Arab American Muslims, Christians–Relief to Haiti

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Arab Detroit, Ameera David

DEARBORN,Mich.–Just a day after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, the death toll was already estimated at over 1,000 people. Today, only a week later, that toll is thought to stand at 200,000—a number inclining with each passing hour.

Now, in the wake of such a disaster, a host of global organizations are contributing to relief. Joining those ranks are Arab American Muslims and Christians, who from a national to local level are stepping up to the plate and helping in unprecedented ways.

Immediately following the incident, Islamic charity Zakat mobilized as many as 50 volunteers to distribute high-need commodities. The charity, founded and directed by Khalid Demir, has pledged over $50,000 dollars in hygiene products, medical supplies, and hot cooked meals.

Demir himself just returned from a trip to Haiti in hopes of better facilitating the relief but was troubled by the amount of people who still hadn’t received any medical attention or food. “With severely overcrowded streets, there is chaos. These are people who haven’t eaten in over a week” he says.

Other Muslim organizations such as Helping Hands (based largely in Detroit) and Islamic Relief of USA have also dived in to help— both by sending in representatives to assess the calamity as well as by pledging over $1 million dollars in goods and services.

Helping Hands is currently negotiating the start of an efficient medical base clinic in Port-au-Prince. There, they will equip the center with sizeable medical provisions while also contracting quality physicians from the US and abroad into Haiti for treatment.

Umbrella organizations representing America’s Arab Christian population have also taken a stand in supporting the Haitian earthquake survivors.

Arab Melkite and Maronite Catholic Eparchies have opened special collections in their respective churches which will go directly to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), an organization with a $25 million commitment to relief.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), representative of America’s 300 plus Arabic Orthodox churches, will provide over $170,000 in relief.

Thus far, they have airlifted water purification equipment to accommodate 10,000 people as well as enough tents to lodge 500 families. Not to mention opening a campaign for donors to both finance and assemble “Hygiene Kits” complete with soap, towels, toothbrushes, and band aids.

Amal Morcos, IOCC Communications Director, is pleased to be afforded this opportunity to help. She says, “Faith based organizations play a very important role in humanitarian aid. They should uphold certain values in representing the religion and its followers— demonstrating that they care about all people regardless of their faith.”

Also showing compassion is the Michigan Food and Beverage Association, an umbrella organization which encompasses hundreds of Arab owned restaurants and stores in and around the metro-Detroit area.

The association, founded by Syrian American Edward Deeb, hopes to rally member businesses to contribute monetarily as well as with food products, with the goal of giving $2 million or more in aid.

“They don’t have enough food, enough water, or enough medical supplies. There are 1.5 million people, and they need our help” says Deeb.

While donations are surfacing mostly though large, pre-established organizations, there are also many individual Arab Americans finding creative ways to help.

Just this week, Lebanese American, Reem Sater, has initiated a fundraiser which will support Architecture for Humanity, an organization that works on reconstruction and the building of a sustainable infrastructure that can withstand earthquakes in the future.

Almost immediately after the earthquake hit, Sater thought of ways to activate the younger generation, “I didn’t see anyone from our age group organizing any relief efforts, and I felt like we had a responsibility just as anyone else to assist those in need.”

Taking place at a Ferndale lounge, each $20 donation made to the relief organization will include a drink of the person’s choice. The event promises to attract more than 200 guests and raise $5,000 in proceeds.

With recurring aftershock earthquakes and new problems developing, Haiti holds an uncertain future; however, while the true devastation remains to be seen, Arab Americans are stepping in, actively responding with open hearts and little hesitation.

12-4

Islamic Iphone Apps

December 27, 2009 by · 15 Comments 

By Jeremy Blaney, Michigan State University, UPIU.com

osx_prayertimes iquran ArabtallerPro2_2
Prayer times Iphone Qur`an Arabic language support

EAST LANSING, Mich., Nov. 11 (UPI) — If you want to read a verse from Qur`an, there’s an app for that. If you want to be reminded of the five daily prayers, there’s an app for that. And if you need to know what direction to face when it’s time to pray, there’s an app for that.

There’s a computer application for just about anything and some Muslims are taking full advantage of such technological innovations to practice their faith.

“I’ve downloaded a few of the Islamic applications for my iPod touch,” said Nada Zohdy, a senior at Michigan State University.

One application consolidates Islamic prayers into a central location that can, once downloaded, be accessed with or without wireless connectivity. It includes, for example, prayers that are said before entering or after leaving a mosque.

“These prayers aren’t mandatory,” said Zohdy, who refers to her iPod to recite prayers in her car before and after Friday prayers. “They’re like extra things that you can do. Because of the iPod touch, I was able to do things I wouldn’t typically do.”

Apple says developers have created more than 100,000 apps covering 20 categories for iPhone and iPod touch users in 77 countries. The query “Islam” or “Muslim” returns dozens of applications that vary in cost and purpose.

“I have the Qur`an application,” said Khasim Jafri, president of the Muslim Students Association at Michigan State University. “I use it more for reference, like if I’m trying to look up a certain verse or just want to read a short chapter.

“If you have downtime, maybe you should be doing something worthwhile. Now, something worthwhile is available at your fingertips.”

Other technologies are also helping Muslims follow the rituals of their religion. Mounzer Kassab, an associate professor in the department of neurology at Michigan State University, travels with a customizable clock that sounds when it is time to perform each of the five daily prayers that are obligatory in Islam.

“You put in the city code,” he said, “and it will automatically do the call to prayer, five times a day. It has solved a lot of problems while traveling.”

Followers of other religions have also discovered conveniences offered by technology. In May, the Roman Catholic Church launched Pope2You.net, a portal that provides access to several applications, including ones for Facebook and the iPhone and iPod touch.

“It’s a good communication tool, education tool, and evangelization tool,” said the Rev. Mark Inglot, a pastor in East Lansing, Mich. “The Internet has connected people in a way that they’ve never been connected before, and we’re embracing that technology.”

Inglot admitted, however, that the technological shift required some adjustments in attitudes. Inglot has a Catholic prayer application on his BlackBerry to help guide his recitation of the Divine Office, daily prayers that are obligatory for priests.

“My first thought was, ‘Does this take away from the sanctity?’” Inglot said. “Instead of holding this prayer, you’re holding your BlackBerry, but we just have to get used to it. And as we use technology for this purpose, we’re sanctifying that medium. It is another way that God can work in our lives.”

Zohdy shared Inglot’s initial unease about the medium delivering the religious message.

“When I read the Qur`an online,” she said, “it feels a little less genuine. It still is different from the experience of holding the Qur`an.”

Another potential problem with mixing technology and religion, Zohdy said, involves distractions.

“Maybe part of it has to do with the fact that when I’m on the computer, I’m doing several things at once,” she said. “If I’m reading the Qur`an online, I might not stay as easily focused as if I were holding the Qur`an in my hands.”

Some Muslims, however, see technological advancement as a threat to rituals. Kassab cited the holy month of Ramadan for one example. Muslims traditionally look for the new moon to verify that Ramadan has ended. But if clouds cover the moon, tradition dictates that Ramadan is not over and fasting must continue for an extra day.

“A lot of authorities are calling for astrological calculations, which are extremely accurate,” Kassab said. “But some don’t see a need for change. Some say they are going to follow tradition. You’re always going to find someone who is resistant to technology.”

11-53

Students Report on Islam in Unique Course

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Alexandra Carter, UPIU.com

img_3376_large_square geri zeldes

Left:  Students speak with Professor Geri Alumit Zeldes after the “Reporting on Islam” class at Michigan State University; Right:  Professor Zeldes distributes graded story revisions for the “Reporting on Islam” course.

Photos by Alexandra Carter

 

EAST LANSING, Mich., Dec. 11 (UPI) — A new course at Michigan State University teaches students how to deal with the complexities of reporting on Islam in a post-Sept. 11 world.

This semester, students wrote about holiday celebrations and about how Muslim students feel about American university life. They also analyzed news reports on Islam from around the world in the new, “Reporting on Islam” course at Michigan State University.

“[The course] definitely made me uncomfortable at times, but honestly, that is how I know it was worthwhile,” said Dan Redford, a student. “It helped me experience a part of the world and this country that I never had before.”

Students uploaded the stories they wrote and the photos they took to UPIU.com, a service of United Press International for university students. Professor Geri Alumit Zeldes said that she wanted the class to submit its stories to UPIU to “have an outlet, other than me, to share their stories.”

Of the 14 registered students in the course, half had at least one of their stories published online through UPIU. Student Andrew Norman’s story on Islamic punk music was featured in blog in The San Francisco Sentinel and Wall Street Journal.

Student Brian J. Bowe said that using Web tools such as Skype to talk to people in other countries helped “shrink the world,” an exciting aspect of the course.

“Those classroom interactions with people in places like Iraq, Iran and India enriched the experience for me,” Bowe said. “One of the problems in media portrayals of Islam is that we’re frequently talking about Muslims, but not to Muslims. Using technology, we were able to bridge cultures and have very profound dialogues.”

Students also talked to Muslims who live in Michigan as sources for some articles.

“I found our visit to [the Islamic Center of East Lansing] highly beneficial. I would have been timid about going there alone,” said student Jennifer Hoewe. “Since I was joined by my classmates and welcomed by those who attended the mosque, I felt comfortable enough to go again by myself later in the semester as part of an article I wrote.”

The new class comes as students across the United States are showing more interest in Islam and in academic topics affiliated with the faith. Three of the students in “Reporting on Islam” studied Arabic, two of them through the university’s Arabic department, which had roughly 150 students enrolled in classes this fall.

Several of the students in “Reporting on Islam” also are in the Muslim Studies specialization program, which was created by Professor Mohammed Ayoob after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The reporting course was just one of many offered this semester under this specialization, along with classes in arts and humanities, public affairs, religion, political science, anthropology and sociology.

“Reporting on Islam” is a good first step for many students to continue learning about the topic, said Zahkia Smith, a student.

“I think what’s most important coming out of this class is that the very best way to know how to report on Islam is to get involved and actually step into the Muslim community,” Smith said. “The class gives you the right tools. The completion of the class is the signal to dig further.”

“Reporting on Islam” is a pilot course offered jointly through Michigan State’s School of Journalism and its Muslim Studies program. It was started with a grant from the Social Science Research Council, a national non-profit group. In addition, the course is part of the Islam, Muslims, and Journalism Education program, a project on the Internet funded by the same grant that has a goal to generate accurate and balanced reporting.

Similar courses have been taught at other American university campuses, Zeldes said. For example, Marda Dunsky, instructor of Islamic World Studies at DePaul University, teaches the “Reporting the Arab and Muslim World” course.

11-53

SE Michigan, Vol. 9 Iss. 4

January 18, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

‘Eidul Ghadeer at Islamic House of Wisdom

Reported by independent reporter Amanda Khalil

Dearborn Heights–January 13–The Islamic House of Wisdom held its annual celebration of Eid Al Ghadeer on Saturday. It was a sizeable community event commemorating Prophet’s (s) praising Sayyidina Ali (kw).

‘Eidul Ghadeer is an event celebrated by Shi’a in connection with the hajj. According to their tradition, upon the completion of the Prophet Muhammad’s (s) final hajj he stopped in Ghadeer Khum whereupon he announced some core principles of Shi’a belief. .

Upon entering the IHW, aromas of delicious foods and the echo of chatter filled the room. Guests of the dinner enjoyed a scrumptious array of foods, drinks, and desserts. A recitation of the Qur`an permeated the guests’ ears for all to savor. It was an event that kindled the warmth of family and community togetherness.

There were lectures in Arabic and English on the importance of the hajj and the wisdom behind it. Hajj represents prayer, charity, education; submission to God’s will, total connection, and is a purifying process. They said hajj should be a deep spiritual revolution in a person’s mind, heart, and soul. Imam Elahi said, “the lesson one learns on the spiritual journey of hajj should be taken back to every corner of the world as a light and purity to all the nations.”

Imam Jowad spoke of the symbolism of the hajj, “Imagine waking up and seeing such a large number of people rising in the morning, almost as if they were rising from the graves in a sort of metaphorical symbolism for the resurrection, and a humbling experience as one sheds the possessions and comfort of the worldly life for a deeper connection and understanding.” He urged Muslims as they come back from hajj to remember the comforts of this life that they lost on hajj, and carry that appreciation of what they have been blessed with in their hearts. When they see someone without a bed, remember when they didn’t have a bed and feel compassion for humanity.

Imam Mohammed Elahi discussed the importance of togetherness and unity amongst all Muslims on the Hajj, “During the pilgrimage peoples of diverse nations and languages unite together in prayer, love, and brotherhood, which we should take an example from, lighting the way to unify the Sunni and Shi’a schools of thought in order to work together in peace and harmony for a common goal of understanding and communication.”

Carly Chirifi, a Muslim convert who attended the lectures commented on the evening saying, “It was a really welcoming atmosphere. It gave me a sense of togetherness, and the lectures really opened my mind about hajj on a spiritual level. It improved my faith, and I’d recommend all people regardless of their faith to attend events such as these to open one’s mind; and elevate their understanding of the humanity and unity we all share.“

Local ladies go formal

By Beena Inam Shamsi

Southfield–January 14–Muslim Women Up! has found a unique way of helping today’s young women. Sometimes you just need to get dressed to the nines.

Recently, MWU celebrated its second annual “all sisters ball” at Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in Southfield, Mich. Women of all ages came, dressed in their evening gowns. There were no men allowed.

“It gives the young girls the opportunity to dress up and meet with other Muslim girls,” said Mimo Debryn, a guest attending the ball and an advisor of the Youth of America of the Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills.

MWU is a non-profit social- and community-based organization. Its purpose is to welcome all Muslim women regardless of race, class, or culture. It is working hard to bridge community gaps and form a community of true sisterhood.

The event started at around 6 p.m. with Qur`an recitation and a speech on strengthening the `ummah, followed by games, dinner,, a fashion show and dancing. It was a picture-perfect evening.

The chairman of MWU and a mother, Khadijah Abdullah, said, “I have found huge segregation in the Muslim community. Girls don’t know other girls. We are losing a lot of girls because of it. Lack of knowledge is causing this segregation. Looking at my own daughter, I don’t want to see her lost.” She said she wants the girls to realize they are not alone and Islam is a way to help everyone.

Initiating Muslim events has increased Islamic knowledge and promoted personal religious growth.

“There is still culture segregation, where Indian goes to the Indian events, Pakistanis goes to their Pakistani events and Arabs goes to theirs. When you grow up here, you are growing within diversity. Muslim Women Up! is a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together,” Debryn said.

The chair of the youth council, Yasmeen Thomas was the inspiration behind the organization. She was confused between her Muslim and non-Muslim relatives. She couldn’t decide which path to choose and then she thought about organizing a platform for young women to come forward and have fun within the Islamic norms. “I thought I was the only one with the problems but there were other girls as well. It is a place to reach out to young sisters,” she said.

Abdullah said a cohesive community could be built by introducing girls to other girls. MWU has brought a positive change for the young girls. “Last year there were three races; 90 percent African American, 3 percent European and 7 percent Arabic. This time we have seven races,” Abdullah said.

MWU also offers a monthly spa day to bring together the sisters of all communities for a day of pampering said the publicity chair, Raina Thomas.

Every month, teens from ages 14-19, get together for a sleepover where they are provided with Muslimah counselors to create a safe place where they can talk out their issues and begin on a road to better communication, self-awareness, self-esteem and family relationships.

MWU’s meetings take place in once a month. Meeting are the last Saturday of the month from 3-5 pm starting February 24, 2007.

For more info or to join MWU call Khadijah at 313 205 8764.

CIOM meeting to discuss recent acts of vandalism

Dearborn–A meeting of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) was held last week, comprising about 25 local community leaders from the Sunni and Shi’a communities. The meeting was held in the wake of some very unfortunate acts of vandalism earlier, apparently by radical Sunnis against Shi’a two mosques and several other businesses. Prominent local imams including Imam Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America, Imam Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom, Imam El-Amin of the Detroit Unity Center, and Imam Mohammad Moosa of the Bloomfield Unity Center, among other prominent guests, were present.

The focus of the discussion was on promoting congenial relations between all of the different leaders, to maintain a good and friendly basis and not to be at odds with one another, so that cooperation and communication are facilitated at times of crisis when it is important for all communities to work together.

Another meeting is scheduled on February 5th at the Islamic American University.

Free Fibromyalgia Workshop

Press Release: Livonia–a local authority will be appearing at the Carl Sandburg Library for a free workshop on Wed., January 31, 2007 at 7 pm to “reveal the shocking truth behind what can be causing Fibromyalgia. This event is sponsored by the National Wellness Foundation, a non-profit organization.

To register fro the free workshop, call 248-426-0201 and leave a message.