Reshmaan Hussam, Soros Fellowship Recipient

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

6A12 This is the fourth installment of our series of profiles of Muslim recipients of Paul and Daisy Fellowships.

Reshmaan Hussam  is the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants to this country.  She was born in Virginia and graduated from MIT as a Burchard Scholar (a member of the Institute’s interdisciplinary honors program) in 2009 with a major in economics. She has undertaken empirical and interview-based research on such subjects as teenage pregnancy, dowries and independence of women in financial decisions, and the effects of patriarchy on the implementation of micro-credit.  She has also taken leadership roles in MIT’s interfaith dialogue group and the MIT Muslim Students Association.  She served as a youth columnist for America’s Muslim Family Magazine and an editor of a Cambridge-wide journal on Islam and society, Ascent Magazine. Beginning in the Fall of 2010, she will pursue a PhD in developmental economics.

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Community News (V12-I16)

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Taskeen Khan wins first place in writing contest

taskeen-khan CHICAGO, IL–Taskeen Khan,a sixth grader from Hadley Junior High in Glen Ellyn , has won the first place in Expository Category in a national writing context held by the Writing Conference, Inc.

Her entry, Courage, tells the story of woman named Ahlam who came to the U.S. because of persecution in her home country. Taskeen recounts Ahlam courage in speaking out, building a new life for herself, and helping others to do the same.

Taskeen has been invited to the National Awards Ceremony in Kansas, where the winning pieces will be acted out by high school students. Her piece will also be published in the Writers Slate, an online journal.

Zahir Dossa, Soros Fellowship Recipient

zahir-dossa This is the fourth installment of our series of profiles of Muslim recipients of Paul and Daisy Fellowships

Zahir Dossa was born in Canada before moving to Texas to parents of Indian heritage who had settled in, and then fled during the socialist regime from, Tanzania.  Zahir gained admission to MIT, where he and a fellow student founded an organization to distribute low-tech but very inexpensive irrigation pumps to low-income farmers in Sudan.  Their efforts were featured in an article in Popular Mechanics and a report on BBC World Radio.

Their organization has received various awards, including the $10,000 Davis Peace Prize.  Funded as an undergraduate by the Gates Foundation, Zahir graduated with majors in electrical engineering and computer science along with management.  He has remained at MIT, where he is now pursuing both a MEng in electrical engineering and a PhD in urban studies.   Continuing with his interest in international development, he has created a curriculum for practitioners and is working to create a minor in international development at MIT.

Students at NJIT call for bringing back halal menu

NEWARK, NJ–Muslim students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology are calling on the administration to bring back the halal menu in campus cafetaria.

The “Halal Grill”  in the cafeteria has been facing shortages in supplies since last year and has been completely taken out this semester.

In a letter to the student newspaper a Muslim student wrote, “We are a campus from countless walks of life, it is important to accommodate these groups and not marginalize them. I ask that Gourmet Dining Services either provides Halal food, or update its website – the Grill no longer offers a wide variety of Halal items.”

Calgary Halal food bank grows

CALGARY,Canada–Muslim Families Network Society, a Calgary based non-profit organization, started its Halal food bank as a community outreach program in 2004 with a mission to relieve poverty.

With food bank 24/7 services, MFNS also provides bi-annual city-wide food, meat and clothes distributions; once at Easter time and in the month of Ramadan.

Needs are fulfilled according to family size with food, halal meat, clothes, toys, books and food gift cards. MFNS has made it easier for people in need to buy the food according to their dietary specifications.

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Community News (V12-I14)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shah R. Ali Receives Soros Fellowship

679E This is a second in our continuing series on profiles of young Muslim American achievers who are recipients of 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. 

Shah R. Ali came to the USA  from Pakistan at the age of 10. He quickly adapted to life in New Jersey and excelled in math and science: he spent two summers doing research in chemistry at New York University. He graduated summa cum laude in three years from the Honors College at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, where he spent additional years on a nanotechnology project to detect dopamine for potential diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. His work led to several first- and second-author publications in Journal of the American Chemical Society and Analytical Chemistry, among others.

Now 25, and a second-year medical student at Stanford University, Shah is working in the lab of Irving Weissman, where he is studying cardiogenesis using embryonic stem cells. He has recently become interested in neglected tropical diseases: in addition to helping organize a conference at Stanford Law School on access and drug development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), he is leading the Stanford chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and a related lecture series. He has also interned at the Institute for OneWorld Health. He hopes to dedicate his career to drug development for NTDs.

St. Cloud rally in support of Muslim students

ST.CLOUD,MN–A rally was held on Monday in support of Muslim students who attend St.Cloud schools. About thirty people showed up.

The St. Cloud Times reported on Monday that the group claimed that school staff members are not doing enough to keep Muslim students from being harassed and sometimes contribute to it.

The rally crowd Monday was mostly adults. They chanted and held signs that said “Discrimination is intolerable” or “St. Cloud school district must integrate” among other things.

Superintendent Steve Jordahl says the staff responds appropriately to each complaint and denies that staff members aren’t doing enough to stop harassment of Muslim students.

A Muslim civil rights group in Minnesota has called for a federal probe of harassment complaints at two St. Cloud schools.

Kamran Pasha speaks at Islam Awareness Week

BOSTON, MA–Boston University’s Islam Society celebrated the second day of Islam Awareness Week Hollywood- style.

Screenwriter, director and writer Kamran Pasha detailed his experiences and challenges as one of the first Muslim-Americans in the film and publishing industries at the Islam Society’s “Lights, Camera, Islam! The Story of a Muslim in Hollywood,” the Daily Free Press reported.

He encouraged the audience to pursue diverse careers which can be fulfilling.

College of Arts and Sciences junior and Islamic Society President Hassan Awaisi said he really appreciated that Pasha encouraged members of the Muslim community to pursue fields that are viewed by Muslim society as “unconventional” and insecure.

“He encouraged everyone to see they can be a devout and practicing Muslim by using their talents to serve God through arts, film and music,” he said. “By sharing personal stories, Pasha allowed people to identify with him and revealed issues many Muslims are dealing with such as inferiority and modernization.”

New mosque opens in Highland

HIGHLAND, IN–The Illiana Islamic Association opened a new 24,000 square foot facility in Highland. The Muslim community now comprises of around 150 families. They earlier used to rent places for worship.

Iman Mongy Elquesny, of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center in Merrilville, reminded the congregation that with the new facility also comes responsibility.

“Don’t think you’re done now,” he said, smiling. “Today is the beginning because today, you have exposed yourself. You’ll be asked to visit places and have people visit you.”

The leadership of the mosque thanked the township for their cooperation in securing the facility.

Muslim Students Bring Food, Conversation to Florida Homeless

By Imran Siddiqui, Voice of America

In the southern U.S. state of Florida, a group of American Muslim students is running a non-profit organization called Project Downtown.  The project’s goal is to help the poor, poor people of all backgrounds and cultures.  Our correspondent went down to the city of Tampa, Florida to learn more about Project Downtown and the Muslim students who belong to it.

Like just about any major city in the United States, the city of Tampa has its share of homeless people.  But it also has people who are reaching out to help Tampa’s homeless. 

“We are here because, in Islam, we are supposed to feed the hungry,” said one of the students. “So that’s our purpose here.  That’s all.”

The students belong to Project Downtown, an organization that started about two years ago in Miami and now has branches other U.S. cities.  The Tampa members of Project Downtown say what motivated them was seeing people in need.

“Project Downtown was started by a couple of groups and a couple of university students back in Miami, and people have been gathering money after seeing a problem in the community, went out and bought sandwiches,” said another student. “They went to the local city hall and started feeding.”

The city of Tampa has almost 350,000 people.  It is estimated that about 11,000 of these are homeless.  That’s about three percent of the population.  For the students of Project Downtown, the religion of the people they are helping does not matter.  What matters is that they are in need.  Jill Moreida is a member of Project Downturn.

“We come up to them,” said Jill Moreida. “We don’t just give them food and walk away.  We don’t feed them like they’re at the zoo.  We make friends with them; we talk with them.  We interact with them.  Week after week after week.  And we know stories about their family.  We know when they’re sick.  We get to develop relationships with them.”

“Oh, we wait for them!  We wait!  You see, we waited in the rain,” said a homeless man. “We got caught in the rain!   We feel beautiful with them coming.”

As the relationships develop, Jill says, the homeless gain a new understanding of Islam.

“They say they cannot believe how amazing the Muslims are,” said Moreida. “And it’s acts like that, that not only are we serving…we do it for the sake of Allah, when we’re feeding them.  But there’s a bigger message being brought, and it’s exposing a whole new realm of people to Islam.  Teaching them to not be afraid of us, to not have that stereotype that we’re going to hurt them or anything.”

Project Downtown is one of several outreach efforts sponsored by the Muslim community of Florida.  Its funding comes from other Muslim groups in the state, including the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance.  Dr. Hussein Nagamiya, a cardiologist, is head of the alliance.

“Our main idea is to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to address their needs, because these are homeless people, and they don’t have anywhere to go,” said Hussein Nagamiya. “So, we give them conveyances such as bicycles that were given away.  We conduct their [medical] tests.  Some of them may never have a test in the entire year.  We detect diseases for them and send them on to free clinics, etc.” 

In addition to helping the poor and teaching people about Islam, organizations like Project Downtown and the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance hope to achieve another goal: Showing their fellow Americans that, in the words of Dr. Nagamiya, the vast majority of American Muslims are good citizens who make positive contributions to the United States.  (Courtesy: Voice of America)

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Community News (V12-I12)

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Seven Muslims Awarded Soros New American Fellowships for 2010

Soros fellowship There are seven Muslims among thirty awarded of the Soros New American Fellowships for 2010. The awards are granted to high achieveing immigrants or children of immigrants in the United States. The fellowships are funded by income from a $75 million charitable trust created by philanthropists Paul and Daisy Soros, of New York City and New Canaan, Conn. Since its founding, more than $33 million has been spent to support graduate education of immigrants and the children of immigrants.

The Muslim Observer will be publishing the profiles of Muslims each week beginning this issue.

ABDULRASHEED ALABI is the son of supportive Nigerian parents who were seeking advanced degrees in the United States.  He is now pursuing MD and neuroscience PhD degrees at Stanford Medical School.  AbdulRasheed grew up in Nigeria but then returned to the United States to complete an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University where he was, and remains at Stanford, an active member of the Muslim community amongst other activities.  Balancing complex personal and financial responsibilities, he soon made his mark as a young researcher, a student leader, and a civic volunteer.

For three summers, he conducted biomedical research with Dr. Emery Brown at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital culminating in a co-authored article in the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology.  As an Undergraduate Scholar at the National Institutes of Health, he worked with Dr. Kenton Swartz on electrical signaling proteins in the nervous system, research that netted him a first-author article in Nature.  At Stanford he has been leader of the Student National Medical Association and the annual SUMMA (Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance) conference—where over 500 young people are encouraged to consider science and medicine. AbdulRasheed plans on a career as a physician-scientist-public advocate intent on innovative basic science for diagnostic, therapeutic and preventative applications. He also has a defined interest in international scientific exchange for biomedical development and enhanced educational opportunities in Africa.

Jewish students tour Islamic center

HAMPTON,VA–Far from the conflicts a world away efforts are being made in Virginia to bridge the misunderstandings between Muslims and Jews. On a recent Sunday, students from Beth El Temple in Williamsburg visited the Mosque and Islamic Center of Hampton Roads for an educational tour. The two dozen students, their parents and teachers, and their Rabii were given an introductory talk about Islam and the Muslim faith.

The reactions by the grown ups and the children were positive. Rebecca Feltman, 10, was struck by the egalitarian nature of Islam. “I didn’t know Islam was such a popular religion,” she said. “I like that it’s open to different races. I didn’t know that they [Judaism, Christianity, Islam] were so alike.” Esther Shivers, attending with her daughter Erin, 8, was also impressed by the similarities between the religions. “They’re burdened with that terrorism. They have a lot of damage control to do,” she said. “All religions have extremists. We have more in common. It’s wonderful that they open their facility and educate the children.”

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