‘Cosby Show’ for Muslims?

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Suzanne Manneh & Zaineb Mohammed

Has a Bill Cosby show equivalent finally arrived for Muslim Americans with the TLC network’s reality series, “All American Muslim?”

The series, which premiered November 12th,  could be that first step of offering an alternative image to common stereotypes for American Muslims. It centers around five Shi’ite Muslim American families who all have roots in southern Lebanon, living in the Detroit, Michigan suburb of Dearborn.

“We really hope that we’re able to give viewers that sort of rare chance to kind of get immersed and enjoy the ride with this community that they have previously been completely unexposed to, said Alon Orstein, an executive producer for the series.

According to a TLC press release, the series, “shows how these individuals negotiate universal family issues while remaining faithful to the traditions and beliefs of their faith.”

A year before its debut, CBS news anchor Katie Couric declared that “bigotry expressed against Muslims in this country was one of the most disturbing stories to surface,” in 2010. Couric was referring to the proposed New York “Park 51” Islamic Center that generated national media attention and criticisms. “Maybe we need a Muslim version of ‘The Cosby Show,’” she said. “I know that sounds crazy, but “The Cosby Show” did so much to change attitudes about African Americans in this country, and I think sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t understand.”

Media experts, organizers, and advocates in the Arab and Muslim community agree with Couric, but believe that while “All American Muslim,” may not have the same immediate impact on mainstream America that “The Cosby Show” did, this new reality series is a much needed small step in the right direction.

Amina Sharif, communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) office in Chicago, said she is hopeful for the new series, because it will offer “a more mainstream image of American Muslims.”

“They are often stereotyped and misunderstood because of negative portrayals in media and pop culture. [This program] is normalizing Muslims,” said Sharif. “That’s the way [of] American culture – we needed ‘The Cosby Show’ to help normalize African American families.

In this society public opinion is shaped mainly by media and pop culture,” she said.

Zahra Billoo, executive director for CAIR, Northern California, echoed Sharif’s hopes for the program, adding that the program may be especially helpful because “over 60 percent of Americans have never met a Muslim,” she said citing a 2010 poll by TIME Magazine.

Another poll by Washington Post-ABC News, conducted in 2010, found that “roughly half the country (49 percent) holds an unfavorable view of Islam, compared with 37 percent who have a favorable view.” In October 2002, 47 percent said they had a favorable view of Islam and 39 percent said they had an unfavorable view.

In September of 2011, the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, a CBS Poll found that one in three Americans think Muslim Americans are more sympathetic to terrorists than other Americans.

Warren David, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) said he hopes this series reaches these audiences and hopes they see beyond the stereotypes. “There are many people who don’t watch public or educational programming, but do watch TLC,” he said.

Hopeful, But With Some Reservations

While Muslim and Arab community leaders and media are generally optimistic about the positive impact the show could have on American Muslims, some did express reservations.

Many stressed the importance of not using the show as a way to teach the American public about Islam. Citing the various ways that different Muslims practice Islam, community members were concerned that the religious practices of these five families would become the face of Islam.

“I hope audiences understand that much of what they’re seeing isn’t Islam, it’s the person’s culture,” said Sharif of CAIR, Chicago.

Others questioned the choice to place the show in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the highest concentration of Arabs in America.

According to a Gallup poll, 35 percent of Muslims in America are African American and 18 percent are Asian. Additionally, the majority of Arab Americans are Christian, and according to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, only approximately 20 percent of Muslims are Arab. The gap between the reality of the American Muslim landscape and the show’s portrayal of the Muslim community frustrated many Muslim Americans.

After the premiere, #AllAmericanMuslim was a popular trending topic in social media, and several viewers sounded off angrily about the lack of ethnic diversity.

On Facebook, Ola Said commented, “This is a group of Lebanese American families in a localized spot in a city in MI. These examples do not portray an All American Muslim at all.”  HussamA tweeted: “The risk with shows like #AllAmericanMuslim is that as existing stereotypes are challenged, new ones are perpetuated. Oh well.”

Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR Michigan, expressed the danger behind conflating the terms Arab and Muslim, “When nothing but Arabs are depicted it shifts people’s minds to the Middle East. There’s a lot of negative stigma attached in the minds of Americans with the Middle East.”

The national spotlight on Dearborn within the past couple of years offers a potential rationale for choosing that city as a setting. In May 2010, Rima Fakih, from Dearborn, became the first Muslim and Arab American to win Miss USA. Nevada politician Sharron Angle  proclaimed that Dearborn was operating under sharia law during her campaign for US Senate. And in June this year, Pastor Terry Jones, known for burning a Qu’ran, went to Dearborn for the second time to protest Islam.

However, Alon Orstein, one of the executive producers of the series, offered a different explanation for the choice of Michigan and Dearborn in particular.

“We found this group of families that we just fell in love with …the natural drama we look for in our shows, they had it going on in spades,” said Orstein.

And for Orstein, diversity with respect to characters’ religiosity was important, “we did achieve a level of diversity with respect to how our different characters experience their faith.”

Other criticisms of the show came from anti-Muslim groups, who created a “Boycott TLC for New Program ‘All-American Muslim’” Facebook page.

However, according to Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York who helped with the show’s social media campaign, those Islamophobic criticisms were drowned out online by discussions (and disagreements) amongst Muslims about the show.

Some disapproved of the characters’ actions, in particular Shadia Amen, who described herself as the black sheep of her family. Imani Bsj, commented on Facebook, “If she was born Muslim I just can’t understand how she has all those tattoos.” But others related to her choices. Feda FeFe Saleh posted, “I’m a Muslim who prays 5 times a day but doesn’t wear hijab. Do I think Shadia exposed a little too much about her lifestyle, yes, but this is not for me to judge.”

Some community members expressed hope that more diversity will be featured as the show progresses. But they are generally pleased that the show exists. “Right now, we’ll take what we can get,” said Sarsour.

New America Media

13-49

Iqra Foundation Annual Dinner

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Staff Reporter

Iqrapic2
Mary Ali gives her acceptance address for the IQRA Education Leadership Award
Iqrapic1
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf receives for him and his wife Daisy Khan an award from Ali Yurtsever & Dr. Abidullah Ghazi

IQRA, the leaders in Islamic Education hosted their Annual Dinner on October 29th. IQRA’s community of advocates, educators and private Ansar (sponsors) gathered to celebrate the 28 years of the Foundation’s accomplishments.

The room was filled with more than 550 up beat supporters. The keynote speaker, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, chief architect of the Cordoba Initiative discussed the importance of Muslim Americans taking an active role in society. Appreciating the pioneering work and leadership role that Drs. Abidullah and Tasneema Ghazi have played, American Muslims were urged to invest in organizations like IQRA to help realize the implementation of critical and pivotal work in promoting innovative Islamic education in USA and worldwide. Dinner guests were also honored to hear the inspirational speech of Sister Mary Ali, the recipient of the IQRA Education Leadership Award that the organization has instituted to honor the memory of Dr. MAW Fakhri, its founding chairman.

Dr. Shahid Siddiqi, a member of the board and chairman of reception committee, lauded the leadership of IQRA team and its innovative futuristic approach. Dr. Ghazi in his presidential address narrated IQRA’s past achievements and laid down its future vision which covered revision of the program, use of electronic media for publication, standardization of Islamic education, establishment of distance education on internet and producing new genre of literature appropriate for our age and the global village.

13-47

On Losing Legal Legend Derrick Bell

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nadia Ahmed

derrickbellOn October 5th, the law lost a monumental American, NYU Visiting Professor Derrick A. Bell. He was 80 years old when carcinoid cancer seized him. While news of his death may have been lost in the headlines because of the demise of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs the same day, Bell’s life deserves commemoration especially among Muslim Americans.

Bell was to social justice and constitutional law what Jobs was to Silicon Valley’s high tech industry and computer innovation. Bell was a rebel before the American Bar Association (ABA) ever began honoring recipients with the distinction of “Legal Rebel.” He was well-known for being the first African-American law professor with full tenure at Harvard Law School, but resigned in protest because of the lack of hiring of women of color. The New York Times reported that at a rally while a student at Harvard Law Barack Obama compared Professor Bell to the civil rights hero Rosa Parks.

At the beginning of his career, Thurgood Marshall recruited Bell to join the NAACP Legal Defense Fund after he left his position with U.S. Department of Justice because of his refusal to end his ties with the NAACP.  In 1966, Bell was named deputy director of civil rights at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Afterwards, he would start teaching law. 

I had the great fortune of being able to meet Derrick Bell in 2001 as a result of a series of emails back and forth between us. I was supposed to be studying for the LSAT in the summer of 2001, instead I started reading Bell’s books which I saw sitting on the same shelf of the Seminole County Public Library’s Casselberry branch as the LSAT materials: Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protestor and Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism. For someone who is naturally reticent, I resort to writing as a preferred mode of communication. Bell had also taken the time to contribute to my 9/11 anthology, Unveiling the Real Terrorist Mind. He helped me feel comfortable in my own skin.

Looking back to 9/11, Muslims were scared and some even afraid to even leave their homes. Muslim leaders were issuing fatwas for women to remove their headscarves in public out of fear for their safety. I was more astounded and confused by the North American Muslim community’s reaction. This was not the first time our community had come under attack and it surely would not have been the last. For me, 9/11 was a time more than any other to reassert our identities as Muslims.

In Professor Bell, I found someone who had walked the walk. He was also one of the most spiritual persons I had ever known, who had a deep commitment to religious value, an anomaly in higher education, especially within the law.

Initially, when I heard of his death, I was saddened, but at the same time I felt reawakened and reenergized. I remembered one of those occasions when I had to the chance to sit in on his class. On the blistering cold afternoon of February 4, 2002, I trotted up to the NYU Law school building and was told that I could not enter the building because my name was not on the list of approved visitors for that day. From my days in journalism, I knew how to slip by security. I walked slowly toward the side exit door and when the guard was distracted by other visitors, I darted up the stairs to find the Secret Service central because unknown to me President Bill Clinton was giving a talk at NYU Law that afternoon. The speech had just concluded so I stood on the side of the hallway as President Clinton walked by and greeted students. When I finally got to Professor Bell’s class, I heard some of the students joking that they had “gotten their tuition’s worth” because they “got to meet President Clinton.” I laughed inside that I, too, had been able to meet the President without the exorbitant cost of paying NYU Law tuition.

When I was accepted to the University of Florida Levin College of Law a few months later and somewhat hesitant to attend, Professor Bell encouraged me by saying that the battlegrounds for social justice and civil rights are in the South, but warned me that the racism only worsens the further I progress in my life in the law. My law school days and the year or so after I was admitted to the Florida Bar were pure and utter whatever.

In 2007, Professor Bell had mailed me a copy of his book, Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth.  And it is that book that serves as my blueprint for surmounting obstacles and advancing where life leads.

13-46

Statement by the President on Hajj and Eid al-Adha

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

White House Press Release

Michelle and I extend our greetings for a happy Eid al-Adha to Muslims worldwide and congratulate those performing Hajj. Thousands of Muslim Americans are among those who have joined one of the world’s largest and most diverse gatherings in making the pilgrimage to Mecca and nearby sites.

As Muslims celebrate this Eid, they will also commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son by distributing food to those less fortunate around the world.  They join the United States and the international community in relief efforts to assist those struggling to survive in the Horn of Africa and those recovering from the devastating earthquake in Turkey. 

The Eid and Hajj rituals are a reminder of the shared roots of the world’s Abrahamic faiths and the powerful role that faith plays in motivating communities to serve and stand with those in need.  On behalf of the American people, we extend our best wishes during this Hajj season.  Eid Mubarak and Hajj Mabrour.

13-46

Muslims Rising Above The Ashes Of Misunderstanding

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

As the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, we’ll be inundated with reports and recollections of where people were at that moment, what they were doing and how their lives have been changed because of it.

This anniversary-keeping activity feels like we have a wound that we know has yet to heal, but we can’t stop ourselves from touching it — just to see if it still hurts.

It does.

The inevitable media coverage will build now until Sept. 12, when folks will try to get back to normal life still smarting from the big press blitz. Muslim Americans will have no choice but to be one of the featured main dishes in this media feasting frenzy, and we will do our part to help heal the wounds caused by those who falsely claimed our faith by telling you again that Islam had no part in this tragedy.

Over these last 10 years, the events of 9/11 taught my faith community that we had been neglecting outreach to the greater society. We’ve had to step away from the cultural comfort of our mosques, Islamic schools and homes to shake the hands of our neighbors who have been there all along, but with whom we may not have engaged with serious effort or effect. Ten years later, Muslims have made these gestures of friendship to the point that a large percentage of the folks who wanted to know us better, now do. There are others who simply refuse to let go of the bigotry and stereotyping of Muslims in America. You may know them: They have their eyes closed with their hands over their ears singing, “la, la, la. I don’t hear you.”

For the next 10 years, I am hopeful that our nation will leave these crooners of ignorance out of our society’s narrative. We’ve already seen some of Islam’s biggest haters recently outed for propagating bigotry under the guise of being “terrorism experts.” Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have been exposed for their racist and bigoted craziness through a Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, who referred to their hate-filled blogs and rhetoric many times in his insanely xenophobic manifesto. The Center for American Progress recently released a report, “Fear, Inc., The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” that clearly outlines the organized machine operating a small empire of hatred. Besides Spencer and Geller, the report highlights major players like David Yerushalmi (recently featured in a New York Times article outlining his role in this smear campaign) and Fox News (a network owned by the now infamous News Corp and Rupert Murdoch). These people won’t stop their work in unfairly vilifying the American Muslim community, but really, how long can that leaky bucket of lies hold water?

It’s been a challenge to refute every slam and slur against Islam, but Muslims try to follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s), who persistently treated his neighbors with respect despite their derision.

America’s Muslims look forward to our faith community rising above these ashes of misunderstandings to find ourselves welcome as fellow citizens. To make this climb, we know our focus must stay on our youth.

There are thousands of young, dynamic American Muslims already creating change in our nation’s high schools, colleges and workplaces. Their parents have put heart and soul into raising these young people — especially within the difficult context of the last 10 years. They have been nurturing their kids with love and giving them confidence to be American and Muslim in the same sentence. We have great and lofty expectations of their futures, and these young people are not failing any of us.

Young Muslims are making advances in medicine, science and technology.

Look at the list of young doctors in any teaching hospital and you’ll see Muslim names galore. Most major corporations include a cadre of brilliant Muslim engineers. Beyond technology and medicine (traditionally the career paths of choice for Muslims in the U.S.), we are now seeing young Muslims choosing to pursue careers in the less lucrative, but necessary fields of public service, social services and education. And finally, we are seeing more and more Muslim names coming up in the arts and communications fields. This is a hopeful sign for the future, as public perceptions often change through the media in all its forms. Watch Musa Syeed, a writer and independent filmmaker to produce great movies and documentaries, as well as Qasim Bashir, who wrote and directed “Mooz-lum: The Movie.” There are thousands of upcoming Muslim journalists, writers, artists, photographers and performers that we will be sure to hear more from in the next 10 years.

I’m proud to claim these honest young people who are giving us honest portrayals of Muslims through the arts and media.

We now have young people studying to become Islamic scholars within the American context through the newly instituted Zaytuna College, whose mission is “to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders, who are grounded in the Islamic scholarly tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.” We look forward to the graduates of Zaytuna to actively lead and positively shape the American Muslim community for generations to come.

Young Muslims are the backbone of American-Muslim philanthropic efforts, and what they lack in financial resources, they are making up with their time and hard work. There isn’t a single charitable event that doesn’t depend on student volunteers for its success. Muslims Without Borders has taken this legacy one step further by forming a full-blown relief agency run solely by Muslim students.

I recently had a reporter ask me if it wasn’t too big of a burden for my kids to grow up as identifiable Muslims during these last 10 years.

It was a sincere question, but I wondered how else she thought I should have raised them. Later, I realized that there are some Muslim parents who have discouraged their children from expressing their faith in any way from fear of reprisal. Recently, my heart hurt for the young checker at the grocery store who told me in a wistful voice that she was “technically a Muslim,” but that her parents didn’t want her to practice the faith in case she’d suffer here as a new immigrant. I don’t know if that statement reflected more poorly on our society, or on her parents; however, for the most part, Muslim families in America are raising their children to be proud of their beliefs and are teaching them that God is infinitely Merciful and Gracious to those who struggle for His sake. These young people who are proud of their noble faith realize that despite some people’s innocent ignorance of Islam, or other’s outright bigotry, the majority of our neighbors and greater community will have respect for them as long as their character and behavior follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s). To put it plain and simple, we are raising these young people to trust in God and do good things with their lives.

Muslims in this country are looking forward to seeing an America that once again says we have had enough of hate and fear. We hope everyone will recognize that our country becomes more beautiful with each new color and creed we accept as our own.

Kari Ansari is a Writer and Co-Founder of America’s Muslim Family Magazine

13-38

Building Bridges Across a Diverse Community

September 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Milad Alucozai

Milad-AlcuzaiChristian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders reflect on September 11th.

West Lafayette, IN – On the tenth anniversary of the tragic attacks of September 11th, 2011, Purdue University students, faculty, staff, and community members of all faiths and backgrounds came together in a memorial to the victims and a celebration of shared values and spirit.

The event was organized by Purdue’s Student Government as well as interfaith religious leaders from across all major denominations. Muslim representative Aurangzeb spoke of the universal sanctity of human life and recognized the loss of innocent life on September 11th as well as in the subsequent terrorist attacks around the world in places like Madrid and Pakistan and in the armed conflicts resulting over the last ten years. “Crimes against humanity, no matter in what form they are committed, are to be condemned in the strictest terms,” he said, “In the face of inhumanity, we must be more human.”

Purdue University has the second largest population of international students among American public universities with just under 8,000 and has long been known for its exceptional diversity of students from all nations, cultures, and religions. Purdue’s Dean of International Programs, Mike Brzezinski, honored this legacy by sharing his memories of the campus’s reaction after September 11th.  “Some [universities] were dealing with the desolation of mosques and religious housing but not at Purdue. Some were dealing with attacks on Muslim students, but not at Purdue,” said Brzezinski.

Since the awful attacks that brought so much pain to our hearts, heated rhetoric and acts of violence against Muslim Americans (and non-Muslim Arab Americans) have increased. Yet the victims, like the citizens of our nation, were of all faiths. Patriotic Muslim Americans were some of the innocent passengers on the planes, they were workers in the buildings, and they were heroic first responders who ran into the building when everybody else was running out.

We need to remember that Muslim Americans contribute to our communities every day. They serve us as police officers, doctors, and firefighters. They are public servants in local and state governments as well as in the federal government where they work tirelessly to guide our counter terrorist efforts. And there are thousands of young Muslim Americans serving overseas to protect the liberties that we all share.

The ceremony, held on the historic Purdue Mall, also included remarks by University President France Cordova, student body president Brett Highley, and students who lived in New York at the time of the attacks. Attendees gathered together holding firm the belief that every human life irrespective of the nationality, gender, color, language, or religion is sacred, united in their resolve to emerge from the tragedies of the September 11th era with greater faith, greater understanding, and greater humanity.

13-38

10 Years After 9/11

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Despite Mistreatment, Muslims Still Loyal to USA

10th Anniversary of 9/11 and Muslim Americans: the Need for a New Narrative

By John L. Esposito, University Professor and Founding Director Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding

cultureclashmuslimWhile post-9/11 resulted in necessary Western government responses to counter international and domestic terrorism, this tragic event has been widely exploited by far-right neocons, hardline Christian Zionist Right and xenophobic forces. Islam and mainstream Muslims have been brush-stroked with “terrorism,” equated with the actions of a fraction of violent extremists. Major polls by Gallup, PEW and others reported the extent to which many Americans and Europeans had and have a problem not only with terrorists but also with Islam and all Muslims.
Islamophobia grew exponentially, as witnessed in America’s 2008 presidential and 2010 congressional elections, Park 51 and post-Park 51 anti-mosque and so-called anti-Shariah campaigns, as well as increased hate speech and violence. The massacre in Norway is a tragic signal of this metastasizing social cancer. Anders Behring Breivik’s 1500-page manifesto confirmed the influence of the hate speech spread by American anti-Muslim (Islamophobic) leaders, organizations and websites.

It is truly time for a new narrative, one that is informed by facts, and that is data-driven, to replace the shrill voices of militant Muslim bashers and opportunistic politicians chasing funds and votes.

Key findings from the recently released Abu Dhabi Gallup Report, Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future, offer data that provide a good starting point — a very different picture of Muslims in America today.

Far from the image of a fifth column of foreign, terrorist sympathizers and shariah-imposing boogeymen, data indicates that Muslim Americans are actually among the most integrated, optimistic, thriving, and loyal citizens of this country. Astonishingly, despite the hate speech, discrimination and erosion of their civil liberties, American Muslims remain optimistic about their status and future in America. Muslim Americans report being better off and more optimistic in 2011 than they were in 2008. Their life evaluation ratings have increased more than any other American religious group: 60% are thriving in 2011, up 19 percentage points from 2008. They are also more hopeful about their future than any other major religious group. They rate their lives in 5 years at 8.4 on a scale of 0 to 10, compared with 7.4 to 8.0 among other major religious groups and are more likely to see their standard of living getting better in 2011 (64%) than they were in 2008 (46%).

More than other groups, Muslim Americans believe the economy in 2011 vs. 2008 has improved more than that of other groups. They tend to vote Democrat and are happier with the political climate since the election of Obama (8 in 10 Muslim Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, the highest of any other major religious group).

In contrast to their critics who question their loyalty and charge that Muslim Americans do not reject terrorism, Muslim Americans (78%) are most likely to reject violent military attacks on civilians and are most likely (89%) to reject violent individual attacks on civilians versus other major U.S. religious groups. 92% say Muslims living in this country have no sympathy for Al Qaeda.

Yet, despite data that indicates Muslim Americans are loyal to the U.S., 10 years after 9/11 significant minorities of their fellow citizens continue to question their loyalty. Thus, while 93% of Muslim Americans believe they are loyal to America, 80% of Jews, 59% of Catholics, and 56% of Protestants believe this to be the case. Not surprisingly, 60% of Muslim Americans believe that most Americans are prejudiced toward Muslims and data shows that roughly half (between 47%-66%) among other religious groups agree. 48% of Muslims (by far the highest of any other group) say they have personally experienced religious or racial discrimination in the past year.

At the same time, 57% percent of Muslim Americans have confidence in the honesty of elections, the highest of all other major U.S. religious groups, and are among the most open group to other faith communities, with 44% classified as “integrated,” 48% as “tolerant,” and only 8% as “isolated.” For many, one of the most astonishing findings of the Gallup poll may well be the common ground that Muslims share with Jewish Americans in their political and social views. After Muslim Americans themselves (93%), Jewish Americans (80%) are more likely than Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons (59% or less) to see U.S. Muslims as loyal to America. They say that there is prejudice toward U.S.

Muslims in higher numbers (66%) than do Muslims (60%). Jews (74%) and Muslims (83%) in America are the most likely to say the Iraq war was a “mistake.” And perhaps most surprising, a substantial majority of Jewish Americans (78%) and Muslim Americans (81%) support a future in which an independent Palestinian state would coexist alongside of Israel. (DG: ????)

This September 11th provides an opportunity to remember the past but also to recognize that truth is stranger than fiction, the fiction constructed by preachers of hate whose fear-mongering has infected our popular culture and society. Now is the time to reassess and rebuild our national unity on the facts.

Posted at The Huffington Post: August 16, 2011 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-l-esposito/the-10th-anniversary-of-9_b_928683.html

13-37

Community News (V13-I37)

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Gov. Quinn names members to Muslim American Advisory Council

CHICAGO, IL–Illinois  Governor Pat Quinn, last week,  named members to serve on the Muslim American Advisory Council, which will help ensure Muslim American participation in state government. Governor Quinn announced the new council during “Eid,” the close of the holy month of Ramadan.

“Illinois is a diverse state, which is one of our greatest strengths,” Governor Quinn said. “There are more than 400,000 Muslims and 300 mosques within our borders, representing various racial and ethnic sects of Islam. I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity for input in how we address issues such as education, public safety and jobs, because the strategies may need to differ based on the history, culture and needs of different communities.”

The Muslim American Advisory Council will advise the Governor on ways to advance the role and civic participation of Muslim Americans in Illinois. Additionally, the council will recommend strategies to better integrate Muslims in Illinois socially, educationally, culturally and economically. The council will facilitate relationship-building in the Muslim community to achieve goals related to International Commerce in Muslim countries/communities, and identify ways to more effectively disseminate information and outreach to Muslim Americans regarding state programs and services.
The council will advise the Governor on appropriate policy developments, official directives, and other issues of significance impacting Illinois’ Muslims. It will bring important faith-based issues based on factual findings to the Governor’s attention and make recommendations to address those issues. It will also strengthen communication between the state and Muslim leadership and the general community.

Samreen Khan, senior policy advisor and liaison to Asians and Muslims for the Office of Governor Pat Quinn, and Kareem Irfan, president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, have been named as co-chairs of the council.

S.E. Idaho Muslims plan to build mosque

Southeastern Idaho’s Muslim population has swelled beyond numbers that can be accommodated in the current mosque, a small home near downtown Pocatello, the Idaho State Journal reports.
As a result, religious leaders from the region are trying to raise some $200,000 to erect a new facility that’s capable of holding about 300 people.

Still, local leaders said it’s been tough to raise the cash for a building and accompanying parking space.

Approximately, 150 people currently use the existing mosque facilities.150 people currently use the existing mosque facilities.

Justice Dept. & Henrico Reach Settlement For Mosque Lawsuit

HENRICO,VA–The Justice Department recently  announced a settlement with Henrico County, Va., resolving allegations that the county violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied the application of a Muslim organization to rezone property to construct a mosque. The settlement, which must still be approved by a federal district judge in Richmond, resolves a lawsuit between the United States and the county of Henrico.

“Religious freedom is one of our most cherished rights, and that right includes the ability to assemble and build places of worship without facing discrimination,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “We are pleased that the county of Henrico has agreed to take steps to ensure that all people exercising this basic American right will not encounter discrimination during the zoning and land use process.”

“The law – not stereotypes or bias – should dictate whether a worship facility can be built in a community.” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “No one should be discriminated against based on their religion, and this agreement will ensure that religious freedom is upheld in Henrico County.”

The case arose from the county’s denial of a 2008 application from a Muslim organization for construction of a mosque. The government’s complaint, which was filed with the court along with a consent decree resolving the lawsuit, alleged that the county’s denial of the rezoning application was based on the religious bias of county officials and to appease members of the public who, because of religious bias, opposed the construction of a mosque. The complaint further alleged that the county treated the Muslim organization differently than non-Muslim religious groups that regularly have been granted similar rezoning requests.

As part of the settlement, the county has agreed to treat the mosque and all religious groups equally and to publicize its non-discrimination policies and practices. The county also agreed that its leaders and various county employees will attend training on the requirements of RLUIPA. In addition, the county will report periodically to the Justice Department.

13-37

Ambassadors of Islam

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Milad Alucozai

IMG_4526Lafayette, IN – Local Muslims gathered on Tuesday morning to join more than a billion around the world in marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which calls for fasting during daylight hours.
Located in central Indiana, Lafayette is mid-size Midwestern city with a community of about 1,000 Muslims. They gathered in the Old Burtsfield Gymnasium (a local school no longer in use) from every race, nationality, and economic status, to offer their prayers.

The event was organized by the Islamic Society of Greater Lafayette and drew a crowd young and old, with local families and their children joining with students from nearby Purdue University, as well as non-Muslim visitors taking advantage of the congregation’s open invitation to the community.

The special prayer began promptly at 8:00 am and was followed by a khutbah emphasizing the importance of building bridges with the broader community.

The khatib told attendees that they must be ambassadors of Islam not only in the Mosque but also at school, in the workplace, and elsewhere, by carrying themselves with the highest character and doing good deeds.

“Do not be just a doctor, a teacher, or a student. Be a Muslim doctor, a Muslim teacher, a Muslim student,” he said, “Be mindful of how your conduct is perceived and represent Islamic in the best light.”

Every Ramadan, Muslims young and old need to go back to the Quran and the teachings of the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (s) to become better Muslims.

This is even more important in these tough times when heated rhetoric and acts of violence against Muslim Americans (and non-Muslim Arab Americans) have increased.
As Muslim, we must do our part to break down prejudices and barriers through our daily actions.

13-36

Islam and America: Toward Common Ground

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Milad Alucozai, Purdue University

TMO Editor’s Note:  This is the second essay that tied for third place in the TMO Foundation’s Second Annual Essay Competition, 2011.

bildeIn his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of a world founded upon four essential human freedoms, among them “the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way.” Freedom of religion, deeply rooted in the American tradition, has long been protected by the laws of our nation. Despite legal protections, ethnic and religious minorities in America have been the subjects of discrimination, harassment, and even physical violence throughout our history. Following the events of September 11, 2001, heated rhetoric and acts of violence against Muslim Americans (and non-Muslim Arab Americans) have increased. Public attention to these acts reached a peak in the summer of 2010.

In Florida, a bomb exploded on May 10th at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida with 60 people praying inside, and Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville threatened to destroy 200 copies of the Quran during his “Burn a Koran Day.” In New York City, opposition united against the construction of an Islamic Community Center.  In August, a New York City taxi driver was stabbed by his passenger after revealing he was a Muslim, and during the same week five teenagers were arrested in update New York for firing shots at a local mosque. These events prompted many in the American and international media to question whether the United States is a nation dedicated to the freedom of all Americans.  An August 30, 2010 TIME Magazine cover asked the question, “Is America Islamophobic?” and a September New York Times headline read “American Muslims Ask: Will We Ever Belong?” According to the Justice Department, there have been more than 800 cases of violence and discrimination against Muslim Americans in the ten years since September 11th.

Yet millions of Americans remain committed to peaceful understanding and cooperation and respect the value of our neighbors of all faiths and creeds. What are the roots of this supposed fear and animosity towards Muslims, and what can we do to counter this while promoting our vision for society?

American followers of Islam, now numbering more than 7 million, have been an integral part of our national fabric since the founding of our country. George Washington is known to have welcomed Muslims to his residence at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson was adamant that the 1786 Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom include “within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim].” 

The second president of the United States, John Adams, asserted in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli that “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.”  These early examples show the respect our founding fathers had for the Islamic faith.

Although Muslims were surely a part of our nation since its founding, their population was made up of a limited number of immigrants living in disparate places who were not able to form communities. A large segment of this population was made up of slaves who were taken by force from the west coast of Africa, where Islam was prevalent. These slaves were not allowed to practice their faith openly and this, combined with the lack of family structure and general difficulties of bondage, resulted in the loss of Islamic practices in subsequent generations of most slave populations that had originally been Muslim.

Evidence from surviving slave manuscripts written by those who were educated describe the practice of Islam within slave communities. One of the most well known manuscripts was written by the Muslim slave Bilali Mahomet. The accounts document how the Islamic faith in the African American community tragically fell victim to the realities of slavery and was slowly extinguished. 

The first significant wave of Muslims who freely immigrated to America occurred in the mid-1800’s from modern day Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Though not slaves, these immigrants possessed little education and came in the pursuit of employment and opportunity. Disenfranchised by their lack of higher education and the large language barrier, many of the immigrants were forced to assume jobs involving menial labor.  Most regarded their stay in America as a temporary opportunity to earn some money which they could take back to their homelands. 

The number of Muslim families immigrating to America steadily increased over the latter half of the 19th century and into the early 20th century when the Ottoman Empire crumbled in World War I. This period was characterized by a rising tide of immigration to American from all over the world, especially Asian countries. Public backlash against the open door immigration policy resulted in the passage of a series of immigration laws in 1921 and 1924 that severely restricted immigration and closed to the door to new Muslims immigrants.

These restrictions combined with the continued effects of slavery, limited the growth of Islam in America. However, a significant number of Muslim families had already settled in America. These families began to organize into close communities that flourished. One of the first documented Muslim communities was established in Ross, North Dakota and it was also here that one of the first American mosques was constructed in 1929.

As the major urban centers of New York and Chicago became the gathering places for tens of thousands of immigrants, large Muslims communities also developed around these metropolises and networks were developed between communities across the country that relied on each other for mutual support and assistance.

While many of African American communities in the United States had lost most of their Muslim faith, they represented a population which would be the face of Islamic growth in the middle decades of the 20th century.  The growth of Islam in the African American community arguably can be traced to a clothing salesman in Detroit by the name of Wallace D. Fard.  Fard preached a message of African American empowerment and called his message the Nation of Islam (NOI).  One of the Fard’s prominent disciples was Elijah Poole, later to become Elijah Muhammad.  Through their meetings, Elijah Muhammad began to associate Fard with a status of divinity and even went as far as to proclaim that Fard was the Messiah, an image that Fard did little to downplay. Most mainstream Muslims claim that the teachings of the Nation of Islam are not rooted in either the Holy Quran or the Prophet’s recorded teachings (Sunnah) and thus are not truly within the fold of Islam. Although analysis of the major teachings of the NOI vindicates this position, the NOI was nevertheless the vehicle which introduced large numbers of African Americans to the idea of Islam, however inaccurate that idea may have been.  Wallace Fard was arrested several times in the beginning of the 1930’s under the pretext that he was inciting violence.  He was expelled from Detroit in 1933 and was never seen after 1934.  His departure from the NOI left the organization without its “promised” leader and Elijah Muhammad quickly moved to fill the vacuum that had been created.  Under his authority, the NOI became more institutionalized with an order of command squarely placing Elijah Muhammad at the top.  Elijah Muhammad was able to cast the claim that he was in fact a messenger of Allah, further alienating the NOI from mainstream Muslims. 

With the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975, his son Wallace Muhammad, also known as Warith Deen Muhammad, assumed leadership of the NOI. Since his childhood, Warith Deen Muhammad had studying Arabic and the Quran, and he had also made the pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca. Through these experiences, he developed a viewpoint that was more in line, yet still distinct from, mainstream Muslims and worked to bring the beliefs and practices of the NOI closer to those of mainstream Islam until the organization as a separate group eventually disbanded. While many of the NOI members accepted Warith Deen’s changes, there were some that sought a return to the traditional teachings of the NOI as emphasized by Wallace Fard and Elijah Muhammad. Louis Farrakhan became the leader of this group and went on to reinstitute the Nation of Islam as an organization, and it continues in this form today.

In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson and it significantly eliminated immigration barriers that had been in place since the 1920’s.  The relaxation of immigration requirements provided the opportunity for people to once again come to America. Where the previous wave of immigrants had largely been working class individuals seeking employment, the majority of immigrants coming to America in the 1970’s and onward where highly educated and well trained professionals, including physicians and engineers.  This new wave of immigrants came to seek higher education or escape from unrest in their homelands. This recent influx of Muslim immigrants represents by far the largest growth of the Muslim population in the history of America. The immigrants entering in the last three decades of the 20th century are unique with respect to the large numbers that they came in and the positions that they were able to attain within society.  These two factors, in concert with one another, allowed for the development of Islam in America to occur at a remarkable pace.

The arrival of large numbers of immigrants followed relatively the same distribution pattern as had been maintained over the 20th century. Incoming Muslim families settled in large metropolis centers throughout the country. One of the first cities to feature a pronounced Muslim community was the city of Chicago which is now home to more than 40 mosques and Islamic centers. The degree of maturation that the Muslim community has undergone in one generation is also a result of the large inflow of educated professionals and is evidenced by some of the activities the Muslim community is involved with. One of the landmark community programs run by the Muslim community in Chicago is titled the Inter-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN). This Muslim led nonprofit organization develops programs to uphold social justice and combat inner-city poverty. Similarly large and developed communities were quick to rise in Houston, New York, Dearborn and Los Angeles, as well as many other localities. 

As Muslim communities flourished around the nation, the need for overarching institutions to coordinate Muslims and Islamic efforts became apparent.  In response to this need, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) was founded in 1982 with the mission of providing a national platform for Islamic activities and extending assistance to civic and service organizations . Prior to the formation of ISNA, Muslim college students attending universities throughout the United States founded the Muslim Student Association (MSA) in 1963 to create an official Muslim presence on campus and facilitate inter-faith talks.  These major organizations were precursors to several smaller Islamic organizations that were founded in response to local and regional needs. The establishment and growth of these organizations within one generation is a testament to the size, development and organization of the Muslim community within America.

In light of national and global events over the past decade, Islam has been portrayed as something that is foreign to America.  This proposition is rendered baseless when it is appreciated that Islam has been present within America since the time of the founding fathers and its history can be traced from that point to current times.  This presence has allowed for Islam to be intertwined with American history and has manifested in the development of a large American Muslim population that is deeply rooted in our communities throughout the country.

13-36

Wajahat Ali Tackles Islamophobia

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt O’Brien

wajahat-aliPlaywright, lawyer and humorist Wajahat Ali is known to fellow Fremont residents as a man of many projects. As we meet for an interview downtown, a passer-by interrupts to ask Ali, in Urdu, “What are you working on now?” One answer is scripting an HBO pilot, with novelist Dave Eggers, about a Muslim cop in San Francisco. Ali, 30, has made a career of writing about ordinary Muslim Americans with humor and candor. Another project marks Ali’s first big dive into political advocacy, with a report (due out this week) he has co-authored with researchers at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. Ali says it exposes how a small network of anti-Muslim activists transformed a fringe movement into a mainstream cause.

Q So your report hasn’t even come out yet, but the anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller has already called you a “stealth jihadist.” Are you offended?

A Not at all. Pam Geller attacked me because I pretty much exposed her and her agenda on a radio station in New York, because she and her allies were mentioned more than 200 times in (Norwegian mass shooter) Anders Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto. … He was ideologically inspired by people like her and her allies.

Q What made you get into this political project?

A My whole life I’ve been the unintentional token spokesman for all things Muslim and Pakistani. It was not by choice. I call myself the accidental activist. When I was a young kid I was, like, the only open practicing Muslim, and I knew a lot about my Pakistani roots. So inevitably I gave dozens of impromptu lectures about all things Muslim and Pakistani. And (for) a lot of my friends in the Bay Area, I was their only Muslim or Pakistani friend. So they were like, Hey, Waj, what’s up with Pakistan? … The Center for Progress thought, why not go to a non-D.C. guy and think outside the box. I realized, as a student of American history, the current boogeyman is American Muslims.

And I wanted to help turn the tide toward civil discourse, in which we wouldn’t divide Americans based on ethnicity and religion.

Q What do you think of the depiction of Muslim Americans on TV?

A It’s usually framed through the lens of national security, terrorism, violence and fundamentalism. A recent report says Americans have a negative image of Muslims (for) two reasons: ignorance, in the sense that a lot of Americans say they don’t know a Muslim; … and they say the media frames their perceptions of Muslims. … The hope is to move beyond that frame, to show the nuances. We need authentic Muslim American storytellers telling authentic Muslim American narratives.

Q On a blog post you mentioned the Ramadan State of Mind. What’s that?

A On the blog I try to remove what I call the “ascetic monk lens” from which both Muslim Americans and average Americans view Ramadan — Muslims being this spiritual, superhero monk type who have this insane biological system that allows them to fast without water and drink.

We’re like Ivan Drago from “Rocky IV,” right? It’s very inhuman almost, the presentation of Ramadan and Muslims fasting. … I just try to talk like a normal person, to expose my whiny-ness, the fact that sometimes it sucks being Muslim. Sometimes I’m spiritually elevated, sometimes spiritually defeated. Sometimes I just want to eat food.

Q You’ve talked about how kids who grew up in the shadow of 9/11 are helping to push a new narrative. What is that narrative?

A The narrative is: “I am both Muslim and American; one cannot coexist without the other. My values from both identities complement one another and intersect. I am living proof that there is no conflict between the West and Islam. Proof that there needs not be an Armageddon or a clash of cultural values.” Just go talk to these people. They fast during Ramadan and listen to Jay-Z’s latest album. They eat their mom’s dal but then they also eat pho. Their best friend is African-American or Vietnamese-American, and they’ll invite them over for Eid. That’s as American as apple pie, or maybe as American as falafel and hummus.

13-35

Remarks By The President During Iftar Dinner

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. Everyone, please have a seat, have a seat.

2011-08-11T010551Z_220798431_GM1E78B0PEZ01_RTRMADP_3_USA-OBAMA

President Obama welcomes guests at an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House, August 10, 2011.

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the White House. Tonight is part of a rich tradition here at the White House of celebrating the holy days of many faiths and the diversity that define us as a nation. So these are quintessentially American celebrations — people of different faiths coming together, with humility before our maker, to reaffirm our obligations to one another, because no matter who we are, or how we pray, we’re all children of a loving God.

Now, this year, Ramadan is entirely in August. That means the days are long, the weather is hot, and you are hungry. So I will be brief.

I want to welcome the members of the diplomatic corps who are here; the members of Congress, including two Muslim American members of Congress — Keith Ellison and Andre Carson; and leaders and officials from across my administration. Thank you all for being here. Please give them a big round of applause.

To the millions of Muslim Americans across the United States and more– the more than one billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a time of reflection and a time of devotion. It’s an occasion to join with family and friends in celebration of a faith known for its diversity and a commitment to justice and the dignity of all human beings. So to you and your families, Ramadan Kareem.
This evening reminds us of both the timeless teachings of a great religion and the enduring strengths of a great nation. Like so many faiths, Islam has always been part of our American family, and Muslim Americans have long contributed to the strength and character of our country, in all walks of life. This has been especially true over the past 10 years.

In one month, we will mark the 10th anniversary of those awful attacks that brought so much pain to our hearts. It will be a time to honor all those that we’ve lost, the families who carry on their legacy, the heroes who rushed to help that day and all who have served to keep us safe during a difficult decade. And tonight, it’s worth remembering that these Americans were of many faiths and backgrounds, including proud and patriotic Muslim Americans.

Muslim Americans were innocent passengers on those planes, including a young married couple looking forward to the birth of their first child.

They were workers in the Twin Towers — Americans by birth and Americans by choice, immigrants who crossed the oceans to give their children a better life. They were cooks and waiters, but also analysts and executives.

There, in the towers where they worked, they came together for daily prayers and meals at Iftar. They were looking to the future — getting married, sending their kids to college, enjoying a well-deserved retirement. And they were taken from us much too soon. And today, they live on in the love of their families and a nation that will never forget. And tonight, we’re deeply humbled to be joined by some of these 9/11 families, and I would ask them to stand and be recognized, please.

Muslim Americans were first responders — the former police cadet who raced to the scene to help and then was lost when the towers collapsed around him; the EMTs who evacuated so many to safety; the nurse who tended to so many victims; the naval officer at the Pentagon who rushed into the flames and pulled the injured to safety. On this 10th anniversary, we honor these men and women for what they are — American heroes.

Nor let us forget that every day for these past 10 years Muslim Americans have helped to protect our communities as police and firefighters, including some who join us tonight. Across our federal government, they keep our homeland secure, they guide our intelligence and counterterrorism efforts and they uphold the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans. So make no mistake, Muslim Americans help to keep us safe.

We see this in the brave service of our men and women in uniform, including thousands of Muslim Americans. In a time of war, they volunteered, knowing they could be sent into harm’s way. Our troops come from every corner of our country, with different backgrounds and different beliefs. But every day they come together and succeed together, as one American team.

During the 10 hard years of war, our troops have served with excellence and with honor. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice, among them Army Spec. Kareem Khan. Galvanized by 9/11 to serve his country, he gave his life in Iraq and now rests with his fellow heroes at Arlington. And we thank Kareem’s mother, Elsheba, for being here again tonight. Like Kareem, this generation has earned its place in history, and I would ask all of our service members here tonight — members of the 9/11 Generation — to stand and accept the thanks of our fellow Americans.

This year and every year, we must ask ourselves: How do we honor these patriots — those who died and those who served? In this season of remembrance, the answer is the same as it was 10 Septembers ago. We must be the America they lived for and the America they died for, the America they sacrificed for.

An America that doesn’t simply tolerate people of different backgrounds and beliefs, but an America where we are enriched by our diversity. An America where we treat one another with respect and with dignity, remembering that here in the United States there is no “them” or “us;” it’s just us. An America where our fundamental freedoms and inalienable rights are not simply preserved, but continually renewed and refreshed — among them the right of every person to worship as they choose. An America that stands up for dignity and the rights of people around the world, whether a young person demanding his or her freedom in the Middle East or North Africa, or a hungry child in the Horn of Africa, where we are working to save lives.

Put simply, we must be the America that goes forward as one family, like generations before us, pulling together in times of trial, staying true to our core values and emerging even stronger. This is who we are and this is who we must always be.

Tonight, as we near a solemn anniversary, I cannot imagine a more fitting wish for our nation. So God bless you all and God bless the United States of America. Thank you

13-34

Statement by President on the Occasion of Ramadan

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

White House Press Release

Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009.

(Photo by Pete Souza)

As Ramadan begins, Michelle and I would like to send our best wishes to Muslim communities in the US and around the world.  Ramadan is a festive time that is anticipated for months by Muslims everywhere.  Families and communities share the happiness of gathering together for iftar and prayers. Bazaars light up the night in many cities from Rabat to Jakarta.  And here in the US, Muslim Americans share Ramadan traditions with their neighbors, fellow students, and co-workers. 

For so many Muslims around the world, Ramadan is also a time of deep reflection and sacrifice. As in other faiths, fasting is used to increase spirituality, discipline, and consciousness of God’s mercy.  It is also a reminder of the importance of reaching out to those less fortunate.  The heartbreaking accounts of lost lives and the images of families and children in Somalia and the Horn of Africa struggling to survive remind us of our common humanity and compel us to act.  Now is the time for nations and peoples to come together to avert an even worse catastrophe by offering support and assistance to on-going relief.

Times like this remind us of the lesson of all great faiths, including Islam–that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  In that spirit, I wish Muslims around the world a blessed month, and I look forward to again hosting an iftar dinner here at the White House.  Ramadan Kareem.

13-32

Tax Dollars Used Against Islam and Muslims

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO

A few weeks ago, a former Palestinian Muslim, who is now an ultra conservative Christian equated Islam with terrorism describing the two inseparable. There is nothing new in what the so called former PLO terrorist said or says on a regular basis. In the last 10 years, several individuals claiming to speak on behalf of Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism have spoken openly against Islam and Muslim Americans in particular. Expressing one’s opinion is everyone’s right and that right must be preserved even if it is based on misconception or lies.

What is problematic is that the Homeland Security invited the so called terrorist-turned Christian to an official event attended by more than 300 law enforcement officials in South Dakota. This is a violation of our constitution that clearly indicates that the people’s tax dollars would not be spent in either promoting or targeting a particular religion. The so called expert was paid 5,000 plus other expenses.  In other word, the our tax dollars were spent on supporting someone whose anti-Islam agenda is well known. If the Homeland Security had invited a Muslim American to counter his argument, one could have argued that the purpose of the event was to have a balanced perspective. However, by giving money and podium to an avid anti-Islam fanatic, the Homeland Security has revealed its hatred of Islam, a crime which is in breach of the constitution and which deserves to be thoroughly investigated.

Ten after the September 11 attack, Muslim Americans are still deemed unfit by many law enforcement agencies or agents to be partners in the country’s fight against terrorism. This policy or attitude is hurting the country and wasting its tax dollars money. Seemingly, the Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies have wasted millions of dollars in rewarding anti-Muslim and anti-Islam experts on terrorism by giving them legitimacy and authenticity through invitation to officially organized events for state and federal agents.

Most of the so called experts on Islam belong to several religious groups who anti-Islam position is well known. They use the Tax payers money and resources to promote their religious agenda and to make money for themselves. The country does not benefit from their expertise.

One is entitled to his or her opinion on Islam or any other faith but when that opinion is given legitimacy by agencies that are meant to uphold the constitution and the citizens, then it deserves the attention of all those who are serious about the sanctity and supremacy of the constitution. As far as opinions against Islam are concerned, we Muslims must be aware of the task that we have at hand, i.e. challenging the misconception and informing the country and the world that there is another side of the explanation that can be offered only by those practice this faith and who understands its in and out better than those so called experts who have found a new opportunity to mint money from the new venture that we can term as “Islamic Threat to the West.”

13-30

Community News (V13-I26)

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslim-American Encyclopedia Racks Up Awards

communitynewspicThe “Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History,” has been named one of best reference books of 2010 by “Library Journal”; one of the top 40 reference titles of 2010 by the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association; an editor’s choice reference source by “Booklist” ; and an “honor book” by the Society of School Librarians International.

The recognition is gratifying for the encyclopedia’s general editor, Edward E. Curtis IV, Millennium Chair of Liberal Arts and professor of religious studies at IUPUI. “This is exactly the kind of attention we need to get this encyclopedia into public and school libraries, where the reference is really needed,” said Curtis.

Ten undergraduates and one graduate student from the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI are among the 125 contributors to the “Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History,” published in 2010. The IUPUI students contributed entries to the reference book by way of Curtis’ spring 2008 religious studies course on Islam in America.

A recent wave of Islamophobia, including protests over the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” in Lower Manhattan, a number of state legislative attempts to outlaw shari‘a, or Islamic law and ethics, and U.S. Rep. Peter King’s hearings in the House of Representatives on Muslim American “radicalism”, has helped to make Muslim Americans more visible and more vulnerable.

“Knowledge of the various contributions made by Muslim Americans to U.S. society” has never been more critical, according to one review of the encyclopedia.

“Many of today’s anti-Muslim sentiments express the idea that Muslims and their cultures are foreign to America,” said Curtis. “The encyclopedia shows instead how Muslims and Islam have been part of American life since before the republic was even founded.”

Several reviews of the “Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History” describe the reference as the first to chart the long history of Muslims in the United States.

“It is unique in that there is no other source that chronicles the history of Muslim-American experience so broadly,” states “Reference Reviews.”In addition to covering religion, the encyclopedia analyzes Muslim contributions to realms of American life such as agriculture, poetry, basketball, philanthropy, and politics.

According to Curtis, the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI deserves some credit for the reference’s success. “By creating an environment where public scholarship is rewarded rather than punished,” he asserts, “the school is helping to show how the liberal arts are essential to navigating today’s world.”

Halal poultry plant to add new jobs

PRINCESS ANNE, MD–Tauherr Poultry plans on bringing 15 to 25 jobs to Princess Anne. The company plans to use the recently purchased plant in the Princess Anne Industrial Park to process halal chicken.

Terrence Nichols, part owner of Tauherr Poultry, says he’s excited to help and bring jobs to the community. The facility in Princess Anne is already paid for. Nichols met with Somerset County town commissioners on Monday evening to explain his plans and inform them of the jobs the plant will create.

Nichols says the plant is looking to serve a niche market. Halal chickens are prepared according to Islamic dietary laws.

Naiyer Imam appointed to Stem Cell Assurance

JUPITER, FL–Stem Cell Assurance, Inc.  today announced it has created a Scientific Advisory Board and has appointed Naiyer Imam, M.D., M.Sc. to serve as an advisor. Dr. Imam will assist the Company in establishing strategic relationships with leading physicians, scientists, and medical institutions as well as participating in potential clinical trials and stem cell applications.

Dr. Imam received a Medical Degree at an accelerated program from Brown University, as well as a Bachelors of Science degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. In addition, he obtained a Master of Science degree in Biostatistics at Harvard University. Dr. Imam completed his radiology training at USF in Florida and a neuroradiology fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, MD. His previous academic posting include Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and Professor of Radiology at Virginia Tech School of Medicine. Dr. Imam is well published in the medical and radiological literature as a physician, computer scientist and businessman.

Dr. Imam is currently serving as the chairman and CEO of Advanced Medical Imaging and Teleradiology, LLC — a new-generation teleradiology corporation that he founded in 2009. Dr. Imam is also the chairman of Gulf Advanced Imaging Corporation, a growing network of imaging centers based in Dubai, UAE. He has previously served as medical director for NightHawk Radiology Services, a publicly traded corporation, and chairman of American Teleradiology Nighthawks (ATN). He has previously served as chairman of Medical Imaging Specialists, a radiology corporation that he founded in Virginia, which served as a base for a number of imaging centers and surgical centers that Dr. Imam has either founded or developed.

Dr. Imam commented, “I am delighted to be involved with Stem Cell Assurance as a member of its Scientific Advisory Board. Stem cell science is a very exciting and evolving industry and Stem Cell Assurance is appropriately building its management and advisory team to ensure progressive strides in its research and clinical initiatives.”

Mark Weinreb, Stem Cell Assurance’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, “We are very pleased to have Dr. Imam, a highly regarded physician and scientist, join our Scientific Advisory Board. His expertise in medicine, science and business will prove to be highly beneficial to the Company’s ongoing efforts in supporting our growth and expansion.”

13-26

Community News (V13-I21)

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Saheela Ibraheem: Budding scholar Par Excellence

EDISON,NJ–Muslim Americans continue to excel in a variety if fields despite all the odds. The latest such examplar is Saheela Ibraheem, a 15 year old student from New Jersey, who has been accepted to the prestigious Harvard University. She  opted for the world renowned university even though she had an option of thirteen other top rated schools to choose from including, MIT, Columbia, and Princeton.

The hijab wearing Ibraheem has always been a brilliant student and and hard worker.She speaks Arabic, Spanish and Latin. She said she hopes to become a research scientist and study the brain.

“If you are passionate about what you do, and I am passionate about most of these things, especially with math and science, it will work out well,” Ibraheem told CBS News.

Mosque to come up in Harford County

ABINGDON,MD–Harford County will soon have a mosque of its own. A ranch style home on 5 acres of property is now being renovated to house the new mosque, ABC News reported.

Dr. Rehan Khan, a spokesperson for the community, told the channel that the mosque was much needed: “People use to go to Baltimore. (It’s) almost an hour’s drive. There are about a hundred families in the area. Most of them are highly professional physicians, pharmacists, computer specialists… living in the area. There’s not a single place of worship for them.”

Unlike in other places the neighbors have been welcoming the group.

Once work on the mosque is completed, the group plans to hold an international food festival to serve as an open-house for the community.

Long range plans include providing a soup kitchen, an after-school program and a free health clinic as well.

Muslim inmate wins long fought case

NORFOLK, VA–A Muslim inmate in Virginia has won a seven year battle to have access to religious materials in the prison library. The Virginian-Pilot reports that the State;s Attorney General has settled with Rashid Qawi Al Amin after court’s ruling in his favor.

The Corrections Department will spend up to $2,500 on Islamic library materials at the Greensville Correctional Center and hire a Muslim inmate to work there. Inmates will be allowed to donate religious materials, after security review.

Al-Amin will be able to submit his own list of reading materials, videos and CDs and get $2,000 to defray his costs fighting the case.

Christian clergy plan Qur’an readings to combat Islamophobia

Washington, D.C. – Christian clergy at churches across the country will host readings from the Qur’an and other sacred religious texts as they welcome their Muslim and Jewish colleagues on Sunday, June 26, 2011 for Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding.

Faith Shared is a project of Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First, which seeks to send a message both here at home and to the Arab and Muslim world about our respect for Islam. The National Cathedral in Washington, DC, along with 50 churches in 26 states have committed to participating in this effort.

“The anti-Muslim rhetoric that has pervaded our national conversation recently has shocked and saddened me,” said Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy.  “Appreciation for pluralism and respect for religious freedom and other human rights are at the core of our democracy.  We believe that demonstrating our commitment to those core American values will help counteract the intensified level of negative stereotypes and anti-Muslim bigotry in our recent public discourse.”

Faith Shared seeks to counter the anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes that have erupted throughout the country in the past year and led to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases, violence.  This countrywide, day-long event will engage faith leaders on the national and community levels in a conversation with their houses of worship, highlighting respect among people of different faiths.  This event will help counter the common misperception abroad that most Americans are hostile to Islam.  It will send a message that Americans respect Muslims and Islam, as they respect religious differences and freedom of religion in general.

Faith Shared is designed to reflect the mutual respect shared among so many Muslims, Christians, Jews and other Americans, as they stand together to oppose the negative images that have dominated domestic and international news.

13-21

Estate Planning: Important, Yet Ignored by Muslim Americans

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil Daudi

06Experts have estimated that approximately 70% of Americans live their every day life with no estate plan; and I am sure that number is higher amongst our own Muslim community. A topic that adheres to the protection and distributions of our wealth is a topic that has become commonly ignored. But why? As an Attorney practicing in this area, I have come to realize that for many, the reason for them to overlook this topic is because they don’t understand the concept of what it is and how it actually works. Why purchase a product when you don’t understand the essential benefits of it?

So what is Estate Planning and why is it important for you to have one in place? First, I’ll begin by providing a definition of estate planning and then briefly discuss two components of an estate plan.

Simply put, estate planning is when you take measures to administrate your estate, i.e. making plans on how you want your assets distributed.

There are only two ways you can plan your estate: through the direction of a will or the use of a trust. The two, in Michigan, function completely different from one another. A will is defined as a legal document that directs the distribution of your property after your death. Whereas a trust, is defined as a legal document where you give control of your property to another (a Trustee) for the benefit of your beneficiaries. What’s the difference between two? Among other things, the primary difference is that under a trust you put yourself in a position to avoid any probate court involvement. Probate court is a legal proceeding where the judge overlooks your estate and ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Because a trust transfers ownership of your assets into your trust’s name, leaving nothing under your individual name, there is no need for your assets to be probated.  Only assets that are titled under your individual name go through probate.

A well drafted estate plan consists of more than just a legal document.

To ensure you have a comprehensive plan in place, be sure your attorney includes the following documents: durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney. These two documents are essential for the completion of any estate plan. A durable power of attorney is when you give another the right to control your finances and allow them to make all decisions pertaining to it as if you were making it yourself. A medical power of attorney, similar to durable, is when you give another the right to make all medical decisions for you when you are unable to make it yourself.

As staggering as the number is for people who have yet to establish an estate plan, this number is even higher amongst our own community. For whatever reason, Muslims living in the United States fail to put emphasis on an issue that has been mandated upon us. Narrated by Ibn Umar, prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said: “It is not right for any Muslim person who has something to bequeath to stay for two nights without having his last will and testament written and kept ready with him.”

So with the obligation requiring each and every Muslim to create an estate plan, it is surprising on the number of people who have yet to take the necessary steps to do so. If it’s because you are not familiar with the topic then acquiring knowledge is always encouraged prior to taking any action. But once you acquire that knowledge it is imperative for you to move forward and ensure you have a sound estate plan in place. Remember, without a plan you are allowing the government to dictate how your assets will be distributed. Not only will your assets be in their control, but the distributions will not be made pursuant to Islamic laws.

Adil Daudi is an Attorney at Joseph, Kroll & Yagalla, P.C., focusing primarily on Estate Planning, Shariah Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Business Litigation, Corporate Formations, Physician Contracts, and Family Law. He can be reached at adil@josephlaw.net or (517) 381-2663.

13-17

Muslim Americans Inspire at the Apollo

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sarah Jawaid, Common Ground News

apollo_facade Washington, DC – As I peered down from the lower mezzanine level of Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater, I knew I was witnessing history. The village of Harlem has been a beacon of inspiration for artists throughout the 20th century; novelists, poets, musicians and actors found it a safe-haven for expression through various art forms such as music and theatre. On 23 January, a burgeoning Muslim American culture also found voice on the Apollo’s historic stage.

The Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) organised a special edition of Community Café, usually held in IMAN’s hometown of Chicago. This Muslim-led event was meant to provide a space for the socially conscious to celebrate and engage in various artistic forms of expression. Muslims from across the spectrum showcased their incredible talents while shattering self-propagated boundaries of race, gender, sect and vision. A sold-out audience cheered on the dynamic range of creativity from artists, like singer/actor Mos Def, comedian Aasif Mandvi, Progress Theater, musician Amir Sulaiman and The ReMINDers.

The most striking and memorable aspect of the event was not any one performance, but the performances’ effect on those attending. The social cohesion resulting from the event extended beyond the Apollo, sending reverberations throughout the American landscape as attendees returned home. With the recent catastrophic events in Haiti heavy on the hearts of the performers, it was a night of social responsibility, artistic sharing and advocacy.

This event couldn’t have come at a more perfect juncture in the Muslim American experience. Our identity continues to be shaped by our diversity, reaction to world events and sometimes the stereotyping within and outside of our communities. Nevertheless, Muslim Americans are proactively constructing their own unique identities by contributing meaningfully to society through engagement in causes they truly care about.

For example, there’s the woman getting her Ph.D. in psychology to bring attention to mental disorders often seen as illegitimate in many of our communities. There’s the man shattering misconceptions about masculinity by taking on issues of domestic violence. There’s the painter donating proceeds from what she creates to the victims of Haiti.

These are everyday people. They aren’t in the limelight. They don’t have book or movie deals. They are living their lives, doing genuine good work because they believe in it. Yes, they are Muslim, and so much more.

Oftentimes, the media highlights folks on the fringes as the only ones confronting singular expressions of Islam. Those in the middle go unnoticed because they aren’t as sexy, loud or attention seeking. While the former expressions are one patch in the quilt that makes up the dynamic nature of the Muslim American community, they shouldn’t receive a disproportionate amount of attention. Our collective hope for society should be a higher level of consciousness, and that won’t happen by focusing only on those at the edges of society, who are most visible.

Focusing on the everyday folks instead can lead us to a stronger sense of social cohesion. These individuals provide us with something intangible but extremely valuable. They are the steady calm, the heart that keeps beating even when gone unnoticed. These individuals are helping create a Muslim American narrative that is based on God-consciousness by confirming faith with good works, community engagement and a purpose that goes beyond their existence.

As I sat there at the Apollo, listening in awe to the beautiful operatic voice of Sumayya, an African American woman with a pink hijab (headscarf), and Zeeshan, a Bangladeshi American Andrea Bocelli, I knew I was home. They were sharing a part of their soul with me while shattering barrier upon barrier.

Art comes from deep within us, a place that often thrives with mental quietude and presence. And when art is shared with one another, it has the power to inspire, build bridges to uncharted places and heal wounds. As we continue to shape our stories, let’s remember our essence and how we are all connected to friends of other faiths, the earth and our communities–from a place of wholeness.

* Sarah Jawaid is a writer, artist and faith-based activist working on urban planning issues in Washington, DC. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

12-6

Why Was Imam Luqman Killed?

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-chief

Over one thousand Muslim Americans were present at the funeral of Imam Luqman Amin Abdullah in Detroit. He was shot several times by the FBI in an apparent attempt to arrest him. He was accused of orchestrating illegal financial activities to raise funds to establish an Islamic Sharia state in the United States. Some 10 of his supporters were also accused and arrested for using violent means to preach his ideology.

If illegal financial activities are potential reasons for killing the perpetrators, then perhaps all those who are responsible for the financial crisis of the country, who were responsible for pursuing illegal means to maximize their profits should have been killed. If stealing is a crime punishable by deaths, then all those CEO’s of Banks and other major financial institutions who steal from people’s money in the name of bonuses should have been dealt with differently.

There are several questions that need to be asked to get a clear understanding of what happened and why it happened. We believe that law enforcement agencies are there to protect citizens and defend their constitutional rights, and not to kill them. Imam Luqman’s death has raised several questions. However, we do not expect any truthful answers. There is ample evidence to prove that our government is not afraid to tell lies. The FBI lies even under the leadership of Robert Muller, the media lies–even CNN and MSNBC, and people of course lie. In general, in our social and political life, we lack honesty, integrity and truthfulness. To cover up issues, we and our officials and law enforcement agents can concoct any lies. Since those who concoct lies have the power their lies rule and rock.

We want to raise the following questions.

Was Imam Luqman Amin Abdullah really involved in illegal financial activities? Did he really break the law? Was he aware that his group was doing that? Or were those who had been planted in his organization responsible for creating situation that would ultimately lead to his tragic death? Is it possible that illegal financial activities were performed by FBI informants?

Was he so naive to believe that he would be able to defeat the entire military power of the United States to establish a Sharia state? Was he so knowledgeable that he defined the shape and form of a Sharia state that no Muslim scholar has done in this or previous century? Did he really promote violence? Did he ever ask his followers to kill people randomly or in a systematic manner? Did he really think that a small warehouse in Detroit, MI, can become the headquarters of one of the most deadly movements of the world?

Luqman, that people knew, does not fit into the description of FBI. He dressed different that most American do. But so do Amish and Indians and many others. He believed that America has been unjust to many of its people, a belief that is held at least by 75 per cent of social scientists who have written about race and ethnic relations in America. He believed that America is run by powerful interests, an idea that was repeated by Michael Moore in almost all of his documentaries. He believed that American political leadership invents lies to kill people, an idea that most American think was behind the invasion of Iraq.

But who is going to investigate? The government will do everything possible to cover it up. The media is already biased and one cannot expect the mainstream media to do any real investigative story. What will the media get to prove the innocence of Luqman?

Private sources cannot reach to a level of credibility where their report can be trusted.

The truth may never come out. FBI agents who would give testimony under oath can say anything to make more money or to save their own life. The government investigator cannot put the blame on a major government agency and the court would act only on the basis of evidence that would be presented before the judge?

Thus the truth will never be known. But, we can outline certain scenarios that we have heard people talking about. They may be totally absurd or wrong. Nevertheless, they must be reported  in  order to develop an understanding of the reality.

1. FBI always speaks the truth, hence its account of what happened in the shot out should be accepted and matter should be closed.
2. Some FBI agent acted in panic and now the entire organization is trying to cover him up.
3. Some FBI agents were anti-Islam and Islamophobic and they found this opportunity to show their anger.
4. Luqman was very close to Imam Jamil Amin and hence he was punished for his vocal support for the jailed leader.
5. Some law enforcement agents are hunting down the old black panthers leaders and targeting them.
6. Luqman was really a criminal who wore an Islamic garb to cover his real violent nature.
7. Luqman was promoting violence in his sermons in a coded language that only FBI was able to decipher.
8. Informants made it up.
9. FBI informants trapped him and made him do things that later turned out to be illegal.
10. Luqman reacted angrily when he saw a dog running around at a place which was used by his followers as a prayer place.
11. Some forces in law enforcement agencies are acting on behalf right wing Christian fundamentalists who want to silence every assertive voice of Islam.

And so on so forth.

But we can suggest an Islamic course of action to resolve the issue.

1. We should refrain from accusing and making inflammatory statements.
2. We should ask our representatives to seek total disclosure in this matter
3. We should demand a congressional or state level hearing on the subject.
4. We should seek clarification from FBI and other law enforcement agencies on how it views Muslims and Islam
5. We should ask FBI and law enforcement agencies to screen their agents for their affiliation with Christian, Zionist or Muslim fundamentalist organizations.
6. We should ourselves resolve that non-violence is the message and method of Islam and Islam does not promote violence to achieve its objectives.
7. We should not shy away from expressing the truth, exposing the government and public officials for their failure to protect the lives of people.
8. We should demand justice for all.
9. Rather than remaining aloof from the political system, we should be part of it to introduce changes to protect people from the tyranny of law enforcement officials.

11-46