out fires as the Muslims American community is hit by one media nightmare or another is not the solution. A concerted effort is needed wherein Muslim journalists have a set identity within the media networks of the nation. The Muslim journalist is not exclusive with his/her reporting. There cannot be just a Muslim beat, or an ethnic or religious beat for the Muslim. Juggling various identities fluidly is the mark of a Muslim journalist today.

I want to be a journalist because I want Muslims to be able to present their stories, their narratives, their perspectives, their understanding of the world around them, without feeling that they are constantly defending their religious and cultural identity. Muslim Americans have a lot to offer to the diverse fabric of America. The United States of America is one of the best places to live as a practicing Muslim today and our job is to make sure that the press fulfills its duties to the citizens of our great nation.

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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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Muslim Family Services Fundraiser

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

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Livonia–March 13—American Muslims have made inroads institutionally, with established mosques, advocacy groups, and media.  There are also fledgling efforts to build funeral services and graveyards and other necessary forms of care.  But the next level of institution building is to create self-sufficiency in medical and other care. 

One group which has begun the work of providing community and social and medical services to Muslims is Muslim Family Services, a devision of ICNA Relief.

Muslim Family Services held a fundraiser on Saturday night at the Radisson Hotel in Livonia, hosting about 250 people for an evening which celebrated the accomplishments and looked at the future goals of the organization.

Muslim Family Services is led most prominently by Dr. Ali Suleiman, Ph.D, who studied at the University of Michigan and at the University of Madina Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Asim Hussain (not to be confused with keynote speaker Altaf Husain), professor of Wayne State University, is also involved. Mr. Yousuf Vaid is also prominently involved. The organization focuses largely on providing social services, mainly specializing in marriage counseling, but also providing many other services including subsidizing funeral payments and providing food and other emergency care to Muslims in need.

The fundraising dinner began with Maghrib prayer, followed by a welcome by the MC Yousuf Vaid, followed by recitation of Qur`an by a young man, Nadeem Gulam, then dinner. Then there was a slide presentation by Steve Hernandez on the accomplishments of Muslim Family Services, followed by a keynote speech by Harvard Professor, Dr. Altaf Husain. Finally there was a fundraiser and a closing du’a.

Mr. Hernandez spoke movingly of the accomplishments of Muslim Family Services, pointing out its cooperation with other groups, and its work to support the community’s education, activities to minimize family violence (in coordination with ACCESS and the State of Michigan and Wayne County), counseling of individuals, families, pre-marital and marital counseling, psychological counseling, anger management, and substance abuse counseling.

He spoke movingly about MFS’s Janaza fund, which provides about seven funerals per year, at a cost of $3,000 each.

Dr. Altaf Husain also spoke movingly, focusing more on the future of Muslim healthcare in the United States, pointing out that the Muslim community faces similar challenges to those faced before by Catholics and Jews (such as dietary restrictions, discrimination, refused treatment, predatory missionary work by those who see vulnerable people of a different religion, and cultural conflicts)–who in the 1850s responded by building their own hospitals which exist to this day.  Husain emphasized one such hospital, Mt. Sinai, which had its origins in the need of Jews to respond to the above challenges, but which now serves the wider community.

Muslim Family Services emphasized that they provide services in a professional and confidential manner, and invited all Muslims facing issues to come to them for assistance.

Contact Muslim Family Services at 734-678-0435, or at www.muslimfamilyservices.org.

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See pictures from this event at www.muslimobserver.com.

France’s Burka Dilemma

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Proposals to ban face veils provoked debate in France’s Muslim community

By Zubeida Malik

France could become the first country in Europe to ban the burka. A draft law submitted to the French parliament would make it illegal for a woman to cover her face in public spaces such as hospitals and trains. But the proposal has divided the country’s five million-strong Muslim community.

26 year-old Anisa wears a bright blue niqab, a piece of clothing that covers her completely except for her eyes and perfectly arched eyebrows.

You can’t miss her among the crowds: maybe it is because of the colour of the niqab or because there is no other woman around who is covered up to this extent.

She has been wearing it for a year-and-a-half. Anisa’s family, who are originally from Morocco, are against her wearing the niqab. But Anisa believes it is her religious duty.

According to official figures there are just 1900 women who wear the burka in France. Most of them are young and a quarter are converts.

But a report from the French intelligence services put this figure much lower at 367, out of an estimated population of five million Muslims, the largest in Europe.
When I met Anisa in the suburbs of Seine-Saint Denis, an area with the highest concentration of Muslims in France, she says that ever since she started wearing the niqab she has had unwelcome attention from the police, has been insulted in the street and is frequently stared at.

Women wearing the burka – a veil which covers the whole face – or the niqab in France are not as visible as those in Britain. But look hard enough in the suburbs and you can find them.

The mosque in the town of Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris, is currently the most controversial in France because the imam here has come out in support of the government’s decision to ban the burka.

Imam Hassan Chalghoumi is now facing death threats and has been given police protection. Ignoring the advice of his advisors he spoke to the Today programme.
He says the burka has nothing to do with religion but the wearing of it was down to tradition.

And the imam added that the burka debate was diverting attention from the real problems facing the Muslim community, including racism, integration and young people dropping out of school early. The imam, who is originally from Tunisia, has the support of the mayor of Drancy.

Tempers are running high at the mosque and there are some it is hard to tell how many want the imam to leave. And there is also a lot of anger and frustration with the media and the police.

Friday prayers when I was there were tense. There were policemen present, plain clothes officers filming and an ambulance on standby, in case anyone got hurt.
Multiculturalism in France is different to that in Britain and the United States. One of the core principles of the Fifth Republic is “laicite”, the separation of church and state.

Religion here is seen as a highly private matter, even more than in the US, where church and state are also constitutionally separated.

Pierre Rousselin from Le Figaro newspaper says that in France people still believe that ‘’foreigners can adapt to the French way of life’’

A commission has spent six months looking into the burka in a review which took evidence from more than 200 people. It recommended proposing a ban on women wearing either the burka or the niqab in hospitals, schools, government offices and on public transport.

It is not the first time that the Muslim community in France feels that its been put under the spotlight. In 2004 a law was passed banning the hijab – or headscarf – and all other religious symbols, from state schools. Although the ban affects all religions, the Muslim community here feels that it was aimed at them.

Wider debate

The current controversy comes in the wake of months of debate and President Sarkozy’s speech last year where he said the veils were not welcome in France, but which stopped short of calling for an outright ban.

A draft law has been submitted to parliament but any further action has been put on the back-burner until after the regional elections in France this month.

Sihem Habchi, who describes herself as a Muslim feminist, is director of Ni Putes Ni Soumise – “Neither Whores Nor Submissives”, an influential feminist organisation. She says it is not a question of how many women wear the burka, but one of ‘’democratic principle’’. And she too wants the burka banned.

Ms Habchi says that a ban would ‘’liberate’’ the Muslim community from those who want to hold it back and ‘’use our religion’’.

Adding that her Algerian background allows her to understand this issue and the wider one of women’s rights as a whole, Ms Habchi says ‘’laicite’’ actually protects religion because it means all religions have an equal footing.

Catherine De Wenden, an expert in the history of immigration in France, believes the timing of the current debate is political and is tied in with the regional elections in France.

Although she is personally against banning the burka, she says there it is part of a wider debate in France about national identity, adding that there are many forms of multiculturalism and that France regards religion as a private matter.

Ms De Wenden is concerned that if the ban happens then France will not be seen as a country which practises toleration, a core value of the French Revolution.
But any legislation could have the reverse effect. The young women I spoke to in Drancy said that if the ban became law then they would start to wear the burka for the first time.

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Edythe M. Abdullah Reappointed

March 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

edythe-m--abdullah2 Dr. Edythe M. Abdullah, 56, of Jacksonville, campus president of Florida State College at Jacksonville, was reappointed for a term beginning March 9, 2010, and ending January 6, 2015.

Dr. Abdullah began her career at Florida Community College as an admissions adviser in 1985. Since then she has progressed along the administrative career ladder from associate dean to dean to associate vice president and now campus president. Dr. Abdullah has served as Campus President of the Downtown Campus and Advanced Technology Center for six years. Her responsibilities include administrative oversight and instructional leadership for a campus that serves over 10,000 students from 119 countries with a wide variety of programs: adult literacy, high school completion, English for speakers of other languages, associate arts and sciences degrees, career certificates and continuing workforce education instruction. Additionally, this year she and her staff opened the first drop out retrieval charter high school in the State of Florida.

Dr. Abdullah earned a bachelor’s degree in religion from Valparaiso University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Florida. She holds a Certificate in the Management of Lifelong Education from Harvard University and was a Kellogg Fellow with the League for Innovation in Community Colleges. Dr. Abdullah has been very committed to community, state, and national leadership in areas for which she holds great passion and insight. In 2000, she chaired the Jacksonville Community Council’s study on adult literacy and its impact on economic development. Dr. Abdullah was inducted into Florida’s Adult and Community Educators Hall of Fame in recognition of her statewide leadership and support of adult education and workforce development. She has served on numerous national education association advisory councils, including the Presidents Advisory Council for the National Council for Advanced Technology Centers.

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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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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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Houstonian Corner (V12-I8)

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Haiti In-Kind Donations Container: Overwhelming Support by Houstonians

The Muslims and the South-Asian communities this past Saturday and Sunday did something for humanity that was not directly related to one of their own home countries. They came together at the International Courier Services (ICS) located at 6160 Westview Drive under the guidance of Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD), to send a 40-Feet long container from Houston for the dire needs of Haitians. Since there are many useful things from USA, which are not readily available around Haiti, this was indeed a much needed campaign to launch, so as to involve the kind-hearted Americans in the service of fellow human-beings in Haiti, who are in living dire situation.

For the last one month, HHRD team in Haiti has been working, taking care of injured Haitians in six rotational clinics.

HHRD has termed this $1.50-Million Campaign as Muslims for Haiti (www.MuslimsForHaiti.Org) to unify the community under the platform of providing human services at global level and so that world can view this as the work of people of Mercy Unto Worlds Messenger Muhammad Peace Be Upon him and at the same time, opening opportunities’ to all Americans (not just Muslims) to join in the good work.

Other than HHRD, the supporting organizations of this effort include: The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA); The Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH); The Houston Police Department (HPD);  The Nigerian Muslim Association of Greater Houston (NMA – Masjidul-Mu’mineen); The Haitian Multi-Cultural Association; The Darul-Arqam School of North Houston; The Omair-Sana Welfare Foundation (Dr. Kashif Ansari); The Young Muslims of North America (YM); and The Houston Shifa Foundation.

The event got good coverage from Mainstream American and South-Asian & Spanish Community Media, which resulted in several non-Muslim donors coming to the ICS with their in-kind donations. For more information, one can call Maaz Adil 281-468-2238 / ILyas Hasan Choudry 832-275-0786, or visit HHRD office at 11945 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77099; or visit www.MuslimsForHaiti.Org

Representative Al Green Inaugurated Quaid’s Exhibition at the Houston Consulate of Pakistan

Most unique exhibition of photographs of the founder of Pakistani Nation Quaid-e-Azam (The Great Leader) Mohammad Ali Jinnah was launched this past Saturday 02-13-2010 at the Houston Pakistani Consulate, by US House of Representative Honorable AL Green. Present on the occasion were His Excellency Consul General of Pakistan Aqil Nadeem; Commercial Attaché in Houston Consulate of the Government of Pakistan Zia Ahmed; Consulate of Pakistan Team Salient Members Manzoor Ahmad, Iftikhar Ahmad, Mohammad Arshid, Ali Mohammad, & Tanveer Siddiqui; President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) Khalid Khan; Honorary Investment Counselor Faisal Amin; Executive Director of Joseph Educational & Outreach Ministries Reverend Dr. Afzaal Firdous; Community Liaison in Rep. AL Green’s Office Badar (Bobby) Rafaei; and many others.

US Representative AL Green (TX-09) said he is aware that Quaid was born on a most joyous day of December 25th in the year 1876 and passed away on one of the saddest days for Americans 9/11 in the year 1948. He admired the constitutional battle with no military weapons, that was forged by Mohammad Ali Jinnah to achieve Pakistan. He chose the picture of Quaid with Mohatama Gandhi, which he plans to put in his office.

Later on Mr. Green met with the community members in the consulate and discussed about issues related to Pakistanis in USA like immigration, small business financing & taxes, healthcare, etc.; as well as issues facing Pakistan in terms of national sovereignty, democracy, educational uplifting, national security, terrorism, etc.

Consulate of Pakistan-Houston is located at 11850 Jones Road, Houston, TX 77070. To see the exhibition, one can visit the Consulate by calling in first at 281-890-2223 (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/)

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Muslim Americans Inspire at the Apollo

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sarah Jawaid, Common Ground News

apollo_facade Washington, DC – As I peered down from the lower mezzanine level of Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater, I knew I was witnessing history. The village of Harlem has been a beacon of inspiration for artists throughout the 20th century; novelists, poets, musicians and actors found it a safe-haven for expression through various art forms such as music and theatre. On 23 January, a burgeoning Muslim American culture also found voice on the Apollo’s historic stage.

The Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) organised a special edition of Community Café, usually held in IMAN’s hometown of Chicago. This Muslim-led event was meant to provide a space for the socially conscious to celebrate and engage in various artistic forms of expression. Muslims from across the spectrum showcased their incredible talents while shattering self-propagated boundaries of race, gender, sect and vision. A sold-out audience cheered on the dynamic range of creativity from artists, like singer/actor Mos Def, comedian Aasif Mandvi, Progress Theater, musician Amir Sulaiman and The ReMINDers.

The most striking and memorable aspect of the event was not any one performance, but the performances’ effect on those attending. The social cohesion resulting from the event extended beyond the Apollo, sending reverberations throughout the American landscape as attendees returned home. With the recent catastrophic events in Haiti heavy on the hearts of the performers, it was a night of social responsibility, artistic sharing and advocacy.

This event couldn’t have come at a more perfect juncture in the Muslim American experience. Our identity continues to be shaped by our diversity, reaction to world events and sometimes the stereotyping within and outside of our communities. Nevertheless, Muslim Americans are proactively constructing their own unique identities by contributing meaningfully to society through engagement in causes they truly care about.

For example, there’s the woman getting her Ph.D. in psychology to bring attention to mental disorders often seen as illegitimate in many of our communities. There’s the man shattering misconceptions about masculinity by taking on issues of domestic violence. There’s the painter donating proceeds from what she creates to the victims of Haiti.

These are everyday people. They aren’t in the limelight. They don’t have book or movie deals. They are living their lives, doing genuine good work because they believe in it. Yes, they are Muslim, and so much more.

Oftentimes, the media highlights folks on the fringes as the only ones confronting singular expressions of Islam. Those in the middle go unnoticed because they aren’t as sexy, loud or attention seeking. While the former expressions are one patch in the quilt that makes up the dynamic nature of the Muslim American community, they shouldn’t receive a disproportionate amount of attention. Our collective hope for society should be a higher level of consciousness, and that won’t happen by focusing only on those at the edges of society, who are most visible.

Focusing on the everyday folks instead can lead us to a stronger sense of social cohesion. These individuals provide us with something intangible but extremely valuable. They are the steady calm, the heart that keeps beating even when gone unnoticed. These individuals are helping create a Muslim American narrative that is based on God-consciousness by confirming faith with good works, community engagement and a purpose that goes beyond their existence.

As I sat there at the Apollo, listening in awe to the beautiful operatic voice of Sumayya, an African American woman with a pink hijab (headscarf), and Zeeshan, a Bangladeshi American Andrea Bocelli, I knew I was home. They were sharing a part of their soul with me while shattering barrier upon barrier.

Art comes from deep within us, a place that often thrives with mental quietude and presence. And when art is shared with one another, it has the power to inspire, build bridges to uncharted places and heal wounds. As we continue to shape our stories, let’s remember our essence and how we are all connected to friends of other faiths, the earth and our communities–from a place of wholeness.

* Sarah Jawaid is a writer, artist and faith-based activist working on urban planning issues in Washington, DC. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

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Alaska Opens First Halal Shop

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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ANCHORAGE (News Agencies)–It was a long time coming but Alaska has finally got its first ever Halal shop. The store owned by Gambian immigrant Lamin Jobarteh  stocks the essential culinary items required by Anchorage’s 4,000 Muslims.

Earlier Muslim families used to order bulk shipments of Halal meat and groceries from Seattle and Vancouver which are the nearest cities to Anchorage. Now Jaborteh gets his slaughtering done at  Matanuska-Sustina Borough slaughterhouse. The former banker says he has learned new skills for his profession including preparing custom orders of meat.

The Muslim community in the state is putting down its roots with plans to build a mosque and community centre on a 70 acre piece of land. The community has already raised $1 million and construction is expected to begin this summer.

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Secrets of Qur`an: Dr. Mohammad Ramzi

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

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Bloomfield–January 20–BMUC hosts Friday night events at which different personalities have the opportunity to explain their businesses that relate to the community, or to explore religious issues, or to give lessons to the community.

Dr. Mohammad Ramzi is a pillar of Michigan’s Muslim community–a prominent doctor like so many from the Muslim community, Dr. Ramzi is also a professor at Wayne State University who in 2008 won a prestigious $1.3 million grant to seek a cure for pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Ramzi is no stranger to the Muslim community, as a prominent and dynamic fundraiser, he has collected literally millions on behalf of local Muslim organizations. 

Dr. Ramzi also studies Islam, and it was in furtherance of this study that he taught at a meeting last Friday night at the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center.  The doctor explored several different scientific aspects of the Holy Qur`an, echoing the previous work of Dr. Maurice Bucaille, a French doctor (1920 – 1998), the previous family physician of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, and a convert to Islam.  In his book The Bible, The Qur`an and Science, Bucaille had explored many of the scientific revelations of Qur`an, impossible to see physically and unknown to the most modern science of the era into which the Qur`an was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s).

Dr. Ramzi explored several verses including An-Noor:40, which discusses light in the ocean; he said that no person could physically explore the ocean in 632 AD, and yet Qur`an accurately describes light in the depths of the ocean.

He described Ar-Rum:  48, in which the formation of clouds and rain are described, saying that winds blow across water, forming small clouds which aggregate into large clouds–Dr. Ramzi explained this is also the finding of modern science.

Also Dr. Ramzi explored An-Naba:14-16, which describes mu’sirat (translated clouds) but which in Arabic he said means huge clouds of a type which he argued are not seen at all in Arabia but which are seen above rain forests in Africa and South America.

The doctor also explored the verses showing the scientific fact of divisions existing between salt water and fresh water where rivers meet oceans, and also the divisions between different bodies of salt water where they come into contact–he explained that only recently has modern science arrived at the truths given in Holy Qur`an 1400 years ago.

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I4)

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Friends of Gubernatorial Race Candidate Shami Organized Unity Dinner Meeting

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Ahmad AL-Yasin, Muzaffar Siddiqui and other friends of Farouk Shami, candidate for the Democratic Party Nomination for Texas Governor, organized a dinner at the Arab Cultural Center, for Mr. Shami to speak to the community about his candidacy and campaign issues. It was termed as “The Unity Dinner”, since it was attended by people from all the diverse communities, including Caucasians, Europeans; African-Americans; South-Americans; Africans; Middle-Eastern; South-Asian; and South-East-Asians. Mr. Shami was accompanied by Jerome Ringo, one of his campaign consultants, who is an avid advocate for environmental justice, clean energy, and quality jobs. Present on the occasion was Paul Lynch, Consul General of England in Houston.

After his inspiring speech, Farouk Shami had a special meeting with President of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) Dr. Aziz Siddiqi to discuss his campaign. Dr. Siddiqi assured him that as candidate, he has all the chance to visit ISGH Masajids and meet with people: However ISGH being 501 (c) does not canvass for any candidate.

In his stirring and honest presentation after lavish Middle Eastern dinner, Farouk Shami said that both his rival Former Mayor of Houston Bill White and competing party’s candidate Rick Perry have bragged in the recent past about bringing job into Houston, Texas and USA: If one looks closely, one easily find out that majority of these jobs were brought by his company CHI Farouk Systems.

“I know how to balance billions of dollars of budget, while my main contender has recently left the City of Houston in huge budget deficit and $103 millions of dollars short. I have always run by company debt-free and this is how the State of Texas should be run,” said Mr. Shami.

“Vote for me and I will bring resources and opportunities to diversify Texas economy with the development of new market sectors through tax & other incentives, job growth, clean energy resources, rehabilitated transportation infrastructure, initiatives for food sufficiency in Texas and much more. I have good working relationship with high level businesspersons and government officials in more than 100 countries and I will use that leverage for a most prosperous Texas,” added Farouk Shami.

For more information, one can visit his website at: http://www.faroukforgovernor.org/

Helping Hand Organizing Medical & Relief Missions to Haiti

Executive Director of International Projects for Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD) Irfan Khurshid reached Port-Au-Prince on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 to place all the logistical systems and base camp to start providing assistance to thousands of Haitians’. With American forces occupying most of the airport in Port-Au-Prince, Mr. Khurshid had to reach Haiti from Canada, going first to Havana – Cuba, then to Santa Domingo – Dominican Republic, and then by land into Haiti. He has already started the food distribution in Haiti.

With this humanitarian crisis of massive proportions in Haiti, HHRD is in the process of setting up a base camp. Once the camp; systems, logistics; and procedures are in place, HHRD will need services from doctors and medical staff, as well as relief-&-social workers. To register for this Haiti Earthquake Recuperation Program 2010, one can reach ILyas Hasan Choudry, who is coordinating Medical and Relief teams for HHRD to go to Haiti. He can be reached at ILyas.Choudry@HelpingHandOnline.Org or call 1-832-275-0786.

In a communiqué received from HHRD, it has been learnt that HHRD, a leading US Muslim Community International Relief organization, has launched a $1.5 Million Haiti Earthquake Recuperation Fund. HHRD is one of the leading international NGOs of USA Muslim Community [501 (c) (3) - Federal IRS Tax Exempt ID: 31-1628040] and their motto is “Muslims For Humanity”, meaning wherever humanity will need assistance, HHRD will try the best possible way using all resources and networks to help our fellow beings.

HHRD has a matching donation program, so when someone donates to HHRD, they can ask their employer to fully or partly match that giving. For all updates and more information, one can visit www.hhrd.org or call Farrukh Raza, Chairman HHRD at 1-732-593-7017 and/or Shahid Hayat, Executive Director at 1-347-400-1899.

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Houstonian Corner V12-I3

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Bereavement for the Khan Family

We announce with immense pain and sorrow that Yasmeen Khan (Parro), wife of President of the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) Shaukat Khan and sister of former City of Houston Councilperson Masrur Javed Khan, passed away after bravely battling with cancer for almost two years. Her funeral prayers were held at Hamza Masjid.

A special program of prayers was held for her on Saturday, January 16th, 2010 at 12:30pm. at the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) Main Center located at 3110 East Side Street, Houston, Texas 77098. For more information, one can call 832-867-2522 / 713-398-4829.

Staff members and their families of our media institute would like to extend our heartiest condolences’ to the whole Khan Family, pray for the departed soul to enter into the highest paradise and that God gives strength to the whole family to bear this immense loss (Aameen).

Public Service Does Not Need Any Portfolio: M. J. Khan

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Friends of Former City of Houston District “F” Councilperson M. J. Khan arranged a dinner to recognize and appreciate the services rendered by termed-out Councilman. Special congressional recognition was given by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee on this occasion. Also present and who gave tremendous tributes to M. J. included Congressman AL Green, Former Mayor of Houston Bill White, City of Houston Councilperson District “A” Brenda Stardig; Harris County Judge Candidate Gordon Quan, Azam Akhtar; Ghulam Chisti; Ghulam Bombaywala, Ali Riza Candir (Turkish Community); Dr. Asaf Qadeer; Shamshad Wali; Haroon Shaikh; Dr. Yaqoob Sheikh; Attorney Nomi Hussain; Ahmad El-Yaseen; Mohammad Zaheer; Attorney Neiyyar Izfar; and others. Everyone said that people will soon see M. J. Khan at a high public service post.

M. J. Khan with heavy heart informed everybody that doctors have given up hope for his sister to recover from cancer, which she had been daringly fighting for 2 years and then proudly informed that God has given him a grandson Yousuf only two weeks ago. He said these are real life struggles and then joyous stories: Winning or losing elections have no meaning in front of the real life.

He said he never ever imagined that a stadium full of people like 70,000 would ever vote for him in his life. Masrur Khan informed about a saying of Gordon Quan: “A stadium full of people voted for me. But just as information, my opponent also got a stadium full of voters balloting in his favor.”

He said although he did not win City Controller Elections, it does not mean he has lost or he will sit on the sidelines. “One does not need a portfolio to serve fellow human being,” added M.J.

Talking generally to the Muslim Community, M. J. Khan said history is a proof that wherever Muslims went, they left beautiful legacy of human service and that is what the community needs to do in USA: We need to serve everyone without any discrimination.

M.J. mentioned about one internal challenge the Muslim Community is facing and that is the Youth in the community need good guidance and should not fall to misinformation of the extremists, who have capability of sending their message inside USA using various new technology and media. “Muslim Youth need to follow the middle path specified by God and His Messenger Mohammad and avoid any extremist inclinations. Allah SWT in Quran clearly has stipulated that if someone saves a life, it is as if he or she has saved the whole humanity; while if someone kills one innocent person, it is as if he or she has killed the whole humanity.”

At the same time, M. J. Khan mentioned that one of the biggest external challenges the Muslim Community has to face is the false propaganda of few that wrongly attribute violence with Islam. “If Muslim Community is openly involved in what Islam has asked us to do and that is we have to be at the forefront of the public service, we can take care of this tirade of propaganda. We may be students in schools & colleges; entrepreneurs; professionals; politicians; and so on: Our main task in life is to serve the humanity,” said M. J. Khan.

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(Former) Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Gaza

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sacramento– January 10th–(Ex-Representative) Cynthia McKinney spoke here at the Salam Center, a Community nucleus for the Islamic Community of the Greater Sacramento Area as part of a program put together by the new American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).  Before the speeches by Cynthia and Hatem Bazian (whose comments your journalist will report on in a future article), we ate a communal Halal dinner at the Center. 

McKinney is an Afro-American Person of the Book who served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives gaining the ire of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) for her strong support of the Islamic nations of Pakistan and Palestine. The two lobby organizations’ political “war chest” money and power cause her to lose her seat in a prominently Black District twice despite the fact she had served six terms in Congress. 

She has doubts facts about September 11th, 2001, also; so, she served on the Citizens Commission on 9/11.  After looking at the details of that day in New York City, she signed the 9/11 Truth Movement asking for new investigations on the unexplained aspects of that incident. 

While still in the Lower House, she presented Articles of Impeachment against former President Bush, Vice President Cheney and (then) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Further, Cynthia McKinney’s educational background and experience makes her solidly authoritative on foreign affairs.

During Tel Aviv’ attacks upon Gaza she attempted to enter the Strip with humanitarian supplies — twice unsuccessfully by sea and once successfully by land. 

On her first endeavor, the blockading Israeli Navy rammed her ship.  Mentioning that she was not a Palestinian, she asserted “That I [would] die is one of the [most] honorable [things] I could” do. 

On the second effort, McKinney found herself surrounded by Israeli War boats.  All the passengers and crew were “kidnapped” (captured), and imprisoned for ten days.  Cynthia was, additionally, banned from Israel for ten years – including the Occupied Territories (i.e., Palestine). 

After she was released from detention and deported, she received a call from the British Member of Parliament, George Galloway, who is the director of Viva Palestina which has entered Gaza with conveys of trucks containing relief supplies, called Ms. McKinney and asked her to come with his trucks across the Rafah crossing from Egypt into shattered Gaza.  The (prior) Congresswoman described that the horrible devastation of the diminutive State was over-powering, but, on the other hand,  she attested to the defiant spirit of the people.

“We have to resist” our (own) government (U.S.) “…like the Palestinians” the Israeli.  “Washington D.C. is ground Xerox,” too.  Describing her experience on the Coastal Strip, “I was the one whose spirit was uplifted…In my heart, I am a Palestinian!”

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Obama Moves to Boost U.S. Broadband Access

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By John Poirier

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration released details on Thursday of a $2 billion program in grants and loans to help dramatically expand Americans’ broadband Internet access and create tens of thousands of jobs.

The funds, to be released over the next 75 days, are among $7.2 billion set aside in President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic recovery package to bring broadband access to unserved or underserved U.S. communities.

Vice President Joe Biden, at an event in Dawsonville, Georgia, announced details of an initial $183 million investment in broadband projects in 17 states.

“New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country,” Biden said in a statement.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans have adopted broadband at home, while one-third have access but have not adopted it, and 4 percent say they have no access where they live, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Biden’s chief economist, Jared Bernstein, told reporters in a briefing the administration was unable to provide more precise figures on exactly how many jobs would be created, but White House officials said “tens of thousands of jobs” could be created in the near term.

The FCC held an open meeting on Wednesday to provide an update on its national broadband plan due to be submitted to Congress in February. FCC staff stopped short of making formal recommendations because they are still gathering data on which to base their final report.

‘PLATFORM FOR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY’

Officials said on Thursday that broadband expansion projects aimed to link communities to the “Internet backbone,” a network of large, high-bandwidth fiber-optic cables that span the country.

They said the grants and loans, being released by the departments of Commerce and Agriculture, would help expand broadband for education, healthcare and providing workers the flexibility to work from home.

“The community is part of the solution to the national broadband strategy,” said Craig Settles, president of broadband strategy consulting firm Successful.com.

With the rest of the U.S. economy stuck in the doldrums and shedding jobs, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said the technology sector has been going in the other direction.

“Because of its power to propel innovation, broadband can be our platform for economic prosperity,” Genachowski said in a December 1 speech on technology innovation.

Officials announced four different types of awards:

- $121.6 million to build and improve connections to communities lacking sufficient broadband access.
- $51.4 million to connect end users like homes, hospitals and schools to their community’s broadband infrastructure (the middle mile).
- $7.3 million to expand computer center capacity for public use in libraries, community colleges and other public venues.
- $2.4 million to fund innovative projects that promote broadband demand with population groups where the technology has traditionally been underutilized.

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Muslims, in Concert with Jews, Perform Acts of Kindness on Christmas Holiday

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adapted from an Associated Press article by TMO

Detroit–December 25–Many Jews consider Christmas Day an opportunity to serve their community while Christian neighbors celebrate their holiday. This year, what’s also known as Mitzvah Day in southeast Michigan is getting an added boost from Muslims.

For the first time, about 40 Muslims joined 900 Jews for what they call their largest annual day of volunteering. Leaders say it’s a small but significant step in defusing tensions and promoting good will between the religions — particularly on a day that is sacred to Christianity, the third Abrahamic faith.

Mitzvah Day, a nearly 20-year tradition in the Detroit area also practiced in other communities, is so named because Mitzvah means “commandment” in Hebrew and is colloquially translated as a good deed.

The new partnership stemmed from a recent meeting between members of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit — which said it was unaware of any similar Mitzvah Day alliances.

The Jewish groups organize Mitzvah Day, which consists of volunteers helping 48 local social service agencies with tasks such as feeding the hungry and delivering toys to children in need.

Victor Begg, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, said he was seeking a public way for the two faith communities to “build bridges of understanding and cooperation,” which led to joining the Mitzvah Day effort.

“These guys are really organized,” he explained to TMO, saying really there was no need for Muslim organizations to try to put together their own event when the event has already been sustained over a long period of time by the Jewish organizations.

“The general public is what we need to give the message to, our entire community,” he said.

Not only are most Muslims and Jews available to serve on Christmas Day, but leaders also recognized a shared commitment to community service. Charity in Judaism is known as “tzedakah.” Actually this Hebrew word is pronounced the same as sadaqa, which is an analogous Islamic term of doing charity.

“It’s an interesting parallel,” said Robert Cohen, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “Both of our faiths predispose us to engaging in this sort of thing.”

Muslim and Jewish volunteers will work together at the Gleaners Community Food Bank in Pontiac, about 25 miles north of Detroit.

“We felt it was a perfect activity for people to be getting together like this because you work side by side with one or two other people as you’re moving the boxes,” Cohen said. “The grass-roots connection builds relationships on a personal level.”

Cohen said the local bonds are important given global animosities. He said Muslims and Jews here “have serious differences about what happens in the Middle East,” but that shouldn’t be the only dynamic defining their relationship.

Begg added the two faiths can set an example in the Detroit area, which has historically large Jewish and Muslim populations.

“Whatever happens in the Middle East, we have no control over it,” Begg said. “But here, our kids go to the same school, we work together. … We need to focus on building an inclusive community.”

Mitzvah Day is planned months in advance, so the number of Muslim participants is modest to start, but both groups expect it will grow. Next year proves challenging for Jewish volunteers because Christmas falls on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

Details have yet to be worked out, though Cohen and others are considering moving Mitzvah Day. That would give Muslims the opportunity to try a solo run on Christmas, join Jewish groups on another day, or both.

Both Mr. Begg and Mitzvah Day organizers explained that next year it will be impossible for the Jewish organizations to do Mitzvah Day on Christmas Day because it falls on their Sabbath, Saturday, therefore 2010 might be an opportunity for CIOM and area mosques to do a similar event on their own.

The Muslim volunteers this year came mainly from two mosques, the Islamic Center of America, whose Eide Alawan has for decades been involved in community and interfaith outreach work, and Canton’s MCWS mosque, from which about 20 volunteers came.

“The bottom line is we really want to do it together,” Begg said.

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Muslims and Jews Volunteer Together in Southeast Michigan

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adapted by TMO Stringer from Press Release

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) is coordinating with Detroit’s Jewish community this holiday season in a “Mitzvah Day” of doing good deeds on December 25. 

Mitzvah Day, explains CIOM Chairman Ghalib Begg, is “very organized” so CIOM chose to join hands with the Jewish community rather than setting up a competing venture to do good works during Christmas. 

Mr. Begg explained to TMO that there has been a miraculous level of commitment by Muslims, explaining that already 50 Muslims have volunteered to participate, including 20 from the MCWS mosque and many from the Ford Road ICA in Dearborn as well.

Mitzvah Day is presented to the community by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. 

“Make someone happy” is the theme for Mitzvah Day 2009, where as many as 900 Jewish volunteers — joined for the first time with Muslim volunteers — are expected to take part in “mitzvahs” (good deeds), aiding 48 Detroit area social service agencies on Christmas Day.  Many grandparents, parents and children will volunteer together as families, in the spirit of giving back to the community.  This Mitzvah Day participants will also take part in a non-perishable food drive, bringing donations with them as they report to volunteer duty on December 25.  The event chairs are Micki Grossman and Stephanie Rosenbaum.

Volunteers will begin their day at the Jimmy Prentis Morris Jewish Community Center on the A. Alfred Taubman Campus, located at 15110 10 Mile Rd. in Oak Park.   Following a light breakfast and brief orientation, they will depart for their volunteer projects.  The teams will fan out to 74 pre-assigned volunteer sites throughout metro Detroit.  Project times vary, but they run between 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  Families with children, as well as teens, young adults and seniors, will donate a few hours of their time to participate in a variety of activities, including visits to older adults in nursing care facilities, preparing and serving holiday meals, and delivering toys and gifts to families in need.

For more information about Mitzvah Day, call the Jewish Community Relations Council, 248-642-5393. or Ghalib Begg at (586) 808-2864.

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Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Convention

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

With the twin scourges of Islamophobia and racism prevalent in the United States and with the media acting as an echo chamber, a great burden is placed on individuals and groups who seek to speak the truth about Islam and the nature of the crises that effect us domestically and internationally.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), created in 1988, is one such organization. MPAC was formed to work for the civil rights of Muslim Americans and to facilitate their entry into American pluralism. MPAC works at the national as well as the grassroots level and has won the trust and respect of the Muslim and non Muslim community. MPAC has become an information source for those seeking to understand Islam and seeking also to put current events in their proper perspective.

MPAC held its ninth annual convention in Long Beach, Ca. this past Saturday. The event brought a capacity audience to attend workshops and listen to speakers, expert in their fields, and who provided insight and education into topics taken from today’s headlines. The title of the convention was: “With Change come Challenges.”

After thought provoking and informative workshops, the event ended with a banquet featuring Congressman Andre Carson (D,IN), awards, and entertainment.

Among the presenters (but not limited to) were Dr. Maher Hathout, a retired physician celebrated in the Muslim and non Muslim community for his dedication to peace and human rights and for his interfaith work. Dr. Hathout is the MPAC Senior Advisor, an author, and a sought after speaker.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is the Editor-in Chief of The Muslim Observer, a weekly English language Muslim newspaper. He was recently elected vice president of the Muslim Council of America, a new organization which serves Muslims in the arena of policy and political affairs. Dr. Abdullah is active in Islamic affairs in Nevada which activity also includes being secretary of the Interfaith Council of Nevada.

Dr. Laila Al Marayati is a physician and the Chairperson of KinderUSA, an organization dedicated to the well being of children, focusing in particular on the children of Palestine. Dr. Al Marayati is also the spokesperson for the Muslim Women’s League, a Los Angeles group which seeks to strengthen the role of Muslim women.

Haris Tarin of MPAC is that group’s Community Development Director. Mr Tarin has traveled extensively and has spoken at various symposia on the topic of Islam and the Muslim community.

“Fort Hood: A Defining Moment” was the topic of an afternoon panel. Most of the audience spoke among themselves before the event began and indicated thoughtful interest in how the matter would be handled.

“I am so glad this is being discussed” said one young man to his companion.

“I know there is more than what the media say” said his companion.

When asked by panel moderator, Salaam Al Marayati, MPAC’s Executive Director, whether Muslims should respond to this event, Dr. Maher Hathout declared that Muslims should not be apologetic because of the deranged acts of one man who happened to be Muslim. He reminded his audience that Major Nidal Hasan shouted  “Allahu Akbar” before he began his killing spree.  He said that if he used those two words now, every non Muslim would run out of the room.Yet Muslims use the same two words forty two times a day during their prayers. It is wrong to tar Muslims with a broad brush as the media have been wont to do. Non Muslims, most of whom do not understand the phrase, and its meaning, “God is Greater”, automatically fear it. Muslims are an essential part of the solution to the problem of Muslim extremists. They are essential to the education of non Muslims about Islam and the only ones truly qualified to ascertain when there is extremism and to propose effective solutions.

Dr. Connie Rice, an attorney and activist and a second panel member, said that this incident indicates more than ever the essential role that MPAC and other moderate Muslim groups must play in partnering with law enforcement. This places a terrible burden on MPAC, she said,  but one which they will willingly and efficiently carry out. She seconded the presentation of Dr. Hathout in presenting the necessity for groups such as MPAC to educate the community about Islam and to partner with law enforcement.

After the panel MPAC received an award from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Dr. Maher Hathout accepted the award.

During a particularly timely panel on “”Rebuilding US-Muslim World Relations”, a State Department official, Jonathan Morgenstein of the Department of Defense, commented that in Iraq and Afghanistan American soldiers were interacting with the local population. Dr. Laila Al Marayati commented that it would be so much better if these men and women were doing so in the capacity of peace corps volunteers and not as occupiers.

A bazaar was held in the main room and featured booths representing different Islamic groups. These booths include (the list is incomplete): CAIR; Islamic Relief; the Muslim Women’s League; ACCESS; American Medical Overseas Relief (AMOR); the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) Youth Programs, and Al-Madinah School. AMOR is dedicated to helping the medically needy in the Middle East with emphasis on children in Afghanistan. It may be accessed at: <www.AMORelief.org>.  The Al-Madinah school in Los Angeles is currently engaged in building projects that will be in the heart of urban Los Angeles.

Those wishing to learn more about MPAC and/or to make a contribution may access it at: www.mpac.org.

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Ann Arbor ‘Eidul Adha

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kawther Mohammed, MCA Sisters Youth Co-ordinator

Ann Arbor–November 27–‘Eidul Adha 1430 in Ann Arbor was joyous and festive, with recitation of the special Eid takbeer projecting from the gym speakers, children running around in excitement, men and women frantically putting their shoes in plastic bags, and tables of food lined up against the walls in the hallways.

The Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor (MCA) succeeded once again with this year’s ‘Eid celebrations, having invested much time, effort, and money.

One of the primary reasons for holding such large events is to promote the sense of community among members, especially for children. Presenting ‘Eid as an event which bring smiles and happiness through gifts and games, will strengthen the sense of Islamic identity, leaving a lasting impression. With that in mind, the committee members started planning ‘Eidul-Adha prayers immediately after they finished celebrating ‘Eidul-Fitr prayers.

First they needed a facility which could accommodate 5,000 people indoors. At Pioneer High School, a familiar location to many members of the community, the MCA organized the celebration to the last detail. After renting the school’s facilities, brothers and sisters were conveniently designated to the gender-separate gymnasiums for prayer. Tarps were laid out for comfortable prayer.

A variety and abundance of food served on tables lined up in the hallways: Pakistani and Somali samoosa, cheese and zatar bread, chicken sandwiches as well as cheese and broccoli sandwiches added a taste of international food to the Eid prayer.

Muffins and soda, coffee, tea, water, and juices has been standard from the past. To top it all off, the children were able to enjoy cotton candy, popcorn and ice-cream bars. None of that would have been accomplished without the help of many volunteers from among youth and adults and without the cooperation of the staff of Pioneer High School.  Thanks to all who participated and planned the event!

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