TMO Foundation Awards

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Celebrating Young Muslim Journalists’ Accomplishments

By TMO Staff

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TMO Foundation awardees who were able to attend the August Awards Banquet; l-r:  Noor Hani Salem, Ayesha Jamali, and Asra Najam.

Troy–August 7–Affluent Muslim students are sometimes pushed towards the field of medicine before they know what a career is, much less what they want. And while this profession brings honor to families and individuals, it leaves the community in need of talented and intelligent people in other fields.

Journalism is such a field, and the need for Muslim journalists was the focus of a banquet held by the TMO Foundation at the MET hotel in Troy on Sunday.

About 250 people attended the award ceremony, iftar and fundraiser, including among many other prominent community members, US Congressman Hansen Clarke (D-13-MI), Michigan legislator Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-12), the prominent journalist Gregg Krupa of the Detroit News, important members of the Muslim community, Dr. Jawad Shah and Dr. AbdalMajid Katranji.

The TMO Foundation is a not-for-profit, founded in 2009 by Dr. AS Nakadar, who also is the president and publisher of The Muslim Observer.  The TMO Foundation’s stated aim is to “serve American Muslims through research, scholarships, and journalism.”  Dr. Nakadar of the foundation explained that TMO awarded more than $10,000 in scholarships in 2010, and more in 2011, by means of scholarship essay competitions on subjects relating to the Muslim community in the United States and its need for journalists.

The banquet on Sunday had as MC Dr. Shahid Tahir, and the other speakers at the event included Dr. Saqib Nakadar, Mrs. Sadaf Ali, Dr. AS Nakadar, Dr. Muzammil Ahmed, Mr. Imran Ahmad, and the previously mentioned prominent community members.  Several of the night’s award-winners also spoke at the event.

The overarching theme from all of the speakers was that Muslims must speak out through journalism, to defend the Muslim community against the aggressive anti-Muslim rhetoric that spills from non-Muslims.

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Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks to the TMO Foundation audience Rep. Hansen Clarke and Dr. AS Nakadar address the banquet audience
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Rep. Hansen Clarke presents an award to Jumana Abusalah; Dr. Shahid Tahir is standing to the right. Detroit News reporter Gregg Krupa speaks to the banquet audience (Imam Aly Lela in foreground).

The evening began with recitation of Qur`an, specifically verses from Surat Imran including the verse to hold fast to the rope of God together.

Dr. Saqib Nakadar in his speech said that the publicity for Muslims has been bad recently, and that a part of the function of the TMO Foundation was to bring it back to good publicity again.

Dr. Shahid Tahir, the MC, also gave brief introductory remarks, including an admonition to encourage kids to go into areas other than medicine.

Mrs. Sadaf Ali, a PhD candidate at Wayne State University, introduced the TMO Foundation Writer’s Workshop program which she will head, and introduced the TMO Foundation internship program and Faiz Khan’s Voice of Pakistan internship program, and she announced the winners of the TMO Foundation essay contest.

Ayesha Jamali, the second place essay contest winner, spoke briefly, thanking the TMO Foundation and everyone who helped put the banquet together.

Aqeela Naqvi, the first place winner, sent a video explaining that we should “propagate the truth about Islam.”  She quoted the verse that Allah has made us nations and tribes from one man and one woman, and that we should know one another–Naqvi argued that therefore it would be our strength to embrace our diversity.

Gregg Krupa of the Detroit News was one of the keynote speakers at the event, and he gave a speech on the theme that Muslims must stand up and speak, not only on issues related to our countries of origin or to our religion, but in sports, or any other area we are interested in.

The central story of Mr. Krupa’s speech was a description of a visit he made to the New York Times after 9/11, where he walked down a huge corridor filled with tributes to that preeminent newspaper’s Pulitzer prize winners–at the end of that long corridor he met with the editorial staff of the paper and learned that to their knowledge, and to their consternation, there was not a single Muslim reporter at the paper.

Mr. Krupa emphasized that this fact spoke of a tremendous lack of knowledge about Islam and Muslims, 3 blocks from ground zero at the best newspaper in the country.

He spoke also of his own background working through the civil rights movement towards greater inclusion of African Americans.

Perhaps the most depressing part of Mr. Krupa’s speech was his brief mention of how he had become incapable of continuing as a religion reporter at the Detroit News because of the intolerance of his own editors regarding his writing, and their assigning minimal importance to his efforts to write about religious issues. 

Thus Mr. Krupa shifted to the sports department of the Detroit News.

He emphasized that other faiths before Muslims had to confront gross American prejudices in order to create a niche in this country. Mr. Krupa argued that “more parents will have to content themselves” with children who lower themselves to be journalists instead of doctors, and argued that what is needed in this country is real dialogue, and mutual acceptance.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib spoke at the event of her admiration that all of the winners were women, and emphasized that many non-Muslim journalists write nonsense about Islam, which is then picked up by other non-Muslim journalists who repeat it, and she emphasized the importance for non-Muslim journalists to reach out and talk to the other side.

Dr. Nakadar said that the first commandment of Allah, transmitted through the Angel Jibril (as) to Prophet (s) was “Iqra,” or read.  This is important for two reasons. First, this initial commandment of “iqra” began a 23 year period of revelation and in fact communication, the communication from Allah (swt) through the angel Gabriel (as) to Prophet Muhammad (s); second, the first word of the 23 year period of communication was a commandment to read—thus he argues that communication and iqra (education) are the two most important fundamental aspects of the beginning of Islam. Those who have understood the value of communication and education are flourishing today, while Muslims who have ignored these intial commandments have suffered.

Without a voice, Dr. Nakadar argued, there is no power in politics because political outcomes are predetermined by the tone of the news that reaches people before they vote, or before they act in politics.

“We need to create a new generation of journalists” to address national issues within the framework of Islam.

Dr. Jawad Shah gave another keynote speech, arguing that journalists must give deep thought to their articles before printing them, and that Muslim journalists if true to the ideal he advocated would be able to bring a level of profoundness to their reporting far beyond the superficial coverage he complained of from non-Muslim journalists.

Dr. Katranji followed this impressive list of speakers with an impassioned fundraising effort, which was very successful, gaining thousands of dollars to fund the TMO Foundation’s efforts through the next year.

Dr. Nakadar wanted to thank Mr. Ali Qureshi (New Mexico), Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed (Florida), Dr. M Amirana (Nevada), Mrs. Samia Mustafa (Virginia), Dr. Mazhar Malik (New York), and many others for their support and past contributions.

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CIOM Meeting with Gregg Krupa

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Speech by Gregg Krupa, Introduction by TMO Stringer

About 60 selected people were invited to a CIOM meeting this past weekend at the Westin Hotel, Southfield Michigan.  Fatima Salman presented CIOM’s recent activities.  Kassem Allie detailed CIOM’s and Islamic Center of America’s opposition to the recent unpatriotic activities of Terry Jones. Nauman Syed and Muzzamil Ahmed spoke of the importance of youth involvement and political education, Ghalib Begg gave an overview of CIOM’s activities.  Robert Bruttell spoke on community involvement, and about the importance of visibility, participation, organizationm, and social engagement.  Mr. Gregg Krupa, Detroit News Reporter and Michigan interfaith activist, was the main speaker; his speech follows this paragraph.

Gregg Krupa Speech:

To say we need each other now, more than ever, we people of faith, who know that our God requires us to accept all creation as sacred, including every being, regardless of differences or even trespasses, may simply be a matter of too much self-involvement.

Perhaps it is merely the task of every generation to welcome the other, and to follow the truth of each faith, regardless of where it leads, despite those who insist that only their way, their version of events, their human explanation of god, is correct. But, nonetheless, as these issues roil in our time, the difficulties are plain to see.

A good person is a bad person’s teacher. A bad person is a good person’s job.

This is true, today, whether one stands in Southfield, in Bahrain, in Pakistan, in Jerusalem, in Somalia, indeed, anywhere on the globe.

Those who work to increase understanding, to build community, to nurture cooperation, to make the peace, are called, in every epoch. But, clearly, we feel the need now.
It is what brings us, here, today. And it is the reason that the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan IS INTEGRAL to the development of the greater community in the state of Michigan.
Oh, mankind! I have created you of a male and female, and then rendered you nations and tribes so that you might know one another. Indeed, the most honorable among you is the one in the sight of Allah who is the most pious. Allah is Knower. Aware.

Will you do the work?

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan makes it easier. An active advocate, a trusted adviser, a vehicle for making straight the crooked path, the council’s work is of intrinsic value to those who seek understanding, inclusion, peace.

Gandhi said you really can not have a community without a journal of some kind, and in an era of disestablishment in the mass media, it is becoming harder to achieve.

I speak of intimate knowledge when I assure you that the Council positively impacts the media image of Muslims and of Islam in Metro Detroit. I have experienced it.

And that role is more important, day by day, as newspapers contract, as media become more diffuse and as the issues that divide us grow ever more exaggerated.

This spring, men and women of the books gathered at the Islamic Center of America to say no to evil. The assemblage said more about our faiths than that devil ever can. The council helped organize that awesome expression of one God.

A few weeks later, one of our local newspapers ran a letter to the editor in praise of Mr. Jones, that blasphemer, that bigot, that self-professed minister.

Would such a letter praising a sinner who advocated the burning of the Torah or the Bible ever have appeared in a journal of this community?

If it had, organizations representing Judaism and Christianity would have descended like a summer storm.

In crises, when a single message explaining the facts is essential to understanding, organizations like the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan perform an essential role. In every day life, when misunderstandings as common as the birds of the air threaten the community we seek to create for ourselves, our children and their descendants in our troubled state, organizations of truth and justice must step forth.

IF FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN IT IS OUR GOD’S WORK.

The council has done this and more. Its work must continue.

The attention of media waxes and wanes. Have you noticed? Sometimes the focus on a particular topic is so intense as to raise concerns about judgment. Sometime is so weak as to confirm the same concerns.

Sometimes, unless a person of integrity and curiosity about the other steps forward, a media outlet can not overcome institutional prejudices that have haunted it for decades.

That is why organizations like the Council are essential.

I know from 33 years of experience that no media outlet can be trusted to do the right thing without advocates representing diverse groups encouraging it, advocating it and sometimes demanding it. Sometimes it is a matter of a press release from a familiar organization bearing an announcement. Sometime it is an explanation.

Occasionally, it is a succinct suggestion that all children of God be respected.

As a reporter, if you were to seek to ask questions about Israel, or sometime even Judaism, of a Jew in Metro Detroit, one is often told, “You need to talk to the Jewish Community Relations Council.” Sometimes, someone will saiy “If you talk to the Jewish Community Relations Council, first, then I will talk to you.”

Helen Thomas calls it control. Robert Cohen calls it advocacy. I call it a firm intention to explain with one voice, and to marshal the power of a community when the voice is misrepresented or unheard.
When Irish and Italians Catholics moved to the United States and sought acceptance, freedom and justice, their advocates included the Knights of Columbus. My fractious Polish ancestors organized the Polish National Alliance and similar groups.

Who advocates for you? Who explains your truth? Who works toward your justice? Who creates your peace? Who tells your story?

Do you intend to proceed alone in this well-intentioned nation with its long record of falling short of its best intentions and its tendency to let the bad men act and speak for all?

I would advise against it.

It often takes a group to make a point. In fact, let us be honest, unfortunately, in our nation, it occasionally takes a riot.

But, as people of God, I would advise that we stick to the group.

When Victor Ghalib Begg calls The Detroit News and says, “I need to speak to Jon Wolman, the publisher and editor,” or, even asks, as I hope he does with great frequency and determination, “May I speak to Nolan Finley, or to the person who was in charge of the letters to the editor yesterday,” or “I would like to discuss with someone what Frank Beckman wrote today,” he is known, as is the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, as someone, and as a group of importance to metropolitan area and to the state, at large.

This organization is a balancer of opinion, an explainer of truth, a maker of peace an instrument of justice and a representative of my God, second-generation Polish American Catholic though I may be.
But these, the best of intentions, the most vigorous of efforts, must not be allowed to wither on the vine. They must be nurtured. We must give them sustenance.

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan must, in due time, make the transition from the best of intentions and an honest effort to an institution.

It, or something very much like it must take the place along side all of the easily recognized, traditional institutions of religious representation, explanation and advocacy of Christianity, or Judaism and of other faiths which inform our American culture and which correct our ways.

Without an organization like this in Metro Detroit and the State of Michigan, the explanation of our common humanity will be far less thorough, far less informed, far more wanting, far more open to the suggestion of bad people, far less inclusive of the divine instruction to all of us, that we become known to one another.

A salaam aleikum.

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