Community News (V9-I39)

September 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago cabbies get tickets while praying

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

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

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

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

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

Malaysian Fulbright scholar to visit Montgomery County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interfaith support for Jewish temple

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

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

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

Mosque proposed in Manchester

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

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

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

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

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

Plan to build first Mosque in Hawaii questioned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Profile: Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini

February 22, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dana Inayah Cann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

His mission was to follow in his forefather’s footsteps and become a scholar and religious leader.

What Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini didn’t realize is that his goals in life would take him to the other side of the world, to America, and captivate the minds of people from all walks of life. Whether for political leaders or for Christians, Al-Qazwini has given a better understanding of Islam in hopes of defeating the widespread misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. Al-Qazwini was born in Karbala, Iraq, in 1964, during the time of the Ba’athist regime, which was gradually brainwashing the people of Iraq.

Al-Qazwini’s family, well known in Iraq and in the Muslim community for their scholarship, leadership and community service, were against the Ba’athist regime.

Al-Qazwini’s father Ayahtollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini was one of the religious scholars who not only spread the word of Islam to the people of Iraq, but also opened Islamic schools and other institutions.

Since Al-Qazwini’s father migrated to the United States in 1984, he has opened Islamic schools, mosques and other institutions in Los Angeles, California.

Because the Al-Qazwini family refused to side with Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athist regime, they fled Iraq and moved to Kuwait after Al-Qazwini’s grandfather, Ayatollah Sayid Mohammed Sadiq Al-Qazwini, was arrested and never heard from again. During his time in Kuwait, Al-Qazwini decided to fulfill his goal as a religious leader and scholar.

As the Al-Qazwini family migrated from Kuwait to Qum, Iran, to escape Hussein’s hunger for more power in his regime, Al-Qazwini joined the Islamic Seminary in 1980 and graduated in 1992.

Towards the end of 1992, Al-Qazwini moved his family to the United States where he directed the Azzahra Islamic Center founded by his father in Los Angeles, California. He also taught several Islamic fiqh and other Islamic courses during his four-year stay.

A year into his migration to America, Al-Qazwini was invited to the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan to speak during the upcoming holy month of Ramadhan.

Having a positive effect on the Muslim community in Dearborn, Al-Qazwini was invited to return a year later.

The Islamic Center, established in 1963, is the oldest Shi’a mosque in the United States.

Wanting to reach out to the younger generations of American Muslims, Al-Qazwini felt that it would be best to speak their language: English. Committed to reach his goal, Al-Qazwini devoted himself and quickly learned English and began to successfully communicate with the youth and cater to their needs.

By 1997, Al-Qazwini moved his family to Dearborn after accepting the role of scholar and religious leader at the Islamic Center of America. A year into his position, Al-Qazwini founded the Young Muslims Association (YMA), which is affiliated with the Islamic Center. The goal of the organization is to educate, promote leadership and create a place where young Muslims can actively support Islam.

Since 9/11, Al-Qazwini has been one of the most influential American Shi’a Muslim religious leaders. He has visited numerous churches, colleges and the White House. He has been invited by the State Department, the Defense Department and has conducted interviews on NPR, BBC, CNN, VOA, The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, and The New York Times, among others.

While speaking to the American public, political and religious leaders, Al-Qazwini discusses issues relating to Muslims and he also speaks out against those religious leaders who commence attacks on Islam and Prophet Muhammad (s).

When asked about the biggest hurdle facing American Muslims, Al-Qazwini believes that the major hurdle is misconceptions that non-Muslims have about Islam. Part of the problem is the American media.

”No doubt, there is bias in the media,” said Al-Qazwini, describing how the media gives a negative view with images of car bombings, beheadings and the war in Iraq. “The biased media here in this country is playing a major role in promoting and pushing these misconceptions in the minds of Americans.”

Al-Qazwini blames CNN for having a show with Glenn Beck who spoke negatively about Muslims, along with Fox News and the O’Reilly Factor. He also blames religious leaders Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham for “once in a while inciting hatred against Islam and Muslims in this country.”

”We’re dealing with, I would say, a ruthless enemy that is aimed at discrediting us, at labeling all Muslims as extreme Muslims,” Al-Qazwini said as he mentioned that there are also hundreds of ant-Islamic websites on the internet promoting hatred against Islam. “They brand us all as extremists so they can coax this fear and paranoia in the minds of Americans so they do not get to know us.”

Al-Qazwini said that the other part of the problem for the misconceptions that non-Muslims have about Islam is Muslims themselves.

”We have not done enough to let others know us and learn more of our religion,” said Al-Qazwini. “Our job is to deliver the message of Islam, to show the example of what kind of people we are. We are a people of peace. Therefore, we need to emphasize the concept of peace.”

Al-Qazwini went on to say “I can challenge any person by saying that Islam is the first divine and monotheistical religion that can publicly invite the Jews and Christians to have a dialogue. It is in the Qur`an where God says:

Say: Oh people of the book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him, nor set up any human beings as lords beside God.

If they turn away, say “Bear witness that we are submitters.”

Ali-Imran:64

To spread the word, promote peace, and lessen the misconceptions of Islam, Al-Qazwini says that Muslims should reach out to non-Muslims who want to know about Islam. The mosques are always open for all to attend to seek education about Islam, not motivated conversion. Al-Qazwini says that it is up to Allah to convert people.

”If people don’t want to go to the mosque, we can go to them,” said Al-Qazwini. “In classrooms, with colleagues, or at people’s homes,” Muslims can teach those who want to understand Islam.

When asked if the younger generation is prepared to become religious Islamic leaders in the future, Al-Qazwini doesn’t think so.

Al-Qazwini takes part of the blame with other Islamic centers that “have not done enough in preparing the new generation.”

Al-Qazwini says that if the younger generation is convinced to go to the Middle East, study Islam and come back to America, people will be able to relate to them better because they were born in the same place and speaking the same language. He is willing to work for a sponsor to help a young Muslim to go to the Middle East to study Islam.

”We need to have more English-speaking imams who not only speak the language, but they understand it,” said Al-Qazwini. “And, they can educate in a more adequate way with the American society.”

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