The Importance of Breastfeeding to the Muslim Child

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms…If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (her) what ye offered, on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what ye do.” (Quran 2:233)

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Given the importance of breastfeeding in the Islamic religion, the relatively low rates of compliance among Muslim women in North America are puzzling. There are small pockets of “fundamentalist” Muslim women who are well educated and adamant about nursing their children under their chadors, and who often practice natural childbirth. However, those mothers who nurse their babies past the age of one year are the exception rather than the rule. There seems to be a lighthearted attitude among the general Muslim populace towards the bottle-feeding of infants. It is sometimes even thought of as more modest to bottle-feed! Perhaps it is a lack of education about the benefits of breastfeeding, combined with an absence of a support network to assist the new mother.

Transferring the child to animal and vegetable foods before he even had any teeth was not done by the early Muslims. The most likely option, if a mother declined to breastfeed her infant, was the employment of a wet-nurse for the child. For the newborn Muslim child, the intimate breastfeeding relationship is a right. It is beyond dispute that two full years of breast-milk provide a baby with long-term health benefits such as the prevention of ear infections and allergies, as well as providing a foundation of trust between mother and child. Scientific studies show that a bottle-fed baby will be a weaker child.

“Weaning” is the gradual transfer from feeding the baby exclusively breast-milk to table foods only. This happens sometime during the toddler period of life, usually between the ages of 1 and 3.

In Islamic terms, weaning is a process that is administered by mutual consent between parents. But in my conversations with sisters in various states who had given up nursing in favor of bottle-feeding, there is a sense of powerlessness over the situation. These mothers often wanted very much to nurse their child. But somehow, they lost their chance. This tragedy is largely caused by a hospital system that does little to promote exclusive breastfeeding of newborns. In most hospitals, the new mothers receive free samples of formula to take home, as a result of multi-million dollar deals with pharmaceutical companies who pay the doctors to promote their products. This practice is highly unethical because little or no education about the dangers of bottle-feeding the infant is given to the new mothers. Many Muslim mothers, especially those who don’t speak English well, come home with their babies already addicted to the bottle. Although at this point, all is not yet beyond hope, coaxing a small baby to breastfeed, after he has been bottle-fed even just once or twice, can be a big struggle. It may not succeed without the aid of a lactation counselor, because unfortunately, even the older generation of mothers and mothers-in-law often lack the knowledge of how to breastfeed. Thus, the likelihood of bottle-feeding is very high among immigrant and minority women in the U.S.

When women have given up nursing out of a feeling of powerlessness to get the baby to nurse, this is not a mutual parental decision to wean, but rather the result of lack of adequate help. Something is terribly wrong when Muslim women are giving up breastfeeding due to lack of education, counseling, and support. It reveals a stripping away at the postnatal rights of the Muslim woman to be in a state of rest for 40 days after childbirth.

If the child is rejecting the breast, the most common reaction is to try for a while, and then give up and give him a bottle, but this teaches him that all he has to do is fuss and refuse to nurse, and he will be rewarded by a free-flowing bottle of formula. The only solution to this power struggle is for the mother to refuse to give the baby a bottle, even if it takes several days for the baby to nurse willingly. (If the baby gets dehydrated, he can take water with a cup or medicine dropper). My eldest son was a sleepy baby, born a couple weeks early. I had to set my alarm for every three hours, take off his clothes and wipe him down with water to get him screaming mad, in order for him to just stay awake for a couple minutes to nurse before he would blissfully fall asleep in my arms. The first few days were terrifying and the emotional pressure was intense. After two weeks he finally opened his eyes, and he and I enjoyed a nursing relationship that lasted over two years. Nursing can be a strenuous effort that truly requires the full support and help of the father, neighbors and other family members, to allow the mother and child to be together undisturbed as much as possible for the first 40 days of the baby’s life.

Help is available. The ability to feed your child the best that nature has to offer is your choice. Only after a successful and long-lasting breastfeeding relationship can weaning the baby truly be done by mutual and conscious consent.

To locate a free breastfeeding consultant in your area, call 1-800-LA-LECHE

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

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Houstonian Corner (V13-I49)

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

ISGH Elections at Main Center this Coming Sunday December 04th – 9AM-4PM

The largest one community Islamic Organization in USA, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), has elections for various office bearers every year. Usually the last Sunday of November is Early Voting Day and first Sunday of December is actual Voting Day.

This time after several years some of the positions have only one candidate and also some persons, who used to hold higher positions in previous years, are up as candidates for minor level positions. These trends show lack of interest in the newer generation and fresh blood to become office bearers of ISGH.

Last Sunday, at the Main Center, ISGH Members came out to vote early despite extremely cold and windy weather. This year is Vice President and Treasurer Election Year 2011, while next year will be President and General Secretary Election Year 2012.

Chairman of ISGH Election Commission Azam Akhtar (www.ISGH.Org) has informed that this year, the elections are for these positions (here underneath IC means Islamic Center):
Vice President (Fuad Cochinwala elected unopposed);

Treasurer (Aftab Silat elected unopposed);

Director, Northwest Zone (Nasrattullah Attaie, Matloob Khan);

Associate Director, NW – Bear Creek IC (Mohammad Yousuf, Nusrat Mir);

Director, Southeast Zone Director (Abdool F. Rasheed, Emran Gazi, Manzoor Ali);

Associate Director, NO – Champions IC (Imran Nathani, Taher Hamid Abu Dawood, Shiraz Chohan);

Associate Director SW – New Territory IC (Rafiq Bhojwani, Jonaid Ahmed);

Director, South Zone (Irfan Bhardi elected unopposed);

Associate Director, NO – Adel Road IC (Ibrahim Badat elected unopposed);

Associate Director, NO – Woodlands IC (Ayman Khalil elected unopposed);

Associate Director, SW – Synott Road IC (Naeem Khan elected unopposed);

Associate Director, SW – Mission Bend IC (Usman Vaid elected unopposed);

Associate Director, SE – Baytown IC (Muhammad A. Malhi elected unopposed);

Area Representatives for all Islamic Centers (Masajid) of all Zones (several candidates)

PCC-USA: Positive Sign – At Last There May Be Elections on December 21st, 2011

Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) is a leading association of Pakistani entrepreneurs in USA, with Chapters in Houston, San Diego, and New York. Fifty founding members Advisory Council, under the leadership of Dr. Ashraf Abbasi, established PCC-USA as a premier business organization in Houston, Texas, on August 14, 1997 to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of Pakistan Independence Day.

This Year 2011 may become the first, when some of the office bearers of PCC-USA will be elected after actual voting, as in the past, usually all the executive council positions used to be filled with only one nominated persons; and as such elected unopposed.

December 06th is the last day to withdraw the name from nominations and our correspondent has learned that this year, there is every chance that at least on three positions, there will be elections (of course if names are withdrawn, there will be no elections).

According to the communiqué received from Rashid Khokhar, Chairman PCC-USA Election Commission (other members being GulFaraz Khan and Zubair Ashraf), elections are for these PCC-USA positions will be held at the annual meeting of Wednesday, December 21st, 2011, with opportunity to withdraw the names by 11pm., Tuesday, December 06th, 2011:

President-Elect: Khalid Kazi and Zafar Mansuri;

Senior Vice President: Sheikh Muhammad Awais and Pervez Iqbal;

Director Finance: Ch. Mahmood Ahmed & Asif Ehsan;

Vice President – Administration: Nargis F. Ahmed (Unopposed);

Vice President – Liaison: Mian Aziz (Unopposed);

Vice President – Marketing: Zaki Mohammed Mirza (Unopposed);

Vice President – Media Relations: Mumtaz Khan (Unopposed);

General Secretary: Abdur Rauf Khan (Unopposed);

Joint Secretary: Iqbal Akhtar (Unopposed)…

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TMO Story About Fake Halal Causes $500,000 Fine Against Fraudster

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The following is based on a press release from Orange County District Attorney.

Ayub Khan

Anaheim market to pay hefty fine for false halal advertising

halalThe consumer protection laws, designed to protect halal consumers, have been languishing in the back burner and long forgotten until last year when the Muslim Observer raised the issue in a series of articles. It appears that it is having an effect. In what can be termed as a landmark case  the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) has obtained a $527,000 civil settlement from Super King Market in Anaheim for falsely advertising and selling generic meat as Halal meat. The settlement was signed today, Nov. 21, 2011, by the Honorable David McEachen. Super King Market has multiple locations in Southern California, but this settlement is exclusive to the Anaheim location.

Halal is a term used to designate meat that has been butchered in a specific manner and slaughtered in the name of Allah, the Islamic name for God, making it permissible to eat in accordance with Islamic law.

The Anaheim Super King Market ordered and received various meats in their market, which was subsequently advertised as Halal. The defendant did not employ proper procedures to ensure the meat was indeed Halal, as advertised.

The OCDA began an investigation in 2010 after an inspection by the Orange County Health Department revealed that various meats were being delivered to the store without being clearly marked or labeled. Super King Market was also selling all meat from a display case indicating that the contents were Halal, but the contents were actually co-mingled in the walk-in freezer and refrigerator with various other generic meats that were delivered to the store.

The settlement did not require the defendant to admit fault or liability. Super King Market agreed to strict injunctive terms to prevent any future unfair or deceptive business practices. Super King Market is permanently enjoined from purchasing any meat without assuring its content is clearly designated on the invoice, packaging and box. Halal meats must be properly segregated from other meats. They are required to ensure every meat product in an area designated as Halal by a sign, placard or similar advertisement is actually of such nature.

This law is protects customers from deceptive and harmful business practices and also prevents the defendant from gaining an unfair advantage over legitimate businesses that spend time and resources ensuring that their products are properly purchased, labeled, and sold.

Deputy District Attorney Michelle Cipolletti from the Consumer Fraud Unit prosecuted this case.

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Iqra Foundation Annual Dinner

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Staff Reporter

Iqrapic2
Mary Ali gives her acceptance address for the IQRA Education Leadership Award
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Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf receives for him and his wife Daisy Khan an award from Ali Yurtsever & Dr. Abidullah Ghazi

IQRA, the leaders in Islamic Education hosted their Annual Dinner on October 29th. IQRA’s community of advocates, educators and private Ansar (sponsors) gathered to celebrate the 28 years of the Foundation’s accomplishments.

The room was filled with more than 550 up beat supporters. The keynote speaker, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, chief architect of the Cordoba Initiative discussed the importance of Muslim Americans taking an active role in society. Appreciating the pioneering work and leadership role that Drs. Abidullah and Tasneema Ghazi have played, American Muslims were urged to invest in organizations like IQRA to help realize the implementation of critical and pivotal work in promoting innovative Islamic education in USA and worldwide. Dinner guests were also honored to hear the inspirational speech of Sister Mary Ali, the recipient of the IQRA Education Leadership Award that the organization has instituted to honor the memory of Dr. MAW Fakhri, its founding chairman.

Dr. Shahid Siddiqi, a member of the board and chairman of reception committee, lauded the leadership of IQRA team and its innovative futuristic approach. Dr. Ghazi in his presidential address narrated IQRA’s past achievements and laid down its future vision which covered revision of the program, use of electronic media for publication, standardization of Islamic education, establishment of distance education on internet and producing new genre of literature appropriate for our age and the global village.

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‘Eid at the Islamic Center of Detroit

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jumana Abusalah

Jumana AbusalahMuslim residents of Dearborn and Detroit, Michigan woke up on November 6th to a bright and sunny Sunday morning.  It was Eid Ul Adha, and it was already off to a good start. Muslims gather on this holy day to mark the end of Hajj and to commemorate and remember Prophet Ibrahim (as).

The ICD (Islamic Center of Detroit) is a big success every year, as it is on the edge of Dearborn and Detroit, where many Muslims reside.  This year was no different! The ICD was swarming with no less than 4,000 people! Upon arrival to the mosque, people gave their Salaams to each other and recited takbeer in unison.  When prayer was called, thousands and thousands of Muslims rushed to thank Allah for the blessed opportunities and blessings He bestows upon us. Foot to foot, and shoulder to shoulder, there was no better feeling than standing united with so many fellow Muslims on this blessed day.

After prayer, everyone sat to listen to the Imam’s Khutba. One main point of the Khutba was on the importance of forgiveness and renewing our relationships with fellow Muslims. The significance and holiness of this day should encourage us to erase any grudges or fights we might have between family and friends.  

Along with the Imam, we thanked Allah for the freedom of the Palestinian prisoners and realized that this was the first Eid that they were able to celebrate since their imprisonment. This was proof that our du’aas do not go unanswered and that as long as we stay close to Allah, He will help us and guide us Insh’Allah. It was especially touching and moving to many people, considering the events that have recently transpired in the Middle East. We then raised our hands in humbleness and made du’aa for all Muslims and thanked Allah for allowing us to experience another wonderful Eid. 

After prayer, people dispersed excitedly to continue their Eid activities. Some children spent their energy by jumping on the moon bounce; others ran excitedly to where there were free gifts and colorful balloons. People that had not eaten raced to the falafel sandwiches and different assortments of pies and sweets.  Most importantly was the gathering and meeting of friends and family. This is the day where people forgot their problems and simply enjoyed each other’s company, reassured year by year that Muslims will always be there for each other and that Allah will always be there to help.

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Community News (V13-I46)

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Davidson students hear lecture on Islam

DAVIDSON,NC– Middle and high school Students at Davidson Day  School in North Carolina learnt about modern day Islam last week. The guest speaker Ahmad Shakur is the founder and director for the Center for the African Diaspora in Charlotte and director of development for the Museum of Muslim Cultures.

He discussed misperceptions of Islam, its history, and how some modern day conflicts are based on that history. He also visited an Islamic history class at the school and in which the students for their final projects are researching how Islamic history is impacting modern global issues.

“Middle school students really thrive in an environment that allows them to think about the world around them,” Mr. Coddington,a teacher, told the Davidson News said. “It allows them to think about themselves, take an issue that is relevant to their lives, and gain an educated perspective.”

Fast-a-thon held at Southern Methodist

DALLAS,TX–The Muslim Students Association at Southern Methodist University held its annual fast-a-thon on Nov.3. The funds raised this year for orphans around the world.
MSA President Khurram Taufiq told the student newspaper that  Fast-a-Thon allows college students to make a difference.

“We as students oftentimes can’t do a whole lot of donating to charities,” Taufiq said. “But Islam teaches us to always give back to the community what we can, regardless of the amount.”
According to MSA reps the SMU MSA has raised close to $1.2 million for various charitable activities in the last eleven years.

Fire doesn’t stop Wichita mosque

WICHITA,KS–A fire which gutted a Wichita mosque couldn’t deter are Muslims from holding their prayers.

The Islamic Association Mosque held its friday prayers outside the burned facility.  Its caught fire last Monday morning and flames gutted the inside.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Federal agents are leading the investigation to determine if the fire was an accident or a hate crime.  The Islamic Association had received threatening letters prior to their building catching fire.

Purdue holds Islamic Awareness Week

The Muslim Students Association at Purdue University held its second annual Islamic Awareness Week by hosting a variety of activities last week and its theme was “Exploring the Muslim World.”

The Muslim Student Association was excited to see a large increase in visitors this year compared to last, with more than 1,250 people visiting throughout the week.

The event aimed to educate others about the fundamentals of the Muslim culture and Islam, as well as correct common misconceptions, which revolved around theology and fine details. The bazaar, located in Memorial Mall throughout last week, hosted a variety of booths displaying different aspects of Islamic culture including food samples, henna tattoos and boards explaining the basics of Islam.

Boston University gets footbaths for Muslim students

BOSTON,MA–Muslim students at Boston University don’t have to worry about spilling the water while they do wudu on campus. The university’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs has installed footbaths in its bathrooms, the BU Today reported.

Designed to accommodate Muslim students who must wash before prayer five times a day, the footbaths are available to everyone.

Elsie El Dayaa, CELOP’s operations manager, says the decision to add the footbaths fit nicely with the office’s planned remodel and its desire to meet the needs of its growing Muslim student population.

The number of Middle Eastern students enrolled at CELOP—many of them Muslim—has grown by 175 percent in the past four years and Middle Eastern students now comprise nearly 40 percent of the program’s total population, according to El Dayaa. That is due in large part to a significant increase in enrollment of Saudi Arabian students sent by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation. Several other Muslim students come from Africa and Asia.

CELOP is so proud of its new facilities, El Dayaa says, that “now we’re known as the office that shows you its bathroom.”

The footbaths are a first for the University.

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Ingrid Mattson Appointed as Chair of Islamic Studies

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

IngridMattsonLONDON, ON–Huron University College, at the University of Western Ontario, announced the appointment of Dr. Ingrid Mattson as the inaugural London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at its Faculty of Theology. The Chair in Islamic Studies builds on an almost 150-year tradition at Huron University College of open discourse and engagement between people of different faiths. Dr. Mattson will begin her appointment on July 1, 2012.

“Dr. Mattson brings an incredible wealth of knowledge and expertise to this area of study and Huron is privileged to have a scholar of her calibre,” said Dr. Stephen McClatchie, Principal of Huron University College. “We are honoured that, with her pick of many positions around the world, Dr. Mattson has decided to return to Canada and accept our appointment to the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies.”

Dr. Mattson was born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo and earned her PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Chicago. She is the first convert to Islam and the first woman to lead the Islamic Society of North America. Before accepting the Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College, Dr. Mattson was Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford Connecticut. She has also been an Advisor to both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

“It is an honour to be back in Canada and to accept this position at such a prestigious institution as Huron University College,” said Dr. Mattson. “Huron has a remarkable history of critical inquiry and I look forward to building on this tradition by offering Huron students the opportunity to learn about a faith that more than 20 per cent of the world’s population practices, in an open and liberal environment.”

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The Biggest Lie in the War on Terrorism

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Crime of Making Americans Aware of Their Own History

By William Blum

Is history getting too close for comfort for the fragile little American heart and mind? Their schools and their favorite media have done an excellent job of keeping them ignorant of what their favorite country has done to the rest of the world, but lately some discomforting points of view have managed to find their way into this well-defended American consciousness.

First, Congressman Ron Paul during a presidential debate last month expressed the belief that those who carried out the September 11 attack were retaliating for the many abuses perpetrated against Arab countries by the United States over the years. The audience booed him, loudly.

Then, popular-song icon Tony Bennett, in a radio interview, said the United States caused the 9/11 attacks because of its actions in the Persian Gulf, adding that President George W. Bush had told him in 2005 that the Iraq war was a mistake. Bennett of course came under some nasty fire. FOX News (September 24), carefully choosing its comments charmingly as usual, used words like “insane”, “twisted mind”, and “absurdities”. Bennett felt obliged to post a statement on Facebook saying that his experience in World War II had taught him that “war is the lowest form of human behavior.” He said there’s no excuse for terrorism, and he added, “I’m sorry if my statements suggested anything other than an expression of love for my country.” (NBC September 21)

Then came the Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, who for some time had been blaming US foreign policy in the Middle East as the cause of anti-American hatred and terrorist acts. So we killed him.

Ron Paul and Tony Bennett can count themselves lucky.

What, then, is the basis of all this? What has the United States actually been doing in the Middle East in the recent past?

The shooting down of two Libyan planes in 1981 the bombing of Lebanon in 1983 and 1984 the bombing of Libya in 1986 the bombing and sinking of an Iranian ship in 1987 the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 the shooting down of two more Libyan planes in 1989 the massive bombing of the Iraqi people in 1991 the continuing bombings and draconian sanctions against Iraq for the next 12 years the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998 the habitual support of Israel despite the routine devastation and torture it inflicts upon the Palestinian people the habitual condemnation of Palestinian resistance to this the abduction of “suspected terrorists” from Muslim countries, such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Albania, who were then taken to places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they were tortured the large military and hi-tech presence in Islam’s holiest land, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region the support of numerous undemocratic, authoritarian Middle East governments from the Shah of Iran to Mubarak of Egypt to the Saudi royal family the invasion, bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, 2001 to the present, and Iraq, 2003 to the present the bombings and continuous firing of missiles to assassinate individuals in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya during the period of 2006-2011.

It can’t be repeated or emphasized enough. The biggest lie of the “war on terrorism”, although weakening, is that the targets of America’s attacks have an irrational hatred of the United States and its way of life, based on religious and cultural misunderstandings and envy. The large body of evidence to the contrary includes a 2004 report from the Defense Science Board, “a Federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense.” The report states:

“Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies.

The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”

The report concludes: “No public relations campaign can save America from flawed policies.” (Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 2004)

The Pentagon released the study after the New York Times ran a story about it on November 24, 2004. TheTimes reported that although the board’s report does not constitute official government policy, it captures “the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire United States government.”

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

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The New Tunisian Democracy: Islamic or Secular?

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Washington–For the past several months since early summer, we have been examining Palestine’s bid for nationhood at the UN in New York City (NYC).  Last week their application went to the security council of the UN and, as was predicted by yours truly on these very pages a month and one-half ago, it was shunted to a committee of that august body on Manhattan.  As was predicted by Palestine’s diplomatic representative to the united states, he, also, foresaw that the proposal would be eventually forwarded to the general assembly (g.a.) Where, at the least, ramallah would be granted permanent observer status within the  g.a. Which would transform (the international) legal landscape for the fertile crescent.  The current move was meant to forestall the inevitable, and push Tel Aviv into more substantive negotiations.

President Barrack Hussein Obama is “caught between a rock and a hard place” with the American Zionist right-wing, led by the despicable AIPAC (the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee).  To oppose them is a death bell for any American politician.  The case of Cynthia Mckenna, the Afro-American congresswoman from a black Georgia district (likewise your author has written up a conversation with this former congressperson while in Sacramento a time back for this newspaper) was an “outspoken” advocate for both for the Palestinians and the Pakistanis within the house of representatives; and, thereby, she was twice “assassinated” politically by AIPAC’s filthy lucre.  It is rumored, for his proposals for a peace in the Levant the u.s. President is already targeted for his middle east policies by Jewish and Christian Zionists (the latter back the reactionary “tea party,” besides).  The Obama administration is trapped between his foreign initiatives to win over the Arab “spring” and his domestic enemies.

Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the only Muslim in in the American lower legislative chamber, has written a recent oft-quoted op-ed in the September 22nd new york times regarding the imbroglio within the holy land, “…direct negotiations have deteriorated to a dismally low point.”  My op-ed in the cyber and newsprint editions here last week may be a way out for the Obama government, and your commentator is circulating his ideas about to officials within the city of this article’s dateline – including in the form of a letter to Mr. Ellison.

Let us move on from Palestine, which has been alluded to as the source for the Arab “spring” to Tunisia, the first successful upheaval for Arab self-agency.

Before  the scheduled upcoming elections of October 23rd for the first “post-revolutionary” assembly, who will have the charge to draft a new constitution for this Maghreb countryside, your essayist hopes to compose several articles to present to American Muslims the realties on the ground in this modern punic territory which  is the most likely to make the transition to a contemporary Islamic democracy within that “spring” successfully.

Hamadi Jebali, the secretary-general of the al-Nahda party, who believes that Tunisia should be a fully Islamic society, also, reasons that its politics should not be locked in by the hadith along the lines of turkey, but the political landscape should be much less constitutionally radical than the nation that straddles the Bosporus.. The editor seems to be recommending a middle ground between the sacred and the secular – an Islamic modernism  if you will.

The engineer was quoted in an interview with The Italia News Webzine, “Our party is opposed to the introduction of the Sharia into the Constitution.  It is right for religion to play a role in society, but it should be separate from the State.  It is one thing to be inspired by the values and principles common to all the great monotheistic faiths, but the one source of the law should be the public will, and not the precepts of the Koran.”

He was in the District of Columbia last spring at the invitation of my Tunisian-born colleague, Radwan Masmaodi, the founder of the Washington and now Tunis’ (branch of) the center for democracy and Islam.  This presentation and interview was given at the US Capital’s (left of center) Stimson Center.

Hamadi Jebali (pictured to the left) was born during 1949 in Sousse, Tunisia. He is a graduate of the French (the former Colonial power of the Republic on the Southern Mediterranean littoral.  Parisian institutions have highly influenced, along with Islam, Tunis’ concept of the democratic) engineering institution, the Arts et Métiers in 1980 achieving an engineer’s degree in energy. He participated in many civil society activities during his ten-year stay in France, and was one of the founders of the French Muslim Association which demonstrates his deep personal Islamic religiosity, and participated in inter-religion dialogue that, further, demonstrates his toleration and liberality towards the beliefs of others, too.  He returned to Tunis in 1981, and became a member of the political bureau of the Islamic Tendency Movement.  Jebali became the president of this movement from 1981 to 1984.

Hamadi ran into legal difficulties for his political views in 1987 after Ben Ali came to power in late that year.

Despite this, Mr. Jebali became the political director of Nahda and the editor of the newspaper El Fair, the official newspaper of his party.  In 1990, he was condemned to sixteen years in prison, again, as a result of his political views and affiliation with al-Nahda, and spent 10 years in solitary confinement while in jail.  He was freed in 2006.  Then, he reintegrated into the Nahda party, and became its Secretary-General.

The presentation was in Arabic with translation by Masmaodi which gave your reporter plenty of time to get his comments down accurately.

What the “’Revolution’ was about was the dignity of the human being (very French) and social justice (more Islamic).   “We have to make this Revolt succeed…for social justice…We want political freedom…[for] One [dignity] goes with the other [freedom].”  Democracy is wherever freedom and justice reside side-by-side.

A State should represent all of its citizens, and refuse to be deleterious to any part of the body politique.  Everyone should have at least the “minimal rights” of residency!

Tunisia, the Metrpole of the pre-Islamic Carthagian Imperial world of the ancient past, has accomplished wonderful achievements over the centuries.  Even in the latter period education, women’s rights, etc. have been respected and have abounded.  Therefore, a “Peaceful democracy …is possible” in North Africa even though there are, additionally, many challenges which remain from individuals who benefited from the former regime, and still resist democratic change.

Thus, we shall require your support in the West.

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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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ISPU’s 2011 Annual Banquet in Dearborn

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

ISPU Press Release

For Immediate Release—The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding has  announced that Hollywood screenwriter, producer and director  Kamran Pasha  will serve as  its keynote speaker for the 2011 ISPU annual banquet “Navigating a Post 9/11 World”on Saturday October 22, 2011 at the Ford Conference and Events Center in Dearborn, MI.

Pasha is a prolific writer, penning two historical novels Mother of the Believers and Shadow of the Swords. He has been a writer and producer for NBC’s television series Kings, a modern day retelling of the Biblical tale of King David. Previously he served as a writer on NBC’s remake of Bionic Woman, and on Showtime Network’s Golden Globe nominated series Sleeper Cell, about a Muslim FBI agent who infiltrates a terrorist group.

The event will mark the culmination of ISPU’s special series of publications, events and conferences planned across the country to reflect on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.  “Navigating a Post 9/11 World: A Decade of Lessons Learned” explores several of the most pressing policy issues facing the United States and the American Muslim community, and presents forward thinking and inclusive policy recommendations for the future. The series addresses the threat of terrorism, policy shifts over the past decade and challenges and opportunities for Muslims in America. 

The annual banquet  will focus on the role ISPU has played in shaping the policy debate on key issues over the last year, as well as how trailblazers like Kamran Pasha, have broken down barriers and helped to change the way the American public views Muslims in popular media.

ISPU will honor Dr. Aminah McCloud with the 2011 Scholar Award. Dr. McCloud is the Director of the Islamic World Studies Program at DePaul University. She is the founder of Islam in America Conference at DePaul and editor for The Journal of Islamic Law and Culture.

The 2011 ISPU Distinguished Award for Philanthropy to will be presented to Tim Attala. Saeed Khan will act as the Master of Ceremonies.

In 2010, ISPU’s Annual Banquet featured Keynote Speaker Rashad Hussain, US Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The event gathered 600 attendees including Congressmen John Conyers, Deputy Special Envoy to the OIC Arsalan Suleman, and Michigan State University Provost Kim Wilcox. 

Event information:

Saturday October 22, 2011 6:00pm Registration & Appetizers, 7:00pm Program. Ford Conference and Events Center, Dearborn, MI; 1151 Village Road; Dearborn, MI 48124-5033; Tickets – $100

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Islamic Center of America, Dearborn

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ahmed Al-Hilali

SONY DSCThousands of Muslims gather inside the Qazwini Mosque of Dearborn to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and the beginning of Eid-ul-Fitr. Fourteen year old Hussein Neime shares his opinions about the yearly celebration.

“I love Eid because of the fact that I get to see relatives I don’t usually get to see, and I feel like all of Dearborn are my relatives,”

”Yearly the celebration of the end of Ramadan makes Muslims forget their problems,” said Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini in his sermon. “But that doesn’t mean you forget the poor,” The Imam’s point was that we should never forget the poor and Allah, and Allah won’t forget you. This inspired many Muslims to get up after the prayer and put money inside the charity box.

Though many Muslims celebrated ‘Eid Tuesday, many more Muslims around the world are celebrating a day late because of the lack of the sighting of the moon, but many people are gloomy because of they don’t get one more holy night of worship God.  

There were Q&A games for kids, in which the prizes range from stickers to gift cards. They had to answer questions about Ramadan, Ahlulbayt, which prophets came in order, etc. “Every kid here is happy,” says 10 year old Ali Alsumar. “The sun is shining, everybody is smiling and laughing, you get prizes, and I just think that Eid is a very unique day.”

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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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Women: The Touchstone of Modernization

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Laila Zayan

TMO Editor’s Note:  This essay tied for third place in the 2011 TMO Foundation Essay Contest.

Lift the Veil! They say, “Oh poor girl you’re so beautiful you know! It’s a shame that you, cover-up your beauty so! “ She just smiles so graciously, responds reassuringly: “This beauty that I have is just a simple part of me.

This body that I have, no stranger has a right to see. These long clothes and shawl I wear, ensure my modesty, Faith is more essential than fashion, wouldn’t you agree?
“This hijab – This mark of piety! Is an act of faith, the symbol, for all the world to see ! A simple cloth, to preserve her dignity!

So lift the veil from your heart, to see the heart of purity! They tell her girl: “Don’t you know this is the west and you are free! You don’t need to be oppressed, ashamed of your femininity!

Abstract

This paper discusses the public sphere in Islamic nations from the perspectives of women’s uses of their visibility, mobility, and voices. I argue that the sociopolitical transformations unfolding in many Islamic countries are not taking place in the absence of women’s contribution and participation, but quite the opposite. Using examples from different countries, I illustrate how women are shaping, impacting, and redefining the public sphere by producing alternative discourses and images about womanhood, citizenship, and political participation in their societies that prove that Islam and modernity can co-exist without being secular. Pious Shi’i volunteers and Javanese women are strategically using their bodies and their actions to participate in the public sphere and in turn have used the public sphere as a stage in proving that Islamic nations can indeed be modern. 

Roadmap

I will begin by discussing the controversial debate between whether or not an Islamic nation can be modern. In doing so, I aim to provide a backdrop in which the role of women in the public sphere can be analyzed. Next, I will give an explanation of the public sphere and introduce the query about the necessity of secularization in the public sphere. Given this backdrop, I will then discuss how women have become the touchstone of modernization by giving examples of how women in different Islamic cultures have used their visibility, mobility, and voices in creating a new discourse in the public sphere that proves modernity can exist in an Islamic nation.

Can Islam and Modernity Co- exist?

In the wake of September 11th, images, assumptions, and conclusions about Islamic nations began to circulate as media interest in Islam exploded. The military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq led to crash courses on the history of Islam, Muslim attitudes toward democracy, the reasons some women veil, and the question of whether the Western and Muslim worlds are indeed fated to what Samuel Huntington describes as a “clash of civilizations” . Unfortunately, the infatuation with Islamic nations, post 9/11, has led to increasingly skewed depictions of these nations as being the “other” and has led to “culture talk” in which cultures are defined by their “essential” characteristics . Culture talk as Mamdani describes has led to the world being divided into the modern and pre-modern, such that “the former makes culture in which the latter is a prisoner.”

This divide between modern and pre-modern has been an underlying theme that has emerged in depicting Islamic nations as the “other”. For centuries, Islam represented the greatest military power on earth, prevailing economically and socially over Europe, Africa, India, and China. But with time, Europeans were beginning to progress in the civilized arts, leaving the cultural heritage of the Islamic world far behind them. Western innovation coupled with successes on the battlefield resulted in European dominance, and the establishment of Christianity as the state religion. Throughout Christian history, church and state existed side by side, but as different institutions as a result of tension that emerged in their coexistence. These institutions remained separate, “each with its own laws, and jurisdictions, its own hierarchy, and chain of authority”, providing a secular system of rule. In contrast, the idea that any part of human life is in any sense outside the scope of religious law and jurisdiction is alien to Muslim thought. The absence of secularism in Islam, and the refusal of an imported secularism inspired by Christian example, may be attributed to profound differences of belief and experience in the two religious cultures. After looking at the development of Islamic nations’ correlation with modernity, it may be concluded that this debate has plagued the relations between the East and the West. While secularism is believed to be a condition of modernity in some respects, alternative models of modernization that do not include secularism have also been thought to work, only perpetuating this debate further into inquiry.

Public Sphere: A Stage for Modernity

Islamic nations contest secularism as a pre- requisite to modernity by showing how a public sphere acts as a stage where modernity can exist devoid of secularism. A public sphere, as Nilufer Gole describes, is institutionalized and imagined as a site for the implementation of secular and progressive way of life where people can get together and freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion, influence political action. The public sphere is not simply a pre-established arena; but it is constituted and negotiated through performance, be that through self-presentation, dress code, cultural taste, or leisure activities. Because the public sphere provides a stage for performance rather than an abstract frame for textual and discursive practice, images become vital in the public sphere.

As Gole further describes, in a “Western” public sphere, religious signs and practices have been silenced as the modern public sphere has positioned itself against the Muslim social imaginary and segregated social organization. However, in a Muslim context, women’s participation in public life, corporeal visibility, and social mixing with men all count as modern. Here it is visible that while the public sphere adheres to some of the basic universal principles of the Western public sphere, these principles are translated into social practices that are uniquely altered as well. Because the public sphere provides a stage for performance and discussion, rather than an abstract frame for textual and discursive practice, women are able to prove that their “image” is a site for resisting secular modernity.

The Modern Woman

The ways in which Islam appears into the public sphere challenges Western aspirations for a secular, therefore, modern society. However, I argue that women have become the touchstone of modernity by using their bodies and actions as a means to be both religious, and modern simultaneously. Suzanne Brenner describes how Javanese Muslim women use the veil as their particular language in order to assert themselves and their aspirations in the public sphere. 

In Indonesia’s Island of Java, most Muslim women do not veil, and not all Muslim activists agree with the practice of veiling. Some strongly oppose veiling, arguing that the Qur’an calls for veiling “only for prayer and that its adoption for daily wear is excessive.” Others believe that as a symbol, modern Islamic dress fails to invoke an image of the Indonesian past; it does not summon up any sense of nostalgia or local authenticity”. Instead, some Indonesians believe it invokes a picture of fundamentalist extremism that is “culturally dissonant for them as it is for many Westerners.”

The fact that modern veiling is understood as a departure from local practice is vital in understanding the veiling movement in the Javanese context. The veil represents for some Javanese Muslims both self-reconstruction as well as reconstruction of society through individual and collective self-discipline. A goal for women who veil is to effect religious and social change through the individual and collective actions of members of the Islamic community. The lack of and skepticism of veiling in Java has allowed women to use the veil to signify a new historical consciousness and a new way of life, weighed down neither by their tradition nor by centuries of colonial rule or Western capitalism. The veil in Java stands for a new morality and a new discipline, “whether personal, social, or political-in short, a new, Islamic modernity.” Women see themselves as pioneers in the struggle towards redefining their society as modern, yet religious. They have used their bodies and actions by veiling to spark a discourse in Indonesian society. They have used the public sphere in refashioning themselves to fit their image of modern Islamic womanhood.

Similar to the example of the Javanese women, Lara Deeb illustrates how women in the Shi’i community of al-Dahiyya in Lebanon use volunteerism in the jami’yyas as a display of public piety and spiritual progress through authentication, or full understanding of meaning and purpose, to prove that Islamic nations can be modern while still being “enchanted” with religion.  Deeb states that states that the jami’yyas were believed to be a spiritually developed institutional framework for helping others. A jami’yya volunteer, Maliha, describes the jami’yyas as a place where the connection between spiritual and material progress is clearly practiced and where “authenticated” religious motives lead to the pious modern.

Deeb proves that women are the main actors in illustrating an alternative model of modernity because Muslim women have faced stereotypes held by the West that depict them as backward, passive, and oppressed by their religion. The Muslim woman’s self-conscious confrontations with these stereotypes have led to what Deeb regards as “gender jihad”, or a gender struggle. Women have combated these stereotypes by drawing upon volunteerism in jami’yyas in order to provide evidence of women’s ability to be both religious as well as being connected to the contemporary world. A colleague of Deeb, Hajjeh Amal, speaks to these stereotypes by saying,

“Our goals as women are to improve these images of Muslim women within our society that thinks that women are less than men, and to change the image of the oppressed Muslim woman that exists outside our society. This work (volunteerism in the jam’iyya) is part of our religious duty, because woman is the example for everything. A culture is judged by the level of its women.”

A Shi’i women’s jihad uses the public sphere to take on the work of proving to the West that Muslim women can be both pious and modern. The visibility of the pious Shi’i women- marked by their public activities and volunteerism- is crucial in demonstrating how women have progressed both spiritually and materially, into a pious modern, in contrast to the Western modern.

Conclusion

Women have used their visibility, mobility, and voices to redefine the public sphere by producing alternative discourses and images about womanhood, citizenship, and political participation in their societies that prove that Islam and modernity can co-exist without being secular. As orientalist imagery of the East has been depicted by the media and internalized by the public, women have faced the bud of the stereotypes regarding subordination and inferiority. By looking at the correlation between Islam and modernity through a female lens, one may be able to see how women act as a systematic thread, one that interweaves the power relations between the “East” and the “West”, one that knits the yarn of Islamic society, and illuminates the shades of modernity through the prism of Islam. Rather than seeing women as needing to be saved and liberated in the wake of 9/11, women in Muslim nations have proven that despite their inferior reputation, they are in fact the main actors in the public sphere in proving that modernity and Islam can co-exist.

There is a bibliography attached to this article.  If you wish to read it please visit the tmofoundation website.

KinderUSA Annual Banquet

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The sufferings of the world are too numerous to catalogue. Certainly the suffering of children is particularly poignant, and nowhere is this more evident than in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israeli occupation has rendered the people oppressed and poor with only a token future. If children have no future, then the world has no future. While many individuals and organizations have commendably worked to aid the children of Palestine, none has done more than KinderUSA (Kids in Need of Development, Education and Relief).

This past Saturday evening KinderUSA held its annual fundraising banquet event, a successful and educational presentation, in Universal City, Ca. The event was titled: “Supporting our Children: The Seeds of the Future”.

With the advent of Ramadan and its call for inner struggle and sacrifice, an event noted by each speaker, this event had a particular relevance for Muslims and non Muslims alike.

The keynote speakers were internationally acclaimed Islamic scholar, Dr. Tariq Ramadan, and Los Angeles’ own Dr. Maher Hathout. Professor Ramadan holds an MA in Philosophy and French literature and a PhD in Arabic and Islamic studies. At present he is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University. He also teaches at the Faculty of Theology at Oxford.

Professor Ramadan was recently permitted into the United States to join the faculty of Notre Dame after having been denied entry for six years because of his political views and activities.

Dr. Maher Hathout was a founder of the Islamic Center of Southern California and of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). He is a sought after speaker, a prolific author, and a participant in interfaith events.

After introductory remarks by Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Jess Ghannam, Jinan Al Marayati, the young daughter of KinderUSA chair, Dr. Laila Al Marayati, read from the Koran and provided a translation.
Dr. Ghannam is a clinical professor and the Chief of Medical Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Hathout said that speaking at this event was an honor. He read and translated a poem written in Arabic. Nations, he said, find a place in history because their children live to fulfil their maximum potential.The children of Palestine should have this opportunity for which they were created by God.

“Israel”, he continued, “resorts to piracy.” Israel confiscates food and medicines. Israel claims that the ships they intercepted may have carried weapons. Is there a better way to handle the situation so as not to deprive the intended recipients of food and medicine?

Israel says Gaza does not need these goods. Israel claims that it only objects to material that can have dual use – for example glass, concrete, fertilizer.

For any child to eat, more than bread is needed. “It is food with dignity that is needed.” Kids need a roof that does not leak and windows that are not shattered. What gives Israel the right to say “You need this, but you don’t need that?”

Dr. Hathout was interrupted continuously by cries of “How very true”; “absolutely right”, and “that is so true.”

The issue is not food, he continued. The issue is occupation. All decent people should work to take down the wall of occupation. Everything else is a band aid. Tonight, he claimed is a band aid. But band aids are necessary when you must take a child’s damaged hand and lead him into the future.

Dr. Hathout pointed out the situation in the Middle East and how six months ago it was so different and seemed without hope. We must not, he continued, take our mind of our ultimate target: occupation, occupation, occupation.

He ended by saying that Ramadan is a time to clear our vision. Certain things are incompatible with being a human being.

Professor Ramadan began his address by saying that it was always an honor to tell the truth. He began his speech by praising Dr. Maher Hathout and his late brother, Dr Hasan Hathout. Both were committed to justice for non Muslims as well as Muslims.

We must realize that whether one is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, there are voices that want to criminalize dissent, that want to render what we are doing illegal.

“We will always be on the side of the oppressed.” We are contributing to American society. We want freedom and democracy for us and for them. In this country we have much to do in the way of social justice and education.

He cautioned not to make the Palestinian cause a Muslim cause. Use the month of Ramadan as a solidarity month.

The audience had been interrupting Professor Ramadan with applause during his speech. He asked them to refrain and, if they found that he had made a particularly noteworthy point, that they concentrate on that point for ten seconds.

He then asked: “How do we come to a universalist attitude?” Our mission is to change the world for the better. He said he wanted to die having made himself a better person and the world a better place. He urged that we oppose any oppression.

He said to non Muslims that when you give your money, you purify it. Do not expect the recipient to thank you. Do it for the cause of justice.

We must follow events in the Middle East. We have inform ourselves of the situation and then inform others.

“There was no war in Gaza. It was an attack.” said Professor Ramadan. When you destroy schools as Israel did, you destroy the future.

We want to be an added value to the United States. We want to reconcile the United States to its own values. We are agents of reconciliation.

We must not accept the criminalization of support for the Palestinians. He said he was barred for six years from entry into this country because of his support. One of the groups he supported was on a black list, but it was not on the list at the time he gave the group money. He refused to apologize. None the less, the ban on his entry into this country stood until it was lifted by the current administration.

We practice a non violent resistance. We must persevere and be active. The more we are silent the more violent our enemies will become. “Who would have thought what would happen in Egypt? I am waiting for an Israeli spring.”

Muslims fast during Ramadan to purify themselves. They must act for humanity. We are a consumerist society. Ramadan makes this a better society through  fasting on the part of Muslims. The children of Palestine may be helping us. The poor whom we help may be our salvation; the oppressed whom we liberate may be our liberators.

The short and well received film, “Noor”,  written and directed by Mustafa Shakarchi, told the story of a ten year old girl who lived in a Lebanon Refugee Camp and wanted only to be a normal ten year old. Instead she was forced by her step mother to sell trinkets on the street. Her dream was to be able to read and write. The film was in Arabic with English sub titles. The child’s face and demeanor told the story, and the subtitles were in the end superfluous. When the film ended, not a few of the attendees had been moved to tears.

Before the formal part of the program, a reception was held in the lobby. A continuously running film that showed the plight of Palestinian children was on display. Dr. Laila Al Marayati, the Chairwoman of KinderUSA, and Dr. Basil Abdelkarim, a KinderUSA Board Member, presided over the collection of donations. Dr. Al Marayati showed and narrated a short film on the work of KinderUSA.
Many non Muslims were in attendance. Dr. Ghannam introduced some from the podium including Mormon Bishop and Mrs Steve Gilliland; Rabbi and Mrs Leonard Beerman, and two Roman Catholic nuns from the Los Angeles area. The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and the Palestine American Women’s Association were also represented.

KinderUSA was founded in 2002 to help Palestinian children in need. The mission soon spread to other parts of the Middle East. To accomplish its work KinderUSA relies on partners throughout the world. KinderUSA has been recognized as one of the foremost children charities. It also seeks to provide services to help women who are the heads of households so that they might become independent. It is a 501(c)3 charity. The foregoing is only a very small part of KinderUSA in its entirety.

For more information on the far reaching work of KinderUSA, please access their web site at: www.kinderusa.org.

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Leadership Summit Summer 2011

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

With Islamophobia rampant in the United States, programs and people to combat it are essential. While there are very many with the knowledge, faith, and desire to be warriors in this mission, one essential ingredient is often missing. That is the practical knowledge of how to form teams to fight Islamophobia. This past Saturday that problem was remedied in a practical, “how-to”, nitty gritty session which gave these willing warriors their tools.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) California and the Muslim American Society held a leadership training program this past Saturday at the Islamic Center of Reseda in Reseda, Ca. Titled: Leadership Summit Summer 2011, the event was well attended and enthusiastically received. The speakers were highly motivational and well versed in the field of leadership training and its application to Islamic activity.

Mohammad Abbasi, the first presenter, is a Regional Director for Keller Williams Realty Group Greater New York area. His experience in the field of leadership training is vast, and he devotes his time to serving his community. In addition to his experience, he is able to teach in a way that captivates his audience. The message is well structured and comprehensive, educating the listener while making him enjoy the lesson.

Leaders make themselves leaders and consciously develop the necessary qualities for leadership, he began. They are not born, and no one can force leadership onto a person. To the surprise of the audience, he continued, in any group one can tell the leader because he or she is the one who talks the least. If the leader has formed efficient teams, the leader will be the least missed in the event of his absence. Leadership is about team building.

Brother Abbasi told of his visit to one of his companies after an absence The receptionist said upon seeing him: “May I help you?”. That is when he knew he was a success. He was a good leader because the company was able to function without him.

He spoke of former General Motors CEO Lee Iacocca whom the public perceived as being a great executive. On the contrary, Brother Abbasi insisted, he was a failure. The company could not sustain itself without him. As a leader he was a failure.

Speaking of the Arab world he described Arab leaders as being insecure. The do not reward success on the part of others for fear of the competition these successful people would present.

He also referenced President FDR and called him insecure. He chose a weak Vice President, Harry S. Truman, because he could not stand competition.  English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on the other hand, was secure and cultivated others to replace him throughout his entire political life.

A Board of Trustees, a position he favors, determines the course of funding and defines the group’s mission. In the United States we have the government sector, the private business sector, and the non-profits (known often as NGO’s – non government organizations). In the Middle East the NGO is absent and is very much needed. He made the point that a member of a non profit is not motivated by the chance to be elected to public office or by the paycheck he will receive. He is motivated by idealism. Because of this his dedication should be greater. He gave as an example the late Mother Theresa and her organization, Sisters of Charity. The audience seemed surprised to discover that there is a six month probationary period for her volunteers. People work for non profits because they have high ideals, and they will only work for organizations that have high standards.

After a lunch break CAIR representative Adel Syed spoke to the group. Brother Adel is the Government Relations Coordinator for CAIR – LA. His function is to strengthen working relationships between Muslims in the Los Angeles area and government officials and organizations.

Brother Adel referenced literature that had been given attendees upon registration. The discussion began with the problem of Islamophobia. He showed a map of the United States with many marked areas where opposition to the building of mosques took place.

“I never realized it was that bad” said one young woman looking at the well marked map.

“I knew about Park 51 and Temecula” said another “But I never knew there were this many.”

Also discussed were anti Islamic hate web sites: Brigitte Gabriel, Robert Spencer, and Pamela Geller, to name but a few. On the positive side in the news, again to name but a few, were Jon Stewart, the web site loonwatch (which tracks hate sites), and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (for his strong support of the proposed Park 51 Islamic Center).

Islamophobia was defined as was the term “close minded” and the term “open minded. To take a soft stance on Islamophobia is to accept a form of second class citizenship for Muslims. Civic engagement is primary. It is best not to begin with grandiose plans, as that will inevitably lead to disappointment. At the local level one might begin by becoming a county commissioner. Invite community members to mosques, Eid events, Ramadan Iftar, and to your homes. Engage in coalition building. Organizations such as CAIR and MAS are indispensable to this. After each success – or failure – analyze to decide what the next step should be.

“Reinforce positive norms for working together and continue to cultivate new leaders.”

We will know we have achieved success when being Muslim is considered an asset for a public official, and when those who associate with anti-Muslim hate groups will be de facto discredited.

Mitch Krayton, a noted author, coach and motivational speaker gave the day’s final presentation. He specialty is training people to be effective and confident public speakers.

Following is a statement from Brother Fiaz Zubair Syed of MAS who was one of the organizers of the day’s event.

“In the Quran, chapter 33 line 22, God says “For you the life of the Prophet (s) is a good model of behavior.”

One of the major roles of Prophet Muhammad (s) was to lead mankind toward a just society who strives toward God Consciousness. The purpose of this program is to understand what leadership is, it’s qualities, and every persons role of being a leader. This Leadership Summit is one in a series of many that will be introduced to the community where different skill sets will be shared, workshops will be conducted as well as opportunities to be active in our society and cause positive change. We believe in development of individuals through education and practice and that is why we (Muslim American Society) have partnered with CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) to begin training a group of young Muslim Americans to fulfill the mission of MAS and ultimately of Islam which is to: “To move people to strive for God consciousness, liberty, and justice, and to convey Islam with utmost clarity.””

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Garden of Peace Flint Cemetery Update

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

Flint–July 10–The Flint Islamic Center’s Garden of Peace cemetery is slowly and inexorably growing, as one might expect.

Last year I wrote an article about the opening of the first Muslim cemetery in Flint, Garden of Peace (http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?p=6191).  At the time the cemetery had only five people interred there–and at the time I wrote the article I had never visited the site.

Now I have visited the cemetery, and it has grown to about 29 people buried there. 

Most of the graves have stones lying horizontally on top, and stone markers saying the name and dates of birth and death of the deceased, however a few are only marked by dirt.

The cemetery itself is in very gently rolling hills–a very simple site has been prepared for use, of a few acres–of which only a small amount of space has been occupied.  The access is very adequate but very simple–perhaps the biggest investment other than buying the land was the fence and gate that enclose the cemetery–which is as advertised last year only a very short distance from the Flint Islamic Center mosque.  A simple asphalt driveway comes to a stop and cul-de-sac about a quarter mile from the gate, and from there the headstones are a short walk.

I looked at the headstones, and the graves are a testament to the unpredictability of death, with a few older people as one might expect, but also a few infants and some middle-aged people–a reminder to all of us that we cannot expect to stay on this earth for any guaranteed amount of time.

One WWII hero is buried at the cemetery, a Bronze Star recipient–and from this position of his grave it appears that he was one of the very first people interred–a convert to Islam.

The corporate name for the cemetery is the “Flint Islamic Cemetery,” and it is administered by the Flint Islamic Center.  Its policies have matured somewhat since its inception a year ago.

The policies follow:

1.  24 Hours advance notice should be given to arrange preparations for burial.

2.  A completed application form (available at the FIC office) must be filled out and duly certified by the respective Islamic Center. The following items should be submitted before the burial is accepted:

•    Certified check or money order in the name of Flint Islamic Cemetery or cash for the applicable amount (no personal checks are accepted).
•    Hospital release / death certificate must accompany the application.
•    Interstate transportation certificate (if applicable).

3.  Ladies attending the funeral must observe proper Islamic attire while in the Islamic Center and/or cemetery.

Unfortunately cemetery officials were not available for comment before this article went to print.

The cemetery is at 1310 South Morrish Road, in Swartz Creek, Michigan.  For more information, you can call Hossam Shukairy, 810-691-7738, Abed Khirfan, 810-877-1415; or Muhammed Saleem, 810-730-1776.

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Imam Aly Lela Speaks at the Flint Islamic Center

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

IMG054Imam Aly Lela was invited by the Flint Islamic Center to speak at its celebration of Isra and Mi’raj.  The event was attended by about 150 people, and several of the winners from the FIC’s Seerah Competitions spoke.

The imam surprised those in attendance by saying that possibly Isra and Mi’raj did not happen in Rajab, as is popularly believed. 

The theme of the imam’s speech was that Islam is a “very rational religion,” and he emphasized the use of the mind in Islam as a means of attracting non-Muslims to Islam.  However the imam did not give evidence that this process has attracted more believers than other methods.

The imam spoke on the greatness of Prophet Muhammad (s), emphasizing the incredible restraint he showed after being abused by the people of Taif–also he spoke of a single believer who was attracted to Islam by the perfect and holy example of the Greatest Prophet (s) in the aftermath of his being beaten by the people of Taif, when Prophet (s) still maintained his incredible poise and grace and perfect manners.

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Islamic Trusts Could Revive Gulf Property Market

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Shaheen Pasha

2011-05-28T211614Z_2103306788_GM1E75T0ESH01_RTRMADP_3_EMIRATES

A dhow sails during the Al-Gaffal 60ft traditional dhow sailing race between the island of Sir Bu Nair near the Iranian coast, and Dubai May 28, 2011.

REUTERS/Stringer

DUBAI, June 2 (Reuters) – Jordanian Ashraf Hamdan began investing in Dubai’s real estate market in 2006, with a few modest rental investment forays before turning his sights on flashier projects as a wave of luxury developments hit the market.

The real estate bust in 2008 left investors like Hamdan with half-finished projects sitting in the desert sun and losses that were unlikely to be recouped.

“It was a costly learning experience for a real estate investor,” said the 53-year-old businessman. “But real estate is in our blood here in the Arab world. It’s a tangible investment, and from an Islamic perspective, that appeals to me.

“I’m just going to be looking for smarter, alternative ways to get into the market in the future.”

The emergence of Islamic real estate investment trusts (REIT) in the Middle East, which offer the chance to own shares in a portfolio of real estate assets with a steady paid dividend from the income earned on those assets, may lure investors like Hamdan back to the sector again.

Islamic REITS differ from their conventional counterparts by banning investment in any assets that pay interest or conduct business in any forbidden industry, like gambling, alcohol or adult entertainment.

Aside from providing an alternative investment in the Gulf Islamic finance industry it could also inject more transparency and regulation in a property sector plagued by unrealistic expectations of returns and occasionally murky dealings.

“Over the last two or three years, people have been in freeze mode where the focus was cash and other liquid things,” said Daniel Diembers, principal at Booz & Company in Dubai.

“The Dubai bubble really helped the (property) market to mature. Now is the moment where it is all shifting. There is a lot of wealth up for grabs.”

Globally, the market capitalisation for REITs was around $570 billion at the end of 2009, a 2010 Ernst & Young study said. Islamic REITs play a small role, with Asia serving as the predominant hub for sharia-compliant trusts.

Renewed Confidence

Malaysia’s Axis Global Industrial real estate investment trust (REIT) is planning an initial public offering with an asset size of $1.05 billion, making it the world’s largest Islamic REIT.

Islamic REITs launched in Bahrain and Kuwait have been relatively small in size – Bahrain’s Inovest REIT and Kuwait’s Al Mahrab Tower REIT launched with less than $95 million in capital each – and neither has been publicly listed.

But an anticipated infrastructure boom in hot markets such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the launch of the UAE’s first Islamic REIT may buoy faith in real estate investments, creating a wider niche for the Sharia-compliant trusts to thrive.

Emirates REIT, which launched with seed capital from Islamic lender Dubai Islamic Bank last November, is aimed at medium-income investors and offers returns of 6 to 8 percent annually, said Mark Inch, director of Eiffel Holding and founding shareholder of Emirates REIT.

“There is a discipline and transparency that comes with a regulated REIT,” he said. “Buildings will not only be properly managed but financial management will also be completely transparent. It’s a prerequisite of bringing back confidence.”

Emirates REIT has 40 deals under review ranging between 40 million dirhams to 500 million dirhams and will be fully operational by the summer, Inch said. An initial public offering is planned within 18 months to two years once it secures assets of 1.5 billion dirhams.

The interest is growing. National Bank of Abu Dhabi is considering creating an Islamic REIT while the FTSE Group may develop an Islamic REIT index as the industry grows globally, officials at both said.
The Gulf region has dabbled in the REIT market over the years with little success.

A 2008 Islamic REIT launched by Saudi Arabia’s Sumou Holding and Geneva-based Encore Management fizzled in the kingdom as the financial crisis sapped enthusiasm. Other attempts to launch a REIT in the region, including a conventional one by troubled property developer Nakheel, were quickly squashed.

Asia, by comparison, has seen a boom in sharia-compliant REITS. Malaysia, considered to be at the forefront of Islamic finance, launched its first Islamic REIT in 2006. Singapore’s Sabana REIT, launched in 2010, was 2.5 times oversubscribed and saw heavy investor interest from the Gulf.

The Gulf has been held back by the slow pace of innovation in the real estate sector, as well as the Islamic finance industry in general, experts said.

In contrast to Malaysia, where the government is active in creating a strong regulatory environment, there is no regulatory standardisation in the Middle East. And investors are understandably wary of investing in a new real estate venture given the spectacular property collapse in the region.

Oz Ahmed, associate director of wholesale banking at HSBC Amanah in Malaysia, said Mideast investors seem ready for homegrown REITS given the high participation in Asian ones.

“There’s definite potential for issuers within the GCC to identify assets but people have to become comfortable with them,” he said.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’re working well in the banking paradigm. Now practitioners are looking to develop products that come closer to Islamic finance principles.” (Editing by Amran Abocar and Jon Hemming)

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INTERVIEW-Brotherhood Says Won’t Force Islamic Law on Egypt

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO, May 29 (Reuters) – The Muslim Brotherhood wants a diverse parliament after elections in September and is not seeking to impose Islamic law on Egypt, the head of the group’s newly formed political party said in an interview.

The Brotherhood, which has emerged as a powerful force after years of repression under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, has said it does not want a parliamentary majority, although rivals see it as well placed for a dominant position.

With secular politicians struggling to mount a challenge, Western investors are concerned about what a shift to an Islamic-leaning government would mean for Egypt, which relies on receipts from Western and other tourists and where tension between Muslims and the Christian minority have flared.

“We only use Islam as the basis of our party … which means that our general framework is Islamic sharia … We don’t issue religious rules in individual cases,” said Mohamed Mursi, head of the Brotherhood’s newly formed Justice and Freedom Party, which will contest the vote.

Liberal Egyptians in particular worry that the group could use for its own ends the second article of Egypt’s constitution, which makes sharia, Islamic law, a main source of legislation.
Egypt’s military rulers suspended the old constitution and introduced an interim one, but that article was unchanged.

Mursi, speaking in the group’s new five-storey headquarters in Mokattem on the outskirts of Cairo, dismissed such worries.

“We want to engage in a dialogue not a monologue,” he said. “The Brotherhood does not seek to control the parliament … We want a strong parliament … with different political forces.”
But he said Islamic law could have a place in a civil state in Egypt, where about 10 percent of the 80 million population are Christians. “Islamic sharia guarantees the rights of all people, Muslims and non-Muslims,” he said.

Mursi said he would stick by the Brotherhood’s pledge not to field a presidential candidate or support any Brotherhood member running, as one has already said he will do.

“The group said it will not field a candidate for the presidency or support one if decides to do so independently,” he said.

No Economic Platform Yet

The Brotherhood’s new offices are emblazoned with its emblem of crossed swords, a scene unimaginable in the Mubarak era when its members were rounded up in regular sweeps and it worked from two cramped apartments in Cairo.

Mursi, head of the engineering department in Egypt’s Zaqaziq University, led the Brotherhood’s parliament bloc in the 2000-2005 parliamentary session. The Brotherhood used to field its candidates as independents to skirt a ban on its activities.

The Brotherhood, which has spread deep roots in Egypt’s conservative Muslim society partly through a broad social programme, held 20 percent of seats in the 2005-2010 parliament.

It boycotted last year’s vote because of accusations of rigging, which rights groups said had been a feature of all votes under Mubarak.

Mursi said an economic platform had not yet been drawn up as the party, formed in April, was still organising itself.

But some secular politicians and other Egyptians are concerned that women and Christians could be sidelined and that alcohol could be banned, which analysts say is a concern as many tourists to Egypt are non-Muslims wanting a beach holiday and who might be deterred if alcohol is not served.

One in eight Egyptian jobs depend on tourism.

On Christians, he said: “We want everyone to be reassured … that we want to see our Christian brothers elected in parliament … We don’t want one group to control the parliament, neither the Brotherhood nor anyone else.”

Of the party’s 9,000 registered members, he said 100 were Christian and 1,000 were women, adding that the party’s deputy head, Rafik Habib, was a Christian.

When asked if the party could propose a law to prohibit alcohol, Mursi said such changes would be up to parliament to decide, not a single group, such as the Brotherhood.

“The Egyptian constitution is not the constitution of the Brotherhood but … of the Egyptian people,” said Mursi, adding that the constitution “says Egypt’s legislation is based on the principles of sharia, and not its details”.

(Editing by Edmund Blair and Elizabeth Piper)

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