Statement by the President on Hajj and Eid al-Adha

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

White House Press Release

Michelle and I extend our greetings for a happy Eid al-Adha to Muslims worldwide and congratulate those performing Hajj. Thousands of Muslim Americans are among those who have joined one of the world’s largest and most diverse gatherings in making the pilgrimage to Mecca and nearby sites.

As Muslims celebrate this Eid, they will also commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son by distributing food to those less fortunate around the world.  They join the United States and the international community in relief efforts to assist those struggling to survive in the Horn of Africa and those recovering from the devastating earthquake in Turkey. 

The Eid and Hajj rituals are a reminder of the shared roots of the world’s Abrahamic faiths and the powerful role that faith plays in motivating communities to serve and stand with those in need.  On behalf of the American people, we extend our best wishes during this Hajj season.  Eid Mubarak and Hajj Mabrour.

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Amir Khan Raises 80 Thousand Pounds

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Compiled by Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

photoJunior welterweight boxing champion of the world Amir Khan recently addressed over 700 people at Islamic Help’s charity dinner at the Hilton London Metropole.

Having returned recently from a visit to the White House, Amir was intent on making a difference and to contributing to ease the plight of those caught in the worst drought to have hit the region in over 60 years.

When addressing guests last week he spoke of his passion for the cause and how moved he had been “I wanted to give something back and that is the reason we all got together and joined Islamic Help and thought about having this charity event.”

Over £80,000 was raised during the evening and a pair of Amir’s boxing gloves was auctioned for a staggering £7500; a Team Khan T-shirt and Khan–Judah fight poster raised £825 and £750 respectively. Zaheer Khan, Head of Fundraising at Islamic Help was overwhelmed by the response to the event – “We knew that by bringing in a big name and someone as popular as Amir we would have a great response but we have been taken aback!. Amir’s a great guy and a brilliant ambassador for the sport, the country and Muslims worldwide – we’re honoured to have worked with him to raise money for such a cause.”

The Horn of Africa Crisis is, according to the United Nations, set to worsen over the coming months and as many as 750,000 people may lose their lives. The UN has recently declared a famine in Bay, the sixth area in Somalia to have been declared a famine zone.

Inside the boxing ring, it is looking more and more like Khan will be defending his title belts against Lamont Peterson, likely in December, with an eye towards possibly facing Floyd Mayweather, Jr. after that.

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Amir Khan Fighting for Africa

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

AmirKhan1Pakistani-British boxer Amir Khan has joined forces with United Kingdom-based  Islamic Help to support the victims of the devastating drought that has hit the Horn of Africa. Khan will be fronting the charity’s iHelp Knock Out Poverty campaign. Amir Khan will be making a guest appearance at Islamic Help’s fundraising dinner on September 17th at the Hilton London Metropole. Over 800 people are expected to attend the event to take advantage of the unique opportunity to meet this rising star in the world of boxing.

The Horn of Africa Crisis is, according to the United Nations, set to worsen over the coming months and as many as 750,000 people may lose their lives. It is estimated as the worst drought to affect the Horn of Africa in over 60 years. The United Nations has recently declared a famine in Bay, the sixth area in Somalia to have been declared a famine zone. The most vulnerable are still at greatest risk and acute malnutrition rates amongst children are at a staggering 58% in Somalia. Islamic Help launched an appeal for drought victims over three months ago and has carried out work on the ground to reach those in most need.

Since being propelled to fame by his silver medal victory at the Athens Olympics in 2004 Khan, now the Unified World Light-Welterweight Champion, has utilized his position as one of the England’s leading athletes to inspire and work with young people and with the socially and economically disadvantaged. He set up the Gloves Community Centre and Boxing Gym in Bolton and continues to support a number of grass roots initiatives.

Khan has also been very active in supporting humanitarian causes. He raised substantial sums of money for survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami as well as for survivors of the Pakistani Earthquake in 2005. At that time he even went to Pakistan to deliver aid in person. Islamic Help is a UK based charity that has worked in over twenty countries globally. Its head office and Tanzania office will be co-coordinating the relief effort in Somalia.

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Statement by the President on the Occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

White House Press Release

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Michelle and I would like to send Eid greetings to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world.  Ramadan has been a time for families and communities to share the happiness of coming together in intense devotion, reflection, and service. Millions all over the world have been inspired to honor their faith by reaching out to those less fortunate. This year, many have observed the month while courageously persevering in their efforts to secure basic necessities and fundamental freedoms.  The United States will continue to stand with them and for the dignity and rights of all people, whether a hungry child in the Horn of Africa or a young person demanding freedom in the Middle East and North Africa.

As Ramadan comes to an end, we send our best wishes for a blessed holiday to Muslim communities around the world. Eid Mubarak.

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OIC Pledges $350 Million to Somalia at Turkey Summit

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ibon Villelabeitia

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – ISTANBUL, Aug 17 (Reuters) – The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries have pledged $350 million in aid to fight famine in Somalia at an emergency summit in Istanbul, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said Wednesday.

With some 3.7 million Somalis at risk of starvation in the Horn of Africa country, Ihsanoglu said he hoped the aid would soon reach $500 million and urged donors to improve drought-stricken Somalia’s long-term food security by helping it rebuild infrastructure and agriculture.

“All in all we have secured $350 million in pledges. We hope to raise the commitments to $500 million in a very short time,” he told a news conference after the summit, held in Turkey’s commercial capital during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan appealed for aid for Somalia, criticizing millionaires who drive luxury cars and the “Western world’s” arrogance for ignoring the plight of the poor.

In a speech sprinkled with references to Islamic piety and criticism of Western capitalism, Erdogan said the Somali famine was “a litmus test” not only for Muslims but for all humanity.

“If you ride a luxury car you should be generous enough to people who are struggling with hunger,” he told foreign ministers from the 57-nation OIC at an emergency summit in Istanbul to galvanize support for Somalia and neighboring regions also hit by drought.

“I hope the efforts (of the OIC) will mobilize the sleeping consciences. We hope the Western world, which likes to boast about its per capita income, shows its support for Somalia.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week her country would give an extra $17 million to combat famine in the Horn of Africa, including $12 million to help Somalis — bringing total U.S. humanitarian aid to the region to more than $580 million this year.

The OIC recently changed its name from Organization of the Islamic Conference to Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed said his country was unable to raise enough food and cattle, and faced militant attacks. The worst-hit areas are controlled by al Shabaab militants, who have prevented aid from getting to people.

The rebels, who have waged a four-year insurgency against Somalia’s Western-backed government, withdrew from Mogadishu earlier this month, opening the way for life-saving food aid but also raising the risk of insurgency attacks.

TURKEY IN AFRICA

Muslim Turkey, a rapidly growing economy and multi-party democracy that has applied to join the European Union, is widely regarded as a model for Muslim and other developing countries.

The OIC summit offered Turkey a chance to showcase its commitment to Africa when other emerging powers are scrambling for trade and investments in the resource-rich continent.

Erdogan, a pious Muslim who fasts during Ramadan, used his 30-minute speech to burnish his image as a hero among many Muslims, a status he has gained for his criticism of Israel and his support for Palestinian statehood.

“What can we say to people on the other side, making trillions of dollars, capitalizing on others? What kind of civilization is this?” he said, raising his voice at times.

“We come from the community of the Prophet, who says you cannot sleep peacefully if your neighbor is hungry. The Somali people are looking at us. Can we turn our gaze away?”

Erdogan will travel to Somalia Thursday with his family. He plans to visit relief camps and will be joined by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his family.

Visits by foreign dignitaries are extremely rare in Somalia, plagued by war and anarchy for the last two decades.

Turkey lags other emerging powerhouses such as China, Brazil and India in the race for new markets in Africa, but under Erdogan’s AK Party government, Turkey has boosted trade with the continent and opened several new embassies there.

Davutoglu later heads to South Africa and Ethiopia as part of an African tour aimed at raising Turkey’s diplomatic presence in the continent and expanding business ties.

Erdogan said Turkey would open six field hospitals in Somalia and send 20 tonnes of medication and 10 tonnes of food.

(Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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Ramadan Acts of Worship Connect Us to the Suffering of Others

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

2011-08-04T173951Z_29123431_GM1E78504PT01_RTRMADP_3_KENYA

A Muslim prays in the open at the drought-hit Kulaley village in Wajir, northeastern Kenya, August 4, 2011. The drought, the worst in decades, has affected about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa. 

REUTERS/Stringer

For 30 days during the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, healthy adult Muslims abstain from drinking a single drop of water or eating a bite of food, from before dawn until after the sun sets in the sky, as a religious obligation to God. Every year Muslims look forward to this test of faith with great longing. Last year I wrote a primer on fasting and Ramadan that can be found here.

Each fasting day during August will be a trial on my body and my spiritual resolve. With a decaffeinated, empty stomach, and a thirst that is difficult to tolerate, this act of fasting connects me to someone else. My fasting draws me to the story of a woman in Somalia who has been walking for miles to reach a refugee center; years of civil chaos combined with a devastating drought have ravaged her land, her body, and her children. The family is traveling through Eastern Africa, walking for miles on foot in brutal temperatures with hot, dust-filled wind blowing in their faces. She’ll thank God if they all make it alive to the feeding center. The baby she is carrying no longer gets milk from her breast; she feels him shrinking in her arms as she walks. The little hands of her other small children clutch at her with less and less strength, and their voices have become so weak it’s almost impossible to hear them above the howl of the wind. I hear her tell them that they must put their trust in God and keep moving. I feel her thirst as she utters words of prayer with every precious drop of water she goes without to give to her children for their survival.

My act of fasting brings empathy for her that is greater than any ordinary day; I can’t forget her story. I remember her when my head is dizzy with thirst after running out on a simple errand in triple-digit heat. I can step back into my air-conditioned home; she can’t. I won’t complain of my exhaustion from too little sleep because I know she won’t find a sheltering place to rest in the harsh landscape on her journey toward help. I’m hungry, but I can break my fast in a celebratory mood when the day is finished; I’ll take a cooling sip of clean, filtered water and literally feel it splash down in my empty gut at sundown. As I feel my body reviving, I remember the Somali woman’s fast has been going on since well-before Ramadan, and it will continue past the 30 days I will observe. She is forced into her suffering by circumstances beyond her control, and she is powerless to change them. She’s not thinking of me, but I’m praying for her.

As I slice up fruit to refresh my family after their 15 hours of fasting, I keep seeing the Somali woman. How can I set a table with food and water when she has none? How can I watch my teenagers laugh and express joy at a simple glass of water without thinking of the Somali woman’s broken heart when she has to tell her children she has nothing for them; the crops failed, the livestock died, and food prices have risen so high she has no way to feed them. The empathy for her suffering created by my act of fasting is only worth something to her — and to me — if I do something about it.

I can help make sure she has the ability to feed herself and the children through our Islam-mandated charity called zakat. Zakat is an almsgiving tax that every Muslim that has the means will pay this month. My husband and I will calculate our savings and pay roughly 2.5% of that savings to a charity we choose. We have decided to give our zakat to aid the Somali woman and her children, and the thousands like her. Our donation won’t make a dent in the suffering, but if every reader who has ever been hot, thirsty, or hungry, and has the ability to cool down, quench their thirst and fill their belly makes a donation to relief efforts in Eastern Africa, there may be some improvement in the situation. Our donations will allow these families to find some relief in the shade of a tent, drink clean water, and begin to revive their bodies with nourishment.

We are sending our donation to Islamic Relief because they have a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the United States, along with many more recognitions. Islamic Relief has been working in Eastern Africa for 20 years. They have medical camps, drought relief, and feeding programs already operating on the ground. You can find other charities that are also working in the Horn of Africa as well. Just make sure they have an established means of delivering food and aid where it’s needed.

Ramadan forces us to slow our lives down and focus on our worship, and our spirit. God has asked me to fast for His sake, but I am the one who needs it, because without it, it would be too easy to distance myself from the suffering of others. My Ramadan prayers go toward the relief workers who labor in unforgiving conditions for very little pay, and my sincerest prayers will go to the Somali lady who is my test from God during this holy month.

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Statement by President on the Occasion of Ramadan

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

White House Press Release

Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009.

(Photo by Pete Souza)

As Ramadan begins, Michelle and I would like to send our best wishes to Muslim communities in the US and around the world.  Ramadan is a festive time that is anticipated for months by Muslims everywhere.  Families and communities share the happiness of gathering together for iftar and prayers. Bazaars light up the night in many cities from Rabat to Jakarta.  And here in the US, Muslim Americans share Ramadan traditions with their neighbors, fellow students, and co-workers. 

For so many Muslims around the world, Ramadan is also a time of deep reflection and sacrifice. As in other faiths, fasting is used to increase spirituality, discipline, and consciousness of God’s mercy.  It is also a reminder of the importance of reaching out to those less fortunate.  The heartbreaking accounts of lost lives and the images of families and children in Somalia and the Horn of Africa struggling to survive remind us of our common humanity and compel us to act.  Now is the time for nations and peoples to come together to avert an even worse catastrophe by offering support and assistance to on-going relief.

Times like this remind us of the lesson of all great faiths, including Islam–that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  In that spirit, I wish Muslims around the world a blessed month, and I look forward to again hosting an iftar dinner here at the White House.  Ramadan Kareem.

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