Zaytuna Fundraiser at Bloomfield’s Muslim Unity Center

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

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Bloomfield Hills–September 25–A new era has begun, quietly, in the past year, as the first Muslim university has begun its work on the West coast of the United States.

Zaytuna is important because traditional religious education in a legitimate format in the United States has thus far not been available.  The best way to achieve a religious education has been to travel outside of the United States to Muslim nations, and in fact many have done that, including some of those who now contribute to Zaytuna, such as Imam Zaid Shakir.

While there are other Muslim universities, Zaytuna is at a level above them in part because of its adherence to traditional Islamic knowledge, in part because of its cherishing of high quality in instruction, students, and in the manner of the running of the institution, and in part because of the quality of its relations with major American universities.  For example, Zaytuna students now carry UC Berkeley library cards because their university has a relationship with that prestigious university.

Zaytuna also maintains relations with the Graduate Theological Union, Princeton University, Imagine America, and the University Consortium (Claremont College).
The university is based in Berkeley California, and now provides a full bachelor’s program leading to a degree.  The first class of students matriculated during the last school year.
In support of Zaytuna’s effort to build into the future, it conducted a fundraiser at the Muslim Unity Center Sunday.

The fundraising banquet was attended by several hundred guests, who were provided a very good introduction to the activities of Zaytuna over the past year. 

Zaytuna has a full time staff of professors for its student population of 186, supplemented by frequent visits from prestigious professors.  Every week the university invites speakers, many of them Muslim and many of them the preeminent voices in their fields.

Of the 186 students at Zaytuna, 23 are from Michigan–105 are women, 84 are men.  The population is very diverse, which accurately reflects the demographics in this nation, with African American, Arab, Hispanic and South Asian populations all well  represented.

The 186 students came to Zaytuna with an average GPA of 3.6. 

A Zaytuna professor and spokesman explained that while Muslims may fear to send their students to Zaytuna because they might not build the careers there that their parents want for them, in fact such students will be the future leaders of the community, in education, business, graduate study, nonprofits, and in the professions of law and medicine, not to mention public service and community service.

He cited the need of American not-for-profits for Zaytuna’s graduates.  ISNA, CAIR, and the many other Muslim insitutions need people knowledgeable in Islam and well connected within the Muslim community to grow and develop our community. 

The professor cited the urgent need for education among all people, saying that the cost of education is absolutely minimal compared with the cost and opportunity cost of caring for people who for example in the worst case end up as inmates in prison.

“Our graduates are ready to be successful in the next world first, but also in this world.”

The students also endorse the university enthusiastically.  One student traveled from Ohio to Michigan, interrupting her studies for the LSAT to drive several hours to Michigan; she gushed at length about her gratitude to Zaytuna for what it had given her.

“This project is for all of us, not just California,” explained one of the professors at the Bloomfield event.

Zaytuna in fact is extremely cheap relative to other universities.  Tuition is only $11,000 per student per year, with generous financial aid available.  “Lack of funds will never prevent you from study at Zaytuna,” said the professor.

Compare this $11,000 tuition with the $52,000 per year for tuition alone (not room and board) at Stanford University.

Many if not most universities and colleges in the United States were started as religious institutions.  Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Earlham, Haverford, Cornell, Swarthmore, Johns Hopkins, all started as religious institutions. 

In fact the building of universities reflected the broader trend that each community engaged in by building houses of worship, business communities, and hospitals.

Imam Zaid Shakir spoke at length at the event, emphasizing our familial relationship with one another, saying “believers are like bricks in a wall, they strengthen one another.”

“This institution is a source of pride in our community.”  He emphasized the importance of getting in on the possibility of donating now, at the ground floor, while the institution must still be hammered out of the metaphorical jungle.

We all as Muslims hope that there will be even better and even more prestitious universities built by our community in future years, but for now at least we can take pride in having one.

The event ended with a very effective fundraising effort which collected approximately $200,000 in donations and pledges–as this fundraiser reflects only a single episode in a broader nationwide fundraising campaign, we can expect that the fundraising effort will collect millions in only a short time–a worthy effort to support a traditional moderate Islamic institution.

The inaugural class at Zaytuna began in 2010, and expects to graduate in 2014.  The second school year began in 2011.  Zaytuna hopes to have bought its own campus by 2014 (currently it rents space for classes).

The university has deep funding needs; it will need tens of millions of dollars to establish self-sustaining faculty chairs, funding for scholarships and study materisals, and an annual fund.

Perhaps the most moving aspect of the fundraiser was the speech by an older doctor in the audience who came from Syria to the United States; he studied and worked to become a doctor, but while in Syria he had helped to physically build an institution which was to be a school for Muslims to attend from around the world, to learn about the traditional knowledge of Islam.  He would come home dirty from head to toe, to scoldings for being dirty.  “We were volunteers to move tiles, bricks.”

Little did he know that 20 years later a man we now know as Zaid Shakir would attend classes inside the very walls he helped to build with his hands; “20 years after that I met him.”

“Don’t underestimate what you do at any stage of your life.  I believe this is one of the best things I have done in my life.”

http://www.zaytuna.org/give/

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I19)

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Picture AAF
South Asian Chamber of Commerce Organized Higher Education Seminar…

Salute to South Asian Chamber of Commerce for Organizing Higher Education Seminar

The South Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) organizes every week (Free) Chai Exchange Programs, where over a cup of tea and some refreshments in a relaxed environment, topics relevant to the business community of the South Asian are discussed. This past Wednesday’s Chai Exchange at Westin Oaks Galleria “Roof” (top floor) was quite innovative and unique and for that all the members of Board of Directors and Executive Committee need to be highly applauded.

One important thing almost all South Asians have is zeal to provide good opportunities of education to their children. If you ask an Asian Businessperson why he is involved in commerce, one of his answers will be for his children higher level learning. Keeping this in mind, SACC organized a Seminar on Education during the past Chai Exchange event.

Idea was to help parents within the community to navigate educational opportunities for all ages. Senior officials from Higher Education institutions were present like:  Awty International School (Erika Benavente); HISD Magnet School Programs (Dr. David Simmons); Rice University (Amy Longfield); University of Houston (Linda Patlan); UT Medical School (Nancy Murphy); UT Dental School (Phil Pierpont, DDS); and South Texas College of Law (Bruce McGovern).

Houston Public Library was there for people to sign you up for a library card. Test Masters and Sylvan were present there to explain how they can assist in preparation of college and graduate school entrance exams, as well as enhance writing, reading, math and other such skills. Also present were members of the joint project called “Hearts” of the Memorial Hermann Hospital and University of Texas Medical School at Houston, where they study about various heart ailments and their cures.

Jeffrey Wallace, Executive Director of SACC started the meeting. Introducing the theme of the evening, immediate past President Mustafa Tameez informed about the various topics of the evening, which included the Competitive Edges that can help get child into Ivy League Undergraduate, Top Tier Law and Medical School. Dr. Asif Ali asked various questions which attendees wrote on cards, while Asif Dakari conveyed the vote of thanks & gave recognition certificates all the speakers.

The esteemed panel answering pre-prepared question of Mustafa Tameez and Dr. Asif Ali’s questions of the participants of the seminar, generally informed that a qualified students needs to have a good balance of high academic achievement; good effort to participate in some positive & healthy extra-curricular activities; good references from someone under whom student had done some shadowing volunteer work; and a well written essay telling from the heart why the student pursuing any particular field of study and reflecting the true character of the student. They emphasized that the essay the student should write should be reviewed by three to five persons for suggestions. Also they informed that students, who plan to stay on campus away from home in other cities, should know about themselves very well; meaning they should know how they are feeling, if stressed, can they control to be not over stressed, etc. All of them said competition is going up and for instance University of Houston is soon going t tighten its standard by needing higher scores in SAT and so on.

Events sponsors included Aisha Zakaria of Lone Star Petroleum; Dr. Shahina Ali, MD of Baytown Family Practice; Gayatri Parikh of Testmasters; while Exhibitors included Zaira Ali of Sylvan Learning Centers; Marcia Chapman of Central C.O.R.E. Service, Houston Public Library; Shami Gill of World Languages Center; and  Gayatri Parikh of Testmasters.

For details on future Chai Exchange Programs (free) and membership to this most active community organization, please call 832-660-2952 or E-Mail Jeffrey Wallace, Executive Director of SACC at  Jeff@SACCHouston.Com

About South Asian Chamber of Commerce Mission

The South Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) is a non-profit organization with the mission of providing leadership that will help create regional economic prosperity and success for its members, primarily in Houston.

The Chamber’s mission has expanded to include supporting the business relationships between South Asian entrepreneurs and professionals with the broader Houston community, and to close the cultural gap by promoting the best use of talent and capital within the communities.

The Chamber was founded in 1994, by and with the dedicated patronage of multinational entrepreneurs and professionals, representing the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Today, the SACC is comprised of members of South Asian-American heritage which include professionals and entrepreneurs from small to mid-sized businesses to large multinational corporations partnering with those in the broader local community interested in fostering relationships with South Asian-American businesses and professional enterprises.

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Thousands Take to the Streets to Demand: U.S. out of Afghanistan and Iraq now…

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

On Saturday, thousands of people converged at the White House for the March 20 March on Washington—the largest anti-war demonstration since the announcement of the escalation of the Afghanistan war. By the time the march started at 2 p.m., the crowd had swelled up to 10,000 protesters.

Transportation to Washington, D.C., was organized from over 50 cities in 20 states. Demonstrators rallied and marched shoulder to shoulder to demand “U.S. Out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now,” “Free Palestine,” “Reparations for Haiti” and “No sanctions against Iran” as well as “Money for jobs, education and health care!”

Speakers at the Washington rally represented a broad cross section of the anti-war movement, including veterans and military families, labor, youth and students, immigrant right groups, and the Muslim and Arab American community.

Following the rally, a militant march led by veterans, active-duty service members and military families made its way through the streets of D.C. carrying coffins draped in Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, Somali, Yemeni, Haitian and U.S. flags, among those of other countries, as a symbol of the human cost of war and occupation. Coffins were dropped off along the way at Halliburton, the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and other institutions connected to the war profiteering, propaganda, and human suffering. The final coffin drop-off was at the White House—the decision-making center of U.S. imperialism.

The demonstration received substantial media coverage. It was featured in a major story on page A3 on the Sunday Washington Post (click here to read it). An Associated Press article on the March on Washington was picked up by a large number of newspapers and media outlets in the United States and abroad.

Joint demonstrations in San Francisco and Los Angeles drew 5,000 protesters each.

In San Francisco, the demonstration included the participation of UNITE HERE Local 2 hotel workers, who are presently fighting for a contract; students, teachers and parents who have been organizing against education budget cutbacks; and community members and activists who have been engaged in a struggle to stop fare hikes and service cuts.

In Los Angeles, demonstrators marched through the streets of Hollywood carrying not only coffins but also large tombstones that read “R.I.P. Health care / Jobs / Public Education / Housing,” to draw attention to the economic war being waged against working-class people at home in order to fund the wars abroad. Essential social services are being slashed to pay for the largest defense budget in history.

The March 20 demonstrations mark a new phase for the anti-war movement. A new layer of activists joined these actions in large numbers, including numerous youth and students from multinational, working-class communities. A sharp connection was drawn between the wars abroad and the war against working people at home. Though smaller than the demonstrations of 2007, this mobilization was larger than the demonstration last year—the first major anti-war action under the Obama administration. The real-life experience of the past year has shown that what we need is not a change in the presidency, but a change in the system that thrives on war, militarism and profits.

These demonstrations were a success thanks to the committed work of thousands of organizers and volunteers around the country. They raised funds, spread the word through posters and flyers, organized buses and other transportation, and carried out all the work that was needed on the day of the demonstration. We took to the streets in force even as the government tried to silence us with tens of thousands of dollars in illegal fines for postering in Washington, D.C., and felony charges against activists for postering in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

We want to especially thank all those who made generous donations for this mobilization. Without those contributions, we could not have carried out this work.
March 20 was an important step forward for the anti-war movement. We must continue to build on this momentum in the months ahead. Your donation will help us recover much-needed funds that helped pay for this weekend’s successful demonstration, as well as prepare for the actions to come.

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Nigerians Parents Fear for Students Studying Abroad

January 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media, Commentary, Olugu Ukpai

My dear God, has it now become a crime to be a Nigerian? The headlines tell me so over and over again. Mutallab: Man Who Shamed Nigeria. Mutallab: The Nigerian Agent of Al Qaeda. The Boy Who Blew Nigeria’s Image.

Umar Faruq Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner has just landed Nigeria, my country of birth, on the list of 14 nations whose nationals are going to be singled out for special checks if they want to fly to the United States. Nigeria has become a uniquely insecure travel terrorism hub, they say.

But Abdulmutallab never studied in Nigeria. He did not have “terror connections” in Nigeria. Instead his initiation into terror clubs happened abroad in the countries where he was sent to study to become a better person.

Abdulmutallab went to a British high school in Togo. He studied in Dubai, Yemen and Egypt. Above all, he studied mechanical engineering at University College, London, one of the oldest in England. It makes me wonder how Nigerian parents who have sent their children to study abroad, and those children studying abroad, are looking at the story of “the boy who blew Nigeria’s image.”

I, too like Abdulmutallab, am a Nigerian student studying in the United Kingdom. I can understand the concerns of Nigerian parents like mine who sent their children abroad in hopes for a better education – a Western style education. Now there is a deep concern among the same parents, especially those at home who are skeptical of the kind of “cults” their children are being exposed to abroad in the name of acquiring “the white man’s” education. A study by the University of Notre Dame in 2009 found that parents tended to know only 10 percent of what their children were doing abroad.

Foreign education is no longer a safe haven. On the other hand fearful parents cannot bring their children back home either. After all, American media reports paint Nigeria as a hotbed of Al Qaeda terror. When I come back to the U.K. after Christmas break I do not know what will befall me. Will I be treated as a terror suspect because I am Nigerian? Will the U.K. government just wash its hands off me while it pockets my high tuition?

Nigerian parents and students worry whether the U.K. government is living up to its promises to protect the students in its charge. Has it allowed terrorist groups to penetrate its universities so that unsuspecting students can fall prey to their wiles? Already there is a systemic breakdown of security in U.K. institutions of higher learning. A King’s College, London report says more and more women are reporting rapes. Nigerian parents worry about their children abroad.

Instead of demonizing Nigeria, the international press and the world at large should be honoring and celebrating the alleged terror suspect’s 70-year-old father, who set aside blood bonds to report his son’s newfound religious extremism to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria. I contend that he deserves a Global Citizen Award, and Nigeria should honor him with a National Merit Award. He is an exemplary Nigerian whose act of integrity should be rewarded and recognized. This might help fight terrorism by encouraging others who might have similar useful information.

Instead of ganging up on Nigeria, world powers would do well to review security policies to better protect the lives of international students. Our parents sell their pound of flesh to provide a brighter future for us. No parent would ever dream their “well-behaved and humble” child — as many have described Abdulmutallab — would turn into a terrorist and end up in Guantanamo Bay, all in the name of acquiring the “white man’s” education.

Olugu Ukpai is a Ph.D student at School of Law at the University of Reading, U.K. He can be reached at oluukpaiolu@yahoo.com.

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Skilled Labor?

October 22, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service Middle East correspondent (MMNS)

hand-holding-diploma The economic boom and unprecedented growth of the Middle East over the past several years has made it a lucrative venue for employment seekers. Barely scathed by the global economic turndown, that has brought the rest of the world to its’ knees, most Middle Eastern countries continue to ride a wave of economic independence and expansion.

As a result of the sheer speed of growth, an increased demand for skilled workers has evolved. Doctors, nurses, teachers, IT professionals, architects and engineers are just a few of the careers that are in high demand in the Middle East region. However, not everyone seeking a job has the proper credentials and, unfortunately, many people who have already acquired high paying jobs in specialized fields have done so with fake university degrees.

Within the past few months, the extensive reliance of unqualified persons utilizing the services of fake degree mills has come to light. The Spokesman newspaper in Washington State recently published a list of more than 10,000 names of people who have already purchased fake university degrees or were in the process of doing so. The majority of persons on the list were Arab Americans who now face possible criminal charges from the US Department of Justice.

What is most surprising is that the majority of the wealthier Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait, the UAE and Bahrain offer free university education for their nationals. So, it is not necessarily a matter of someone being denied access to higher education but actually it is often about someone lacking the initiative to attend university for the required number of years to earn full accreditation.

With the problem in the international spotlight, some Middle Eastern countries are taking swift action to punish anyone attempting to utilize a bogus university degree to get employment. The United Arab Emirates has launched a stellar campaign to crackdown on anyone currently employed or seeking employment by presenting a fake university degree. Violators face a lifetime ban from working or even entering the UAE and face up to 24 years in prison. In the State of Kuwait, the Public prosecution has received several complaints from employers regarding job seekers presenting phony academic certificates. Most recently, this past week, 19 potential teachers were ordered held for prosecution as their educational certification was proven to be counterfeit by the Ministry of Education.

Obtaining a fake university degree is not difficult. A short trip to Southeast Asia or even Hungary can help someone achieve a PHD or CPA without spending a lot of time or money in school and for a fraction of the cost of a long stint in college. However, the odds are against such persons once they are on the job and cannot fulfill the work that their forged certification claims that they can do. Such was the case recently in Kuwait when a man went to the Ministry of Education seeking a job as a teacher. His forged university degree came from Hungary. However, he could not speak Hungarian or even English and simply claimed that he studied with the aid of a translator.

Unscrupulous degree dealers can be found all over the Gulf region offering a variety of degrees for under $1000 and in less than a month. A local reporter in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently exposed one such degree dealer. The dealer advertised on the Internet and communicated exclusively by email or mobile phones to elude detection from Saudi authorities. He promised the reporter “you name it and we provide it”. The degrees for sale bore the name of “Buxton University” in the UK and could be made to order immediately.

The real losers in this scam are the people who hold authentic university certification and now find themselves having to prove that their degree is worth the paper that it is printed on. Degree cheaters have forced most Mideast governments to cast out an overly wide net to root degree violators out, unfortunately authentic degree holders are getting caught up in it as well.

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Ali-Zaidi Re-appointed to Clarion University

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

zaidi Syed R. Ali-Zaidi has been reappointed to the Council of Trustees of Clarion University. The announcement was made by Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell last week.

He has been appointed to council in 1980, 1985, 1991, 1992, and 2003 as well.

Dr. Ali-Zaidi was a founding member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors, serving from 1984 to 1988 and from 1997 to 2002.  In 1998, Dr. Ali-Zaidi chaired the board’s Task Force on Science and Advanced Technology Education, Workforce Development, and Implementation Research.  In 2001, he established the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence, which annually recognizes an outstanding State System graduate. Dr. Ali-Zaidi is the recipient of the System’s 2002 Eberly Award for Volunteerism.  He is retired from a 25-year career in research and development with the glass industry.  He has a B.S. in Glass Technology from Sheffield University in England, and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Ceramic Engineering, both from The Ohio State University.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I26)

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Aligarh Bachchon Ka Ghar: A Distinctive Orphanage in India

Mozaffar Ali of ALigarh Bachchon Ka Ghar Orphanage came to Houston last week as guest of Helping Hand. During his stay, he went on Radio Sangeet for an interview, talked to persons at Madrasae Islamiah after Mughrib Prayers and met community members at Shahnai Restaurant.

Mozaffar Ali informed the significance of taking care of an orphan in Islam. He said that this orphanage was started at Qasimpur Road Aligarh with 10 children in 1998 and today has around 120 orphans. Idea is to support the orphans till the age of high school. Some of the goals and objectives of the orphanage are to develop teamwork, self-reliance and competitive spirit among these children and to save children from forced labor, illiteracy, begging and deprivation. The orphanage compound can take around 100 children and it is already housing 120 children. New construction on the second storey is needed over the existing orphanage and it will consist of three halls (each can be constructed for $7,500). On each child, the orphanage spends about $1,000/year. A bus carries children to various schools in the area and on return in the evening; children go through extracurricular and moral building activities plus complete their homework.

Mozaffar Ali placed a target for the Houston Community to raise $7,500 (only) for one of these three halls of this project, of which $6,500 have been collected. For more information on ALigarh Bachchon Ka Ghar, one can visit their website www.ALigarhChildren.Org and for all Tax Deductible contributions, visit www.HelpingHandOnline.Org (mention ALigarh Bachchon Ka Ghar in the comments).

Ghazali Education Trust Pakistan Imparting Education to 35,000+ Children: Waqqas Anjum

“You have an excellent opportunity to donate education by becoming supporter of Ghazali Education Trust, one the largest  Educational Networks’ of Pakistan. Our ultimate goal by the Grace of God is to have 100% literacy in Pakistan. Ghazali Education Trust was established in 1997 under the society act as a Non-Profit, Non-Governmental and Non-Political Organization:” These were the sentiments of Syed Waqqas Anjum, as he organized two seminars in North and Southwest Houston about Ghazali Education Trust (GET), where professional DVD presentations were done to appraise the community about the progress of GET.

“By the Blessings of God, we at Ghazali Education trust (GET) are now encompassing 1,500 miles of Pakistan and are in 30 Districts of Pakistan, with 278 Schools, 1,560 Teachers; and 35,000+ Students, of which about 16,400 are Orphans and Needy. GET is not just constructing schools; we develop teachers through our training institutes and develop up-to-date and state-of-the-art syllabus for our students to excel in their professional lives (this is approved by the Government). People can donate with three of our many contributing options: Adopt a Child $125/Year; Adopt a School $1,250/Year; and LifeTime Membership $1,250:” Added Syed Waqqas.

GET has projected to expand our network to 50 Districts by 2015, with at least one Model Cluster School in each District. GET has started a pilot project of vocational courses for Grade VII to X to develop much needed skills in our students. GET provides a comprehensive library, science lab and computer lab in each of our campuses. In order to streamline our processes and be transparent, we have divided GET into these departments: Pakistan Rural Education Program; Resource Mobilization; Ghazali Colleges for Women; Research & Development; Orphan / Needy Support Program; and Land Acquisition & Construction:” Continued Syed Waqqas.

For more information on GET, one can visit their website www.Get.Org.PK or call 832-366-3351 and for all Tax Deductible contributions, visit www.HelpingHandOnline.Org (mention GET Pakistan in the comments).

Pakistan–Towards Theocracy?

March 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

2009-03-15T151234Z_01_ISL35_RTRMDNP_3_PAKISTAN-PROTEST
Protester holds a party flag as he kicks a tear gas canister towards policemen in Lahore March 15, 2009. Protesters fought street battles with police Sunday that raises questions of Pakistani stability.       REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Women in burqas and children from the Bajaur and Mohmand agency areas wait to be registered at a refugee camp near Peshawar in January. Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of displaced people streaming into cities and towns.

FOR 20 years or more, a few of us in Pakistan have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. Nevertheless, none anticipated how quickly and accurately our dire predictions would come true. It is a small matter that the flames of terrorism set Mumbai on fire and, more recently, destroyed Pakistan’s cricketing future. A much more important and brutal fight lies ahead as Pakistan, a nation of 175 million, struggles for its very survival. The implications for the future of South Asia are enormous.

Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of IDPs (internally displaced people) streaming into cities and towns. In February 2009, with the writ of the Pakistani state in tatters, the government gave in to the demand of the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban Movement) to implement the Islamic Sharia in Malakand, a region of FATA. It also announced the suspension of a military offensive in Swat, which has been almost totally taken over by the TTP. But the respite that it brought was short-lived and started breaking down only hours later.

The fighting is now inexorably migrating towards Peshawar where, fearing the Taliban, video shop owners have shut shop, banners have been placed in bazaars declaring them closed for women, musicians are out of business, and kidnapping for ransom is the best business in town. Islamabad has already seen Lal Masjid and the Marriot bombing, and has had its police personnel repeatedly blown up by suicide bombers. Today, its barricaded streets give a picture of a city under siege. In Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), an ethnic but secular party well known for strong-arm tactics, has issued a call for arms to prevent the Taliban from making further inroads into the city. Lahore once appeared relatively safe and different but, after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, has rejoined Pakistan.

The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy. Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals, and ordinary people praying in mosques have been reduced to hideous masses of flesh and fragments of bones. The bearded ones, many operating out of madrassas, are hitting targets across the country. Although a substantial part of the Pakistani public insists upon lionising them as “standing up to the Americans”, they are neither seeking to evict a foreign occupier nor fighting for a homeland. They want nothing less than to seize power and to turn Pakistan into their version of the ideal Islamic state. In their incoherent, ill-formed vision, this would include restoring the caliphate as well as doing away with all forms of western influence and elements of modernity. The AK-47 and the Internet, of course, would stay.

But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of military action against the cruel perpetrators, choosing to believe that they are fighting for Islam and against an imagined American occupation. Political leaders like Qazi Husain Ahmed and Imran Khan have no words of kindness for those who have suffered from Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved for the victims of predator drones, whether innocent or otherwise. By definition, for them terrorism is an act that only Americans can commit.

Why the Denial?

To understand Pakistan’s collective masochism, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have made this country so utterly different from what it was in earlier times. For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula.

This continental drift is not physical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its South Asian identity for an Arab-Muslim one. Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the rich soil that had nurtured a rich Muslim culture in India for a thousand years.. This culture produced Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal, the poetry of Asadullah Ghalib, and much more. Now a stern, unyielding version of Islam – Wahabism – is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the sufis and saints who had walked on this land for hundreds of years.

This change is by design. Twenty-five years ago, under the approving gaze of Ronald Reagan’s America, the Pakistani state pushed Islam on to its people. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, floggings were carried out publicly, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for university academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jehad was declared essential for every Muslim.

Villages have changed drastically, driven in part by Pakistani workers returning from Arab countries. Many village mosques are now giant madrassas that propagate hard-line Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers. They are bitterly opposed to Barelvis, Shias and other Muslims, who they do not consider to be proper Muslims. Punjabis, who were far more liberal towards women than Pashtuns, are now also beginning to take a line resembling the Taliban. Hanafi law has begun to prevail over tradition and civil law, as is evident from recent decisions in the Lahore High Court.

K.M. Chaudhry/AP

Pakistan’s Ministry of Education estimates that 1.5 million students are getting religious education in 13,000 madrassas. These figures could be quite off the mark. Commonly quoted figures range between 18,000 and 22,000 such schools. Here, students at the Jamia Manzoorul Islam, a madrassa in Lahore.

In the Pakistani lower-middle and middle-middle classes lurks a grim and humourless Saudi-inspired revivalist movement which frowns on every expression of joy and pleasurable pastime. Lacking any positive connection to history, culture and knowledge, it seeks to eliminate “corruption” by regulating cultural life and seizing control of the education system.

“Classical music is on its last legs in Pakistan; the sarangi and vichtarveena are completely dead,” laments Mohammad Shehzad, a music aficionado. Indeed, teaching music in public universities is violently opposed by students of the Islami Jamaat-e-Talaba at Punjab University. Religious fundamentalists consider music haram. Kathak dancing, once popular with the Muslim elite of India, has no teachers left. Pakistan produces no feature films of any consequence.

As a part of General Zia-ul-Haq’s cultural offensive, Hindi words were expunged from daily use and replaced with heavy-sounding Arabic ones. Persian, the language of Mughal India, had once been taught as a second or third language in many Pakistani schools. But, because of its association with Shiite Iran, it too was dropped and replaced with Arabic. The morphing of the traditional “khuda hafiz” (Persian for “God be with you”) into “allah hafiz” (Arabic for “God be with you”) took two decades to complete. The Arab import sounded odd and contrived, but ultimately the Arabic God won and the Persian God lost.

Genesis of Jehad

One can squarely place the genesis of religious militancy in Pakistan to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the subsequent efforts of the U.S.-Pakistan-Saudi grand alliance to create and support the Great Global Jehad of the 20th century. A toxic mix of imperial might, religious fundamentalism, and local interests ultimately defeated the Soviets. But the network of Islamic militant organisations did not disappear after it achieved success. By now the Pakistani Army establishment had realised the power of jehad as an instrument of foreign policy, and so the network grew from strength to strength.

The amazing success of the state is now turning out to be its own undoing. Today the Pakistan Army and establishment are under attack from religious militants, and rival Islamic groups battle each other with heavy weapons. Ironically, the same Army – whose men were recruited under the banner of jehad, and which saw itself as the fighting arm of Islam – today stands accused of betrayal and is almost daily targeted by Islamist suicide bombers. Over 1,800 soldiers have died as of February 2009 in encounters with religious militants, and many have been tortured before decapitation. Nevertheless, the Army is still ambivalent in its relationship with the jehadists and largely focusses upon India.

Education or Indoctrination?

Similar sentiments exist in a large part of the Pakistani public media.. The commonly expressed view is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA and that madrassas are the only jehad factories around. This could not be more wrong. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this kind of education will produce a generation incapable of living together with any except strictly their own kind. Pakistan’s education system demands that Islam be understood as a complete code of life, and creates in the mind of the schoolchild a sense of siege and constant embattlement by stressing that Islam is under threat everywhere.

The government-approved curriculum, prepared by the Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education, is the basic road map for transmitting values and knowledge to the young. By an Act of Parliament, passed in 1976, all government and private schools (except for O-level schools) are required to follow this curriculum. It is a blueprint for a religious fascist state.

The masthead of an illustrated primer for the Urdu alphabet states that it has been prepared by Iqra Publishers, Rawalpindi, along “Islamic lines”. Although not an officially approved textbook, it has been used for many years by some regular schools, as well as madrassas, associated with the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), an Islamic political party that had allied itself with General Pervez Musharraf.

The world of the Pakistani schoolchild was largely unchanged even after September 11, 2001, which led to Pakistan’s timely desertion of the Taliban and the slackening of the Kashmir jehad. Indeed, for all his hypocritical talk of “enlightened moderation”, Musharraf’s educational curriculum was far from enlightening. It was a slightly toned-down copy of that under Nawaz Sharif which, in turn, was identical to that under Benazir Bhutto, who inherited it from Zia-ul-Haq.

Fearful of taking on powerful religious forces, every incumbent government refused to take a position on the curriculum and thus quietly allowed young minds to be molded by fanatics. What might happen a generation later has always been a secondary matter for a government challenged on so many sides.

The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s so-called “secular” public schools, colleges and universities had a profound effect upon young minds. Militant jehad became part of the culture on college and university campuses. Armed groups flourished, invited students for jehad=2 0in Kashmir and Afghanistan, set up offices throughout the country, collected funds at Friday prayers, and declared a war without borders. Pre-9/11, my university was ablaze with posters inviting students to participate in the Kashmir jehad. After 2001, this slipped below the surface.

For all his hypocritical talk of “enlightened moderation”, General Pervez Musharraf’s educational curriculum was far from enlightening. It was a slightly toned-down copy of that under Nawaz Sharif which, in turn, was identical to that under Benazir Bhutto, who inherited it from Zia-ul-Haq. (From left) Zia-ul-Haq, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf.

The madrassas

The primary vehicle for Saudi-ising Pakistan’s education has been the madrassa. In earlier times, these had turned out the occasional Islamic scholar, using a curriculum that essentially dates from the 11th century with only minor subsequent revisions. But their principal function had been to produce imams and muezzins for mosques, and those who eked out an existence as “moulvi sahibs” teaching children to read the Quran.

The Afghan jehad changed everything. During the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, madrassas provided the U.S.-Saudi-Pakistani alliance the cannon fodder needed for fighting a holy war. The Americans and the Saudis, helped by a more-than-willing General Zia, funded new madrassas across the length and breadth of Pakistan.

A detailed picture of the current s ituation is not available. But, according to the national education census, which the Ministry of Education released in 2006, Punjab has 5,459 madrassas followed by the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) with 2,843; Sindh 1,935; Federally Administrated Northern Areas (FANA) 1,193; Balochistan 769; Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) 586; FATA 135; and Islamabad capital territory 77. The Ministry estimates that 1.5 million students are getting religious education in the 13,000 madrassas.

These figures could be quite off the mark. Commonly quoted figures range between 18,000 and 22,000 madrassas. The number of students could be correspondingly larger. The free room, board and supplies to students, form a key part of their appeal.

But the desire of parents across the country is for children to be “disciplined” and to be given a thorough Islamic education. This is also a major contributing factor.

For the rest of this article, please visit our website:  www.muslimobserver.com.

Madrassas have deeply impacted upon the urban environment. For example, until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city different from all others in Pakistan. Still earlier, it had been largely the abode of Pakistan’s hyper-elite and foreign diplomats. But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barrelled audio-cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrassas illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students with little prayer caps dutifully chant the Quran all day. In the evenings they swarm around the city, making bare-faced women increasingly nervous.

Women – the Lesser Species

Total separation of the sexes is a central goal of the Islamists. Two decades ago the fully veiled student was a rarity on Pakistani university and college campuses. The abaya was an unknown word in Urdu; it is a foreign import. But today, some shops in Islamabad specialise in abaya. At colleges and universities across Pakistan, female students are seeking the anonymity of the burqa. Such students outnumber their sisters who still dare show their faces.

While social conservatism does not necessarily lead to violent extremism, it does shorten the path. Those with beards and burqas are more easily convinced that Muslims are being demonised by the rest of the world. The real problem, they say, is the plight of the Palestinians, the decadent and discriminatory West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine, and so on. They vehemently deny that those committing terrorist acts are Muslims or, if faced by incontrovertible evidence, say it is a mere reaction to oppression. Faced with the embarrassment that 200 schools for girls were blown up in Swat by Fazlullah’s militants, they wriggle out by saying that some schools were housing the Pakistan Army, who should be targeted anyway.

Abdul Rehman/Reuters

This high school at Qambar in the Swat valley was among the 200 schools for girls destroyed by the S wat Taliban led by Mullah Fazlullah.

The Prognosis

The immediate future is not hopeful: increasing numbers of mullahs are creating cults around themselves and seizing control over the minds of worshippers. In the tribal areas, a string of new Islamist leaders have suddenly emerged: Sufi Mohammad, Baitullah Mehsud, Fazlullah, Mangal Bagh…. The enabling environment of poverty, deprivation, lack of justice, and extreme differences of wealth is perfect for these demagogues. Their gruesome acts of terror and public beheadings are still being perceived by large numbers of Pakistanis as part of the fight against imperialist America and, sometimes, India as well. This could not be more wrong.

The jehadists have longer-range goals. A couple of years ago, a Karachi-based monthly magazine ran a cover story on the terrorism in Kashmir. One fighter was asked what he would do if a political resolution were found for the disputed valley. Revealingly, he replied that he would not lay down his gun but turn it on the Pakistani leadership, with the aim of installing an Islamic government there.

Over the next year or two, we are likely to see more short-lived “peace accords”, as in Malakand, Swat and, earlier on, in Shakai. In my opinion, these are exercises in futility. Until the Pakistan Army finally realises that Mr. Frankenstein needs to be eliminated rather than be engaged in negotiations, it will continue to soft-pedal on counter-insurgency. It will also continue to develop and demand from the U.S. high-tech weapons that are not the slightest use against insurgents. There are some indications that some realisation of the internal threat is dawning, but the speed is as yet glacial.

Even if Mumbai-II occurs, India’s options in dealing with nuclear Pakistan are severely limited. Cross-border strikes should be dismissed from the realm of possibilities. They could lead to escalations that neither government would have control over. I am convinced that India’s prosperity – and perhaps its physical survival – demands that Pakistan stays together. Pakistan could disintegrate into a hell, where different parts are run by different warlords. Paradoxically perhaps, India’s most effective defence could be the Pakistan Army, torn and fractured though it may be. To convert a former enemy army into a possible ally will require that India change tack.

To create a future working alliance with the struggling Pakistani state, and in deference to basic democratic principles, India must be seen as genuinely working towards some kind of resolution of the Kashmir issue. It must not deny that the majority of Kashmiri Muslims are deeply alienated from the Indian state and that they desperately seek balm for their wounds. Else the forces of cross-border jehad, and its hate-filled holy warriors, will continue to receive unnecessary succour.
I shall end this rather grim essay on an optimistic note: the forces of irrationality will surely ca ncel themselves out because they act in random directions, whereas reason pulls in only one. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and humans will continue their evolution towards a higher and better species. Ultimately, it will not matter whether we are Pakistanis, Indians, Kashmiris, or whatever. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, people will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religion and nationalism. But for now this must be just a hypothesis.

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy is Professor and Chairman of the Physics Department, Qaid-e Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

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Community News (V9-I39)

September 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago cabbies get tickets while praying

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

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

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

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

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

Malaysian Fulbright scholar to visit Montgomery County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interfaith support for Jewish temple

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

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

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

Mosque proposed in Manchester

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

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

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

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

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

Plan to build first Mosque in Hawaii questioned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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