AFMI Holds First Muslim Convention At Ranchi

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

DSCN1212RANCHI (JHARKHAND): The 20th International Educational Convention and Gala Award Ceremony hosted by American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) held here (December 24-25) is the first Muslim convention of national as well as international level to be held in Jharkhand’s capital city.

The chief guest at AFMI’s Ranchi-convention was Dr. Syed  Ahmed, Governor of Jharkhand. In his opinion, “Female education is a must” as that helps in the “literacy of the entire family.”

Trustee and founder, AFMI, Dr. A. S. Nakedar highlighted importance of “social justice, gender equality, 100% literacy with substantial importance given to both formal and religious education.”

Appreciating the educational importance of Indian Muslims, Subodh Kant Sahai, Union Minister of Tourism, took note of Jharkhand children being among the national toppers. Among 11, class ten toppers from India, three belong to Jharkhand. Sahai pointed out that AFMI’s convention have held people in Jharkhand and outside become aware of educational importance given by Indian Muslims in this state and elsewhere. He pointed out, “We have gone through a tough stage when because of communal polarization, secularism was at stake. The situation has changed now.” Sahai also expressed “salaam” for Indian madarsas giving importance to education.

Though Haji Hussain Ansari, Minority Welfare Minister (Jharkhand) accepted that Muslims are moving ahead, with help of AFMI and other organizations, he pointed out their “progress is not in keeping with their population.”

During his address, former Union Minister and present member of Parliament, Ram Vilas Paswan complimented AFMI and Dr. Nakedar for holding these conventions and giving awards to deserving students. This contributes in enhancing the social importance of Indian Muslims. Paswan also laid stress on his favor for AFMI’s approach in giving importance to religious education together with different aspects of academics (Dec 25).

AFMI, formed by American Muslims of Indian origin in 1989, aims to work towards educational and economic upliftment of Indian Muslims with cooperation between American and Indian relief and educational organizations.

All over India, the Top Eleven from Class 10th are:

Inamdar Farhat Iqbal – 97.2% (Maharashtra); Kanize Robab Ali – 96.71% (West Bengal); Ruksar Banu – 96.48% (Karnataka); Memon Shaheen Iqbal Bhai – 95.60% (Gujarat) with the following having secured 95 %:– Suffeya Zeb (Bihar); Nausheen Najmul Haque Ansari (Jharkhand); Nafis Ahmed Siraj Ahemd (Jharkhand), Aarifuzzaman (Jharkhand); Navar P.M. (Kerala); Faheem K. (Kerala) and Sheikh Mohammed Israil (Orissa).

The Top Ten from Class 12th Examination (all over India) are:

Maha Fathima – 98% (Kerala); Sarah S.D. – 96.33% (Tamil Nadu); Maria Yusuf Lakkadwala- 95.4% (Maharashtra); Israrbanu Mansoor Ballary – 95.33% (Karnataka);

Syed Safaraz Syed Hasham – 95.30% (Andhra Pradesh); Mohd. Arish Abdul Nasir – 94.20% (Uttar Pradesh); Rana Junaid Babar – 94.00% (Gujarat); Sarfaraz Abdul Gafoor – 93.08 % (Rajasthan); Sakina Pitalwala – 91.8% (Madhya Pradesh) and Nazneen Nighar Sultana- 91% (Orissa)

In addition to national level awards, six candidates from different states were selected for gold, silver and bronze medals.

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Community News (V14-I1)

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslim author’s appearance cancelled after complaints

HATFIELD,PA–A Muslim children’s author had to cancel her talk at an elementary school after reported complaints by some parents. Lisa Abdelsalam is a Muslim convert who has written a children’s book focusing on her son’s experiences at his school titled  “A Song for Me, A Muslim Holiday Story.”

The book has illustrations based on pictures of the York Avenue school and details a Muslim boy’s efforts to fit into the holiday spirit at Christmas time.

The principal, according to Abdelsalam, told her a few parents had complained about the program and threatened to bring in an outside group to protest if the classes went forward. “They did not want a Muslim or a Muslim book read in their classrooms,” she was told.

The principal told Abdelsalam that she can go ahead with the scheduled talk but that they mutually decided to cancel the event as she thought, “It’s not a battle that should be fought in an elementary school parking lot.”

Islamophobic individuals appear to be targeting authors these days. Recently, a campaign was unleashed by them to stop award winning author from speaking at the prestigious Mercersburg Academy boarding school in Pennsylvania. That event, however, was held as scheduled and the only complaints where from outsiders who had no relationship with the school.

Missing Muslim student found safe

OVERLAND PARK,KS–A missing Muslim student of a Kansas college was found safe and unharmed. She esd reported missing from a university library more than week ago but it was later found that she had left voluntarily.

Her family had announced a $10,000 reward for any information leading to her. Theey have now decided to donate it to the Overland department and a few other charities.

Family members posted a statement Friday on Facebook thanking the public for its support but asking for privacy as they try to heal.

San Bernardino Muslims feed one & all

SAN BERNARDINO,CA–First Islamic Healing & Wellness Centre reaches out to the needy by helping them with food and clothing requirements. Last week the group held its  first Community Give Back event at Seccombe Lake Park.

Malek Bendelhoum of the group said that they do all they can. In an interview to the Sun he said, he finds people who have just fallen on tough times and need a hand.

“We aspire to be the people who can reach out that hand,” Bendelhoum said.

Programs are available at the center to people of all faiths, including 12 Paths of Recovery each Thursday evening, Job Preparation and Training, Purification of the Self and Peer to Peer Counseling.

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Successful Convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

MPAC-initials-white-on-blkWith the phenomenon of Islamophobia on the rise and now the province of Presidential candidates, thoughtful Americans welcome organizations which confront this problem and work toward solutions. The United States cannot truly fulfill its democratic destiny until the issue of Islamophobia is consigned to the dustbin of history. In addition, many other problems – perhaps trumping Islamophobia in impact – call out for Islamic participation with the concurrent application of Islamic values. The Arab Spring and what America’s role should be, and the Islamic movements outside of the United States are but two. 

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) successfully examined these issues during its 11th Annual Conference, rising once again to the challenge inherent in its founding principles. The Convention took place this past Saturday in Los Angeles and was titled: “Spring Forward: America’s Role in A Changing World”. The Convention consisted of two parts: three work sessions and an evening banquet with speakers.

During the welcome by MPAC President Salaam Al Marayati, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca spoke about Islamophobia and praised the Los Angeles Muslim community in general and MPAC in particular for their cooperation with law enforcement. His presentation might well have been the prologue to the second workshop session. In a direct approach, Sheriff Baca reminded his audience that the United States Constitution grants religious liberty. There should be no interference in the construction of a church, synagogue or mosque. He said that he, like all law enforcement officers, took an oath to defend the Constitution. If there are officers who for reasons of deep seated bigotry are unable to reconcile their positions with their oath, they should leave the office. He received a standing ovation.

The first session,  Plenary I ,  featured Dr. Nayyer Ali, a member of the MPAC Board, as moderator and was titled: “US Foreign Policy: Potentials and Pitfalls”. A diverse panel considered the question of US foreign policy towards the nations of the Arab Spring. While there were answers as diverse as the participants, the results were a mixture of optimism, pessimism, and a wait and see attitude. There was consensus that an American Muslim role is imperative. D Ali gave a summary that perhaps best describes the work of the session.

He said that what we see in the Arab world is the end of the post colonial slumber period much like 1989 was for East Europe. Pay attention to the input of Islam, he continued. It will play a large role and will be integrated into democratic governments.The message of the Koran is a perfect guide as it calls for justice, religious and political freedom, and consensus. Injustice is un Islamic. While the Koran is not a political document, it lays the framework for a just society. The concept of Shura intrinsically prevents dictatorship. “The Arab spring will evolve into something we find admirable”. 
“I feel as if I have attended a graduate level political seminar” said one young woman.

A second session followed a luncheon break. This session was titled: “The Industry of Hate in the Public Square”. Edina Lekovic, MPAC’s Director of Policy and Programing, was the moderator.  She described a whirlwind of activity with emphasis currently on Lowe’s stores withdrawal of sponsorship for the TLC show All American Muslim.

Before the session began, each attendee was given a publication by the Center for American Progress. The book is titled: “Fear, Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America”.
One of the authors, Wajahat Ali, was the first presenter. Mr. Ali is also a playwright, journalist, attorney, humorist, and blogger. “Congratulations. The Muslim agenda is in place”. He cited, facetiously, a Muslim beauty queen and stealth halal turkeys. Mr. Ali spoke of the recent decision of Lowe’s stores to remove their sponsorship of the widely acclaimed television series, All American Muslim. He surprised his audience by telling them that the pressure on Lowe’s to withdraw its support was initiated by the work of one man. He identified this man as David Canton, virtually the lone member of the highly touted Florida Family Association, and a man with a history of bothering corporations. He continued by saying that even Mr. Canton’s web site was poorly done. Yet, like the effect of a megaphone,  the efforts of one man was presented as a large group effort.

“Its like watching a balloon deflate” whispered one audience member.

He cited bloggers Pamela Geller and David Horowitz for their role in taking this issue and publicizing it. He referenced the book he co authored and told his audience to read about the money trails, the donors and the amounts they have contributed, the beneficiaries with their organizations and/or web sites.  The book is truly encyclopedic and a valuable weapon in confronting and defeating Islamophobia.

Attendees were given an opportunity to fill out sign up sheets indicating their willingness to work with MPAC in this crucial venture.

Steven Rohde, a well known civil rights attorney and activist, spoke next. He recited a poem which he had written which paraphrased the famous work of the Reverend Martin Niemoller about the German intellectuals’ reluctance to speak up against injustice because they were not not initially targeted. In this version, the Muslims were the miner’s canary.

Mr. Rohde expressed his willingness to stand with Muslims and fight with them against any injustice turned their way. The audience gave him a standing ovation.

Aziza Hasan was the last presenter. She is MPAC’s Director of Southern California Government Relations. She said that we are commanded by the Koran to stand up for truth and to speak up against injustice. She told her audience to anticipate and to build. We can reasonably expect that Islamophobia will get worse by the election of 2012. We can prepare for that battle. We will build alliances and work with those already in place.

The final session, Plenary II, was titled: “Islamic Movements: Help or Hindrance”.  Haris Tarin who is the Executive Director of MPAC’s Washington, D. C. office was the moderator. Will political movements, suppressed for decades, be able to lead the people in a government that is democratic and pluralistic?

Salaam Al Marayati introduced Haris Tarin and complimented him on bringing the MPAC Washington, D. C. office to new levels of influence. In the Arab world, he noted, Islamic groups were able to organize against the dictators in power.

The Muslim world entered modernity through colonialism and therefore entered it as subjects, said panelist Haroon Mogdul, an Associate Editor at Religion Dispatches, a Senior Editor for The Islamic Monthly, and a Fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Dr. Jasser Auda said that the landscape is complex. For example, the youth of the Muslim Brotherhood is closer to liberal youth than to the senior leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. Dr. Auda is an Associate Professor at the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies. He continued by saying that the Salafist youth are separate from their Imams. Youth are developing the idea of a civil state with an Islamic reference.

Invited guests for the evening banquet were Dr. Cornel West, Professor of Religion at Princeton University and the author of “Race Matters” and Ebrahim Rasool, South African ambassador to the United States.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council has worked since 1988 to promote an American Muslim community which will enrich American society through the application of Islamic principles. These principles are Mercy, Justice, Peace, Human Dignity, Freedom and Equality. MPAC has become the go to group for media and government officials. American Muslims have come to accept it as a spokesgroup on their behalf.

MPAC’s programs include: an Anti-terrorism campaign; a Hollywood Bureau; Government Relations; Countering Islamophobia; Young Leaders Development, and Interfaith Outreach.      

The foregoing is but a small portion of the work of MPAC. To learn more about the group, to contribute, and to volunteer, please access their web site at: www.mpac.org.

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Community News (V13-I51)

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Salman Khan, of Khan Academy, is commencement speaker at MIT

Laurels keep on coming the way of Khan Academy founder Salman Khan. He has now been selected as the commencement speaker at his alma mater MIT’s commencement ceremonies in June 2012. According to the student newspaper he will be the youngest commencement speaker in at least 30 years.

Salman Khan obtained two bachelors and a master’s degree from MIT before finishing his MBA from Harvard.

The hugely popular website now hosts over 2700 instructional videos in topics ranging from basic algebra to thermodynamics to art history, in addition to online exercises and drills.

Khan Academy, which offers its services for free, is supported by donations; among others, Google has promised to contribute $2 million, while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed to $1.5 million.

Muslim run food pantry in Bronx to close

BRONX,NY–A food pantry run by Muslims in Bronx will close unless they receive a rush of donations. The Muslim Women’s Initiative for Research and Development has been feeding more than 10,000 people through its two pantries which have been serving as a lifeline to the needy and destitute. But the current economic downturn combined with an increase in requests are taking its toll on the initiative.

‘A 70% slump in donations and a more than 50% increase in demand for services this year has put the organization $48,000 in the hole,’ said its executive director Nurah Ama’tullah in an interview  to the Daily News.

“This is very important for me,” said Antonia Cruz, 52, an out-of-work mother of five. “The food is very good. I don’t have public assistance. I hope they don’t close.”

MWIRD can be contacted at 718-960-2262 / 1-917-529-5242 or via email  info@mwird.org

Irfan Khan joins Phoenixville School Board

PHOENIXVILLE,PA–Irfan Khan took his seat as the new member of the Phoenixville School Board on December 5. He was elected unopposed in October. His term lasts four years and he said he is looking forward for productive term.

Khan has extensive experience in the area of finance and would be able to provide a vast knowledge of management of funds and investments to the local school board, according to an endorsement he received from the Democratic Committee.

Khan has served as a volunteer with a number of charitable organizations in the greater Phoenixville area.

Tri-Faith Initiative of Omaha makes historic land purchase

OMAHA– Representatives of Temple Israel, the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture (AIISC) and the Tri-Faith Initiative of Omaha today announced each of the four entities has purchased land at 132nd and Pacific Streets in Omaha. The four parcels, totaling approximately 35 acres, will be the future site of the Tri-Faith neighborhood.

This unique project, the first of its kind in the world, deliberately co-locates a synagogue, church and mosque. The site plan also includes aTri-Faith Center with social, educational and conference facilities enabling global study and communication.

“Experience teaches us that interaction can transform intolerance, ignorance and fear into understanding, respect and trust,” said Bob Freeman, Tri-Faith Initiative Board Chairman. “These basic values are shared by the three Abrahamic faiths and are rooted in our Midwestern culture.”

The Tri-Faith Initiative and the three religious groups each raised funds and purchased their own parcel of land. Additional funds will be raised to underwrite design and construction costs. The first building is expected to be completed in 2013.

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Sound Vision Event for Shariah Education

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

A fundraiser was held Saturday evening at the Dearborn Hyatt to counter the “anti-Shariah” legislation that is sweeping the nation.

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Abdul Malik Mujahid speaks at his fundraiser

The voices from the extreme right that vilify Muslims and Islam have made an important strategy shift in recent years, aiming to promulgate their hatred into the law of the land.  That difference has come in the form of plainly unconstitutional legislation that despite its illegality in relation to the religious protections of our nation has been passed as “anti-Sharia” legislation in 5 states to date, with ongoing battles to enact such legislation in other states.

Sound Vision pioneer Abdul Malik Mujahid is therefore planning an intelligent response to the shrill anti-Shariah efforts.  He has begun to assemble a team of knowledgeable people from relevant walks of life including lawyers and professors, and a website (called Sharia101.org) and more, all designed to fill the void on the internet of people knowledgeable about Islam who can respond to the “anti-Shariah” distortions of Christian bigots.

Mr. Mujahid has successfully built Sound Vision, and is prominent for his other contributions as well, in fact he was given the honor of being listed in the “Muslim 500” book of most influential Muslims.

Saturday, approximately 100 influential Southeast Michigan Muslims attended Mr. Mujahid’s fundraiser, one stop on Mr. Mujahid’s tour of several fundraisers, to raise money in support of his vision of educating people on what Shariah is.

Mujahid spoke eloquently on the importance of Shariah legislation, the danger it poses to Muslim investing, the danger to Muslim family arbitration, the danger to the existing multibillion dollar halal investment funds, the danger to the halal industry.

Mujahid also pointed out the profound implications of anti-Shariah legislation for similarly distinct religious groups which apply their religious laws within the American legal system, for example Jews, Catholics, the Amish, and Mormons. 

Mujahid gave one of the first good explanations of the nature of Shariah as being our way of life–something that is not at all fairly represented by sometimes hideous abuses done in foreign countries under the banner “Shariah.”

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Rep. Keith Ellison Speaks Out About the Lowe’s Controversy

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Statement:  Congressman Keith Ellison

Ellison Statement on Lowes’ Removal of All-American Muslim Advertisement

WASHINGTON–Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after Lowes decided to pull its advertisement from TLC’s All-American Muslim series:
“Lowe’s Corporation has chosen to uphold the beliefs of a fringe hate group and not the creed of The First Amendment, which guarantees the free exercise of religion. This is disappointing since the success of ‘All-American Muslim’ shows how ready the country is to learn about Muslims as Americans. This probably makes hate mongers uncomfortable–as they should be. Our nation’s history is full of examples demonstrating how we have repeatedly torn down false divisions hate groups choose to create. But the struggle against bigotry and hatred must continue so we never give in to intolerance like Lowe’s Corporation has done. Corporate America needs to take a stand against these anti-Muslim fringe groups and stand up for what is right because this is what it means to be an American.”

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Americans would benefit from a Muslim version of the Huxtables

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Clarence Page

A conservative Christian group has launched a boycott against “All-American Muslim.” The TLC cable TV reality show about Muslim families in America fails to live down to the group’s narrow-minded stereotypes. Their gripe, in my view, makes about as much sense as boycotting “The Cosby Show” back in the day because it didn’t mention black street gangs.

The Christian group’s boycott made national headlines this week when the home-improvement giant Lowe’s pulled its ads from the program. If the North Carolina-based company was hoping to dodge controversy, it failed. The move touched off protests joined by music mogul Russell Simmons and actor Kal Penn, among other celebrities, and a second boycott campaign — against Lowe’s.

The company apologized to everyone who is offended, citing its “strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.” But it stuck by its decision, explaining the show became a “lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a variety of perspectives — political, social and otherwise.”

Blame the Tampa-based Florida Family Association, which launched the boycott.

When I clicked on the association’s website, a notice from David Caton, the group’s executive director, said it was shut down because of “extremely mean-spirited” hacker attacks. “In a country that supposedly embraces free speech,” a posted statement said without a hint of irony, “those that oppose our position have no qualms about destroying our free speech.” Right. No more qualms than the association feels about silencing “All-American Muslim.”

Nevertheless, if the association’s protest actually helps to boost the show’s ratings as people tune in to judge for themselves, I think it will have performed a valuable public service.

The show premiered in November on TLC, which previously made news with “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” a reality show that I imagine the Tampa group found more to its liking. “All-American Muslim” follows the daily lives of five Lebanese families in Dearborn, Mich., a suburban Detroit city with one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Arabs. In a format mercifully free of self-congratulatory piety or eat-your-broccoli earnestness, its middle-class subjects offer entertaining yet also enlightening evidence that America’s multiethnic, multicultural melting pot still works, despite occasional bumps in the road.

Yet, the Tampa group and its allied fearmongers complain about what the show leaves out: The violence that Muslim fanatics have committed in the name of Islam.

“The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks,” the Florida group asserts in a letter to TLC advertisers, “while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to the liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.” Is it not enough for the critics that images of such violence appear on TV news almost every day? Most of the violence occurs overseas and, by the way, kills mostly fellow Muslims. Yet, the Florida Family Association insists that we judge Muslim Americans by their worst actors overseas, not as families who live in much the same way other middle-class Americans do.

I am reminded of the black intellectual critics who complained in the 1980s that “The Cosby Show” was too sentimental and far-removed, with its upper-class professional African-American family, from the lives that most black people lived. Yet, Bill Cosby’s show broke TV audience records during a time when race relations were less relaxed than they are today. Viewers across racial lines quickly connected with its subtle subtext: The American dream is not for whites only.

That’s why I suggested a few months ago that, as Muslims seem to have replaced African-Americans at the bottom of America’s totem pole of ignorance-based stereotypes, all Americans would benefit from a Muslim version of Cosby’s Huxtable family.

Some of my readers scoffed, but Canadian TV has aired five seasons of the popular “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” a comedy about a Muslim family and their interactions with non-Muslims, since January 2007. U.S. networks have produced pilots for similar sitcoms here but the occasionally funny moments in “All-American Muslims” are the closest that a Muslim family comedy has come to broadcast. We Americans are justly proud of our land of opportunity and fair play, but we’re behind Canada this time.

Maybe our networks still think Islamaphobia is still too raw in our minds for Americans to laugh about. Perhaps “All-American Muslims” can help to ease those tensions, even if some of its critics hope that it doesn’t.

Clarence Page is a member of the Tribune’s editorial board and blogs at chicagotribune.com/pagespage

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Experience of a lifetime

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Internship with the Center for Global Understanding

By Moshtayeen Ahmad

Moshtayeen_Ahmad_120811So basically, all interns come to the District of Columbia because they are trying to save the world. If not that, it is all about resume boosters and looking good on paper. In reality, let us hope that an intern’s intentions match that of the first motivation over the latter.

Before I began my internship, I definitely saw myself saving the world one day and getting involved in activities for the greater good. But I guess the world was too much for me to tackle, so I decided to conquer D.C. first. Don’t worry world, I’ll be there one day.

When I embarked on my journey to D.C., I was a bit all over the place.

I’m a senior at Florida State University majoring in International Affairs and Middle East Studies, with a minor in Urban & Regional Planning. With the thought of graduation so near, before I left for D.C., I was rushing to take the GRE, finishing up the first chapter in my honors thesis and getting more and more excited to get into the city. I imagined running into Obama where we would become great friends on a level where I could say “I’m in the hizhouse,” more commonly known as the White House. I also fantasized about running into Hilary Clinton at the Department of State where we would be drinking coffee as we discussed the next move in America’s foreign policy and I would lightly mention how I read her memoir in the eighth grade and that I loved her since! It is good to dream, especially when D.C. is filled with infinite possibilities.

With all the craziness set aside, I packed my bags and left for our nation’s capital. When I arrived, I was seeing exactly what I was expecting to see, everyone running around in suits looking very professional. I arrived to the housing facility and loved my new home right away. I was a very fortunate person and got stuck with the ideal roommate and we both aided each other through the process of adjusting to the city, internship, and classes. With this program, I not only networked with higher officials, but I made relationships with my peers that will be lifelong and valuable.

Having an internship is a great  experience, but it is programs like The Center for Global Understanding (CFGU) that really enhances it.

Their mission is “to provide a platform to cultivate the next generation of American leaders through internships in Washington D.C.

and continued training and education on leadership development.” CFGU provided a scholarship to me and 17 other students from across the country in the summer of 2011 to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. For summer 2012, CFGU is offering 25 scholarships for Muslim American college students to intern in Washington D.C.  You must be a college sophomore in an accredited college or university to participate in the program.

Because of CFGU, I attended lectures at various embassies, networked with potential employers, and met prominent figures in our community, as well as the Muslim American community. I did not just meet the stereotypical “political representatives,” but I got perspectives from leaders of all ages with various backgrounds dealing with issues ranging from improving a community to global health. We had discussions with well known Muslim American Leaders such Ambassador Rashad Hussain  from the State Department, Ambassador Islam Siddiqui from the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Noosheen Hashemi, former Oracle Corporation executive and a Social Entrepreneur among others. It is extremely important for minorities to foster skills to become future leaders of America, which is the main mission of the Center for Global Understanding.

Through my experience in D.C., I attained hands-on experience with things I never expected to have. I saw myself making a difference as I got more civically engaged. I lobbied on the hill, volunteered at a homeless shelter, and made a stance on issues I believed in strongly, such as women’s rights. I contacted people of prestigious titles and spoke to various officials from several embassies as if they were my colleagues. Not many twenty-one year olds are blessed with such amazing experiences. Words cannot fully describe the thrills of Washington D.C.

So it isn’t really the world that I’ll be saving, but I do see myself impacting our community. This past summer gave me the confidence to feel this way, and encouraged those that I work with to be confident in me. The Center for Global Understanding guides their interns towards a more successful future and endless opportunities. You can visit http://www.centerforglobalunderstanding.org for more information or contact me, Moshtayeen, at mba08c@my.fsu.edu.

Moshtayeen Ahmad is a senior at the Florida State University majoring in International Affairs.

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Community News (V13-I50)

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Philanthropist Shahid Khan to buy Jaguars

URBANA,IL–Shahid Khan, a Pakistani-American businessman and philanthropist, is all set to acquire Jacksonville Jaguars, according to media reports.

He is the president of the Flex-N-Gate company which manufactures auto parts. It employs over 12, 000 workers in U.S., Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and Spain.

Flex-N-Gate is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 168th largest private company in the United States, with estimated revenues of $2.57 billion for the previous fiscal year.

Last year Khan had launched an unsuccessful bid to acquire St. Louis Rams.

Lafayette Islamic Centre to hold community kitchen

LAFAYETTE,LA–The Lafayaette Islamic Centre will hold a community kitchen on December 10. This is the centre’s first ever project of this kind, KATC reported.

The event is open to everyone, and local shelters will be given the information to invite their patrons. Gumbo will be served. Volunteers from the Islamic Center, the UL Muslim Students Association, and the Islamic Education Weekend Program will be on hand to serve those in attendance. The Community Kitchen will be Dec. 10 from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

No prayer room at Purdue University Calumet campus

CALUMET,IN–University campuses across North America have a common meditation/prayer area which all students including Muslim could utilise. The Purdue University Calumet campus, however, lacks one creating a challenge for the three hundred Muslim students to offer their five daily prayers.

The issue has been brought to the front by a recent article in the Purdue University Calumter Chronicle. The adminsitration’s contention is that they cannot provide a prayer space for specific religion as it is a state school. The Muslim students have asked that a common prayer open to all religions be provided.

PUC Chancellor Thomas Keon voiced his sympathy for the Muslim students’ quandary, though he held the position that the school is not legally allowed to host a specified prayer room. Although the administration’s hands seem to be bound in red tape, Keon shared his suggestion to work out a resolution to benefit all faiths.

“We need to have a better, long-term approach to resolving the concern. I have suggested that the campus, for the first time, develop an inter-faith counsel and I would like to find church leaders from the region and work with them to see if we can come up with a resolution. In the meantime, I have approached the Vice Chancellors about properties for sale near the campus we may be able to purchase for this specific purpose,” Keon told the student newspaper.

Tulsa police captain’s plea denied

TULSA,OK–A Tulsa Police Department Captain’s plea to amend his lawsuit filed against the department over mosque attendance row has been denied by a US District Court judge.

Capt. Paul Fields filed a suit alleging his First Amendment rights were infringed upon after he was suspended for disobeying orders to attend a community event.

In February, Fields refused to attend Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the Islamic Society of Tulsa.  He was then suspended without pay June 12-25 for his actions.

Upon filing the suit, Fields emailed his supervisors.  In the statement, he said, “I believe this directive to be an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with my personal religion’s convictions.”

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Muslim Spelling Bee

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

ScreenShot006Spelling Bees were made famous by the 2006 movie Aqeelah and the Bee, about a young girl from a bad neighborhood with a talent for spelling, who works hard, finds a teacher to prep her for spelling competitions, and becomes a champion speller.

Tausif Malik, a Chicago entrepreneur from India, perceived a need for a platform of competition in which children could engage from around the world, and chose spelling.  He has planned a 10-city national competition in spelling which he eventually hopes will become an international spelling competition open to Muslim students.

“Muslims are not aware of spelling bees because they are focused on” getting their children into engineering or medicine, he said in a recent interview with TMO.

The purpose, he says, of the program is “to get Muslim children into the mainstream.”  His competition will be held in each city at a Muslim private school, however it will be open to students from private schools, public schools, or home schools, children up to 14 years old.

Mr. Malik expects 500 children per city to compete in the competition, and as yet he has not announced the prizes.

The competition is scheduled to begin in March – May of 2012, it will be a weekend affair in each city.

The competition regions are to include Washington DC, New York City, New Jersey, Orange County California, Chicago, Tampa Florida, Atlanta Georgia, Phoenix Arizona, and Houston Texas.
The entry fee per student will be $50–each student will have to fill out an application and pay the $50 fee online or via check.  Once they are registered they will receive a word list, and then on a set day they will arrive at the testing location and take a written test (to screen the applicants and winnow the best of them) and then an oral competition.

Mr. Malik explains that there will be a cash prize, scholarships, college sponsorships, companies giving holiday gifts.

His scheme is to begin with a spelling bee but to expand into other areas, with science competitions, geography bees, math bees–”an Olympiad.”

“Muslims have lost education,” Mr. Malik argues.  “They are getting into stuff that is not worth it–Muslims were creators, innovators.”  Malik believes his program of competitions will move the Muslim community towards that.

If you are interested in getting involved in the Muslim spelling bee, please visit www.muslimspellingbee.com.

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More on the ILM Foundation – Expansion and Service

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The ILM Foundation will be familiar to readers of The Muslim Observer. ILM is the Arabic word for “knowledge” and also stands for the virtues of intellect, love, and mercy. Many sub groups have been seeded by ILM including the Coalition to Preserve Human Dignity (CPHD), Go for the Game, Islam: A World Movement, Humanitarian Day, and a prison outreach support services.

ILM was founded in 1998 through the efforts of Imam Saadiq Saafir who sought to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of society. He had a vision inspired by his Muslim faith to work for community cohesion and social justice. ILM is the fruit of his vision. Imam Saadiq now is the Chairman of ILM Foundation’s Board of Directors and senior Masjidulus member of Masjid Ibaadillah, Los Angeles. Imam Saadiq’s son, Imam Jihad Saafir, is currently doing a wonderful job as resident Imam.

ILM’s Director, Naim Shah, Jr. has spoken to The Muslim Observer to tell readers of the latest actions and goals of ILM.

Mr. Shah last year spent six months as a trainee with the Community Organizing Residency (COR) project. COR is a product of Jewish Funds for Justice. His placement was with LA Voice Pico. LA Voice Pico is a local federation of the PICO national network. LA Voice represents over 20 multi-faith congregations throughout Los Angeles representing nearly 20,000 families. It works in the arenas of education, responsible banking, immigration, health care reform, and violence prevention.

During that period Mr. Shah was able to introduce LA Voices’s responsibility banking initiative to the Muslim community.This initiative seeks to support legislation that seeks leniency from banks regarding foreclosures and encourages community reinvestment and increases in small business loans. Mr. Shah’s work was highlighted when he organized nearly 80 Muslims to attend a townhall meeting packed with nearly 800 people hosted at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood.

Now LA Voice has Muslim representation through the Coalition to Preserve Human Dignity which ILM uses to coordinate Humanitarian Day. He and ILM’s Associate Director, Umar Hakim, joined LA Voice in a rally coordinated by Pico California in Sacramento to encourage our elected officials to stop delaying the passage of the state’s budget. It is with great pleasure to announce the excellent community organizing work coordinated by Umar Hakim at LA Voice, as the new COR resident for 2011-2012.

Humanitarian Day, founded by the ILM Foundation but coordinated through CPHD , is now in its 11th year. What began in a few cities as a one day outreach to the poor and homeless community has now become an institution. Food, toiletries, and other personal items are distributed free of charge, and representatives of medical clinics are usually available to answer questions. It is observed in 13 cities throughout California and nationally. The Humanitarian Day monthly effort is coordinated by ILM Director, Taswiyah Muttaz, which includes the distribution of fresh, warm meals, hygiene kits, occasional health screening services, and student community service learning engagement. ILM Foundation is extremely grateful for the support of and sponsorship from the Hassan Hathout Foundation, Masjid Ibaadillah, Orange County Islamic Foundation, Omar Ibn Khattab Foundation, Islamic Center of Irvine, UMMA Community Clinic, Los Angeles Police Department,  the USC Ansar Partnership for Service and many other institutions.

ILM has expanded its interfaith work and has partnered with the LDS Church (Mormon), LA Voci the South Coast Interfaith Council (SCIC), and the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue, and NewGround Muslim Jewish Dialogue.

Mr. Naim Shah Sr., Director of ILM Foundation Prison Outreach Services, corresponds with federal and state chaplains about the conditions of Muslim inmates and how the foundation can assist. Currently, on a monthly basis, ILM distributes inmates care packages which include books, oil, prayer rug, etc.. We have volunteers who correspond via mail to assist with referrals and letters during the inmate re-entry process back into society.  ILM’s goal is recruit additional Muslim men to mentor inmates while in rehabilitation to prepare as much as possible to prevent recidivism after their release.  

Mr Shah and Mr. Hakim also graduated from the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, a product of Nadia Romani and institutional partner of the Center of Religious Civic Culture Department at the University of Southern California.

Shaykh Ayub, ILM Director of Islamic Studies and Arabic, will visit Ghana to work on many of ILM’s humanitarian projects. Ghana is now approaching it 4th Annual Humanitarian Day. ILM’s focus in Ghana is education, breast cancer, youth recreation and infrastructure building. ILM Foundation currently supports several students with school tuition, technological support and other vocational training. In Ghana the top pastime for youth is soccer.  Currently through the gracious support of Zeeni Sports, ILM sponsors an entire youth soccer team with uniforms, socks, bags and educational support. ILM has recently been offered land to build a center to house all of our services in an area near Accra called Caswa. The annual ILM Ghana Tour is an attempt to increase the awareness and penitential of re-seeding our roots in West Africa. Ghana has a Muslim population of 30%,and rising. With a good political climate, strong economy , Islamic scholarship and good interfaith relations, ILM future in Ghana looks very bright. The partner organization in Ghana is the Bureau for Social Services located in Accra, Ghana.

Mr. Shah and Mr. Hakim have answered questions regarding their work posed by The Muslim Observer.

TMO: Could each of you tell our readers how you came to hear of the Community Organizing Residency (COR)?

NAIM: I learned about COR as result of participating in the American Muslim Civic Engagement Institute. Nadia Romani co-founder of AMCLI works as one of the program consultants with COR. So was really blessed to be included within this civic engagement network, which constantly share opportunities for graduates to further expand upon their experience and education.

UMAR: The opportunity for Community Organizing Residency (COR) came through our social network, American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. We are always building essential leadership skills, and seen this was a great opportunity to learn hands on community organizing with agencies in California and/or throughout the U.S such as LA VOICE.

TMO: Will you describe your days at COR? Was it all study, was it hands on organizing?

NAIM:  COR is nice blend of on-site hand on community organizing with leadership and peer support training. I love it. The founders of COR were passionate and extremely professional. The residents were the spot light and we were provided all the tools to use our natural talents for extracting as a much from the 6 month residency as possible. I was also very fortunate to serve my residency at LA Voice Pico under the leadership of Zach Hoover and Rochelle

UMAR:  The COR training at Mt. Eden in the New Jersey countryside, was a genuine break from urban Compton. I spent 4-5 days within a faith-based cohort of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, and Latino Indigenous; together we focused on several key learning areas a preparation for sustaining this organizing experience. My objective is phase II of ILM’s community organizing vision, identify and build the organizing component of the CPHD.

TMO: What about the COR program impressed you the most?

NAIM:  My most impressive moment was witnessing the excellent talent pool residents selected for the program. I felt so honored to represent Islam in such a setting. There was once central focus of exploiting our faith for the betterment of humanity not just ourselves and not just members of our faith. I was drawn into the coordinator’s of COR collective intention to make this program address the critical drought America was facing due to lack of replenishing our community with organizers. The experience increased my faith in Islam and in what can be accomplished working for a common cause!

UMAR:  One of the impressive moments was during Shabat, led by a Jewish cohort. It’s where I learning the meaning of Shabat and how Judaism is closely aligned to Islam, through Ibrahim and his worship of Tauhid. Dispelling a lot myths I had and now I’m able to apply my conduct of Islamic Fiqh more appropriately.

TMO:  What was the most valuable thing you learned at COR? What was the most valuable thing you think you introduced to that group?

NAIM:  The most valuable thing I learned is that Allah is the one who choose your teachers. I have been working in the Muslim community for nearly 18 years. Community organizing was not taught or practiced formally by any Masjid to my  knowledge. The skill sets, however, are re-surfacing back into the community though participants such as myself and Umar in wonderful programs like the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute and COR sponsored by the Jewish Funds for Justice. Both programs transformed me into a more effective leader and I am extremely grateful.

UMAR:  A valuable walkaway is knowing I now have the ability to reach out into different communities for religious and social intellectual insight, share my ideas and simply have another effective social network an email away; something that is very needed in our world of changing dynamics. Good question, what was the most valuable thing I introduced; I would say the second Pillar of Islam, Salat. Each member was asked to share an aspect of their religion or way of life and I was asked to explain Salat. I explained it through an interactive presentation for a customized delivery about our obligation prayers.

The Muslim Observer wishes to thank Mr. Shah and Mr. Hakim for their cooperation in conducting this interview.

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The Women of Karbala

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Asghar Ali, Engineer

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Women of the Ahlul Bait at the feet of Zul-Janah (the horse of Sayyidinal Hussain (kw)) who returns after the martyrdom of its rider.

TRADITIONAL Muslim set-ups place many restrictions on women. They cannot even venture out of their homes; most are required to restrict themselves to performing household chores only. Few Muslim women take up public roles; fewer still participate in outdoor events.

All this is being done in the name of Islam by the self-styled guardians of social norms. However, if we cast a glance on the early history of Islam we find women taking part in various events alongside men. Prophet (s) Muhammad (PBUH) had from Hazrat Khadija four daughters and brought them up as model women who participated in his revolution.

Islam’s was not only a spiritual but also a social revolution. It empowered women and gave them equal rights which was unthinkable at that time. Women played at best a secondary role in any civilisation in the seventh century CE. However, Islam raised their status and assigned them an equal role in all worldly affairs along with men. Many women, like Umm-i-Ammara, even took part in various battles which the Prophet (s) had to fight. In the Battle of Uhud, Umm-i-Ammara took the attack of a sword on her arm and saved the life of the Prophet (s).

Hazrat Fatima, as all Muslims agree, was indeed very close to her father, and thus Muslims highly revere her. She too was brought up by the Prophet (s) enshrining the highest values of Islam. Her sons, Imam Hasan and Husain, were equally loved. Her daughter, Hazrat Zainab, played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the battle of Karbala. Bibi Shehar Banu was the daughter of Kisra, the King of Persia who was defeated by the Muslims, and Hazrat Ali married her to his son, Husain.

Shaher Banu also faced the tragic events at Karbala very bravely and sacrificed her two sons, Ali Akbar and Ali Asghar, in the way of Allah.

It is important to note that when Imam Husain was leaving Makkah for Kufa (Iraq) in response to the letters he had received from many important citizens of Kufa to lead them in their fight against Yazid (who had usurped khilafat in violation of the condition laid down by Imam Hasan while abdicating in favour of Ameer Muawiyah), Imam Husain was advised by his well-wishers not to take his family along to Kufa.

It was feared the people of Kufa might betray him.

However, despite the risks, Imam Husain turned down the advice and took along all his family members, including women and children. He knew that the women, who included his wife, his sisters and daughters, would play a very important role even if he had to fight against Yazid’s forces in or near Kufa. The people of Kufa did betray him even though they were the ones who had invited him to lead them in a fight against Yazid’s tyranny.

Yazid stood for all that was against Islamic norms. Not only was his lifestyle against that of the Prophet (s) (PBUH) and his companions he also tried to destroy the institution of khilafat by introducing monarchy.

This was totally against the revolutionary spirit of the political system introduced by Islam. Husain perhaps knew, before he left for Kufa, what was in store and he deliberately took women along with him to show to the world that women could also play a role in saving the Islamic way of life.

The women of the Karbala tragedy did play a role which was no less significant than that of the male companions of the Imam.

The Imam was right: his women played a pivotal role, particularly the Imam’s sister, Hazrat Zainab. After the martyrdom of Husain and his colleagues, Imam Zainul Abidin and all women and children were arrested and taken to Damascus on camelback via Kufa. Bibi Zainab, a brave and bold woman, addressed Muslims everywhere along the way, exposing Yazid and his evil actions and un-Islamic acts.

Bibi Zainab and the Imam’s entire family were kept in prison in Damascus. When they were brought to Yazid’s court, Zainab eloquently spoke in front of Yazid’s courtiers and thoroughly exposed him. She never shied from her mission, so much so that he had to release her and the Imam’s entire family. They were sent back to Madina with their security being ensured.

Syeda Zainab’s role was exemplary. It showed how bold Muslim women were and how they played a key role in consolidating Islamic teachings.

Today, despite so much progress and the spread of education, so many Muslim women are suppressed. In Saudi Arabia, for example, even a woman’s voice is considered ‘awrah i.e. so that it should not be heard in public; and here was Zainab from the Imam’s family who became a public speaker to save Islamic values.

Zainab was the eldest among the women of the Imam’s family, including Imam Zainul Abidin who was very unwell at the time.

The leadership of the family thus fell to Zainab, and she proved to be more than what was expected of her. Today, women have to learn much  from her example and leadership qualities. Her public role in the Karbala saga has much to teach us.

It is wrong to think, as many Muslim men do, that women are weak and cannot achieve much in the public domain. Hazrat Zainab’s role is a wake-up call for those who feel that women are fit only for domestic chores and nothing beyond the confines of a house.

The writer is an Islamic scholar who heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.

Source: The Dawn, Karachi

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The Candidates on Islam

December 8, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, Muslim Chaplain, Attorney and Political Analyst

2011-11-23T013356Z_410979054_LM2E7BN04CK01_RTRMADP_3_USA-CAMPAIGN-DEBATE

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, businessman Herman Cain, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), stand at attention during the singing of the national anthem during the CNN GOP National Security debate in Washington, November 22, 2011.

REUTERS/Jim Bourg

As republican voters near the time to elect their presidential candidate for the 2012 election, the candidates’ respective religious perspectives become significant to many. One topic that does not escape public scrutiny is the candidates’ stand on Islam and Muslims in America. It has become an important issue that calls the attention of both Muslim and non-Muslim voters. Noticeably some candidates appear not to realize that the American Muslim community has a significant number of political conservatives sympathetic to many issues within the Republican Party platform.

The GOP presidential hopefuls’ stand on Islam and Muslims has been varied. Their stands have ranged from being thoughtful and considerate to being discourteous, rude and unappreciative of the history, losing potential support.

Some candidates have clearly opted to try to win votes by denigrating Islam and disparaging Muslims. Taking the lead in the anti-Muslim frenzy is Herman Cain, who has consistently held a hostile discourse on Islam, belittling almost anything or anyone resonating Muslim. Among many instances we may take as example Cain’s opposition to the construction of an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., unreasonably arguing that it’s not religious discrimination for a community to ban a mosque. On this same line, Cain has also affirmed that he wouldn’t appoint Muslims to his cabinet and even suggested to impose a loyalty test on any Muslim before allowing him to serve in his administration.

His anti-Muslim rhetoric returned recently when he expressed that more than half of American Muslims are extremists based on a “trusted adviser” who informed him so.

Rick Perry has wisely distanced himself from the bigoted rhetoric and instead has a history of good and positive relations with the Muslims community. Perry endorsed Texas public high school teacher education programs on Islamic history. As governor he signed a Halal Law, which makes it a criminal offense to sell Halal and non-Halal meat in the same store without specifically labeling the two and to misrepresent non-Halal meat as being Halal. Governor Perry has held constructive ties with the Muslim Aga Khan’s community and hosted their world known leader on his visit to Texas. He followed up by attending the inauguration of their Ismaili Jamatkhana Islamic Center in Sugar Land, Texas in 2002; and later laid the first brick for another of their centers in Plano, Texas in 2005. On the other hand, Perry’s ties to the rest of the mainstream Muslim community as a whole are scarce, and his posture is mostly perceived as neutral, with neither “pro” nor “against” community stances.

Mitt Romney’s relations with the American Muslim community have not been smooth. Recently, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked the presidential hopeful for the ouster of Dr. Walid Phares a recently appointed foreign policy adviser to his team. Phares authored “Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America” and also acts as an advisor to the U.S. Congress on the Middle East. According to CAIR he worked as an official in the Lebanese Forces, a Christian militia, and other militias that reportedly took part in various massacres of Muslims. The controversial appointment has certainly created a wave of controversy within the American Muslim community that waits for Romney to take their concerns into consideration.

Newt Gingrich’s stance on issues related to American Muslims and Islam has been scornful. Falling victim to the Muslim hysteria on the debate on the Ground Zero Mosque, Gingrich compared the Islamic Community Center project to building a Nazi monument outside the Holocaust Museum. This was clearly a very insensitive position that will take more than a simple apology — not that it is expected — to amend.

Michele Bachmann has not demonstrated a capacity to engage the American Muslim community neither shown capacity to understand and respect diversity. Her comments on the civil uprisings that took place in France back in 2005 were very discomforting: “Those who are coming into France, which has a beautiful culture, the French culture is actually diminished. It’s going away. And just with the population in France, they are losing Western Europeans, and it’s being taken over by a Muslim ethic. Not that Muslims are bad, but they are not assimilating.”

Rick Santorum has joined Gingrich’s Islam-bashing team, expressing misleading comments on the question of sharia taking over the U.S. court system. On the most recent debate Santorum was even more assertive on his opinion on Muslims. When asked if he would support ethnic and religious profiling he replied: “The folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes … obviously Muslims would be someone you’d look at, absolutely.”

Among all candidates, libertarian leaning Ron Paul seems to be the one who have consistently pronounced himself distant from any expression that could be construed as Islamophobic. He issued firm statements condemning Pastor Terry Jones’ controversial call for a “Burn the Quran Day.” In September 2010 Paul stated: “This blame of all Muslims for the atrocities of 9/11 only makes things worse — especially since it wasn’t the Taliban of Afghanistan that committed the atrocities.” More recently, on a CBS interview, Paul said that al Qaeda itself cited American intervention in the region as its motivation for attacking the U.S. and “to argue the case that they want to do us harm because we’re free and prosperous I think is a very, very dangerous notion because it’s not true.”

John Huntsman is another candidate that for the most part has rejected to take a ride on the Islamophobia train that most republic candidates not only designed but are now fueling and giving hand-detailed maintenance.

The comments and actions that vilify Islam and Muslims — or any other religion and its practitioners — by the Republican Party presidential hopefuls show an evident betrayal of commitment to the freedom of religion consecrated in the U.S. Constitution. Exploiting Muslims for political gain will undoubtedly alienate them from a significant section of the voting public who hold religion dear to their hearts.

Follow Wilfredo Amr Ruiz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnalistaInter

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The Importance of Breastfeeding to the Muslim Child

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms…If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (her) what ye offered, on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what ye do.” (Quran 2:233)

mother-and-child-1a

Given the importance of breastfeeding in the Islamic religion, the relatively low rates of compliance among Muslim women in North America are puzzling. There are small pockets of “fundamentalist” Muslim women who are well educated and adamant about nursing their children under their chadors, and who often practice natural childbirth. However, those mothers who nurse their babies past the age of one year are the exception rather than the rule. There seems to be a lighthearted attitude among the general Muslim populace towards the bottle-feeding of infants. It is sometimes even thought of as more modest to bottle-feed! Perhaps it is a lack of education about the benefits of breastfeeding, combined with an absence of a support network to assist the new mother.

Transferring the child to animal and vegetable foods before he even had any teeth was not done by the early Muslims. The most likely option, if a mother declined to breastfeed her infant, was the employment of a wet-nurse for the child. For the newborn Muslim child, the intimate breastfeeding relationship is a right. It is beyond dispute that two full years of breast-milk provide a baby with long-term health benefits such as the prevention of ear infections and allergies, as well as providing a foundation of trust between mother and child. Scientific studies show that a bottle-fed baby will be a weaker child.

“Weaning” is the gradual transfer from feeding the baby exclusively breast-milk to table foods only. This happens sometime during the toddler period of life, usually between the ages of 1 and 3.

In Islamic terms, weaning is a process that is administered by mutual consent between parents. But in my conversations with sisters in various states who had given up nursing in favor of bottle-feeding, there is a sense of powerlessness over the situation. These mothers often wanted very much to nurse their child. But somehow, they lost their chance. This tragedy is largely caused by a hospital system that does little to promote exclusive breastfeeding of newborns. In most hospitals, the new mothers receive free samples of formula to take home, as a result of multi-million dollar deals with pharmaceutical companies who pay the doctors to promote their products. This practice is highly unethical because little or no education about the dangers of bottle-feeding the infant is given to the new mothers. Many Muslim mothers, especially those who don’t speak English well, come home with their babies already addicted to the bottle. Although at this point, all is not yet beyond hope, coaxing a small baby to breastfeed, after he has been bottle-fed even just once or twice, can be a big struggle. It may not succeed without the aid of a lactation counselor, because unfortunately, even the older generation of mothers and mothers-in-law often lack the knowledge of how to breastfeed. Thus, the likelihood of bottle-feeding is very high among immigrant and minority women in the U.S.

When women have given up nursing out of a feeling of powerlessness to get the baby to nurse, this is not a mutual parental decision to wean, but rather the result of lack of adequate help. Something is terribly wrong when Muslim women are giving up breastfeeding due to lack of education, counseling, and support. It reveals a stripping away at the postnatal rights of the Muslim woman to be in a state of rest for 40 days after childbirth.

If the child is rejecting the breast, the most common reaction is to try for a while, and then give up and give him a bottle, but this teaches him that all he has to do is fuss and refuse to nurse, and he will be rewarded by a free-flowing bottle of formula. The only solution to this power struggle is for the mother to refuse to give the baby a bottle, even if it takes several days for the baby to nurse willingly. (If the baby gets dehydrated, he can take water with a cup or medicine dropper). My eldest son was a sleepy baby, born a couple weeks early. I had to set my alarm for every three hours, take off his clothes and wipe him down with water to get him screaming mad, in order for him to just stay awake for a couple minutes to nurse before he would blissfully fall asleep in my arms. The first few days were terrifying and the emotional pressure was intense. After two weeks he finally opened his eyes, and he and I enjoyed a nursing relationship that lasted over two years. Nursing can be a strenuous effort that truly requires the full support and help of the father, neighbors and other family members, to allow the mother and child to be together undisturbed as much as possible for the first 40 days of the baby’s life.

Help is available. The ability to feed your child the best that nature has to offer is your choice. Only after a successful and long-lasting breastfeeding relationship can weaning the baby truly be done by mutual and conscious consent.

To locate a free breastfeeding consultant in your area, call 1-800-LA-LECHE

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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Face the Faith

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ahmad Al-Hilali, TMO Foundation

8477854Youth from all over the Detroit metro, and different religious backgrounds, came to the Face the Faith event at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills. The purpose of this event was to learn more about different cultures and faiths. There were icebreakers so that they could get to know each other’s names and religious beliefs. Than, after everybody had a feel about who was who, they went down to the basement to listen to the presentation by the Imam of the Muslim Unity Center, the representative of the Jewish faith, and the representative of the Christian faith. And after each presentation, they encouraged many people to speak up if they have a question, no matter how ridiculous it may seem.  It is better to know the answer to a question than to just assume you know, because if President Bush didn’t assume that WMD’s were in Iraq, than the Iraq war never would have happened. Asking questions is what separates the person who wants to learn, from the person who is too ignorant to. Many of the questions asked were regarding the Hijab the Muslim women wear. The answer to this was that women in the Muslim faith covered themselves to hide their beauty, therefore making them unnoticeable on the streets. There were also questions about marriage in Islam, whether it was true or not about the theory that all Arabs are Muslims, the proper Islamic wardrobe for both men and women, and many others. After the presentation, there was a dinner, and an opportunity for them to get to know more about the faiths that were at the event. After the dinner, it was prayer time for the Muslims. As they prayed, the youth of the other faiths watched. And after the prayer, the Imam of the Muslim Unity Center explained how Muslims prayed and why. After that, the event was concluded with a tour of the Muslim Unity Center. Many people thought that this was a very constructive event, and they hope that something similar to this will happen in the future.

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Community News (V13-I49)

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

North Jersey Muslims fight hunger

TEANECK,NJ–Muslims in North Jersey are fighting hunger and throughout the state by raising non-perishable food items and money. The recently formed American Muslims for Hunger Relief is coordinating efforts at mosques and Islamic schools to their project, the Northjersey.com portal reports.

“We are trying to engage local mosques and form a volunteer task force among youth to continue this noble cause,” said Ghani Khan, chairman of the association, which is based in Old Bridge. “It’s a way to fulfill our Islamic religious obligation while helping the underprivileged.”

The food items collected in the latest drive would be donated to the  to the Center for Food Action in Hackensack. The group has held five such drives in the recent past.

Birmingham Muslim doctors hold health fair

HOOVER,AL–Muslim physicians in Alabama held a free health fair which dozens of area residents attended. The fair was held at the Hoover Crescent Islamic Centre and treated people of all faiths and backgrounds.

The Muslim doctors in the area are planning to open a clinic in January 2012, the Birmingham News reported. It will be a coordinated effort  by the Birmingham Islamic Society and the Alabama chapter of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani-descent in North America.

Huntsville Islamic Centre participates in free health clinic

HUNTSVILLE,AL–More than 300 people lined up for free basic health and wellness screening and counseling last month during a free health clinic held in Lowe Mill. Physicians and nurses, especially from the Muslim and Hindu communities, volunteered to staff the event.

The clinic offered all the ABCs of basic health and wellness screenings and counseling, such as allergy, anxiety, blood pressure, bone density, glucose, cholesterol, scoliosis, and breast self examination tips.

Many volunteers from the Huntsville Islamic Centre participated in the clinic.

Syed Majid honored by Assemblyman

1300286534_9a64New York State Assemblyman Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook) hosted his first annual “Veterans Hall of Honor” ceremony, recognizing deceased Oceanside resident Syed Majid among nine local veterans who have distinguished themselves through bravery, patriotism and commitment.

A longtime resident of Oceanside, Syed Majid was someone people could depend on. As his wife Barbara remembered, “He was a great guy. He was a good, kind, giving man.”

A member of the Oceanside Kiwanis for more than 30 years, Syed was known as one of the hardest behind-the-scenes workers. He also gave his time and energy to other organizations he believed in, including as Commander of the Baldwin American Legion Post #246, Oceanside Community Service and Oceanside Fire Department. In addition, every Tuesday and Thursday for 20 years, Syed would pick up veterans at their homes, drive them to the V.A. hospital and return them home.

An engineer by trade, Syed worked for Precise Development Corporation in Oceanside. Later he formed his own engineering company, SAM, where he worked until his retirement in the early 1990’s. Not one to sit at home and do nothing, Syed became a messenger for the Oceanside School District.

“Syed’s service is a source of great pride to his family, and an inspiration to all within our community,” stated Curran. “In his civilian life, as in his service to our nation, Syed Majid led by example. I am honored to recognize this outstanding hero posthumously, at my ‘Hall of Honor’ luncheon.”

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Jazz Musician Hassan Abdullah Passes

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

084bb818-f0ad-534b-a914-96788bdf5500.preview-300ATLANTIC CITY–Popular musician Stanley Barber, whose Muslim name was Hassan Abdullah, passed away last Saturday. He was 59. He had converted to Islam as an adult.
Imam Umar Salahuddin led the Janazah prayers. Abdullah, a native of Norfolk, Va., moved to Atlantic City with his family when he was a child. The saxophonist played jazz for most of his life and also served as a jazz advocate. One of his greatest accomplishments was playing at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

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500 Most Influential Muslims – 2011

November 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

muslim500-cover-2011-web2A new book has been released very recently (available here). 

This is the third edition of the book, which came out for the first time in 2009 and has since been updated annually.

The price of the book is $39.99, and in fact this new edition may be a must-have book for anyone writing about Islam, as it provides snapshots of many key and influential people, not to mention a snapshot of Islam itself.

There are several new qualities in this new edition.  The size and layout have been changed; there is an essay on the Arab Spring; there are quotes from the top 25 and from some others; there are statistics about the top 25 and some others; the bios have been expanded; there is an “Arab Spring box” for the top 50 to show whether the Arab Spring was a plus or a minus for each of the top 50; higher quality photography; expanded honorable mentions section, new obituaries section; updated Muslim population statistics; new maps; expanded glossary.

There is also a companion website (www.TheMuslim500.com). 

The format is improved and despite some changes in position, mostly the same people are in the book. 

Hamza Yusuf has fallen a few places.  The USA is very well represented as before.  Tariq Ramadan is among the honorable mentions but not in the top 50.

There is an excellent discussion of the major schools of thought in the book.

The book’s Introduction was written by a Muslim convert from Judaism, Prof. Abdallah Schleifer, who teaches at the American University in Cairo.  In his introduction he provides an excellent defense of monarchy based on Qur`an, ahadith, and Islamic scholarship, quoting Ghazi bin Muhammad at length, who in turned argued:  “Traditional, Orthodox Islam has always endorsed monarchy as such.”  

It is “the best – and perhaps only conceivable form of government because it can best deliver justice and adherence to God’s laws.”  Islamic Monarchy, he says, “whilst not democratic as such in the modern sense of ultimate power being derived and delivered through universal suffrage, nevertheless makes participative consultation (shura) of experts, the learned and the wise (16:43; 21:7; 4:83) incumbent on the ruler…”

Moreover, he also gives extensive time to Dr. Yusuf Ibish, who taught political thought at the American University of Beirut and who taught a “rather obscure” course on Islamic Political Thought, meaning traditional Sunni Islamic political thought of Imam Abdul Hamid Al-Ghazali” and others.  “Modern Islamic or Islamist political thought is usually a coupling of any number of 19th and 20th century Western ideologies – be they left-wing Leninist (Marxist) or right-wing Leninist (Fascist—be that hyper-nationalist or racist) or the kinder ideologies of Social Democracy (the welfare state) and Democracy blended with Islamic pieties…”

Schleifer gives these arguments in defense of monarchy into the context of the modern tumult in the Arab world and in turn argues that perhaps the grass roots efforts to topple the leadership in Egypt and Tunisia was actually not responsible for their success, but rather the interference of the armies in those two countries.

The House of Islam.  The book has a brilliantly written 10 page introduction to Islam (reprinted by permission of Vincenzo Oliveti) followed by several charts, which manages in such a brief space to define all or most of the major subsets or alternative (and sometimes complementary) models of Islam that exist until today.

This overview is followed by the “Amman Message” (see more at www.ammanmessage.com) which is a restatement of the “historical 2005 international Islamic consensus on the three points of the Amman Message,” namely (1) that the four Sunni schools and the two Shi’a schools adherents are Muslim.  Calling any of those people an apostate is impossible and impermissible.  His/her blood, honor and property are inviolable.  Further, it is impossible and impermissible to declare anyone who subscribes to the Ash’ari creed or who practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate.  Further, “it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.” (2) There exists more in common between the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence than there is difference between them.” (3) Acknowledgment of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas; no one may issue a fatwa without the requisite personal qualifications which each school of Islamic jurisprudence determines [for its own adherents]. No one can claim unlimited ijtihad and create a new school of Islamic thought.

After this brief but excellent introduction, the book dives into the top 50 influential Muslims.  The first, again, is His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  The second is the king of Morocco, King Mohammed VI.  Third is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who has gone several steps up since the issue of 500 Muslims from two years ago.  Most of the top 25 are politically powerful people.  Slipping to fifth place was Grand Ayatollah Hajj Syyid Ali Khamenei.

Shaykh Nazim al-Qubrusi, leader of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order, is listed by the book at number 48. Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Ali Cisse, leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi Order, is listed at number 26.

The first scholar listed is Dr. Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al Tayyeb, the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar University and Grand Imam of the Al Azhar mosque.  In fact, of the top 25, eight are scholars from across the world, representing several different schools of thought.  Three are leaders of movements, including Tablighi Jamaat, Ikhwan and Hezbollah.  Sheikha Munira Qubeysi, leader of the Qubeysi movement of scholarship for Muslim women, is among the top 25

The book’s top 25 also includes Dr. Amr Khaled.

Where before (in 2009) the book seemed to sway towards political correctness, by being sure to mention a prominent Shi’a political leader after mentioning the Saudi political leader, now it seems to focus more clearly on those people that the authors consider important—although there seems to be some bias in the still very high status of Hamza Yusuf Hanson (43), disproportionate to his world stature.  While Mr. Hanson is building the Zaytuna Institute, he hardly compares with some of those ranked below him; and also does not compare with those near in proximity but above him.  Does it make sense that the president of Palestine is only seven ranks above Hamza Yusuf? Mahmoud Abbas has the capacity to move newspapers by the ton simply by saying a choice sentence.  By contrast, Hamza Yusuf Hanson’s influence is really confined to an investment in the future of traditional Muslim scholarship in the US.  Certainly his influence is not more powerful than the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, who is ranked at #44, immediately Hanson’s junior.

Sheikh Hisham Kabbani is listed among the top 500, as a spiritual guide in North America.

Paging through the book you will notice a huge improvement in the quality of the pictures—this book is one that is suitable to display on a coffee table.

NYMLC Statement on Arrest of Jose Pimentel

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release

2011-11-21T050556Z_1152492163_GM1E7BL10E301_RTRMADP_3_USA-SECURITY-NEWYORK

Jose Pimentel, 27, in Manhattan Criminal Court 11/20/11.

REUTERS/William Lopez/Pool

NY Muslim Leadership Council Issues Statement on Arrest of Jose Pimentel by CAIR on Tuesday, November 22, 2011. A Statement from the Majlis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metro New York, on the Arrest of Jose Pimentel:

Two days after Muslim leaders and activists convened by the Majlis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metropolitan N.Y. held a (November 18, 2011) prayer service and rally decrying the NYPD’s illegal, outrageous and completely inappropriate ethnic and religious-based mapping and surveillance of the New York Muslim community, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have announced the arrest of an alleged “lone wolf terrorist” intent on taking innocent lives in a pipe bomb plot.

It is worth noting that the individual described by both the Mayor and the Police Commissioner was apparently tracked and, ultimately, arrested because of his interest in bomb-making and the steps he allegedly took towards assembling an explosive device. Assuming this early version of the facts is accurate, it is worth noting how different that policing approach is from the NYPD/CIA program targeting our faith community, based not on suspicion of criminal conduct but on religion, race, ethnicity, and such legally protected activities as mosque attendance, enrollment in a Muslim school, or where one shops for food or has coffee or tea.

Considering the long history in America of “lone wolf” assassins and terrorists of different ethnicities, political persuasions, and religious affiliations or none, on one hand we are glad whenever a wrong or evil is averted that would result in the taking of innocent human lives. The Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York continues to oppose all acts of terrorism – at home or abroad, whether by individuals, groups, or states.

On the other hand, we await the details of this particular arrest. We are waiting to determine the answers to the following questions – As we have already learned that there was a “confidential informant” involved in the case for some time, is this arrest yet another example of police generated entrapment schemes and plots? What was the informant agent’s role in pushing the plot forward? Is the timing of today’s announcement purely coincidental or strategically convenient? Is the defendant mentally deficient or unstable in any way? How long was the NYPD monitoring the defendant’s online activities? Was the NYPD directly engaged in surveillance on the defendant in Schenectady? Why were the federal authorities only at the “assessment” stage in this case, and did they decline to investigate or prosecute under federal laws? Time will tell. In the interim, we call on the independent media to ask serious and probing questions regarding the extent and nature of the threat posed by the accused.

In the meantime, the Majlis remains committed to combating domestic terrorism from within Muslim ranks, while at the same time preserving the civil liberties and civil and human rights of Muslims, as with all Americans.

THE MAJLIS ASH-SHURA OF METROPOLITAN N.Y. 88-29 161 STREET, JAMAICA, QUEENS, NY 11432 nycmajlis@gmail.com.

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Community News (V13-I47)

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Howard gets women only swim times

HOWARD, MD–Women living in Maryland now have access to their own swim times at swimming pools. The accomodation was made after members of the Dar al Taqwa mosque in cooperation  faith-based county group, People Acting Together in Howard, met with the Columbia Association to create a twice-weekly, women-only swim time, a trial that is scheduled to be announced Tuesday.

The Columbia Association, which operates 23 pools in Howard, will join other communities that have made similar accommodations to create a more welcoming atmosphere for Muslims and other female swimmers.

The change has been welcomed not only by Muslim women but also others. Katlin Lampke, for instance, told the Baltimore Sun, “During puberty, my body was changing. I was getting made fun of or hit on,” she said. “It was very embarrassing.” She stopped going.

“She was really uncomfortable,” said her mother, Amy Lampke, 46. “We both love the water, but the experience changed. When this came up …, I thought, ‘What a great idea.’”

Ali Khademhosseini honored with presidential award

Using fish cells to generate artificial muscles, a Harvard University professor is aiming to create functional tissues that could one day help robots move like living creatures.
Dr. Ali Khademhosseini’s work for the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has earned him a spot among 94 scientists and engineers recently recognized by President Obama with the highest government award for young professionals on the cusp of promising independent research.

Coordinated by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is conferred annually upon researchers who are nominated by 16 federal agencies and departments.

Khademhosseini was one of nine PECASE selectees contributing breakthrough advances to ONR-funded programs. They each received a citation, a plaque and an opportunity to meet with the president in a ceremony at the White House on Oct. 14. The award comes with a potential five-year grant worth $200,000 annually to continue their research efforts.
“The most amazing part was meeting the president and getting to shake hands with him, and spending a few minutes talking with him. It was a totally unbelievable and unforgettable experience,” Khademhosseini said.

Faisal Khan named Chicago city council’s new legislative inspector

CHICAGO,IL–Chicago’s City Council has chosen Faisal Khan as its new legislative inspector.

Khan, 37, spent four years as a senior investigator for the Big Apple’s version of the Independent Police Review Authority and seven more as an assistant district attorney in Queens County. He served as New York City’s inspector general until September 2010.

He was selected after a rigorous process which initially had 170 applicants. 44 passed muster with the Department of Human Resources and 30 candidates were interviewed by a blue-ribbon selection committee that subsequently settled on Khan.

“You’ll be very surprised by him. He’ll be a very independent inspector general,” Ald. Dick Mell said after introducing Khan’s appointment at last week’s City Council meeting.
Khan has a bachelors degree in criminology from the State University of New Jersey and a JD from Brooklyn Law School.

Saba Ahmed switches support to Republican Party

Saba Ahmed, who recently ran in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, has switched her support to Republican Party. Explaining her switch on her facebook page she wrote:
“(M)y conservative Islamic values (pro-life, pro-family values, pro-business) made it very hard for me to defend myself as a Democrat. George Bush advocated water boarding torture just like Obama advocated drone missiles. Both parties treat Muslims badly, which is why American economy is going bankrupt fighting Islam. Inshallah, I look forward to helping foster a better understanding of our faith…

And yes I was banned from the Oregon Tea Party and Washington County Republicans earlier this year because of my Islamic beliefs, but I have to believe there is room for learning. I have to try and make a place for myself even if i’m unwelcomed. I know several tea party republicans hate me because they somehow blame me for 9/11. But I know once we talk to each other, get to know one another, we can all heal together. Inshallah!”

Students demand resignation of professor for alleged remarks

CALUMET,IN–Students at Purdue University Calumet are asking for the resignation of one of the faculty members for his alleged anti-Muslim remarks. According to published reports Maurice associate professor of political science Moshe Eisenstein posted comments attached with a link to a YouTube video on his Facebook page on Nov. 6, where he asked for justice for the killings of black Christians in Nigeria while lashing out towards Muslims.

The video link was found by another PUC professor, which then started a heated debate between Eisenstein and PUC students via Facebook. On one of Facebook comments,Eisenstein allegedly  wrote that “Muslims are barbarians and that they are nothing more to me than dogs.” He further wrote that Muslims are “out to kill him,” the Chronicle reports.

Eisenstein has taught at PUC since 1993 and received tenure in 2000.

Students have also complained that he has a history of making such remarks and complaints were filed in the past.

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