All-Female Health Seminars for Minorities in Michigan

December 15, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Nargis Rahman, TMO

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The audience listens to the 2nd lecture in a series at the the women’s health seminar on breast and cervical cancer.     

Photo by Subha Hanif

Hamtramck, Michigan– Bangladeshi Americans for Social Empowerment, a non-profit group in Michigan, will host a health seminar in Hamtramck on osteoporosis in January for minority women.

Project Coordinator, Subha Hanif of Rochester Hills said, the seminars are a continuation of a project started in October for Bangladeshi women. Women from Hamtramck, Detroit, Warren and Sterling Heights in Michigan were invited.

Many of these women are uninsured or do not have a regular doctor, said Hanif, based on women who attended these seminars. The seminars are available to other minority women who may fall into the same categories. Hanif said, “It’s not helping in any way if people are not coming.”

Two seminars have been held in Hamtramck, at Jalalabad (above Aladdin Sweets & Café), which has the largest population of Bangladeshi Americans in Michigan, roughly three percent of the city’s total population.

Participant Razia Begum of Detroit said she liked the program. Everyone benefitted from the program by learning about free health care, she said.

Hanif, an undergraduate biology major at Oakland University, who is a Bangladeshi American said she understands the needs and limitations of women from this culture. Women are traditionally shy, “overshadowed” by men, and unlikely to ask important questions regarding their health.

The seminars are female-oriented, including the doctors, to form a comfortable no-men environment, said Hanif. “In a room where men are not allowed, women have embraced the freedom [to ask questions].”

Doctors from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine spoke at the seminars, which ranged from taking care of your health, to learning how to detect breast and pelvic cancer. Hanif translated in Bangla.

Begum said she looks forward to the next program. “I want to go in January to learn about tooth pain and bone problems.”

Participants can talk one-on-one with doctors after the seminars; something which Hanif said is not always available at free clinics that have limited time slots for patients.

Hanif’s passion to help others comes from her Muslim faith, parental encouragement, interest in public health, and community service. My parents allowed American assimilation, while retaining the Bangladeshi culture, she said. “We were only allowed to speak Bangla at home, which has motivated me to help Bangladeshis.”

She hopes minority women – who are insured or uninsured – bring their mothers, daughters and neighbors to bond and learn together. “The goal is to make women better agents in taking care of their health and the family’s,” said Hanif.

BASE provides laptops, handouts and materials for the program. Hanif’s dad, Abu Hanif, is on the board of directors.

Flyers will be passed out to businesses in Hamtramck before January’s program.

For more information, contact Subha Hanif by phone at 248-707-9521 or email shanif@oakland.edu .

Pictures: Subha Hanif

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Hydroelectric Dam Causes Ripples of Protests for Bangladesh

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

IMG_1367Protests, human-chains and rallies have emerged in Bangladeshi communities across the world this month against the building of the Tipaimukh Dam between India and Bangladesh. Bangladeshi environmentalists said the dam will affect agriculture, fishing industries, and 30 million people with possible river drying due its construction.

A joint venture was signed October 22 with India’s hydropower company National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, the Manipur state government, Manipur state enterprise Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. to continue the ongoing Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project that Indian officials said could provide electricity and help reduce flooding in Bangladesh.

A meeting was held earlier this month at the Kabob House in Hamtramck, Michigan, to discuss how Bangladeshi Americans can get involved in stopping the ongoing construction of 1,500 MW Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project by informing the US government of adverse effects in Bangladesh, and putting pressure on the Bangladeshi government to stop the project.

Professor of Finance at Eastern Michigan University Mahmud Rahman, said, India is as far as the eye can see, referring to Bangladesh’s geography. India surrounds Bangladesh on three sides. We have to approach the situation intelligently, by engaging, researching and enlisting help, he said. We need to “Unite in one voice…instead of taking separate initiatives,” in a way that “benefits both of us.”

The dam sits on India’s Barak River which becomes Bangladesh’s Surma and Kushiara Rivers. India is an upper riparian country, which has more say in how the shared bodies of water are used.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India would not support the Tipaimukh project if there was harm to Bangladesh, during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wadud’s visit to India last January. The same message was portrayed during Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September. And again to Bangladesh National Party leader Khaleda Zia, who sent a letter in November opposing the project.

Experts said politics play a role in the agreement to build the dam, while Bangladeshi people in and out of the country are against the measure. Rahman said Bangladeshi Americans need to persuade the Bangladeshi government: “There are people outside of politics, educated people…we live outside [of the country] but we look for opportunities to help Bangladesh.”

Imam Abdul Latif Azom of Masjid Al-Falah in Detroit said there are many ways to spread the word, using facts. “Do not talk without evidence…it’s like smoke which disappears.”

President of Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee, Ehsan Taqbeem said, focusing on the technical side can influence politics. “Let’s not be like Wall Street Occupy…there are steps after protests.” Let’s negotiate with India, he said.

Engineer and writer Saiful Islam of Michigan said people should talk openly. “We say we will work together but shy away from things dealing with India.” Immediate dangers should be discussed, he said.

Rahman said Bangladesh should engage in a multilateral resolution with India, by joining forces with other neighbors. “Economic power speaks.”

According to the SJVN company’s website the last roadblock in the project is approval for forest clearance near the site.

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Muslim City Councilmen Elected in Hamtramck

December 31, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Nargis Hakim Rahman

Two new Muslim faces have joined Hamtramck City Council on November 3, making the city council 50 percent Muslim.

According to the Detroit Free Press the number reflects the most Muslims, “in a municipality in the United States.”

Kazi Miah, 30, won with 1652 votes, the highest votes. Mohammed Kamrul Hassan, 42, received 1390 votes, 40 more than he expected. 

Hassan said he did not campaign a lot during the general election as he was working 12-hour shifts and did not take any days off from his job as a manufacturing expert at Faurecia Automotive Seating Inc.

“I had confidence. I knew I was going to get 875 votes in the primary, and 1350 votes would get me a seat,” Hassan said.

Hassan ran for city council after seeing discrimination to immigrant populations by police officers and city officials.

“I have been seeing the city administration and corruption and discrimination from police officers, how they talk when immigrant people go to the city hall,” said Hassan.

He said the city is not going in the right direction, and has changed since his move to Hamtramck in 1994.

Hassan moved from New York to Michigan to pursue his education. He holds a Bachelors of Science, with honors, and Masters in Mathematics from the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh.

Miah, a 10-year-resident of Hamtramck, works at National City Bank in Hamtramck. He ran for office to make local government more citizen-oriented, and to encourage the youth to run for public office.

Miah holds various board positions around Hamtramck, and is the founder of Bangladeshi American Youth Action. The youth group is focused on advancing in education, engaging in community service and having recreational activities for youth.

Miah said serving city council is his way of giving back. He said he was inspired to run for government by Sayu Bhojwani, founder of a similar youth group in New York.

Hassan said taxes, budget utilization and cutting salaries are on the top of his list.

He said everywhere in the world people are cutting salaries.

“I’d like to cut salaries to survive,” he said.

Miah said the city will face tough times ahead with economy.

“This city has been in a deep end before, as far as financial stability, but we can get out of it,” he said.

Hassan said spending money better and reassessing the budget will help the city.

Miah said his priorities include being a voice for the Census. Immigrant populations are often reluctant to fill out the forms, fearing the government will come after them. He wants to stop that trend.

The Census is correlated to taxes, government funds, and public safety, as police officers are assigned based on city populations, he said.

“We have 20,000 Muslims, Bengalis, Yemenis. The Census doesn’t tell us that,” Miah said.

He said higher numbers will make politicians pay attention.

Miah’s website, www.voteforkazi.com, has a poll, asking for public opinions on local matters. He said he wants to be as accessible as possible, following the Obama campaign, where he served as Captain of the Voter Registration Drive.

“I’m not trying to take anything away from Hamtramck. I’m trying to add to the richness this city has,” Miah said.

“If we fail, we’ll be failing as a whole.”

Hassan said he is proud to be a Muslim city councilman.

“Some people questioned me because I was Muslim. This is not a Yemeni city, a Bangladeshi city, or a Polish city. This is the city of Hamtramck.”

He said the city is his first priority, but he will not go against his religion.

“I’m going to respect my religion 100 percent,” Hassan said.

He said Islam is the religion of peace. It’s always going to be good decisions for politics.

“Our prophet Muhammad (s) got respect from all religions. He helped everybody. I’m going to treat everyone equally.”

Miah said Islam taught us to be good to your neighbors, not only Muslim neighbors. He said he wants to be a voice for everyone.

“Throughout the election no one asked me what religion I was. I sincerely believe citizens of Hamtramck just want to be taken care of,” Miah said.

Miah and Hassan are Bangadleshi Muslim Americans. They are married with two children.

Both said they are looking forward to working with the new council.

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