Community News (V12-I20)

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Karan Johar, others receive MPAC award

LOS ANGELES–Bollywood director Karan Johar and four other media personalities received the Muslim Public Affairs Council Media Awards at a glittering ceremony held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, CA.

The recipients in the categories were as follows:

* Director KARAN JOHAR for the groundbreaking Bollywood film “My Name is Khan”, blending of love story with the harsh realities of being a South Asian Muslim in the U.S. post-9/11

* Pulitzer-nominated author DAVE EGGERS for his bestseller “Zeitoun” about a Muslim American family facing the fallout of Hurricane Katrina

* First-time writer/director CHERIEN DABIS for her award-winning independent film “Amreeka” about a family of Palestinian immigrants grappling with intolerance and identity against the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War

* ABC TELEVISION for a touching episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” called “Give Peace a Chance” featuring a Muslim character in a positive role.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize these talented and inspirational voices for bringing humanizing and multi-dimensional portrayals of Muslims to millions of television and film viewers,” said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati.

Dr. Sultan Sikander Ali Khan obtains fellowship American Society of Hypertension

NEW YORK–Dr. Sultan Sikander Ali Khan, MD, FACP, FASH, has been granted the prestigious fellowship of the American Society of Hypertension. There are only 113 Fellows of American Society of Hypertension in the US.

The Hyderabad, India, born Dr. Khan is a Diplomate American Board of Internal Medicine, Diplomate American Board of Clinical Lipidology and Fellow of American College of Physicians.

He has published several articles in leading medical journals.

He is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at New York Medical College and has a private practice in Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Board recommends approval for Sheboygan mosque

SHEBOYGAN, WI–The Town of Wilson Plan Commission in Wisconsin unanimously recommended approval for a conditional use permit to allow to convert a former health food store into the county’s first mosque.

Commission Vice Chairman June Spoerl, who chaired Monday night’s meeting in the absence of commission Chairman Doug Fuller, said Mansoor Mirza, the owner of the building at 9110 Sauk Trail Road had satisfied “quite a few of the concerns we had,” including well, septic, fire code and occupancy issues.

The building’s 25 parking spaces also are adequate, officials said, but stipulated that no on-street parking be allowed and that if the parking lot is to be expanded, there would be no runoff onto neighboring property.

No public comment was allowed before the Plan Commission but will be taken when the Town Board meets at 6 p.m., on Monday, May 17, to consider final approval of the mosque.

If approved, the permit would be for two years at which time the mosque would have to apply for permit renewal.

Florida mosque firebombing condemned

JACKSONVILLE, FL–Political and religious leaders in Jacksonville have condemned the firebombing of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

In a statement issued to the press Florida. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp said, “I strongly condemn the alleged Monday night attack at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. No one in this country should ever be concerned for their safety when they practice their chosen faith. The free exercise of religion is one of our most cherished rights as citizens of this great nation. Ironically those targeted were exercising that right while gathered in prayer inside the Islamic Center as this act of hatred was carried out.  

I have full confidence that federal, state and local law enforcement authorities will conduct a thorough investigation and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this crime.”

The Interfaith Council of Jacksonville issued the following statement, “The Interfaith Council of Jacksonville deplores and condemns the attempt to bomb the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, one of our most faithful member communities. The attempted bombing on Monday night was a cowardly andmorally reprehensible act. Such an act besmirches the good name of our city and exposes how much work there is yet to do in teaching the values of religious tolerance and brotherhood. There is no more place in our city for this sort of religious intolerance and hatred than there is for racial bigotry. The IFCJ calls on all responsible citizens of our community to bear witness that this sort of violence will not be tolerated in our midst.”

12-20

Haiti Fundraiser

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMnS

Despite Islamophobia rampant throughout the world and Muslims everywhere under attack, when disaster strikes as it has in Haiti, Muslims react instantly with charity and a deep sense of humanity.

If the foregoing seems to describe a paradox, to Muslims, helping others in distress regardless of religion, is a Koranic mandate. This past weekend Islamic Relief held a successful fundraiser in Anaheim, Ca to raise funds for disaster relief in earthquake ravaged Haiti. The speakers described the Islamic duty to support this cause citing Koranic chapters and centuries of precedent.

Before a capacity crowd the evening, which began with a recital from the Koran, featured such noted Muslim figures as Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Dr. Maher Hathout and Imam Zaid Shakir. 

A video showing the devastation in Haiti played during the length of the evening.

Dr. Siddiqi said that natural disasters are trials, both for those who are stricken and those who are safe. For the former, it is a test of faith; for the latter, it is a test of charity.

“We are all part of the human family”, Dr. Siddiqi told his audience.

When Dr. Maher Hathout took to the podium he asked his audience to imagine what life must be like for people whose very existence changed in a matter of seconds.

“We do what we do because we are followers of the Koran and of Mohammed (pbuh).”

Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute spoke of the parallel between the tragedy of Haiti and the tragedy of Gaza. In the former there is mobilization through out the world to come to the aid of the Haitians. For Gaza, one year after the devastating attack by Israel, rebuilding has not begun and aid convoys are turned away. Despite this the people of Gaza have raised money for the suffering people in Haiti.

Islamic Relief leader Anwar Khan presided over fundraising and spoke of his experiences in Haiti. He had just returned from a two day visit, and his testimony was particularly compelling because he spoke as an eye witness.

“The smell of death was everywhere”, he said.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless, and initially 200,000 were killed. Many survivors have died since due to malnutrition and dehydration and injuries received during the quake. People are sleeping in the streets with nothing under them but bricks. With a shaky infrastructure to begin with, there is very little that the earthquake did not damage or destroy. Homes, schools, places of worship, government buildings – all suffered damage and those that are not level are unsafe.

Islamic Relief set up temporary shelters in tented areas for 120 families. They worked with and befriended the Haitians whom they helped. This contrasts with many other relief efforts in which the volunteers felt the need for body guards and also the need to construct barbed wire fences between themselves and the Haitians. The humane ambiance of Islamic Relief’s work in addition to the direct aid is an outgrowth of religious faith.

“I never realized how devastated that poor country was” said one woman after hearing Brother Khan speak.

The evening was presented by Islamic Relief in coordination with the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. Sponsors were CAIR-LA, MPAC, MAS, MSA-West and COPAA.

Islamic Relief is a charitable organization which has operated for a quarter of a century to alleviate poverty, illiteracy and suffering and to bring aid and comfort to victims of natural and man made disasters. They are often the first responders to any emergency, and their work covers every part of the globe. They operate without reference to nationality, creed and color. They partner with other aid groups both local and international.

The list of their activities is encyclopedic. Here are a few: an orphan support program; water and sanitation development; education, and income generation. They have been in Pakistan in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes there; in Gaza when Israeli bombs were dropping; in Ethiopia during a famine, and in our Gulf States in the aftermath of Katrina.

To find out more about Islamic Relief and/or to contribute, please access them at: www.islamicreliefusa.org.

12-6

Islamic Relief to Help Haiti

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release

Islamic Relief USA works with Mormon church to aid Haitian quake victims

2010-01-20T185336Z_1133674928_GM1E61L082001_RTRMADP_3_QUAKE-HAITI

Residents leave Port-au-Prince by a bus after a 6.1 magnitude aftershock in Haiti’s capital January 20, 2010.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

(Alexandria, VA, January 13, 2010) — Islamic Relief USA, America’s largest Muslim relief organization, announced today that it will immediately fly a $1 million shipment of aid to those impacted by yesterday’s earthquake in Haiti. That relief aid will be sent in coordination with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Those wishing to donate to Islamic Relief USA’s “Haiti Emergency” appeal may visit www.IslamicReliefUSA.org or call (888) 479-4968. Checks payable to “Islamic Relief USA” may be mailed to: Islamic Relief USA, P.O. Box 5640, Buena Park, CA, 90622.

In October 2009, Islamic Relief USA responded to two Pacific Rim earthquakes by coordinating a massive aid shipment to Samoa and deploying emergency teams in Indonesia.

Islamic Relief partners worldwide also responded to other major disasters such as the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and the Pakistan earthquake in 2005. More than $100 million in relief aid was collected to assist the victims in those disaster areas. Islamic Relief also responded to Hurricane Katrina, delivering aid to more than 60,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

[NOTE: Media professionals interested in speaking to aid workers who have experience in disaster zones or to learn more about ongoing response efforts may contact Islamic Relief USA VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan at 818-216-9723.]

Islamic Relief USA, based in Alexandria, Va., is a non-profit 501(c)(3) humanitarian agency with offices also in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas. As an international relief and development organization, Islamic Relief strives to alleviate the poverty and suffering of the world’s poorest people. Since its establishment, Islamic Relief has expanded greatly with permanent locations in more than 35 countries worldwide.

For the sixth consecutive year, Islamic Relief USA has been awarded four stars by Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the country. This prestigious award puts Islamic Relief among the top 2.25 percent of charities in the nation.
Media Contacts: Anwar Khan, 818-216-9723 (mobile), E-mail: anwar@IslamicReliefUSA.org; Mostafa Mahboob, 310-351-0952 (mobile), E-mail: mostafa@IslamicReliefUSA.org

12-4

U.S. Bangladeshis Track Climate Changes Back Home

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By New America Media, Ngoc Nguyen

Mohammed Khan was a child when the deadliest cyclone ever recorded struck Bangladesh (at the time East Pakistan) in 1970. The cyclone brought torrential rains and winds stronger than those seen during Hurricane Katrina. As many as half a million people were killed. Then river waters rose and claimed the land.

“My family lives on an island called Bhola,” Khan recalls. “They have some land, but a lot of the land was taken by the river during a great flood.”

Khan, 51, who now lives in Queens, N.Y., has a daughter and more than 200 family members in Bangladesh. He’s worried about how his large extended family will fare when the next cyclone strikes, and he fears climate change will worsen such disasters.

“As the water levels rise in the next few years, much of southern Bangladesh will go into the womb of the river,” he says.

Concern about climate change among the public has waned, but the issue is foremost among many Bangladeshi Americans, because of the vulnerability of Bangladesh to climate change. Some community members are organizing seminars to learn about how rising seas and extreme weather will play out in their home country, and they’re making their voices heard on the political front.

Bangladesh is often considered ground zero for climate change. Crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers, much of the country is a massive flat delta, extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. As global warming pushes sea levels higher, Bangladesh would have the most land inundated among its South Asian neighbors, according to the World Bank. If sea levels rise by one meter, as much as a fifth of the country could be submerged, displacing about 20 million people.

In the last few years, awareness about climate change has grown among Bangladeshi Americans.

Hasan Rahim, a software engineering consultant based in San Jose, says Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was a wake-up call for him and many Bangladeshis in Silicon Valley. Rahim, who also teaches math and statistics at San Jose City College, says he organized screenings of the film in his community.

Rahim connected the film’s dire predictions about climate change to his homeland. “We live here, but we have roots there,” he says. “We are connected and we have got to become more aware of [climate change impacts].”

More than a dozen rivers, including the mighty Ganges, Brahmaputra, Jamuna and Meghna, flow across Bangladesh, emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The southern part of the country is a massive delta, with its fertile land known as the country’s rice bowl.

“It’s really a concern. We’re a small country with 150 million people, so lots of people would lose their houses, land, and become homeless,” says Abu Taher, editor of the newspaper Bangla Patrik, in New York. He says people want to know the future consequences of climate change on the country so they can tell family members to take precautions.

When he travels to Bangladesh, Khan says he notices changes in the environment. There used to be three crop seasons, he says, but now there’s one. “Normally, we would have floods during the rainy season, but now there is no one season for floods anymore,” Khan adds.

A construction worker, Khan also heads up a group made up of immigrants from Barisal, a southern province that is frequently hard hit by cyclones and flooding. The group has organized seminars to learn more about how climate change will affect Bangladesh. From the United States, Khan says he sometimes feels powerless to help his family back home.

“There’s nowhere for them to go. Bangladesh is a small country,” he says. “Where would they get the land? Who will give us the money? I can just advise them to use the deep tube wells to get clean water.”

Khan says his group wants to share the information with U.S. elected officials, and tell them they want the United States to curb its own pollution and help vulnerable nations.

“America as a leader should help all the poor and affected countries, including Bangladesh,” Khan says. “Affected families are dying without food, without a roof over their heads. We should provide financial assistance and even bring them here.”

In the last two decades, Bangladesh suffered the most deaths and greatest economic losses as a result of extreme weather events, according to Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index 2010.

At the climate change summit in Copenhagen in December, the United States and other developed nations pledged $100 billion in aid to countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

“It would make all the difference in the world if the aid were used not to buy finished products like solar panels, but to develop local indigenous talent,” says Rahim.

Bangladeshis have already had to adapt to higher sea levels, Rahim says.

“People who raised chickens are now raising ducks,” he says, and farmers are experimenting with “floating seed beds” to save crops during floods.

Until more funds are directed to helping people adapt to climate change, more frequent and more intense storms and floods will create more environmental refugees.

Queens resident Sheikh Islam says refugees have already poured into the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, which the World Wildlife Federation ranked as the city most vulnerable to climate change impacts out of 11 Asian coastal cities.

Islam says there’s more recognition now that climate change is causing the refugee surge into the city.

“They thought the migrants who came to the city were just jobless and landless. Now, the government is mentioning that they are jobless and landless because of climate change,” he says.

Islam says there’s also a growing perception that Western developed countries bear more responsibility for the problem because they contribute the most to carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

“Now, people know about climate change and they are talking about it,” Islam says. “Three to five years ago they don’t talk about it. They thought it was our problem. Now they think it is a global problem.”

12-4

US Cutting Gaza Lifeline

December 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Ann Wright

2009-12-19T210125Z_191868094_GM1E5CK05E101_RTRMADP_3_PALESTINIANS-EGYPT

December 10, 2009 – No doubt at the instigation of the Israeli government, the Obama administration has authorized the United States Army Corps of Engineers to design a vertical underground wall under the border between Egypt and Gaza.

In March, 2009 the United States provided the government of Egypt with $32 million in March, 2009 for electronic surveillance and other security devices to prevent the movement of food, merchandise and weapons into Gaza. Now details are emerging about an underground steel wall that will be 6-7 miles long and extend 55 feet straight down into the desert sand.

The steel wall will be made of super-strength steel put together in a jigsaw puzzle fashion. It will be bomb proof and can not be cut or melted. It will be “impenetrable,” and reportedly will take 18 months to construct.

(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8405020.stm)

The steel wall is intended to cut the tunnels that go between Gaza and Egypt.

The tunnels are the lifelines for Gaza since the international community agreed to a blockade of Gaza to collectively punish the citizens of Gaza for their having elected in Parliamentary elections in 2006 sufficient Hamas Parliamentarians that Hamas became the government of Gaza. The United States and other western countries have placed Hamas on the list of terrorist organizations.

The underground steel wall is intended to strengthen international governmental efforts to imprison and starve the people of Gaza into submission so they will throw out the Hamas government.

2009-12-21T160522Z_1241899875_GM1E5CM009Q01_RTRMADP_3_EGYPT-BORDER

A member of Hamas security forces stands guard near the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip December 21, 2009. Egyptian officials confirmed on Monday that Egypt is building an underground steel barrier next to its border with Gaza, where Palestinians have built tunnels to smuggle in goods to beat an Israeli blockade.                

REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Just as the steel walls of the US Army Corps of Engineers at the base of the levees of New Orleans were unable to contain Hurricane Katrina, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ underground steel walls that will attempt to build an underground cage of Gaza will not be able to contain the survival spirit of the people of Gaza.

America’s super technology will again be laughed at by the world, as young men dedicated to the survival of their people, will again outwit technology by digging deeper, and most likely penetrating the “impenetrable” in some novel, simple, low-tech way.

I have been to Gaza 3 times this year following the 22-day Israeli military attack on Gaza that killed 1,440, wounded 5,000, left 50,000 homeless and destroyed much of the infrastructure of Gaza. The disproportionate use of force and targeting of the civilian population by the Israeli military is considered by international law and human rights experts as as violations of the Geneva conventions.

When our governments participate in illegal actions, it is up to the citizens of the world to take action. On December 31, 2009, 1,400 international citizens from 42 countries will march in Gaza with 50,000 Gazans in the Gaza Freedom March to end the siege of Gaza. They will take back to their countries the stories of spirit and survival of the people of Gaza and will return home committed to force their governments to stop these inhuman actions against the people of Gaza.

Just as American smart bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq have not conquered the spirit of Aghans and Iraqis, America’s underground walls in Gaza will never conquer the courage of those who are fighting for the survival of their families.

One more time, the American government and the Obama administration has been an active participant in the continued inhumane treatment of the people of Gaza and should be held accountable, along with Israel and Egypt for violations of human rights of the people of Gaza.

Ann Wright is a retired US Army Reserve Colonel and a former U.S. diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in as a US diplomat in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

Her March 19, 2003 letter of resignation can be read at http://www.govexec.com/ dailyfed/0303/032103wright.htm.

http://intifada-palestine.com/2009/12/11/us-cutting-gaza-lifeline/

See 2.:21 min video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzhUcShtkSk&feature=player_embedded which accompanies this article.

11-53

When the Floodwaters Rose

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

floods

This past week, just prior to the Eid al Adha holidays, the Gulf regions of the Middle East saw exceptional rainfall that caused massive flooding, death and destruction. Nowhere was the rain more violent than in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Meteorologists have estimated that approximately 90 millimeters of rain fell in just under six hours.

The Red Sea port city of Jeddah was affected the most by the sudden and unexpected burst of showers. More than 100 people died, with that number expected to rise as the murky waters recede and possibly reveal more bodies beneath the mud. A lot went wrong on what is being touted as ‘The Wednesday Disaster’ and most of it could have been prevented.

Financial corruption, big business and living above the laws are just a few of the charges that angry Saudi Arabian citizens are leveling at their own government. However, the city of Jeddah is a low-lying area, which is prone to flooding. Questions are now being raised about whether or not the areas hardest hit should have been inhabited at all. New projects in the region have also come under scrutiny, such as the ‘Abdullah Bridge and Tunnel’, which was completely inundated by the floodwaters. The lack of drainage maintenance has also been an ongoing problem in Jeddah for more than three years as most drains and sewers are inoperable, clogged with debris.

Citizens had little to no warning about the impending rainfall and flooding. The majority of those who died were trapped inside cars or buses and drowned to death. Those who survived were left stranded for hours, as civil authorities did not have the appropriate equipment, skills or training to launch a massive search and rescue operation. The entire incident is reminiscent of the emergency services fiasco following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

By all calculations, Saudi Arabian security personnel may have been spread a bit too thin as the Kingdom hosted an estimated 3 million pilgrims during the recent Hajj season. The government put most of its energy and resources into ensuring that worshippers were safe while performing Islam’s most holy rituals. All measures were taken to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus with medical staff on alert around the clock. Security forces also had to keep a watchful eye as pilgrims tested out a new bridge meant to diversify traffic from congested areas to prevent stampedes, which have plagued past Hajj seasons. The clouds opening up and unleashing waves of fury upon unsuspecting residents took most everyone by surprise.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has ordered an all-inclusive investigation into the flooding disaster. The governor of Makkah, which includes the city of Jeddah, Prince Khalid bin Faisal will head up the inquiry. According to the state-run news agency, King Abdullah was quoted as saying, “We cannot overlook the errors and omissions that must be dealt with firmly.” King Abdullah has also stepped in to ease the suffering of the flood victims. He has ordered the Ministry of Housing to make available more than 2,000 apartments for flood victims whose homes were lost or damaged due to the flooding. King Abdullah has also earmarked more than $260,000 compensation for each flood victim’s family.

However, despite the Saudi government’s attempts to make things right, public sentiment is still turning sour. Since public protests are banned in the Kingdom, disgruntled citizens have taken their complaints to the Internet. The social-networking media mogul, Facebook, has been the heir apparent for the Saudi Arabian people and their supporters to vent some good old-fashioned anger. The most popular page on Facebook is the ‘Popular Campaign to Save the City of Jeddah’. Within in only days of the page’s creation, more than 11,000 users joined and an estimated 22,000 comments were written. One of the cyber protestors wrote, “We’ve been talking about this issue for years. Everybody knew this disaster was coming. There’s only one reason: it’s corruption.”

11-50

Successful CAIR Banquet/Fundraiser

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

cair_logo-california
In the current atmosphere of Islamophobia – an Islamophobia that has reached epidemic proportions -organizations that educate about Islam and work tirelessly for the civil rights of Muslims, play a crucial role in American life. One such organization is the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Greater Los Angeles CAIR held a highly successful banquet/fundraiser in Anaheim as two thousand people gathered to help this Muslim advocacy group celebrate its 13th annual event. Nearly half a million dollars – CAIR’s goal – was raised during the evening to support CAIR in its essential work.

State Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) gave the opening remarks. He encouraged Muslims to become active on the political scene.

Los Angeles County Sheriff, Lee Baca, thanked the Muslim community for its prayers on behalf of the victims of the Fort Hood tragedy. Representatives from government at the local, state and federal level were also in attendance.

Twin keynote addresses by CAIR National Chair Larry Shaw and former Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) were warmly received by the audience.

Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of Greater Los Angeles CAIR, spoke on the need for Muslims to become engaged in public life.

“Today our work is not about merely protecting your right to work, travel, and worship, although this is still a critical part of our mission. It is to a great extent, about carving our place in society, ensuring our seat at the table, even if a tiny minority wants us out.”

The attendees saw a film detailing the work of CAIR with particular emphasis on CAIR’s work with youth.

During the evening three awards were given out. The 2009 Courage in Media Award was presented to David Eggers, the author of “Zeitoun”, a non fiction account of Muslim American Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina struck and his subsequent jailing and humiliation.

The 2009 Bridge Builder Award was presented to Kathy and Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a couple whose story was presented in the above referenced work “Zeitoun.”

The 2009 Excellence in Leadership Award was presented to Atif Moon, a resident of Ranch Palos Verde. His physical limitations have not prevented him from serving his community and being an inspiration to young Muslims.

CAIR was founded in 1994 to work on behalf of the civil rights of Muslims and to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America.

The Greater Los Angeles area CAIR may be accessed on the Internet at: info@losangeles.cair.com.

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School Districts struggling to pay for needs of uprooted kids

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

TIDAL WAVE OF HOMELESS STUDENTS HITS SCHOOLS

By Karl Huus, MSNBC

OXNARD, Calif. – Nine-year-old Daniel Valdez is absorbed in “The Swiss Family Robinson,” the fictional story of a family shipwrecked on a tropical island. In real life, he and his family also are marooned, but there is little romance in their tale of survival in this seaside town northwest of Los Angeles. Daniel, his mother and five brothers, ages 1 to 17, live in a garage without heat or running water in a modest, low-lying neighborhood that sits between celebrity-owned mansions in the hills and the Pacific Ocean. Each morning, they arise at 6:30, get dressed and then leave quietly; they return only after dark — a routine born out of the fear that detection could mean the loss of even this humble dwelling. Daniel and his brothers have been sleeping in the garage for more than a year — members of what school officials and youth advocates say is a rapidly growing legion of homeless youth. While the problem may be worse in economically stricken regions like Southern California, where foreclosures and job losses are taking a harsh toll on families, anecdotal evidence suggests it is a growing issue nationally and one with serious ramifications for both a future generation and the overburdened public school system.

Research shows that the turmoil of homelessness often hinders children’s ability to socialize and learn. Many are plagued by hunger, exhaustion, abuse and insecurity. They have a hard time performing at grade level and are about 50 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. “Homeless children are confronted daily by extremely stressful and traumatic experiences that have profound effects on their cognitive development and ability to learn,” said Ellen Bassuk, a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor and president of the nonprofit National Center on Family Homelessness. “They tend to have high rates of developmental delays, learning difficulties and emotional problems as a product of precarious living situations and extreme poverty.” Mary Aguilar, Daniel’s mother, said she believes the family’s tenuous existence is largely responsible for her son’s struggles with his third-grade lessons.

“He’s depressed a lot,” she said of Daniel, whom she says has been the most affected of her sons by the loss of their home. “He does his work for class, but very slowly, like he’s thinking. He worries a lot about living like this.” Under federal law, schools are charged with keeping homeless students like Daniel from falling behind their peers academically. This can mean providing a wide range of services, including transportation, free lunches, immunizations and referrals to family services.. But with insufficient federal funding and budgets that are severely strained, many schools are struggling to meet the rising need. In Vista, Calif., about 35 miles north of San Diego, the population of homeless kids in the local school district reached 2,542 this year — about 9 percent of the student body and nearly 10 times the number just two years ago, said Rebecca Benner, the district’s homeless liaison.

“It’s like a tidal wave this school year,” she said. Benner’s role as homeless liaison — only part of her job providing student services — is now full time, as she scrambles to register homeless students for free lunches, arrange for transportation, provide P.E. uniforms, line up counseling and cover SAT fees. “It was supposed to be one small piece of my day,” she said. “… Now it’s almost insurmountable to get to the bottom of the phone messages.” Hard-to-get numbers – The number of homeless people in the U.S. is the subject of much debate and disagreement. An annual one-night count, performed by social service organizations and volunteers who then report to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, attempts to tally the number of people living on the street, in cars or makeshift tents and in emergency shelters.

The most recent survey — conducted in January 2008, before the full brunt of the recession hit — tallied 759,101 homeless Americans. Roughly 40 percent of them — or about 300,000 — were families with minor children, according to the survey. Advocates for the homeless say a more reliable picture of what is taking place comes through a separate count conducted in public schools, in which the definition of “homeless” is broader. Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, “homeless” includes not just children who live on the streets, but “any individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” In addition to those living in shelters or cars or sleeping on the street, that figure includes children whose families are doubled up with other families or living in trailers due to economic hardship, those who live in substandard housing and kids awaiting foster care placement.

In 2007-2008 — the last school year for which data is available — the nation’s 14,000 public school districts counted more than 780,000 homeless students, a 15 percent increase from the previous year. “I think that was the beginning of seeing the foreclosure crisis impact,” said Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. In a voluntary survey late last year by the association and another nonprofit, First Focus, 330 school districts reported that the number of homeless students appears to be far higher, said Duffield, co-author of a report on the survey published in December. She estimated that the number of homeless students is now close to 1 million — exceeding numbers in the period right after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“It’s this year, 2008-2009, that the rug was pulled out from under many school districts,” she said. Stimulus package to boost funding – Federal funding for schools to provide services fo r homeless kids is allocated through McKinney-Vento, a 1987 law that was bolstered by the No Child Left Behind legislation of 2002. “Under McKinney-Vento, every district is required to have a liaison with the responsibility to identify homeless kids,” said Duffield. In addition to the staff, the school districts are responsible for providing a number of services, which can include everything from meals and clothing to athletic uniforms and educational field trips. One of the biggest costs in serving homeless kids is providing transportation to and from school, required even if the kids move out of the immediate area, she said.

The law included funding, but school districts must apply for grants to tap into it. Duffield estimated that only about 6 percent of the nation’s school districts received money through McKinney-Vento last year, though many more applied. This year, schools were slated to receive $64 million to aid homeless students under the act. The newly passed federal stimulus package will add $70 million more in funding. That will be a big help, Duffield said, while maintaining that the program “was woefully underfunded” even before the economic crisis pushed more people over the brink. Duffield is now combing through the rest of the $787 billion economic stimulus package to see if funding in other categories might be used to help homeless students.

For instance, the stimulus package includes $79 billion for a “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” — about 80 percent of which is earmarked for K-12 education and is intended to offset state cuts in education funding. The stimulus also adds $13 billion for Title I, the biggest federally funded education program, for schools that have large concentrations of needy students. Under some interpretations, these funds cannot be used to pay for transportation or liaisons for homeless students. “(But) if the district identifies transportation, liaisons, social workers, gas cards, backpacks or shoes, they ought to be able to use their funds for that, because those are literally some of the needs,” Duffield said. “We’re looking for flexibility.”

Responses to the survey of school districts illustrate the variety of challenges that come with providing for homeless kids. The Wisconsin Rapids Public School District, which serves 5,700 students in the state’s rural heart, counted 160 homeless students, a 50 percent increase over two years ago.

“One of the biggest challenges is transportation,” Heather Lisitza, the school district’s homeless liaison, was quoted as saying in the report. “Our city has only one taxi cab service and no public bus system. Another challenge (is)… we … have long, cold winters, all students need proper outerwear to go outside — snow boots, hat, mittens, snow pants and a winter jacket that has a working zipper or buttons on it. This expense adds up quickly and it is hard to provide to the increasing number of homeless students.”

More families pushed over the edge – School districts also say they are seeing more students from middle-class, working-class and working-poor families being pushed into homelessness. Among them are Martin and Luz de la Rosa, who arrived one recent afternoon at the Ventura County (Calif.) Community Action Center, a facility that primarily serves chronically homeless men, for an appointment with a social worker. The de la Rosas explained that they were seeking government assistance for the first time because they and their eight children — ages 3 to 16 — were just days from being evicted from their apartment. Clutching a Bible, Luz de la Rosa said she lost her job at a small jewelry store as the recession kicked in. Then in November, her husband was laid off from the small Oxnard machine shop where he had been earning $19 an hour.
Martin said that left him with two untenable choices — continuing to collect unemployment benefits of $1,600 a month or taking a job at minimum wage, neither of which would cover rent for a home big enough for his family. The de la Rosas said they wouldn’t mind moving into a two-bedroom apartment, which is all they can afford here, but landlords won’t allow that many occupants. Social worker Delores Suarez said she would like to place them somewhere together, but at the moment, there is simply not enough emergency housing available. “They are probably going to end up split up among relatives” and attending different schools, she said. Other homeless parents said that some schools are either unaware of their obligations to help or aren’t eager to provide the required services because of budget constraints.

Next in Suarez’s appointment book was a 35-year-old woman named Sylvia, who declined to provide her last name. She said that after a divorce three years ago, she lost her home to foreclosure and then couldn’t keep up with rent when she was laid off from her job at a car parts factory. She and her three kids then moved in with a friend. “When the school found out we had moved (away from the neighborhood) … they wanted to remove the kids from school,” she said. Only after she met with district officials were they allowed to continue to attend, she said. Identifying the homeless – Compounding the problem of getting school districts to live up to their responsibilities is the fact that many homeless families are unwilling to acknowledge their living situation and therefore don’t receive services that could help them, said Susan Eberhart, principal of the Sheridan Way Elementary School in Ventura.

“People have to identify themselves as homeless (in order to get help), but that frequently doesn’t happen,” she said. “When the school found out we had moved (away from the neighborhood) … they wanted to remove the kids from school,” she said. Only after she met with district officials were they allowed to continue to attend, she said. Eberhart said she and her staff are accustomed to kids who are struggling at home — nearly all of the school’s 514 K-5 students are poor enough to qualify for free breakfast and20lunch. Although 86 of them were identified as homeless in the last survey, she guesses that, based on telltale signs, at least 100 meet the criteria.

“They have no place to keep stuff, so their backpacks are very full. Their clothes are not clean. They haven’t had a haircut, haven’t seen a dentist,” she said. “… Maybe a kid has asthma and is out of meds.” Eberhart said she is swamped by the scope of the problem. She no longer has the assistance of a county social worker who used to handle much of the load — a budget cut caused the county to eliminate that resource. Now she is urging people to ask for help — and prodding community organizations to help fill the gaps as she identifies them. “Some families are sort of floating, she said. “If we can get them to land, we can provide … continuity.” While the stigma of homelessness prevents some from acknowledging their plight, others have more immediate concerns, said Beth McCullough, homeless liaison for the Adrian Public Schools in economically battered southeast Michigan.

Families with children living in emergency shelters, pop-up campers, cars and tents can be charged with neglect by Child Protective Services workers, and there have been instances where parents have lost custody, she said. Fearing the loss of their kids, she said, “parents call in and say their kid won’t be in school because they are going to Disneyland for a week, when the fact is that (they) don’t have a way to get them to school. Or20parents will tell kids to lie about where they live.” Homework in pandemonium – For Mary Aguilar, the Oxnard woman living with her kids in the garage — which she rents for $150 a month from a cousin — the assistance her kids might receive at school is not worth the risk that other children will ridicule them if their living arrangement becomes known..

So she tries to help them stay on track, though it’s a daily struggle. Daniel recently missed several days of school because of yet another cold — a common ailment, his mother said, because the garage has been especially cold this winter. Normally she walks three of her sons to their elementary school, but some days heavy rains have kept them home. For now, the family has few prospects for better housing. The family became homeless after Aguilar’s boyfriend, father to the two youngest boys, left about a year and a half ago, and Aguilar could not pay rent. When an opportunity came to sign up for emergency housing five months ago, she lined up at the courthouse before dawn. For that, she got her name on a waiting list of about two years.

She has applied for jobs in stores and fast-food restaurants and come up empty-handed. She is exploring a work rehab program offered by the state. Meantime, the family gets by on about $1,300 a month in food stamps and cash aid — but no child support from the boys’ fathers. For now, the routine remains the same. After school, Aguilar and the six boys go to her20mother’s apartment, where her brother and sister also live. Aguilar’s family can’t stay overnight — that would put the others at risk of eviction — but it is a place to eat and for the boys to study.

But Daniel’s 11-year-old brother, Isaac, said he’s sometimes too distracted by the pandemonium of 10 people and the television to do his homework. “Then he tries to do it when we get back to the garage, but the light keeps everyone awake,” said Aguilar. Isaac has fallen behind a grade, and Aguilar’s eldest son, 17-year-old Joshua, is attending a remedial program for drop-outs. Aguilar is pleased that Daniel has so far been able to keep up with his grade level. Unaware of the tough odds he faces, Daniel says he plans to finish high school. Like other boys his age, he still has big dreams — of becoming a basketball star and working at something important someday. But first and foremost, he dreams of “a very beautiful house … with a room of my own.” The walls would be decorated, he said, “with posters, and pictures that I have drawn, and tests that I did in school.”

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Baitulmaal Fundraiser

April 10, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz , MMNS

The deteriorating conditions in Gaza – often described as the world’s largest outdoor prison– have shocked and outraged just and humane people throughout the world. With the attention of the world focused on Gaza, another organization has stepped forward to bring aid and alleviate the suffering there.

A banquet and fundraiser sponsored by Baitulmaal was held in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Garden Grove, Ca. this past Saturday night.

Titled: “Light A Candle for Gaza,” the well attended event raised more than $85,000 for the beleaguered people of Gaza who lack even the basics of life as they endure deprivation under the boot of the Israeli oppressors.

The event featured as keynote speaker Dr. Hatem Bazien of the University of California in Berkeley. A native Palestinian, he is currently an adjunct professor at Boalt Hall School of Law and a senior lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies there.

Afzar Noradeen was Master of Ceremonies for the event. Beginning with a reading of the Qu’ran by Moheb Daha, the evening also featured Hasan Mahmoud, an Imam from Jenin, Sheikh Mostafa Kamel and Osama Abuirshaid.

The audience listened intently as they were reminded of the ummah they were a part of. Quoting from the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), the speakers told the attendees that they were part of one body and – using an analogy of the human body – when one part of the body was in pain, the entire body was impacted.

“You do not look down on a fellow Muslim, and you do not let him down.”

Brother Abuirshaid told of individuals in Gaza and their suffering – of a pregnant mother of three who lost both legs in an Israeli bombing. Who, he asked rhetorically, will care for her children? He spoke of young children who live out of trash receptacles. He told of a 19 year old girl dying of kidney failure – a disease which could be controlled with medication easily available in the West.

Brother Abuirshaid spoke of individual Gazans and their suffering, giving them names as he did so. The audience gasped as these people became more than statistics.

“I feel as if I know them and suffer with them.” said one young woman in the audience.

Baitulmaal is an organization which strives to aid the poor, the sick and the helpless. Headquartered in Texas, Baitulmaal is a (501)(c)(3) charity. Members work toward preventing disease, improving the educational infrastructure and encourage hygiene in troubled areas of the world. Baitulmaal will be found wherever communities are in danger of dissolution and ruin; they serve communities racked both by war and by natural disaster. Baitulmaal has worked in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and in the United State where, to cite one example, the organization came to the aid of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A recent feature story in The Dallas Morning News in Baitulmaal’s home state described Baitulmaal and its alliance with a Christian organization. Sheikh Hasan Hajmohammad is the co-founder and now a senior consultant of Baitulmaal. Eric Williams is the CEO of a company that produces a religious talk show. They are working together in places far and wide.

Mindful of criticism from the non-Muslim community that might attend cooperation with Baitulmaal, Mr. Williams said: “With the heightened tension today between Muslims and Christians, I really wanted to…help solve the gap.”

From building a hospital in Jenin; to the rescue of earthquake victims in Pakistan; to providing blankets in the aftermath of a fire in Texas, Baitulmaal serves humanity.

To learn more about Baitulmaal, please access their web site at: www.baitulmaal.org. Or they may be accessed by postal service at: Post Office Box 166911, Irving, Texas, 75016. The telephone number of Baitulmaal is: (972) 257-2564.

10-16

Cricket Tour / Contest for DeLay’s Seat / Houston Local Cricket

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Never Forget the South Asian Quake, Says Pakistan Cricket Team

Islamic Relief Volunteers from the US, UK and Pakistan were already operating on the Azad Kashmir Line of Control when the huge earthquake struck the South Asian Region at 8:50 am Pakistan time, on October 8, 2005.
Many volunteers lost loved ones in the catastrophe, which was twenty times more damaging than Hurricane Katrina which had hit New Orleans just before, on August 25, 2005.
Former captains of the Pakistan Cricket Team, Rashid Latif and Moin Khan and record-holder, first-class c cricketer and coach Haris Ahmed Khan, joined hands with Islamic Relief and went deep into the Neelum Valley to work with their own bare hands to assist those in the region who have lost almost everything.
After what they saw, they determined it would take years to build the lives of the devastated people. Having witnessed many heart-wrenching and dreadful stories of poor people of the region, these three celebrities of Pakistan Cricket came for a long and tiring fundraising effort in North America, which took them to California, Illinois, Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Ontario Canada.
During their stay in Texas, they came to Dallas and Houston. In Dallas, they raised more than $200,000, while in an unscheduled last-minute Houston event they were able to raise more than $15,000.
Rashid, Moin and Haris all said that these people may have lost everything and may even have lost their natural emotions or grief, but all of them have the rest of the world to assist them. Many people promised to help—most of those promises were fulfilled. For years to come, the need is so immense that even if we have given to them, we still need to go back to our wallets and pockets and keep giving for another five to eight years.
The cricketers praised the efforts of Islamic Relief and the disciplined manner in which they have taken up this huge task, with just 6% overhead.
For more information on this fundraising humanitarian trip, and for information on ongoing humanitarian projects, call Anwar Khan of Islamic Relief at 1-818-216-9723.

Mayor of Sugarland Wants to take Tom DeLay’s Seat

The popular mayor, David G. Wallace, of Sugarland Texas, wants to take the seat of Tom DeLay, whenever he will decide to vacate.
Toward this end, he is meeting several people in the communities in Texas and also planning to travel to New York and other places to raise funds.
Recently he met, at Lassani Restaurant, a bipartisan group representing Texas communities of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians.
He said that, having done his job to the best of his abilities at the local level, he now has aspirations to provide service to the people of America by being in the congress. He said although he is not well abreast about all foreign affairs issues, he is interacting with several communities to learn from them how they think about these problems of the world.
He said he is the advocate for low-interest rates to enhance the economy, and will work to build a better lifestyle for all Americans and to build fruitful measures for small businesses.

New Houston Pakistan/India Cricket Win-Loss Record: Tied at 4 and 4!

It was 1998 when the first annual Pakistan v. India Houston Players Cricket Match was played. Ever since then, every April third, these two traditional teams play against each other in a most disciplined, high-class and friendly manner.
The game has been played without a hitch except one year when it was cancelled for rain. Of the remaining years, the win-loss record is as follows: Pakistan has won four times and India three times; this year India won, making the record 4 and 4.
The match was played at the beautiful Harris County Tom-Bass Park. Pakistan scored 232, while India crossed the score when they had two wickets and few balls left to play.
Elegant left handed batsman Sushil made 115*, the first century of these traditional matches. Sushil was declared the Most Valuable Player of the Match. Majid of Pakistan was affirmed as the best bowler for his three quick wickets, which made the game even poised and most exciting at one stage. Captain Rafay of Pakistan for his 45 was given the best batsman award.
Those interested in playing cricket or wanting to know more about this game in Houston, please visit the website of the Houston Cricket League: http://www.houstoncricket. com/