Huda Graduates, Onward and Upward

November 17, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

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r-l:  Hossam Musa, Omar Mahmood, Abdelrahman Allam, Zac Saleh, Mohammad Rathur, Hassan Saleh, Moaz Sinan, Principal Azra Ali.

Huda School’s Class of 2008 are young Muslims with promising futures.  They are now in their senior years at local high schools and have been achieving academic excellence.  I interviewed six members of the 16-member class Tuesday night at Huda, and they recited their accomplishments.  Their ACT scores range from 26 to 35 (the maximum possible is 36), from the 86th percentile up to the 99th.  All except one have ACT scores above 30.  One has a GPA of 4.0, but that is not the highest GPA among them–one has a 4.2. 

They attend the best local secular private and public schools, such as the International Academy (IA), Detroit Country Day School (DCDS), and Lahser High School.  They hold leadership positions–one serves as the captain of his school’s basketball team.

One is a published poet. Two have received full scholarships at local universities.

All those I spoke with showed their love for friends and family through their familiarity with one another, and most by one telling decision. They mostly had a preference for attending university in Michigan–most of those present intended to attend the University of Michigan Ann Arbor–despite their all being likely successful candidates at very selective East coast or California universities.

Moaz Sinan, who earned a 32 on his ACT and attends the International Academy, expressed a desire to attend the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Abdelrahman Allam received a 31 on his ACT, has a 4.0 at Lahser High School.  He would like to go to Stanford but also applied to Ann Arbor.

Zac Saleh has a 4.2 average at IA.  He applied to Ann Arbor, Michigan State, and Wayne State. He received a 31 on his ACT.

Mohammed Rathur received a 26 on his ACT (which gives him a score in the high 80s percentile), attends DCDS, and plans to attend either the University of Michigan Ann Arbor or Michigan State.

The character among the group was Hassan Saleh, a young man with a full ride at Wayne State University–he would not give his GPA but he said that the average full ride at Wayne is a 3.83 GPA and 30 ACT. He has published 2 poems.  His family moved here from Palestine in 1983.

One standout from the graduating class was not present.  Tariq Akeel, the son of prominent local attorney Shereef Akeel, is, in the words of one of his classmates “the best soccer player ever to come from Detroit Country Day School.”  He was recruited by many Ivy League colleges, including Princeton, Yale, and Brown.

The Huda class of 2008 was unique in that they were all together for at least six years, most since kindergarten but all from at least 2nd grade through 8th.  They remain close, as was evidenced during my visit with them–the six of them joked playfully with one another during the entirety of my time with them.

They spoke highly of their time at Huda, and again and again the students referred to the character education they had received there.

“I miss touch football during recess, exploring the forest and swamp next to the school, collecting frogs and bringing them back to the lab,” said one.

They all studied Arabic during their time at Huda, and Hossam Musa, a trained hafiz who serves as the head of Huda’s Qur`an, Arabic and Islamic Studies (QAIS) program, explained that the students learn half a juz of Qur`an every year.  Some Huda students even take a break to attend the Tawheed Center’s Hifz school until they finish memorizing Qur`an, then return to their classes at Huda.

After Huda, the students go on to the best local schools.  The students explain that “About a dozen students from Huda are at DCDS,” and “about 20 at IA.”

“The non-Muslim kids know Huda is good.”

Mr. Musa has so much belief in his students that you can almost feel his love for them in his words.  “All you guys are at the top of your class–insha`Allah this will continue at the national level.” 

He compares the students to Steve Jobs, or the CEO of Domino’s.  “Keep up whatever you did in high school–continue through college–whatever you do, stay on the same track.”

The principal of Huda for the past four years is Azra Ali, a very bright young woman originally from Hyderabad, whose well-behaved children also attended the meeting. 
She speaks with great pride about Huda’s prominence.  “Huda is the first Islamic IB school in the Midwest.” 

In fact, although she does not mention that fact herself, Mrs. Ali was the one to bring Huda the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. 

She speaks highly of the quality of the Huda education, and of its staff.  On the mandatory state exams, she explains, “98% of the students test  proficient if not advanced.”

“QAIS is strong as well.”  She speaks highly of the moral lessons learned at the school, which begin with a group du’a every morning. 

There are 10 major character themes that Huda inculcates, and she explains that “this month was compassion, last month friendship, the previous month respect.”

What seems unique and enlightened in her approach, however, is that Huda inculcates belief in Islam and patriotism at the same time.  Both she and Hossam Musa explain that Huda tries to teach the students to be “patriotic but at the same time have a Muslim identity.”

They cite a recent Veteran’s Day observance, where the students focused on the achievements of veterans, as evidence.

The school is very diverse.  There are students from the Middle East and from South Asia, and also recently more African American Muslims.  “All together under a Muslim umbrella,” as Mrs. Ali puts it.

In fact what was most remarkable about the students was that one of the few that I met, and one I did not meet, took the time to write short but heartfelt notes about what they felt Huda had given them:

Below is the note from Abdelrahman Allam:

“Huda School did prepare us very well academically. I noticed that immediately freshman year that it was an easy transition academically. Yes I have a high GPA, and yes I did well on my ACT, Alhamdullilah, but those are things that anyone can learn to do. There are plenty of people who didn’t go to Huda School who were able to accomplish these things. The one thing you’ll notice about our class, and this is due to the environment we were taught in, is the strength of our character. It has allowed us to continue to be leaders. Walk into any Senior or even Junior class at some of our high schools and ask people to tell you about myself, or Zac, or [one other student]. You will only hear great things. The social transition was not a breeze. But our high character made it easy to adjust and have people see us as role models and people they want to get to know. This is what will determine our future success, not how well we do in school, but how we respect and elicit respect from others. We learned to do that at Huda School.”

Another Huda grad who could not be present but who sent some biographical information was Uzair Khan, who received a 35 on his ACT.  Mr. Khan wrote a brief essay which again emphasized the character building he experienced at Huda.

Khan explained that “[t]he best part about Huda School is the small grade size.  It allowed for many of us to enjoy our times at Huda, from playing basketball to the end of the year field trips to Cedar Point.  To this day, many of us former Huda students remain very close friends and I am sure that those bonds will never break throughout our life.”

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Analysis: Egypt Army May Pull Strings from Barracks

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Edmund Blair

CAIRO (Reuters) – Hossam el-Hamalawy is used to being in trouble with the authorities. State security hauled him in three times for his activism when Hosni Mubarak was in power. He hoped Egypt’s uprising would end such summonses. It didn’t.

He was called in again in May for questioning. But one element changed. It wasn’t internal security but an army general who wanted to question the blogger over accusations he made on television about abuses by the military police.

“We didn’t have this revolution … so that we would replace Hosni Mubarak with the military as a taboo,” said Hamalawy, insisting that the army must change its ways.

“The military institution is part of the old regime,” he said. “It will have to go through its own change in revolutionary Egypt.”

Quite what that change might look like is perhaps the biggest question facing Egyptians now.

The army has vowed to hand power to civilians, after it took control when Mubarak was ousted on February 11.

Few doubt it wants to quit the grimy world of day-to-day government but, at the same time, few expect the generals to submit to civilian command when they return to barracks.

Instead, analysts say the military is likely to slip into the political shadows, as a protector of national security — a broad brief that would allow some back-seat intervention — and rigorously guard its business interests and other privileges.

The military has after all supplied Egypt’s rulers, including former air force commander Mubarak, for six decades.

“I do feel they are sincere about handing over power to a civilian government,” said Hamalawy, who writes the arabawy.org blog. “But that does not mean they will give up … their role in the Egypt political arena.”

After summons for interrogation prompted protests, Hamalaway said the general who quizzed him on May 31 promised to examine evidence he provided of any abuses by the military police.

Such incidents, played out in public and drawing the ire of Egyptians enjoying a new-found assertiveness, can only tarnish the reputation of an army which was sky-high when troops took control of the streets from Mubarak’s widely reviled state security forces.

The army has committed to a parliamentary vote in September and presidential poll to follow.

National Security

“The Egyptian military is the institution that can hold the country together, move it forward. It is the only one,” said Kamran Bokhari, an analyst at global intelligence firm STRATFOR.

“I don’t see it relinquishing power to a very nascent, parliamentary system in which there is also a president.”

He added: “There are material interests as an institution. Their privileged status, they want to be able to retain that.

“There are genuine national security concerns.”

To achieve this, there are several models for Egypt to copy.

Close to home is Turkey, where the army was guardian of the secular constitution for decades and toppled governments when it saw that threatened. That role has been diluted with the rise of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK, a socially conservative party with Islamist roots and free market policies.

Further afield is Pakistan where Bokhari said there was an “unwritten rule that the top brass is involved in the decision-making or foreign policy-making process.”

Egypt could forge its own formula. Bokhari said the army may want to insert a line in the constitution that it be consulted over national security, ensuring it a seat at the top table.

The army denies having any such ambitions.

“The job of the army is specified by the current constitution and if this is to change it will be through the parliament after studies and based on the demands of the people,” one military official told Reuters.

“But so far nothing is planned to increase the powers of the army or give it new ones,” said the official, who responded to questions only on condition of anonymity.

However, Mamdouh Shaheen, a general on the military council who deals with legislative and constitutional affairs, said in comments published in May that a new constitution should give the military a special place — “some kind of insurance, so that it is not under the whim of a president.”

He also said parliament should not be allowed to question the armed forces, the newspaper reported.

Such talk has riled commentators. Writing in the same newspaper after Shaheen, Amr el-Shobaki, a columnist, dismissed the idea that army should have any “special immunity” — although he said that it should have a role in protecting Egypt’s democracy.

For now, the generals are in the public eye but the institution is not submitted to public scrutiny. Just as it was under Mubarak, the military budget is a mystery and it controls a sprawling business empire — just how big is unclear.

One Western diplomat, asked about the scale of the army’s business interests compared to the overall economy, said: “Estimates vary wildly, even as much as 40 percent, which I think is way off the mark. We just don’t know.”

Some suggest a more realistic estimate is 10-15 percent.

WINNING OVER THE PUBLIC

The army runs factories that make plastic products and other goods. The highway connecting Cairo with the Red Sea port of Ain Sokhna was built by army engineers and the toll ticket for that road has the words “Ministry of Defense” stamped on it.

To win over the public before one big protest after Mubarak was ousted, the army issued a four-page insert in a newspaper outlining its economic contribution. It listed pharmaceutical firms it owned, stadiums it built and farmland it had reclaimed.

For many in Egypt, a country of 80 million people where about two-thirds of the nation were born during Mubarak’s rule and knew no other leader, the army’s presence gives reassurance.

“We have at least three years to get back on our feet and we need to have a strong and strict establishment in power, like the armed forces, to help us achieve that,” said Saeed Saeed, in his 40s, who works at a private company.

The army has been revered by many Egyptians for its role in wars fighting former colonial powers Britain and France in the 1956 Suez crisis and Israel, notably in the 1973 war that led to peace talks and the return of the Sinai peninsula.

The army was virtually the only institution of state to survive this year’s political turmoil intact. For investors, it provides confidence as the country rebuilds.

“For continuity and to provide an element of security, then having a state institution that functions efficiently is important,” said Angus Blair of Beltone Financial, adding that there needed to be an “evolution in other institutions.”

But there are many Egyptians who have become uncomfortable with what they see as the army’s clumsy handling of government.

“I am getting a feeling that the army is not fulfilling the demands of the protesters … and I don’t like that because I agree with the revolution and all its demands,” said Mohamed Afan, an accountant.
An army-backed ban on strikes by workers drew the wrath of protesters, who accused the army of betraying their trust. There have been no obvious cases where the law was implemented.

Egyptians have rallied over what they say is the army’s tardiness in holding Mubarak to account. His trial on murder and graft charges is now set for August 3. The military insists this is a judicial matter, beyond its control.

Seeking to appease the public, generals have appeared on TV chat shows, unheard of in Mubarak’s time, to explain themselves.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Egypt, once served as defense attache in Pakistan and seems to have long been aware of the pitfalls of military rule.

The U.S. ambassador wrote in a leaked 2009 cable of a remark Tantawi had made then in which he concluded that “any country where the military became engaged in ‘internal affairs’ was ‘doomed to have lots of problems’.”

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