South Florida News, Vol. 8 Iss. 42

October 12, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

“Bravest Woman in the World” Mukhtar Mai to speak at FIU

Miami–Cries heard all ‘round the world came from here, first of shame, then of indignation, and finally cries for justice that were answered despite obstacles.

The South Florida community will get a chance to hear an inside perspective on one of the world’s most widely publicized recent cases of human rights abuse against a Muslim woman on Saturday, Oct. 28 as local South Asian women’s organization Sahara hosts Mukhtaran Mai, named “The Bravest Woman in the World” by Glamour, and one of TIME Magazine’s “100 People Who Shape Our World.”

Gang raped by her local tribal counsel in Pakistan as punishment for a crime allegedly committed by her younger brother, Mai took the tribal council to court and won – making her the first woman in Pakistan to have won such a case.

Since then, she has traveled the world raising awareness about violence against women.

The event will be held at 7 PM at Florida International University’s South Campus. It is also being presented by the Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade’s Women’s Advocacy Project, The Asian American Network Against Abuse of Human Rights (ANAA) and Glamour. (For more information, call Sophie Brion at (305) 441-0506 or email sophie@womensfundmiami.org) 

“Many strong and successful efforts have been made to develop our group,” says Brion of Sahara, the fledgling group aimed at helping to faciliate minority and immigrant women’s social services in the area for about a year now. “Sahara has collaborated with several organizations and has received assistance in fundraising, outreach efforts to the South Florida community, and with direct services to assist victims of domestic violence. We hope to continue to grow and reach our goals to assist Asian women in distress.”

In August 2006, Sahara established a phone help-line where victims can leave a message for one of the group’s counselors, who can then provide them assistance and direct them towards resources & services. The phone number for the hotline is 1-866-567-7635. A training session for those interested in becoming phone counselors was held on Friday, Sept. 15 at the local Safe Place Shelter, and the group continues to seek more volunteers.

The group’s most recent general body meeting was held on Sept. 18 at the home of one of their Muslim volunteer couples, the Shakir family, and it has organized a number of other events and activities over the summer. It also has a new website up at www.saharafl.org, which is being renovated with the help of SFINdians.com.

“Wow, the amount of growth/progress with this group is really impressive,” said Sahara volunteer and local social worker Syeda Naqvi. “I remember attending the second meeting or so when the idea was being hashed out and look at it now.”

Turkish Cultural Center hosts 2nd Interfaith Dinner

Ft. Lauderdale–South Florida’s youngest Muslim cultural organization continued to make in-roads with local community leaders this month, as The Anatolia Cultural Center (ACC) held its 2nd Annual Interfaith Dialogue Dinner on October 5 at the Fort Lauderdale Marriot North.

The event brought together a wide of range of speakers and guests from various faith backgrounds including: Richard Agler, senior rabbi at the Congregation B’nai Israel, Jack Noble, senior pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Pompano Beach, Cengiz Alacaci, associate professor of Mathematics Education at Florida International University, and George Earhart, paster at Shepherd of the Coast Lutheran Church in Fort Lauderdale.

In the vein of the three year old ACC’s monthly Turkish coffee nights, the evening Including presentations, dinner, dessert and conversation. Organizers made a special point that the event was not a fund-raising dinner.

“Our faith is a significant part of our culture and the ACC is dedicated to promote mutual understanding and respect between people of different faiths,” said the center’s director Mustafa Sahin. “The Annual Interfaith Dialog Dinners bring leaders of various faith-based organizations together opening the doors to conversation and tolerance.”

The Other Side of “Normal”

Everyday reflections of a young Muslim social worker

By Syeda Feiza Naqvi,
Special to TMO

Funny how we have the capacity to become so jaded that even the abnormal comes to wear the face of “normalcy”. Working as the supervisor of volunteers at the Guardian ad Litem Program, I see a lot in an “average” day…or rather, hear a lot. But my second encounter with the same exact prostitute, in the same exact week, at the same exact gas station has made me reflect on just how wide a gulf there is between who I am today vs. who I was three years ago, when I first got my job.

“Yesterday” the sight of the billboard sign on the way to work was enough to make me quake in my shoes and seriously question whether I even wanted to go for the interview. ‘Twas no ordinary billboard sign, oh no: it was one that showed the picture of a serial rapist, asking for any info on his whereabouts.

But today, I look at a prostitute and can tell, immediately, that she’s on a high from a recent “date” with a joint or two. I can’t pick up the familiar smell of weed on her (oh yes, I have come to know that scent quite well by now), but her strung out appearance and tipsy steps give her away. She is all angles, and taut skin, but I can still see the last, faint vestige of beauty on her face. She could have been…must have been, beautiful once. Now she trades on those remnants for food, pointing to a sandwich as a price for her time.

And I just walk on, about my business, as if all of this is normal.

I’ve seen too many parents, too many adults, fall victim to their passions, obsessions, addictions, to believe in the capacity to save any of these lost souls. Because I know too well the underbelly of their deeds: the innocent children who are neglected or abused or severely endangered as a result.

Sometimes it scares me, the dark sense of humor that lurks within me, making note of the stupid, stupid ironies existent in some of these cases: the junkie mother who, ironically, works as a substance abuse counselor at a local college; the huge, buff, drug dealer father reduced to tears, as if he’s five, because he’s scared silly by the machinations and aggression of his tiny, pencil-thin wife; the mother who comes to court and tells the judge that she thinks she’s being followed by aliens…

Sigh.

I think a sense of humor is a necessary coping skill, because you either have to laugh or just put your head down and CRY.

I’ve driven past the scene of a break-in/shooting at the same grocery store about three times now. Note to self: never go grocery shopping in THAT particular store.

And none of it even registers anymore…it’s like the backdrop to a very normal, very average day.

None of the cases I get surprise me anymore….child raped by father? Been there, done that. Kids beaten up by parents? Happens all the time. Schizo mother unable to care for kids? Please, what else is new? Criminal parents with violent tempers? Lord, who ISNT a criminal, tell me that? Domestic violence disputes? Sigh. Lost causes. ‘Cause you know the woman is just going to go back to her no good husband.

What particularly amuses me is how people continue to underestimate me, until I open my mouth in court.

Oh, these parents. They just never learn.

They see the hijab and assume I’m some submissive, meek, nice type, and it ends up costing them. I imagine it’s rather like thinking you are talking to a nun, only to have her whip the habit off suddenly, catching you off guard.

They seem so stunned.

Well, good…if that’s the wake up call they need to get their act together, then fine, so be it.

Syeda Feiza Naqvi is a local writer, a leading veteran of local and regional Muslim organizations. For more info on how to serve as the voice for an abused child, please go to www.nationalcasa.org.

Community News / North America Vol 8 Iss 17

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Breaking down the barriers at Wesleyan
MIDDLETOWN, CT—In order to prove that Muslims and Jews can coexist peacefully, Rabbi David Leipziger Teva and Imam Abdullah Antepli of Wesleyan University took a group of Muslim students to Istanbul and Jerusalem. The group of 11 students say that their outlook was totally transformed after their 11 day excursion, reported the campus newsletter.
The group visited the K-6 Hand-in-Hand School in Jerusalem where Palestinian and Israeli children of all faiths learn together. In Israel the group also visited the Kibbutz Metzer, a socialist commune, and other historical landmarks.
The group met with journalists, lobbyists, human rights activists and political leaders, including Vatican Representative of Istanbul, George Marovitch and Chief Rabbinate and Rabbi of Turkey Isaac Halevo.
Rachel Berkowitz a freshman from Trumansburg, NY, says the trip helped her gain a strong desire to learn more about Islam, Judaism, interfaith dialogue and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I think the difference I have made has been internal, rather than external,” says Berkowitz. “I have learned and changed so much. I feel I now have a broader perspective.”
“On the trip, we learned that there was a sense of hope, a hope for peace,î sayid freshman Jamal Ahmed. “Despite terrible hardships, there are still great strives towards peace and beautiful co-existence. I learned more about the Jewish culture, religion, and Israeli society than I thought possible in such a short time.”
Rare copy of a translation of the Holy Quran donated to Muslims
DEARBORN, MI—A nearly 300-year old English translation of the Holy Qur’an — the Islamic scriptures — has been donated to the Islamic Center of America (ICA) by Richard L. Steinberg, a Detroit trial attorney. The book is to be held in trust for all Muslim peoples in metro Detroit at the ICA, according to a press release.
“If we do not stand together as a nation, but become a community of clashing cultures and warring factions, we will all be destroyed,” Steinberg stated. “Jesus said ‘I give to you a new commandment that you shall love one another’ and the Qur’an says ‘I swear by the declining day that man is in deep loss except for those who believe, do good deeds, urge one another to the truth and urge one another to steadfastness.’ This is the community our faiths are calling us to.”
The copy donated to the ICA was purchased from Bauman Rare Books in New York and contains a hand-drawn map of the Arabian Peninsula, a genealogical chart of the Prophet Muhammad, and a drawing of the original lay-out of the sacred shrine in Mecca. It also contains a preliminary discourse discussing Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
Steinberg has been practicing law for 34 years and his notable cases include the first Title IX discrimination case in the country and his recent defence of Geoffrey Feiger in the investigation of contributions to the John Edwards 2004 presidential campaign. He is an ordained Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and a member of the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church in Detroit. Steinberg was recently re-appointed to the Michigan Advisory Board of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Muslims request zoning change
HARRISBURG, PA—A Mus-lim couple have submitted a request to Silver Spring Township seeking a change in the zoning ordinance to allow for places for worship in the residential estate district. Mr.and Mrs.Azim Qureishi own four acres of land and plan to donate it to the local Muslim community to build a Mosque.
The Muslim group wants to build a 8000 square foot mosque costing about $6-800,000, Qureishi was reported as saying to the Sentinel.
The estate district where the land is located is the only residential district in the township that does not allow places of worship.
An attorney representing the couple that his clients are willing to pay the costs to advertise the text change to give the public proper notice.

Hit and run charge against Muslim teen dismissed
DAVIS, CA— A Yolo County Superior Court judge dismissed the case against Halema Buzayan, the teenage Muslim girl who claimed that she was unfairly targeted for being a Muslim. In June of last year, a witness reported to the police seeing an SUV hit a parked car and flee the scene. The Davis police investigated the report and believed that Halema Buzayan was driving. The family said the driver was the mother.
Six days later the police arrested Halema Buzayan for misdemeanour hit and run.
The Buzayans paid $870 for the vehicle damage shortly after the incident. In one court hearing the victim of the parking lot fender-bender testified on Halema Buzayan’s behalf. On Monday, 10 months after the incident, a Yolo County Superior Court judge dismissed the case.
The Buzayans believe they were investigated and prosecuted differently because they are Muslim. They are supported by community activists who last week petitioned the Davis City Council to create an oversight commission for the police department. “When the community showed up they really provided a comfort that kind of made up for the discomfort caused by the police department,” said Halema Buzayan. “So it meant so much to me and it was such a wonderful feeling.”
The Buzayan family is now planning to file a civil lawsuit against the Davis Police Department on allegations of ethnic bias.
Awareness week kicks off with talk on Women in Islam
MADISON, WI—The Islamic Awareness Week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison kicked off with two lectures on Islam and Women. More than 60 people attended the panel addressed by Yasmin Mogahed, a freelance journalist, and Rohany Nayan, the principal of the Madinah Academy of Madison.
Mogahed said that women are not objects to be seen as physically pleasing to others.
“We dress this way as an act of devotion to God,” Mogahed said. “When a woman covers her body, she is covering what is irrelevant for people to see.
“When people judge me, they should judge me based on my heart, my character.”
Nayan said there are some nations where men repress women because the male leaders are insecure and crave power. Nayan said that in her native country of Malaysia, nobody gave her any trouble for being a woman.
“During the time of the Prophet (s), women had a golden age,” Nayan said, referring to the life of the Prophet Mohammed (s), who lived from the years 570-632 in the common calendar. “The Prophet (s) was never threatened by a woman.”
Somali student awareness at UM
MINNEAPOLIS, MN—The Somali Student Association at the University of Minnesota held a day long event to create awareness about the Somali culture. The day was marked by food, clothing, arts and cultural performances.
Organizers said that one doesn’t have to travel overseas to gain cultural experience. It can happen right on campus. 15 percent of population of Minneapolis in made up of Somalis and they have a sizable presence on campus.
Somali Student Association secretary and global studies senior Kadra Ibrahim said it is important for the association to show its presence on campus.
There are many different cultures on this campus and it is crucial that the Somali Student Association is able to celebrate its culture in the midst of such a vast array of cultures, she told the student newspaper.
Islam exhibit at California State University-Sacramento
SACRAMENTO, CA—The Muslim Student Association of the University of California at Sacramento held an Islamic exhibition to counter the prevalent negative image of the faith. Students were encouraged to ask questions as they viewed the walk through exhibition.
Several professors came to the exhibit with their entire classes. Those interested were given free copies of the Holy Qur’an and other Islamic literature.
MAS Minnesota Convention attracts thousands
The Muslim American Association-Minnesota’s third annual convention attracted over 3000 attendees. Two sessions related to politics attracted the most number of participants. Democratic candidates spoke at a late-morning session titled “Democracy in America: A return to our Democratic ideals.” In the afternoon, Republican candidates spoke on the theme “Building a More Diverse Minnesota: Is there room for Muslims?” Keith Ellison, who is running for the US Congress, and if elected will be the first Muslim Congressman also spoke at the event.
From thought-provoking and spiritually uplifting lectures, to fun-filled entertainment sessions, there was something for everyone. With over 50 bazaar vendors, shopping was a popular past-time activity between sessions. Comedy sessions, skits, and songs were among some of the entertainment sessions we witnessed.
Many members of the community also took advantage of the MAS Legal Clinic to ask questions regarding immigration, housing, and other legal issues.

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