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.


Jury Duty in the United States of America

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

This week I served on a jury for the first time. It was an extremely boring and annoying experience, but at the same time surprisingly pleasant. I am happy that I live in a country where a jury of one’s peers decides your guilt or innocence, not just the arbitrary decision of a judge. The jury system dates back to Islamic history – it was a basic Muslim belief that a group of people deciding about the truth and falsehood of various testimonies would be less likely to be in error than a single person. “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all the time,” to quote Bob Marley. The more people you have observing a situation, the less likely that the general opinion will be in error, especially when the group is given an opportunity to discuss what they saw.

In this case, a black man was accused of dealing a very small amount of drugs to a couple white men from out of town. If true, he was a very stupid drug dealer doing his business in front of the train station which is swarming with police cars and undercover police officers. The police were watching the car for a long time, which was parked with two white men inside. These men were clearly waiting for someone, for one of them kept getting out of the car and walking to the corner, using his cell phone. Eventually a black man arrived, got into the car, and the white men drove him to a restaurant a mile away. The undercover police followed the car. After the white men drove away, the police stopped them and arrested the white men for possession of crack cocaine. Then the police went to the restaurant, pulled the black man out of line, and arrested him under suspicion of having sold them the drugs. He had on his person $227 dollars in cash and two cell phones. He was cooperative with the police and maintained his innocence.

The prosecution however, went overboard to the point of annoying the jury. They brought so many expert witnesses to testify on irrelevant topics, in order to enhance the credibility of the police. We learned about how government spies working with FBI informants gain access to the drug world. We learned how drugs are packaged. We learned how the chemistry labs analyze drugs to determine what they are. They totally avoided the central question, which was: did this particular man sell drugs to those particular individuals? Clearly it was not an important case in the minds of the police. No fingerprints were taken, the cell phone calls were not even traced. There was zero evidence other than the hearsay of the police about what they saw. The men parked. Someone got in. They drove him to a restaurant. The police never witnessed any drug transaction. They just assumed. By the end of the day, listening to hours and hours of boring expert testimonies, the members of the jury themselves were joking that they themselves needed to do some drugs to cope with the torture!

What struck me was the dishonesty of the prosecuting attorney in his excitement to win this case. While the police officers testified that they saw the car parked for 5-10 minutes, the attorney in his closing argument embellished this time to 25 minutes. One of the expert witnesses estimated the worth of the drugs at up to $200, to match the amount of money in the man’s pocket, even though I am pretty sure that two rocks of crack cocaine are worth maybe $20-40. The prosecuting attorney claimed that the man was coming out of the train station but the police only claimed he was walking from that general direction. The police said they saw from a distance, in the dark of night, a large black man. But this man was not large. As a jurist, I felt that the prosecuting attorney was trying to insult my intelligence.

It is very probable that this man did do what he was accused of doing. However, there was no evidence. Not enough to convict him without a “reasonable doubt.” How do we know the white policemen even got the right guy? After observing the black man in the dark from a distance, they arrested him inside a Jamaican restaurant filled with black men with the same hairstyle. I was anticipating a heated argument among the jury, because on face value the man did seem guilty. I was surprised.

I had reservations about white police officers following a car just because there were black people and white people in the same car. I had doubts about whether this is even the police’s job description, to follow people around who didn’t disturb the peace nor bother anybody in any way. I personally feel disturbed when I see white police officers arresting an entire group of young black teenagers who were just sitting there for “loitering” in front of the train station. On a personal basis, as long as it doesn’t don’t disturb nor hurt anyone, it doesn’t bother my day if someone gets into a car and the car drives off. The aggressive police presence in my neighborhood is far more annoying.

The jury voted unanimously “Not Guilty.” We all privately thought he probably was guilty, but there was no evidence other than the hearsay of the police about what they saw. I am proud of my fellow Americans. I feel good that we were able to keep one man, who had no previous convictions, out of prison. We were able to put the Constitution first. The Constitution guarantees the right of free public assembly. If there was no obvious crime being committed, the police should not follow people around.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer, focusing on Muslim and US affairs.