Face the Faith

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ahmad Al-Hilali, TMO Foundation

8477854Youth from all over the Detroit metro, and different religious backgrounds, came to the Face the Faith event at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills. The purpose of this event was to learn more about different cultures and faiths. There were icebreakers so that they could get to know each other’s names and religious beliefs. Than, after everybody had a feel about who was who, they went down to the basement to listen to the presentation by the Imam of the Muslim Unity Center, the representative of the Jewish faith, and the representative of the Christian faith. And after each presentation, they encouraged many people to speak up if they have a question, no matter how ridiculous it may seem.  It is better to know the answer to a question than to just assume you know, because if President Bush didn’t assume that WMD’s were in Iraq, than the Iraq war never would have happened. Asking questions is what separates the person who wants to learn, from the person who is too ignorant to. Many of the questions asked were regarding the Hijab the Muslim women wear. The answer to this was that women in the Muslim faith covered themselves to hide their beauty, therefore making them unnoticeable on the streets. There were also questions about marriage in Islam, whether it was true or not about the theory that all Arabs are Muslims, the proper Islamic wardrobe for both men and women, and many others. After the presentation, there was a dinner, and an opportunity for them to get to know more about the faiths that were at the event. After the dinner, it was prayer time for the Muslims. As they prayed, the youth of the other faiths watched. And after the prayer, the Imam of the Muslim Unity Center explained how Muslims prayed and why. After that, the event was concluded with a tour of the Muslim Unity Center. Many people thought that this was a very constructive event, and they hope that something similar to this will happen in the future.

13-49

This Thanksgiving Be Grateful

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“It is He Who brought you forth from the wombs of wombs of your mothers when you knew nothing; and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affections – that you may give thanks.”

Life in the United States is by far superior to most places in the world.  This is primarily because of the freedoms we enjoy here that most other places in the world are not aware of; and for this we should give thanks.  We should be thankful to live in a country that opens its doors to other cultures, ethnic groups, and religious persuasions and allows them to live and practice as they see fit – as long as the spirit of the law is adhered to.

This Thanksgiving season that is approaching gives us an excellent opportunity to show our gratitude to God for everything He has bestowed on us.  There have been so many extraordinary acts of kindness heaped on Muslims, Jews, Christians and other people of faith, who know and understand that good people abound in other faiths as they do in the faith they ascribe to.  So we should be proud and hold our heads high and thank God for His Beneficence to those who believe in Him

We had nothing, before God, in His infinite Mercy, gave us life from the womb.  But He didn’t stop there.  He didn’t just create man and leave him be.  He created man and gave him guidance, intelligence, and put love in his heart – so that man can be grateful and express that gratitude in the best manner – which is utilizing those gifts for His service.

There are also atrocities happening in the world that we might tend to look at in a negative way.  Some might wonder how to look for ways to be grateful in the wake of such chaos?   But the truth is Almighty God makes a way for the believers to gain something positive out of everything He sends to us or allows to happen to us.  And for this we should be grateful.

We must be enthusiastic, bold, and straightforward in presenting our religion in the best light.  Above all, we must not cringe and hide our identity for fear of being looked at unfavorably.  The true religion and Islamic character will bring people to you faster than you can imagine.  The Prophet (s) was the best example of all humanity and just to act like him puts you in an imitation of his position – and other faiths realize it.  And for this we should be grateful.

The Prophet (s) treated everyone with respect.  We should do the same.  Whether you realize it or not, people admire Muslims for not taking intoxicants or unclean food – even though they might partake of these substances themselves.  It is not necessary to shout our way of life to everyone we meet, but we should be enthusiastic in living these virtues.  People will notice.  And for this we should be grateful.

We must be enthusiastic in keeping our faith in God.  Be thankful for everything.  God–ALLAH will bless us immensely for recognizing His gifts and then being thankful for them.  It is said of gratitude, “as for those who only pay lip-service to gratitude, and do not give thanks with the rest of their faculties, they are like a man who has a garment and all he does with it is touch it, but he does not put it on: it will never protect him from heat, cold, snow, or rain.  Let us wear our “garment”.

And in the Holy Qur’an He says, “If you be grateful, I will give you more.”

13-47

Muslims Rising Above The Ashes Of Misunderstanding

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

As the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, we’ll be inundated with reports and recollections of where people were at that moment, what they were doing and how their lives have been changed because of it.

This anniversary-keeping activity feels like we have a wound that we know has yet to heal, but we can’t stop ourselves from touching it — just to see if it still hurts.

It does.

The inevitable media coverage will build now until Sept. 12, when folks will try to get back to normal life still smarting from the big press blitz. Muslim Americans will have no choice but to be one of the featured main dishes in this media feasting frenzy, and we will do our part to help heal the wounds caused by those who falsely claimed our faith by telling you again that Islam had no part in this tragedy.

Over these last 10 years, the events of 9/11 taught my faith community that we had been neglecting outreach to the greater society. We’ve had to step away from the cultural comfort of our mosques, Islamic schools and homes to shake the hands of our neighbors who have been there all along, but with whom we may not have engaged with serious effort or effect. Ten years later, Muslims have made these gestures of friendship to the point that a large percentage of the folks who wanted to know us better, now do. There are others who simply refuse to let go of the bigotry and stereotyping of Muslims in America. You may know them: They have their eyes closed with their hands over their ears singing, “la, la, la. I don’t hear you.”

For the next 10 years, I am hopeful that our nation will leave these crooners of ignorance out of our society’s narrative. We’ve already seen some of Islam’s biggest haters recently outed for propagating bigotry under the guise of being “terrorism experts.” Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have been exposed for their racist and bigoted craziness through a Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, who referred to their hate-filled blogs and rhetoric many times in his insanely xenophobic manifesto. The Center for American Progress recently released a report, “Fear, Inc., The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” that clearly outlines the organized machine operating a small empire of hatred. Besides Spencer and Geller, the report highlights major players like David Yerushalmi (recently featured in a New York Times article outlining his role in this smear campaign) and Fox News (a network owned by the now infamous News Corp and Rupert Murdoch). These people won’t stop their work in unfairly vilifying the American Muslim community, but really, how long can that leaky bucket of lies hold water?

It’s been a challenge to refute every slam and slur against Islam, but Muslims try to follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s), who persistently treated his neighbors with respect despite their derision.

America’s Muslims look forward to our faith community rising above these ashes of misunderstandings to find ourselves welcome as fellow citizens. To make this climb, we know our focus must stay on our youth.

There are thousands of young, dynamic American Muslims already creating change in our nation’s high schools, colleges and workplaces. Their parents have put heart and soul into raising these young people — especially within the difficult context of the last 10 years. They have been nurturing their kids with love and giving them confidence to be American and Muslim in the same sentence. We have great and lofty expectations of their futures, and these young people are not failing any of us.

Young Muslims are making advances in medicine, science and technology.

Look at the list of young doctors in any teaching hospital and you’ll see Muslim names galore. Most major corporations include a cadre of brilliant Muslim engineers. Beyond technology and medicine (traditionally the career paths of choice for Muslims in the U.S.), we are now seeing young Muslims choosing to pursue careers in the less lucrative, but necessary fields of public service, social services and education. And finally, we are seeing more and more Muslim names coming up in the arts and communications fields. This is a hopeful sign for the future, as public perceptions often change through the media in all its forms. Watch Musa Syeed, a writer and independent filmmaker to produce great movies and documentaries, as well as Qasim Bashir, who wrote and directed “Mooz-lum: The Movie.” There are thousands of upcoming Muslim journalists, writers, artists, photographers and performers that we will be sure to hear more from in the next 10 years.

I’m proud to claim these honest young people who are giving us honest portrayals of Muslims through the arts and media.

We now have young people studying to become Islamic scholars within the American context through the newly instituted Zaytuna College, whose mission is “to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders, who are grounded in the Islamic scholarly tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.” We look forward to the graduates of Zaytuna to actively lead and positively shape the American Muslim community for generations to come.

Young Muslims are the backbone of American-Muslim philanthropic efforts, and what they lack in financial resources, they are making up with their time and hard work. There isn’t a single charitable event that doesn’t depend on student volunteers for its success. Muslims Without Borders has taken this legacy one step further by forming a full-blown relief agency run solely by Muslim students.

I recently had a reporter ask me if it wasn’t too big of a burden for my kids to grow up as identifiable Muslims during these last 10 years.

It was a sincere question, but I wondered how else she thought I should have raised them. Later, I realized that there are some Muslim parents who have discouraged their children from expressing their faith in any way from fear of reprisal. Recently, my heart hurt for the young checker at the grocery store who told me in a wistful voice that she was “technically a Muslim,” but that her parents didn’t want her to practice the faith in case she’d suffer here as a new immigrant. I don’t know if that statement reflected more poorly on our society, or on her parents; however, for the most part, Muslim families in America are raising their children to be proud of their beliefs and are teaching them that God is infinitely Merciful and Gracious to those who struggle for His sake. These young people who are proud of their noble faith realize that despite some people’s innocent ignorance of Islam, or other’s outright bigotry, the majority of our neighbors and greater community will have respect for them as long as their character and behavior follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s). To put it plain and simple, we are raising these young people to trust in God and do good things with their lives.

Muslims in this country are looking forward to seeing an America that once again says we have had enough of hate and fear. We hope everyone will recognize that our country becomes more beautiful with each new color and creed we accept as our own.

Kari Ansari is a Writer and Co-Founder of America’s Muslim Family Magazine

13-38

Fear, Inc.

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America

Editor’s Note:  This is the introduction of the new groundbreaking study by the American Center for Progress, documenting the stoking of the national climate of anti-Muslim sentiment by a small but vocal group of provocateurs.

By Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang , Scott Keyes, Faiz Shakir

On July 22, a man planted a bomb in an Oslo government building that killed eight people. A few hours after the explosion, he shot and killed 68 people, mostly teenagers, at a Labor Party youth camp on Norway’s Utoya Island.

ScreenShot002

Anti-Muslim graffiti defaces a Shi’ite mosque at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan.

Getty/Bill Pugliano

 

k20isg4dfn
Pamela Gellar, under fire for her involvement in and apologetics for the mass killings in Norway by Anders Breivik.

By midday, pundits were speculating as to who had perpetrated the greatest massacre in Norwegian history since World War II. Numerous mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, speculated about an Al Qaeda connection and a “jihadist” motivation behind the attacks. But by the next morning it was clear that the attacker was a 32-year-old, white, blond-haired and blue-eyed Norwegian named Anders Breivik. He was not a Muslim, but rather a self-described Christian conservative.

According to his attorney, Breivik claimed responsibility for his self-described “gruesome but necessary” actions. On July 26, Breivik told the court that violence was “necessary” to save Europe from Marxism and “Muslimization.” In his 1,500-page manifesto, which meticulously details his attack methods and aims to inspire others to extremist violence, Breivik vows “brutal and breathtaking operations which will result in casualties” to fight the alleged “ongoing Islamic Colonization of Europe.”

Breivik’s manifesto contains numerous footnotes and in-text citations to American bloggers and pundits, quoting them as experts on Islam’s “war against the West.” This small group of anti-Muslim organizations and individuals in our nation is obscure to most Americans but wields great influence in shaping the national and international political debate. Their names are heralded within communities that are actively organizing against Islam and targeting Muslims in the United States.

Breivik, for example, cited Robert Spencer, one of the anti-Muslim misinformation scholars we profile in this report, and his blog, Jihad Watch, 162 times in his manifesto. Spencer’s website, which “tracks the attempts of radical Islam to subvert Western culture,” boasts another member of this Islamophobia network in America, David Horowitz, on his Freedom Center website. Pamela Geller, Spencer’s frequent collaborator, and her blog, Atlas Shrugs, was mentioned 12 times.

Geller and Spencer co-founded the organization Stop Islamization of America, a group whose actions and rhetoric the Anti-Defamation League concluded “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam. The group seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy “American values.” Based on Breivik’s sheer number of citations and references to the writings of these individuals, it is clear that he read and relied on the hateful, anti-Muslim ideology of a number of men and women detailed in this report&a select handful of scholars and activists who work together to create and promote misinformation about Muslims.

While these bloggers and pundits were not responsible for Breivik’s deadly attacks, their writings on Islam and multiculturalism appear to have helped create a world view, held by this lone Norwegian gunman, that sees Islam as at war with the West and the West needing to be defended. According to former CIA officer and terrorism consultant Marc Sageman, just as religious extremism “is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged,” the writings of these anti-Muslim misinformation experts are “the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.” Sageman adds that their rhetoric “is not cost-free.”

These pundits and bloggers, however, are not the only members of the Islamophobia infrastructure. Breivik’s manifesto also cites think tanks, such as the Center for Security Policy, the Middle East Forum and the Investigative Project on Terrorism—three other organizations we profile in this report. Together, this core group of deeply intertwined individuals and organizations manufacture and exaggerate threats of “creeping Sharia,” Islamic domination of the West, and purported obligatory calls to violence against all non-Muslims by the Quran.

This network of hate is not a new presence in the United States.

Indeed, its ability to organize, coordinate, and disseminate its ideology through grassroots organizations increased dramatically over the past 10 years. Furthermore, its ability to influence politicians’ talking points and wedge issues for the upcoming 2012 elections has mainstreamed what was once considered fringe, extremist rhetoric.

And it all starts with the money flowing from a select group of foundations. A small group of foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America, providing critical funding to a clutch of right-wing think tanks that peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam—in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs, and carefully crafted talking points that anti-Islam grassroots organizations and some right-wing religious groups use as propaganda for their constituency.

Some of these foundations and wealthy donors also provide direct funding to anti-Islam grassroots groups. According to our extensive analysis, here are the top seven contributors to promoting Islamophobia in our country:

Donors Capital Fund
Richard Mellon Scaife foundations
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust
Russell Berrie Foundation Anchorage Charitable Fund and
William Rosenwald Family Fund
Fairbrook Foundation

Altogether, these seven charitable groups provided $42.6 million to Islamophobia think tanks between 2001 and 2009—funding that supports the scholars and experts that are the subject of our next chapter as well as some of the grassroots groups that are the subject of Chapter 3 of our report.

And what does this money fund? Well, here’s one of many cases in point:

Last July, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich warned a conservative audience at the American Enterprise Institute that the Islamic practice of Sharia was “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” Gingrich went on to claim that “Sharia in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world.”

Sharia, or Muslim religious code, includes practices such as charitable giving, prayer, and honoring one’s parents—precepts virtually identical to those of Christianity and Judaism. But Gingrich and other conservatives promote alarmist notions about a nearly 1,500-year-old religion for a variety of sinister political, financial, and ideological motives. In his remarks that day, Gingrich mimicked the language of conservative analyst Andrew McCarthy, who co-wrote a report calling Sharia “the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time.” Such similarities in language are no accident. Look no further than the organization that released McCarthy’s anti-Sharia report: the aforementioned Center for Security Policy, which is a central hub of the anti-Muslim network and an active promoter of anti- Sharia messaging and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In fact, CSP is a key source for right-wing politicians, pundits, and grassroots organizations, providing them with a steady stream of reports mischaracterizing Islam and warnings about the dangers of Islam and American Muslims. Operating under the leadership of Frank Gaffney, the organization is funded by a small number of foundations and donors with a deep understanding of how to influence U.S. politics by promoting highly alarming threats to our national security. CSP is joined by other anti-Muslim organizations in this lucrative business, such as Stop Islamization of America and the Society of Americans for National Existence. Many of the leaders of these organizations are well-schooled in the art of getting attention in the press, particularly Fox News, The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, The Washington Times, and a variety of right-wing websites and radio outlets.

Misinformation experts such as Gaffney consult and work with such right-wing grassroots organizations as ACT! for America and the Eagle Forum, as well as religious right groups such as the Faith and Freedom Coalition and American Family Association, to spread their message.

Speaking at their conferences, writing on their websites, and appearing on their radio shows, these experts rail against Islam and cast suspicion on American Muslims. Much of their propaganda gets churned into fundraising appeals by grassroots and religious right groups. The money they raise then enters the political process and helps fund ads supporting politicians who echo alarmist warnings and sponsor anti-Muslim attacks.

These efforts recall some of the darkest episodes in American history, in which religious, ethnic, and racial minorities were discriminated against and persecuted. From Catholics, Mormons, Japanese Americans, European immigrants, Jews, and African Americans, the story of America is one of struggle to achieve in practice our founding ideals.

Unfortunately, American Muslims and Islam are the latest chapter in a long American struggle against scapegoating based on religion, race, or creed.

Due in part to the relentless efforts of this small group of individuals and organizations, Islam is now the most negatively viewed religion in America. Only 37 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Islam: the lowest favorability rating since 2001, according to a 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll. According to a 2010 Time magazine poll, 28 percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and nearly one-third of the country thinks followers of Islam should be barred from running for president.

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 alone did not drive Americans’ perceptions of Muslims and Islam. President George W. Bush reflected the general opinion of the American public at the time when he went to great lengths to make clear that Islam and Muslims are not the enemy.

Speaking to a roundtable of Arab and Muslim American leaders at the Afghanistan embassy in 2002, for example, President Bush said, “All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true faith—face of Islam. Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It’s a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It’s a faith based upon love, not hate.”

Unfortunately, President Bush’s words were soon eclipsed by an organized escalation of hateful statements about Muslims and Islam from the members of the Islamophobia network profiled in this report. This is as sad as it is dangerous. It is enormously important to understand that alienating the Muslim American community not only threatens our fundamental promise of religious freedom, it also hurts our efforts to combat terrorism. Since 9/11, the Muslim American community has helped security and law enforcement officials prevent more than 40 percent of Al Qaeda terrorist plots threatening America. The largest single source of initial information to authorities about the few Muslim American plots has come from the Muslim American community.

Around the world, there are people killing people in the name of Islam, with which most Muslims disagree. Indeed, in most cases of radicalized neighbors, family members, or friends, the Muslim American community is as baffled, disturbed, and surprised by their appearance as the general public. Treating Muslim American citizens and neighbors as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, is not only offensive to America’s core values, it is utterly ineffective in combating terrorism and violent extremism.

The White House recently released the national strategy for combating violent extremism, “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” One of the top focal points of the effort is to “counter al-Qa’ida’s propaganda that the United States is somehow at war with Islam.” Yet orchestrated efforts by the individuals and organizations detailed in this report make it easy for al-Qa’ida to assert that America hates Muslims and that Muslims around the world are persecuted for the simple crime of being Muslims and practicing their religion.

Sadly, the current isolation of American Muslims echoes past witch hunts in our history—from the divisive McCarthyite purges of the 1950s to the sometimes violent anti-immigrant campaigns in the 19th and 20th centuries. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has compared the fear-mongering of Muslims with anti-Catholic sentiment of the past. In response to the fabricated “Ground Zero mosque” controversy in New York last summer, Mayor Bloomberg said:

In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion, and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780s, St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site, and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center. … We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.

This report shines a light on the Islamophobia network of so-called experts, academics, institutions, grassroots organizations, media outlets, and donors who manufacture, produce, distribute, and mainstream an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims.

Let us learn the proper lesson from the past, and rise above fear-mongering to public awareness, acceptance, and respect for our fellow Americans. In doing so, let us prevent hatred from infecting and endangering our country again.

In the pages that follow, we profile the small number of funders, organizations, and individuals who have contributed to the discourse on Islamophobia in this country. We begin with the money trail in Chapter 1—our analysis of the funding streams that support anti-Muslim activities. Chapter 2 identifies the intellectual nexus of the Islamophobia network. Chapter 3 highlights the key grassroots players and organizations that help spread the messages of hate. Chapter 4 aggregates the key media amplifiers of Islamophobia. And Chapter 5 brings attention to the elected officials who frequently support the causes of anti- Muslim organizing.

Before we begin, a word about the term “Islamophobia.” We don’t use this term lightly. We define it as an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America’s social, political, and civic life.

It is our view that in order to safeguard our national security and uphold America’s core values, we must return to a fact-based civil discourse regarding the challenges we face as a nation and world. This discourse must be frank and honest, but also consistent with American values of religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and respect for pluralism. A first step toward the goal of honest, civil discourse is to expose—and marginalize—the influence of the individuals and groups who make up the Islamophobia network in America by actively working to divide Americans against one another through misinformation.

Wajahat Ali is a researcher at the Center for American Progress and a researcher for the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Eli Clifton is a researcher at the Center for American Progress and a national security reporter for the Center for American Progress Action Fund and ThinkProgress.org. Matthew Duss is a Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress and Director of the Center’s Middle East Progress. Lee Fang is a researcher at the Center for American Progress and an investigative researcher/blogger for the Center for American Progress Action Fund and ThinkProgress.org. Scott Keyes is a researcher at the Center for American Progress and an investigative researcher for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Faiz Shakir is a Vice President at the Center for American Progress and serves as Editor-in-Chief of ThinkProgress.org.

13-36

Islam and America: Toward Common Ground

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Milad Alucozai, Purdue University

TMO Editor’s Note:  This is the second essay that tied for third place in the TMO Foundation’s Second Annual Essay Competition, 2011.

bildeIn his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of a world founded upon four essential human freedoms, among them “the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way.” Freedom of religion, deeply rooted in the American tradition, has long been protected by the laws of our nation. Despite legal protections, ethnic and religious minorities in America have been the subjects of discrimination, harassment, and even physical violence throughout our history. Following the events of September 11, 2001, heated rhetoric and acts of violence against Muslim Americans (and non-Muslim Arab Americans) have increased. Public attention to these acts reached a peak in the summer of 2010.

In Florida, a bomb exploded on May 10th at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida with 60 people praying inside, and Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville threatened to destroy 200 copies of the Quran during his “Burn a Koran Day.” In New York City, opposition united against the construction of an Islamic Community Center.  In August, a New York City taxi driver was stabbed by his passenger after revealing he was a Muslim, and during the same week five teenagers were arrested in update New York for firing shots at a local mosque. These events prompted many in the American and international media to question whether the United States is a nation dedicated to the freedom of all Americans.  An August 30, 2010 TIME Magazine cover asked the question, “Is America Islamophobic?” and a September New York Times headline read “American Muslims Ask: Will We Ever Belong?” According to the Justice Department, there have been more than 800 cases of violence and discrimination against Muslim Americans in the ten years since September 11th.

Yet millions of Americans remain committed to peaceful understanding and cooperation and respect the value of our neighbors of all faiths and creeds. What are the roots of this supposed fear and animosity towards Muslims, and what can we do to counter this while promoting our vision for society?

American followers of Islam, now numbering more than 7 million, have been an integral part of our national fabric since the founding of our country. George Washington is known to have welcomed Muslims to his residence at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson was adamant that the 1786 Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom include “within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim].” 

The second president of the United States, John Adams, asserted in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli that “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.”  These early examples show the respect our founding fathers had for the Islamic faith.

Although Muslims were surely a part of our nation since its founding, their population was made up of a limited number of immigrants living in disparate places who were not able to form communities. A large segment of this population was made up of slaves who were taken by force from the west coast of Africa, where Islam was prevalent. These slaves were not allowed to practice their faith openly and this, combined with the lack of family structure and general difficulties of bondage, resulted in the loss of Islamic practices in subsequent generations of most slave populations that had originally been Muslim.

Evidence from surviving slave manuscripts written by those who were educated describe the practice of Islam within slave communities. One of the most well known manuscripts was written by the Muslim slave Bilali Mahomet. The accounts document how the Islamic faith in the African American community tragically fell victim to the realities of slavery and was slowly extinguished. 

The first significant wave of Muslims who freely immigrated to America occurred in the mid-1800’s from modern day Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Though not slaves, these immigrants possessed little education and came in the pursuit of employment and opportunity. Disenfranchised by their lack of higher education and the large language barrier, many of the immigrants were forced to assume jobs involving menial labor.  Most regarded their stay in America as a temporary opportunity to earn some money which they could take back to their homelands. 

The number of Muslim families immigrating to America steadily increased over the latter half of the 19th century and into the early 20th century when the Ottoman Empire crumbled in World War I. This period was characterized by a rising tide of immigration to American from all over the world, especially Asian countries. Public backlash against the open door immigration policy resulted in the passage of a series of immigration laws in 1921 and 1924 that severely restricted immigration and closed to the door to new Muslims immigrants.

These restrictions combined with the continued effects of slavery, limited the growth of Islam in America. However, a significant number of Muslim families had already settled in America. These families began to organize into close communities that flourished. One of the first documented Muslim communities was established in Ross, North Dakota and it was also here that one of the first American mosques was constructed in 1929.

As the major urban centers of New York and Chicago became the gathering places for tens of thousands of immigrants, large Muslims communities also developed around these metropolises and networks were developed between communities across the country that relied on each other for mutual support and assistance.

While many of African American communities in the United States had lost most of their Muslim faith, they represented a population which would be the face of Islamic growth in the middle decades of the 20th century.  The growth of Islam in the African American community arguably can be traced to a clothing salesman in Detroit by the name of Wallace D. Fard.  Fard preached a message of African American empowerment and called his message the Nation of Islam (NOI).  One of the Fard’s prominent disciples was Elijah Poole, later to become Elijah Muhammad.  Through their meetings, Elijah Muhammad began to associate Fard with a status of divinity and even went as far as to proclaim that Fard was the Messiah, an image that Fard did little to downplay. Most mainstream Muslims claim that the teachings of the Nation of Islam are not rooted in either the Holy Quran or the Prophet’s recorded teachings (Sunnah) and thus are not truly within the fold of Islam. Although analysis of the major teachings of the NOI vindicates this position, the NOI was nevertheless the vehicle which introduced large numbers of African Americans to the idea of Islam, however inaccurate that idea may have been.  Wallace Fard was arrested several times in the beginning of the 1930’s under the pretext that he was inciting violence.  He was expelled from Detroit in 1933 and was never seen after 1934.  His departure from the NOI left the organization without its “promised” leader and Elijah Muhammad quickly moved to fill the vacuum that had been created.  Under his authority, the NOI became more institutionalized with an order of command squarely placing Elijah Muhammad at the top.  Elijah Muhammad was able to cast the claim that he was in fact a messenger of Allah, further alienating the NOI from mainstream Muslims. 

With the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, his son Wallace Muhammad, also known as Warith Deen Muhammad, assumed leadership of the NOI. Since his childhood, Warith Deen Muhammad had studying Arabic and the Quran, and he had also made the pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca. Through these experiences, he developed a viewpoint that was more in line, yet still distinct from, mainstream Muslims and worked to bring the beliefs and practices of the NOI closer to those of mainstream Islam until the organization as a separate group eventually disbanded. While many of the NOI members accepted Warith Deen’s changes, there were some that sought a return to the traditional teachings of the NOI as emphasized by Wallace Fard and Elijah Muhammad. Louis Farrakhan became the leader of this group and went on to reinstitute the Nation of Islam as an organization, and it continues in this form today.

In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson and it significantly eliminated immigration barriers that had been in place since the 1920’s.  The relaxation of immigration requirements provided the opportunity for people to once again come to America. Where the previous wave of immigrants had largely been working class individuals seeking employment, the majority of immigrants coming to America in the 1970’s and onward where highly educated and well trained professionals, including physicians and engineers.  This new wave of immigrants came to seek higher education or escape from unrest in their homelands. This recent influx of Muslim immigrants represents by far the largest growth of the Muslim population in the history of America. The immigrants entering in the last three decades of the 20th century are unique with respect to the large numbers that they came in and the positions that they were able to attain within society.  These two factors, in concert with one another, allowed for the development of Islam in America to occur at a remarkable pace.

The arrival of large numbers of immigrants followed relatively the same distribution pattern as had been maintained over the 20th century. Incoming Muslim families settled in large metropolis centers throughout the country. One of the first cities to feature a pronounced Muslim community was the city of Chicago which is now home to more than 40 mosques and Islamic centers. The degree of maturation that the Muslim community has undergone in one generation is also a result of the large inflow of educated professionals and is evidenced by some of the activities the Muslim community is involved with. One of the landmark community programs run by the Muslim community in Chicago is titled the Inter-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN). This Muslim led nonprofit organization develops programs to uphold social justice and combat inner-city poverty. Similarly large and developed communities were quick to rise in Houston, New York, Dearborn and Los Angeles, as well as many other localities. 

As Muslim communities flourished around the nation, the need for overarching institutions to coordinate Muslims and Islamic efforts became apparent.  In response to this need, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) was founded in 1982 with the mission of providing a national platform for Islamic activities and extending assistance to civic and service organizations . Prior to the formation of ISNA, Muslim college students attending universities throughout the United States founded the Muslim Student Association (MSA) in 1963 to create an official Muslim presence on campus and facilitate inter-faith talks.  These major organizations were precursors to several smaller Islamic organizations that were founded in response to local and regional needs. The establishment and growth of these organizations within one generation is a testament to the size, development and organization of the Muslim community within America.

In light of national and global events over the past decade, Islam has been portrayed as something that is foreign to America.  This proposition is rendered baseless when it is appreciated that Islam has been present within America since the time of the founding fathers and its history can be traced from that point to current times.  This presence has allowed for Islam to be intertwined with American history and has manifested in the development of a large American Muslim population that is deeply rooted in our communities throughout the country.

13-36

Getting Forgiveness for Abuse

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, TMO

I’d like to start with the reminder of our beginning – our creation as Adam, ALLAH’S Kahlifa of creation – whom He created to be a perfect submitter,  created him from water (moral consciousness), and endowed him with the light of intelligence to utilize the material and spiritual creation to enhance himself and everything else under ALLAH.

It is no secret that the Muslim community is loaded with cases of spousal abuse and many of us (men and women) think we are doomed to be bad or predisposed to accept abusive behavior from our spouse or others.  Many men (and some women) inflict abuse because they have been conditioned to be abusive since they were children.  Perhaps theirs were abusive to their mothers and they witnessed this growing up.

Science has said that by the time we are six or seven years old, our personal mentality is pretty much shaped.  Your mindset is basically what you will be for the rest of your life.

So some men whose brains were ingrained with this type of thinking grow to be abusive to their spouses as well.

And similarly, some women who witnessed an abusive relationship between their parents take on the same mentality.  They grow to accept it and see it as normal, and it becomes a part of them.  Both are wrong.

This is part of the life experiences (wombs) that ALLAH mentions in 4:1 of the Qur’an.  Every experience that ALLAH allows to happen to you, or allow you to witness, is designed to make you stronger and test your faith.  You should not feel that this is your lot in life and you are doomed to that existence.  Quite the contrary,  this can be a boost in your human strength.

ALLAH says He will forgive you (for giving abuse and accepting it) if you repent and don’t keep doing it and making excuses for it. (This is very important).

As human beings, ALLAH has given us the uncanny ability to control our own minds and the dispositions and mentality that comes out of our minds.  La illaha illala truly means nothing is above the human being (Adam) except The Creator.  We control our minds by thinking positively on the dictates of ALLAH and submitting to them.  This pushes out the negative and allows strong iman (faith in ALLAH and His Message) to reign in us allowing us to lead peaceful and productive lives.

So, like the scientists say, if your mind has been affected by witnessing negative abusive behavior, you will probably have these feelings for the rest of your life.  But they do not have to control you.  This is where ALLAH comes in and gives you insight and strength.

First you realize these negative feelings are wrong and are a tool of the devil.  ALLAH did not create you to be abusive to any of His creation.  Nor did He create you to accept abuse.  You are better than that.  You are Adam.  Those devil-inspired feelings are supposed to bow to you…not vice versa. 

And remember, those who inflict abuse are guilty and committing great sin.  And similarly, those who accept abuse are guilty.  Both are lowering themselves beneath the lofty station ALLAH has placed them on. It’s as if you are denying the Favors of ALLAH.  Keep the faith.  Remain strong.  Remember ALLAH often and the victory is yours.

“And those who, having done an act of indecency, or wronged their own souls, should remember ALLAH and ask for forgiveness for their sins;  and who can forgive sins except ALLAH?  And are never stubborn in continuing (and excusing) the wrong they have done.  For them, the reward is is forgiveness from The Lord and gardens with rivers flowing underneath as an eternal dwelling; how excellent a reward this is for those who work and strive for good”.  3:135-136 Qur’an

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

13-34

Find your Peace Using ALLAH’S Peace

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, TMO

Islam, the religion of peace of over one billion people, is uniquely situated to comfort each of those people individually.  No two people are alike or have the same situations or experiences – not best friends, family members, not even identical twins think and act alike.  And for all these one billion plus Muslims, there is only one book of guidance for all…the illustrious Qur’an Karim.

ALLAH has structured His creation so that every human being can have a personal relationship with Him.  This is why when praying, it shouldn’t matter what masjid you are at or what imam is leading.  You’re not praying to him or through him: you’re praying directly to ALLAH.  The imam is just leading you through the motions.

To enhance peace in our own lives, we must focus on the peace of the Divine Mind revealed by ALLAH to mankind.  Keeping the mind steady on the path of love and prosperity is a full-time job and absolutely imperative if we are to attain the true purpose of our existence, which is to follow ALLAH’S directives for peace of mind and prosperity.

ALLAH has given us this beautiful mind as the greatest tool in creation.  Everything except ALLAH submits to that mind (Adam).  The mind was designed by ALLAH to reflect the spiritual world, so we can better maneuver in the material world and thus, achieve a balance between these two worlds.

No where in the Qur’an does ALLAH tell mankind to be evil, mean, jealous, or envious as these are the characteristics of Satan.  Quite the contrary, He admonishes us for those things and directs us to be the exact opposite.  But as we have said many times, it is not automatic.  Because we are equipped with a mind and consciousness, we must consciously read and learn ALLAH’S word and act on it in order to be successful.

The common, lazy practice of mankind is to make other people the cause and the source of their happiness.  Women will look to a man for happiness and peace, and a man will look to a woman.  Ironically, these false sources of happiness can also be thought of as the guilty ones and the ones to blame for our unhappiness.  Neither one is the truth.  True happiness and peace can only come from submission to The Source of peace…Almighty ALLAH.

It takes faith and work (action) to walk the path of spirituality while negativity and self-doubt are the results of lack of faith in ALLAH, and lack of knowledge of the sacred principles that govern this world.  This lack of knowledge comes most often from not getting involved with the scripture of ALLAH through reflective reading.

Presently we are in the 1st days of the month of Ramadan which affords us the best opportunity to reflect on and increase our faith…which is the key to peace.  ALLAH tells us in Qur’an that the early morning is the best time for reading Qur’an and reflection and prayer.  In His mercy of ordering us to fast, the majority of us is up and has had suhoor anyway: so, if your schedule allows it, use this time to raise yourself spiritually.  Sit down quietly and read the days reading with reflection on the words; not just as a duty.

ALLAH has made peace attainable to us all, individually, so don’t miss your opportunity.  Find your peace by being human as ALLAH describes a human.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

ISNA Convention Chicago

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Top Moments From 48th Annual ISNA Convention

ISNA Press Release

ISNA07042011

The 48th annual ISNA convention has come and gone, and thousands of attendees from across North America were able to learn, laugh and reflect. From July 1-4 in Chicago, convention-goers learned from some of the most influential Muslim icons in the West, on topics ranging from social pluralism to racism and classism to Islamophobia, and more.

Whether attendees were taking part in the ISNA, MSA, or MYNA programs, sessions followed the main convention theme: “Loving God, Loving Neighbor, Living in Harmony,” in an effort to illustrate how the merits of integration and social harmony in America are in line with Islamic spirituality and inspire community members to respond proactively to discrimination with patience and initiatives to promote tolerance.

The four-day convention-the largest Muslim convention in North America-had many great moments, lessons and events. Too many to count, in fact. But here are the Top 11 highlights of the 48th ISNA convention:

1. Hathout, Mattson, Esposito and Shakir on Social Harmony. 

At the Friday night main session, “Islam, Pluralism, and Social Harmony,” speakers Maher Hathout, former ISNA president Ingrid Mattson, John Esposito and Imam Zaid Shakir addressed the importance of a peaceful, pluralistic society, and the social movement needed today. Their reflections on the topic set the tone for the rest of the weekend, illustrating the main theme of social harmony.

Mattson urged others to have a positive attitude toward religious diversity.

“Allah [swt] in the Quran tells us that it is His will that there should be religious  diversity in the world,” Mattson said. “This is Allah’s choice. … He could have chosen it to be a different kind of world.”
Imam Zaid Shakir said he believed what is needed now is a social movement within the Muslim community.

“Our community has proven that we can live with other people,” Shakir said. “Our challenge [now] is to build a social movement to enhance values in our own community and then just share those values with others. Our movement should be of grace and rehabilitation to show that we have something to offer this country.”

2. Tackling the “difficult” topics head on.

There are those topics that, perhaps in our local masjid community, are often shied away from, brushed under the rug, or aren’t given the proper attention or depth of discussion needed. The majority of the sessions this weekend were chosen by ISNA members, so many were not the run-of-the-mill topics, but were instead those that are often “uncomfortable” but extremely necessary today to bring to the forefront.

Convention-goers attended sessions from topics ranging from substance abuse and addiction to Muslim women in the military, to how to respond to Islamophobia and anti-Sharia sentiment, to the need for many of our mosques to be more inclusive.

3. All the Muslims. 

Let’s face it: ISNA is the largest Muslim convention of its kind in all of North America. And seeing thousands upon thousands of Muslims from all over the country flock to one place in an effort to learn more about their faith, network, reflect, and learn how to be a more active citizen or a better Muslim, is awe-inspiring.

“As a first time ISNA-er, the number of Muslims from all over for one weekend is what is amazing to me,” Zaynah Qutubuddin said.

Another perk to being the biggest Muslim convention? ISNA-goers are able to see old friends.

“Probably one of the best things about my weekend was seeing the faces of people I haven’t seen in nine years or so,” one convention-goer said.

“I got to spend time with friends from D.C., Chicago, Boston and California, all at once. I never would have been able to see them otherwise, and I look forward to seeing them at the ISNA convention every year,” said Dalia Othman, of Detroit.

4. Learning more about the faith.

The contemporary sessions of the weekend were remarkable, but some convention-goers are also looking for a revitalization of their faith, to learn more about Islam and be inspired. One of the breakout lessons that left a strong impression with attendees was the MSA session, “Inner Whispers: Defeating Satan’s Playbook” with speaker Wisam Sharieff, who addressed ways to fight temptation and strengthen one’s bond with God instead.

“One thing he said that just completely opened my eyes was how we should start any form of speaking with either alhamdallah, subhanallah, or la illaha ila Allah,” said Khalid AbdelJalil, of Villa Park, Ill. “[Sharieff] said by starting with that, it could stop us from things like getting into arguments or gossiping. It was tips like that that I think are going to make a big difference in my day-to-day.”
For some, sessions like this were a reminder of the importance of spiritual learning, and how the convention is a chance to learn as much as possible in a short amount of time.

“It truly reminded me of why I came to ISNA and reminded me of how special I am to be a Muslim, alhamdallah,” sai Lama Musa, of Chicago.

5. Entertainment Night.

Native Deen, Muslim country singer Kareem Salama, poet Mona Haydar, and musician Najam Sheraz headlined Entertainment Night on Sunday evening. The crowd got to sing along to their favorite Native Deen songs, and old and new fans of Kareem Salama’s music were able to finally see the artist in a rare Chicago appearance.

“When Native Deen got on stage, I felt like I was a little kid again,” said Haneen Waheed, from Indiana. “They’re an exciting, thrilling, amazing and talented group, mashallah. They really got the crowd going-I had a blast.”

She also caught Kareem Salama’s performance for the first time. “He was like a rock star country singer!”

6. Sheriff Leroy D. Baca & Keith Ellison.

Baca’s testimony at the controversial hearing led by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) was key in highlighting the baseless singling out of Muslims, and turned him into a veritable hero to the Muslim American community. His appearance at ISNA’s “Loving God, Loving Neighbor, Living in Harmony: Building Bridges Through Caring” session showed attendees his support for the Muslim community, as well as other faith communities.

“We will defend all religions at all times,” Baca told attendees.

Following Baca was congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who closed the session with a rousing speech asking the Muslim Americans to be active in the arenas of social and economic justice.
“Get ready to help your country, help your country revive the economy, help your country say liberty and justice for all to include all and help your country to relate to the rest of the world,” Ellison said. “All these strengths are on your table, all these things demand your attention. But I believe you can do it if you put your mind to it.”

7. Islamic Film Festival.

Whether you’ve been dying to watch “Mooz-lum,” “I am Here,” or “The Deen Show,” it was all available for screenings at the Islamic Film Festival that showcased some of the latest and most critically-acclaimed films by and about Muslims.

The big weekend crowd-pleaser was the documentary “Fordson,” about the Fordson High football team and what happens when Muslims play football. It also helped that the “stars” of the film were there for the screening. Film creators talked about the making the film and gave the audience a “behind the scenes” look, team members took photos with fans, and the team coach threw a football around with kids at the bazaar.

“I kept fighting with myself-I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go to a lecture or sneak back to the film festival and watch another movie,” said Samira Mohommad, of Chicago. “’Fordson’ was great, gave a really strong patriotic message, especially on fourth of July weekend!”

8. Health Fair.

At a time when more than 46 million Americans lack health insurance, the free health screenings at the convention health fair were a welcome offer, and had an almost constant stream of traffic all weekend.

Along with health screenings, testing for blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and even dental health screenings were available on site. There was also a blood drive from the Red Cross, and a bone marrow donor registration-in memory of 15-year-old Bilal Mallik, who passed away earlier this year after a brief battle with Leukemia.

“I registered to be a bone marrow donor,” said Omar Yunus, of San Francisco. “Just took a swab of the inside of my cheek-the whole thing took about five minutes. This is a good thing they’re doing.”

9. Love for the orphans.

Dozens of people signed up to be an orphan sponsor, seeking to clothe, shelter and nourish orphans from all corners of the world through Islamic Relief’s orphan sponsorship program. And when Imam Shakir, along with speakers Elena Melona and Wafa Bennani, discussed orphan adoption in Islam in the session “Each of Us is a Flower: Adoption in the Muslim Community,” the room was so jam-packed that attendees were standing in any space that was available-the phrase, “this may be a safety violation” was uttered more than once-demonstrating the eagerness with which many ISNA-goers sought to learn about adoption and how they can reach out and care for orphans.

“If we don’t provide nurturing environments for both our biological children and those children who are orphans, then we are going to provide a social situation that is going to provide a lot more haraam,” Imam Shakir said. “There are social consequences that accrue when we don’t look care for our orphans.”

10. Zumba! Fitness.

This year’s convention had many new and fun activities, including the return of the ever popular basketball tournament, but none more anticipated than the all-ages “Soul Improvements: Sisters Fitness Extravaganza,” where attendees (sisters only!) were able to enjoy a food tasting and an exciting Zumba routine, while also learning about healthy living in Islam.

Zaynah Qutubuddin of Boston, a newcomer to the convention, said, “I absolutely loved it. It was my first time doing Zumba and I had a lot of fun. I also appreciated the tie-in to Islam and general health.”

11. Bazaar, Bazaar, Bazaar.

It’s always fun to see what stops vendors pull out to attract ISNA-goers. From free t-shirts and electronic tasbeeh counters to live-and oh-so-adorable-baby chicks, to a chance to win a free cruise, you can always guarantee a good time at the bazaar (and get to go home with a respectable amount of free swag!).

Many booths even featured surprise appearances; bazaar shoppers could take get their Kareem Salama CD signed by the artist himself, take a photo with the football players from the critically-acclaimed film “Fordson,” talk with imams Yaser Birjas and Yasir Qadi at Al-Maghrib Institute’s booth, or meet NFL players-brothers Hamza and Husain Abdullah.

“Kareem Salama signed my CD, that was a definite highlight for me,” one young convention attendee said. “I love his music, so different from other Islamic music, with its own unique message.”

“I got to hold a baby chick,” gushed another attendee, Tamara Saleh, of Washington D.C., said. “The chicks at the Crescent Chicken booth were my favorite.”

Article courtesy of ISNA volunteer and freelance journalist Meha Ahmad. Photos courtesy of ISNA volunteers and photographers Nushmia Khan, Osama Alian, and Mariam Saifan.

13-28

Practice Your Belief

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

With ALLAH’S name, The Merciful Benefactor, Merciful Redeemer

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, TMO

El-Amin portrait  90dpiTo have faith in ALLAH is to trust Him in good times and bad times, in prosperity and poverty, when we have made intelligent decisions or dumb mistakes.  Things don’t always go as we plan.  Sometimes we can do something so stupid that we doubt our sanity.  But keeping faith in ALLAH by using our conscious minds can save us and help get us back on track.

Sometimes it is difficult to believe in the unseen, even though ALLAH says these believers are the people the book is written for.  So the practice of the religion must be coupled with the faith that the obedience to the dictates of the religion will bring the desired results; that the promises ALLAH makes will be kept.

Always remember, we receive, as a result of prayer, exactly what we think.  WE have to begin to think straight, as the Qur’an instructs us and as Muhammad (s) did by example, to receive the blessings of ALLAH.

Rote, mechanical movements of salat, will not, in itself, produce the results you desire without the conscious submission of your mind to Him.     

It is a fact that our minds have to be programmed by us.  ALLAH designed it that way.  He gave each of us the ingredients and thus, the power to change our condition and enhance our condition – just by thinking positively.  He puts the responsibility on us by telling us our condition will not change until we first change our hearts -the heart being representative of the “nafs” or soul of the human being.
I keep putting the emphasis on we and us to underscore the fact that it won’t be done automatically.  It must be done by each individual.  If you don’t think you can – you will think you can’t – and you most certainly won’t.

ALLAH tells us in another verse of the Qur’an that our souls must be purified by us in order for us to be successful.  Again, that purification begins with a thought – positive thinking.  So it is important that these thoughts be clean and guided by a righteous heart.  And if it is not righteous, it can be programmed to be righteous.  The Prophet Muhammad (s) has said, “There is a morsel of flesh in the body which if it be whole, the whole body will be whole.  And if it be diseased, the whole body is diseased.  Surely it is the heart” Of course we know this is the symbolic heart and not necessarily the physical heart, but it is a good example.  The heart pumps life-giving blood to every cell in the body, including the brain, which houses the mind.  Now if this heart is pumping good rich blood to the brain, it will thrive and prosper with the nutrients it carries.  Similarly, if the “nafs” is good, pure, and whole, it will feed the mind so it can make proper decisions for clean and positive living.

Isn’t it wonderful?  We actually have the ability to make ourselves whole.  By practicing our belief, it increases our faith, which gives us the strength to obey ALLAH, and so we become better human beings.  We become more stable, more prosperous, more peaceful, and, most importantly, more spiritually connected to ALLAH.

So let us start to program our brains to think on the straight path ALLAH has laid out for us.  Let us make our brains purify our hearts so we can be truly successful.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

13-24

Editorial-Arrests of Florida Imams Require Serious Investigation

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-Chief

Two imams, (Muslim religious leaders) and four of their family members were arrested in Florida for allegedly sending money to the Taliban in Pakistan and supporting their terror network. The two were naturalized US citizens. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies rightly explained that the indictment was not against a community or religion but against individuals. The authorities have the recorded conversations of the two imams with the Taliban contacts in Pakistan and have the information about the money transfer between 2008 and 2010.

This is a serious issue and all mosque managements in the US need to take measures that that spiritual leadership positions must not be misused to promote personal political agenda. Regardless of how the situation is explained, the fact is that an average American would find it hard to trust a Muslim spiritual leader for his words. In his view, not only the individuals but people and institutions who support these individuals are guilty. However, illogical this perspective may be, but it cannot be overlooked.

It is the responsibility of mosque management to ensure that people who are given the responsibility to lead the community in spiritual matters are not pursuing some hidden political agenda. It is important that before hiring them, their background is checked and their understanding of religion is verified. There is nothing wrong in taking the help of the law enforcement agencies in having background check of individuals. The religious identity of a person is not a guarantee that his understanding of religion is sound or his past is free from actions that are contrary to religion.

The two imams of Florida should not have been at the position they were appointed. How could such people who have a duality in their character ever lead a people to the correct understanding of their faith. Does their behavior not confirm the fear of many non-Muslim Americans that Muslim Americans lie in order to promote their hidden agenda of destroying America from inside?

These sort of religious fanatics must be rooted out of the community. In fact, those who invite such people to America to lead the community in the masajid must be investigated too.The faith cannot be held hostage by the people who have nothing but hatred in their heart, two of the diseases that Islam demands must be fought.

Injustice must be fought but not through violent means. Yes, what is happening in Palestine is wrong and what is happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan is wrong. But the wrong can not be corrected by doing more wrong. Those among the Muslim community who promote hatred and anger and violence must realize that they have no place in the community. They will be challenged and thrown out of Muslim places of worship as they do not represent the faith and the example of the leader of the faith, the Prophet (s).

13-21

Muslim Leaders Participate in Mayor Emanuel’s Inauguration

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

CIOGC Report

kareem250 (1)Imam Kareem Irfan, President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago and former Chairperson of CIOGC was one of the faith leaders that offered an invocation at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s inauguration on May 16.

“It was both inspiring and humbling for me to to speak as the first Muslim President of CRLMC as more than 6,000 Chicagoans gathered in Millennium Park,” said Imam Irfan. “Having offered the first-ever Muslim prayer at Chicago’s City Council at Mayor Daley’s 2003 Inauguration, I felt privileged as an American Muslim to now offer focused remarks and an invocation for peace at Mr. Emanuel’s personal request and to a gathering which included Mayor Daley, the Chicago City Council, Vice President Biden and several members of President Obama’s Cabinet. Considering this a critical opportunity for wise dawah, I pray that I was able to provide an informed, firm and professional Muslim perspective reflective of our heritage of sensitive outreach and compassion for all.

Excerpt from his invocation:

“On behalf of all the faiths represented on our Council, most certainly including the Muslim community, be assured we will engage sincerely with your administration and the City Council as we together tackle the challenges of economic instability, gun violence, homelessness, healthcare, education and immigration. We will especially help counter the ugly resurgence of faith-related bigotry, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism by compassionate understanding and meaningful collaboration forged across Chicago’s diverse faiths in order to realize a peaceful and prosperous society. Today marks the launch of that collective commitment as all of us Chicagoans and Americans join hands in pursuit of these lofty objectives.”

13-21

Mayor Omar Ahmad Passes Away

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

OmarAmadbwSAN CARLOS, CA–The news will be read with profound sadness that Mayor Omar Ahmad of San Carlos City, California, passed away on on the morning of May 10th at the age of 46.

A widely respected politician, busineman, and community leader he will be missed by one and all. He was elected to the San Carlos City Council in November 2007.  He had previously served as a member of the City’s Economic Development Advisory Commission (EDAC).  While on the City Council, Omar was selected to serve as the Mayor of San Carlos in November by his fellow Council Members. 

During his term on the City Council, Ahmad also served on several committees and boards including the Airport Roundtable, Belmont-San Carlos Fire Commission, C/CAG Airport Land Use Committee (ALUC), Caltrain Board of Directors, San Mateo County Council of Cities, Economic Development Advisory Commission (EDAC) (Council Liaison), Harbor Industrial Association (HIA Council Liaison), Peninsula Congestion Management Relief Alliance,  San Carlos Green (Council Liaison) and SamTrans Board of Directors (Council of Cities Appointment).

He was a well known entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, having been involved in the start up of a number of companies over the years including the Discovery Channel, @Home, Trusted ID, Grand Central Communications, Napster, Netscape and most recently as the co-founder and CEO of SynCH Energy Corporation.

Ahmad was also deeply committed to his Islamic faith and guided the community in grooming the next generation of leaders. By practical example he showed how to balance faith in the mainstream politics. He took his oath of office in the presence of an Imam. Noted playwright Wajahat, who was close friend, observed: “In all his activities, he remained committed to his faith. He helped nurture and train Muslim-American leadership. He was a behind-the-scenes mover, who used his vast entrepreneurial experience to make sure the next generation would be able to build real, lasting community relationships with our neighbors. We admired him, not because he was Muslim, but because being Muslim made him do admirable things.

When we think of Muslim-America, we think of Omar. There was no distinction for him between his faith and his country, and he sought to do right by both. When we think of role-models for our community, we think of Omar. He gave only what was best—and he gave it everyday for everyone, regardless of their color or religion.”

City Manager Jeff Maltbie said “Those of us at City Hall who had the opportunity to work with and get to know him are devastated by his loss.  Omar’s dedication to the citizens of San Carlos and his passion for democracy will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

Ahmad is survived by Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad (father), Nadira Ahmad (mother) and his two sisters (Fataima Warner and Leah Berry). The City  lowered the flags in front of City buildings to half staff in honor of Omar Ahmad.  The State Senate and State Assembly in Sacramento will adjourn in honor of Omar Ahmad this week.

13-20

Remembering “Brother Hodari”

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

MANA Press Release

hodari1Hodari Abdul-Ali or, “Brother Hodari,” as he was widely known; had a long history of activism and social commitment.  His contributions were highly respected; and he was well-recognized as a social justice activist, journalist, media personality, a pioneer purveyor of Islamic, African and African American literature and as a businessman.  Brother Hodari was particularly beloved in the Washington, D.C. area of the United States, where a large event in his honor was held on April 23rd.

As a member of the MANA Shura, he was dear to us because of his warm and deeply caring personality, love for Allah (Glory be to Him) and His Messenger (peace be upon him), his commitment to social justice, and his love for his people. It was because of these qualities that Hodari was asked to serve as both the Chairman of the MANA Social Justice Task Force and as a primary representative of MANA in the Washington, D.C. area.

He was dear to us because of his warm and deeply caring personality And his love for Allah and His Messenger (s).

Although we understand that illness is all too human, and that to bear it with faith is one of the characteristics of a believer, we were shocked to learn of our brother’s suffering from the effects of prostate cancer. Over the past two years, he slowly succumbed to the disease which claims the lives of too many African American men; and yet, he kept it a secret from all but his immediate family. We ask Allah to forgive his sins multiplied by each hour of each day that he bore his fate with faith and dignity, and to reward our beloved brother, Hodari with Jannah (Paradise).

Brother Hodari’s janaaza prayer, held on the 28 Jumada Al-Awwal 1432 (May 2, 2011) was attended by several hundred believers. Among those present from the MANA family were Deputy Amir Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, Imam Mohammed Magid, brothers Jihad Abdul-Mu’mit, Altaf Hussain, Jameel Johnson, Johari Abdul-Malik, Tariq Nelson. Our brother Mahdi Bray (MAS Freedom Foundation), who continues to recuperate from the stroke he suffered last year, Alhamdulillah, was present; as was our brother Nihad Awad of CAIR National.

One can only imagine the degree of financial hardship that Brother Hodari’s family has endured over the past two years. Our Prophet Muhammad (s), taught us that “Whoever relieves the stress of a believer will have his (or her) stress relieved.” Therefore, we strongly encourage all members of MANA to aid Brother Hodari’s widow, Sister Ayanna, and his family by sending a secure monetary donation to them via PayPal.  Details on how to make a donation are below.

Brother Hodari was particularly beloved in the Washington, D.C. area. Brother Hodari bore his suffering with faith and dignity… May Allah reward him with Paradise. We strongly encourage all members of MANA to give financial support to Brother Hodari’s widow.

Please continue our support of Hodari by making a financial contribution to help his family to defray costs. You can make a secure donation via PayPal. Go to www.PayPal.com. Click on “send money.” Enter in the amount of your contribution, and then the following email for the payee account: sadiq.akmal@gmail.com. The funds will be sent safely and securely and will be used for his burial and to assist his widow and their family needs.

13-20

900 Gather in Dearborn as Religious Leaders Rebuke Pastor

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Francis X. Donnelly / The Detroit News

bildeDearborn— A variety of religious leaders rebuked a Quran-burning pastor today and affirmed their support for religious freedom and civil discourse.

They spoke at the Islamic Center of American a day before Florida pastor Terry Jones planned to appear there to protest what he called Islamic extremists.

About 900 people turned out to hear the religious leaders, who ranged from Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit; Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini, leader of the Islamic Center; and Richard Nodel, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

The Rev. Charles Williams II, pastor of King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, said Jones has actually done the community a favor by uniting the various religious factions.

“Thank you for bringing us together,” William said as the audience all stood to applaud. “This is our time to go to work.”

He said the community should use the unity to tackle other problems, like crime and economic troubles.

“This is our time to go to work,” he said.

After Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr. and eight religious leaders spoke during the two-hour rally, the crowd held a silent vigil by walking outside quietly and forming a half circle facing the mosque. The half circle they formed around mosque was a symbol of them protecting the mosque against Jones.

They held hands and remained quiet for 10 minutes before ending the silence by relaying the word “Amen” from one end of the line to the other.

Before and during the rally, hundreds of people signed a 50-foot-long banner that exhorted them to oppose Jones and remember the best parts of their faith.

“We, as caring neighbors in southeastern Michigan, stand together in condemning the actions of those who spew hate and fear, and who misuse and desecrate holy books of faith,” read the banner.

Meanwhile, several miles away in 19th District Court, a jury was selected for a trial Friday that will weigh whether Jones legally can carry out plans to protest at the mosque.

fdonnelly@detnews.com
(313) 223-4186

13-18

Stories of Friendship & Faith: The Wisdom of Women Creating Alliances for Peace

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

opening hearts, opening minds, opening doors

By Brenda Naomi Rosenberg

WisdomWomen_PROMOcover In Metro Detroit, a mostly segregated area of isolated and sometimes hostile communities, with almost every person affected by the failing economy, a devastated auto industry, sky- rocketing unemployment, an area where homes have been devalued by as much as 50%, I saw a spark of hope. A spark ignited with my friends from WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit), women who share my passion for opening hearts and opening minds, women who dare to cross boundaries to make friends. Together, we created FRIENDSHIP and FAITH; the WISDOM of women creating alliances for peace, a book that offers hope and the possibility of how we can create peace if we are willing to extend our hands in friendship and formulate meaningful connections.

Twenty nine of us, ages 20 to 80 from seven different faiths -Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Sikh, and Buddhist-collaborated for a year to produce a collection of inspiring stories, stories of creating friendships across religious and cultural divides. Stories that describe everything from surviving flat-out hatred—to the far simpler challenge of making friends with someone of a different religion and race when you share a hospital room; stories that describe making friends at school, overcoming misunderstandings with colleagues at work and even daring to establish friendships that circle the globe; stories that will lift spirits—perhaps even inspire people to spark a new friendship wherever they live.

Our Journey to create Friendship & Faith began on January 24, 2009, when 14 WISDOM leaders gathered for a retreat at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, led by the Rev. Sharon Buttry, whose story appears in the book. The retreat was called “Building Bridges”. Together we explored ways to strengthen relationships between women and create innovative projects for the future. To deepen our reflections that weekend, we divided into pairs— I teamed up with Gigi Salka, a Muslim friend and board member of the Muslim Unity Center. Our first exercise was to draw the bridge that connected us. Our bridge was a beautiful rainbow of colors; filled with many of the interfaith and educational projects we had worked on together, including placing a mini Jewish library, a gift of the Farbman family, at the Muslim Unity Center.  I wanted to share not only our bridge-building efforts but all the stories in the room. I proposed a book of our personal stories of how we built bridges across religious and cultural divides, with the hope to inspire others to reach out and to expand the circle of WISDOM.

The group’s enthusiastic response led to a task force focused on gathering stories from dozen of women from diverse backgrounds. Our task force includes WISDOM members Padma Kuppa, Sheri Schiff, Gail Katz, Trish Harris, Ellen Ehrlich, Judy Satterwaite, Paula Drewek and me. We turned to another friend: David Crumm, (founding editor of Read The Spirit www.ReadTheSprit.com, an online magazine, and publisher of ReadTheSpirit Books. David not only published our book, but helped us expand our creative circle. We invited writers from a similarly wide range of backgrounds to help us. Some of the writers are still in college—and some are veteran, nationally-known writers.

As you open the book, you’ll meet my three dear friends; Gail Katz, (Jewish) Trish Harris, (Catholic) and Shahina Begg, (Muslim) who will invite you to sit down with them around a kitchen table. They’ll tell you about the creation of WISDOM – their meeting at an interfaith event, the documentary premier of “Reuniting the Children of Abraham” at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church, and how WISDOM has developed into a dynamic women’s interfaith dialogue organization hosting many successful educational and social-service programs.

Many stories will feel like you’re witnessing events unfolding in your back yard – stories about overcoming tough problems with relationships at school—or finding solutions when families suddenly encounter friction over interreligious marriages. Other stories take you to times and places around the world that you’ll find so compelling—so memorable—that you’ll want to tell a friend – two girls in Iran risking the wrath of religious authorities with their interfaith friendship,  a Jewish woman, child of holocaust survivors, who finds an unexpected friendship when a German couple moves in next door – a Muslim-Hindu marriage that raises cross-country anxiety in India—and a rare true story about an innocent Japanese girl who bravely faced hatred  in an internment camp here and also in Japan during World War II.  You will read the heartfelt stories of personal struggles. One Muslim woman shares her story of how challenging it was for her to start wearing a head scarf after 9/11, and another about how she ended an abusive marriage, stopped wearing her head scarf and started helping other Arab woman in all their relationships. And, some stories like mine show how a lunch with an Imam led to creating an interfaith project  “Reuniting the Children of Abraham”  that has crossed race, faith, cultural barriers and  international boundaries.

Read our book with a friend or neighbor. Meet us online at our www.FriendshipAndFaith.com web site.  Look for our stories on www.ReadTheSpirit.com.,and our book on www.Amazon.com.  We would love to come to your congregation or organization and present our program 5 Women 5 Journeys, an insightful exchange about our faiths, beliefs and challenges as women. If you are interested in organizing a congregational –wide “read” of this book contact: Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net

12-15

Houstonian Corner (V12-I14)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Unity Faith and Discipline

Picture AAA Picture AZ

Census 2010 Meeting at ISGH Main Center…

Pakistan Day of March 23 Celebrated at the Consulate of Pakistan in Houston…

Need to Revitalize the Golden Principles of the Quid: Unity – Faith – & – Discipline: Khalid Khan of PAGH – Honorable Aqil Addressed the Community Especially Media

“I have just returned from Pakistan: What I have seen on the roads, streets and public places over there and then also have closely observed the Pakistan community in USA, I reach this conclusion that individually Pakistanis are the brightest of all and most talented. Somehow when it comes to working together, we have issues. And this is because we have forgotten the golden principles of Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah of Unity – Faith – & – Discipline”: These were the words of youngest ever President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) at the Pakistan Day March 23rd Festivities at the Consulate of Pakistan in Houston. Mezban Restaurant catered sumptuous brunch on the occasion and everyone appreciate Sohail and Tariq of Mezban for as always grand food.

“We have big egos and instead of positively using our egos, we indulge in negativity.  It is time for us to make a comeback and revive Unity – Faith – & – Discipline, through which we achieved the biggest bounty of independence,” added Khalid Khan.

Before that Counsel General of Pakistan Aqil Nadeem, Commercial Attaché Government of Pakistan Dr. Zia Ahmed, various leaders of the Pakistani community, their spouses and community media joined together at the lawn besides the Consulate to raise the flag of Pakistan amidst the national anthem. Some of the distinguished members of the community like Shamshad Wali (who read a patriotic poem); Reverend Dr. Afzal Firdous; Ali Kamal (former seven times president of PAGH); Dr. Aziz Siddiqi (President ISGH); Ghulam Bombaywala (former President of PAGH); Abdul Qayyum; Zafar Khan (office bearer of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce); Mirza Ashraf; and others.

For the first time at a community event like this, members of local Pakistani media were given chance to say their feelings. Tariq Khan; Chairperson of Pakistani Media Council, informed briefly the historical significance of March 23rd and said main lesson we can take from Pakistan Movement is that without combined and unified effort, it was impossible to achieve Pakistan and that unity we need today not only in Pakistan, but living in USA as Pakistani Community, we need to rise up beyond our differences and unite. He pointed out that the community leadership at times ignore the media and do not give due respect. There is need for mutual respect between the media and the leaders of the community. He appealed to Consul General Aqil Nadeem to mediate and resolve the ongoing issue between a member of the media and community leader. Shamim Syed of Pakistan News also gave a message of hope for concord within the community. Shaikh Najam Ali of Pakistan Times said that money is not the criteria of someone being a big man.

After reading the message of President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari on the happy occasion of March 23rd, which talked about need to strengthen the democratic values and system in Pakistan after years of dictatorships; in the midst of ovations, the Counsel General of Pakistan in Houston Honorable Aqil Nadeem announced “Jinnah Scholarship” for someone of Pakistani Origin doing a four year degree program in journalism. He said in mainstream American media, there is lack of Pakistanis presence and this is one small way to enhance our presence in a positive manner. He urged all Pakistanis to help in collecting the necessary funds for this scholarship.

Honorable Aqil Nadeem showed his antagonism towards those elements in the society, including some media outlet in Houston, who gives air to disunity. He said as Pakistan is transforming back into the folds of fully functional democracy, it is also incumbent upon all the Pakistanis abroad to recognize that their motherland has given them identity and education that today they are excelling in a foreign land: One way of pay back is to strengthen the Pakistani community wherever they may be.

Census 2010 has Chosen Two of ISGH Centers for their Community Information Places

“We have more than eighteen major centers across the Greater Houston Region, where Census 2010 can establish the informational centers. Presently Census 2010 has chosen two locations, including ISGH Masjid in Bear Creek Area:” This was informed by President of Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), as he greeted staff members of Census 2010 and The Alliance For Multicultural Community Services (which mainly deals with issues of immigrants and refugees). Present on the occasion were staff members of ISGH Main Center and Shaikh Omar Inshanally, who started the proceedings with recitation of Quran.

Census 2010 Staff informed that if people need help with understanding of Census Questionnaire that arrived in all Americans mail by March 15th, 2010, they can assist in more than 50 languages’. For all the Desi and Muslim community, The Alliance For Multicultural Community Services Center located at 6440 Hillcroft, Suite 411, Houston, Texas 77081 (Phone: 713-776-4700) provides an excellent centrally location place to get help with Census 2010 Forms.

12-14

Celebrating Extraordinary Muslim Women

March 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Salma Hasan Ali

Washington, DC – On 10 March, three Muslim women will be honoured alongside philanthropist Melinda French Gates and human rights activists Panmelo Castro from Brazil and Rebecca Lolosoli from Kenya, by Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington, DC-based organisation that works to empower women around the world.

The need to recognise the work of Muslim women is important. Type the search terms “Muslim women” or “women in Islam” online and chances are that a majority of English-language hits will consist of stories relating to what Muslim women wear on their heads or how women in Muslim-majority countries are subjected to physical abuse, or subjugated under the false pretext of religious principle.

But there is another side to Muslim women that is too infrequently recognised, reported or discussed. The Vital Voices Global Partnership awards ceremony, taking pl ace two days after International Women’s Day, provides an opportunity to celebrate this not uncommon, yet too frequently overshadowed, side to Muslim women.

Andeisha Farid grew up in a refugee camp outside Afghanistan. As a teenager, she lived in a Pakistani hostel for six years, where she studied and tutored others. In 2008, at the age of 25, she started her own non-profit organisation, the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO), in Kabul. Today, AFCECO runs ten orphanages in Afghanistan and Pakistan for over 450 children of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

In a country where non-governmental organisations that work with women and girls are frequently targeted by religious extremists, Andeisha is constantly on guard. But she remains committed to providing Afghan children not only with food and shelter, but with a sense of mutual respect, regardless of ethnic differences, a feeling of khak – connection to the earth as their homeland – and a s ense of empowerment to shape their own future, and that of their country.

“The happy faces of these children give me hope,” she says. “It helps me conquer fear.”

Afnan Al Zayani is a wife, mother, social activist, television personality and CEO of a multi-million dollar business. It’s no wonder that Forbes and Arabian Business magazine call her one of the most powerful women in the Middle East. In addition, she helped ensure the first written personal status law that protects the rights of Muslim women in cases of divorce and child custody was passed in Bahrain.

She attributes her ability to juggle so many responsibilities to her strong faith. “God will judge us on whether we use our gifts of life and health towards good or evil,” she says. Immaculately dressed in her hijab, or headscarf, she shatters the Western stereotype of the downtrodden Muslim woman. Her guiding philosophy: “Live your life as if you will live forever; live yo ur day as if you will die tomorrow.”

Then there is Roshaneh Zafar. While studying development economics at Yale University in the United States, she came across the story of Khairoon, a woman in Bangladesh who owned only one sari. Khairoon borrowed $100 from the microfinance organisation Grameen Bank to invest in a business, and now owns a sweetshop, a poultry farm, a call centre – and a collection of colourful saris.

Roshaneh met Khairoon many years after her initial loan, and saw firsthand the miracle of microfinance in changing women’s lives. She decided to start a microfinance organisation in Pakistan called Kashf, which means “miracle”. It is now the third largest microfinance organisation in Pakistan, with 300,000 clients and a goal to reach more than half a million in the next four years.

Roshaneh’s message encapsulates the sentiment of many: “Women matter to the world. We need not accept the status quo. Freeing the world of poverty and disenfranchisement of women is possible. But it will only happen when 50 per cent of the world’s population is allowed to recognise its latent strength.”

It is these stories that must be reported, not only to herald the achievements of remarkable women, but to dispel falsely created perceptions of the role of Islam in defining the fate of Muslim women.

###

* Salma Hasan Ali is a Washington, DC-based writer focusing on promoting understanding between the West and the Muslim world. This article first appeared in Washington Post/Newsweek’s On Faith and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

12-11

Community News (V12-I5)

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

IMANA sets up clinic in Haiti

imana

Imana team on their first day in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti–The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) said today that it has helped convert an amusement park in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to a health care facility. The facility, which is seeing over 100 patients a day, is being operated through a partnership between IMANA, other medical teams, and local partners such as Aimer Haiti.

With existing hospitals in Port-Au-Prince overwhelmed with patients, IMANA said physicians at the facility are hoping to increase their capacity as quake victims continue to present with fractures, infected wounds and dehydration.

“On day one, an air hockey table doubled as a procedure table. Now, with our partners, we are providing services from pediatricians, obstetricians, emergency doctors, and surgeons to at least 100 patients a day. We are hoping to arrange equipment that would allow our surgeons to go from performing simple procedures to running a full mobile operating room,” said Dr. Sameer Gafoor, a volunteer physician in Port-au-Prince. Gafoor is a cardiology fellow in Washington, D.C.

IMANA  is planning to send additional teams of physicians and surgeons every week with shipments of supplies to support existing operations.

Flint Islamic center seeks expansion

FLINT, MI–The Flint Islamic Center, catering to more than 1500 Muslims in the area, is seeking a $4.5 million expansion to its existing facilities. The new complex will have a mosque, a grade school, and will double its size from its current facility.

Besides an expanded worship space, a multi-purpose hall for social gatherings, a professional kitchen and new offices, the plan is to revamp the school operation with a new media center, science lab, school cafeteria, a new gym, an expanded computer lab to include long-distance learning, and room for a new high school program, said board member Abed Khirfan to mlive.com.

The Flint area continues to attract Muslim professionals and their families to the area due to its excellent schools, communities, and hospitals.

Kais Menoufy honored for his human rights work

SACRAMENTO, CA– Kais Menoufy, a Muslim community activist in Sacramento, was honored by the Florin Chapter of the Japanese American Citizen’s League, for his commitment to civil rights.

Menoufy helps bring “Songs of Hope” – an annual concert performed by Arab and Israeli musicians – to Sacramento.

Since 2006, the Florin JACL has partnered with Muslim organizations to take Muslim American youths to the Manzanar Internment Camp in the Southern California desert where Japanese American were interned during World War II.

Eboo Patel to speak at Stanford graduation ceremony

Interfaith leader Eboo Patel is one of the featured speakers at this year’s graduation ceremonies beginning on June 11, 200. He will joing UN Ambassador Susan Rice and Stanford Philosophy Professor Debra Satz.

Patel is a member of the Obama administration’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. A Muslim born in India and raised in Chicago, he founded the Interfaith Youth Core in 1998 to inspire and train college students to build understanding.

He is the author of a Washington Post blog, “The Faith Divide,” which explores what drives faiths apart and what brings them together. He also wrote “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.” He holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois.

“We believe Eboo Patel’s lifelong work to encourage religious tolerance and to prompt young people to take action will inspire all of us to make a difference,” the class presidents said.

12-5

Arab American Muslims, Christians–Relief to Haiti

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Arab Detroit, Ameera David

DEARBORN,Mich.–Just a day after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, the death toll was already estimated at over 1,000 people. Today, only a week later, that toll is thought to stand at 200,000—a number inclining with each passing hour.

Now, in the wake of such a disaster, a host of global organizations are contributing to relief. Joining those ranks are Arab American Muslims and Christians, who from a national to local level are stepping up to the plate and helping in unprecedented ways.

Immediately following the incident, Islamic charity Zakat mobilized as many as 50 volunteers to distribute high-need commodities. The charity, founded and directed by Khalid Demir, has pledged over $50,000 dollars in hygiene products, medical supplies, and hot cooked meals.

Demir himself just returned from a trip to Haiti in hopes of better facilitating the relief but was troubled by the amount of people who still hadn’t received any medical attention or food. “With severely overcrowded streets, there is chaos. These are people who haven’t eaten in over a week” he says.

Other Muslim organizations such as Helping Hands (based largely in Detroit) and Islamic Relief of USA have also dived in to help— both by sending in representatives to assess the calamity as well as by pledging over $1 million dollars in goods and services.

Helping Hands is currently negotiating the start of an efficient medical base clinic in Port-au-Prince. There, they will equip the center with sizeable medical provisions while also contracting quality physicians from the US and abroad into Haiti for treatment.

Umbrella organizations representing America’s Arab Christian population have also taken a stand in supporting the Haitian earthquake survivors.

Arab Melkite and Maronite Catholic Eparchies have opened special collections in their respective churches which will go directly to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), an organization with a $25 million commitment to relief.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), representative of America’s 300 plus Arabic Orthodox churches, will provide over $170,000 in relief.

Thus far, they have airlifted water purification equipment to accommodate 10,000 people as well as enough tents to lodge 500 families. Not to mention opening a campaign for donors to both finance and assemble “Hygiene Kits” complete with soap, towels, toothbrushes, and band aids.

Amal Morcos, IOCC Communications Director, is pleased to be afforded this opportunity to help. She says, “Faith based organizations play a very important role in humanitarian aid. They should uphold certain values in representing the religion and its followers— demonstrating that they care about all people regardless of their faith.”

Also showing compassion is the Michigan Food and Beverage Association, an umbrella organization which encompasses hundreds of Arab owned restaurants and stores in and around the metro-Detroit area.

The association, founded by Syrian American Edward Deeb, hopes to rally member businesses to contribute monetarily as well as with food products, with the goal of giving $2 million or more in aid.

“They don’t have enough food, enough water, or enough medical supplies. There are 1.5 million people, and they need our help” says Deeb.

While donations are surfacing mostly though large, pre-established organizations, there are also many individual Arab Americans finding creative ways to help.

Just this week, Lebanese American, Reem Sater, has initiated a fundraiser which will support Architecture for Humanity, an organization that works on reconstruction and the building of a sustainable infrastructure that can withstand earthquakes in the future.

Almost immediately after the earthquake hit, Sater thought of ways to activate the younger generation, “I didn’t see anyone from our age group organizing any relief efforts, and I felt like we had a responsibility just as anyone else to assist those in need.”

Taking place at a Ferndale lounge, each $20 donation made to the relief organization will include a drink of the person’s choice. The event promises to attract more than 200 guests and raise $5,000 in proceeds.

With recurring aftershock earthquakes and new problems developing, Haiti holds an uncertain future; however, while the true devastation remains to be seen, Arab Americans are stepping in, actively responding with open hearts and little hesitation.

12-4

France May Ban Niqab

January 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

niqab2 PARIS (AP) — A top lawmaker from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative party filed legislation on Tuesday to bar Muslim women in France from appearing in public wearing veils that hide their faces.

The bill by lawmaker Jean-Francois Cope, who heads the UMP party in the National Assembly, or lower house, has sparked criticism from some of his political allies. The speaker of the lower house, Bernard Accoyer, called Cope’s move “premature.”

FAITH & REASON: Publix faces furor over Islamic holiday listing

SWITZERLAND: Voters ban new mosque minarets

A panel of lawmakers has held hearings for six months on the all-encompassing veils that cover all but a woman’s eyes. It is to advise parliament by month’s end whether it believes a law banning such garments is needed.

In further criticism from within Cope’s own party, Labor Minister Laurent Wauquiez accused the lawmaker of using the debate over veils for self-promotion because he failed to await the conclusions of the parliamentary mission.

Sarkozy opened the debate on such veils in June, saying they aren’t welcome in France — but without specifying whether he wants a law against them.

A 2004 law bans Muslim headscarves and other “ostentatious” religious symbols from classrooms. Only a tiny minority of Muslim women in France wear the more extreme covering — which is not required by Islam. However, Islam is the No. 2 religion in France after Roman Catholicism, and authorities worry that such dress may be a gateway to extremism. They also say it amounts to an insult to women and to France’s secular foundations.

There has been concern over how any law banning the full veil could be presented without infringing on constitutional rights.

Cope’s approach is based on public order and safety. Article 1 of his proposal stipulates that “no one, in places open to the public or on streets, may wear an outfit or an accessory whose effect is to hide the face” except those with legitimate motives formally recognized. This was an apparent reference to certain cultural events and carnivals such as Mardi Gras, which Cope said last week would be exempt from his legislation.

Women failing to abide by the law, were it passed, would be subject to fines that could reach euro750 ($1,070), according to a summary by Cope last week.

He also introduced on Tuesday a parallel resolution — which does not carry the weight of law — stressing the importance of respecting the nation’s values “in the face of the development of radical practices which harm them.” The resolution states that all-enveloping veils harm “dignity and equality between men and women” and are contrary to French values.

12-3

Next Page »