BADC Chair Nazmul Hassan Receives PhD

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nazmul Hassan

The Bangladeshi American Democratic Caucus (BADC) Chairman Nazmul Hassan (Shahin) received a PhD degree in Industrial Engineering from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan on Saturday, December 10, 2011. Shahin’s Dissertation Topic was “A Collaborative Framework in Outbound Logistics for the US Automakers.” His advisor was Dr. Alper E. Murat.
In his research, Shahin presented an integrated collaboration framework for the outbound logistics operations of the US automakers. Shahin proposed three levels for the US automakers to form outbound logistics collaboration: operational, tactical, and strategic. He developed a capacitated multi-commodity multi-period minimum cost network flow (MCNF) model with frequency based shipments. He also developed and integrated new inventory, lost sales, and expedited shipments models into the MCNF model and then reformulated the baseline model through the novel linearization approaches for computational tractability.

Operational, tactical, and strategic collaboration adaptations are developed using the baseline model. Shahin conducted stylized experiments for sensitivity analysis and a case study based on two major US automotive OEMs (Ford and GM) to demonstrate the benefits of collaboration. The research results indicate that collaboration at all levels improves the delivery and cost performance of the Outbound Logistics Network Systems.

Through this research, Shahin showed that collaboration in the intra- and inter-OEM outbound logistics operations is a critical area that the US automakers need to pay attention and prioritize in their cost reduction initiatives. Through the horizontal collaboration in the outbound logistics operations, the US automakers can deliver finished vehicles to their customer at the optimum cost levels which cannot be achieved in isolation. The optimization of outbound logistics operations through consolidation and collaboration among OEMs has tremendous potential to contribute to the profitability by lowering the cost of transportation, in-house inventory, transportation time, and facility costs.

Shahin and his wife Farzana Ferdous, daughter Samin Hassan (9), and son Safaat Hassan (4) live in Belleville, Michigan. 

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All-Female Health Seminars for Minorities in Michigan

December 15, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Nargis Rahman, TMO

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The audience listens to the 2nd lecture in a series at the the women’s health seminar on breast and cervical cancer.     

Photo by Subha Hanif

Hamtramck, Michigan– Bangladeshi Americans for Social Empowerment, a non-profit group in Michigan, will host a health seminar in Hamtramck on osteoporosis in January for minority women.

Project Coordinator, Subha Hanif of Rochester Hills said, the seminars are a continuation of a project started in October for Bangladeshi women. Women from Hamtramck, Detroit, Warren and Sterling Heights in Michigan were invited.

Many of these women are uninsured or do not have a regular doctor, said Hanif, based on women who attended these seminars. The seminars are available to other minority women who may fall into the same categories. Hanif said, “It’s not helping in any way if people are not coming.”

Two seminars have been held in Hamtramck, at Jalalabad (above Aladdin Sweets & Café), which has the largest population of Bangladeshi Americans in Michigan, roughly three percent of the city’s total population.

Participant Razia Begum of Detroit said she liked the program. Everyone benefitted from the program by learning about free health care, she said.

Hanif, an undergraduate biology major at Oakland University, who is a Bangladeshi American said she understands the needs and limitations of women from this culture. Women are traditionally shy, “overshadowed” by men, and unlikely to ask important questions regarding their health.

The seminars are female-oriented, including the doctors, to form a comfortable no-men environment, said Hanif. “In a room where men are not allowed, women have embraced the freedom [to ask questions].”

Doctors from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine spoke at the seminars, which ranged from taking care of your health, to learning how to detect breast and pelvic cancer. Hanif translated in Bangla.

Begum said she looks forward to the next program. “I want to go in January to learn about tooth pain and bone problems.”

Participants can talk one-on-one with doctors after the seminars; something which Hanif said is not always available at free clinics that have limited time slots for patients.

Hanif’s passion to help others comes from her Muslim faith, parental encouragement, interest in public health, and community service. My parents allowed American assimilation, while retaining the Bangladeshi culture, she said. “We were only allowed to speak Bangla at home, which has motivated me to help Bangladeshis.”

She hopes minority women – who are insured or uninsured – bring their mothers, daughters and neighbors to bond and learn together. “The goal is to make women better agents in taking care of their health and the family’s,” said Hanif.

BASE provides laptops, handouts and materials for the program. Hanif’s dad, Abu Hanif, is on the board of directors.

Flyers will be passed out to businesses in Hamtramck before January’s program.

For more information, contact Subha Hanif by phone at 248-707-9521 or email shanif@oakland.edu .

Pictures: Subha Hanif

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Hydroelectric Dam Causes Ripples of Protests for Bangladesh

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

IMG_1367Protests, human-chains and rallies have emerged in Bangladeshi communities across the world this month against the building of the Tipaimukh Dam between India and Bangladesh. Bangladeshi environmentalists said the dam will affect agriculture, fishing industries, and 30 million people with possible river drying due its construction.

A joint venture was signed October 22 with India’s hydropower company National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, the Manipur state government, Manipur state enterprise Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. to continue the ongoing Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project that Indian officials said could provide electricity and help reduce flooding in Bangladesh.

A meeting was held earlier this month at the Kabob House in Hamtramck, Michigan, to discuss how Bangladeshi Americans can get involved in stopping the ongoing construction of 1,500 MW Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project by informing the US government of adverse effects in Bangladesh, and putting pressure on the Bangladeshi government to stop the project.

Professor of Finance at Eastern Michigan University Mahmud Rahman, said, India is as far as the eye can see, referring to Bangladesh’s geography. India surrounds Bangladesh on three sides. We have to approach the situation intelligently, by engaging, researching and enlisting help, he said. We need to “Unite in one voice…instead of taking separate initiatives,” in a way that “benefits both of us.”

The dam sits on India’s Barak River which becomes Bangladesh’s Surma and Kushiara Rivers. India is an upper riparian country, which has more say in how the shared bodies of water are used.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India would not support the Tipaimukh project if there was harm to Bangladesh, during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wadud’s visit to India last January. The same message was portrayed during Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September. And again to Bangladesh National Party leader Khaleda Zia, who sent a letter in November opposing the project.

Experts said politics play a role in the agreement to build the dam, while Bangladeshi people in and out of the country are against the measure. Rahman said Bangladeshi Americans need to persuade the Bangladeshi government: “There are people outside of politics, educated people…we live outside [of the country] but we look for opportunities to help Bangladesh.”

Imam Abdul Latif Azom of Masjid Al-Falah in Detroit said there are many ways to spread the word, using facts. “Do not talk without evidence…it’s like smoke which disappears.”

President of Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee, Ehsan Taqbeem said, focusing on the technical side can influence politics. “Let’s not be like Wall Street Occupy…there are steps after protests.” Let’s negotiate with India, he said.

Engineer and writer Saiful Islam of Michigan said people should talk openly. “We say we will work together but shy away from things dealing with India.” Immediate dangers should be discussed, he said.

Rahman said Bangladesh should engage in a multilateral resolution with India, by joining forces with other neighbors. “Economic power speaks.”

According to the SJVN company’s website the last roadblock in the project is approval for forest clearance near the site.

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All Muslim Cemetery to Open in Flint

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

Farmington–May 12–Any Muslim who enters a non-Muslim cemetery to visit a relative or friend is confronted with a difficult dilemma, that in order to approach the grave of his friend he must walk across the graves of other people, or must sit on the graves of other people–meanwhile there are ahadith that this is a terrible act.

Thus, we Muslims need a cemetery planned from the beginning around Islamic law, where in order to visit a friend or relative, or to pray jinaza for that person, it is not necessary to walk across or sit upon the graves of other people.

And so it is a welcome event that a new all-Muslim cemetery is launching in Flint.  Garden of Peace is a fledgling cemetery with so far approximately five people interred–the cemetery features Shari’ah compliant planning, competitive pricing, and maintenance and ownership all by Muslims.

Hossam Shukairy, Abed Khirfan, Muhammed Saleem, and Dr. Khalid Shukairy held a meeting this past weekend to introduce the cemetery to local imams. And in attendance were imams and other representatives from Detroit, Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills, and Flint.

The initial effort of the Garden of Peace meeting held this past weekend was to spread the word about the cemetery, and especially to introduce the idea of each local mosque buying plots of 25 to 50 gravesites to distribute to the people who attend that mosque. 

One person in attendance emphasized that “They offered any mosque who buys 50 plots at one time, will get the best deal.  50 or more.  And price, they didn’t want to haggle about price right now.”

Some in attendance at the meeting from Detroit expressed doubts about buying gravesites in Flint, hours away, when for $1,400 one can buy a site in Detroit.
The new cemetery is intended to build to “10.5 acres in 3 phases,” explained Dr. Shukairy, the head of the cemetery committee.  The three phases comprise growing from its present modest size of five graves to 2,500 graves in 10.5 acres, with more than adequate parking.

Dr. Shukairy explained that each grave will be aligned facing qibla, pointing to the Northeast. 

The graves will be covered with uniform stones parallel to the earth, with uniform markers perpendicular, to show names and dates of birth and death.  Not like the public cemeteries with all different kinds of stone markers.

People will be interred on their right sides with their heads toward the qibla, and the graves are designed to acommodate both Michigan law and Shari’ah, so that each person is enclosed in a concrete vault as required by Michigan law, but without a casket and in contact with dirt below and above as required by Islamic law.
According to Michigan law, Dr. Shukairy explained, bodies must “be transferred in a wooden casket… but at the [burial site] the vault is opened from the top, the body placed inside without a casket, and with dirt inside, and the vault is sealed from the top–More acceptable from Shari’ah,” explained Dr. Shukairy.

There will be adequate space in the cemetery for maneuvering the heavy machinery required for digging graves–without their needing to drive over occupied graves.

Dr. Shukairy explained “the other advantage is that a public cemetery is maintained by [non-Muslim] public cemetery management; when they are digging or cleaning, they might not respect our concerns about respecting gravesites.  People might step on graves or not know the direction of graves.”

A theme on which Dr. Shukairy’s focused was the issue whether it is acceptable in the presence of an all-Muslim cemetery for Muslims to continue to be buried at mixed cemeteries.  The “point is, when we have a purely Muslim cemetery, an Islamic cemetery, is it desirable or allowed to use non-Muslim cemeteries?”

The cemetery is “very very close” to the Flint Islamic Center [on Corunna, west of Flint], which is only 7 minutes away.

The cemetery directors have also made efforts to smooth the entire transition from life to death.

For example, Dr. Shukairy explained that “assuming someone in Flint dies in the hospital, a shaykh or scholar does the preparation of the body, a funeral home transfers the body to the Islamic center, there is a prayer over the deceased, and a funeral home takes the body to the cemetery to be buried, and according to Shari’ah guidance.”

Imams were present from the Detroit Muslim Unity Center, Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center, Muslim House in Flint, the MCA in Ann Arbor, and several others.

“It was a really good gathering, imams were present from Lansing, Ann Arbor, and so forth–we believe this is a good service in Michigan,” said Dr. Shukairy.

“We tried to invite mosques through the Islamic Shura Council of Michigan–we know we did not do a complete job–some imams probably were not invited and we will invite them later.  Spread the word,” he said.

Some issues regarding the cemetery are still in flux.  For example prices, and arrangements for individuals to buy pre-need. However, Dr. Shukairy emphasized that “I believe prices will be less than other public cemeteries or at least comparable, with the advantage of having been buried in a purely Islamic cemetery.”

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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A Terrorist by Any Other Name

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jon Pahl

(April 16, 2010) – When is a terrorist not considered a terrorist? When the US media identifies him or her as a “Christian”. And when is a terrorist group not considered a terrorist group? When the US media calls it an “anti-government militia”.

Exceptionalism is alive and well when it comes to reporting on violence in the name of religion, as evidenced in the recent case of the Michigan-based Hutaree, a group that the media has labeled a militia following recent FBI raids that uncovered stockpiles of illegal weapons, and a plot to kill law enforcement officers and “levy war” against the United States.

The leader of the group, 45-year-old David Brian Stone, pulled no punches about who he was, coining the term “Hutaree” which his website translates as “Christian warrior” for his group. His motto is the biblical passage John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The behavior of this group seems very similar to that of those termed terrorists by the media.

Yet Joshua Rhett Miller of Fox News described the Hutaree in a 29 March story as a “purportedly Christian-based militia group.” In a similar vein, Nick Bunkley and Charlie Savage of The New York Times identified Stone and the Hutaree somewhat apologetically as “apocalyptic Christian militants” in their 29 March report. This, despite the fact that the group not only stockpiled weapons and engaged in training identical to Al Qaeda’s modus operandi, but even planned improvised explosive devices based on those used by terrorists in Iraq.

In its “Times Topics” section, The New York Times positively contorts itself to avoid using the word “terrorist”. It describes the Hutaree as a “Michigan-based Christian militia group” and, mirroring the language of US Attorney General Eric Holder, as “anti-government extremists.”

Are we reserving the term “terrorist” only for Muslims these days? In coverage of stories like the thwarted plan to bomb synagogues in New York in May 2009 or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit, the mainstream media has no qualms about discussing “foiled terror plots.” Such a reservation stokes indiscriminate fear of Muslim “others”. It also constructs an implicit “us versus them” dualism between a broadly “Christian America” and an allegedly monolithic “Muslim world”, as American political scientist Samuel Huntington most notoriously opined in his “Clash of Civilisations” theory.

Religion is all too often seen as the root of terrorist violence, rather than as one of its most effective tools. As Scott Shane argued in the 4 April New York Times article “Dropping the word bomb”, we need a robust debate about what terms to use across cases. Journalists can help by practicing consistency, and by pointing out attempts to scapegoat one group and exempt another from the opprobrium associated with terms like “terrorist.”

Mainstream Christians like me cringe when a group like the Hutaree is identified as “Christian”. Perhaps this incident can help other Americans empathise with what close to 1.5 billion Muslims might have felt every time in the last few years they have heard the words “Muslim terrorists” or, far worse, “Islamic terrorists”.
A good rule to follow, for journalists and for all of us, might be to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves.

And that means calling a terrorist – of whatever background – exactly that.

Jon Pahl (jpahl@ltsp.edu) is Professor of History of Christianity in North America at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and author of Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence. This article first appeared in The Colorado Daily and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) www.commongroundnews.org

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Day of Goodness

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

P4178782 Southfield–April 21–Small fundraiser highlights up and coming local Muslim organizations, delivers goodness despite missing keynote speaker.

The Islamic Shura Council of Michigan’s “Day of Goodness” last Saturday night was deprived of its keynote speaker due to a problem with specialized visas. 

However, many prominent and active Muslims from local organizations still attended, perhaps showing more in quality than in quantity, with about 100 people present, but among those people perhaps 10 imams, and the leadership of the many organizations associated with the Islamic Shura Council of Michigan.

The event is essentially a fundraiser, and by the end of the evening it had earned approximately $75,000 towards its stated goal of $150,000.  The event was in a conference room at the Southfield Westin hotel on Town Center Drive.

ISCOM Chair Dr. Mouhib Ayas explained that intended keynote speaker Jamal Badawi’s visa did not permit him to speak at Not-for-profit fundraisers.  So Badawi was not able to speak despite his coming to Michigan from Canada, and despite his having given the khutbah at the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center earlier in the day.

ISCOM was established in 2005 as a non-profit umbrella organization with, according to the dayofgoodness website, “the mission of providing coordination between and building cohesiveness among the Islamic centers mosques, and organizations in Michigan.  The council works for the betterment of all Muslims, to advance Muslim interests, and to promote Islamic values.”

The chairman of the Board of Directors is Mouhib Ayas, and its Vice Chair is Arif Huskic.  Attorney Misbah Shahid is the Secretary, and several other prominent Southeast Michigan Muslims are also on the board–the executive assistant and first employee is Reheem Hanifa.

20 different mosques, comprising the majority of the major mosques in Southeast Michigan, including the biggest Shi’a mosque and most of the big Sunni mosques, are involved.

Dr. Ayas gave a long but interesting presentation with a slideshow demonstrating the accomplishments of ISCOM.  He pointed out the association of ISCOM with Gleaners Food Bank, and also showed the institutional progress the organization has made by hiring a grant writer to apply for available grants–this alone has netted thousands of dollars in projects and may likely bring more projects in the near future.  One project the grant writing process obtained was a $25,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield project.

One program he spoke about was the “Maintaining Houses of Allah” program, which is designed to address the disparity between the wealthy mosques and the mosques with less money that are sometimes dilapidated and run down for lack of funds.

In a moving presentation Dr. Ayas pointed to pictures, first of a wealthy mosque then of a more destitute mosque, saying “This is a house of Allah, and this is a house of Allah,” driving home the point that ISCOM is working to benefit Muslims who really need help in order to worship Allah in clean and nice mosques.

P4178785 Another ISCOM project is working with MSA’s, using them really as a lever to connect to non-Muslims in universities–”we need to start influencing minds when people are young.”  He explained the goal is to meet future leaders of this country early on, and Dr. Ayas gave examples of programs where non-Muslim students fasted (not during Ramadan) in order to understand the effects of fasting on Muslims.

Dr. Ayas explained also that in order for the institution to move forward, ISCOM needs to start hiring professional full-time people, and he gave the example of Mr. Reheem Hanifa who has begun working full-time for the organization.

Dr. Ayas also showed a fairly inspiring diagram which showed ISCOM as the hub of a wheel reaching about 15 different important Muslim organizations in Southeast Michigan, including Muslim Family Services, MSA’s, the Huda Clinic, Islamic schools, and more.

There was a presentation by a relatively new organization called Muslim Social Services, www.muslimsocialservices.com, whose mission is to extend the reach and value of social services to Muslims in Washtenaw County, Michigan. 

There was a strong fundraising effort by a young but dedicated medical student, Farhan Abdul Aziz.  He told a beautiful story of a Chinese Muslim who travelled to the United States and passed away knowing nobody, but who was able to be buried by Muslims because of the social service institutions that had been set up in the city in which she died, which drove home the vital importance of such institutions.

For more information about ISCOM, you can visit either www.islamicshuracouncil.com or www.dayofgoodness.com.  You can also contact Dr. Ayas at 248-705-9137.

12-17

New State Investigator Assigned to Luqman Case

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

It is very seldom that a case involving poor,  and what seems to be  unimportant people, can garner the amount of attention and interest as has the case of the murder of Imam Luqman Abdullah, the late imam of Masjid Al Haqq in Detroit, Michigan.  The chairman of the powerful Judiciary committee in the US House of Representatives, John Conyers,  the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing, numerous Michigan State Representatives like Bette Cook-Scott, and many civic and community groups like the NAACP and National Action Network are responding to the leadership of CAIR-MI director, Dawud Walid and Ron Scott, head of the Coalition Against Police Brutality.  As we reported earlier, this is the “murder that just won’t die”.

Now the Attorney General of Michigan, Mike Cox, who is trying to get support for a run for governor, has called for a special investigation of the case and has call in Doug Baker, a former Wayne County Prosecutor, to review whether the FBI acted appropriately in the shooting of Imam Abdullah who was shot a minimum of 21 times and then handcuffed as he lay dead on the ground.  The imam had a gunshot wound to the back also and it is speculated by many that he was shot in the back as he lay handcuffed on the ground.  That could only be the action of a demented person if it happened as speculated.  Of course the FBI will give no details.

Mr. Baker will investigate the FBI to see if any state laws were broken by Federal law officers which could potentially lead to serious charges such as murder.  Baker has often been described as a very tenacious prosecutor and has a number of high-profile cases under his belt.  He was the prosecutor who successfully tried the case of two Caucasian police officers accused of the brutal killing Malice Green in Detroit.   Community members watching the case are wondering if that same tenacity will be utilized in this case.

Other than his interest in becoming Michigan’s next governor, people are wondering why Republican Mike Cox is so interested in the case now.  It is well known that in the past he has shown his indifference to issues important to the community.  A case in point is the investigation of former Detroit mayor Kilpatrick involving an alleged party at the mayor’s residence where a stripper lady who was reported to have danced there was later found slain.

The official reason for the State of Michigan’s involvement is because the office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to investigate the case.  On the surface that looks bad for Ms. Worthy but actually it seems the justice Department, particularly the FBI, has been as close-mouthed with the prosecutor’s office as it has been with the rest of the community.   Prosecutor Worthy has said her office could not get any documents because they were classified.  According to her it would have been irresponsible to conduct an investigation without the pertinent information.

We know that sometimes events happen that we have no explanation for.  We know that ALLAH allowed this atrocity to happen – but ultimately for a good cause.  As the case continues to unfold, we look for the good that we know will be revealed to us.  And hopefully we will benefit from it.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

12-16

Tariq Ramadan, Keynote Speaker at SoundVision Fundraiser

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

Sunday–April 11–Tariq Ramadan is not what you probably expect. 

Tariq Ramadan

You might expect someone barred by the Bush administration to have an Arabic accent, to have an angry or at least emotional manner of public speaking, but the reality is Tariq Ramadan better fits the mold of a French intellectual than the typical Muslim populist.  In fact, from his nature it does not appear that he has any intentions towards seeking any political power, other than spiritual and intellectual power or accomplishments.

The subject of a six-year ban by the Bush administration, ended only recently by Secretary of State Clinton, speaks English and even Arabic with a French Swiss accent, and has the breezy intellectual worldly air of a French intellectual–he seems as though he has certainty about many things.  For example during his speech he interrupted emotional applause for one popular point that he had emphasized, saying “let me explain the rules,” instructing listeners not to clap during his speech (“not because it is a fatwa, although it is”) and then going on to say that the emotional reaction to his words may detract from what “we are trying to accomplish.”

Tariq Ramadan is called, by the reactionary right, an “Islamist” of Egyptian ancestry. (By Islamist do they mean someone who likes Islam? So is George Bush a Christianist?) In fact it may be his ancestry which scared the Bush administration more than any other fact about him.  His mother’s father was Hassan al-Banna, the Supreme Guide and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.  His father was Said Ramadan, who was also prominently involved in Ikhwan, and who married Hassan al-Banna’s daughter.  He was raised in Switzerland, where his famous parents sought refuge from Nasser’s Arab nationalist animosity to the Ikhwan. 

Ramadan is now 48 years old. He is no firebrand.  He was ranked by the British Prospect and American Foreign Policy magazines eightth in a list of the world’s top 100 contemporary intellectuals in 2008.  He has authored several books, focusing on the issue of Islam and the West.  He wears his intellectualism on his sleeve–on Sunday he said of his most recent book that he had made it very thin so that American journalists would actually read it, although he complained that they still do not.

Ramadan is in the book 500 Most Influential Muslims–2009, being listed in the Scholars section.  He is even an honorable mention for the top 50 listings in the book. 

His entry in the book is as follows: 

Ramadan is Europe’s preeminent Muslim intellectual writing about Islam in public life. He is a professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University and formerly a visiting professor at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He has a weekly television show, ‘Islam and Life’, on Press TV, and is an advisor to the European Union on religion. He has written 15 books and produced over 100 recordings.

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Ramadan did not in his SoundVision speech show real leanings either toward extremist Islamic views nor even towards the strong organization-based approach to Islam of Ikhwan.  Rather he focused on his theme of building consciousness of God through spiritual endeavor, a consciousness of God which would empower one to seek his or her rights when those rights are denied by people (he emphasized Western anti-Muslim people) who overreach their authority in working to the detriment of Muslims.

Ramadan certainly understands the West better than his grandfather did (whose entire reaction to the West came from an unpleasant encounter with a drunk European), and to casual observation it is clear that the younger Ramadan has imbibed its values more than even he probably realizes.

He remains, despite being a European intellectual, a Muslim intellectual as well.  He thinks and speaks and writes about living Islam in a real context.  He thinks about what God says that He wants from us in His Holy Book, and Ramadan endeavors to accomplish that.

Soundvision

Soundvision’s event was, even aside from its invitation of such a memorable figure, very impressive.  The event filled the Burton Hall banquet facility nearly to capacity, with approximately 600 guests in attendance.

There was a description of the difficulties and opportunities that lie before SoundVision and then a fundraiser which appeared to gross approximately $150,000 in about 20 minutes.  There was a dinner and appetizers.

Many prominent Muslms from Southeast Michigan were in attendance, among them CAIR Michigan’s executive director Dawud Walid, Ghalib Begg of CIOM, recently selected by the Detroit News as one of a handful of “Michiganians of the Year,” and many prominent Michigan imams.

Dawud Walid spoke on the importance of SoundVision to his own family, citing the books and videos he has bought for his own children from SoundVision.

There was a brief video by SoundVision, emphasizing the Adam’s World show, with a “One Big Family” soundtrack.

Janaan Hashim, a SoundVision director, spoke at length about SoundVision and its strategic goals–and perhaps her speech did the most to reveal the terrible importance of SoundVision’s work.

Ms. Hashim is an attorney, journalist and teacher, as well as a mother.

The theme for SoundVision’s future was plastered throughout the fundraiser event, “Helping Tomorrow’s Muslims today.”  Ms. Hashim emphasized this meant helping them now.

She showed the terrible current state of Muslim youths by showing a chart of anger among youths aged 18-29 by religion, which showed anger among Muslim youths at 26%, which was almost double the rate for Protestants and Mormons (14% each).

She showed statistics that 75% of American Muslims felt that they had been discriminated against or had witnessed discimination, 12% of Muslim students in New York public schools felt doubt about Islam.  7% of Muslims had been assaulted.

95% of Muslim youths, she said, are in normal public schools, and do not attend Juma’a prayers.  Less than 5% of Muslim youths go to Muslim schools.

Where do the children spend their time? On average, they spend 53 hours per week online, 7 hours and 38 minutes per day.

Hashim quickly demonstrated the overwhelmingly negative nature of the information about Islam–much of it provided directly by people who hate Islam and Muslims, like Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes.

Hashim pointed out that many Muslim youths respond to these many overwhelming pressures by changing their names, possibly even changing religions, or at least by caving in to such pressures as drinking alcohol or joining gangs.  She cited a statistic that 47% of Muslim college students report having drunk alcohol, and about 10% report binge drinking.

“We must rethink things for kids,” she said.  “We must reallocate our resources.”

Therefore Muslims need to create a powerful online alternative to these hate sites that assault the minds of our children with their ignorance and negative stereotypes of Islam.

SoundVision  came up with a thorough plan to address these challenges after one year of research.  This is their strategic plan:  1) they plan 1,000 pieces of new content in the next 12 months; 2) they plan to emphasize new media for ipods, pda’s, iphones, etc.; 3) they plan mega-websites, age specific, and their model is the Disney websites (they intend good sites competitive with Disney); 4) they plan to make it all free (because they need to connect to the 95% who are slipping through the cracks); 5) Weekend 2.0–a web-based Islamic School 2.0 with lesson plans for existing schools, teaching basic Islam; 6) Networking among stake holders–creative arts hubs to allow youngsters to engage in creative activities; 7) Crucial Concepts (to teach skills, values, pluralism, response to objections, citizenship training, and career and marital counseling).

Ms. Hashim explained that much of this work has already been completed:  SoundVision has enlisted the help of 270 artists, scholars, 18 editors.

SoundVision’s website is ranked a very respectable 100,000 on Alexa’s ranking system (The Muslim Observer has risen to about 335,000 over several years of assiduous work).

SoundVision pioneered Adam’s World, the Al-Qari software, Islamic songs, and a Muslim radio program (which in fact is hosted by Ms. Hashim).

She emphasized that SoundVision is at the cutting edge, and that its software has attracted attention for its very high quality and for its advanced technical competence.

In fact SoundVision has pointed out a potential disaster that faces the American Muslim community, but has also stepped forward to face our problems.

12-16

Houstonian Corner (V12-I16)

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Census 2010

 

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Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia Hosted Media Round-table to Encourage the Community Participation in Census 2010: Very Crucial For the Enhancement of Local Resources & Living Standards…

Avoid the knock on your Door: You can still do it by April 16th, 2010: Sheriff Garcia

“We have a challenge. I and my department are ready for it to go out; block walk, attend different community events; and encourage the diverse communities residing in Harris County, Texas to fill out the simple, but most crucial Census 2010 Ten Questionnaire Form. If people mail in this form by Friday, April 16th, 2010, the forms can still be with the Census Department by the final deadline of April 19th, 2010. Two weeks after that, people can start to expect knock at their doors by enumerators.”

These were the sentiments of Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, as he met in his new office building located at 1200 Baker Street, with the members of local South Asian media and community persons, amidst Census Reports that by April 12th, 2010, 60% of Harris County population has responded to the Census 2010 (67% in Year 2000), as compared to 66% national response rate up till now in Census 2010 (72% in Year 2000).

In Census 2010 Data for the State of Texas, the response rate is 61%, while this rate in the Year 2000 was 68% and in the same Year 2000, the national response rate was 72%. As such less percent of the population is responding to Census Questionnaire up till now, which is the challenge Sheriff Garcia had mentioned. Five top States at present include Wisconsin 77%, Minnesota 75%, Iowa 74%, Michigan 72%, & Nebraska 72%.

Present at the Harris County Sheriff Round-Table were of course Sheriff Adrian Garcia; Alan Bernstein, Executive Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Christina Garza, Media Relations Manager, Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Bala Balachandran of the City of Houston Planning Department; Mustafa Tameez, President of Outreach Strategists, LLC (a certified 8(a), M/DBE, SBE company); and Huma Ahmed, Director of Program Development and General Counsel Outreach, Strategists, LLC. Prominent community members including Shaukat Zakaria, A. J. Durrani, Sajjad Burki, & Hasu Patel; and media persons like Tariq Khan, Jameel Siddiqui, Shamim Syed, Koshi Thomas, Haider Kazim, & ILyas Choudry, were in attendance as well.

“It will cost everyone as tax payers, if more populations’ doors have to be knocked. It has been estimated, that if 100% of the households in USA mail back their census forms by April 16th, 2010, taxpayers would save 1.50 BILLION Dollars, a huge amount in these economics times. Let’s all do our part in the Asian Community and mail back our forms,” added Mustafa Tameez of Outreach Strategists, who is liaison with the Harris County Sherriff Department for the South-Asian Community (he can be reached at 713-247-9600 or E-Mail: MITameez@OutreachStrategists.Com)

The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States. The Census informs critical decisions, from congressional representation to the allocation of more than $400 billion annually in federal funds, and helps governments make decisions about what community services to provide. South Asians have been undercounted in Census reports in the past. Sheriff said many individuals don’t respond because they are afraid to share confidential information.

“It is very important that everyone understands that the information collected is protected by law. The Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including the IRS, FBI, CIA or any other government agency,” stated Sheriff Garcia, so as to help ease confidentiality concerns surrounding the 2010 Census among some members of that community.

“Even provisions of Patriot Act cannot be used to get information from Census Data,” informed Mustafa Tameez.

All Census Bureau employees take the oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. The 2010 Census form is one of the shortest in U.S. history, consisting only of 10 questions and taking about 10 minutes to complete.

The Census 2010 matters extremely to our community, in that every year, the federal government distributes more than $400 billion to state, local and tribal governments based on census data. These funds:

• Help leaders determine where to build new schools, roads, health care facilities, child care and senior centers and more;
• Help fund important community programs important to the South Asian population; and
• Assist with planning for education, housing, health and other programs that reflect diversity in the community.

The census is a count of everyone in the United States. Everyone must be counted. This includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens and noncitizens.

Households should complete and mail back their forms as soon as you receive it. Starting in May, Census workers will visit households that do not return forms to take a count in person.

A complete count is extremely important to the South Asian Community. Take the time to fill out the form and send it back. Just 10 minutes. 10 questions. We’re All Counting on You!

For more information about the 2010 Census visit www.2010.census.gov or call 1-800-923-8282.

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Stories of Friendship & Faith: The Wisdom of Women Creating Alliances for Peace

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

opening hearts, opening minds, opening doors

By Brenda Naomi Rosenberg

WisdomWomen_PROMOcover In Metro Detroit, a mostly segregated area of isolated and sometimes hostile communities, with almost every person affected by the failing economy, a devastated auto industry, sky- rocketing unemployment, an area where homes have been devalued by as much as 50%, I saw a spark of hope. A spark ignited with my friends from WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit), women who share my passion for opening hearts and opening minds, women who dare to cross boundaries to make friends. Together, we created FRIENDSHIP and FAITH; the WISDOM of women creating alliances for peace, a book that offers hope and the possibility of how we can create peace if we are willing to extend our hands in friendship and formulate meaningful connections.

Twenty nine of us, ages 20 to 80 from seven different faiths -Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Sikh, and Buddhist-collaborated for a year to produce a collection of inspiring stories, stories of creating friendships across religious and cultural divides. Stories that describe everything from surviving flat-out hatred—to the far simpler challenge of making friends with someone of a different religion and race when you share a hospital room; stories that describe making friends at school, overcoming misunderstandings with colleagues at work and even daring to establish friendships that circle the globe; stories that will lift spirits—perhaps even inspire people to spark a new friendship wherever they live.

Our Journey to create Friendship & Faith began on January 24, 2009, when 14 WISDOM leaders gathered for a retreat at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, led by the Rev. Sharon Buttry, whose story appears in the book. The retreat was called “Building Bridges”. Together we explored ways to strengthen relationships between women and create innovative projects for the future. To deepen our reflections that weekend, we divided into pairs— I teamed up with Gigi Salka, a Muslim friend and board member of the Muslim Unity Center. Our first exercise was to draw the bridge that connected us. Our bridge was a beautiful rainbow of colors; filled with many of the interfaith and educational projects we had worked on together, including placing a mini Jewish library, a gift of the Farbman family, at the Muslim Unity Center.  I wanted to share not only our bridge-building efforts but all the stories in the room. I proposed a book of our personal stories of how we built bridges across religious and cultural divides, with the hope to inspire others to reach out and to expand the circle of WISDOM.

The group’s enthusiastic response led to a task force focused on gathering stories from dozen of women from diverse backgrounds. Our task force includes WISDOM members Padma Kuppa, Sheri Schiff, Gail Katz, Trish Harris, Ellen Ehrlich, Judy Satterwaite, Paula Drewek and me. We turned to another friend: David Crumm, (founding editor of Read The Spirit www.ReadTheSprit.com, an online magazine, and publisher of ReadTheSpirit Books. David not only published our book, but helped us expand our creative circle. We invited writers from a similarly wide range of backgrounds to help us. Some of the writers are still in college—and some are veteran, nationally-known writers.

As you open the book, you’ll meet my three dear friends; Gail Katz, (Jewish) Trish Harris, (Catholic) and Shahina Begg, (Muslim) who will invite you to sit down with them around a kitchen table. They’ll tell you about the creation of WISDOM – their meeting at an interfaith event, the documentary premier of “Reuniting the Children of Abraham” at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church, and how WISDOM has developed into a dynamic women’s interfaith dialogue organization hosting many successful educational and social-service programs.

Many stories will feel like you’re witnessing events unfolding in your back yard – stories about overcoming tough problems with relationships at school—or finding solutions when families suddenly encounter friction over interreligious marriages. Other stories take you to times and places around the world that you’ll find so compelling—so memorable—that you’ll want to tell a friend – two girls in Iran risking the wrath of religious authorities with their interfaith friendship,  a Jewish woman, child of holocaust survivors, who finds an unexpected friendship when a German couple moves in next door – a Muslim-Hindu marriage that raises cross-country anxiety in India—and a rare true story about an innocent Japanese girl who bravely faced hatred  in an internment camp here and also in Japan during World War II.  You will read the heartfelt stories of personal struggles. One Muslim woman shares her story of how challenging it was for her to start wearing a head scarf after 9/11, and another about how she ended an abusive marriage, stopped wearing her head scarf and started helping other Arab woman in all their relationships. And, some stories like mine show how a lunch with an Imam led to creating an interfaith project  “Reuniting the Children of Abraham”  that has crossed race, faith, cultural barriers and  international boundaries.

Read our book with a friend or neighbor. Meet us online at our www.FriendshipAndFaith.com web site.  Look for our stories on www.ReadTheSpirit.com.,and our book on www.Amazon.com.  We would love to come to your congregation or organization and present our program 5 Women 5 Journeys, an insightful exchange about our faiths, beliefs and challenges as women. If you are interested in organizing a congregational –wide “read” of this book contact: Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net

12-15

CAIR Michigan’s Watershed Annual Banquet

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

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CAIR Founder Nihad Awad, Wendell Anthony, Imam and CAIR Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid, Congressman John Conyers, CAIR Michigan Attorney Lena Masri, Civil Rights Activist Jesse Jackson, Jr., Ron Scott, Raheem Hanifa, and Jukaku Tayeb of CAIR Michigan.

Photo courtesy Nafeh AbuNab, American Elite Studios, 1-800-218-4020.

Dearborn–March 31–This year’s CAIR banquet really was special.  Every year, CAIR Michigan and many other organizations have gala awards and fundraising banquets, but typically in the past Michigan’s Muslim organizations have been less connected to the political landscape than some ethnic organizations which have in the Southeast Michigan region managed over several decades to establish long term ties with all levels of the political landscape, from the local to the federal level.

The Muslim organizations however, from the mosque level up to the level of national organizations, have not opened strong and lasting relations with any political groups (other than coordinated discussion groups and organized means of complaining to politicians and mainstream media about perceived and real injustices), other than an occasional speech by a political celebrity.

Perhaps a stronger movement has been the involvement of individuals in politics, such as for instance Farhan Bhatti, Deputy Campaign Manager at Virg Bernero for Michigan.  There are Muslims who have been elected to individual office, such as Rashida Tlaib in the Michigan legislature, and Keith Ellison in the US congress.

This year’s CAIR gala, with about 1,000 attendees including many powerful audience members from the business, media, and political community, on the other hand, seemed to offer the potential of a long-term conflation of interests between the Muslim community and America’s established civil rights aristocracy.  Present at this year’s fundraiser was Nihad Awad, who founded CAIR and set it up as a not-for-profit franchise operation of sorts, with now branch offices across the country to advocate for Muslims.  Mr. Awad is not always able to attend all of these gala events, but it seemed that he sensed the importance of this particular one. 

But the real jewels in the crown of the 2010 CAIR Michigan fundraiser were the civil rights workers who for sixty years have been deeply involved at their own personal peril with the struggle for civil rights in the USA. 

Jesse Jackson Sr., the keynote speaker, was one of those.  But there was also Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-14), whom Jackson described as “perhaps the only man who was ever endorsed by Martin Luther King.”  There was Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15).  There were many others, including the strong gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero (currently Lansing’s mayor). 

But famous people frequently collect together–many famous politicians have given stilted practiced speeches before Muslims, hoping to say what pleases their audience and earns their political support, but rarely does the politician seem to be present in deference to his or her own inner principles–and this is perhaps the characteristic of Sunday afternoon’s banquet that was uncommon.  Famous people with shared bonds of suffering coalescing in defense of a group they perhaps had not previously thought of as being within their shared interests.

The feeling wasn’t just from their presence in the same room; rather the feeling was in the mutual love between those famous people, and their expression of that love in the context of the protection of Muslims against injustice from government interference.  Jackson and Conyers both spoke of the famous people they had met and worked with through the years, including King, and Rosa Parks (who worked for Conyers for many years), and their describing the debts of gratitude they owed one to another–for example Jackson’s mentioning of MLK’s endorsement of Conyers, and Conyers mentioning publicly his gratitude to John Dingell for supporting him in his early days in the US House of Representatives.

What was different this year was that CAIR did not just bring politicians to speak for their own interests, rather CAIR Michigan bought into a movement, a movement that has been intrinsically and vitally important to the American landscape for the better part of a century, carrying with them the ghosts and spirits of men who gave their lives in that journey.

Nihad Awad offered his goal, a vision of a seemingly impossible world, post-911, in which Muslims face no discrimination–he argued that CAIR is working toward that goal from where we are now.

Jesse Jackson is a famous man, and in consideration of his famous personal failings it is sometimes surprising to see him still on the national stage–but in seeing him speak you understand the source of his sway across the American public–his voice carries so strongly and he has a magic in his delivery that is present in person but that is not felt through the television.  He speaks with vivid images and polished phrases and a very powerful and loud delivery, almost more like a musician or conductor than a politician, but he speaks logically and intelligently also, intimately conversant with the big picture of American politics, even if sometimes the details he cites are not precisely accurate (accidentally he cited the total number of coalition KIA in Iraq and Afghanistan together as Americans KIA in Iraq). 

But on the broad points he has very sharp insight. For example he stated that what is vital in the civil rights movement is to “change the frame.  Once you change the frame, you can change the furniture around whenever you want.”

Thus, he argued that after the recent health care legislation, eventually there must be a public option, although the public option was compromised away in the course of the bill being passed.

The theme of his speech was an argument to get Muslims to buy into a broader political agenda.

He argued that Muslims have to engage in issues beyond Muslim issues, offering the analogy that if one is in a burning house, he must try to put out the fire for the entire house–if the house is saved his room will be saved but it is impossible to save his room without saving the house.

He cited as examples labor union issues and health care issues.

Perhaps the most inspiring thing he said was that “we are not the left, we are the moral center,” thus dismissing the arguments from reactionaries who term his agenda a leftist agenda.  And this connected to another powerful theme from his speech, that “we are winning” in this struggle by the grace of God, and it is because God supports us because we are right.  He cited the achievements of abolition and civil rights, labor, and, at length, health care.

He said not to worry about government informants, arguing the view that the solution is to be completely above board and transparent and above reproach.  He said that several informants were intimately connected with the civil rights movement, saying that “our controller who signed all of our checks was a government informant.”

“Yes it does get dark,” he said, “innocent people get hurt, there is pain, but there is joy in the morning.”

“Through it all, keep marching, fighting, pursue excellence, don’t have time to hate.”

The involvement of the civil rights community with Muslims seems to have begun Sunday evening, and the person likely responsible is CAIR Michigan’s Executive Director Dawud Walid, who had the vision to pursue this goal, and who also has worked to bridge gaps between African Americans and other Muslims, and Sunni and Shi’a.

It remains to be seen whether the large-scale involvement of Muslims as players on the political (and not religious) landscape is healthy or potentially dangerous, and it remains to be seen whether non-Muslims from the civil rights community will be good partners in working toward civil rights for Muslims; also it remains to be seen to what extent Muslims can endorse  the agenda of a civil rights community that too often supports for example abortion services and homosexual issues; but perhaps these are the details, the furniture.  What is important is that the frame may have changed–to one where a Muslim organization has built a bridge or harmony and good will to an entire movement that is intrinsic to the American political landscape–this seems to be an important move in a good direction.

12-14

Dr. Syed Tanveer Rab, Cardiologist

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Dr Syed Tanveer Rab Hybrid revascularization is a combination of coronary artery bypass surgery and percutaneous coronary intervention. Physicians at Emory University have been performing these procedures off-pump in a minimally invasive fashion, without breaking open the test. Their hybrid approach has been hailed as a best of both worlds strategy.

Among the physicians at Emory who have been developing and polishing this technique is Dr. Syed Tanveer Rab. He received his Medical degree in 1979 from the University of Karachi Pakistan. Between 1980 and 1983 he trained in the United Kingdom at Hammersmith Hospital, London, Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle and the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh. Between 1983 and 1986 he completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. He trained at Emory University between 1986-1990 in Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology. Between 1991-1998 he developed an extensive system of satellite cardiology clinics in North Georgia and in 1998 joined the Emory faculty. He is Board Certified in Medicine, Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology and is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and Society of Coronary Angiography and Interventions.

12-12

21 Shots … and the Pursuit of Justice: An Imam Dies in Michigan

March 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Hamdan Azhar

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DETROIT — It is a cold Sunday afternoon in February and asr prayer is being held at Masjid Al-Haqq. Children run outside, playing in the snow, rambunctious and full of life while their mothers serve the last of the stragglers who have come for a hot meal at the weekly soup kitchen. The neighborhood is typical Detroit, replete with boarded-up houses, the streets quiet and vacant – save for an unassuming two-story red brick house at the corner of Clairmount and Holmur.

Inside the makeshift mosque, a dozen middle-aged African-American men have gathered. As the prayer concludes, a voice calls out, “Read a hadith, that’s what the Imam used to do.” The prayer leader dutifully opens a book of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and starts reading.” (s) There will come forth a people on the Day of Judgment, their faces shining like the sun.” He pauses for effect. “The poor, the immigrants, the disheveled ones.”

The man’s words resonate with the audience. They begin to look at one another, as if by taking in their appearance they are acknowledging the precarious state of their community. And slowly they begin to nod. “That could be any one of us,” says one man. He thinks for a moment, before adding, “That could be all of us.”
Four months have passed since the death of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah. But among his community, his legacy lives on. The soup kitchen he initiated continues to serve the homeless and hungry by the dozens on a weekly basis. Among his followers, there is an odd sense of acceptance.

“Even after this tragedy,” says Abdul-Aleem, 55, “our doors are open to all.” “We know that Allah is in control and justice will prevail.” There is an uncertain gleam in his eye, and he quickly turns away as I meet his gaze – for justice has too often been an elusive concept in this part of the hood.

The Homicide

The passage of time has seen an evolution in the narrative of what happened in that Dearborn warehouse in which Luqman Abdullah met his end. Initially, the US Attorney’s office claimed that there had been an “exchange of gun fire” after Mr. Abdullah fired an initial shot – the term “exchange” presupposing that both sides were engaged in shooting.

Yet the Associated Press quoted an FBI spokesperson as saying that the Imam “fired a weapon and was killed by gunfire from agents” – which indicates that Mr. Abdullah fired only one shot. Seizing on the confusion, the media offered widely divergent portrayals of the incident, the majority describing it as a “gun battle” or a “shootout”, with a minority left wondering if he might have been gunned down in cold blood.

In addition to the shooting angle, there was another twist – the dog. The FBI was quick to announce a memorial service for Freddy, the Belgian Malinois who “lost his life in the line of duty,” the day after the incident. While according to the FBI, Freddy “gave his life for his team,” the US Attorney’s press release is more cautious in noting that “an FBI canine was also killed during the exchange.”

The common perception – although never officially confirmed – was that Mr. Abdullah fired at the dog thereby prompting agents to return fire at him. Sympathetic observers asked if the life of a dog was equal to the life of a human being. Further complicating public perception was the fact that the dog was airlifted to a hospital for emergency medical care while Mr. Abdullah’s handcuffed corpse was transported by ambulance to the coroner’s office.

Today there remain more questions than answers in the death of Luqman Abdullah. The autopsy report, kept under seal for three months at the request of the Dearborn Police Department, was finally released on Feb. 1. The report documents that Mr. Abdullah was shot 21 times, including multiple times in the genitals and at least once in the back. Numerous abrasions and lacerations were also found on his face, hands, and arms; his jaw was found to be fractured.

The discovery of Mr. Abdullah’s additional injuries has sparked a new wave of criticism. In a recent interview, Omar Regan, a son of Mr. Abdullah, became emotional as he decried how his father has been inhumanely “mauled” by the dog. The Michigan Citizen quotes Wayne County Chief Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt as conceding that the injuries could have come from dog bites but he refuses to offer a conclusive determination.

Independent forensic pathologists whom we contacted were unable to comment on the matter without seeing pictures. Incidentally, Mr. Abdullah’s family as well as watchdog organizations have encountered numerous obstacles in obtaining the release of the autopsy photographs – a bureaucratic struggle which is ongoing at the moment.

Prior to the release of the autopsy, it had been assumed that Mr. Abdullah shot the dog as it was on its way to attack him. If, however, one accepts the premise that the dog actually attacked Mr. Abdullah, would that not imply that he had been successfully subdued? Did he then shoot the dog at point-blank range while being attacked? Did the FBI agents shoot him 21 times – not while he was pointing a gun at them – but while he was wrestling with the dog?

Some have even questioned if Mr. Abdullah was the one who shot the dog. Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality told the local NBC affiliate that the FBI’s irresponsible conduct was to blame for the death of the dog. Huel Perkins, news anchor at Fox 2 Detroit, went one step further. “With so many bullets flying,” he wondered, “they could have been ricocheting and FBI bullets might have killed that dog.”

The Investigation

(Masjid Al-Haqq, 4019 Clairmount Street, Detroit, MI)

Masjid Haqq-Detroit Immediately after the killing, the FBI dispatched a Shooting Incident Review Team to conduct an internal investigation into the incident (as is standard whenever agents are involved in a shooting.) Meanwhile, the Dearborn Police Department launched a criminal investigation into the homicide. Chief Ronald Haddad recently told the Dearborn Press and Guide that his office would submit a final report to the Michigan Attorney General within weeks.

Demands for an independent investigation had been growing since November, having been echoed by Detroit Mayor David Bing, the Detroit Free Press, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In January, Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, lent his support to the effort calling on the Justice Department to conduct a “rigorous” and “transparent” investigation.

In addition, he asked the Civil Rights Division to review the use of confidential informants in houses of worship – a practice that played a critical role in the FBI’s investigation of Mr. Abdullah. A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee said that, as of two weeks ago, no response had been received to the request. Meanwhile, the Civil Rights division has announced plans to conduct their own investigation into the shooting.

When the story first broke in late October, it was presented in the context of religiously motivated terrorism. As we have previously discussed, the bulk of the 45-page affidavit issued on Oct. 28 consists of a “background” section that implicates Mr. Abdullah and ten other defendants in a sensational plot to violently overthrow the government.

However, the actual crimes alleged are more commonplace: possession of firearms and body armor by a convicted felon, providing firearms to a convicted felon, tampering with motor vehicle identification numbers, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and conspiracy to sell or receive stolen goods. When we met last November, Omar Regan expressed frustration with the media’s coverage. “They just want to say Muslims are terrorists,” he said.

Indeed, many have used the tenuous “Islamic terrorism” connection to attack the character of the late Mr. Abdullah, with some going so far as to implicate aspects of the Islamic faith by extension. The FBI affidavit set the stage for such behavior by referring to a “nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group” and by going to great lengths to emphasize Mr. Abdullah’s religious beliefs. On Nov. 18, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies -a controversial neoconservative think-tank – published an article comparing Mr. Abdullah’s followers to global “jihadi movements.” Other right-wing ideologues with dubious credentials have also used the case as evidence of the threat of “homegrown terrorism.”

The grand jury indictment (included below) issued on Nov. 10 presents a striking contrast with the earlier criminal complaint. The complaint is what the FBI presented to a federal magistrate judge; after a finding of probable cause, arrest warrants were then issued. The indictment is what the grand jury, upon weighing the evidence, actually accuses the defendants of, and what they will be tried for in court. The 11-page document makes no mention of Islam, or religion in general, nor does it discuss terrorism or hint at anything remotely violent, save for possession of firearms. Needless to say, Luqman Abdullah has been dropped from the list of defendants.

The indictment provides further evidence of the banal and artificial nature of the investigation. The “stolen goods” the defendants are alleged to have conspired to sell or receive consist of fur coats, laptops, iPhones, Burberry purses, and 40” LCD televisions. The payments involved range in value from $300 to $1000. A plain reading of the document suggests that an FBI operative (an agent or a confidential informant) gave the defendants money that they then used to purchase goods (that they believed to be stolen) from another FBI operative which they then stored in an FBI-operated warehouse. On Oct. 28, as per the indictment, the defendants arrived at the FBI warehouse to take possession of FBI owned goods that the FBI had paid them to purchase, at which point the warehouse was raided by the FBI and they were arrested. One of them, Imam Luqman Abdullah, was killed.

Two days after the killing, Andrew Arena, special agent in charge of the Detroit division of the FBI, was quoted in the New York Times as saying that the agents “did what they had to do to protect themselves.” In those early days, the headlines in the news were “Radical Islam leader killed” and “Feds stand behind deadly Michigan raid.”

By February of this year, however, the headlines had changed to “Autopsy Shows Michigan Imam Shot 21 Times” and “Conyers Demands Rigorous Investigation of Imam Shooting.” The favorable turn in media coverage provides little consolation for Mr. Abdullah’s family, however. “The media is interested in hype,” complains Mr. Regan. “They’re using this to sell papers and for TV ratings.”

The growing mainstream consensus demanding an independent investigation has clearly been an unexpected and significant development in the case. Whereas once there were only a handful of voices willing to question the FBI’s account, a veritable group has assembled to demand transparency and accountability – including the House Judiciary Committee, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, the Detroit Free Press, the Mayor of Detroit, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

When we met in November, Mr. Regan exclaimed at one point during our interview, “A man’s been killed, and he hasn’t been charged with a crime.” That statement stuck with me for many months. It conveys a certain raw emotion, eliciting an impassioned but entirely rational response of outrage at a fundamental injustice that seems to have been done. Luqman Abdullah is no longer here to defend himself against the charges that have been thrown at him by the government and the media – he never got his day in court. Is that not a miscarriage of justice?

Having some doubts about the legal and factual accuracy of the latter part of Mr. Regan’s statement, I contacted experts for clarification. Many were doubtful of the extent to which the question even mattered – whether or not Mr. Abdullah had in fact been charged with a crime when he was killed.

Constitutional scholar and UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh argued that the relevant question instead was whether the killing was justified given the exigencies of that situation. The killing of an innocent man by the police might be justified in self-defense. On the other hand, even if someone had been indicted, the use of deadly force absent proper justification would be inappropriate.

The question thus returns to the actual homicide (the term the medical examiner has used to describe the manner of death in the autopsy.) Were the FBI agents acting in fear for their lives? Or was the use of deadly force excessive given the threat they faced? A conclusive determination is impossible without all of the facts – facts that one hopes the investigation will uncover. Given the information that has been released thus far and the manner in which it has been received however, it would seem that the weight of public perception is against the FBI’s account.

In all likelihood, the warehouse in which the shooting occurred was controlled by the FBI, as the text of the indictment strongly implies (paragraph 22, “Overt Acts”). If Mr. Abdullah was in fact attacked by the dog, as the abnormal injuries to his body seem to indicate, how could he have posed an imminent threat to the FBI agents – sufficient to justify 21 gunshots? Why were more than half of the shots below the waist–including two in the groin and one in the back? Why was no effort made to provide emergency medical attention to Mr. Abdullah?

The attempts to convict Mr. Abdullah in the court of public opinion have largely been based – not on his conduct in his final moments – but on the government’s allegations of prior criminal behavior. The unspoken justification is not that he presented an imminent threat to the agents but that he was a dangerous person who needed to be “brought to justice.”

FBI Agent Andrew Arena, speaking with NBC affiliate WDIV-TV, concedes that “what transpired that day…was a tragic event.” He proceeds to affirm that they “wanted to make sure that no innocent people were harmed, that no agents were harmed, and no subjects were harmed.”

His choice of words, however, unwittingly speaks to his presuppositions. Rather than use the term “bystanders”, he instead declares that Mr. Abdullah was not an innocent person whose harm should be avoided, but rather a threat to be neutralized.

“A man is dead and he hasn’t been charged with a crime,” said Mr. Regan. A subtle but profound distinction must be made between “charged” and “convicted.” Even if Mr. Abdullah had been convicted of – intent to receive stolen goods among other crimes – a justification for his killing can only be derived from exigencies of that situation in the warehouse. After all, a class C felony carries a maximum sentence of twenty-five years in prison – not death.

But the fact remains that he wasn’t convicted – of that crime or any other crimes. Save for a felony assault conviction in 1981 – when he would have been 24 years old – by all available accounts, Luqman Abdullah had lived as a “good neighbor”, in the words of the lieutenant at the local police precinct. He was known for his devotion to social justice and serving the needs of the poor and needy community in which he lived. He earned his living as a cabdriver and led prayers at his local religious center. Far from the FBI’s portrayal of a violent thug, those who knew him point to his positive influence at eliminating crime and combating poverty in a neighborhood that government had all but forgotten.

The greatest injustice of Luqman Abdullah’s killing stems from the perception that in those final moments, it was a handful of FBI agents who acted as judge, jury, and executioner. Their actions determined that Mr. Abdullah would die as guilty, if for no other reason than his inability to furthermore proclaim his innocence. The vital public debate about government-sponsored espionage in religious institutions and the prevalence of entrapment as a law enforcement tool in poor and underprivileged communities will continue. But we have lost an invaluable informant whose perspective can only be guessed at and never apprehended in full.

The FBI complaint is the only documentation in the public record of the criminal activities that allegedly occurred at the direction of Luqman Abdullah over the past two years. It presents only one side of the story – a side that can no longer be challenged. Some media organizations have disturbingly accepted that one side as the definitive account, thereby corrupting the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.” If the presumption of innocence applies up until the point of conviction, how much more applicable should it be if the accused had yet to be charged with a crime?

Among the legal scholars we contacted, a few were of the opinion that the criminal complaint presented to the magistrate judge was the functional equivalent of a charging document. They asserted that the question was really more of semantics than of law – what do we really mean when we say “charged with a crime”?
Others offered a more definite assessment. “He was not charged with a crime,” said Yale Professor and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Stith. “So as not to mislead,” she continued, “I would say ‘He had not been formally charged with a crime, though a warrant had been issued for his arrest.’”

Professor Eve Brensike Primus of the University of Michigan offered a constitutional rationale for a strict interpretation of “formal charges.” “The Fifth Amendment,” she argued, “ensures that a federal charge for a felony offense will not be brought without granting the accused the protection of the review and acceptance of the charge by the grand jury.”

Harvard Professor Carol Steiker agreed. “An indictment is the required formal charging document in federal court for all non-petty crimes (felonies),” she said. “In such cases, it would be most accurate to say that an individual killed prior to indictment was killed before he was formally charged with a crime.”

The Community

Muslim kids Masjid Haqq (Fatima, 3, Sumayya, 10, and Juma, 8 on a Sunday afternoon in February at the weekly Masjid Al-Haqq soup kitchen)

Twenty-one shots. Left to die while an FBI dog was transported by helicopter for medical treatment. Portrayed as a radical Muslim, a violent black man, a threat to the community. Killed before he could be charged with a crime.

Is this the face of justice in America, I ask myself. Not my America, I retort, not the America of Ann Arbor, Michigan with its ivory towers, nor the America of Brooklyn, New York where I grew up, the child of Pakistani immigrants, benefiting from the best public schools, taught to keep an open mind, to ask questions, to always think critically.

I look around at the deserted streets and the abandoned houses, my senses overwhelmed by the crushing poverty of inner-city Detroit – and I realize that I am no longer in my America. I keep walking, comfortable by now in this neighborhood, no longer anxious about my car being broken into. The death of Luqman Abdullah has given me a reason to leave my comforts and visit another world, to talk to its residents and to listen to their stories.

I see a young man, slightly younger than me, waiting for the bus on Dexter Ave. I ask him what has by now become my routine query. Yes, he answers, he knew Imam Luqman. “He used to give out food if someone was hungry,” he tells me. But Khari, 20, shocks me when he says, “I hope they lock them up in jail.” “They shot him 21 times.” I walk away in awe wondering if this, perhaps, is what they call the optimism of youth.

I walk back to Masjid Al-Haqq, enter from the backdoor, and climb the narrow, aging stairway that leads to the men’s prayer room. The sweet smell of incense reaches me as I behold the sight of half a dozen children running around, their fathers relaxing and catching up on gossip. I spot Omar Regan and his brother Mujahid Carswell in the corner and I head in their direction. I am intercepted by a bold and charming 8-year old, Khalid, who wants a rematch in rock-paper- scissors (in which I had soundly defeated him earlier that afternoon). I pause for a quick game, letting him win, and walk away leaving him content with his victory.

I have not seen the brothers since November, and they are as impassioned as ever regarding their father’s death. “It was worse than we thought,” says Mr. Regan, referring to the autopsy. “Nobody deserves this.” They are frustrated by the government’s secrecy and failure to release relevant documentation. Where is the ballistics report, he asks. “Where is the proof that my father even fired a gun?” He wants to see the autopsy report of the dog and wonders why EMTs were not on scene during the take-down. “What if an officer had gotten hurt? Isn’t that standard procedure?” Many of these same questions are increasingly being asked by other parties as well, most notably by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers.

“People are rightly concerned when a religious leader becomes involved with an FBI informant and ends up dead in the street,” said Rep. Conyers in a press release. He went on to note that if the Department of Justice failed to investigate the incident in a “credible and transparent” manner, “it will be left to Congress to ensure that justice is done.” Such high-level involvement in a routine law enforcement operation indicates the killing of Imam Luqman Abdullah is anything but routine – it might even be exceptional.

Mr. Carswell is satisfied with the amount of national attention the case has received, but he is not surprised. “They thought no one would care. But they underestimated how much people loved this black man. He was a servant of the people.” ‘They’ for Mr. Carswell is the FBI, and he is unrelenting in his criticism. “Nobody’s policing the FBI,” he complains. “Why did they call him armed and dangerous? Why did they call him a radical Sunni Muslim? If the charge is intent to receive stolen goods, why are you saying this?”

“It’s a control thing,” he asserts. “They’re bullies, they rule by fear.” He cites the FBI’s attempts to influence media coverage of the case. Indeed, the Feb. 9 article “Metro security breach leaves many on edge” bizarrely notes that “The FBI’s Detroit office refused to discuss the case with the Free Press on Monday, citing its unhappiness over a recent newspaper editorial.” (Numerous attempts to contact the FBI for comment were unsuccessful.) “People are afraid to ask questions, even the media is intimidated,” he says.

Despite the obstacles, Mr. Carswell depicts a reality in which even the FBI has been left isolated. “They’re the only ones telling that story,” he says. “His family, people in the streets, strangers, even the police – they have nothing but good to say of him. The only ones with a different story are the FBI. It don’t take no genius to figure out that somebody’s lying.” Mr. Carswell looks me in the eye – “How is everybody telling the same lie?”

For the family, much of the government’s case turns on the credibility of one informant, a topic on which the Detroit Free Press has reported extensively. Mr. Regan is skeptical. “Why is it his word against everyone else? Who is he? What are his credentials? What makes him reliable?” Mr. Regan even suggests that the informant might have “played” the FBI, selling them an exaggerated narrative of a dangerous conspiracy for his own personal gain. Such stories have become common in recent years; informants in similar cases have often been career criminals, at times drug addicts, seeking reduced prison sentences or financial compensation.

“It’s inhumane,” says Mr. Regan, returning to the manner of the killing. “You don’t have a reason to shoot someone 21 times. These are trained marksmen. Shooting below the waist. Twice in the private parts. By federal agents. Do they have families, children, and wives?”

I ask the brothers why they think the FBI agents shot and killed their father. Could it have been fear? Mr. Regan briefly entertains the notion. “Perhaps,” he says, “the informant hyped up the FBI. All lies. They went in thinking they were fighting for their country. And then they found out he wasn’t it.” His eyes flare up. “Oops. 13 children. A wife. An entire community in mourning. Why can’t they just say they were wrong?”

Mr. Carswell is less receptive to the suggestion that the agents were afraid for their lives and that’s why they shot him 21 times. “This is what they do for a living. How are they so afraid? Are you new? Are you a rookie? Just wait in the car.” More than “afraid federal agents,” he responds, “what we hear about most often are rogue cops abusing their power.”

At the end of the day, Mr. Abdullah’s family is anxious for answers. “They say: your father was a bad guy, that’s why we killed him, that’s why we shot him 21 times.” Mr. Regan’s eyes glisten and his voice falters. “It’s not fair; it feels like they targeted him because he’s Muslim. Because he was Muslim, they can say he was a terrorist…But the most they could charge him with was receiving stolen goods.” “Tell the truth,” he says. “You’re acting like cold-blooded killers. How can I believe that you’re here to serve the community?”

While the family waits for the investigation to conclude, they pray for justice. As I leave, Mr. Regan’s voice assumes a tone of certainty. “Eventually,” he tells me, “the truth will come out.” On my drive back to my America, I think of the man killed without having ever been charged with a crime and left for dead in a warehouse; of the house of worship infiltrated by federal agents funded by our tax dollars; of how little our government seems to be doing for the people of inner-city Detroit. I wonder what has become of my America – and I can only hope that Mr. Regan’s confidence will not prove to have been in vain.

Hamdan Azhar is a graduate student in biostatistics at the University of Michigan. An accomplished writer on international affairs, his works have been published in the Huffington Post, Counterpunch, and the Asia Times.

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Muslim Family Services Fundraiser

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

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Livonia–March 13—American Muslims have made inroads institutionally, with established mosques, advocacy groups, and media.  There are also fledgling efforts to build funeral services and graveyards and other necessary forms of care.  But the next level of institution building is to create self-sufficiency in medical and other care. 

One group which has begun the work of providing community and social and medical services to Muslims is Muslim Family Services, a devision of ICNA Relief.

Muslim Family Services held a fundraiser on Saturday night at the Radisson Hotel in Livonia, hosting about 250 people for an evening which celebrated the accomplishments and looked at the future goals of the organization.

Muslim Family Services is led most prominently by Dr. Ali Suleiman, Ph.D, who studied at the University of Michigan and at the University of Madina Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Asim Hussain (not to be confused with keynote speaker Altaf Husain), professor of Wayne State University, is also involved. Mr. Yousuf Vaid is also prominently involved. The organization focuses largely on providing social services, mainly specializing in marriage counseling, but also providing many other services including subsidizing funeral payments and providing food and other emergency care to Muslims in need.

The fundraising dinner began with Maghrib prayer, followed by a welcome by the MC Yousuf Vaid, followed by recitation of Qur`an by a young man, Nadeem Gulam, then dinner. Then there was a slide presentation by Steve Hernandez on the accomplishments of Muslim Family Services, followed by a keynote speech by Harvard Professor, Dr. Altaf Husain. Finally there was a fundraiser and a closing du’a.

Mr. Hernandez spoke movingly of the accomplishments of Muslim Family Services, pointing out its cooperation with other groups, and its work to support the community’s education, activities to minimize family violence (in coordination with ACCESS and the State of Michigan and Wayne County), counseling of individuals, families, pre-marital and marital counseling, psychological counseling, anger management, and substance abuse counseling.

He spoke movingly about MFS’s Janaza fund, which provides about seven funerals per year, at a cost of $3,000 each.

Dr. Altaf Husain also spoke movingly, focusing more on the future of Muslim healthcare in the United States, pointing out that the Muslim community faces similar challenges to those faced before by Catholics and Jews (such as dietary restrictions, discrimination, refused treatment, predatory missionary work by those who see vulnerable people of a different religion, and cultural conflicts)–who in the 1850s responded by building their own hospitals which exist to this day.  Husain emphasized one such hospital, Mt. Sinai, which had its origins in the need of Jews to respond to the above challenges, but which now serves the wider community.

Muslim Family Services emphasized that they provide services in a professional and confidential manner, and invited all Muslims facing issues to come to them for assistance.

Contact Muslim Family Services at 734-678-0435, or at www.muslimfamilyservices.org.

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See pictures from this event at www.muslimobserver.com.

Upcoming Events in Michigan (and one big event in New Jersey)

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

ACCESS 39th Annual Dinner

Tickets for the ACCESS Gala dinner are now on sale.  Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail and Lynx Investment CEO Peter Tanous will be there to receive the Arab American of the Year Award.

Tickets are $75.  The event is May 1, at the Marriott Hotel at the Detroit Renaissance Center.  Contact Rose Assi at rasi@accesscommunity.org or visit

ww.accesscommunity.org to purchase tickets.

IRS Deadline

The IRS has $40 million in unclaimed tax refund money from the 2006 Tax Year.

If you have not filed your 2006 return, you must file it by this April 15th in order to claim your 2006 refund.  Nationwide the IRS has approximately $1.3 billion in unclaimed tax refunds from the 2006 year.

CAIR 10th Anniversary Gala

CAIR will hold its 10th Annual Gala March 28, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency, 600 Town Center, Dearborn Michigan.

The keynote speaker is the founder of the Rainbow/Push Coalition and famous speaker and activist Rev. Jesse Jackson.  Also speaking will be CAIR national director and co-founder Nihad Awad.

Tickets will be $50 for general admission and $30 for students.

This gala will be an afternoon program which will begin at 1pm and end at 4:30pm insha`Allah.

For sponsorship and ticket information please contact Suehaila Amen at 313-615-1515.

Islamic Games

For those interested in competing, the Islamic Games Northeast Regional  Event will be May 25-30 in South Brunswick, New Jersey.

The games will have competitions in many interesting events, from track and field events to basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball, cricket, flag football, tennis and table tennis, to wrestling, archery and martial arts.

The events will be separated by age categories, including events for children in age groups as young as 8 and masters categories for people in their 40s and up. The registration is only $15 per athlete for participation in unlimited events until May 10, and $20 per athlete from May 11 to the date of the event.  Spectators can attend for free.

For more information please visit www.Islamic-Games.com, or call 800-670-7901, or email info@islamic-games.com.

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Rep. Conyers: Investigate Luqman Shooting

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Al-Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

Large interfaith, intercultural outpouring of support for Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah

imam-luqman2 Now that the Wayne County Medical Examiner has released the autopsy report of slain Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, the outrage and questions are growing by leaps and bounds in the community.

The manner in which the imam was set up and killed by federal officers has outraged and been questioned by the Mayor Dave Bing of Detroit, countless business and community leaders, and now, the powerful chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary committee, John Conyers.  Congressman Conyers called a press conference in Detroit and demanded a full Federal investigation of the facts surrounding what many call the “execution” of Imam Luqman Abdullah by FBI agents.

As we remember, this newspaper was the first to report on the excessive force and questionable motives of the government security forces that pumped at least 21 bullets into the body of the imam.  The Muslim Observer was also the first to point out the total disrespect and denigration shown to human being Imam Abdullah by giving a dog more care and attention than a human being.

The autopsy report showed that Imam Luqman was not only shot at least 21 times, his hands were also handcuffed behind his back as he lay prone face down in a trailer truck.  At the same time the police dog, named freddy, was airlifted to an emergency veterinarian hospital in an attempt to save his life.  Traffic was blocked off in both directions as the helicopter landed in the middle of busy 12 mile road in a futile attempt to save the dog.

FBI agents reported they opened fire on Imam Abdullah because he allegedly shot the dog, who is considered a federal agent; and they must shoot to kill anytime one of their officers is attacked.  This is ludicrous.     Dogs do not possess a mind.  The oath FBI agents take seems to exclude dogs.  The oath is as follows:  “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God.”

Now we all know a dog is not capable of consciously agreeing to such an agreement so using such a flimsy excuse to fill a man full of bullet holes is, at best, barbaric and devilish.

Congressman Conyers’ concern took another important turn when he wondered aloud why the FBI spent so much time and resources to build a case that obviously, at best, was entrapped petty crime.  It was revealed that the suspects did not commit larceny, nor did they conspire to.  They were brought “stolen items” that were supplied by the FBI and even paid with FBI money.  The FBI also controlled the warehouse that held these “stolen goods” and was the scene of the set-up killing of the imam.

So why did the government want Imam Abdullah dead?  Or was it the government or merely some gung-ho trigger-happy cowboys who wanted to get target practice?  This is the big question.  Congressman Conyers has asked Attorney General Holder to open a full investigation and it has already started.  This is very significant because Congressman Conyers, as Chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, will chair any proceedings brought before the House – and that includes the Attorney General if necessary.

One big positive result of this whole scenario is the outpouring of love and support from the non-Muslim community.  There were representatives there from Quakers, National Action Network, ACLU, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights.  Congressman Conyers was also joined by Michigan State Representative Bettie Cook-Scott who also heads the Judiciary committee of the Michigan Legislature.  The entire proceeding was brought together by another non-Muslim.  Mr. Ron Scott, leader of the Coalition Against Police Brutality, worked tirelessly getting sufficient support to keep the light on the case.  ALLAH says in the Qur’an that the Christians are closer to you than any other group.  This case is a sign that if we believe in ourselves and do the right thing, ALLAH will send help to us and they will be more assertive for our cause than we are.  I didn’t see as much Muslim support and outrage as I saw Christian.  One Christian lady stood and said “this is about justice for a human being.  It has nothing to do with what religious faith he belonged to.”

We are also blessed to have the tireless efforts of CAIR-Michigan executive director, Dawud Waild.  This brother has the uncanny ability to work with other members of the society and bring positive results to fruition.  It is good to have confidence in a brother that we believe has done his homework and will not sell us out.

Never in our wildest dreams did we (and possibly the FBI’s as well) think the imams’ homicide would open up such a big inquiry into questionable dealings by our law enforcement department.  ALLAH allows things to happen for His own purposes and those who reflect can be blessed to understand His purpose.

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Dr. Abd A. Alghanem Elected Unanimously

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Dr. Abd A. Alghanem was elected by the Michigan Board of Medicine to be Vice Chair of the board.  He has served on the Michigan Board of Medicine for seven years.   The board oversees the licenses of about 10,000 MD’s in Michigan.  Dr. Alghanem graduated from Damascus University, Syria, and has been practicing Plastic Surgery in Michigan for more than 20 years.

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Syrian Singer Abu Ratib Pleads “Not Guilty”

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Michigan Islamic Examiner/Heather Laird

Abu Ratib January 26, 2010. In a Federal court hearing in Detroit on Monday January 25, 2010, singer Abu Raitb pleaded not guilty to the charges of making false statements to the FBI, false oath in a matter relating to naturalization and attempted unlawful procurement of naturalization.

Abu Ratib also known as Mohammed Masfaka is a beloved singer of Islamic songs. He has millions of fans throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and is respected by not only the common person but by government diplomats as well. He is considered by some Michigan residents to be one of the leading Islamic singers of all times, and is believed to have written more songs than the also popular Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and Sami Yusuf.  He is the Chair of the International Union for Islamic Art.

After reading the nine-page indictment put forth by the FBI, one wonders what this case is really concerned with achieving. The document states questions asked and answered and some discrepancies in the answers. More specifically, the case mentions that Abu Ratib left off of his immigration papers a low-level job that he held for a short period of time. How many people in the United States everyday leave off previous employment on job applications. His other offense was not mentioning or mentioning incorrectly compensation. I am quite confident this happens everyday in the US as well. In fact, can everyone say Treasury Secretary?

All sarcasm aside, this is serious when it comes to immigration, and I would be on the first line of defense for my Country if you told me an immigrant left off their application that they were affiliated with some group that would harm United States citizens. But, this is not the case here. The government is saying that they knew he worked for an entity that was approved a 501(c)3 status – meaning an organization that already had some governmental scrutiny.  And, he did so here in the United States, so it was not covert or anything. How would or could he know that the government, because of its policies with Israel would change their opinion about their foreign policy? Holy Land Foundation was prosecuted and the first trial was declared a mistrial, the second received a conviction and now it is currently on appeal. So, we are prosecuting an individual because of guilt by association with a group that may or may not be considered affiliated with terrorism, but that the US Courts have not yet decided on, and not because we think “he” was a terrorist, but because he left off information from an application.

Why would we do this? The immigrant story is one that most of us are familiar with in folklore. People come to America to build a better life. They believe the will have certain unalienable rights that they do not have elsewhere. I am positive that the Masfaka family believed they would have in America what they could not find elsewhere. But, the reality for some immigrants is of another nature. Some immigrants are targeted as assets for the government. And because they are immigrants or of immigrant status can be intimidated or coerced into becoming informants or spies for the United States or have their citizenship revoked. They trust their new government. Aren’t we all raised to trust the authority in our midst – our police officers, our government. If you are a minority in the United States, a different reality exists. However, the majority is taught to trust government.

So, if you are an immigrant likely your first language is not English. You come to America wanting to be an American, and fill out your paperwork and then you are a citizen. The process is only not that simple. If the government at any time deems it necessary to use you, then they can very meticulously scrutinize every piece of paper and every conversation you have had to find a small detail left out here, a mistranslation there, etc., until an error is found or omission which to the government translates as a lie and you have now become a defendant.

What Masfaka seems to really be guilty of is not having legal representation with him at critical junctures in his immigration process. But, how many immigrants do not, and are not being prosecuted? We can presume many. This man was targeted, because of an Islamaphobic attitude that has been allowed to prevail in the United States. It is forbidden for Muslims to spy. For a man to take the stance of refusing to commit a sin in his faith is to stand for his freedom of religion. This is one of the positive rights that Americans are supposed to enjoy. It seems in this case, Masfaka may have taken that stand and is now being punished for it.

The result of this case has two very negative implications for the United States. First, it seems to tear at and shred our Constitution a little more. Not providing that blanket of freedoms that we promote as being unique to us. Second, this particular Defendant is Internationally known and beloved. And here we are again, post the Obama Cairo speech being seen as double-speak on the International scene. You say you want peace, but your actions appear to be targeting  and punishing people who do not fit the bill of terrorist.

Muslims will help their Country. No one wants corruption in the Muslim community. Why can’t we ask American Muslims to help in cleansing this Country of corruption instead of thinking the only way to do so is through seeming coercion and intimidation.

The Muslim community is praying for the Masfaka family that these charges are dropped. The American Muslim community prays for its Country in hopes that America can find a new approach and fight for all its citizens.

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A Chinese Muslim in the U.S.: Religion and Nationality

January 28, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Yue Xu, UPIU

Wang is a member of MSA, which holds the Muslims activities in International Center of MSU.(By Xu Yue) ()

A simple, yet fashionable young woman enters the classroom wearing a bright blue polo shirt and jeans. From a passerby’s perspective, one cannot tell Cong Wang apart from the hundreds of other Chinese students at Michigan State University. However, Wang is also a Muslim, from China’s Hui minority.

In MSU’s International Center, Cong Wang talked about her understanding of Islam in China and how she has adapted to life at an Americ an university within the multifaceted context of Islamic, Chinese, and American culture.

“The religious awareness of the new generation of Hui Muslims in China is not as strong as that of my grandparents’ generation”, Wang said. Though Wang never explicitly mentioned a causational factor behind the erosion of Muslim culture in China, Professor Dru Gladney, president of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College, postulated that an erosion of Muslim values is occurring due to the dominance of Han culture within the education system. “Centralized state education has been one of the most powerful means of integrating Muslims into the Chinese nation state”, he said. In China, the dominant philosophy is Confucianism, and this is evident in schools throughout the nation.

After Wang came to MSU, she joined the Muslim Students’ Association at MSU, hoping to cement her identity as a Chinese Muslim, but to this day she has not encountered any other Chinese Muslims to share experiences with. Could it be possible that Chinese Muslims are such a small fraction of the Chinese population that they are rarely enrolled in American universities? According to a report on Chinese Islam released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2008, this is highly unlikely; the Muslim population in China has increased to approximately twenty-two million, which is almost twice the population of Michigan.

Why, then, is there a scarcity of Chinese Muslims at MSU and other American universities? Wang offered two explanations, citing lower income and conservative beliefs as possible contributing factors to low Hui enrollment.

Anna Pegler-Gordon, Associate Professor of American Studies at MSU, offered an alternate explanation, centering on post-9/11 changes to American visa policy. Officers of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services may have started to tighten the visa process for Muslim students following the 2001 attacks, she said. However, Pegler-Gordon also noted that most of the national security protocols regarding student visas have focused on countries with majority Muslim populations rather than countries, such as China, with significant Muslim minorities.

Does Wang feel more comfortable in the U.S. then, since the religious environment is more diverse and open? “Not really”, she answered after a long pause. During the process of getting in touch with the Muslims from other countries at MSU, Wang detected a gulf between herself and other Muslims. They are far more devout, she said, making her reconsider what it means to be a Muslim. Conversely, what the Muslims from other countries have learned about Chinese Muslims is inadequate and inaccurate, she said, leading to misunderstandings and embarrassment. “The images of Chinese Muslims in their minds are as a group of poor people, and for this reason, I know that they know little about China”, she said. People see you as a Chinese at first, and then, perhaps, as a Muslim. 

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Michigan Muslims Help Haiti

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer

Doctors from around the world have travelled to the island of Hispanola, on which stands the beleaguered and battered nation of Haiti. 

It is an honor for the Muslims of Southeast Michigan that several doctors from the Muslim community are among the many doctors and others who have gone to the nation to offer their assistance.

Muslim doctors travelling to Haiti from the Michigan area include Dr. M. Azhar Ali, MD (Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery) and Dr. Khalid Rao, MD  (Internal Medicine). 

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