Dr. Farah Abbasi Honored by City of Lansing

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

ScreenShot006Psychologist Farah Abbasi was thanked publicly and presented a plaque on behalf of Mayor Virg Bernero of Lansing.  Mayor Bernero and the city of Lansing presented the award on the basis of her work towards the Ramadan dinner which occurred recently in Lansing, an annual event put on by Lansing and East Lansing mayors together.

Dr. Abbasi helped raise over $13,000 to present to Lansing area food banks, and helped to put on the Ramadan dinner itself as well.

The purpose of the Ramadan dinner is to promote greater harmony between Michigan’s diverse communities.

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US Special Representative Favors “Friendship” With Indian Muslims

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Farah Pandith, United States’ first Special Representative to Muslim Communities, was here on a four-day visit to apparently “win over” the Indian Muslims and improve President Barack Obama administration’s image among them. Farah has come and gone (Feb 16-19), leaving many questions unanswered about the role such visits can really play in improving United States’ image among the Indian Muslims. Asserting that her visit was “not a popularity contest,” Farah said that it was an “effort to engage with people and strike partnerships to find a common ground of interest for the common good of all.”

Farah, an American of Indian origin, was born in Kashmir. It was her first visit to India as an US Special Representative, a new position created by Obama administration to improve Washington’s image in the Muslim world and also to actively “listen and respond” to their concerns in Europe, Africa and Asia. Sworn to this position last year on September 15, Farah has visited 12 other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Iraq and Kuwait. Her visits are a part of Obama administrations to reach out to Muslims dominated by “propaganda, stereotypes and inaccurate generalizations” about Washington.  This is the message Farah conveyed during her addresses in New Delhi at Jamia Millia Islamia University and India Islamic Cultural Center (IICC).

Farah played her part in displaying her consciousness about her religious identity as a Muslim and also in fulfilling the responsibility assigned to her in reaching out to Muslims across the world. She kept her head bowed as a cleric recited from the holy Quran at the function held at IICC. Farah began her brief address with the traditional Muslim greeting: “Asalaam Alaikum.” It was President Obama’s “vision to build partnerships with Muslim communities across the globe on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect,” she said. “I repeat that it is based on mutual interest and respect and I extend my hand of friendship and partnership with you,” she asserted.

Highlighting the significance of her position, Farah said: “Never before America had an envoy for Muslim communities. This is the first time an envoy for the Muslims was appointed. My job is to work with our embassies worldwide to engage with the Muslim communities and focus strongly on the new generation.” “Secretary (Hillary) Clinton has asked me to engage with Muslim communities around the world at the grassroots level, and to build and extend partnerships through the US embassies in both Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries. I have to look at out-of-the-box ways to engage, based on mutual respect. That is my job, my mandate,” she said.

“With one-fourth of the world’s population that is Muslim, of course our country (United States) wants to do as much as we can to build partnerships across the board,” Farah stated. “We can and we want to extend the partnership in a very strong way that will allow us to develop long-term relationship with Muslims all over the world,” she said.

Drawing attention to Islam being practiced in United States and the diversity there, Farah pointed to having learned reading holy Quran at a mosque there. She also tried convincing the audience that she was “this was not an effort to increase popularity of America by a few percentage points.” Nevertheless, while interacting with Indian Muslim leaders, she pointed to Obama administration being serious about working closely with Islamic world. This, she said, was marked by appointment of Indian born Rashid Hussain as envoy for the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).  Obama’s advisory council for faith also includes Eboo Patel, an Indian-American Muslim from Chicago.

The US government can act as a “convener, facilitator and intellectual partner” and help forge partnerships on basis of common ideas and common goals, the benefits of which will be useful not only for Muslims, but everyone, Farah said. Elaborating on her mission to reach out to the young generation, she pointed out that 45 percent of the world population is under the age of 30. “I will focus more on the young generation in Muslim world and I want to understand the diversity of Islam in different countries and communities as well,” she said.

Though Farah expressed that she was “interested in talking to the Facebook generation, the youth,” she evaded questions posed at Jamia University on United States’ foreign policy on issues that have bothered Muslims across the world. To a question regarding Israel-Palestine, she said: “That is not my job. I am not George Mitchell (US Mideast envoy).” On Washington’s policy regarding West Asia and Pakistan, Farah replied: “I am not Richard Holbrooke (US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan). It’s not my job to work on Kashmir or Pakistan.”

Irrespective of whether Farah succeeds in improving image of Obama administration among the Muslims, her own identity has certainly played some part in compelling the world to revise the stereotyped image they have of Muslim women. The Obama administration is apparently hopeful that Farah’s image as a “modern Muslim” will help win over the young generation. Suggesting this, Farah said: “This generation is having to navigate through that and understand what it means to be modern and Muslim and also is really searching for a way to be connected.”

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A Victim of Israeli Military Action

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Farah 3 The horrors and injustice of Israel’s occupation of Gaza has outraged the humanitarian world. Often the story of suffering is best writ small. The impact of occupation on one person can limn the entire situation in the sharpest light.

Gaza has been called the world’s largest outdoor prison. Here is the story of one of its prisoners.

Farah Abu Halima was a pretty and smiling three year old girl with a smile as big as she was and a head of curly hair. Before Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in late December of last year, Farah enjoyed her family and friends and enjoyed life despite the occupation. She had the resilience that all Palestinians have plus the added resilience that is a part of childhood.

During Operation Cast Lead Farah was severely burned around her mouth, her abdomen, and her right leg when she was struck by White Phosphorus used by the Israelis. The use of White Phosphorus against civilians is in clear and direct violation of international law. It is permissible only when used as a smoke screen against advancing armies. White Phosphorus is a metal, and it reacts aggressively with moisture in the body. It then uses that moisture as a path through the victim. It does not merely burn: it destroys the tissue and bone in its path.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) sent a fact finding expedition to Gaza earlier this year to investigate Israel’s use of White Phosphorus against civilians. They found that the use White Phosphorus was a widespread policy. Israel’s denials have run afoul of the facts.

During the attack her home was destroyed and her family, with the exception of her grandmother, were killed.

Farah has finally arrived in the United States with her grandmother for medical treatment. This has been accomplished through the auspices of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), and the two are now with their host family in San Diego where the doctor’s visits and probable surgery will take place.

Even her departure from Rafah in Gaza was fraught with delays. She and her grandmother had an earlier departure scheduled but were thwarted by the Egyptians.

Farah has made her initial doctor’s visits. Their chief concern – and the site of the probable surgery – is her lower abdomen and part of her leg. Farah’s small stature makes total skin grafting as a solution impossible. The surgeons will use a procedure known as tissue expansion.

A spokesperson for the PCRF San Diego Chapter has told the following to The Muslim Observer:

“Three-year old Farah has endured the unimaginable, both physically and emotionally, due to the Israeli bombing of her home in Gaza last January. She lost her mother, several aunts and uncles and her grandfather. She also suffered severe burns to her lower abdomen, upper thighs, and chin and chest from the white phosphorous bombs. She is fortunate to be here through the efforts of the PCRF to undergo medical treatment, and she will hopefully continue to develop normally as a result of the efforts of the surgeon, doctor Batra, and her host family Suha and David Gazal. Considering what this little girl has endured, Farah is very playful, personable, and is in high-spirits.”

Readers may follow Farah’s progress by accessing the PCRF site at: www.pcrf.net.

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Community News (V11-I39)

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

World’s tallest man honored for honesty and service

tallest man MIAMI, FL–Aurangzeb Khan, the world’s tallest man alive, has been honored by the Miami-Dade County Services Department for his quality service as a cab driver. He was recently given the Chauffer of the Quarter Prize for his efforts to help his passenger. In one stance he even drove long distance to return a purse full of credit cards, cash, and medicines left behind by an Australian tourist.

`It is actions like this that restores faith in human nature, and as a regular traveler to America, it leaves me with a great feeling about traveling in your country,’’ the Australian tourist wrote ina commendation which was later used by the county in its press release announcing the award.

The Pakistan born Khan is 8 feet tall and now stands taller than Shaquille O’Neal.  He has been living in US since 1981 and now drives a cab after stints with circuses around the country.

But Khan is a towering figure not only in his physical height but also his honesty and kindness.

In 1992, he returned a bag with $10,000 a passenger forgot in the cab.

“Mr. Khan represents the kind of attitude that all chauffeurs should have when providing services to visitors and residents of this community,’’ said Sonya Perez, of the Miami-Dade Consumer Service Department. “By doing a kind deed, Mr. Khan gave this tourist a positive experience as well as a positive view of our county.’’

Hillary Clinton hosts Iftar at State Department

WASHINGTON D.C.–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted an Iftar on Sept.15 at the State Department. She said that the White House is committed to improving relations with the Muslim world.

In her speech to the guests she said, “Now, this time of self-reflection and clarity reminds us that the principles that are the hallmark of Ramadan – charity, sacrifice, and compassion – are also values we cherish as Americans. They guide us towards good stewardship of our families, our communities, our country, and our world. It is, as one of my wonderful young aides who Farah has already referenced – Huma Abedin – summed up in the words of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, that we need to be inspired by our leaders to fight poverty, injustice and hate with, “the weapon of the Prophet—patience and righteousness.” Well, that, to me, sums up much of what we celebrate tonight as we break fast.

Now, we recognize that the relationship between the United States and Muslim communities has at times suffered from misunderstanding and misperception. But we are committed to learning and listening; to creating bridges of understanding and respect; and building stronger bonds of cooperation. We believe that there is more that unites people of all faiths than divides us.

The Obama Administration will work to ensure that our communication, our partnerships, and our policies reflect that core belief. Because whatever God you pray to—or even whether you believe at all—we all need to work for the same goals: a world where our children can live together in peace and prosperity, and fulfill their own God-given potentials.”

Sultana Ali promoted at Massey Communications

ORLANDO, FL–Massey Communications, Orlando, has promoted Sultana Ali to account executive, business development.

Ali is a former national board member of the United Nations Association-USA (UNA-USA) where she represented the Young Professionals for International Cooperation. Currently, she serves on the board of directors locally for the Central Florida Women’s Resource Center, FHSMUN (Florida High Schools Model UN) and Harbor House of Central Florida, where she serves on its executive committee as Second Vice-President.

She  has been honored with a Global Young Advocate Award from UNA-USA, the Central Florida Women’s Resource Center Junior Summit Award, the Girl Scout Council of Central Florida’s Young Woman of Distinction and was named one of Central Florida’s “13 Shining Stars” by Central Florida News 13 and the American Red Cross. She also received the agency’s Todd Persons Award. Recently, she was named as a Finalist for the eWomenNetwork Foundation’s Emerging Leader of the Year Award.

A Walt Disney Scholar and Florida Academic Scholar, Sultana graduated from University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business Marketing and a minor in Political Science where she was recognized with the J.C. Aspley award and scholarship.

Muslim students at Lehigh U. fight hunger

BETHLEHEM, PA–Muslim students at Lehigh University have joined the national push against hunger by volunteering at the Trinity Beth Episcopal Church’s soup kitchen.

The students are part of a national organization called Muslims Against Hunger, an organization that partners with soup kitchens and food pantries to provide volunteers and food, the student newspaper reported.

Taha Haque, contacted Zamir Hassan, the founder and head of Muslims Against Hunger, and expressed interest in bringing the organization to Lehigh. Haque said the chapter will be the first in Pennsylvania.

About 15 students helped serve a lunch of Hassan’s special chicken, rice and green beans to the people gathered at Trinity Beth. Haque said the participating students were from all different campus groups, including ROTC, Hillel Society and Hindu students.

Sierra Foundation hosts Iftar

sierra RENO, NV– The Sierra Foundation,a Reno based nonprofit intercultural and interfaith dialogue foundation, hosted three Iftar dinners in the past two weeks. The events were attended by a large number of non-Muslims.

Apart from the dinners the participants were treated to lectures on Islamic practices and a  cultural presentation on the poetry of Rumi.

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Why Is a Leading Feminist Organization Lending Its Name to Support Escalation in Afghanistan?

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sonali Kolhatkar and Mariam Rawi, Alternet

2009-07-12T160723Z_01_KBL210_RTRMDNP_3_AFGHANISTAN

Women walk on the main street of Baharak town in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province during a visit by presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah July 11, 2009. Picture taken July 11, 2009.  

REUTERS/Tim Wimborne 

Years ago, following the initial military success of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the temporary fall of the Taliban, the people of Afghanistan were promised that the occupying armies would rebuild the country and improve life for the Afghan people.

Today, eight years after the U.S. entered Kabul, there are still piles of garbage in the streets. There is no running water. There is only intermittent electricity in the cities, and none in the countryside. Afghans live under the constant threat of military violence.

The U.S. invasion has been a failure, and increasing the U.S. troop presence will not undo the destruction the war has brought to the daily lives of Afghans.

As humanitarians and as feminists, it is the welfare of the civilian population in Afghanistan that concerns us most deeply. That is why it was so discouraging to learn that the Feminist Majority Foundation has lent its good name — and the good name of feminism in general — to advocate for further troop escalation and war.

On its foundation Web site, the first stated objective of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s “Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls” is to “expand peacekeeping forces.”

First of all, coalition troops are combat forces and are there to fight a war, not to preserve peace. Not even the Pentagon uses that language to describe U.S. forces there. More importantly, the tired claim that one of the chief objectives of the military occupation of Afghanistan is to liberate Afghan women is not only absurd, it is offensive.

Waging war does not lead to the liberation of women anywhere. Women always disproportionately suffer the effects of war, and to think that women’s rights can be won with bullets and bloodshed is a position dangerous in its naïveté. The Feminist Majority should know this instinctively.

Here are the facts: After the invasion, Americans received reports that newly liberated women had cast off their burquas and gone back to work. Those reports were mythmaking and propaganda. Aside from a small number of women in Kabul, life for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban has remained the same or become much worse.

Under the Taliban, women were confined to their homes. They were not allowed to work or attend school. They were poor and without rights. They had no access to clean water or medical care, and they were forced into marriages, often as children.

Today, women in the vast majority of Afghanistan live in precisely the same conditions, with one notable difference: they are surrounded by war. The conflict outside their doorsteps endangers their lives and those of their families. It does not bring them rights in the household or in public, and it confines them even further to the prison of their own homes. Military escalation is just going to bring more tragedy to the women of Afghanistan.

In the past few years, some cosmetic changes were made regarding Afghan women. The establishment of a Ministry of Women’s Affairs was one celebrated example. In fact, this ministry is so useless many think that it should be dissolved.

The quota for 25 percent women in the Afghan parliament was another such show. Although there are 67 women in the Afghan parliament, most of them are pro-warlord and are themselves enemies of women’s rights. When the famed marriage rape law was passed in the parliament, none of them seriously raised their voice against it. Malalai Joya, an outspoken feminist in the parliament at the time, has said that she has been abused and threatened by these pro-warlord women in the parliament.

The U.S. military may have removed the Taliban, but it installed warlords who are as anti-woman and as criminal as the Taliban. Misogynistic, patriarchal views are now embodied by the Afghan cabinet, they are expressed in the courts, and they are embodied by President Hamid Karzai.

Paper gains for women’s rights mean nothing when, according to the chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court, the only two rights women are guaranteed by the constitution are the right to obey their husbands and the right to pray, but not in a mosque.

These are the convictions of the government the U.S. has helped to create. The American presence in Afghanistan will do nothing to diminish them.

Sadly, as horrifying as the status of women in Afghanistan may sound to those of us who live in the West, the biggest problems faced by Afghan women are not related to patriarchy. Their biggest problem is war.

More than 2,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2008. And disastrous air strikes like the one in Farah province in May that killed an estimated 120 people — many of them women and children — are pushing the death toll ever higher. Afghans who survive these attacks often flee to cities, where overcrowded refugee camps strain to accommodate them. Living in tents without food, water and often blankets, the mortality rate soars.

For those who do not flee, life is not better. One in three Afghans suffers from severe poverty. With a 1 in 55 chance of mothers not surviving delivery, Afghanistan has been, and still, is the second most dangerous place for women to give birth. Afghan infants still face a 25 percent risk of dying before their fifth birthdays. These are the consequences of war.

In addition, in the eight years since the U.S. invasion, opium production has exploded by 4,400 percent, making Afghanistan the world capital of opium. The violence of the drug mafia now poses greater danger to Afghanistan and its women than the rule of the Taliban.

Some of the biggest drug-traffickers are part of the U.S. puppet regime. To make matters worse, corruption in the Afghan government has never been so prevalent — even under the Taliban. Now, even Western sources say that only pennies of every dollar spent on aid reach the people who need it.

If coalition forces are really concerned about women, these are the problems that must be addressed. The military establishment claims that it must win the military victory first, and then the U.S. will take care of humanitarian needs. But they have it backward.

Improve living conditions and security will improve. Focus on security at the expense of humanitarian goals, and coalition forces will accomplish neither. The first step toward improving people’s lives is a negotiated settlement to end the war.

In our conversations arguing this point, we are told that the U.S. cannot leave Afghanistan because of what will happen to women if they go. Let us be clear: Women are being gang raped, brutalized and killed in Afghanistan. Forced marriages continue, and more women than ever are being forced into prostitution — often to meet the demand of foreign troops.

The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is doing nothing to protect Afghan women. The level of self-immolation among women was never as high as it is now. When there is no justice for women, they find no other way out but suicide.

Feminists and other humanitarians should learn from history. This isn’t the first time the welfare of women has been trotted out as a pretext for imperialist military aggression.

Columbia Professor Lila Abu-Lughod, a woman of Palestinian descent, writes: “We need to be suspicious when neat cultural icons are plastered over messier historical and political narratives; so we need to be wary when Lord Cromer in British-ruled Egypt, French ladies in Algeria, and Laura Bush, all with military troops behind them, claim to be saving or liberating Muslim women.”

Feminists around the world must refuse to allow the good name of feminism to be manipulated to provide political cover for yet another war of aggression.

The Feminist Majority Foundation would do well to heed the demand of dissident Member of Parliament Malalai Joya, representing Farah province, who was kicked out of the parliament last year for courageously speaking out. Addressing a press conference in the wake of the U.S. bombing of her province she was clear: “We ask for an end to the occupation of Afghanistan and a stop to such tragic war crimes.”

That should be the first action item for the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls.

Sonali Kolhatkar is co-cirector of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a U.S. nonprofit that funds health, educational and training projects for Afghan women. She is also the host and producer of Uprising Radio.

Mariam Rawi is a member of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan writing under a pseudonym.

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