Got the Christmas Blues?

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

For many of us, the holidays are the saddest time. There are some biological reasons for this – the Solstice on December 21st is the darkest day of the year and there is a lot of depression associated with lack of sunlight.

For this reason, the Romans came up with the Festival of Lights to help dispel the gloom of darkness and the fear of death that comes with freezing weather, which in today’s world means electronic lights displayed on Christmas trees, candlelit Hanukkah menorahs, and an enduring tradition of attempting to be especially kind to one another. Science reports that American suicide rates are 30% lower during the holiday season, so apparently the effect of “good cheer and good will towards all men” is not just a theory.

Muslim families face a challenge during these special times, because we do not celebrate Christmas. We don’t even have a counter-holiday. A hilarious youtube video entitled, “Christmas Sucks for Desis” clearly explains our children’s tender emotions:

“We will get a mix of a bunch of feelings on this day – No Rudolphs, no horse-drawn sleigh – All we get is a closed Safeway!”

Americans who have converted to Islam may feel especially sensitive at this time, because we have beautiful childhood memories associated with Christmas that are deeply connected to our cultural traditions. It is hard to explain how depressing it can be to find yourself sitting alone on Christmas Eve, simply due to a conscious choice not to celebrate that holiday. No more late night prayers singing carols praising the birth of our Savior. No more angels, no more shepherds, no more Blessed Virgin Mary and her adorable baby. No more hanging warm socks and mittens on a tree to donate to charity.
Hey wait! Is all of this so bad? The whole point of adoring a newborn baby is that we are in a state of total awe at what God alone can accomplish – the birth of hope in the future of humanity.

The Prophethood of Jesus marked a very important milestone in the history of spiritual philosophy. Before that, in the Old Testament, it was “my God is better than your god.” Jesus brought a message that changed life on earth forever. The ancient Germans used to burn widows on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands, but after they learned about Christ’s teachings, they completely changed their way of life to one that involved fighting for the security of widows! The Aztek American Indians used to engage in ritual sacrifice of virgin girls. Now they revere the Virgin Mary. We have come a long way.

If you were to pick up a Quran, knowing nothing, you would think this is a book primarily about Jesus (pbuh). We have holidays to remember Abraham, Moses and Mohammad, while the Shias retell the tale of Hussain’s martyrdom every year at Ashura. Yet we don’t always take the time to retell the story of the miracle of the birth of Jesus.

When my five year old daughter started whining about why we don’t have a Christmas tree, I decided to teach her the true meaning of Christmas. I then realized how important it is for someone who wants to truly understand the Quran to read the Bible too. The stories about Jesus are told in the Bible in such detail that we do not find in the Quran, yet the Quran references these old stories in such a way that if we did not know the old stories, we cannot fully grasp the meaning of the Quran. The Quran serves in many ways as a commentary on the older books, which Jesus came to Earth to interpret for us. The Quran states that Jesus said:

“ And (I come as) a verifier of that which is before me of the Torah… I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; therefore be careful of (your duty to) Allah and obey me.” (Al-Imran:50)

We are ordered to obey Christ, yet we know precious little about how to obey Christ UNLESS we familiarize ourselves with the older books. Since Muslims have nothing else to do on Christmas, why not spend some time with our children studying about our Messiah? I read to my daughter from the Quran:

“… Allah said: O Jesus, I am going to terminate the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me and purify you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve to the Day of Resurrection…” (Al-Imran: 55)

I explained to her that the message of Jesus (pbuh) apart from the mythology is clear: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Do unto others as you would have done to yourself.” If someone did not do that, he did not follow God’s prophet.

What matters is that we are going to die, and if we did not be kind to other people, God will punish us. But if we followed Christ’s teachings, God will be merciful to us.

Humanity is in a state of darkness. There is absolutely no hope for us. We are a bunch of hopeless sinners and losers. We keep fighting for ourselves, and all we do is just keep dragging each other down. We are hardly human anymore, as a species. We are in a complete state of loss: except those who have faith, and who do good deeds, and remind one another to be righteous, and not to give up hope. I think that is the true meaning that we need to find in this darkest hour.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. Karinfriedemann.blogspot.com.

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Biggest Allies of Pakistan Are the Pakistani-Americans: Congresswoman Lee

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Hon Green, Lee, & AL Hoang at the Alliance Benevolent 40-Feet Container Sending-Off Ceremony

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“According to the latest reports from Pakistan of this past Thursday, three millions out of the original six million brothers & sisters in humanity are still suffering from the after affects of the floods of late August & early September, including hundreds & thousands of children. It is clear that several thousands will continue to struggle in months and years to come,” informed Muhammad Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator of the Houston Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts, a collaborative of 42 organizations and media outlets.

Mr. Sheikh was doing the welcome speech at the Pakistan Center of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH), on the occasion of preparation and sending-off ceremony of 40-feet container termed the Benevolent Container from the Houstonians Community for the brethren in humanity in Sindh Pakistan, who are suffering from the aftermath of the floods of 2011.

Honorable Congresspersons AL Green and Sheila Jackson Lee; Councilman AL Hoang of City of Houston, and Honorable Consul Generals of Pakistan & Turkey Aqil Nadeem and Cemalettin (pronounced Jemalettin) Aydin were the special guests of honor at this ceremony, together with President of PAGH Taslim Siddiqui, Sindhi Association of North America (SANA)’s Jamil Daudi, Sam’s Club’s Khaled Khan, Hashoo Foundation’s Cristal Montanez, and many others. Emcee of the event was Noorunisa Ghanghro, who included several inspiring quotes of Madam Teresa in her talk.

Special Congressional and Mayoral Proclamations of Excellent Service by the Alliance were given by the three elected officials.

Hon AL Hoang; Hon Aqil Nadeem; Hon Cemalettin; President of the Texas-Turkish Chamber of Commerce Celil Yaka; and Taslim Siddiqui spoke on the occasion, appreciating the work of the Alliance under the leadership of Muhammad Saeed Sheikh; in doing the unified efforts, and said Alliance has shown how when several hands join together have such positive impact.

Coordinator of In-Kind Donation Mian Nazir of PAGH thanked his team of volunteers lead by Zeeshan Qavi, and more than 15 volunteers of Red Cross from Dulles High School Sugar Land; plus several volunteers of SANA.

Honorable Congressman AL Green said that the motto of Alliance is Blessings in Unity and the excellent results of the efforts of Alliance truly reflect that. He applauded the efforts of Pakistani community in helping people in need everywhere including at the time of Katrina and Ike, when the Pakistani community got together in helping the fellow Americans. He appreciated PAGH for always offering Pakistan Center, when humanity has the need.

Honorable Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said she is totally impressed to see more than $81,000 raised in cash by the Alliance and more than $100,000 wholesale value of in-kind donated items raised by the Alliance of 42 entities to benefit the flood victims of Pakistan. She said when the nutritious meal will reach the mouth of those needing it the most and hygiene items reaching to cleanse them, they will indeed remember this nice gift sent by Pakistani-Americans, who are the biggest allies of Pakistan.

Honorable Lee went on to say she is extremely sorrowful on the recent loss of army soldiers as well as several of the Pakistani army personnel and civilians losing their lives in this war on terrorism. These are trying days in the USA-Pakistan relations, where their friendship goes back to decades. We need to continue informing leaders of USA and Pakistan that this friendship should be strengthened rather than made weaker; and although many tragic incidents may have happened, but that should not affect the otherwise cordial relationship between the two nations and countries.

In his presentation Coordinator of the Alliance Muhammad Saeed Sheikh said in the end that last year at an emergency meeting called by Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee at her office, she mentioned about sending a Mercy Plane to Pakistan. Although it is not a Mercy Plane, but we want to report to Honorable Congresswoman that it is a much larger 40-feet Mercy Container holding more than $100,000 retail worth of in-kind donations of the most needed food and hygiene items plus blankets for the flood victims of Pakistan.

For more information about the Alliance, one can call Muhammad Saeed Sheikh at 1-281-948-1840.

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Houston Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts First Phase of In-Kind Donation Drive has Started

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

2011-09-23T172505Z_869930222_GM1E79O044401_RTRMADP_3_PAKISTAN-FLOODS

A girl, displaced by floods, carries pots as she walks on the trunk of a tree floating in the water near her home in the Badin district of Pakistan’s Sindh province September 23, 2011. The latest floods, triggered by monsoon rains, have killed more than 230 people, destroyed or damaged 1.2 million houses and flooded 4.5 million acres (1.8 million hectares) since late last month, officials and Western aid groups say. More than 300,000 people have been moved to shelters. Some 800,000 families hit by last year’s floods are still homeless. Aid groups have warned of a growing risk of fatal diseases.

REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Houston, Texas: Sindh Pakistan has been devastated by the most destructive floods in more than 51 Years. This calamity is even bigger than the Pakistani Floods 2010.

There are many “Blessings in Unity”. Keeping this in perspective, a united effort has been launched in the Greater Houston region to serve Sisters & Brothers in humanity in dire needs. More than thirty organizations and media partners have joined in the efforts and others are being encouraged to join this Alliance.

As the 1st phase of these efforts, collection of In-Kind donation items for Pakistan Floods 2011 victims started on Friday, September 23rd, 2011, and will continue every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday till October 16th, 2011 (can be extended if needed). Monetary Fundraising event(s) will be held sometimes in October 2011.

Mian Nazir, Coordinator of the In-Kind Donation Drive, can be reached at 1-713-922-8458. Following is the In-Kind donation items that patrons of humanity need to graciously bring (NO CLOTHES PLEASE):

High Energy Biscuits – Small Bags of Rice / Lentils / Beans / Salt / Sugar – Small Bottles of Cooking Oil – Snacks items like Chips, Natural Valley Trial Mix, Natural Oats ″N Honey, etc. – Family Tents (both normal and winterized) – Brand New Blankets & Comforters – Brand New Towels – Brand New Plastic Sheets – Mosquito Nets; preferably Long-Lasting Insecticides Treated Mosquito Nets (LLINs) – Hygiene Kits (each kit should include at the minimum one 10-litres water container like bucket for storage, two 250-grams bathing soap, two 200-grams laundry soap, one toothpaste 75-ml/100-g, four tooth brushes, etc.) – Water Purification Systems (preferably family water filter straw) – De-Watering Pumps – Water Purification Tablets – Medicines (over the counter pain, fever, & similar; iron supplements; vitamins; creams for rash & itch; bandages; etc.) – Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) – Storage Box Size 16-Inches x 12-Inches x 12-Inches (from Home Depot or U-Haul).

Also appeal to all the persons bringing the In-Kind donations to please contribute some amount like $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $200, or any amount that will help with the logistics of this In-Kind donation drive and will be used to send all of the In-Kind donation items to Pakistan.

Many volunteers are needed. Community Service Volunteer Hours Certificates and Refreshments will be provided to all the volunteers.

WHERE TO COME TO VOLUNTEER & BRING THE IN-KIND DONATION ITEMS

Pakistan Center, 12638 Bissonett (at South Dairy Ashford), Houston, Texas 77099

IN-KIND DONATION COLLECTION & VOLUNTEERIG SHIFTS

Fridays, September 30th, October 07th, & 14th, 2011: 5:30pm.-8:30pm. – Saturdays, October 01st, 08th, & 15th, 2011: 9:30am.-12:30pm / 1:30pm.-4:30pm. / 5:30pm.-8:30pm. – Sundays, October 02nd, 09th, 16th, 2011: 12-Noon-3:00pm. / 3:00pm.-6:00pm.

Everyone needs to volunteer and encourage others to volunteer, donate the In-Kind items, and give some monetary assistance to properly run this In-Kind donation drive. Involvement of members of all of Alliance’s organizations; and all Houstonians, including organizations’ patrons, other community-based organizations, honorable elected officials, mainstream media, and others; everyone’s participation is needed for this crucial humanitarian cause.

Corporate stores like Wal*Mart, Sam’s Club, Pharmaceutical Companies, and others can be approached and encouraged to participate and donate generously to assist the humanity in dire needs.
For more information, one can reach Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator of Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts, 1-281-948-1840 / Talat Talpur, Treasurer of Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts, 1-832-594-2159 / ILyas Choudry, Secretary of Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts, 1-832-275-0786;

Alliance Members as of Monday, September 26th, 2011 are (in alphabetical order): 1) Pakistan Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2011 – 2) Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter – 3) Hashoo Foundation USA – 4) Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development (HHRD) – 5) HOPE – 6) Houston-Istanbul Sister City Association (HISCA) – 7) Houston-Karachi Sister City Association (HKSCA) – 8) Muslim Council of USA – 9) Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) – 10) Pakistan Association of Golden Triangle (PAGT) – 11) Pakistani-American Society of Texas (PAST) – 12) Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) – 13) Raindrop Helping Hands – 14) Raindrop Turkish House – 15) Red Cross – 16) Shifa Healthcare – 17) Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) – 18) Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) – 19) Sun Charity – 20) The Citizens Foundation – 21) Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB)…
Media Partners: 1) Pakistan Chronicle – 2) Pakistan Journal – 3) Pakistan News – 4) Pakistan Post – 5) Pakistan Times – 6) Radio Houston – 7) Radio Light Of Islam – 8) Radio Music-in-the-Box – 9) Radio Naya Andaz – 10) Radio Sangeet…

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Houston’s Positive Response For Pakistan Floods 2011

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Formed in Houston:  “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”

pakistanSeveral community based organizations in Houston, Texas, USA; came together this past weekend, to establish a collaborative to serve the humanity in dire needs suffering from Floods 2011 in Pakistan. This body is named the “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”; and its aims are to send monetary funds through members organizations working in the field in Sindh Pakistan, and to also send in-kind donations; all to benefit the humanity suffering from floods in Sindh Pakistan, where more than 7.50 million lives have been totally disturbed and projected to remain be disturbed in weeks and months to come.

Members of the Alliance as of Monday, September 19th, 2011 in alphabetical order are given below. More organizations are being approached and also being encouraged with this communiqué, to join this collaborative. For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator of the Alliance at 1-281-948-1840 and/or ILyas Hasan Choudry, Secretary of the Alliance at 1-832-275-0786):

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2011 – Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter – Hashoo Foundation USA – Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development (HHRD) – Houston-Istanbul Sister City Association (HISCA) – Houston-Karachi Sister City Association (HKSCA) – Imran Khan Foundation (IKF) – Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) – Pakistani-American Council of Texas (PACT) – Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) – Raindrop Helping Hands – Raindrop Turkish House – Red Cross – Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) – Sun Charity – Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB);

Media Partners: Pakistan Chronicle – Pakistan Journal – Pakistan News – Pakistan Times – Radio Houston – Radio Light Of Islam – Radio Shalimar – Muslim Observer…

The inaugural exploratory meeting started with recitation of Quran by Abdur Rauf Khan. After initial introductions of all the attendees, one of the persons, who had envisioned the idea of this Alliance, Saeed Sheikh talked about the importance and blessings in joint efforts to serve the humanity in dire needs in Pakistan due to the recent catastrophic floods.

ILyas Hasan Choudry gave an overall assessment of the damage in Sindh Pakistan due to these floods and ongoing efforts. He informed that these floods were different than last year, where floods came down from mountains giving time for people to relocate. Here rains came down in four spells, causing sudden and very high floods, which have never been seen in 51 years. So people did not get warning to relocate. Catastrophe is larger than last years’ flood, but somehow due to political, economical, and other natural & man-made catastrophes having hit Pakistan, USA and the world, media was late in picking up this news, especially the media in Pakistan.  Otherwise this tragedy had struck many people long time ago, like almost one month ago. 250+ persons died, 2.30-Million bales of cotton lost, almost all of the crops are destroyed in an area of  7-Millon Acres, more than 60,000 cattle heads perishing (whole livelihood of majority of common people in the area of twenty or more districts gone), and 750,000+ homes partially or completely destroyed. Water has come in so much quantity that it is projected by experts that it may take 30 to 45 days just for the water to recede. As such there is emergency relief work needed in terms of clean water, food, shelter, healthcare services, and psycho-social support for children, ladies, and elderly. After the first phase of one to two months, much long term rehabilitation will be needed. Local organizations at grassroots levels are working within the communities, where people are stranded due to water, while international NGOs with local offices are trying to bring people into cluster camps and providing their efforts.

Based on thorough discussion, following are the projects and programs that were decided for this alliance: Doing In-Kind donation drive for three to four weeks (and beyond if needed). Since the best possible facilities, including dock for container, are available at PAGH’s Pakistan Center located at 12638 Bissonett, Houston, Texas 77099, so that will the place to collect In-Kind donations.

Alliance will also organize joint monetary fundraising events, which may include a large scale underwritten dinner at a nice location, and one or two radio telethons, where people will be encouraged to donate towards the organizations of their choice, just like it was done at the time of the earthquake in Pakistan 2005. For the joint fundraising efforts, more organizations will be included that will become part of the list of organizations to receive the monetary donations for these joint fundraising efforts. As of Monday, September 19th, 2011, these organizations were identified to receive monetary funds raised during Alliance’s Events (more can be included later on): Pakistan Prime Minister Fund; Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter; Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development; Imran Khan Foundation (IKF); Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH); Raindrop Helping Hands; Sindhi Association of North America (SANA); Sun Charity; and Red Cross (included so as to give choice to larger American community to participate – someone from Red Cross will be approached before putting their name on the final list).

It was decided to have an initial working committee for the Alliance, and following persons were chosen with consensus – More persons will be included as the Alliance expands By the Grace of God: Saeed Sheikh (Coordinator), Talat Talpur (Treasurer), Mian Nazir (In-Kind Donation Coordinator), and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Secretary and Community & Media Outreach). Two persons, who are members of the Alliance Organizations; namely Bobby Refaie and Cristal Montanez Baylor will soon be in Pakistan; and during their stay in Pakistan, they will act as Liaison for the Alliance in Pakistan.

For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh (Cell: 1-281-948-1840) and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Cell: 1-832-275-0786).

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Building Bridges Across a Diverse Community

September 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Milad Alucozai

Milad-AlcuzaiChristian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders reflect on September 11th.

West Lafayette, IN – On the tenth anniversary of the tragic attacks of September 11th, 2011, Purdue University students, faculty, staff, and community members of all faiths and backgrounds came together in a memorial to the victims and a celebration of shared values and spirit.

The event was organized by Purdue’s Student Government as well as interfaith religious leaders from across all major denominations. Muslim representative Aurangzeb spoke of the universal sanctity of human life and recognized the loss of innocent life on September 11th as well as in the subsequent terrorist attacks around the world in places like Madrid and Pakistan and in the armed conflicts resulting over the last ten years. “Crimes against humanity, no matter in what form they are committed, are to be condemned in the strictest terms,” he said, “In the face of inhumanity, we must be more human.”

Purdue University has the second largest population of international students among American public universities with just under 8,000 and has long been known for its exceptional diversity of students from all nations, cultures, and religions. Purdue’s Dean of International Programs, Mike Brzezinski, honored this legacy by sharing his memories of the campus’s reaction after September 11th.  “Some [universities] were dealing with the desolation of mosques and religious housing but not at Purdue. Some were dealing with attacks on Muslim students, but not at Purdue,” said Brzezinski.

Since the awful attacks that brought so much pain to our hearts, heated rhetoric and acts of violence against Muslim Americans (and non-Muslim Arab Americans) have increased. Yet the victims, like the citizens of our nation, were of all faiths. Patriotic Muslim Americans were some of the innocent passengers on the planes, they were workers in the buildings, and they were heroic first responders who ran into the building when everybody else was running out.

We need to remember that Muslim Americans contribute to our communities every day. They serve us as police officers, doctors, and firefighters. They are public servants in local and state governments as well as in the federal government where they work tirelessly to guide our counter terrorist efforts. And there are thousands of young Muslim Americans serving overseas to protect the liberties that we all share.

The ceremony, held on the historic Purdue Mall, also included remarks by University President France Cordova, student body president Brett Highley, and students who lived in New York at the time of the attacks. Attendees gathered together holding firm the belief that every human life irrespective of the nationality, gender, color, language, or religion is sacred, united in their resolve to emerge from the tragedies of the September 11th era with greater faith, greater understanding, and greater humanity.

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Syrian Forces Round Up Dozens in Hama

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian forces rounded up dozens of people around Hama on Wednesday, a day after shooting dead 22 people, activists said, and Amnesty International said Syria may have committed crimes against humanity in an earlier crackdown.

Tanks were still stationed outside Hama, which has seen some of the biggest protests against President Bashar al-Assad and was the site of a bloody crackdown against Islamist insurgents nearly 30 years ago.

But some of the tanks were redeployed away from the city and a resident said security forces were concentrated around the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party, the police headquarters and a state security compound. Most arrests took place in the outskirts of the city.

Ammar Qurabi, Cairo-based head of the Syrian National Human Rights Organization, said the death toll from Tuesday, when gunmen loyal to Assad swept through the city, had risen to 22.
He said hundreds of people had been arrested.

Rami Adbelrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 23 people had died in Hama in the last 24 hours, and that an opposition figure in the city had reported water and electricity supplies were cut to the city on Wednesday morning.

State news agency SANA said one policeman had been killed in a clash with armed groups who opened fire on security forces and threw petrol and nail bombs at them. It made no mention of civilian deaths but said some “armed men” were injured.

Syria has prevented most independent media from operating inside the country, making it difficult to verify accounts from activists and authorities.

Hama was emptied of security forces for nearly a month after at least 60 protesters were shot dead on June 3, but the security vacuum emboldened demonstrators and on Friday activists said at least 150,000 people rallied to demand Assad’s downfall.

The next day Assad sacked the provincial governor and sent tanks and troops to surround the city, signaling a military assault similar to those carried out in other protest centers.
In a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International said the crackdown two months ago against one of those protest centers — the town of Tel Kelakh near the border with Lebanon — may have constituted a crime against humanity.

Urging the United Nations to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, it said nine people died in custody after being captured during the operation in the town, close to the Lebanese border.

“Crimes Against Humanity”

Describing a “devastating security operation”, it said scores of men were rounded up, and most of them were tortured.

Some detainees told Amnesty they were beaten and tied by the wrists to a bar high enough off the ground to force them to stand on the tip of their toes for long periods — known as the shabah, meaning ghost, position.

A 22-year-old man told Amnesty he was tied up in the shabah position had electric shocks applied to his body and testicles during five days of detention in the provincial capital Homs.

“Amnesty International considers that crimes committed in Tel Kelakh amount to crimes against humanity as they appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population,” it said.

Syrian activists say security forces have killed more than 1,300 civilians since the unrest erupted 14 weeks ago. Authorities say 500 soldiers and police have been killed by armed gangs who they also blame for most of the civilian deaths.

Assad has responded to the protests with a mixture of repression and concessions, promising a political dialogue with the opposition. Preliminary talks on the dialogue are due to be held on Sunday.

But opposition figures refuse to sit down and talk while the killings and arrests continue, and diplomats say events in Hama will be a litmus test for whether Assad chooses to focus on a political or a military solution to the unrest.

Some residents sought to halt any military advance earlier this week by blocking roads between neighborhoods with rubbish containers, burning tyres, wood and metal.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it had been told by an official at Hama’s Hourani hospital that security forces surrounded the hospital on Tuesday, although they did not enter it, as it received the bodies of four people and treated 60 others with gunshot wounds.

“Security forces have responded to protest with the brutality that’s become familiar over the past several months.” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director.

Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria for 30 years until his death in 2000, sent troops into Hama in 1982 to crush an Islamist-led uprising in the city where the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood made its last stand.

That attack killed many thousands, possibly up to 30,000, and one slogan shouted by Hama protesters in recent weeks was “Damn your soul, Hafez”.

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Helping Hand (USA) Signs MoU with Medical Bridges Inc.

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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U. S. South Central Region Coordinator for the Helping Hand (USA) in Houston, ILyas Hasan Choudry; President, CEO of Medical Bridges Dorothy Bolettieri…

Dorothy Bolettieri, President, CEO of Medical Bridges; Steve Bolfing; Steven Bolfing, Business Development Manager; and Kourtnei Ramirez, Special Projects Coordinator for Medical Bridges…

The Helping Hand (USA) For Relief & Development has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Houston based Medical Bridges, Inc., according to which between April and December 2011, Helping Hand (USA) will be sending to several countries, where most needed; ten large 40-Feet containers of medical equipment and supplies provided by Medical Bridges. Total shipment will be approximately 3-to-4 million dollars.

Tentatively the beneficiary countries will include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Haiti, and Pakistan. Also there is a chance to include the historical city of “Caravan” in Tunisia as one of the places for a container (determination on this will soon be made).

In a statement, the U. S. South Central Region Coordinator for the Helping Hand (USA) in Houston, ILyas Hasan Choudry has said: “Helping Hand (USA) in partnership with Medical Bridges will send donated good quality medical equipment and supplies of 3-to-4 million dollars worth. Hundreds and thousands of less fortunate brothers and sisters in humanity will benefit from this effort and several lives will be saved. All of these people will remember in their prayers the patrons, supporters, donors, volunteers, and staff of Helping Hand (USA). I want to appeal to all the blessed persons to whole-heartedly contribute towards the Helping Hand’s discretionary fund by visiting www.HHRD.Org

At a simple occasion at the office of Medical Bridges, the U. S. South Central Region Coordinator for the Helping Hand (USA) For Relief & Development, ILyas Hasan Choudry; and Dorothy Bolettieri, President and CEO of Medical Bridges; signed the MoU documents. Also present were Steven Bolfing, Business Development Manager; and Kourtnei Ramirez, Special Projects Coordinator for Medical Bridges.

In a communiqué to Helping Hand at the eve of signing of the MoU, Dorothy Bolettieri of Medical Bridges wrote: “I’m delighted that the MOU has been approved and that we will work together to help improve the health-care delivery in areas that so desperately need support and assistance.”

Steven Bolfing wrote: “Medical Bridges would not be able to assist humanity without organizations such as yours (Helping Hand USA).”

Talking to our media representative, ILyas Hasan Choudry has said: “We are really appreciative of the efforts and services of Medical Bridges towards the overall health of the humanity. We are extremely delighted to partner with them. By the Grace of God, this effort will save many lives; and in our faith it has been informed to us in Quran that if we will save the lives of one person, it is as if we have saved the lives of the whole humanity.”

Other than this, Helping Hand (USA) will also be sending from their headquarter in Detroit, Michigan; large 40-Feet containers of medical equipments’ and supplies’ provided by the World Medical Relief of Michigan.

Helping Hand (USA) also has their own In-Kind Donation Centers in Ontario California; Houston Texas; Sanford Florida; Ijamsville Maryland; Somerset New Jersey; and Bay Shore New York; where medical equipments’ & supplies’; household, fresh non-perishable food, & hygiene items; new clothes, comforters, blankets, jackets; and many other things are accepted on almost daily basis.
Addresses and phone numbers of these In-Kind Donation Centers can be found at www.HHRD.Org

Other than of course these material donations, Helping Hand (USA) is requesting to monetarily support this In-Kind Donation Program by contributing towards the Helping Hand (USA) Discretionary Fund at www.HHRD.Org – This way the patrons of Helping Hand (USA) will receive the most necessary prayers of hundreds and thousands, whose lives will be saved and bettered by this useful program.

For more information, one can call 1-832-275-0786 or 1-888-808-HELP(4357).

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Shakh Tahir Qadri’s Detailed Fatwa Against Suicide Bombing and Terrorism

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Leading Islamic Scholar’s Detailed Fatwa Against Suicide Bombing and All Forms of Terrorism – Shaykh Tahir Qadri

Shaykh-Tahir-Qadri A torturous spate of terrorism that continues unabated for last many years has brought Muslim Umma in general and Pakistan in particular into disrepute. There is no gainsaying the fact that the Muslims on the whole oppose and condemn terrorism in unequivocal terms and are not ready to accept it even as remotely related to Islam in any manner. However, a negligible minority amongst them seems to give it a tacit support. Instead of openly opposing and condemning terrorism, these people confuse the entire subject by resorting to misleading and perplexing discussions. Injustice being currently meted out to the Muslims in certain matters, double standards displayed by bigger powers and their open-ended and long-term military engagements in a number of countries, under the pretext of eliminating terror, form some of the fundamental local, national and international causes that underpin terrorism, and add a punch to the war cry of militants.

Similarly, the terrorists’ recourse to violence, indiscriminate massacre of humanity, suicide bombings against innocent and peaceful people, and bomb blasts on Mosques, shrines, educational institutions, Bazaars, governmental buildings, trade centers, markets, security installations, and other public places, which are heinous, anti-human and barbarous steps in their very essence, have become a routine affair. These people justify their actions of human destruction and mass killing of hundreds of innocent people in the name of Jihad and thus distort, deform and confuse the entire Islamic concept of Jihad (holy struggle against evil). This situation is causing Muslims in general and the Muslim youth in particular to fall prey to doubts and reservations besides muddling their minds in respect of Jihad because those perpetrating these atrocities are from amongst Muslims. They practice Islamic rituals, perform acts of worship and wear appearance delineated in Sharia. This has put not only the common Muslims but a dominating majority of religious scholars and intellectuals too into a paradox, bewildered to know truly the exact and precise Islamic injunctions about the way of workings, methods and measures these individuals and groups have adopted to cause the havoc.

Furthermore, the Western media is in wont of over-projecting the incidents and episodes of terrorism and extremism about the Muslim world, and does not at all highlight positive and constructive aspects of Islam, its peaceful teachings and anthropological philosophy and orientation. So much so, that it does not even reflect hatred, condemnation and opposition towards extremists, militants and terrorists that permeate the Muslim societies. The negative outcome of this attitude has appeared by way of bracketing both Islam and terrorism together. Consequently, the western mind starts conjuring up the picture of terrorism and extremism at a slight mention of the word ‘Islam’, putting the Western-bred and educated youth in a quandary, leaving them more beleaguered than before. The present generation of Muslim youth in the entire Islamic world is also falling victim to mental confusion and decadence intellectually, practically and in the domain of beliefs and religious tenets.

Because of this situation, two kinds of negative responses and destructive attitudes are forming up: one in the form of damage to Islam and the Muslim world, and second a threat to the Western world in particular and entire humanity in general. The damage to Islam and Muslim world is that the Muslim youth, not completely and comprehensively aware of Islamic teachings, regard terrorism and extremism as emanating from religious teachings and attitudes of religious people under the influence of media; hence, they are getting alienated from religion. This misplaced thinking is leading them to atheism, posing lethal dangers to the Muslim Umma in future. Contrary to this, the damage threatening the Western world in particular, and entire humanity in general, is that the above-mentioned policies and racial profiling of the Muslims is inciting negative response among some of the Muslim youths who regard these forays against Islam as an organized conspiracy and enmity by some influential circles in the western world. By way of reaction, they are either gradually becoming extremists, militants and terrorists, departing moderation and poised outlook on life, charged with hatred and revenge, or are being grown and groomed into the design. Thus, the Western policies are instrumental in producing and inducting new potential terrorist recruits and workforce, with no end in sight. In both the cases, the Muslim Umma as well as humanity are heading towards a catastrophe.

Moreover, these circumstances are heightening tension, creating larger trust deficits between the Islamic and the Western worlds. The increase in terrorism is paving the way for greater foreign interference in and pressure on the Muslim states. This widening gulf is not only pushing the humanity towards inter-faith antagonism at the global level but also reducing to nothingness the possibilities of peace, tolerance and mutual coexistence among different human societies on the globe. We thought it necessary, under these circumstances, to put the Islamic stance on terrorism precisely in its right perspective before the Western and Islamic worlds, in the light of the Holy Quran, Prophetic traditions and Books of Jurisprudence and Beliefs. We want to put across this point of view before all the significant institutions, valuable think tanks and influential opinion-making organizations in the world so that the Muslim and non-Muslim circles, entertaining doubts and reservations about Islam, are enabled to understand Islam’s standpoint on terrorism more clearly and unambiguously. The contents of this research work have been summarized here briefly.

The first chapter of this document, explaining and elaborating the meaning of Islam, discusses its three grades i.e. Islam (peace), Iman (faith) and Ehsan (Spiritual Excellence). These three words, both literally and metaphorically, represent peace, safety, mercy, tolerance, forbearance, love, affection, benevolence and respect for humanity. It has been proven in the second chapter of this document through dozens of Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions that the mass killing of Muslims and perpetration of terrorism are not only unlawful and forbidden in Islam but also denote the rejection of faith. Through reference to the expositions and opinions of jurists and experts of Exegeses and Hadith, it has been established that all the learned authorities have held the same opinion about terrorism in 1400-year-old history of Islam.

The third chapter of this edict describes the rights of non-Muslim citizens quite comprehensively. The opinions of all the leading jurists have also been listed in the light of various Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions.

In addition to that, the most important point this research study has undertaken to make revolves around the thought, ideology and mindset, which pits a Muslim against another and finally leads him to massacre innocent humanity. Such a mindset not only regards the killing of women shopping in markets and School-going girls permissible but also a means of earning rewards and spiritual benefits. What power or conviction rouses him to kill people gathered in the mosque, and earn Paradise through carnage? Why does a terrorist decide to end his own life, the greatest blessing of Allah Almighty, with his own hands through suicide bombings? How he comes to believe that, by killing innocent Muslims through suicide bombing, he would become a martyr and enter Paradise? These are the questions whirling in the mind of every person possessing common sense. While furnishing befitting answers to these emerging questions, we have resorted to those historical facts, besides scholarly arguments, which the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) himself identified. Undertaking the comprehensive analysis of signs, beliefs and ideologies of Khawarij through the Quranic Verses, Prophetic traditions and jurisprudential opinions of jurists, we have established that the terrorists are the Khawarij of the contemporary times.

After declaring this forbidden terrorist act rebellion, gory brutality on earth and an act of infidelity, we have drawn the attention of all the responsible powers and stakeholders under the topic, “Call to Reflect and Reform” to the need of eliminating all the factors that cause people to entertain doubts, and reinforce the hidden hands actively engaged in spreading the plague around. Another theme under discussion these days emphasizes that since foreign imperialist powers are making unwarranted and unjustified interference in Muslim countries including Pakistan, the so-called Jihadi groups have come in their way to launch the offensive, inflicting upon them a devastating blow. Their action though not right and justifiable, they should not be reviled and condemned because their intention is to defend Islam. In our view, this is an awful witticism and a deplorable stance. To remove the misconception, we have specified a brief portion of the treatise in the beginning to this subject as well, bringing to the fore the fact in the light of the Quran and Hadith that evil cannot become good under any circumstances, nor can oppression transform itself into virtuous deed due to goodness of intention.

After these explanatory submissions, we also regard it our fundamental duty to let everyone know without any grain of doubt that we are going ahead with the publication of this research work solely for the sake of respect and dignity of Islam and service of humanity. We do not mean to condone or approve the unpopular and unwise policies of global powers through this Edict, nor do we aim to justify the wrong policies of any government including that of Pakistan. We neither seek pleasure of any government, nor tribute or appreciation from any international power or organization. Like always, we have taken initiative and are performing this task as a part of our religious obligations. Our objective in doing so is to wash off the stain of terrorism from the fair face of Islam, familiarizing the Muslims with real teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunna and try to rid the suffering humanity of the raging fire of terrorism.

May Almighty Allah bless this endeavour with His benevolent acceptance through the holy means of His Beloved Messenger (s).

– to be continued –

Israel Attacks Humanitarian Ship, Hijacks Crew

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Editor’s note:  This event occurred in 2009.  If you are looking for the attack that occurred in June of 2010, please look at the following posts:

http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?p=6280 (Erdogan’s Speech to Turkish Parliament)

http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?p=6279 (Paintballs to pistols, Israel admits ship blunders)

http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?p=6278 (Turkey calls for punishment of Israel for killings)

http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?p=6277 (Egypt Opens Gaza Border After Israel Clash)

While sailing from Cyprus to Gaza on a humanitarian mission as part of the Free Gaza Movement, the SS Spirit of Humanity, an unarmed vessel with only civilians aboard, was attacked and boarded by Israeli Naval forces and its passengers and crew kidnapped. Prior to this the Humanity had been surrounded by ships of the Israeli Navy. The Israelis had jammed the ship’s navigation system, its GPS, and its radar. This took place in international waters, and the initial hostile action from Israel put the ship and its passengers and crew in grave danger.

Early Monday morning (June 29, 7:30 am local time) , the SS Spirit of Humanity left the Cyprus port of Lenarca to sail to the beleaguered nation of Gaza. Aboard are 21 human rights activists from 14 countries. The ship also carries three tons of medical supplies, crayons and coloring books for the children of Gaza and reconstruction kits for 20 homes to be rebuilt in Gaza.

Former Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, a vocal proponent of the rights of the people of Gaza, is aboard. Ms McKinney attempted to make the trip in December 2008, a trip that was interdicted by an attack from the Israeli Navy. Also aboard are Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, a husband and wife team who founded the International Solidarity Movement and Mairead Maguire, a Nobel Prize winner.

The destruction in Gaza inflicted by the Israelis during Operation Cast Lead (December 2008-January 2009) resulted in the loss of over 2400 family dwelling places, educational and medical centers, cement factories and charitable establishments.

The Humanity is carrying kits which attempt to compensate in arenas of need destroyed by Israel and that have, thus far, been closed off to aid from outside forces. These arenas include, but are by no means limited to: agriculture, education, electricity, water and sanitation. While billions in aid was pledged by other nations, only a trickle of money has come to Gaza, none of it for the acutely needed rebuilding efforts.

This past Thursday the Humanity and its sister ship, the SS Free Gaza, were both poised to depart for Gaza. They were unable to leave Cyprus  when they were denied departure credentials by Limasol, the Cyprus Port Authority. The activists learned from a source in the government of Cyprus that the Israelis applied pressure to prevent the departure. Strangely, the letter of refusal was dated two days before the actual inspection was made.

The Free Gaza Movement was created to break the siege of Gaza by sailing ships into its port via Gaza’s Mediterranean border. In August 2008, two ships, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty accomplished this and became the first ships to enter Gaza by sea in 41 years. This current voyage is the eighth attempt. Two attempts were thwarted by the Israelis. One ship, the SS Dignity, left Cyprus in December 2008 and was rammed by the Israeli Navy. But for the ability of the captain and crew, it would have sunk with the probable loss of life of all aboard. In January 2009, subsequent to the Israeli invasion of Gaza, the SS Spirit of Humanity attempted to make the journey was forcibly turned back by the Israeli Navy.

The SS Free Gaza, one of the ships that made the first voyage, and the SS Spirit of Humanity had between them 36 passengers and crew from 16 nations and were carrying 15 tons of cement,  three tons of medical supplies and crayons and books for children. Gaza desperately needs cement for rebuilding, but Israel has denied it to them. The cement being carried by the activists is but a token, a small percentage of what is needed. Crayons and books are also forbidden to the people of Gaza by the Israelis.

The organizers of this trip include Greta Berlin, an internationally known human rights activist and a veteran participant in the International Solidarity Movement; Huwaida Arraf , Mary Hughes Thompson, another veteran of humanitarian activity in Gaza, and Ramzi Kysia, an American of Lebanese descent.

Past voyages have seen the activists tour hospitals, in critical condition even prior to the Israeli invasion. They have watched patients fight for their lives when necessary electronic equipment could not function as Israel did not permit a constant supply of electricity. They have accompanied fishermen into the Mediterranean beyond the limit permitted by Israel so that they could pursue their livelihood. They have helped farmers plant olive trees. They have brought hope and friendship to the world’s largest outdoor prison.

Two recent incidents have highlighted the danger posed to the brave people of the Free Gaza movement. Free Gaza activist, Hedy Epstein, an 84 year old Holocaust survivor was brutally attacked in St Louis on her way home. She required a hospital visit for her injuries. Ms Epstein has been an active supporter of the rights of Gaza and has been the recipient of numerous telephone and email threats.

Recently the SS Dignity suffered damage during a storm and sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean while in port in Cyprus. Shortly before this happened, two men made a threat regarding the boat. It has still not been determined whether the force of the storm resulted in its destruction or whether the storm provided a convenient cover.

The travelers have made promises to the people of Gaza. They promised to return, they promised to exit with residents of Gaza who yearned to be re united with family and residents of Gaza who had secured acceptance in colleges outside of Gaza but whom Israel would not permit to leave. And, they promised to carry to the rest of the world the story of Gaza under siege.

A Gaza volunteer gave a poignant account of her experiences in Gaza where brave and resilient people struggle to obtain the basics of existence. “I’ve done work in prison” she said “This is worse than being in prison.”

The public is urgently asked to contact the following groups:

Israeli Ministry of Justice; tel  +972 2646 6666 or +972 2646 6340; fax +972 2646 6357.

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs;      tel +972 2530 3111; fax +972 2530 3367

Red Cross Israel; tel +972 3524 5286;      fax +972 3527 0370.

Also readers and members of the public should contact the White House and their Senators and Congresspersons.

Free Gaza may be accessed at: www.freegaza.org.

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