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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Military Muslims: What Now?

November 12, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

2009-11-08T171028Z_192441419_GM1E5B902TX01_RTRMADP_3_TEXAS-SHOOTING When Major Nidal Hasan went on a murderous rampage in Ft. Hood, Texas, the entire nation snapped to rapt attention and said, “Here we go again.  Those crazy Muslims are at it again.”

Immediately after the story hit the airways the usual apologies from Muslim organizations and individuals started pouring in.  “We Muslims do not condone the actions of Major Hasan.  “This is not Islam.”  “Islam means peace,” etc etc etc.

I don’t mean to sound callous or uncaring about the grief being felt by the family and other loved ones of the slain.  Of course, we abhor the actions of any deranged person who without warning, and seemingly without any justification or provocation, takes innocent human lives.  This person was obviously not in a rational state of mind, and plainly his actions had absolutely nothing to do with his religion, or lack of it.  I believe the world knows this but the anti-Islamic fever sweeping the world, fed by the other media, will keep people’s rational thoughts from surfacing.

Some news accounts make reference to the Islamic signs that major Hasan had on some of his property.   The news media interviewed some people who made statements like “I heard him speaking Muslim talk.” (He could have been saying as-salaam-alaikum).  It is an obvious attempt to discredit anything with any ties to Islam.  And by making note of his artifacts, they are saying that having these things in his possession automatically makes him a dangerous “Islamic Radical.”

But actually it is no stranger than a Catholic crazy man having a rosary, or a Buddhist crazy man with his statue of Buddha, or a Jewish crazy man with copy of the Torah and a yarmulke on his head.  It does not matter what his religion is.  If you’re crazy, you’re just crazy.

But on the other hand there are numerous Muslim soldiers and veterans who have annual observances to mark Veterans Day in this country.  But for the most part, they are not reported.  I realize that good, positive events that enhance humanity are not as sensational as a shooting rampage by a crazy person. But they are nevertheless so very important because with the automatic sensational reporting of negative events getting all the attention, it takes extra effort to put some balance in the reporting.

For several months the Dawah Team at Masjid Wali Muhammad in Detroit, Michigan, under the leadership of the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, has been planning a salute to all veterans from any branch of service and any dates of service.  The event will be a luncheon held at Masjid Wali Muhammad from 11AM – 1PM.

Brother Lawrence Ziyad, a veteran of the Viet Nam war and one of the coordinators of the event, says the program will be one heavy with reverence for ALLAH, and patriotism for the United States government.  It will begin with prayer followed by the National Anthem and Lift Every Voice and Sing, popularly known as the Black National Anthem.  Also, as part of the opening and closing of the luncheon, they will salute the American flag.

These Muslim brothers, maybe more than many other people, are keenly aware of the ills of this country.  Most are descendants of slaves that suffered what is arguably the worst treatment of any human beings in the history of mankind.  Still they recognize the beauty and importance, and the privilege of being Americans, and are grateful for being so. This picture of Muslim patriotism is rarely seen in the media.

Another group, the Muslim American Veterans Association (MAVA) is a nationwide service organization comprised of former members of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.  The group is officially recognized by the United States government along with other veteran groups such as the veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legions, Polish American Veterans, Jewish Veterans, Italian Veterans and other Veteran organizations.  The Muslim-American group is made up primarily of Muslims of African American descent since most Muslims that immigrated here from other countries, came here past military age.  The group, comprised of five posts in various cities is headed by National Commander Saleem G. Abdul-Mateen.

What major media cared to report that the MAVA Commanders recently met on Capitol Hill in Washington to meet with Muslim American Congressman Andre Carson to present ways to help assist young veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  What media (other than the Muslim Observer) cared to report that the MAVA Post #1 received a community service award from CAMP (Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionalism for its untiring efforts in making life better for those who sacrificed and served this country unselfishly.

Congressman Carson was so impressed with the group that he invited them to establish a forum for dealing with veteran affairs and open up a dialogue for addressing these issues.  MAVA has already created programs to assist returning servicemen and women.  “Our aim is is to interact locally and nationally with organizations and institutions that have exhibited care and concern for these service members,” said member Saleem Abdul Mateen.

Another fine example of Muslim American patriotism is in the person of Chaplain Lt. Colonel Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad.  Chaplain Muhammad is another Muslim American in the community of Imam Warith Denn Mohammed.  I have personally watched his rise in the military and admired his character, and balanced approach to different situations.

These fine Muslims are just a few examples of the great majority of Muslims in this country.  They love their religion, they love their country, and they love being fine and caring representatives of both.

Let us remember the victims, and their families in our prayers.  And let us strive to be good Muslims and good Americans.  Ameen.   

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin