Somali Shabaab Rebels Say They Shot Down U.S. drone

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Abdi Sheikh

2009-10-19T142349Z_601044172_GM1E5AJ1Q6Z01_RTRMADP_3_SOMALIA-CONFLICT

Hardline Somali Islamist insurgents from Hisbul Islam patrol the streets of the capital Mogadishu, October 19, 2009. Hardline al Shabaab rebels have destroyed a mosque and the grave of a revered Sufi Muslim sheikh in central Somalia after shooting in the air to drive away local protesters, residents said on Monday.                  

REUTERS/Stringer

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Insurgents of the Somali al Shabaab group shot down a U.S. drone aircraft flying over the southern port of Kismayu on Monday and were searching for the wreckage, an insurgent spokesman said.

U.S. commandos killed a ‘most wanted’ al Qaeda suspect allied to al Shabaab last month in a helicopter raid in the rebel-held south of the failed state.

“We fired at an American plane spying for information over Kismayu. Our forces targeted the plane and shot it and we saw the plane burning. We think it fell into the sea,” said Sheikh Hassan Yacqub, spokesman for al Shabaab in Kismayu.

“We are still searching for it,” he told Reuters.

Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, spokesman of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said all its unmanned aerial vehicles had been safely recovered but could not give further details.

Al Shabaab, which Washington says is al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia, controls much of the south and center where it is waging an insurgency against the fragile U.N.-backed government.

Residents in one small central town, Galhareeri, said al Shabaab fighters destroyed a mosque, the grave of a revered Sufi Muslim cleric and a Sufi Muslim university there on Sunday.

The hardline group has targeted Sufi holy sites and religious leaders in the past, saying their practices conflict with the insurgents’ strict interpretation of Islamic law.

“They destroyed the Sheikh Ali Ibaar’s grave and our mosque. They also knocked down our Islamic university,” elder Hassan Ali said by telephone. “We do not know where to flee.”

Fighting in Somalia has killed 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven 1.5 million from their homes.

A spokesman for Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, a moderate Sufi militia group that is battling al Shabaab in central regions, denounced the desecration of the holy sites in Galhareeri.

“We strongly condemn al Shabaab for its evil acts,” Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf told Reuters. “They are notorious for destroying great graves, even in places where they just spend a couple of nights.”

Al Shabaab has shocked many Somalis, moderate Muslims, with its stern version of Sharia law, involving amputations for theft, and lately the public whipping of women for wearing bras.

Al Shabaab fighters have banned movies, musical telephone ringtones, dancing at weddings and playing or watching soccer.

Some residents, however, give the rebels credit for restoring a degree of law and order to parts of the country.

In the capital Mogadishu, police displayed on Monday the body of a foreign gunman who appeared to be Arab and was killed on Sunday during an al Shabaab attack on government forces.

“You see this dead Arab. He was among the members of al Qaeda who came from other countries just to destroy Somalia,” police spokesman Abdullahi Barise told reporters, standing over the corpse of a light-skinned man with several bullet wounds.

Al Shabaab have urged foreign jihadists to join their battle against what they describe as Somalia’s apostate government.

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Community News (V11-I37)

September 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Razi Imam, CEO, Landslide Technologies, Inc.

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Razi Imam, is the CEO and president of Landslide Technologies. His company builds software to codify the sales process. His is a classic rags to riches story. His father worked as a laborer in Kuwait and his career prospects appeared dim. But he persisted and got a job at the Kuwait University library. There he taught himself programming by reading computer manuals.

He later went back to Pakistan and studied at the Karachi University majoring in Physics, Mathematics, and Statistics. A self starter he wrote programming code by hand to create a search program for the yellow pages of Karachi. His success lead to a job at Wang.

He moved to the US and thrived starting up successful tech businesses before launching landslide.

The basic principles that Imam imparts to his daughters are the importance of a solid education, good communication skills, and a willingness to work hard. “The beauty of the United States is that you can work hard and have success. In other places, you can work hard but be frustrated because the opportunities aren’t there.”

New Jersey mosque to organize national prayer meet

ELIZABETH, NJ–The Darul Islam mosque in New Jersey is organizing a national day of prayers and Islamic unity on Capitol Hill on September 25, 2009. Organizers hope that more than 50,000 worshippers will participate.

About 400 people are expected from Darul Islam mosque, which is raising money from donors to help pay the cost of the event, expected to surpass $200,000.
The event will be open to the public. However, there will be no political speeches or placards.

Muslim students accommodated for Ramadan

COLUMBUS, MO–Muslim students at Missouri State University feel relieved after the Campus Dining Services has extended dining hall hours and included more breakfast items on takeout menus.

“Campus Dining Services has accommodated Muslim students during Ramadan in the past by working with the students on an individual basis,” CDS Director Julaine Kiehn told the Campus newspaper.

Kiehn said this year, more options will be available to students on the whole instead of individually.

Muslim Student Organization spokeswoman Nabihah Maqbool said the accommodations were a “huge step forward.”

“We’ve been working with dining services, and they’ve been so helpful since we’ve brought it up as a concern,” Maqbool said.

Muslim students launch Ramadan food drive

SALT LAKE CITY, UT–Muslim students at Utah universities have launched a campaign to collect 2,000 non perishable food items in the month of Ramadan. They will then be distributed to needy families of all faiths in the city.

“By encouraging and participating in community service, we hope to not only achieve our goal of providing the most basic of necessities to the vulnerable, but also demonstrate the emerging, positive influence of Muslims in American communities,”  wrote one organizer of the event on her blog.

Supporters of the cause, including the Muslim Student Association at the U., come from various backgrounds, religions and ethnicities.

To learn more visit: muslimsunitedagainsthunger.blogspot.com.

Planet Ozone to stock Halal products

TAMPA, FL–Planet Ozone, one of Florida’s first “green commercial building, officially opened yesterday. Among many of its unique features is the availability of Halal food products. The project is a dream project of Mohammed Hussein.

In what he plans to be a 24-hour cafe and takeout restaurant, Hussein and his wife will cook Mediterranean and Lebanese dishes. Italian dishes will be prepared by an Italian chef. Customers also will be able to buy freshly made natural juices from the juice bar.

“We want to price it in the $6 range and have large portions of protein, as well as carbohydrates and vegetables, so you’re getting good quality,” Hussein told the newspaper when the store was first announced. “That’s what we are focusing on: price and quality.”

Instead of beer, the large bank of coolers in the grocery area will be stocked with natural and organic juices, produce and natural meats that meet strict Halal dietary guidelines, said the report.

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Community News (V11-I36)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Airmen & families celebrate Ramadan

By 1st Lt. Joe Kreidel

18th Wing Public Affairs

8/24/2009 – KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  — “It’s like planning for Christmas while everyone else is going about their business,” said Tech. Sgt. Angela Errahimi, a combat communications chief with the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, about preparing for Ramadan here. This same sense of dislocation is no doubt shared by many military members celebrating Ramadan in places like Okinawa where Islam is by far a minority religion.

Ramadan, which began Aug. 22, is a 30-day fast during which devout Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sex from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is the preeminent ritual in a faith that gives particular importance to its ritual observances.

“Islam was something I was looking for – the mosque was so quiet and peaceful,” said Sergeant Errahimi of her conversion six years ago. After meeting her now-husband, who is from Morocco, she studied at a mosque for one year prior to making her “shahada” or witness of faith.

It was Islam’s structure and emphasis on community that first appealed to Staff Sgt. Marvin Morris, an X-ray technician and the assistant NCOIC of radiology at the 18th Medical Operations Squadron. He called the daily regimen of five scheduled prayers “the military version of prayer.”

“The first few days of fasting are hard,” said Sergeant Morris. At Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where he was previously stationed, several non-Muslim friends attempted to join him in the fast; one friend made it one whole day. For Sergeant Morris, it’s in large part the hardship of fasting that makes Ramadan so special: “That’s what it’s about. It’s a cleansing process, a chance to focus inward and renew your commitment to Allah.”

The day’s perseverance is rewarded come sunset, as “Iftar” – the evening meal at which each day’s fast is broken – tends to be an extravagant affair. For a week leading up to Ramadan, Sergeant Errahimi and her husband, who have four children at home, prepared various dishes and pastries so as to have a stockpile once Ramadan actually began. Food preparation, too, is more difficult and requires more planning in Okinawa than in Washington, D.C., where the Errahimis lived previously. “Halal” meats are especially hard to come by.

Ramadan will conclude Sept. 19 with “Eid,” a major festival that traditionally involves a special public prayer, feasting, gift-giving, and visiting with family and friends. This communal, festive aspect of Ramadan may be somewhat lacking for Sgt. Morris this year, as he’s new to the island and hasn’t yet made many friends amongst the on-island Muslim community, miniscule compared to the one in northern California.

In 2007, Sergeant Morris celebrated Ramadan at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. While there he worked the night shift, convenient because it allowed him to sleep during the day when he couldn’t eat or drink. On multiple occasions he was able take “Iftar” with a group of Egyptian Muslims working in Afghanistan. “I loved it,” he said, “It’s a different culture, but we’re connected by our shared faith. It’s like a family away from family.”

NC Mosque hit by hate crime

TAYLOR, NC– A mosque in Taylors has been victim of a hate crime. The words ‘Death to Muslims’ were carved in a concrete outside the Islamic Center.

The anti-religious message was written sometime in the early morning hours last Saturday.  For members like Miriam Abbad, it’s hard to see.  She’s worshipped for 10 years at the center.  “When they say death to Muslims, that means me, my young children, my husband, my whole family.  What did we do wrong to deserve such mean words to come out?”

The FBI is investigating the case.

Delaware Muslim prof. network

A new service-based organization has formed with the goal of inviting Muslims to participate in activities that benefit the community.

The Muslim Professionals of Delaware began last month and is working on its first project, a drive to collect school supplies for disadvantaged children.

Group founders Semab Chaudhry and Ahmed Sharkawy, said they want to work with interfaith groups to help the needy, foster greater cultural understanding and hold career and college development workshops.

Anyone interested in joining or working with the group can visit www.mpod.us.com or e-mail info@mpod.us.com.

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1st Annual IONA Street Fair

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Warren–August 15–Many local mosques have made an effort to reach out to their local communities, and just such an effort was this past weekend’s street fair at the IONA mosque in Warren.

The mosque blocked off its large parking lot and hosted vendors of food and clothing, and provided health screenings to fair attendees.

Dr. Naseer Ahmad, who provided glucose diabetes screenings, explained that as of early in the afternoon he had screened 51 people for diabetes.

In part the purpose of this street fair was to break any ice remaining with local neighbors of the mosque, some of whom vociferously opposed the mosque.  The fair bore fruit, as the Warren mayor and several city councilmen attended early on Saturday. 

The mosque’s imam, Mustapha El-Tourk, explained that several other local non-Muslims had attended as well.

“This is our first year–we hope to continue the tradition,” he explained.  “We want to draw the non-Muslim community so they will know who we are–we don’t discriminate against other cultures and religions.”

P8158139 “This is a changing community,” he went on to say, pointing out that just a few years ago Warren was overwhelmingly white and Christian, while now there are many different ethnicities and religious communities who have made the Detroit suburb their home, including a Buddhist community, people from the Hmong community, and of course many Muslims from the subcontinent and from the Arab world.  As evidence of this and of the mutual goodwill in the area, Reverend Curro (Exec. Director of the ICRJ) and also two Buddhist monks in saffron robes were at the fair.

Imam El-Tourk is very involved in local Muslim organizations and interfaith groups, including the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) which has its office in the IONA buildiing, and he has just been nominated president of the Interfaith Center for Racial Justice (ICRJ), of which Rev. Curro is the executive director.

The imam explained IONA would follow the FCNA pronouncement regarding Ramadan and ‘Eid, therefore tarawih will begin Friday night insha`Allah, and fasting Saturday. 

Speaking on the FCNA/ISNA pronouncement regarding moonsighting, Imam El-Tourk explained that “there is enough evidence for both sides, and Prophet (s) used to take the easiest way, as long as there was no sin in it.  Let’s be merciful in our communities–one ‘eid and one Ramadan.”

Imam El-Tourk said ‘isha prayers would begin at 9:45pm, followed by tarawih prayers, and he explained that each tarawih session would begin with a ten minute description of the Qur`anic passages to be covered in that session.

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Ottoman Palestine Pictures

August 13, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

From ottomanpalestine.com:

“Until 9 December 1917 for more 400 years the city and Palestine lived peacefully under Pax Ottomana. Despite this 400 year long rule of Turks in Jerusalem there are not many visible Turkish Architectural Works. No slender minarets or Royal Mosque as in Balkans was build. The reason for this was respect for the local traditions and because there was a congregational Mosque of Masjid el-Aqsa. No other Mosque could be built that could surpass the holy shrine. Never the less, the City of Jerusalem has still a visible Turkish Presence. ”

Suleiman had a special relationship with Jerusalem. Evliya Çelebi describes Sultan Suleiman’s special relationship with Jerusalem as follows:

“In the year 926/1520 Sultan Suleiman acceded to the throne and conquered the fortress of Belgrade 927/1521 and later on the island of Rhodes 928/1522 and accumulated thereby intense wealth. The Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w) appeared to him in a blessed night and told him: “O Suleiman you will make many conquests You should spend these spoils on embellishing Mecca and Medina, and for the fortification of the citadel of Jerusalem in order to repulse the unbelievers, when they attempt to take possession during the reign of your followers. You should also embellish its sanctuary with a water basin and offer annual money gift to the dervishes there, and also embellish the Rock of Allah and rebuild Jerusalem.”

“Such being the order of the Prophet (S), Suleiman sends from his spoils one thousand purses to Medina and another thousand purses to Jerusalem. Together with required material he dispatched the master architect Koca Sinan and transferred Lala Mustafa Pasha from the governorship of Egypt to that of Syria, this latter having been ordered to carry out the restoration of Jerusalem, gathered all the master builders, architects and sculptors available in Cairo, Damascus and Aleppo and send them to Jerusalem to rebuild it and to embellish the Holy Rock.”

89-OTTOMAN SOLDIERS (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Soldiers in Palestine

4-OTTOMAN LOCAL PASSPORT (TEZKEREH) IN PALESTINE (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Passport Palestine

9-PALESTINIAN WEDDING PROCESSION 1904 (by ottomanpalestine2)

39-PALESTINIAN WEDDING PROCESSION 1904 (2) (by ottomanpalestine2)

Palestinian Wedding Procession 1904

8-THE VISITING OF GERMANY KING TO OTTOMAN JERUSALEM 1898  (2) (by ottomanpalestine2)

44-THE VISITING OF GERMANY KING TO OTTOMAN JERUSALEM 1898 (13) (by ottomanpalestine2)

Visiting of King of Germany to Ottoman Palestine 1898

55- OTTOMAN RAILWAY   FIRST TRAIN TO BI'RšSSEBA BETWEEN HAIFA DER'A (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Railway, First Train to BI’RšSSEBA BETWEEN HAIFA DER’A

54- OTTOMAN RAILWAY HAIFA TRAIN STATION, WITH THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 1905 PRAYER (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Railway Haifa Train Station, Opening Prayer 1905

26-OTTOMAN JERUSALEM EL-KOUDS  1898-1914 (49) (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Jerusulem 1898

11-OTTOMAN PALESTINE  [BETWEEN 1898 AND 1917] SQUARE FACING DAVID'S TOWER (by ottomanpalestine2)

OTTOMAN PALESTINE [BETWEEN 1898 AND 1917] SQUARE FACING DAVID’S TOWER

Modern Palestine:

Community News (V11-I33)

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslim women’s shelter in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC–Sa’idah Sharif-Sudan, an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, is starting a shelter for Muslim women in Charlotte. She had earlier started a shelter in New Jersey in 2003.

At a luncheon sponsored by the Domestic Violence Advocacy Council this week Sudan said the shelter, the first of its kind in Charlotte, would be officially would be launched in the coming months.

Sudan says she would also like to sensitize social workers to the needs of Muslims. “I’d like to educate the social workers, the police departments,” she said. “They don’t know much about the Muslim community and domestic violence.”

For starters, she said, it is important to keep in mind that domestic violence is not just a problem in the Muslim community.

“Domestic violence has no religion, no color, no face – it’s everywhere,” Sudan said. “If Muslim husbands beat their wives, they are not practicing what they say they believe (as Muslims). But neither are Catholics or Baptists when they beat their wives.”

Syed Muzzamil wins scholarship

SOMERVILLE,NJ–Syed Muzzamil is a recipient of the 2009 New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome’s 2009 Children’s Scholarship in the amount of $500. Muzzamil, who graduated from North Brunswick Township High School, was selected for his academic achievement, community service and accomplishments as an individual with Tourette Syndrome.

Muzzamil served as student government president; played varsity golf; participated in the Model U.N. program; was a member of the National Honor Society and was a member of his school’s robotics team. Muzzamil took part in the Robert Wood Johnson Mini-Medical Seminar and volunteered at St. Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick, the physician office of Dr. Saleha Hussaidn and the Muslim Center of Middlesex County.

NJCTS congratulates Syed Muzzamil on his achievements and wishes him continued success in his academic and career endeavors.

The NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award is given to outstanding high school seniors in the state of New Jersey who have excelled in their schools and communities in the face of living with Tourette Syndrome.

Miss. group gets initial OK for mosque

CANTON,Miss.–The Mississippi Muslim Association has been granted the initial permission required to build a mosque in the city of Madison. The county supervisors voted 3-2 for the zoning exemption. Opponents have fifteen days to appeal the decision.

The mosque when constructed will be called Magnolia Islamic Center. Muslim association spokesman Azzam Aburmirshid says more than 100 families who attend a mosque in south Jackson want to worship closer to their homes in Madison County, north of the capital city.

Before the mosque can be built, the Muslim association must show building plans to county officials. It also must verify water and sewer service are available.
Islamic school to open in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis private school to open

MINNEAPOLIS,MN–The Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, the largest mosque in the state, will open a private school this fall.  The leaders of the project say the mosque will fight the ‘youth crisis’ among local Somalis by teaching students to embrace their unique identity.

The mosque has raised about $760,000 in private donations to help pay for the school.

The Islamic school is expected to open in September with classes for kindergarten and first grade, but the mosque hopes to expand the offerings as the school grows. In addition to core subjects such as math and English, the school will also offer classes teaching the Somali language and Islamic studies. “Iqra” means “read” in Arabic.

The renovated space will also house the mosque’s weekend Islamic school and summer programs.

The mosque needs to raise an additional $173,000 to pay for the project.

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Community News (V11-I29)

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Researcher cited for excellence

zain Zainulabeuddin “Zain” Syed, who helped discover the mode of action for the insect repellent DEET in the Walter Leal laboratory at the University of California, Davis, has been cited for excellence in postdoctoral research.

The award, sponsored by the UC Davis Postdoctoral Scholars’ Association and the Office of Graduate Studies, is given annually to “up to two postdocs” for outstanding research accomplishments.

Mr. Syed received a certificate and $500 at a recent ceremony in the University Club. He was among the 12 finalists from a pool of 800 postdocs at UC Davis.

Syed, a native of Hyderabad,  India, was educated and trained in India, Germany and the United States. He is active in departmental events and in the Entomological Society of America (ESA). He delivered a scientific research lecture on “Maxillary Palps Are Broad Spectrum Odorant Detectors in Culex quinquefasciatus” on Dec. 10, 2007 at ESA’s international meeting in San Diego.

County sued for approving mosque plans

LODI, CA– The Lodi county has been sued by a resident’s association for approving the plans of a proposed mosque. The group known as the Morada Area Association is upset over the Board of Supervisor;s approval of the mosque, the Lodi News reported.

The Morada group claims that the Board of Supervisors violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not studying the effects the mosque would have on water supply, traffic and parking surrounding the mosque, which has yet to be built, according to Bill Fields, an active member of the Morada Area Association.

The mosque plan calls for a call for a 13,820-square-foot mosque to be built on two acres on the eastern Highway 99 frontage road, 150 feet north of Shippee Lane. It would be used as a prayer hall, classroom, multipurpose hall and offices.

Miss. mosque hearing rescheduled

MADISON, MS– A meeting to discuss the plans for a mosque in Madison this week has been rescheduled for August 3.

The Mississippi Muslim Association’s attorney, Roger Williams, said the group is trying to obtain a private sewer system and asked for a continuance of a public hearing that was scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

The city of Madison said it is not required to provide sewer services to the area where the mosque wants to locate.

The mosque would need a proper sewer system in place before going forward.

Kashmir Conference to be held on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON D.C.–Kashmiri American Council  and Association of Humanitarian Lawyers has released the list of speakers for the the 10th International Kashmir conference at Capitol Hill, Washington on 23rd of July. The conference will be held for two days.

The speakers include Ms. Siddharth Varadarajan, The Hindu, New Delhi; Senator Mushahid Hussain, Secretary General, PML-Q, Islamabad; Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Editor, Economic & Political Review, New Delhi; Mr. Tapan Bose, Film Maker & Peace Activist, New Delhi; Dr. Angana Chatterji, Indian-American, San Francisco; Mr. Ved Bhasin, Editor, Kashmir Times, Jammu; Mr. Jatinder Bakhshi, Chairman, Committee for the Return of Kashmiri Migrants (Pandits), Jammu; Ms. Harinder Baweja, Founding Editor, Tehelka, New Delhi; Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States; Ambassador Munir Akram, Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United Nations; Dr. Richard Shapiro, Institute of Integral Studies, California; Amb, Husain Haqqani, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States,among others.

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Despite FBI Investigation, Minnesota Mosque Has Support

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ramla Bile, Mshale, New America Media

spring08-06-grocery
File:  A member of Minnesota’s Somali community

Despite fears of distractions from the missing Somali youth saga that has engulfed the Somali community in Minnesota, the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center held its 9th Annual Convention at the Minneapolis Convention Center over the weekend where thirty speakers addressed 10,000 people over three days.

Participants said it was encouraging to see the number of attendees, the breadth of topics, and the scope of talent.

Despite a tumultuous year, the mosque saw increased attendance at this year’s convention and a spike in monetary support. Since last fall, the mosque has come under fire for the “missing youth” debacle, a connection that the mosque administrators and its supporters continue to deny. People close to the mosque did not believe the annual event would occur this year, they feared that the need to address the allegations would distract the administration and volunteers from organizing the convention. But after successfully meeting fundraising goals and having a record attendance with the help of 200 volunteers, the Abubakar community believes it maintains the trust and love of the Somali community. “This crowd and their energy is a testimony to their commitment to the mosque and its respected leaders,” attendee Ali Abdi said.

People travelled from Columbus, Nashville, Toronto, Kansas City, and across the United States and Canada to listen, learn, and meet. Hundreds of others logged-in to a live broadcast through several websites that serve the Somali community. Twenty-year-old Anab Ibrahim travelled from Seattle to attend the convention. “We came because my aunt was impressed with the line-up. When we arrived, we were amazed with the number of people we saw standing and sitting around in the lobby… we were even more shocked to see the packed auditorium,” she said. At the peak of the event on Saturday, an estimated 7,000 thousand people filled the two auditoriums. Anab said she especially enjoyed the English lectures. “Other conferences are only about the politics of Somalia, and often make us feel hopeless. This was applicable to our lives here and our faith. It showed me what we could do for our community and ourselves.”

Speakers addressed a wide range of topics, including the future of Somalis in the diaspora, the prevalence of autism, the importance of knowing your rights, the danger of gangs and extremism, the notion of Islam as mercy among others.

The only wrinkle on the conference was keynote speaker, Sheikh Mustafa Harun, being denied entry to the United States upon landing at Newark airport. He ultimately addressed the audience via webcam the following day. Participants expressed outrage over their revered scholar being denied entry. Harun said he checked in with the U.S. Embassy in Norway weeks prior to his scheduled flight and was told he should not encounter any issues. Norway has a visa waiver program with the United States. Despite his attempt at planning ahead, he did not make it to the convention. After a 9-hour flight, he was questioned for 3 hours and was told that although his identity was cleared, he must leave the country. He was allowed to make a call before boarding another 9-hour flight back to Norway.

Other speakers included imams from around the U.S. including Minnesota, among them Sheikh Abdirahman Sheikh Omar, Sheikh Abdirizak Hashi, Sheikh Jamel Bin Ameur, and others. Audience members were astounded by the knowledge and wit of 12-year-old Mohamud Ahmed Mohamud, who was introduced as “Sheikh Mohamud.” He related the story of Salman Al-Farisi, a historic figure in Islamic history, and spoke on the importance of seeking knowledge and asking questions. He shared the Somali proverb of regret where a person says, “when I had youth, I did not want to learn, and when I had age, I wished I had learned during my youth.” Mohamud says he wanted to send a strong message to the youth, and encourage them to take advantage of their time. “I want young people to step up to the plate because I see so much good in them and it’s time for the youth to rise,” he said. Mohamud spent the past three years helping in the bookstore of the mosque, reading and writing as he could.

Gubernatorial candidate Steve Kelley, and Constituent Advocate to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Siad Ali spoke on the health, education, and anti-immigration sentiment. Klobuchar addressed the audience by video where she touched on the cultural and intellectual wealth Somalis bring to Minnesota. Minneapolis welcomed Abukar Arman, the President of the CAIR chapter in Columbus who did a “know your rights” presentation in Somali, while members of the local chapter of CAIR did a program in English. “It’s important for people to understand their legal rights and the implications of their actions – intentional or not. Wanting a lawyer is not an omission of guilt. We want people to cooperate with law enforcement and we want them to know their rights,” he said. Arman also addressed the allegations against certain mosques in the city, saying that, “we’re finding that people are being judged by public opinion, which is ridiculous because this is a nation of law and order, and rumors should not absolve or condemn people or institutions of allegations. Rather, this should be determined by an established legal process.”

Poets Sara Mohamed and Maryam Warsame made their début at the convention. Warsame is one of three organizers for the mosque’s “Youth to Youth” group, a mentorship program for young women. Sara is a student in the program, and the two began writing together this winter. They rhymed about the situation of women in their homeland, and shared the stories of those who did not find relief. “We don’t want to be famous, we just want to get message out and not forget about those who are suffering,” Warsame said. She added that the convention was a good opportunity for students to share their work.

In addition to the poetry and lectures, the convention also included a fundraising component. In a little over an hour, participants pledged $150,000 to help cover expenses incurred over the construction of the second floor of the mosque, as well as to jump-start the next phase of development. The administration hopes to complete the parking lot and make the exterior of the building more visually pleasing.

It is difficult to imagine that this is the same institution that operated from a garage in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood – the epicenter of the city’s newest wave of immigrants. Founding member Abdulaziz Sugule says this vision for a mosque comprehensively serving the community started over a decade ago and the organization began operations in 2000. Then called the Imam Shafi’i Mosque, the name was changed to the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center and the organization moved to an abandoned warehouse in South Minneapolis. “Today, that vision is a five million dollar project,” Sugule said. “The mosque plays a major role in advancing the community; it consists of all kinds of social services including providing family counseling, settling community disputes, celebrating Islamic holidays, working with local and national government leaders, mentoring youth, and providing a place of Islamic worship and education,” he said.

Looking up with a smile, he added, “Contrary to what some people are saying, they (the mosque administration) are trying to build a healthy community with good people… they’re starting a movement for positive change and people love the place and its people.”

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Community News (V11-I28)

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Top scientist receives grant to develop fast test to detect porcine fat

peggy hsieh TALLAHASSEE, June 29, 2009– Y-H. Peggy Hsieh, of Florida State University,  recently received a grant from Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K. of Japan to develop a rapid method for the detection of porcine fat. The two-year grant provides $216,000 in research funds plus $40,000 in consulting fees.

Pork tissue is strictly prohibited in  Halal diets for religious reasons. Reliable methods for the detection of any porcine tissue, including muscle and fat, are of paramount importance to the practicing Muslim and Jewish populations. Hsieh has previously developed a rapid pork immunoassay which can sensitively detect any pork muscle in food and feed mixtures regardless of their processing conditions. This pork-specific assay was commercialized in 2000 and has been widely used internationally. However, detection of pork fat remains challenging due to the physiochemical nature of the fat. Currently available methods such as DNA based Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques, gas and liquid chromatography, and near-infrared spectroscopy, all require sophisticated instruments coupled with complex data analysis procedures for interpreting results. Rapid field tests of pork or any other fat are non-existent.

Hsieh will search for a porcine-specific and thermal-stable biomarker in the porcine fat tissue and develop a rapid method for the detection of the biomarker in raw and processed pork fat. It is anticipated that after two years, she will deliver the very first field assay which can identify even small amounts of pork fat in a wide range of raw and processed materials without using expensive instrumentation. This type of assay will greatly benefit billions of people who try to avoid pork in their diet. Tanaka has signed an optional licensing agreement with FSU in the hopes of commercializing Hsieh’s end product upon completion of this project.

The Tanaka Kikinzoku Group is Japan’s leading precious metals company with a history of over one hundred and twenty years. Although best known internationally for its high specification industrial products, the group is also producer and trader of a variety of bullion and platinum group metals, coins and bars. The group is also active environmentally, and is one of the world’s largest recyclers of platinum group metals. Their newly established Medical Group, which is funding Hsieh’s research, is focused on developing various products through the use of precious metals to improve human health.

Protestors at mosque presented with roses

BOSTON, MA–The mosque complex of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center officially opened last Friday with more than 1800 worshippers in attendance. Mayor Thomas M. Menino, city councilors, and state lawmakers also attended the ceremony.

The mosque had faced a plethora of problems including financial woes and allegations that some of the speakers there had indulged in extreme rhetoric.

A handful of protestors stood across the street from the mosque holding placards led by a leading critic Charles Mosque. Local Muslims gave them white flowers as a gesture of peace. A few arguments ensued but the overall atmosphere was peaceful.

The Muslim leaders of the area hoped that the mosque will become a hub of interfaith programs.

Mayor Bloomberg says schools won’t close for Eid

NEW YORK,NY–Mayor Michael Bloomberg says New York City’s schools can’t close for Muslim holidays.

The City Council is considering a nonbinding resolution on Tuesday asking the Education Department to observe Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

The city has the nation’s largest school system. A 2008 study by Columbia University’s Teachers College estimates at least 10 percent of its 1.1 million students are Muslim.

The resolution asks the Bloomberg administration to observe the holidays in schools and for the state to require it by amending education law.

The mayor says the city is so diverse schools can’t observe every holiday.

LAPD appoints first Muslim chaplain

LOS ANGELES, CA–In a bid to improve relations with Muslims, the Los Angeles Police Department has appointed its first Muslim chaplain.

Pakistan-born Sheik Qazi Asad, 47, will become a reserve chaplain at the North Hollywood station, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

“We need to establish very good communication … where both parties are talking to each other,” Asad told the Times. “This is just opening up the door.”

Asad, a U.S. citizen, has spent a decade working to improve relations between police and Muslims  in Los Angeles County.

The LAPD hopes he’ll strengthen relations that have suffered since the department tried to map the city’s Muslim population in 2007, the newspaper said. The department abandoned the plan after critics called it religious profiling.

Asad has served as a member of the sheriff’s Executive Clergy Council, on which he worked to build trust between Muslims and police.

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Czech Muslims!

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By  Marie Aubrechtova, Islam Online

PRAGUE — Not so long ago the words Czech and Muslim were two polar opposites and it would be almost unthinkable to use them together. But now, two decades after the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, Muslims are increasing in numbers, becoming more active and founding new organizations to represent them.

“About 300 come to the main mosque and at least 200 come to the prayer hall in the centre,” Vladimir (Umar) Sanka, one of the managers of the main mosque and prayer hall in Prague, told IslamOnline.net.

He said the numbers of Muslims are slowly but surely growing in the Czech Republic.

“The prayer hall is so overcrowded every Friday that we have been forced to have two Friday prayers and lectures so that all the Muslims can even fit.”

The mosque had to hire a sports hall for `Eid Al-Adha, one of the two main religious festivals on the Islamic calendar which was celebrated in December, to accommodate the record-breaking number of 1,500 Muslims who showed up.

The increase of Muslims is linked to the growing number of Czechs embracing the Muslim faith.

“In our mosque in Prague we are honoured and happy to witness a new conversion almost every week,” says Sanka.

The last recorded number of Muslims was around 12,000 in 2007, but the latest estimate is around 20,000, including 400 converts.

The first official Muslim organization, the Islamic Foundation, was established in 1991.

In 1998 it opened its first mosque in Brno and then one year later in Prague.

There were also attempts to build mosques in smaller cities, mainly Spa towns which are popular with Arab clients, but these plans were met with resistance from both the public and churches.

Islam itself was not legally accepted as a religion by the Czech state until 2004.

New Representatives

“We want to hold more lectures and generally host events which portray Islam in a positive light to the public,” Jitka told IOL.

Until recently, the mosques in the cities of Brno and Prague were the only official bodies representing Muslims in the Czech Republic.

But now new organizations are appearing to meet the needs of the growing and increasingly diverse Muslim community.

Mohamed Abbas is a well-known media figure and publisher of Islamic literature, including the Qur’an and a translation of Riyad us Saaliheen, the only book of hadith so far published in the Czech language.

Abbas is now also one of the founders of a new organization called the Islamic Community, whose aim is to provide more activities for Muslims.

Currently the Islamic Community is in the process of securing 300 signatures needed to become officially recognised, which will make it the second Muslim body in the Czech Republic eligible for state funding.

“At the moment organizations here represent only a marginal number of Muslims in the country and do not include everybody,” Abbas told IOL.

“We want to change this and create an organization for all, and one that is truly democratic and transparent.”

Abbas is optimistic about garnering the needed 300 signatures.

“The number of Muslims here is definitely increasing, especially after Czech Republic joined the EU, and they are interested in seeing an active organization serving them.”

State registration will give the organization a wider scope.

It will be able to rent, build and manage Islamic centers, establish Islamic schools and after 10 years it can ask for other special rights like taking care of the spiritual needs of Muslims in the army and jails as well as support of state for Islamic marriages in mosques.

Another completely new organization, which is quite different from the ones already being set-up, is a new Facebook Group called Muslims from Czech Republic, created by 21-year-old fresh convert Jitka Cervinkova.

When Jitka first embraced Islam in September of last year she searched Facebook for a group of Muslims in her country.

When she didn’t find any, she decided to create one.

Since its creation in November 2008, the group has grown rapidly and now has over 300 members.

“I think Facebook is great for meeting other Muslims as I don’t really go to the mosque here in Prague because it is too far for me and it seems that women there are mainly mums with children,” she told IOL.

“I didn’t meet any young girls of my age when I visited.”

Now Jitka, along with other administrators of the group, are faced with the great responsibility of becoming leaders of the fastest growing, and perhaps most influential, Muslim group in the country.

“I feel the Muslim community in the Czech Republic is growing at great speed, although I don’t know any statistics I feel I meet more and more young Muslims here every day.”

The Facebook group has attracted mainly a young generation of people and consists of both Czech converts and Muslims from other countries, such as the Arab world or Bosnia, who are living or studying in the Czech Republic as well as non-Muslims who are interested in Islam.

Jitka, who is usually busy studying for a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, now also finds time to organise events and post topics to the group.
So far the group has hosted social events for its members and has also organised a film viewing for the general public.

Volunteers from the group translated a film about Islam from English and answered questions about Islam to the non-Muslim audience.

“We have ideas for many projects and events,” said Jitka, citing the need for funding and sponsors who could be able to help.

“We are hoping to organise an exhibition about Islam, as well as set up information stalls with leaflets and information,” she said enthusiastically.

“We want to hold more lectures and generally host events which portray Islam in a positive light to the public.”

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Once Bitter Rivals, Mulayam & Kalyan Patch Up

January 29, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

babri-masjid

NEW DELHI:  Kalyan Singh, once the Hindutva mascot of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was the Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister when the Babari Masjid was demolished in 1992. He has now joined hands with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP), the very party that had earlier strongly criticized Kalyan for demolition of the mosque. Taking a U-turn on his earlier stand against Kalyan, Yadav said the former was not responsible for the mosque’s demolition. “He (Kalyan) did not do that. The mosque was demolished by Shiv Sena and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),” Yadav said within a few days of Kalyan quitting BJP to move closer to SP. Acknowledging that mosque’s demolition was Kalyan’s “moral” responsibility as he was the then UP chief minister, Yadav said: “Kalyan now represents the downtrodden and working-class and he has always been a supporter of their issues. We cannot call him extremist now.” On their being bitter political rivals earlier, Yadav said: “We were never enemies but opposed each other, as we have always been in opposite parties” (January 25).

On his part, suggesting a negotiated settlement on the disputed Ayodhya-issue, Kalyan said: “All concerned parties, including prominent Muslim clerics, saints and sadhus, intellectuals, historians and archaeologists, should sit together and find out an amicable solution to the dispute keeping in mind that the sentiments of no group or community are hurt.”

Ayodhya-issue is not responsible for Kalyan’s decision to resign from BJP. Announcing his decision to resign from all party posts in BJP, Kalyan said: “I am feeling suffocated in the party and it is impossible and humiliating to continue” (January 20). Clarifying that he had never asked for party ticket for his son or his supporters, Kalyan said that the BJP had ignored him while preparing candidates’ list from UP for Lok Sabha elections. “No one consulted me while preparing a poll candidates’ list for 80 constituencies. I just wanted Bulandshahr seat but they offered me ticket from Etah, which I have returned to party president Rajnath Singh,” he said.

Kalyan is angry with the BJP for nominating Ashok Pradhan from Bulandshahr. He holds Pradhan as responsible for sabotaging his son Rajveer Singh’s chances in assembly elections two years ago from Diboi seat in Aligarh. The preceding day, Yadav had said that Kalyan’s son was welcome to fight on a ticket from SP. When asked to comment on this, Kalyan said: “I would like to thank him for that. We will see.” Rajveer was inducted into SP and appointed its national general secretary, the following day.

Yadav is hopeful that alliance with Kalyan will swing the Dalit-vote in their favor and create a dent in the support enjoyed by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which at present heads the UP government under Chief Minister Mayawati.

The U-turn in Yadav’s attitude towards Kalyan has angered quite a few Muslim leaders within SP. Azam Khan, known as an important Muslim leader of SP, has strongly opposed Yadav’s decision to join hands with Kalyan. “This is just not acceptable to me. Kalyan Singh is a hardcore RSS man who was directly responsible for the demolition of the Babari Masjid. How can I brush shoulders with a man like him? What has led Mulayam Singhji to go for such an alignment?”

Saleem Sherwani, who has been elected to Lok Sabha five times, voiced his opposition to the “Kalyan deal” by expressing his decision to contest the Budaun seat as an independent candidate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Sherwani is disillusioned with Yadav at his decision to hand over Budaun seat to his nephew Dharmendra Yadav. Though his nephew won the last election from Mainpuri, he earned a bad name there for ignoring the constituency and only allegedly furthering his personal interests. SP chief apparently decided to hand Budaun to his nephew as the constituency has 316,000 Yadav votes and around 290,000 Muslim votes. Sherwani’s confidence on winning the seat as an independent rests on his being favored by both the sections.

Muslim leaders within BSP have criticized Yadav’s tie-up with Kalyan to win the Muslim-vote. “We have always been calling bluff the Mulayam Singh Yadav’s claims of secularism. By joining hands with Kalyan Singh, he has shown his true colors,” BSP national general secretary and senior member of UP cabinet Nasimuddin Siddiqui said while addressing a party meeting in Allahabad (January 24). “Muslims must not forget that Kalyan Singh was the very person during whose chief ministership Babari mosque was demolished. Besides, although he has resigned from the BJP he has never ever expressed regret over the incident of December 6, 1992,” Siddiqui said.

Congress has no problems with the SP forging an alliance with Kalyan. “Though it’s a historical fact that the Babari Masjid was demolished in his (Kalyan Singh) time, now if the Samajwadi Party gives ticket to him or his son (Rajvir Singh), it is between them. We don’t have any problem with the alliance,” senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said.

With the SP-Kalyan deal, according to BJP, the Congress can no longer call itself “secular” and cannot absolve itself from joining hands with those who were involved in the Ayodhya movement. One of the accused in the Babari Masjid demolition-case, Brij Bhushan Sharan, a former BJP member was already given a Lok Sabha ticket by the SP.

Irrespective of whatever political calculations may be responsible for the SP-Kalyan deal, Muslim leaders of UP have strongly criticized it. Describing it as an ill advised move, Zafaryaab Jilani, legal advisor to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and also convener of the Babari Masjid Action Committee, said: “Let us see what explanation the SP chief will offer to the Muslims during Lok Sabha elections.” The SP will pay heavily by losing Muslim votes in Lok Sabha polls is the opinion voiced by most Muslim leaders in UP.

11-6

Community News (V10-I39)

September 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Chicago interfaith Iftar

CHICAGO,IL–Chicago area Muslims and Christians gathered at the Islamic Foundation Mosque recently for an interfaith iftar. It was part of an ongoing effort  between the two communities relations between the two communities. More than fifty people came for the event.

Similar events are being held throughout the Chicago area.

“Had it not been for interfaith relations in the Chicago area, the aftermath of 9/11 would have been very different,” said Ghulam Haider Aasi, professor of Islamic studies at American Islamic College in Chicago in an interview to the Daily Herald. “Muslims of Chicago fortunately did not see as bad a situation (of backlash) as people in other parts of the country.”

Leaders emphasized commonalities between the faith traditions and the significance of building fellowship through the fast-breaking ritual.

“What I think is valuable about this is two communities build personal relationships first in the context of which they are then able to discuss the larger issues between them,” said the Rev. Thomas Baima, Provost at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary.

Heitage Hills Mosque plans not approved

GRAND RAPIDS,MI–Heritage Hill residents convinced city planners to reject an Islamic community’s request to convert a former school building into a mosque.
The city’s Planning Commission voted 8-0 against the request by the Masjid Muhammad Islamic Center.

Mosque officials said the daily prayers would attract only a handful of worshippers, while other gatherings rarely would draw more than 50 people.

But neighbors complained that the property has only seven spaces, with three spaces available on the street which will lead to problems.

The Masjid Muhammad Islamic Center has been looking for a permanent home for five years, since a mosque along South Division Avenue was destroyed by fire.

Bus ads spread the message

SEATTLE,WA– Adopting an innovative approach to Dawah, activists in Seattle area have turned to public transit buses. The paid advertisements on the Metro buses simply read:  “Q: Islam. A: You deserve to know,” with a phone number and Web site.

They have been designed to spark curiosity about the most misunderstood religion. The idea was initiated by the Islamic Circle of North America and now ads are displayed on the outside of six metro buses and the inside of about 25. The cost of $5,000 was contributed by ten local Muslims.

Buses in New York and Chicago will also display the advertisements soon.

Memphis Muslim clinic reaches out

MEMPHIS,TN– As the number of uninsured grows in America, Muslim doctors are doing their part to help their fellow citizens and lighten the burden.

The Memphis Muslim Medical Clinic in East Memhis has been serving the uninsured patients for the past two and a half years. With a volunteer base of 100 Muslim doctors have served over 2,000 patients who pay as little as $5 per visit.

Housed on the property of  Masjid As-Salaam the clinic is run by five directors all of whom are on the staff of University of Tennessee.

Open on weekends, the clinic has a $100,000 annual budget, which is funded through private donors, many of whom make direct monthly deposits.

Work at Boonton mosque stopped

BOONTON, NJ–More than two years after the expansion of the Jam e Masjid Islamic Center was approved by the planning board, progress on the controversial proposal has hit a snag, the Daily Record reported.

The town issued a stop-work order in early August on construction of the multi-story 4,000-square-foot expansion to the Harrison Street mosque, after a resident noticed the work on the façade did not conform to the site plan approval of March 2006.

Work on the expansion began several months ago by Perth Amboy-based Troop Construction, mosque officials said.

An amendment to the application—revisited by the planning board on Wednesday night–was denied in a vote of 5-2 following testimony from representatives of the mosque on the site plan changes and protests from several residents who oppose the changes.

Board members Richard Orlusky and Douglas Phelps approved the amended plan.

Roy Kurnos, the mosque’s attorney, said he will meet this weekend with mosque officials and architect David Singer to revise the amended plan, re-file and present it to the board again.

10-39

Community News (V9-I46)

November 8, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Little Mosque on the Prairie now available in DVD

Canadian hit show, “Little Mosque on the Prairie” is now available on DVD. The inaugural season of Little Mosque on the Prairie, Canada’s breakthrough series produced by WestWind Pictures in association with the CBC, will be released on DVD in Canada on November 13, 2007 by Morningstar Entertainment, a leading distributor of home entertainment products.

Little Mosque on the Prairie debuted in January, 2006 with stellar reviews and huge national and international attention. The series focuses on a small Muslim community in the fictional prairie town of Mercy, Saskatchewan many of whose residents are wary of their new, more exotic neighbours. The sit-com reveals that, although different, we are surprisingly similar when it comes to family, love, the generation gap and our attempts to balance our secular and religious lives. The new season of Little Mosque on the Prairie airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CBC.

“Morningstar is proud to present the complete first season of CBC’s popular and innovative series,” says Jason Moring, VP Sales & Marketing for Morningstar Entertainment. “Little Mosque has made a major impact on the cultural landscape of Canada and the world. Consumers will not only love watching the hilarious episodes, they’ll learn more about the making of the production and will hear and see unique perspectives on its success from producers, cast and crew.”

“We are very excited to make the series available on Home Video, says Mary Darling, Executive Producer of the series, “the requests for DVD began pouring in with the airing of our very first episode. This DVD gives us another way to satisfy the appetites of our valued viewers.”

Produced in collaboration with WestWind Pictures, Morningstar Entertainment and CBC Home Video, the 200-minute, two-disc set features 5.1 surround audio, described video for the visually impaired and closed captioned for hearing impaired viewers. Bonus content includes:

– Extended interviews with cast members;

– Behind The Mosque: behind-the-scenes featurette of season 1;

– Under the Veil: Sitara Hewitt’s guide to the wardrobe department;

– Double Audio Commentary for Episode 1 with show creator Zarqa Nawaz and Executive Producer Mary Darling (version 1) and various cast members (version 2).

Little Mosque on the Prairie – The Complete First Season (2 Disc DVD) can be found at retailers across Canada and online at www.cbcshop.ca; available November 13, 2007. The DVD features all eight of the Season One episodes.

Imam preaches at church

WOODBURY, CT—Imam Abdullah Antepli, assistant director of the Hartford Seminary Chaplaincy Program, was invited last month to preach during Sunday service at First Congregational Church of Woodbury. First Congregational Church’s Inter-religious Committee has been developing inter-religious dialogue forums for three years. The church has developed Faith Summits, offered lectures on the Religious Right, Congregationalism and Social Mission and continues to develop a “Justice and Peace” lecture series.

Imam Antepli preached about common values between Islam, Judaism and Chritianity and how to coexist.

The church’s pastor Rev.Mark Heilshorn had visited Turkey and Morocco as part of a inter-religious delgation along with Imam Antepli. The two are also enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program at Hartford Seminary.

Agha Afzal seeks top Jersey City spot

JERSEY CITY, NJ–Agha Afzal is contesting for the post of Jersey City county executive on a Republican ticket.

The elections will take place next week, the Daily Times reported.

Afzal, former executive director of the Hudson County Republican Party, is currently with the Development Agency of Jersey City commissioner.

Afzal, who hails from Sahiwal, Pakistan has also served as honorary deputy mayor of Jersey City in year 2004-2005 and has helped construct shelter homes for battered and needy women in Jersey City.

A county executive heads the executive branch of the government in a county, which is a sub-unit of regional self-government within a sovereign jurisdiction.

Mosque in Monticello runs into trouble

MONTICELLO, NY–A mosque in the Village of Monticello has run into rough weather after village officials alleged that it was constructed without the necessary permits.

The Argo & Alaudin Corp., owner of the mosque property at 33 Cottage St., was granted a building permit on July 21, 2006, to renovate the one-family house located there. A second permit, to convert the house into a mosque, was denied three days later by then Village Manager Richard Sush because only the Planning Board could approve a place of worship in a residential zone.

Despite the denial the owners gutted the house and built the mosque despite non-compliance warnings from the village, officials said. The mosque was finished this September.

Mosque owners are trying to remedy the situation by going to the Planning Board in hindsight. Their next appearance will be Oct. 27.

Albany mosque has new Imam

ALBANY, NY–The Masjid As-Salam in Albany now has new Imam: Imam Abdul Elmi. The mosque was without an Imam for two years after the then Imam Yassin Aref was arrested for allegedly supporting a fictitious terror plot.

The new Imam currently serves as a senior chaplin in the state prison systemand will serve part time at As-Salam mosque. He handles services and counseling at two prisons in that job, among other duties.

The soft-spoken 55-year-old imam is originally from Somalia and lives in Clifton Park with his wife and five children. He is a familiar face both in Masjid As-Salam and beyond it in the region’s small but growing Muslim community.

Many local Muslims know Elmi from the leadership posts he has held within the region’s Islamic community. He chaired the board of trustees at the An-Nur Islamic School in Colonie. He was president of Troy’s Masjid al-Hidaya. He remains a trustee and is involved in the Troy community’s plan to build a mosque in Latham. And he had already been filling in at the Albany mosque before his appointment as imam.

Imam Elmi has an interestin career path. He studied Islam in high school and later on his own. He is the author of a book in the Somali language about Islamic jurisprudence.

His university education was in a much different subject: agriculture.

Elmi earned a master’s degree from Montana State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas before teaching and doing research at Virginia State University. The professor taught Islam — unpaid — at area mosques because they didn’t have enough teachers.

When he was told New York was looking for prison chaplains, he applied and got the job.

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Fresh Wave of Militancy in Aftermath of Bloody Red Mosque Operation

July 19, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ashraf Ali, Special to Muslim Media News Service

Peshawar, Pakistan–The ‘operation silence’ at last broke the silence when 102 persons including Red Mosque deputy cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, seventy two seminarians and ten soldiers were killed and over 130 injured as security forces stormed the Red Mosque-Jamia Hafsa complex–on July 10.

The operation, although it put an end to a six-month long stand off between the Red Mosque clerics and the government authorities, has given birth to many questions.

The foremost question asked is: why did President Musharraf chose this time for launching an operation against the mosque, and secondly, how come the heavy piles of arms and ammunition could make its way to the mosque and Jamia Hafsa in the capital right under the nose of intelligence agencies? The political observers believe that the launch of the operation at this times was aimed at diverting people’s attention from the on-going judicial crises which started with the suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the governments’ failure in delivering to the flood-hit areas where the torrential rains during the current monsoon played havoc with thousands of people in parts of the country; and finally sabotaging the efforts made for making the All Parties Conference a success, which was due in a couple of days after the operation was launched.

According to a government spokesman, the assault was necessary to free hundreds of female hostages and young seminarians, but a week after the attack the despondent parents are still seeking their loved ones.

In an officially arranged visit to the Red Mosque and Jamia Hafsa, the security forces showed the media persons a huge cache of arms and ammunitions, which according to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) was recovered from the mosque and the madrasa Hafsa. This included rockets, landmines, suicide bombing belts, light machine guns (LMGs), Klashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic guns, pistols, revolvers, night vision equipment, and over 50,000 live bullets of different calibers. Three crates of petrol bombs prepared from green soft drink bottles, gas masks, recoilless rifles, dozens of AK 47s, two way radios, large plastic buckets held tennis-ball size homemade bombs and knives were also put on display for the visiting media persons. While briefing the media persons, Director General ISPR, Major General Waheed Arshad said “we also recovered the head of a suicide bomber and his body parts.”

If the government is true in its claim, then the question posed is how come the huge dumps of arms and ammunitions could make its way to the Red Mosque and Jamia Hafsa and how it got radicalized itself within the breathing distance of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters in the capital, Islamabad.

And secondly, why did the government delay any action against the Red Mosque when it knew that the mosque’s administration have been challenging the writ of the government for the last six months when the Ghazi brothers started brandishing un-authorized weapons in public.

The Red Mosque administration became radicalized during the Afghan jihad against the USSR. Maulvi Abdullah, the father of the deceased Maulvi Abdul Rashid Ghazi, befriended Afghan jihadists including Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf and Jalaluddin Haqqani during the early nineties. Later, Abdullah developed friendly links with the Taliban when they emerged as victors of Kabul in 1996. General Zia ul Haq, the then President of Pakistan was more pivotal in radicalizing Pakistan, with the help of US funds and weapons. He encouraged Abdullah’s fraternizing with Afghan worriors. As a result of state encouragement, Maulvi Abdullah and the Red Mosque enterprise grew; Abdullah usurped state land in the prime E-7 sector of Islamabad to establish yet another seminary, Jamia-e-Fareedia and because of his links to the high ups in the establishment, the authorities did not prevent him from using state land.

The former Chairman of the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar and political analyst, Professor Iqbal Tajik, said, “both the Ghazi brothers of the Red Mosque were pampered by the successive military regimes which lends credence to the widespread nexus between the mullahs and Army.” “How could they build up such a military compound right at the heart of the capital without the knowledge of the army and intelligence agencies?” asked Professor Tajik.

Intelligence agencies thought that by funding and creating radical groups they would be able to switch them off when a situation demanded. But it was a wrong assumption. The government did not take into account that once a radical organization is allowed to sprout and attains a certain level, it becomes autonomous in its management and policies. It is then only a matter of time before such an organization graduates first to a regional and then into an international terrorist network. The Red Mosque was no exception.

By 2001, it began to criticize US policies openly. In 2003, the Red Mosque organized violent protests against the murder of another leader of a jihadist outfit, Azam Tariq of a banned religious party, Sepah-e-Sahaba. Seminary students ransacked petrol stations, cinemas, restaurants and other property.

In 2004, Osama Bin Laden’s driver was arrested from the Red Mosque compound. But despite all this the government was unperturbed at the waywardness of its people. A legal expert cum political activist and former member of the national assembly, Abdul Latif Afridi, explained the logic behind the government’s silence on the issue in question, in these words: “The only explanation that comes to mind for this indifference is that government used periodic Red Mosque eruptions as justification for retaining the role of the military in Pakistani politics.”

The political pundits are of the view that at this juncture President Musharraf, exploiting the situation, wanted to show the American administration that the threat of religious extremism still exists in Pakistan and that he (General Musharraf–a man in the uniform) could be the best option for America to crush these extremist forces with full might.”

But Musharraf and his government had to pay a huge price. Immediately after the operation, a series of retaliatory attacks rocked various parts of the country, claiming hundreds of people including youths of the Pak-Army, police, levies and Frontier Constabulary (FC). During the weekend alone, seventy-one people have lost their lives and scores of others have been wounded as a result of suicide attacks in the North West Frontier Province of the country.

In North Waziristan, a troubled area in the tribal belt, the militants, while unilaterally scrapping their 10-month-old peace accord with the government, have threatened guerilla style attacks against the security forces in the area. Abdullah Farhad, a spokesman for the Taliban in the restive tribal areas while talking to The Muslim Observer on telephone from an undisclosed area, said that “their Amir (leader) has announced that the agreement with the government which reached on September 5thl, last year, stands terminated.”

He further maintained that the Amir had ordered the Taliban to start guerilla attacks against the security forces re-deployed in the area following attacks on the security forces. Leaflets announcing the scrapping of the accord were distributed in Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan, prompting scores of families to flee the troubled area. He later claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on Sunday that killed 26 including 15 policemen and 11 candidates who had gathered for police recruitment, and injured more than 50 in police lines in Dera Ismail Khan, a southern district of North West Frontier Province.

Following a bloody suicide attack in the Swat valley which killed 13 persons including 11 soldiers, the government has already sent reinforcements to the troubled area where a local cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, has challenged the authority of the government. Maulana Fazlullah who has been running an illegal FM radio station is said to have the active support of thousands of armed men at his back in an area which is the stronghold of a banned religious outfit, Tahreek-e-Nifaz-e-Sharia-e-Muhammadi (TNSM)- a movement for the implementation of the Islamic Shari’ah. TNSM was founded by Maulana Sufi Muhammad in 1992 and since then the movement has been struggling for the implementation of a Taliban-style government in the Malakand region of the Swat Valley. After 9/11, Sufi Muhammad took more than ten thousand people to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban against US-led forces there. In 2002, President Musharraf banned TNSM along with some other religious outfits on charges of their being involved in terrorism-related activities.

It is clear that there will be more retaliatory killings to avenge the deaths of civilians in the Red Mosque. A solution to the problem of jihadism lies in a twin track approach, based on full political empowerment by the return of undiluted democracy and a clear official committement not to use jihadi proxies for political or military objectives–their nexus with the intelligence services can only turn Pakistan into a crippled state. Its is too high a price to be paid.

9-30

Effort to Build Large Mosque Rattles Some in Cologne

July 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Mark Landler, AFP

COLOGNE: In a city with the greatest Gothic cathedral in Germany, and no fewer than a dozen Romanesque churches, adding a pair of fluted minarets would scarcely alter the skyline. Yet plans for a new mosque are rattling this ancient city to its foundations.

map of Cologne, Germany, close to the Belgian and Dutch borders.

The city’s Muslim population, made up mostly of Turks, is pushing for approval to build what would be one of Germany’s largest mosques, in a working-class district across town from the cathedral’s mighty spires.

Predictably, an extreme-right local political party has waged a noisy, xenophobic protest campaign, drumming up support from its far-right allies in Austria and Belgium.

But the proposal has also drawn fierce criticism from a respected German-Jewish writer, Ralph

Giordano, who said the mosque would be “an expression of the creeping Islamization of our land.” He does not want to see women shrouded in veils on German streets, he said.

Giordano’s charged remarks, first made at a public forum here last month, have catapulted this local dispute into a national debate in Germany over how a secular society, with Christian roots, should accommodate the religious yearnings of its Muslim minority.

Mosques have risen in recent years in Berlin, Mannheim and Duisberg, each time provoking hand-wringing among some residents. But the dispute in Cologne, a city Pope Benedict XVI once called the Rome of the north, seems deeper and more far-reaching.

While Turkey itself is debating the role of Islam in its political life, Germans are starting to ask how – even if – the 2.7 million people of Turkish descent here can square their religious and cultural beliefs with a pluralistic society that enshrines the rights of women.

Giordano, a Holocaust survivor, has been sharply criticized, including by fellow Jews, and has received death threats. But others said he was giving voice to Germans, who for reasons of their past, are reluctant to express misgivings about the rise of Islam in their midst.

“We have a common historical background that makes us overly cautious in dealing with these issues,” said the mayor of Cologne, Fritz Schramma, who supports the mosque but is not without his qualms.

“For me, it is self-evident that the Muslims need to have a prestigious place of worship,” said Schramma, of the center-right Christian Democratic Union. “But it bothers me when people have lived here for 35 years and they don’t speak a single word of German.”

Cologne’s Roman Catholic leader, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, is similarly ambivalent. Asked in a radio interview if he was afraid of the mosque, he said, “I don’t want to say I’m afraid, but I have an uneasy feeling.”

Those statements rankle German-Turkish leaders, who have been working with the city since 2001 to build a mosque on the site of a converted drug factory, which now houses a far smaller mosque, a community center and the offices of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs.

“The 120,000 Muslims of Cologne don’t have a single place they can point to with pride as the symbol of our faith,” said Bekir Alboga, leader of interreligious dialogue at the union, which is known as Ditib. “Christians have their churches, Jews have their synagogues.”

Alboga, a 44-year-old Turkish imam who immigrated here at 18 and speaks rapid-fire German, said the mosque would be a “crowning moment for religious tolerance.” Given Germany’s dark history, he added, “German politicians need to be careful about what they say.”

Alboga said he was particularly dismayed by Meisner, because the Catholic Church, along with Germany’s Protestant churches, has long supported the mosque. Ditib, he said, is a moderate organization that acts as a “bulwark against radicalism and terrorism.” It plans to finance the project, which will cost more than $20 million, entirely through donations.

The group must obtain a building permit before it can break ground, but Alboga said he was confident the mosque would not be blocked. Ditib has agreed to various stipulations, including a ban on broadcasting the call to prayer over loudspeakers outside the building.

Public opinion about the project seems guardedly supportive, with a majority of residents saying they favor it, although more than a quarter want its size to be reduced. The polls, taken for a local newspaper, use small samples, 500 people, limiting their usefulness as a gauge of popular sentiment in city of one million.

Cologne, with one of the largest Muslim populations of any German city, already has nearly 30 mosques. Most are in converted factories or warehouses, often tucked away in hidden courtyards, which has contributed to a sense that Muslims in Germany can worship only furtively.

The new mosque would put Islam in plain sight – all the more so because the design calls for a domed building with glass walls. Showing off a model, designed by a German architect who specializes in churches, Alboga said, “Our hearts are open, our doors are open, our mosque is open.”

In some ways, the mosque seems calculated to avoid touching nerves. It would not be built near a church or loom over its neighbors, like the new mosque in Duisberg. It would be flanked by multistory office buildings and a giant television tower, which would dwarf its minarets.

Yet the Turkish community has run into fervent and organized opposition. The far-right party, Pro Cologne, which holds five of the 90 seats in the city council, collected 23,000 signatures on a petition demanding the halting of the project. The city said only 15,000 of them were genuine.

On June 16, Pro Cologne mobilized 200 people at a rally to protest the mosque. Among those on hand were the leaders of Austria’s Freedom Party, which was founded by Jörg Haider, and the extremist party Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Interest, from Antwerp. Both advocate the deportation of immigrants.

Cologne’s deputy mayor, Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, a Social Democrat, appeared with Turkish leaders at a counter-demonstration across the street. Schramma, she noted, did not show up.

Giordano, the German-Jewish writer, said Germany needed to face the fact that, after three generations of Turkish immigration, efforts to integrate that minority had failed. Immigrants, he said, sought the privileges of membership in German society but refused to bear the obligations.

Germany’s “false tolerance,” he asserted, enabled the Sept. 11 hijackers to use Hamburg as a haven in which to hatch their terrorist plot. Cologne, too, has struggled with radical Islamic figures, most notably Metin Kaplan, a militant Turkish cleric known as the Caliph of Cologne.

“I don’t want to see women on the street wearing burqas,” Giordano said. “I’m insulted by that – not by the women themselves, but by the people who turned them into human penguins.”

Such blunt language troubles other German Jews, who say a victim of religious persecution should not take a swipe at another religious minority.

Henryk Broder, a Jewish journalist who is a friend of Giordano’s, said he should have avoided the phrase “human penguins.”

But Broder said the underlying message was valid, and that Giordano’s stature as a writer gives him the standing to say it. “A mosque is more than a church or a synagogue,” he said. “It is a political statement.”

9-29

Community News (V9-I16)

April 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Nabil Khan gets Fulbright

Nabil Khan, a senior at Swarthmore College, has been named a Fulbright Grantee for 2007. The son of Shafqat and Khalil Khan and brother of Mehreen and Hasan Khan, he is a 2003 graduate of the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., and also attended the International School of Choueifat in Abu Dhabi. Khan is one of three Swarthmore seniors to have won the Fulbright Grant this year.

Khan plans to use his Fulbright Grant to explore and elucidate contemporary understandings of mental “illness” in urban Morocco and of the cultural import of the psychiatric field in a place where it is governmentally sanctioned and is growing. “I am interested in understanding what mental health services and the worldviews they represent, so rooted in Western diagnostic and therapeutic traditions, mean to those from a country historically considered a frontier of the Islamic world,” said Khan. “Given the country’s eclectic background and demographic, I am interested in the political, religious and social dimensions of psychological understanding and how cultural currents inform daily mental healthcare practice.”

Khan is a psychology major with minors in biology and English literature. He is a Thomas B. McCabe scholar, selected as an entering student based on leadership, ability, character, personality, and service to school and community, and has been active in Swarthmore for Immigrants’ Rights, the Muslim Student group, Deshi (South Asian Students organization), and Forum for Free Speech and is co-editor of Remappings (the Asian/Asian-Diaspora literary publication). He was also a biology Writing Associate (peer tutor) and a member of the steering committee of the 2006 “Beyond the Box” conference on critical multiculturalism.

Administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards full research grants to graduating seniors and young alumni after an extensive application process. Recipients receive a stipend to cover housing and living expenses.

Four Muslims named Truman scholars

Four Muslim students have been selected for the much coveted Truman Scholarships. Sixty-five students from 56 US colleges and universities have been selected as 2007 Truman Scholars. They were elected by eighteen independent selection panels on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability, and likelihood of ‘making a difference.’

Each Scholarship provides $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Recipients must be US citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class, and be committed to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector.

Salmah Y. Rizvi, of John Hopkins University, who is from Laurel, Md., is a double-major in Anthropology and International Relations at the Johns Hopkins University, founded Vision XChange, a nonprofit organization which serves as a mechanism to create entertaining, opportunistic events while spreading awareness of important issues. She has traveled extensively as a student ambassador promoting peace and stability and teaching International Humanitarian Law. She is also an executive board member for the Johns Hopkins University Muslim Student Association and the Foreign Affairs Symposium. Currently, Salmah is a Department of Defence employee and hopes to continue her career in government.

As an active member of the Muslim-American community, Rizvi has also interned for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, published a number of papers regarding Islamic politics and volunteered with various Muslim organizations. She teaches Islamic history every Sunday at her local mosque, Idara-E-Jaferia Center in Burtonsville, Md.

Umair Iqbal was born in Pakistan and immigrated to America when he was nine. He is a junior pre-med student with a major in Biological Sciences and a minor in Political Science at the University of Anchorage Alaska. He conducts research at the Alaska Science Center on the Alaska Avian Influenza Project. After five years of avid participation in the Model United Nations of Alaska, he is Secretary-General of the 2007 conference, which focuses on the Emerging Global Pandemic. He also serves as president of the Pre-Med Club. After college he plans to study for an MPH and an MD in rural health, with the goal of working to reduce poverty and to improve access to health care for the poorest people in the world.

Asma Jaber is a junior anthropology and international studies major at the University of South Carolina. Her passions for helping immigrants and refugees continue to grow as she volunteers at advocacy centers for immigrants and with local Somali refugees. She also helps facilitate refugees’ health care access. Asma plans to pursue a law degree and attain a M.P.H. in Health Policy in order to take on public interest work in the health field and improve the lives of immigrants and refugees.

Nazir is the founder and president of the Muslim Student Association at Seattle University. In 2005-2006 he lived in Cairo and studied classical Arabic. Currently Nazir is researching code-switching among Arabs in Seattle. Nazir enjoys traveling, reading, writing, and learning languages in his spare time. He speaks Spanish and Arabic and teaches Arabic twice a week in addition to organizing many cultural and educational events on campus.

Muslim radiologist sues hospital

BALTIMORE, MD–A radiologist who was kicked out of the University of Maryland Medical Center after he performed a Muslim ritual has filed a $30 million lawsuit against the hospital.

The suit says Doctor Mohammed Hussain was at the hospital last month to undergo surgery. He was washing his hands and feet in a sink in a lobby bathroom when a security guard came in and ordered him to get out “immediately or else.”

Hussain’s lawyer, David Ellin, says the guard made references to Hussain as if he were a terrorist and hurled racial epithets at him. He says Hussain was pushed down a hallway and into the custody of another security guard, who escorted him outside.

The hospital released a statement saying medical personnel reached out to Hussain after the incident. The statement says the hospital is “disappointed” that Hussain filed a lawsuit.

Evanston’s first mosque to open soon

EVANSTON, IL–Evanston, Chicago’s suburb and homes to the Northwestern University, will soon have its first mosque. The Bangladesh Islamic Community Center are converting a former Church and have already received approval from the city council council. The building will feature prayer area, offices, a kitchen and multi-purpose meeting rooms.

The construction expected to last from eight months to a year, according to center officials.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), who represents the ward in which the mosque will be located, said the center’s presence would enhance the area’s religious diversity.

“There’s a variety of churches and different denominations,” Holmes said. “This would just be a mosque. There are churches and temples, so why not a mosque?”

Arizona Muslims celebrate Prophet’s birthday (s)

CHANDLER, AZ–Around 200 Muslims gathered at the Chandler Community Center to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The event, organized by the Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education, was open to all interested and a number of non-Muslims also attended. Sheik Sayyed Muhammed, a religious scholar from Atlanta, was the featured speaker at the Chandler event.

Paul Eppinger, executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement, praised the Islamic group’s efforts to build respect among people of all faiths living in the Valley.

“I am for interfaith dialogue so that people can begin to understand one another,” said Eppinger, 74, a former American Baptist minister for 35 years.

Slain convenience store owner remembered

EAST WINDSOR, CT–Neighbours and community members paid moving tributes to convenience store owner Javed Akhtar,32, who was gunned down on Feb.28. More than 50 people gathered at the prayer vigil held in the parking lot outside the One Stop grocery where he was slain. He leaved behind his wife Rafia and twin children Humair and Hirra. His killers have not been identified yet, the Journal Inquirer reported.

Holding candles and gathering in a circle around Rafia and her children, members of the assembly spoke in turn, describing Javed as a gentle, caring man who they clearly missed.

“When we came and moved here, I needed to have a cup of coffee in the morning, and I came here just a few times, and Rafia and Jay were just so kind,” said Bobbie Taravella, who has since moved away. “I have a coffeemaker, but I never used it because they were always so nice and made me a friend rather than a patron.”

Robert Nicholas, who lives half a mile up the road, said he was in the store buying cottage cheese 45 minutes before Javed was shot. “I used to come down here just to talk, and when nothing was going on we’d play with the kids out in the parking lot – they made me part of the family,” Nicholas added.

“He was definitely an asset to this community and well-loved,” said Officer Bruce Everitt, community resource officer for Mill Pond Village.

As for solving the case, “it’s progressing very well and progress is being made,” Everitt said. “We’re just making sure we cross all our T’s and dot all the I’s.”

Akhtar was Muslim and a Pakistani-American. His death brought outrage to the community at large, with many groups calling for justice and a $5,000 reward posted for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the killer.

Canadian Muslims give $1m to hospital

TORONTO, CANADA–Muslim community of Toronto has provided a huge boost to the William Osler Health Centre Foundation by pledging $1 million to build Brampton’s new hospital. The Muslim Friends of William Osler Health Centre, a group of community leaders,physicians and members of the public, announced their plans last week.

“This pledge represents a promise from the large and active Muslim community to ensure the best possible health care for all people who rely on William Osler to provide quality medical facilities and compassionate care,” said Dr. Farooque Dawood, Muslim Friends of WOHC chair and president of Dafina Holdings Ltd. “The spirit behind (our organization) is to gather support from various Muslim communities in pursuit of excellence in local health care for now and for the future.”

About 50 people gathered for the afternoon reception, held in an auditorium at Peel Memorial Hospital.

9-16

Save the US Ummah!

March 15, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Bloomfield—March 10—Jeffrey Lang, converted Muslim and prolific author, spoke passionately this past Saturday night at the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center on the need and methods to keep our children within the fold of Islam.

About 300 people packed the banquet facilities at the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center, by far the biggest crowd this reporter has seen at the facility.

Lang, professor of mathematics at the University of Kansas, is an important intellectual voice in the American Muslim community. Lang was born January 30, 1954 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Born Catholic, he went through several phases of belief through his sincere quest for belief in the truth; during periods of agnosticism and atheism, before he accepted Islam, he had recurring and comforting dreams of himself performing the communal prayer—this was eventually to become reality, as Professor Lang did in fact become a Muslim in the early 80s.

Lang has written four books addressing the core problem the American Muslim community faces, that of the disaffection of American Muslim youths and converts with what they see of the practice of Islam in their local communities and mosques. His books include Struggling to Surrender (1994), Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America (1997), and Losing My Religion: A Call for Help (2004).

While Islam may be the fastest-growing religion in America, he said, it may also be the fastest-shrinking. He began his speech with an engaging and essential statement, that while perhaps 80% of Muslims in the United States are native-born, either coming to Islam through conversion or birth to Muslim parents, the population at any communal mosque service has only a minimal percentage of such native Muslims—typically even less than 1% of the active membership in most mosques. Therefore, “by the most essential measure,” our situation is very bleak. The main purpose of his speech was to describe what has brought about the disaffection on the part of those who have left their mosques in droves, so that the community can redress the grievances that drive people away from the mosques.

The professor explained the fundamental process by which young Muslims distanced themselves from the religion—as they grew up they had many deeply painful and viscerally felt experiences relating to their own Muslim community, which led them in later life to a visceral distaste for the community. Converts did not at first have this visceral reaction to problems in the community, but developed it over time. One experience at a time, the community delicately hammers away at converts, until they feel at a visceral level unwelcome, and—frequently—leave.

Lang’s essential solution lay in refraining as Muslims from imposing questionable “Shari’ah” interpretations on newcomers to Islam. Confronted with just the five pillars, he said, many people will already be unwilling to change their lives to fit Islam. If Muslims approach newcomers to Islam with immensely heavy and debatable “Islamic law” they will drive away the remaining people who would have been willing to practice Islam–they would have prayed, made hajj, abstained from what is plainly haram.

Lang explained that his interest in the subject began about two decades ago, when a brother at his local mosque, after they prayed ‘isha together, explained in tears that, “Brothers, I lost him—I have lost my son.” Not to death, but to a life without real devotion to Islam. This story, of course, has been repeated many thousands of times in other American Muslim families since then. In reaction to this event, Lang wrote his first book about Islam, Struggling to Surrender—he received many letters from other converts, who he said had followed a similar trajectory to his own on becoming Muslim. They accepted Islam with spiritual ecstasy, went through a period of extremism as they learned the extreme views of the religion from the most vocal members of their communities, then—many times—went out of the religion as they were faced with cultural barriers and inconsistencies in the way that Islam was portrayed to them.

Under pressure from the Muslims he knew to not ask the questions that had originally brought him to Islam, he wrote Even Angels Ask, about the basic fundamental challenges to belief that many born Muslims find so disturbing that they really cannot face, but which he said must be faced in dealing with young American Muslims whether they are converts or 2nd generation Muslims in America. In reaction to this book he started to uncover a great hidden mass of people within America, second-generation Muslims, disaffected by what they saw of Islam in their homes and communities, unable to find answers to the basic questions of belief that they encountered as they grew up in a secular but—in many ways—just society. In reaction to their letters and emails, he wrote Losing My Religion—based on opening the basic issues that came up in his correspondence with these youth who found themselves confronted with the impossibility of opening fundamental issues with their home communities (parents and imams). When these youth tried to bring up fundamental issues with parents or imams, they were called “kafir” or sometimes instructed to hide their disaffection from the community they were in—to hide their fundamental questions of belief for the sake of appearances in their parents’ social community.

Lang said that growing up, Muslim youths go through a process of imbibing the ethos of America at a deep level, building their fundamental assumptions on the American ethos which many times, he pointed out, is fairer than their own communities (not to say Islam) on issues important to them—for instance race. Living astride two cultures, they grow up going through a psychological process of trying to accept only those parts of each culture that do not conflict with the parts of the other—and they end up with fundamental questions about the assumptions and lifestyles of their parents.

The essential questions that our own Muslim people face and question within Islam are the following, in descending order of their impact on disaffected youths: (1) the treatment of women in American Muslim communities, (2) the cultural chasm between mosque culture and the culture of the outside world, (3) in Lang’s words “problems with traditional theology,” (4) the perceived race problem of the Muslim community in America (which he said caused many converts to leave the community).

Lang was at pains to say that the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center is in fact an enlightened mosque which has as a part of its charter 30% of its board members women, and is very friendly to Muslim women.

Issues he described with the treatment of women were first that the issue of “segregation” of women is a charged issue in America, so any time women are asked to go to a separate, inaccessible and inferior part of the mosque for their prayers, the psychological effect on converted women is immense. Young Muslims saw their mothers and other women discouraged from attending the mosque, asked to attend parts of the mosque that were “small, poorly maintained, and dangerous to children.” Women are denied positions of power in the mosques, except there is a frequent practice of allowing one woman to act as a token representative to the men who run each mosque. Muslim women are sometimes viciously unwelcoming to newcomers—he told the story of how one woman he knew was accused, her first time entering a mosque, of having come only to find and marry a Muslim man. The social structure among American Muslim women, he said—based on his experience with American mosques, his family’s experience, and with his contact with the community—is hierarchical as follows: Muslim newcomers to the US are accepted directly proportional to the inverse of their time in the US (if they arrived yesterday they have higher status than if they arrived 2 years ago), then children of the first generation are in a group considered behind that first group, then converts come after that; race and color are also factors in this hierarchy. An essential problem is that American converts to Islam are treated as third-class people in their own country when they try to integrate with the community. Discouraged from attending the mosque, these women are extremely isolated when they convert to Islam. Despite this, he said, women were actually the best and most devoted Muslims, “hanging on by their fingernails” to this religion.

He described his own mother’s once-interest in Islam: after she visited the community and was asked to attend prayers in a separate dirty room accessed only with difficulty, she told him, “There is no place for me in this religion.” He also explained that while he had tried to raise his daughters with abundant contact with the mosque he had reached a point where other men in his community would try their best to dissuade them from attending the mosque.

The second problem Lang perceived was the divisions in Islam by ethnicity—a different mosque for each ethnicity. Each has its own culture which it imposes on newcomers as “Islam;” violation of the norms of that culture will lead to ostracism or verbal attacks by that community.

The third problem, he said, is “problems with traditional theology.” He said that young people receive no answers to their questions. When they use mainstream resources to find answers to their questions their minds end up in the hands of people who hate Islam and provide information with a view to undermining the Muslim community—for instance, if a child does a search on “women in Islam” he/she will likely end up at virulently anti-Muslim sites—which in fact are most of the sites available on the issue. If they go to the library or to their educational institutions they face the same problem. Muslim scholars, he said, should make themselves available to US Muslims so that the latter can find legitimate answers to their questions.

Lang’s arguments relate to an important point, which is that studying Islam from non-Muslims has none of the light associated with it that has been transmitted from Muslim to Muslim from the time of the Prophet (s).

Finally, he hinted that the Muslim community in the United States must recognize its fundamental race bias. In supporting his perception of bias he recounted his own experience of converting Islam to the rapturous love of his surrounding community, while African American converts of similar background were ignored by the community. He pointed out that at his mosque, white converts were celebrated and remembered regardless of their piety or commitment, while African American converts frequently went ignored and unknown in the community.

Professor Lang’s speech was deeply troubling to many members of the community, challenging as it did many of their fundamental beliefs relating to Islam and challenging also many of their habits, traditions, and beliefs. While his core point is valid and requires attention, Muslims must maintain a balance between their belief and their assimilation with mainstream American culture—that balance should be struck in a way that accommodates American/Western culture better than we do. His speech’s essential truth shows that we have failed to strike that balance, and instead have perhaps lost an entire generation due to our blindness to our own flaws.

9-12

Highway Cleanup / HUDA Medical Clinic / Soup Kitchen at Detroit Muslim Unity Center

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Highway Cleanup by Canton Mosque

Canton—April 22—Several representatives of the Canton mosque (Muslim Community of the Western Suburbs) participated in a 2-hour cleanup of Rte. I-275 between Ecorse and Michigan Avenue as a part of MCWS’s “Adopt-a-Highway” program.
This year about 5 members of the community picked up trash alongside route 275, working from early in the morning until about 10 a.m on Saturday. Said Mr. Ahmad Siddik, an MCWS member who helped start the program, “At this point it is hard to get patches of highway that are close to urban areas—mostly what is available is far off the beaten track.” MCWS, however, was fortunate enough to obtain a prime patch of highway, only a few minutes’ drive from the mosque, convenient for the community and highly visible to the many commuters who use I-275.
The procedure for obtaining a patch of highway to care for is fairly simple: fill out an application and file it with the Michigan Department of Transportation. Thereafter, MDOT approves the application, issues a safety video and trash bags and hi-visibility fluorescent vests, and the group can begin to pick up trash along the highway at three designated two-week window-periods during the year. After each trash pickup session, the volunteers fill out a report and give that to their MDOT handler.
The government advises volunteers to use work gloves and workboots, to avoid stepping in bodies of water, and to avoid picking up very large or heavy pieces of debris, but to only mark those pieces for later pickup by MDOT personnel.
MCWS is responsible to pick up trash along their patch of highway in April, July, and September. They have maintained this program for two years, and have received a good response from the Muslim community for the event. During their last pickup session, about 15 volunteers spread the work over more hands and made the load somewhat lighter than this weekend’s effort. Still, this week’s effort was a successful one that resulted in dozens of white MDOT Adopt-a-Highway bags of litter being set aside for MDOT pickup.
For more information, contact MCWS at 734-467-7704 and leave a message for Ahmad Siddik.

HUDA Clinic Stretches Out a Hand to Those in Need

Detroit—April 22—The HUDA Clinic, in downtown Detroit at the Detroit Muslim Unity Center on Davison, has been in operation for about two years.
The clinic now sees about 30 patients a day, performing blood pressure checks, giving antibiotics, helping people with colds, with a staff of five to six rotating physicians. The clinic is open only on Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm.
The main group of five doctors who are involved are of many different ethnicities: African American, from the subcontinent, Arabs. Other doctors come on a more occasional basis.
On a visit this past Saturday, about 15 patients of many different backgrounds—some Arabs, some Indians, some African American, some Muslim, some non-Muslim—were all waiting patiently to talk with local doctors.
According to third-year medical student Yusuf Qamruzzaman, who volunteers his services at the clinic, the clients are “mostly walkins,” who have heard about the clinic through word-of-mouth or through advertising in local newspapers. He explains that the budget of the clinic is between $20,000 and $40,000 annually, which pays for medications, rend for the building, and more. The money comes mainly in the form of grants, he explained, from the state government. He explained also that HUDA has a deal with the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) labs to do lab tests at reduced cost.
“I’ve been here since it started about two years ago,” says Qamruzzaman, “It’s very different now from how it was—we used to work a four-hour shift and maybe two or three people would come all day. Now we see maybe twenty or thirty patients a day.”
For more information about HUDA, please visit www.hudaclinic.com, or contact 248-470-3688.

Soup Kitchen Serves 125 People Every Week

Detroit—April 22—Very few mosques provide soup kitchens and free food to local people, but the Detroit Muslim Unity Center has that unique good quality among American mosques.
The program is run by Kabah Muhammad and Adel Muhammad, who serve about 125 people every week, giving that many boxes of food. The program is one that provides donations in two ways. First, visitors receive a warm meal prepared by Ms. Muhammad the previous evening, then, the visitors receive a box full of groceries donated by local grocery stores.
Ms. Muhammad is a kindly woman who radiates a sense of motherhood and warmth. Her husband Adel Muhammad is a dignified and quiet man who also provides security for the Detroit mosque.
Friday afternoons, several local grocery stores (Kroger, Farmer Jack) deliver food to the mosque. Mr. Adel Muhammad and his son Omar bag bread and fruit and vegetables, separating the food into different cartons.
At 11:30 am on Saturday, people come to the mosque and she serves lunch, including stir-fry halal beef, vegetables, chili, chicken, string beans, salad, meat from Sad’s halal meat market, and fruits and vegetables from different markets.
Then, after all have eaten a wholesome meal by Ms. Muhammad, they go home with a carton full of donated groceries from Kroger or Farmer Jack. -

Community News, North America (US & Canada)

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Curtain controversy in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL— The board of the Muslim Community Centre in Chicago has voted to let the organization’s president to work on a compromise on whether to replace a curtain hung to separate the men and women’s areas of the mosque.
The curtain was removed during renovations and since then has not been replaced. In an earlier meeting the board had voted 13-2 in favour of the “Not To Raise Curtain” resolution with two members abstaining.
Despite the vote Dr.Abdul Sattar, president of the MCC, said that a majority of the community wants the curtain divider and called for last Sunday’s meeting.
The new resolution calls on the president to take into consideration how women felt and to try to please everyone.

Minister praised for interfaith work

AUSTIN,TX—The Rev.Jim Mayfield, pastor of Tarrytown United Methodist Church, who retired recently was praised for his years of interfaith work. Imam Safdar Razi of the Islamic Ahlul Bayt Association said Rev. Mayfield played an important role in supporting the local Muslim community in the wake of Sept.11 attacks.
Under Mayfield’s leadership, the organization gathered clerics from different religions to pray on the steps of the Texas Capitol and “helped the Muslim communities a lot by letting people understand that Muslims also condemn the acts of terror and terrorism,” Razi told the Statesman.

Muslims join immigrant rights rally

DES PLAINES,IL— Muslims joined hundreds others in a rally calling for immigration rights and reform in the Des Plaines suburb of Chicago.
“We come here to work. We don’t come here to do anything bad or — we come here to have a better future,” said Lizeth Rios to ABC News.
What they’re doing right now is shameful and they’re trying to take away people’s hope. But there are good people who are doing things like that. We re trying do things in a peaceful matter. God did not create any borders,” said Rita Gonzales, Latin Americans United.
The rally ended with a prayer for those who had died trying to cross the border.

Nazir Baig passes away

BALTIMORE, MD—Nazir Baig, prominent Baltimore area Muslim community leader, passed away this week. He was a board member of the Muslim Community Center of Maryland. He also served as the organization’s trustee and chairman for 5 years and as president for 10 years. His tenure saw tremendous growth in the organization. He actively took part in various community building activities. He worked as a town planner for the Montgomery County.

New mosque in San Luis Obispo

SAN LUIS OBISPO,CA—- The Islamic Center of the Central Coast is seeking a building permit to build a new mosque and community center on Walnut Street in San Luis Obispo. The new mosque will be bigger than the centre’s present one.
Architect Heidi Gibson said the mosque’s new location makes it a good fit among San Luis Obsipo’s cultural and spiritual centers.
“We have the mission downtown. We have the other downtown churches,” Gibson told the Tribune. “Now weíll have a mosque.”
The mosque has already received approval from the city’s commissions and it can take three months to a year before permits are granted and construction begins.

Eid ul Fitr poem wins Ray Bradbury award

CHICAGO, IL—Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem Eid-ul-Fitr, 1946 won the coveted Ray Bradbury Poetry Writing Contest surpassing 118 entries received from across the world. Mohyuddin, 27, teaches English teacher at Highland Park High School.
The poem is described as a wrenching, fictional ode to a little boy lost amid the prayers and politics of Pakistan.”
“[The poem] is about impending loss, a lot of violence, pain and suffering,” Mohyuddin told the Chicago Tribune.
Mohyuddin’s other entry, The Sadness, also attained a honourable mention in the contest.

Saudi culture shared at Valparaiso

VALPARAISO, IN— Saudi students at the Valparaiso University held a special program to inform the community about the Saudi culture including music, food, religion and life. Around hundred people attended the event sponsored by the International Studies Office of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Student advisor of the Saudi Culture Mission Dr.Faleh Al Hogbani told the student newspaper: “In the Saudi culture we encourage this kind of event and encourage students to spread the culture to the real people of America, not just in D.C.”
The attendees were treated to a multimedia presentation, demonstration of Azan and prayers and lectures. Dr.Nelly Van Doorn-Harder, Patheja professor of world religions and ethics at the university, discussed the history and significance of Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world.
“Saudi Arabia is a country that despite everything, upholds the true concept of Islam,” said Van Doorn-Harder, who has traveled all over the world to study religion.
There are 80 students from Saudi Arabia currently studying at Valparaiso University.

Egyptian student shares perspectives

MADISON, WI— Ahmed Ayad is computer science student working on his Phd at UW-Madison. He is one of of about 60 students from countries around the world who volunteer to share their experiences and perspectives with audiences on and off campus as part of the university’s International Reach program.
Ayad,31, says he wants to present a more realistic picture of Egyptian culture while speaking to a group of eighth graders at Waunakee Middle School. “I want them to come away with a closer-to-reality idea of what a place like Egypt looks like,” he told the State Journal.
The International Reach program was started in the 1990s by Lise Skofronick, a member of Madison Friends of International Students, and was later adopted by the university, said Merilee Sushoreba, student services coordinator, who coordinates the program’s on-campus component.
But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, International Reach was put on hiatus because of staff constraints and the need to focus on implementing new federal policies for students from other countries, said Stephanie Cowan, international student advisor, who coordinates the program’s off-campus component.
The program began making a comeback in 2004, and is now going strong after receiving a $5,000 grant from the university’s Kemper K. Knapp Bequest, which has paid for a student assistant this year to help with scheduling and other costs, such as materials and transportation.
Ayad, who came to UW-Madison in 2000, said people have a lot of misconceptions about the Middle East. “The most troubling to me is the misconception about religion,” he said.
While the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the current war in Iraq “have not helped,” Ayad said they also have sparked interest in the Muslim faith.
Though he keeps his presentations “as neutral as possible,” sticking to subjects such as history and culture, Ayad told his audience of eighth- graders, “You guys can ask me any question you want.”

Muslims Distance Selves from Atlanta Terror Suspects

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslims Distance Selves from Terror Suspects
By Adil James
April 25—All of those with alleged social ties to two terror suspects arrested by the FBI are seeking as much distance from them as possible.
The two, 19-year-old US citizen Ehsanul Islam Sadequee (of Bangladeshi origin) and 21-year-old Syed Haris Ahmed (of Pakistani origin), are local area students (Mr. Ahmed being a mechanical engineering bachelor’s candidate at Georgia Tech) accused of having gone to Toronto to conspire to engage in unspecified terrorist attacks against unspecified victims within the United States.
The FBI arrested Mr. Ahmed on March 23. They accused the two of having met at a mosque adjacent to the Georgia Tech campus, al-Farooq Masjid and Corporation.
Dr. Mohammad O. Tomeh, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of al-Farooq Masjid, said that he does not remember having seen the two boys at all in the mosque. “It’s not like a church—people pray and go—we have no relationship with them.”
Dr. Tomeh emphasized that “there are no political activities in our mosque.” No political functions, he explained—the mosque as a matter of policy as written in its bylaws, he says, prohibits political activities. “We are a religious institution, we teach Qur`an, `ahadith, and good character—we have two schools. “We have no relationship with” the two boys who were arrested.
The mosque is an old one, having been built in 1980. It is now in the process of building an entirely new structure on its land, to replace the old mosque. So far, Dr. Tomeh explains, the mosque has fortunately had no problems from the surrounding community in the wake of the arrests.
Fellow students, also, are seeking to put as much distance between themselves and the two boys as possible. “I didn’t hear about that at all,” explained Jenny Rieck, a freshman psychology major from Augusta Georgia in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I’ve been locked in my room working.”
Another student, West Daniel, was similarly shocked. “I’d never even picture a classmate even being accused of something like that,” said Wes Daniel, a junior mechanical engineering major who believes he may have had a class with Ahmed. “Everyone’s asked each other if they know him.”
One dark cloud remains over Atlanta in the wake of the accusations and arrests. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, without giving supporting evidence or quotes, that the two boys were well-known at Al-Farooq Masjid.
In fact, according to Dr. Tomeh, the Chairman of that mosque, this is absolutely not the case. -

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