Community News (V13-I37)

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Gov. Quinn names members to Muslim American Advisory Council

CHICAGO, IL–Illinois  Governor Pat Quinn, last week,  named members to serve on the Muslim American Advisory Council, which will help ensure Muslim American participation in state government. Governor Quinn announced the new council during “Eid,” the close of the holy month of Ramadan.

“Illinois is a diverse state, which is one of our greatest strengths,” Governor Quinn said. “There are more than 400,000 Muslims and 300 mosques within our borders, representing various racial and ethnic sects of Islam. I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity for input in how we address issues such as education, public safety and jobs, because the strategies may need to differ based on the history, culture and needs of different communities.”

The Muslim American Advisory Council will advise the Governor on ways to advance the role and civic participation of Muslim Americans in Illinois. Additionally, the council will recommend strategies to better integrate Muslims in Illinois socially, educationally, culturally and economically. The council will facilitate relationship-building in the Muslim community to achieve goals related to International Commerce in Muslim countries/communities, and identify ways to more effectively disseminate information and outreach to Muslim Americans regarding state programs and services.
The council will advise the Governor on appropriate policy developments, official directives, and other issues of significance impacting Illinois’ Muslims. It will bring important faith-based issues based on factual findings to the Governor’s attention and make recommendations to address those issues. It will also strengthen communication between the state and Muslim leadership and the general community.

Samreen Khan, senior policy advisor and liaison to Asians and Muslims for the Office of Governor Pat Quinn, and Kareem Irfan, president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, have been named as co-chairs of the council.

S.E. Idaho Muslims plan to build mosque

Southeastern Idaho’s Muslim population has swelled beyond numbers that can be accommodated in the current mosque, a small home near downtown Pocatello, the Idaho State Journal reports.
As a result, religious leaders from the region are trying to raise some $200,000 to erect a new facility that’s capable of holding about 300 people.

Still, local leaders said it’s been tough to raise the cash for a building and accompanying parking space.

Approximately, 150 people currently use the existing mosque facilities.150 people currently use the existing mosque facilities.

Justice Dept. & Henrico Reach Settlement For Mosque Lawsuit

HENRICO,VA–The Justice Department recently  announced a settlement with Henrico County, Va., resolving allegations that the county violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied the application of a Muslim organization to rezone property to construct a mosque. The settlement, which must still be approved by a federal district judge in Richmond, resolves a lawsuit between the United States and the county of Henrico.

“Religious freedom is one of our most cherished rights, and that right includes the ability to assemble and build places of worship without facing discrimination,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “We are pleased that the county of Henrico has agreed to take steps to ensure that all people exercising this basic American right will not encounter discrimination during the zoning and land use process.”

“The law – not stereotypes or bias – should dictate whether a worship facility can be built in a community.” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “No one should be discriminated against based on their religion, and this agreement will ensure that religious freedom is upheld in Henrico County.”

The case arose from the county’s denial of a 2008 application from a Muslim organization for construction of a mosque. The government’s complaint, which was filed with the court along with a consent decree resolving the lawsuit, alleged that the county’s denial of the rezoning application was based on the religious bias of county officials and to appease members of the public who, because of religious bias, opposed the construction of a mosque. The complaint further alleged that the county treated the Muslim organization differently than non-Muslim religious groups that regularly have been granted similar rezoning requests.

As part of the settlement, the county has agreed to treat the mosque and all religious groups equally and to publicize its non-discrimination policies and practices. The county also agreed that its leaders and various county employees will attend training on the requirements of RLUIPA. In addition, the county will report periodically to the Justice Department.

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‘Eidul Fitr, Masjid As-Salam, Dearborn

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jumana Abusalah

7624788It was time for celebration and joy as Muslims all over the world celebrated this year’s Eid Al-Fitr, 1432. It marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan in a fun yet spiritual way. Masjid Al-Salam (Dearborn Community Center) in Dearborn, Michigan was no exception.

The mosque chose to rent the soccer field at the Dearborn & Performing Arts Center on the morning of the 30th of August.  The field was decorated with large banners and colorful balloons.  Everyone gathered around and was reciting takbeer. Friends were giving their Salaams, children were playing together, and families were reunited.  When it came time for prayer, over 500 people rose to thank God for all His blessings and for all the great things He gave us. 

The Imam’s Khutba after the Eid prayer was very informative and touching for many people. He explained that Eid is God’s gift to us to reward us for our ibadih during the month of Ramadan.  He continued on to explain that we should be thankful for being able to have such a celebration—other people around the world are not able to, either because of poverty, war, or other unfortunate circumstances. We then all made du’aa to Muslims around the world and asked God to help their countries resolve their problems peacefully.

The Eid celebration for Masjid Al-Salam this year was an event that many people will not forget. There was also an Eid Festival at the same center on the following Sunday—not just for this particular masjid, but for all Muslims around Dearborn. As it should be, Eid was a celebratory, but sacred event.

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‘Eidul Fitr, Masjid As-Salam, Dearborn

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jumana Abusalah

7624788It was time for celebration and joy as Muslims all over the world celebrated this year’s Eid Al-Fitr, 1432. It marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan in a fun yet spiritual way. Masjid Al-Salam (Dearborn Community Center) in Dearborn, Michigan was no exception.

The mosque chose to rent the soccer field at the Dearborn & Performing Arts Center on the morning of the 30th of August.  The field was decorated with large banners and colorful balloons.  Everyone gathered around and was reciting takbeer. Friends were giving their Salaams, children were playing together, and families were reunited.  When it came time for prayer, over 500 people rose to thank God for all His blessings and for all the great things He gave us. 

The Imam’s Khutba after the Eid prayer was very informative and touching for many people. He explained that Eid is God’s gift to us to reward us for our ibadih during the month of Ramadan.  He continued on to explain that we should be thankful for being able to have such a celebration—other people around the world are not able to, either because of poverty, war, or other unfortunate circumstances. We then all made du’aa to Muslims around the world and asked God to help their countries resolve their problems peacefully.

The Eid celebration for Masjid Al-Salam this year was an event that many people will not forget. There was also an Eid Festival at the same center on the following Sunday—not just for this particular masjid, but for all Muslims around Dearborn. As it should be, Eid was a celebratory, but sacred event.

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Ambassadors of Islam

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Milad Alucozai

IMG_4526Lafayette, IN – Local Muslims gathered on Tuesday morning to join more than a billion around the world in marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which calls for fasting during daylight hours.
Located in central Indiana, Lafayette is mid-size Midwestern city with a community of about 1,000 Muslims. They gathered in the Old Burtsfield Gymnasium (a local school no longer in use) from every race, nationality, and economic status, to offer their prayers.

The event was organized by the Islamic Society of Greater Lafayette and drew a crowd young and old, with local families and their children joining with students from nearby Purdue University, as well as non-Muslim visitors taking advantage of the congregation’s open invitation to the community.

The special prayer began promptly at 8:00 am and was followed by a khutbah emphasizing the importance of building bridges with the broader community.

The khatib told attendees that they must be ambassadors of Islam not only in the Mosque but also at school, in the workplace, and elsewhere, by carrying themselves with the highest character and doing good deeds.

“Do not be just a doctor, a teacher, or a student. Be a Muslim doctor, a Muslim teacher, a Muslim student,” he said, “Be mindful of how your conduct is perceived and represent Islamic in the best light.”

Every Ramadan, Muslims young and old need to go back to the Quran and the teachings of the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (s) to become better Muslims.

This is even more important in these tough times when heated rhetoric and acts of violence against Muslim Americans (and non-Muslim Arab Americans) have increased.
As Muslim, we must do our part to break down prejudices and barriers through our daily actions.

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Going Gaga for ‘Ghabqas’

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

buffet2It sounds like some trendy new product to hit the market or the latest fad that will improve all aspects of life. However, a ‘ghabqa’ is nothing of the sort although it does unite people. By definition, a ‘ghabqa’ is a social and gastronomical event that brings people together to celebrate during the Holy Month of Ramadan. It is a cultural tradition of the minuscule Gulf nation of Kuwait. Kuwaitis have been putting on their own ghabqas for centuries.

The timeframe for most ghabqas is during the second half of Ramadan. However, the last ten days of Ramadan is when most people hold their ghabqas as the race to the end of the holy month has already begun. By all appearances, the ghabqa is an elaborate feast that features a buffet-style menu with all of the traditional trappings of local cuisine. A ghabqa is only as good as the entertainment, food and beverages served.

It use to be that families would host ghabqas either at home or in a large rented hall much to the delight of their friends and relatives. These days’ large Kuwaiti companies and corporations are also getting in on the act. Managers throw elaborate ghabqas at five-star hotels for their employees and their families.  Special invitations are also given out to preferred clients and their families as well. Reporters, and even local bloggers, are often invited to ensure that the event is covered in the press as well as social-media.

Unfortunately, corporate ghabqas are nothing more than marketing ventures used to entice brand loyalty within the country. Large placards, marketing materials and anything else emblazoned with the company logo is splattered all over the tables and amongst the buffet platters. The bright side of a corporate ghabqa is that guests are often treated to lavish gift bags that might contain an expensive watch, perfume or even pricey jewelry. The entertainment at a corporate ghabqa is second to none. Many corporations hire regional celebrities to perform on stage for the benefit of ghabqa guests.

The best place, however, to enjoy a ghabqa is with a private family. The event is much more relaxed and guests don’t have to compete with one another or spend the night networking. The best part of a private ghabqa held by a family is, of course, the children. Kids have the chance to spend time with their cousins or make new friends with the children of other guests. Special treats and tiny toys offered expressly for the smallest guests is what make a family-held ghabqa truly an event to remember. 

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Back to School?

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

School Bus - Cartoon 7 The photo spreads in local sales circulars in Kuwait bear all the familiar ‘back to school’ images of kids wearing cute outfits complete with backpacks swung over an arm. The ‘back to school’ sales placards cover the storefronts over most businesses that are competing for each sale as the global downturn continues to dig in. However, despite the familiar images, there is nothing ordinary about this school year that is set to start in only a few days.

The H1N1 virus, known as the ‘swine flu’, has cast a dark shadow over the Holy Month of Ramadan and impending school year that is set to start on the first of September in all Gulf countries. More than 1,100 people in Kuwait alone have already been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, and while almost all of the patients have recovered, three people have died as a result of the H1N1 virus. The Kuwaiti government has been vigilant in providing public service announcements, via various media, since the spring when the first few cases were reported in Mexico and later America. The H1N1 virus ahs spread to all regions of the Middle East as each country can only count as the rapidity of infection rises.

In Kuwait, in particular, many parents have been sounding the alarm as the summer holidays have slowly begun to fade away. Concerned ministries, primarily the Ministries of Health and Education, met this past week to discuss the possible closing of schools to avoid the spread of the H1N1 virus. The results were less than fruitful. The joint decision as of press time is to only postpone the start of Kindergarten classes in both public and private schools for 10 days. Regular classes are set to resume as usual on September 1st.

The Kuwaiti government has also this week developed a swine flu plan, which is supposed to be put into effect by school administrators in the tiny Gulf state. Desks will be positioned 1 meter apart and congregating, in the cafeteria or at the playground, will be forbidden. Health Minister Helal Al-Sayer further announced that, in the event that a single student comes down with the H1N1 virus, the entire class will be closed indefinitely. He also said that if any school reports more than 5% of the student population are infected with the H1N1 virus then the entire school will be closed.  Individual students, who are suspected of having the H1N1 virus by teachers while in class, will be quarantined until health officials can properly diagnose their affliction. Al-Sayer further announced that 120 schools would be outfitted with special clinics specifically for the treatment of students suffering from the H1N1 virus.  The remaining schools in the country have no such facilities and it remains to be seen if health officials will monitor each school individually.

Kuwait is not the only Middle Eastern country to take ‘back to school’ swine flu precautions. Several private schools in Dubai have also postponed the start of the school year by several days. However, no Gulf country has taken as drastic measures as Oman. The country has cancelled the school term for both private and public schools until mid-December when the H1N1 vaccine, expected to be available in September, will have immunized pupils from the deadly virus. So far 5 people have died in Oman from the H1N1 virus.

When asked about the current decision the Kuwaiti government has made to continue with the start of the school year as normal, a Pakistani housewife and resident of Kuwait who wishes to remain anonymous said, “ What’s the point in closing a class after a student gets sick? The whole class will already be infected. I can only pray that the Minster will change the decision before school starts.”

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