Houston’s Positive Response For Pakistan Floods 2011

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Formed in Houston:  “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”

pakistanSeveral community based organizations in Houston, Texas, USA; came together this past weekend, to establish a collaborative to serve the humanity in dire needs suffering from Floods 2011 in Pakistan. This body is named the “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”; and its aims are to send monetary funds through members organizations working in the field in Sindh Pakistan, and to also send in-kind donations; all to benefit the humanity suffering from floods in Sindh Pakistan, where more than 7.50 million lives have been totally disturbed and projected to remain be disturbed in weeks and months to come.

Members of the Alliance as of Monday, September 19th, 2011 in alphabetical order are given below. More organizations are being approached and also being encouraged with this communiqué, to join this collaborative. For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator of the Alliance at 1-281-948-1840 and/or ILyas Hasan Choudry, Secretary of the Alliance at 1-832-275-0786):

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2011 – Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter – Hashoo Foundation USA – Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development (HHRD) – Houston-Istanbul Sister City Association (HISCA) – Houston-Karachi Sister City Association (HKSCA) – Imran Khan Foundation (IKF) – Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) – Pakistani-American Council of Texas (PACT) – Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) – Raindrop Helping Hands – Raindrop Turkish House – Red Cross – Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) – Sun Charity – Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB);

Media Partners: Pakistan Chronicle – Pakistan Journal – Pakistan News – Pakistan Times – Radio Houston – Radio Light Of Islam – Radio Shalimar – Muslim Observer…

The inaugural exploratory meeting started with recitation of Quran by Abdur Rauf Khan. After initial introductions of all the attendees, one of the persons, who had envisioned the idea of this Alliance, Saeed Sheikh talked about the importance and blessings in joint efforts to serve the humanity in dire needs in Pakistan due to the recent catastrophic floods.

ILyas Hasan Choudry gave an overall assessment of the damage in Sindh Pakistan due to these floods and ongoing efforts. He informed that these floods were different than last year, where floods came down from mountains giving time for people to relocate. Here rains came down in four spells, causing sudden and very high floods, which have never been seen in 51 years. So people did not get warning to relocate. Catastrophe is larger than last years’ flood, but somehow due to political, economical, and other natural & man-made catastrophes having hit Pakistan, USA and the world, media was late in picking up this news, especially the media in Pakistan.  Otherwise this tragedy had struck many people long time ago, like almost one month ago. 250+ persons died, 2.30-Million bales of cotton lost, almost all of the crops are destroyed in an area of  7-Millon Acres, more than 60,000 cattle heads perishing (whole livelihood of majority of common people in the area of twenty or more districts gone), and 750,000+ homes partially or completely destroyed. Water has come in so much quantity that it is projected by experts that it may take 30 to 45 days just for the water to recede. As such there is emergency relief work needed in terms of clean water, food, shelter, healthcare services, and psycho-social support for children, ladies, and elderly. After the first phase of one to two months, much long term rehabilitation will be needed. Local organizations at grassroots levels are working within the communities, where people are stranded due to water, while international NGOs with local offices are trying to bring people into cluster camps and providing their efforts.

Based on thorough discussion, following are the projects and programs that were decided for this alliance: Doing In-Kind donation drive for three to four weeks (and beyond if needed). Since the best possible facilities, including dock for container, are available at PAGH’s Pakistan Center located at 12638 Bissonett, Houston, Texas 77099, so that will the place to collect In-Kind donations.

Alliance will also organize joint monetary fundraising events, which may include a large scale underwritten dinner at a nice location, and one or two radio telethons, where people will be encouraged to donate towards the organizations of their choice, just like it was done at the time of the earthquake in Pakistan 2005. For the joint fundraising efforts, more organizations will be included that will become part of the list of organizations to receive the monetary donations for these joint fundraising efforts. As of Monday, September 19th, 2011, these organizations were identified to receive monetary funds raised during Alliance’s Events (more can be included later on): Pakistan Prime Minister Fund; Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter; Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development; Imran Khan Foundation (IKF); Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH); Raindrop Helping Hands; Sindhi Association of North America (SANA); Sun Charity; and Red Cross (included so as to give choice to larger American community to participate – someone from Red Cross will be approached before putting their name on the final list).

It was decided to have an initial working committee for the Alliance, and following persons were chosen with consensus – More persons will be included as the Alliance expands By the Grace of God: Saeed Sheikh (Coordinator), Talat Talpur (Treasurer), Mian Nazir (In-Kind Donation Coordinator), and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Secretary and Community & Media Outreach). Two persons, who are members of the Alliance Organizations; namely Bobby Refaie and Cristal Montanez Baylor will soon be in Pakistan; and during their stay in Pakistan, they will act as Liaison for the Alliance in Pakistan.

For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh (Cell: 1-281-948-1840) and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Cell: 1-832-275-0786).

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An Eyewitness Account of the Stay Human Flotilla

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

Readers of The Muslim Observer will be familiar with the dedicated work of human rights activist, Mary Hughes -Thompson. Beginning with her travels a decade ago under the auspices of the Christian Peacemaker Teams and including her work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), we come now to her most recent attempt to be part of the second flotilla to Gaza. Mary has been a tireless fighter for the rights of Palestinians.

Ms Hughes-Thompson was part of the original Free Gaza Movement and sailed aboard one of the two ships that broke the decades long Israeli siege of Gaza along its Mediterranean coast in August 2008. She has made numerous trips since then and was part of a three woman communications operation on Cyprus during the first flotilla attempt in 2010. She was one of the first people to receive the news of Israeli piracy aboard the MAVI MARMARA.

Ms Hughes has made public appearances since her return from Greece where the ship she was on was interdicted by the Greek Navy. She has agreed to speak to The Muslim Observer in depth about her experiences.

TMO: You have done so much and travelled so many miles for Palestine, you must at some point have wanted to skip this trip with its attendant risks. Could you share your feelings and what, in the end, compelled you to go?

MHT:  Traveling to and inside Palestine is something I have always found to be physically and emotionally exhausting.   Also as a senior on a fixed income I have to make a lot of sacrifices in order to cover the extensive travel costs involved, as of course do all of us who make Palestine a priority.  For all these reasons I felt I couldn’t afford to participate in another flotilla.   As the time for departure neared, and so many of my friends and colleagues prepared to join the flotilla, I realized I needed after all to find a way to be a part of it.

Ms Thompson contacted organizers of the Turkish campaign and was told there was a strong possibility the MAVI MARMARA might not sail. 

Israel had announced, following the deaths on the MAVI MARMARA in 2010, that it regarded only that ship as hostile. The other members of the flotilla were acknowledged by Israel to have non threatening humanitarian aims. It was felt that the presence of the MAVI MARMARA might give Israel the excuse to stop the flotilla. In the end, the ship stayed in port in Turkey.

TMO: Could you tell us, please, what your next step was.

MHT: I then contacted the organizers of Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign and asked to be considered as a passenger on its boat TAHRIR.   I was delighted to be accepted for  passage, and ten days later I left for Greece and the island of Crete where the boat was berthed.

At this time Greece was in turmoil due to severe domestic and financial problems.  For weeks, thousands of Greek citizens held huge demonstrations against their government.  While I felt that the people of Greece supported the Palestinian cause, it became apparent that the government could probably not withstand pressure from the governments of Israel and the US.
Nonetheless, a member of the Greek parliament went to the boat to express his best wishes.

TMO: What did he say, and did he bring the wishes of other people and/or groups?

MHT:  After the Coast Guard delayed our departure repeatedly over nearly two weeks, the Greek minister came on board TAHRIR to show support for our efforts to be allowed to leave Greece and sail for Gaza.  He promised to do his best to intercede on our behalf, assuring us that most Greek citizens supported the flotilla.

In the weeks before passengers on all the boats gathered at various Greek ports,  Israel sent its ambassadors to all of the countries whose citizens were sending boats to join the flotilla, attempting to persuade the governments to stop them from doing so. Israel also pressured maritime Insurance groups and companies which supplied satellite equipment to the ships of the flotilla, threatening  legal action if they provided their services.

Israeli journalist, freedom advocate, and TAHRIR passenger, Amira Haas wrote: “The flotilla’s organizers added a term from the world of business and globalization to their description of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians. Israel, they said, was outsourcing the industry of the blockade on Gaza.”

TMO: Can you describe the feeling aboard the TAHRIR – optimistic, pessimistic, wait and see?

MHT: We stayed optimistic throughout, even when we began to see it was just a game being played by Greece at the behest of Israel and the U.S.  We hoped Greece would eventually run out of excuses and let us leave.  We all wanted more than anything to sail to Gaza, but we felt that no matter what happened we were winning because of the publicity and of the shameless way Israel and the U.S. were behaving.  We felt everything just proved how scary we were to Israel.  Also, once we decided to break out and set sail, even though we didn’t expect to get far, we were euphoric and were almost as excited as if we truly were on our way to Gaza. 

TMO: Can you tell us something about your fellow passengers aboard the TAHRIR? Were the passengers an eclectic mix? Were various peace groups represented?

MHT: The participants called theirs the A-B-C-D group;  while most passengers were from Canada, there were contingents from Australia, Belgium and Denmark which had helped raise the money to buy TAHRIR.  All of the training was conducted in French and English, and we became close friends. Though not well known in the U.S. we had several participants who are well known leaders in their own countries.  Also Kevin Neish who was on board the MAVI MARMARA last year.  He and Amira were to be on the MAVI this year but transferred to TAHRIR when MAVI dropped out)
{ Note from TMO that a list of passengers and their specifics can be found on their web site: www.tahir.ca.}

Spokespersons for each boat told of the same unrelenting demands by the Greek Navy and the same tedious excuses – the need to see papers, papers, and more papers; finding fault with the size of the berths, and inadequate temperature control. In the end, no one was allowed to leave Greek coastal waters.

TMO: When you were boarded by the Greek Navy after you began to sail absent permission, were you frightened? Did you think you would be arrested?

MHT:  I wouldn’t say any of us were frightened because we hadn’t found any of the Greeks to be hostile to us.  When they boarded with guns drawn they certainly were serious about stopping us, but they didn’t attack any of the passengers.  I personally found it somewhat intimidating because I realized how helpless we would have been if it had been Israelis who would be very brutal and would have no consideration for our safety, no matter how old we were.

TMO: Tell us about the medicines aboard the TAHRIR. Had you reached Gaza what would have been the next step in their distribution?

MHT: Our two doctors (one Belgian, one French-Canadian) told us we had $30,000. in much needed medicine.  They said it was chosen  very carefully because it was important medicine that was completely unavailable in Gaza and which would save lives.  We saw it ourselves, and saw the earliest expiry date was 2014.

Amira Haas has noted that the primary problem in Gaza is not starvation. Food is brought in via tunnels albeit at an inflated price. And the Palestinians in Gaza take care of one another. The real problem is freedom. By separating the West Bank from Gaza the public can easily forget that Gaza is Palestine. Prisoners released from incarceration in the West Bank are often sent to Gaza where they cannot leave. This is a life sentence for them.

TMO: Can you tell us your hopes for true freedom for the people of Gaza?

MHT: My hope is that as the world community becomes increasingly aware that Israel is the primary cause of all the violence in Palestine, Israel will find itself even more isolated and unable to continue getting away with masquerading as the victim.   Facebook and social networking have been very important in educating more and more people to what is happening, and I believe these people are increasingly on the side of Palestinian rights.

TMO: Despite the failure of the flotilla to reach Gaza so many passengers have seen good come out of the attempt. Can you comment on that?

MHT: We were disappointed, of course, because we hadn’t anticipated that Israel’s talons could reach so far from its own shores.  We knew our friends in Gaza were enthusiastically planning for our arrival, and that they too were disappointed once again. But I don’t see it as a failure.  I see it as just another nail in the coffin of zionist Israel.  Starting with the attack on Lebanon, then Gaza, followed by last year’s massacre on the MAVI MARMARA and attack on all the flotilla boats, and finally what happened to Flotilla 2 – Stay Human, Israel finally realizes its glory days are over, and that if it doesn’t made some serious changes it will soon be completely friendless.  More important, we continue to be energized by the strength and endurance of the people of Gaza and all of Palestine who have found hope from our boats.  I am so proud to have been instrumental, along with some wonderful Free Gaza colleagues, in reaching the shores Gaza three years ago, and humbled to realize all that has happened as a result of our crazy idea.

TMO: We know you do not give up. Can you tell us your plans for the next trip to break the siege of Gaza?

MHT:  The U.S. boat is still being held in Greece, clearly under orders from the U.S.  Most of the other boats have been moved to other ports, including TAHRIR. While I can’t give details of future plans, I am confident there will be another flotilla.  And I will be there.  Today’s announcement from Turkey that warships will accompany future flotillas is very welcome, because we know each time we set sail we risk death or serious injury in the international waters of the Mediterranean.  We find it remarkable that Israel seems to underestimate our commitment to peace for the people of Palestine.  Each time they stop our boats, attack our boats, ram our boats, murder our passengers… thousands more around the world ask to join our next flotilla.  We will not be intimidated and we will not stop sailing our boats until Gaza and all of Palestine are free.

The Muslim Observer extends its thanks to Ms Hughes-Thompson for her time and for the great work she has done as a human rights activist.

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Commemorating 9/11

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Detroit Area Muslims Observe Anniversary

By Adil James, TMO

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Farmington–September 11th–The 9/11 terror attacks and the subsequent scrutiny on the Muslim community has lasted until this date 10 years after the event.

Muslims have attempted to rebuild ties and bridges of mutual trust and understanding on this 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy through a multitude of different events.

Imams spoke at a CIOM event in Dearborn on the morning of the anniversary, and before the anniversary came, there was a huge food distribution done in Flint, also in the name of rebuilding connections.  Muslims across the nation, individually and through their organizations, also attempted to show their mercy and compassion for 9/11 victims by offering prayers and words of solace to the 9/11 families. 

In this issue of The Muslim Observer, we have attempted to collect some reports from around the country of Muslim events to honor the memory of the tragic events of 9/11.  The following Michigan events are not an exhaustive list of 9/11 commemorations, but a few good examples.

Flint

The Flint event distributed food to “about 1,000 families,” according to Iman Meyer-Hoffman, interfaith director of the As-Siddiq Mosque, from which food was distributed this past Thursday at 5:00PM.  

Each family recipient had to show a distinct i.d. in order to receive food, and the 1,000 family representatives who picked up food at the mosque came in about 300 carloads, showing Michigan’s desperate economic position after years of recession and layoffs.

The Flint Islamic Center in coordination with the As-Siddiq Institute and Mosque and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan arranged the event.  Ms. Meyer-Hoffman said of the event that “the two mosques felt it was important for the community to work together.”

Flint Islamic Center coordinators for the event were Bilal Ali, Mohammed Aslam, and Macksood Aftab.  They publicized the event extremely well, and planned it well also–occurring several days before almost all 9-11 celebrations it successfully attracted a great deal of attention and put Muslims in a very good light by helping them to serve the real needs of the larger community.

The immense enthusiasm of Mr. Aftab in building media knowledge about the event and advertising the event to local non-Muslims helped to make it a success.

“We are doing this because we are part of this community and this country. Most Muslims are peaceful people who care about others,” said Meyer-Hoffman.

PWAM Acts of Kindness

The Pakistani Women’s Association of Michigan was one of the other organizations to hold an event to commemorate 9/11.

The organization, in association with CIOM and other organizations, took advantage of the event to discuss past contributions, including helping out at Interfaith Health Fair and Soup Kitchen at the Muslim Center Detroit, as well as active involvement in the annual CIOM Unity Dinner.

Here, PWAM partnered with CIOM, ACCESS, the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, the City of Detroit, United Way, WISDOM, J-Serve and Focus: HOPE, Volunteer Centers of Michigan, the Jewish Community Relations Council, Arts & Scraps, and Detroit’s Cities of Service “Believe in Detroit” Campaign to participate in the “Acts Of Kindness, Transforming 9/11” which had been called for by President Obama to counteract the incredibly negative and divisive event which took place ten years ago.

Hundreds of volunteers participated in projects such as park beautification, vacant lot clean-up, food packaging, sorting art supplies for local schools, and writing thank you cards to U.S. troops serving abroad. As they worked side by side, their energy and dedication helped transform 9/11 into a day of learning about each other’s interests, families, and faith traditions. After the projects were completed, there was a structured dialogue series designed to increase tolerance and understanding, with the goal of promoting a sense of unity, peace, community-building, and mutual understanding.

Dearborn

In Dearborn the morning of 9/11 was marked by a well-coordinated event at which several prominent local imams had the opportunity to speak about 9/11 and its broader meaning to Muslims after 10 years have elapsed. 

This event was held at the prominent Islamic Center of America (ICA), said to be the largest mosque in America–a huge mosque on Ford Road in Dearborn that unfortunately has served as a lightning rod for criticism of the Muslim community.

The CIOM statement about the ICA event stated that “The tragedy … will never be forgotten… The date brings back painful memories.  American Muslims…. wish for our fellow Americans to begin a renewed era of understanding, tolerance, freedom and justice for all.”

One of the prime movers for this event was Ghalib Begg of CIOM, known for his leadership and and hard work, and for his political and interfaith connections.

Some of the prominent imams present were Imam Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom, Imam Qazwini of the ICA, Imam El-Turk of IONA, Imam El-Amin of the Muslim Unity Center in Detroit, Imam Aly Lela of IAGD,  Shaykh Ali Sulayman Ali of MCWS, Imam Kilyani, Imam Al-Azom, and Imam Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan.

Imam Elahi said at the ICA that the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11 constituted a crime, against Americans but also against Islam, agains the teachings of Islam–over 90 nationalities were among the victims, including many Muslims.  “We as Muslims joined to show solidarity with the victims.”

The tenth anniversary, he said, was a day of prayer for the victims, to show national unity, to build dialogue and interfaith cooperation, to build towards “a better America, with justice, peace, and working together.”

He said of 9/11 that it could have been a much worse event, and that the calm and involvement of Muslim and non-Muslim community leaders in the aftermath had managed the event to avoid it being worse for all concerned.

Following the ICA event there were other commemorations attended by prominent Muslim speakers all over the Detroit area and literally all day long, so that the scheduling for the events shortened the ICA event; similar events were held at mosques, churches, and synagogues.

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TMO Foundation Awards

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Celebrating Young Muslim Journalists’ Accomplishments

By TMO Staff

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TMO Foundation awardees who were able to attend the August Awards Banquet; l-r:  Noor Hani Salem, Ayesha Jamali, and Asra Najam.

Troy–August 7–Affluent Muslim students are sometimes pushed towards the field of medicine before they know what a career is, much less what they want. And while this profession brings honor to families and individuals, it leaves the community in need of talented and intelligent people in other fields.

Journalism is such a field, and the need for Muslim journalists was the focus of a banquet held by the TMO Foundation at the MET hotel in Troy on Sunday.

About 250 people attended the award ceremony, iftar and fundraiser, including among many other prominent community members, US Congressman Hansen Clarke (D-13-MI), Michigan legislator Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-12), the prominent journalist Gregg Krupa of the Detroit News, important members of the Muslim community, Dr. Jawad Shah and Dr. AbdalMajid Katranji.

The TMO Foundation is a not-for-profit, founded in 2009 by Dr. AS Nakadar, who also is the president and publisher of The Muslim Observer.  The TMO Foundation’s stated aim is to “serve American Muslims through research, scholarships, and journalism.”  Dr. Nakadar of the foundation explained that TMO awarded more than $10,000 in scholarships in 2010, and more in 2011, by means of scholarship essay competitions on subjects relating to the Muslim community in the United States and its need for journalists.

The banquet on Sunday had as MC Dr. Shahid Tahir, and the other speakers at the event included Dr. Saqib Nakadar, Mrs. Sadaf Ali, Dr. AS Nakadar, Dr. Muzammil Ahmed, Mr. Imran Ahmad, and the previously mentioned prominent community members.  Several of the night’s award-winners also spoke at the event.

The overarching theme from all of the speakers was that Muslims must speak out through journalism, to defend the Muslim community against the aggressive anti-Muslim rhetoric that spills from non-Muslims.

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Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks to the TMO Foundation audience Rep. Hansen Clarke and Dr. AS Nakadar address the banquet audience
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Rep. Hansen Clarke presents an award to Jumana Abusalah; Dr. Shahid Tahir is standing to the right. Detroit News reporter Gregg Krupa speaks to the banquet audience (Imam Aly Lela in foreground).

The evening began with recitation of Qur`an, specifically verses from Surat Imran including the verse to hold fast to the rope of God together.

Dr. Saqib Nakadar in his speech said that the publicity for Muslims has been bad recently, and that a part of the function of the TMO Foundation was to bring it back to good publicity again.

Dr. Shahid Tahir, the MC, also gave brief introductory remarks, including an admonition to encourage kids to go into areas other than medicine.

Mrs. Sadaf Ali, a PhD candidate at Wayne State University, introduced the TMO Foundation Writer’s Workshop program which she will head, and introduced the TMO Foundation internship program and Faiz Khan’s Voice of Pakistan internship program, and she announced the winners of the TMO Foundation essay contest.

Ayesha Jamali, the second place essay contest winner, spoke briefly, thanking the TMO Foundation and everyone who helped put the banquet together.

Aqeela Naqvi, the first place winner, sent a video explaining that we should “propagate the truth about Islam.”  She quoted the verse that Allah has made us nations and tribes from one man and one woman, and that we should know one another–Naqvi argued that therefore it would be our strength to embrace our diversity.

Gregg Krupa of the Detroit News was one of the keynote speakers at the event, and he gave a speech on the theme that Muslims must stand up and speak, not only on issues related to our countries of origin or to our religion, but in sports, or any other area we are interested in.

The central story of Mr. Krupa’s speech was a description of a visit he made to the New York Times after 9/11, where he walked down a huge corridor filled with tributes to that preeminent newspaper’s Pulitzer prize winners–at the end of that long corridor he met with the editorial staff of the paper and learned that to their knowledge, and to their consternation, there was not a single Muslim reporter at the paper.

Mr. Krupa emphasized that this fact spoke of a tremendous lack of knowledge about Islam and Muslims, 3 blocks from ground zero at the best newspaper in the country.

He spoke also of his own background working through the civil rights movement towards greater inclusion of African Americans.

Perhaps the most depressing part of Mr. Krupa’s speech was his brief mention of how he had become incapable of continuing as a religion reporter at the Detroit News because of the intolerance of his own editors regarding his writing, and their assigning minimal importance to his efforts to write about religious issues. 

Thus Mr. Krupa shifted to the sports department of the Detroit News.

He emphasized that other faiths before Muslims had to confront gross American prejudices in order to create a niche in this country. Mr. Krupa argued that “more parents will have to content themselves” with children who lower themselves to be journalists instead of doctors, and argued that what is needed in this country is real dialogue, and mutual acceptance.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib spoke at the event of her admiration that all of the winners were women, and emphasized that many non-Muslim journalists write nonsense about Islam, which is then picked up by other non-Muslim journalists who repeat it, and she emphasized the importance for non-Muslim journalists to reach out and talk to the other side.

Dr. Nakadar said that the first commandment of Allah, transmitted through the Angel Jibril (as) to Prophet (s) was “Iqra,” or read.  This is important for two reasons. First, this initial commandment of “iqra” began a 23 year period of revelation and in fact communication, the communication from Allah (swt) through the angel Gabriel (as) to Prophet Muhammad (s); second, the first word of the 23 year period of communication was a commandment to read—thus he argues that communication and iqra (education) are the two most important fundamental aspects of the beginning of Islam. Those who have understood the value of communication and education are flourishing today, while Muslims who have ignored these intial commandments have suffered.

Without a voice, Dr. Nakadar argued, there is no power in politics because political outcomes are predetermined by the tone of the news that reaches people before they vote, or before they act in politics.

“We need to create a new generation of journalists” to address national issues within the framework of Islam.

Dr. Jawad Shah gave another keynote speech, arguing that journalists must give deep thought to their articles before printing them, and that Muslim journalists if true to the ideal he advocated would be able to bring a level of profoundness to their reporting far beyond the superficial coverage he complained of from non-Muslim journalists.

Dr. Katranji followed this impressive list of speakers with an impassioned fundraising effort, which was very successful, gaining thousands of dollars to fund the TMO Foundation’s efforts through the next year.

Dr. Nakadar wanted to thank Mr. Ali Qureshi (New Mexico), Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed (Florida), Dr. M Amirana (Nevada), Mrs. Samia Mustafa (Virginia), Dr. Mazhar Malik (New York), and many others for their support and past contributions.

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A Successful Fundraiser for Carlos Montes

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The fight for justice never stops nor does it seem to ever be able to rest. Human rights activists are under siege for their work, and funds for defense and publicity for their cause are a constant need.

A successful fundraiser was held this past Sunday in Los Angeles to raise money for the defense of human rights activist and Palestinian supporter, Carlos Montes. The Los Angeles Committee to Stop FBI Repression was the sponsor. Beautiful artwork was sold as part of the plan to raise funds.

Mr. Montes was arrested in his home on May 17th by agents of the FBI and a Los Angeles SWAT team. The use of trumped up fire arms charges – the pretext for the arrest – was not merely an excuse to arrest Mr. Montes; it was an attempt to harass and intimidate anti war and Palestinian activists across the nation. Mr. Montes was simply the target in Los Angeles.

In a Muslim Observer article posted March 10 of this year, Mr. Montes and Chicago Palestinian activist, Hatem Abudayyeh, detailed the plight of 23 activists in the mid west who were at the time under subpoena for their work against the wars and for Palestinian independence. Mr. Abudayyeh was on tour in Southern California to present the case to the media and concerned organizations.

In response to this miscarriage of justice, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression was formed, and local committees have grown out of it. Mr. Montes is active in the Los Angeles branch.

Mr. Montes is the Los Angeles target for his outspoken and dedicated work not only against the wars and against the repression of Palestinians, but also for his work with the Immigrant Solidarity Network. He has also spoken out against the policy of the United States vis a vis Columbia.

The Los Angeles Committee to Stop FBI Repression has made three demands: 1) Drop the trumped up charges against Mr. Montes; 2) return all confiscated material obtained during his arrest; 3) Stop the FBI harassment of antiwar and human rights activists throughout the country.

Mr. Montes’ next court date is August 12.

For more information about Mr. Montes and the work of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, please access: www.fightbacknews.org.

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“Transformation Detroit” Meetings

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer

IMG070Monday thru Wednesday there was a series of meetings with reporters from around the country including several from The Muslim Observer, which showcased efforts to improve Detroit’s position in concert with the city government and major industry players including many in the auto industry, and educational and health institutions in the Detroit area.

Wayne State University, the Henry Ford Health System, and Blue Cross Blue Shield have all made large efforts to build the demographics of Detroit, encouraging through financial incentives and by moving their headquarters to downtown Detroit.  The results have been a direct boost to the micro-economy of Detroit, but more importantly a change in the perception of Detroit–from a perception of its danger to an understanding of the opportunity there.

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“Stop Anti-Muslim Acts”

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Hakim and TMO Stringer

P6050015Hamtramck–June 5–”People need to get more involved in their communities,” said leaders at an educational conference held by the Muslim Ummah of North America last Sunday in Hamtramck.

The national faith-based organization has four chapters in Michigan. About 600 guests attended from the north zone.

Hamtramck, home to four large Muslim community groups, namely Bosnian, Bangladeshi, African American and Yemeni, was the venue for the educational conference this past weekend.

MUNA (muslimummah.net) is a large organization which has a Michigan Chapter (headed by Toyab Al-Bari) and a North Zone.  The National President of MUNA is Dr. Sayeed Choudhury.

The North Zone organized this educational conference, and also produces a publication called Flash Point.

Invited speakers included: Congressman John Conyers Jr., A.S. Nakadar, publisher of The Muslim Observer, Dawud Walid from the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter, Sheikh Ali Suleiman president of the Islamic Center of North Detroit and Syed Choudhury, MUNA’s president. Hamtramck council members Kazi Miah and Mohammed Hassan were present.

Congressman Conyers said of the event “Congratulations, you have outgrown this banquet hall.”  He jokingly invited the MUNA organizers to use Cobo hall in Detroit next year or a venue in Dearborn.

Congressman Conyers recently co-signed a call by members of Congress to “Respond to Anti-Muslim Sentiment,” on May 26.  Cosponsors included 24 congressmen, notably including Keith Ellison, Andre Carson, and Charlie Rangel.  Notably the signatories did not include former speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The congressional statement called “for the federal government to take the necessary steps to counter anti-Muslim sentiment.”

MUNA representatives spoke on the activities of MUNA, which have included successful boys and girls “brothers” and “sisters” programs respectively–to involve Muslim young people in fun associations, and they spoke also of the outreach they had done to Muslim youth who are not so active in the community.

Dr. Nakadar in his remarks noted the great accomplishment of Hamtramck in its disproportionately successful Muslim representation in the City Council.

Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan, also spoke.  He spoke of the importance of youth involvement in the Muslim community, and of the importance of providing a good example for young Muslims.

The MUNA conference was very well attended and in fact the banquet hall was filled to capacity.

13-24

MUNA Conference in Hamtramck

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Hakim Rahman, TMO

“The Muslim Ummah of North America’s north zone will have an educational conference in Hamtramck to discuss youth involvement and community development on June 5. MUNA is a social dawah organization in the U.S. which seeks to spread Islam through dawah, organization, education, social service, and relationship building. Michigan has four chapters and 15 sub-chapters, including two youth groups.

Guests will include: Congressman John Conyers Jr., Congressman Hansen Clarke, President of the Islamic Center of North Detroit (Masjid Al-Falah) and Imam of the Canton Masjid, Sheikh Ali Suleiman Ali, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter, Dawud Walid, Imam Aly Lela from the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit, and Publisher of The Muslim Observer Dr. A.S. Nakadar. President of MUNA Dr. Syed Rahman Chowdhury is the keynote speaker.

The program will be held at the Gates of Columbus, 9632 Conant Ave., Hamtramck, MI, from 2:30 – 7 p.m. Admission is free. For more information contact Muhammad Rafiqul Islam at 313.231.1986 or Maleka Begum at 313.492.9695.”

13-23

Islamophobia: a Media Creation

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. AS Nakadar

IMG084 (1)
File:  Interfaith and media event headed by David Crumm.

Note:  Mr. David Crumm, founding editor of ReadtheSpirit.com, former staff reporter for the Free Press,  and activist for interreligious harmony, has held several meetings  of Michigan reporters and newspaper editors in the metro-Detroit area. At the most recent one Dr. Nakadar, publisher of The Muslim Observer, spoke on the importance of diversity and tolerance.  See remarks below.

Ladies and gentleman, I greet you with greetings of peace to you all.

Thank you Mr. David Crumm for giving me this opportunity,

It is a pleasure, privilege and honor to speak to this distinguished group of Journalists,

I am not a journalist, neither a writer nor I a communication expert.

I am a physician by profession, trained to be an Internist and cardiologist. I practiced medicine for 30 years in Western suburbs before I took an early retirement to pursue my social obligations and publication of The Muslim Observer.

This newspaper has been in the circulation for over 11 years serving the community and you may say it is an alternative voice,

Today my biggest concern and the concern of all of us should be the challenges that our pluralistic society and our country face.

Pluralism is the Achilles Heel of our society’s foundation.

And it is this ethos that has led our social, economical and political progress in a democratic setup.

The followers of Abrahamic faiths; Judaism, Christianity and Islam have played a crucial role in shaping the world and its civilization, especially, the two largest faiths, Christianity and Islam.

Today we see this pluralism and cohesiveness shaken to its roots.

In the current scenario the media coverage of Islam may be primary factor for creating Islamophobia.

Most of the time when a reporter covers the news where Christians or Jews or other religions are involved it is covered and analyzed as a political issue, or a conflict and are reported in general terms without linking of any community to an individual or a group’s act.

While a similar news event where Muslims are involved it is covered and analyzed in light of Muslim tradition, beliefs and practices. Apart from this the whole community is held responsible for the action of an individual or a fringe group.

This kind of news reporting about Muslims often invokes emotional response; it captures the audience and helps to improve the bottom line.

But in quest of profit we forget the damage it does to the harmony and pluralistic ethos of our society and to our nation.

Social harmony, respect to each other, and religious tolerance, is a prerequisite for a meaningful progress.

In today’s globalized world the relationship between different faiths is a matter of serious thought   because of increasing interdependence and the changing color of the American mosaic.

Thus it is essential we all work responsibly towards social harmony and pluralistic ethos. 

We will not be able eradicate Islamophobia, like anti Semitism, in near future unless we treat it as our national problem. 

Social activists, religious leaders, politicians our institutions and especially media have critical role to play if we want to transform our societies in eliminating voices of hate and bigotry if we were to promote global understanding of peace.

Our relations have to go beyond “us” verses “them” and to work for our common good.

Zogby survey done in 2004 showed that more than 50% of the Muslims income bracket was over $50,000 as compared to nationwide average income of $47,000 and nearly 60% Muslims are college graduates as compared to 27% as a whole.

We can’t afford to marginalize or alienate the group or the society that has so much to offer for national development.

Let us not define America on our religious or cultural identities but let us define America by the cherished and noble American values of respect for Human Rights, Freedom, Democracy, Justice and respect for the rule of law and to the American constitution. The rest of the world, look up to these values with a universal appeal to them. 

As pointed out by Karen Armstrong, “In the Islamic Empire, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, enjoyed religious freedom.

This reflected the teaching of the Qur’an, which is a pluralistic scripture, affirmative of other traditions.

Muslims are commanded by God to respect the “people of the book” (namely; Jews and Christians) and reminded that they share the same belief and the same God.”

Let us all work responsibly towards better understanding for the sake of our society and our country.

13-19

Letters to the Editor–Disliked Articles

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Dr Nakadar,

I am concerned about a couple of articles that recently appeared in The Muslim Observer. Apart from the articles being controversial it is TMO’s responsibility to avoid slandering those who are devoting their lives to spread the true message of Islam according to the teachings of the Prophet (s).  The article on Dr Zakir Naik was demeaning and hateful….   And similarly is the article of Syed Aslam, against the Imam of Sunnah, Ahmed ibn Hanbal who was viciously tortured to uphold the Sunnah and protect Islam …   These Scholars … deserve our utmost respect, and TMO should have an editorial process to ensure that their reputation is protected, and that the Sunnah is upheld and propagated. 

These are the inheritors of the prophets.

Yes, we need a healthy balance of articles; difference of opinion and critique is one thing, but it should not cross the line in terms of unfair labeling, disrespect, or causing enmity.  As per one hadith, The Muslim is one who other Muslims are safe from his tongue (or in this case, the pen).


Masood Ranginwala
Chairman, Islamic Learning Foundation, NY an Institute of I.C.N.A.

13-17

Successful Demonstration for Freedom in Syria and Libya

April 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

As revolutions sweep the Muslim world, the Southern California community, home to many from that area and their children, are taking a proactive interest in events there.

The Syrian community in the greater Los Angeles area and the Libyan Emergency Task Force there sponsored a well attended and successful demonstration in front of the Federal Building in Los Angeles this past weekend. The event was held to show support for and solidarity with the people of Syria and Libya.

In announcing the demonstration the organizers called attention to the 48 years of one party rule in Syria. Attention also was focused on the civilian deaths resulting from the repressive measures, including the use of live ammunition and mass arrests, on the part of Syrian Special Forces.

The Libyan Emergency Task Force supports the passage of United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 which authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilian life including the well publicized “no fly zone”. The Task Force acknowledges the need for United States participation to unseat dictator Muammar Qaddifi.

The local Libyan Emergency Task Force is in contact with the main office, located in Washington, D. C. .  A meeting will be held in the near future to facilitate the centralization of the group’s work.

Idris Traina, a spokesperson for the Task Force, told The Muslim Observer that a critical situation – a barrier -exists with respect to aiding the Libyan civilians. It is presently against United States law to send money to Libya even under the auspices of charity and for humanitarian reasons. Efforts are underway through contact with elected officials to repeal or mitigate this law.

When asked what type of government he wanted for Libya, he replied one that is “democratic and free” with an “open society and formation of political parties”.

A fundraiser for Libya was held in early March and others are planned for the future as soon as US based charity organizations are allowed to provide help inside Libya.

Motorists travelling along the busy thoroughfare where the Federal Building is located honked their approval of the signs held by the demonstrators.

For further information, please contact: Ammar Khaf at ammar@kahf.com or Sarah Larbah  at sarah.larbah@gmail.com.

13-15

War & Water in South Asia

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Los Angeles—April 10th—Ashok C. Shukla, an independent scholar, who has written and edited several books on South Asian security issues that are largely available in India, but, unfortunately, too often have to be imported from there into North America.  He has been commissioned by an editor to compose a chapter on energy security in the environs for as yet unnamed publisher.

Most of the presentation was on the problematic future transport of oil and gas across Pakistan into India.  Yet, the crucial issue of water came up early.  With today’s political situation, fresh water is problematical there, too — competitive to say the least. The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin provides the fresh water or part of it for all but two of the area’s nations.  This probably supplies a billion people with their drinkable supply of water.  The competition between India and Pakistan is a volatile one, and most likely will not terminate itself to the satisfaction of all parties anytime soon.  At the very worse it could become a trigger for thermo-nuclear war between the two military giants within Southern Asia that could destroy hundreds of millions of people along with its ancient civilization!

(Also, not as pressing, towards the east, there have been unsubstantiated accusations that India has been skimming off part of Bangladesh’s aquifer.)

As has been intimated, Dr. Shukla’s chapter will examine the energy insecurity of the remarkably expanding economy of India.  (Since this is the Muslim Observer, although Bharat (India’s) population is only 12% Islamic [about the same percentage as Afro-Americans in the United States], it has the second highest Islamic national numbers in the world.  In Pakistan, 98% of the country is Muslim; Afghanistan, who potentially could play a role in the transportation of oil and gas to the Subcontinent, is circa 99%.  Bangladesh is an Islamic State Constitutionally along with substantial non-Muslim minorities, though; and most of the new raw energy-rich former Soviet Republics are (Socialist) secularized Islamic States currently rediscovering their Islamic roots.  (Your essayist wishes to point to the veracity of the Islamic political issues of the discussion which were not considered by Mr. Shukla.)

Both India and Pakistan are important to the interests of Washington because of the economic rise of New Delhi and the strategic military significance of Rawalpindi.  Also, within, South Asia, there are overbearing ecological issues impacting the entire globe.  India desperately, requires propulsion sources for their spectacularly expanding industries which resides in raw form in Central Asia and Iran, but Islamabad (and to a lesser extent Afghanistan) holds the key transit routes for the necessary pipelines.  The bad feeling between Indo-Pakistan means that in any crisis the Pakistanis have the capability to turn off the valves bringing India’s burgeoning economy to a halt.  Further, the United States is against India buying Iranian gas which would, also, transverse Pakistan.  (This goes back to our bad relations with the Persians which probably will turn out to be temporary anyway.) The United States is pressing for the pipelines to go through Turkestan.  Nevertheless, added to American opposition, New Delhi does not accept Pakistan’s terms to permit a pipeline from Tehran.) 

Whatever, SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) will not involve itself in political matters between India and Pakistan by the very nature of its charter (it is only an economic organization), and, thus, will not intervene in bi-lateral matters.  (For this reason, it lacks relevance as a prospective influential territorial negotiator on dangerous political issues over the vastness of the geographical extent of the Indic sphere. 

Ashok C. Shukla ended his proposed chapter with the statement that South Asia totally lacks energy security.

(Your reporter pointed to the fact that Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, may be sitting on a sea of gas.  Although a Muslim country it is friendly to India [as is Iran and the Central Asian Republics].  One of the reasons that the gas fields have not been developed is that the technology to liquefy the gaseous energy has not been perfected yet in large enough quantities to ship it to the West and China on ships.  It would make sense, though, to send it to India through pipes, and that would solve the energy security issue for New Delhi, and, further, it would help with the ecological problem since the Republic of India depends on coal for its industrial expansion, and natural gas is much, much cleaner burning).

Dr. Shukla rejected this due to Bangladesh’s nationalistic sensibilities (which your writer finds it hard to believe, for the East Bengals badly require foreign exchange, and their gas could make them as rich as some of the Middle East oil giants! ) 

12-20

Muslim Observer Writer Takes Part in Conference

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

The Muslim Observer’s Dr. Geoffrey Cook took part in a conference sponsored by the South Asia Studies Association this past weekend. The two day event was titled: “South Asia and the West: Entwined, Entangled, and Engaged” and took place on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.
Dr, Veena Howard of the University of Oregon was the other presenter. Professor Dean McHenry of the Claremont Graduate school was the moderator.

Both scholars spoke on India’s M K Gandhi, his philosophy and his teachings and influence. Dr. Howard was the first speaker.

Dr. Howard’s specialities are comparative religion and Hindu thought. She is associated with the University of Oregon and Lane Community College in Eugene. She has delivered papers at other symposia including the Peace and Justice Studies Association and the Darma Association of North America.

She began by describing the eclectic sources of the philosophy of M K Gandhi. Yet, the philosophy he espoused and taught was his own. His passive resistance or satyagraha can be easily misunderstood if examined through the filter of Western values. Here it would imply a do nothing approach even in the face of injustice and oppression. Quite the contrary, Gandhi mobilized the masses including groups within India that were normally marginalized. He did this with “soul force”

His call to vows of chastity, simplicity and fearlessness resounded within the religious traditions of his country. They empowered rather than deprived his followers.He believed that Truth was the only perfect description of God.

“The soul is supreme”, said Gandhi and compared the soul to a to a superior steel sword. He appealed to the Indian collective and urged the people to pit their strength against evil through inner force.

Dr. Cook told his audience that Gandhi was as concerned with the welfare of Muslims in India as he was with Hindus. He wrote about Palestine from the 1920’s through the 1940’s. He also favored a caliphate in Turkey.

Gandhi’s opposition was not to Jews living in Palestine. He believed that friendship between Jews and Arab Muslims was possible – indeed the perfect solution -, and history would seem to support it. He opposed the assertion by Zionists of sovereign rights and the imposition of governance by them. His opposition was to Zionism as a political branch of Judaism and supported only by a small percentage of Jews. Making allowances for the time in which he lived, his bias was toward a one state solution (though the term was not in popular use then).

Dr. Cook spoke of his meeting with Dr. Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur for the (Israeli) Occupied Territories. Dr. Falk was denied entry into Israel despite his standing. He favors a one state solution for the Israeli conflict, a point which Dr. Cook disputes. Dr. Cook suggested to Dr. Falk that he read Gandhi’s central essay

Dr, Cook described M K Gandhi as having a mind that was “a curious mixture of the practical and the impractical”. He developed his methodologies on non violence in South Africa. His commitment to truth and to justice would permeate his thoughts and his proposals.

Gandhi sympathized with Jews, but his devotion to truth and justice would not permit him to sanction Zionist entry into Palestine under “British bayonets”. He regarded Palestine as a British possession in the same way that his own country of India was a British possession.

Dr. Cook spoke of how much different the world might be today had we listened to Gandhi; how much freer from the conflicts that seem to be endless, in South East Asia and in the oPt particularly.

A question and answer session followed the two presentations.

12-16

Gaza Freedom Marchers vs Egyptian Police

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Gaza has become the central focus of the human rights struggle. Many groups have called for its liberation, and many are striving to bring aid to that beleaguered area. This concern has accelerated since the launching of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead last year and the devastation that this operation wrought.

A coalition led by Code Pink had announced plans to enter Gaza through Rafah during a three week period which would coincide with the first anniversary of Israel’s destructive campaign. While in Gaza the group planned to march from Rafah to the Eretz crossing – the entry into Gaza from Israel – and symbolically link there with marchers from Israel.

Mary Hughes-Thompson, familiar to readers of The Muslim Observer and to activists worldwide, was a participant in the planned Gaza Freedom March. Ms Thompson is a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and has travelled to the Occupied Palestinian Territories several times. She  is co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement and was on the first ship to reach Gaza in August 2008, breaking a decades long siege. She has given The Muslim Observer an interview.

The story of the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) and its failure to achieve its announced goal is a story whose central factor and key players are Egyptian collaboration. The Egyptian police used an intimidating physical presence to thwart the peaceful demonstrators.

In late December some 1400 international activists assembled in Cairo prepatory to travelling to El Arish and then on to Rafah.  On arriving in Cairo they were told by the Egyptian authorities that they would not be permitted to assemble or to travel to Gaza.

Code Pink as speaker for the Gaza Freedom Marchers announced a press conference. Immediately after the announcement they were told by Egyptian authorities that they could not hold a press conference.

TMO:  Am I correct that the Gaza Freedom Marchers went to Cairo with the expectation that the proper protocol had been observed and that they would be permitted to travel to Rafah?

Ms Thompson:  The Egyptian authorities had agreed to facilitate our travelling to Gaza.  They had asked that the names and passport information for all participants be provided to them by November 30th, and this was done.

TMO:  What reason did the Egyptian authorities give for disallowing a press conference?

Ms Thompson:  I do know they had originally granted permits for both the press conference and for the orientation meeting which was scheduled to be held December 27th.  A few days earlier Egypt suddenly withdrew the permits which meant we could not hold either event.

TMO:  Could you tell us what threats were made to taxi cab drivers and/or bus drivers to prevent the group from using these means of transportation?

Ms Thompson:  They were told their licenses would be revoked.

TMO:  Could you tell us the behavior of the Egyptian police when they blocked the exits from a number of hotels where activists were staying?

Ms Thompson:  They blocked exits from a number of the hotels where activists were staying.  We had several policemen stationed outside our hotel at all times, and every time we left we were asked where we were going and when we would be back.  The first couple of days a policeman came with us in our taxi and stayed with us all day.  Each time we took a taxi from our hotel, a policeman questioned the driver, took his license number and ID, and, on one occasion, sat on the hood of our taxi refusing to let us leave.

TMO:  Did the GFM group at any time engage in or threaten violence?

Ms Thompson:  I would definitely say no to that. There was not a great deal of violence at all but what there was was on the part of the Egyptian police trying to control the crowds and trying to lock us into our hotels to prevent us from assembling.

TMO:  Did you have an opportunity to interact with the Egyptian people?

Ms Thompson:  While in Egypt we met several high profile people who were actively engaged in protesting. In fact, we went to the courthouse one day to support a local lawyer who was part of a group trying to challenge the Egyptian government’s building of the wall along the Rafah border. At the end of our trip Yvonne Ridley hired a van to take us to the pyramids (so she could videotape Hedy). {TMO: Hedy Epstein, an 85 year old Holocaust survivor and a Palestinian activist}, and our driver pointed to the spot on which we had been roughed up a few days earlier and said:  “The other day there was a revolution there.”

TMO:  Would you describe for our readers the details of the Egyptian police activity vis a vis your group at Tahrir Square?

Ms Thompson:  We decided that on the day we had planned to march to Erez crossing, we would hold a symbolic march in Cairo, and go as far as the Egyptian police would let us.  We started in Tahrir Square, opposite the Museum, and we ended there.  We came in small groups of two or three, from all directions, and the police were waiting for us.  They stopped my group (me, Hedy, and her two friends from St Louis, Sandra and J’Ann) and wouldn’t let us go to the meeting point.  We refused to leave, and insisted we were tired and needed to sit on a bench on the sidewalk.  Suddenly we saw a swarm of people crossing the street, and we ran to join them.  We were immediately surrounded by policemen three deep, and they wouldn’t let anyone in or out.

Generally the police didn’t use rough tactics, and I think my grey hair and cane might have helped me.

Even assembly in small groups was not permitted and any such gatherings were quickly surrounded by Egyptian police in riot gear.

Eventually through the intervention of Susan Mubarak, the head of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, 100 of the Gaza Freedom marchers were told they could travel to Gaza and bring with them the supplies they wanted to provide to the people there. This happened before the event at Tahrir Square.

TMO:  Thank you Ms Thompson on behalf of The Muslim Observer. You have given us an insight into events in Cairo, an insight not readily accessible in the media.

12-13

Deliberate Act of Insult and Humiliation

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

The day our vice president talked of peace in Israel, the right wing religious fundamentalist government of Benjamin Netenyahoo slapped him by making the announcement that the Jewish state would construct 1600 new houses in the occupied territories. Of course, building of illegal settlements is nothing new. Israel has been indulging in illegal construction against the will of all the civilized world, but humiliating a friend the way Biden was treated is something new in Israel’s defiant diplomacy.

It is learned from reliable sources that the prime minister knew of the announcement well in advance and many US Jewish leaders also knew about before the start of the Biden visit.

It is believed that the act of making the announcement was  deliberate and the purpose was to teach the Obama Administration a lesson in promoting a new Jewish lobbying group against AIPAC and conventional Zionist groups. The Muslim Observer has learned from close Washington sources including many congressional sources that Israel wanted to hurt the Obama Administration at a time when Washington is divided over health care reform and financial stimulus package. Israel had hoped that its supportive members in Congress from both the parties would ensure that the decisions to construct illegal settlement is accepted.

The Israeli prime minister knew about the announcement in advance as he was briefed by the interior ministry. It is obvious that the purpose was to punish Americans and hurt the Obama Administration.  Israel however did not realize that the reaction of the Administration would be strong. It did not expect the State Department to reprimand the fundamentalist government.

Obviously, the AIPAC is doing all it can to intimidate and placate congressmen on both sides. With elections in November, many congressmen feel that they are  in a corner. In tight races, they believe they cannot afford to anger AIPAC and Jewish voters. They are trying to influence the vice presidential office and the state department to tone down their condemnation.

The Muslim Observer has learned from sources close to several l congressmen that  AIPAC supporters allegedly threatened to withdraw their support to them if they did not openly oppose the State Department.

Simultaneously, the religious right and pro-Zionist Christian groups are being approached by the pro-Israeli lobby to ensure that those who are take the side  of Biden and Clinton on this issue are taught a lesson in November election.

It is apparent that Israeli lobby is making determined efforts to impact the Administration and the forthcoming congressional elections. Certainly, this is going to hurt the interests of the US as it s engaged in a war against terrorism. By opening a new front to humiliate the US and hurt its interests, the so called closest ally has tried to weaken American resolve to fight terrorism and defend its dignity.

Israel is telling 300 million Americans, we do not care about you and about the international community because we own the congress as our supportive organizations are in total control of the electoral manipulations.

With friends like these who would need enemies.

12-12

Letter to Editor re. Azher Quader

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Muslim Observer is to be highly commended and praised for serving it’s constituency by printing a highly inspiring and freshly-composed essay on “Love of Divine” by Azher Quader (Muslim Observer Feb. 20, 2010).  “True Love for Divine is a state of being.  A life of doing.  Doing things for others.”  Azher Quader’s poetry is inspiring.  I thank Muslim Observer for publishing them.

Thank you,
Sher Mohammed Rajput
Chicago, Illinois

12-11

Advertise Here on The Muslim Observer Website!

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

To begin advertising on our site just click here—you can do the whole process by yourself (of course we have to approve your ad before it appears on our site, which could take as long as two business days).

The Muslim Observer is an exciting newspaper with a vibrant website—every day on average about 1,200 of your potential customers peruse our website.  Why not reach them directly?  The TMO website is not only read by Muslims—many people from many walks of life and people from around the USA and around the world read this website for a different point of view.  American Muslims are typically doctors, engineers, professionals who are active and affluent—great customers!

Take a look at a slideshow of some of our recent statistics:

As you can see, our numbers by and large have continually improved over the last few years, to the point now where we have on some days 2,400 unique human visitors on our site, each one viewing at least one page on the site and potentially more, not to mention the advertising that appears before them.

To begin our automated process for advertising on our site just click here—you can do the whole process by yourself, any time of day or night, 24/7! Of course we have to approve your ad before it appears on our site, which could take as long as two business days.  Or call us at:  two-four-eight-426-7777.

Thank you!

Please have a look around our website while you’re here! 

Muslim Americans for Palestine Event

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

muzammil-siddiqi
Muzzamil Siddiqi

The plight of the Palestinian people as they suffer under the boot of Israeli occupation is at the forefront of humanitarian concerns of people throughout the globe. Many individuals and organizations have addressed themselves to the Palestinian plight.

In December of 2009, as the world observed the first anniversary of Operation Cast Lead and the devastation wrought then by Israeli forces on an already beleaguered land, a new organization pledged to help Palestine was introduced to the public.

Muslim Americans for Palestine (MAP) is a project of the youth division of the Muslim American Society (MAS). Readers of The Muslim Observer will be familiar with MAP as its formation was announced at the MAS convention during the last weekend of the year. Its objectives are in many ways similar to those of other Palestine oriented group, yet it is also distinctive.

This past Saturday the group held its first formal event, a banquet and fundraiser at the Crowne Park Anaheim Resort in Garden Grove, Ca. Islamic Relief cosponsored the event and was the recipient of the funds collected. Islamic Relief will use the funds for their relief work in Palestine.

After prayers the evening began with a recitation and translation from the Holy Koran. Dinner followed.

During the early evening as people took their seats, two screens presented a video of MAP and its founding principles and goals.

The keynote speaker was Alison Weir, a human rights activist from Northern California. She spoke of the plight of Palestinians from her personal experiences and from the testimony she has received from eye witnesses, victims, and victims families. Her first trip to the oPt was in 2001 and was a fact finding expedition. What she discovered was the reverse of what she had been told by the media and her own government. Her organization, If Americans Knew, and her web site, www.ifamericansknew.org  are excellent and hard hitting sources of knowledge about Palestine.

As she spoke, her quiet voice and her presentation of facts and the inevitable conclusions these facts indicated, captivated the audience. Her emphasis was on the bias of the American media toward the state of Israel and against the Palestinian people. Ms Weir cited major news outlets: The New York Times, ABC, CBS and NBC Evening News and the Associated Press. “I am not talking about Fox News” she said.  She spoke of their unerring misreporting of deaths, always exaggerating Israeli losses and minimizing Palestinian ones; always manifesting a bias towards Israel with such consistency that it defied simple error or random chance. As she spoke, charts were shown on the two screens, statistical proof the accuracy of her claims. In addition cards were passed out to every guest with similar data.

Ms Weir included National Public Radio in her list of news outlets biased towards Israel.

Ms. Weir concluded by urging her audience toward action.

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi was another informative speaker. Dr. Muzammil’s leadership in the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC); the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); the Fiqh Council of North America, and the Islamic Society of Orange County (ISOC), to name but a few organizations, have made him a sought-after speaker. As a theologian and Islamic scholar he is also famous for his interfaith work.

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi spoke of his trip to Palestine with interfaith leaders. The audience gasped when he spoke of the  650 checkpoints imposed on Palestinians by their Israeli occupiers..

“ I never imagined that there would be so many. How do you get through the day?” asked one young woman. As if in answer to her question Dr. Siddiqi spoke of the hardships wrought by these checkpoints on workers, students, and people in need of medical help.

Dr. Siddiqi urged people to visit the oPt and “see with their own eyes” the conditions there.

Dr. Siddiqi also spoke of the place of Jerusalem in the Islamic faith and referenced Koranic verses.

Attorney and human rights activist Reem Salahi spoke of the “Irvine 11”. A murmur passed through the audience with this familiar reference. These eleven students are threatened with expulsion or suspension by the University of California in Irvine (UCI) for exercising their free speech rights during the appearance on campus of Israeli Ambassador to the United State Michael Oren. In addition, the University has referred their case to the District Attorney in Orange County.

Ms Salahi was part of a delegation to Gaza a year ago, a delegation sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild. There the group found numerous violations of International law on the part of the Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead.

Ms Salahi said that to speak of the Irvine 11 was not off subject. They are symbolic of the plight of the Palestinian people. The Israelis are the occupiers and the oppressors. The presence of their representative at UCI is not acceptable.

In dealing with the Israeli/Palestine issue she made an analogy with a boat that should be parallel but is instead diagonal with Israel on top. Muslims want fairness for Palestine: they want to right the boat.

Muslim Americans for Palestine has a three pronged approach to the Palestinian problem: Educate, Empower, Preserve. It is a grass roots organization dedicated to justice and self determination in Palestine. Recognizing the natural affinity between the American Muslim community for Palestine and recognizing also the pioneering spirit embodied in youth, MAP, in accordance with the Islamic faith. has been launched.

For further information, please access the MAP web site at: www.mapalestine.org

Islamic Relief may be accessed at its web site: www.islamic-relief.com.

12-10

Hebrew Motivation: 15 Million Jews Need 1.5 Billion Muslims

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Monotheism – We Are All Praying To The Same G_d

By Gary D. Mizel, Special To The Muslim Observer

At the outset of this opinion piece, I would like to express that after reading many issues of The Muslim Observer, I would characterize the newspaper as being journalistically at the same level as most of the highly esteemed papers around the country.  I say this because it is true;  and I also say it because I want to diffuse any criticism of the paper that would be used as a method of opposing me for appearing (as a Jew) in the text of TMO.

I would like to extol the Islamic community by citing a compliment that came from a noted Rebbetzin (Rabbi’s wife), which was expressed during a Torah study lecture.  In the midst of complaining, she came out with the following idea:  Muslims are more observant than Jews in a particular way because they devoutly pray five times a day.  This was meant to shame the audience to a degree whom she was trying to persuade to be more openly observant.  As for myself, I would simply assert that after having met scores of Muslims (mostly from studying the Koran at the Islamic Cultural Center on 96th street) I have never exchanged or been exposed to any harsh words.  One young man told me he did not like Jews and I answered that there is nothing I can do about that.  He smiled as if he were just testing me;  and we became friends.

It is my belief that the followers of the main religions spend more time adhering to the rituals of their faith than investigating what methods can be used to create peace and to bring the world together by declaring that we are all the same – all members of the human species.  Although we are commanded not to kill, we murder ourselves by murdering our own human kind.  The method of war that involves soldiers dying is as offensive as it is primitive.  It is much more cost effective to conduct a war through propaganda and influencing public opinion rather than having a human life extinguish during conflict.  It is exponentially more expensive to equip fighting men, train them, gather their bodies for burial, and take care of the wounded (physically and psychologically) for 50 years, or the rest of their lives.  Marketing leaves no scars and, like political elections, outcomes can change through the application and introduction of laws more easily and without physical conflict.  With this background, let me share what I view as the main pathway to peace – and that is to use the force of capitalism as the ultimate peacetime tool.

There are so many Muslims that are frustrated because they subsist without careers or upward mobility.  When I, myself, had no investment capital but many entrepreneurial ideas – I came to be angry, frustrated, and depressed with ideations of suicide, homicide, and overwhelming anxiety.  During such moods, I found temporary salvation by receiving some kind words and by immersing myself into some sort of creative activity.  Through this process I discovered that what made me feel healthy again was commerce and the pursuit of happiness by making money.

This point of view is what I would like to share with the readership of The Muslim Observer.         

From my experience in the business world, I have never witnessed a more uplifting event than when two or more people make money together.  When my partner Joan and myself went to the real estate office for a closing from the sale of one of our properties, I felt (like the old adage) that I was walking on air.  My mind was filled with the history of our buying a property, fixing it up, changing the zoning, and selling it for 50% more than what we paid.  When Joan and I would go out for a celebration, the feeling was euphoric.  My mind was filled with deploying our new capital to buy another building, buy clothes at the most prestigious store, buy my friend a mink coat, and try to select from my mind a myriad of daydreams all with ecstasy at their root.

This feeling is what I would like to share with my Muslim brothers and sisters.  Here is how.

I suggest that we form a company that would serve as a role model for Arabs and Hebrews alike.  We would start our project in a mosque where a Muslim audience would share with its Jewish hosts what kinds of negative feelings they may harbor towards the Jews.  The Jewish role would be to listen and ask questions so that by the end of the evening the Islamic contingent would feel that their complaints have been heard and understood. 

Then we would go about selecting an Arab (preferably Palestinian) to be my partner in a 50/50 commercial joint venture.  Myself and my Muslim partner would be co-chairmen, have an equal amount of stock in the company, and would receive the same salary and other compensation.  This scenario represents equality in many forms.  We would choose our business together such as bread, coffee, or art;  and we would market this company as being the most important in the world as its success would engender imitation and the concomitant growth of Muslim business sectors worldwide.

We would hire a Muslim videographer to document our salient experiences to use as promotional material or forge into a documentary.  Our marketing and PR would suggest that buying our product would be helping the world.  During the creation of our marketing plan, I would call upon painter extraordinaire, the great Anki King, to draft some sketches of our company logo. 

With permission from my partner, I would go for an icon that is symbolic of the two sides collaborating with each other such as a combination of the Crescent Moon and the Star of David.  Whatever image we decide upon in tandem would be augmented once again with the idea that buying our product is the equivalent of “Tikkun Olam” which is Hebrew for “repairing the world.” 

Once the Jews are in this position, their feet will be set in concrete, and I believe they will become more involved and seek new ways for our company to thrive.  Most importantly, besides the creation of a substantial revenue flow, our Muslim and Jew will work out our conflicts by speaking the language of business and not becoming confused or overwhelmed by making the entire initiative a religious experience.  Speaking for the Jews, I can say that we would not intend to convert anyone because (even though most people want to belong to the best or winningest religion) God hears all prayers.  Lastly, I simply want to express that I would relish having a Muslim partner.  I would promise loyalty to my partner;  and I would look forward to our commercial success as being a far reaching lesson in living and working together.  I would love human beings more fervently and love making a major contribution to the direction in which the human species determines to take. 

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Once More to Gaza

February 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Readers of The Muslim Observer are familiar with the Free Gaza Movement which in August of 2008 sailed two ships from Cyprus to Gaza breaking a decades long blockade by Israel. Four more missions followed successfully. The sixth voyage resulted in an attack by Israeli Naval forces that severely damaged the ship putting the lives of all aboard in jeopardy. The captain was able to bring the ship safely to a port in Lebanon; during the seventh attempt Israeli threats to the safety of the passengers along with terrible weather forced the ship to return to port.The eighth vessel was hijacked by the Israeli Navy, resulting in the confiscation of the vessel and the imprisonment of its passengers and crew in Israel. Despite repeated requests from Free Gaza attorneys, the ship has not yet been returned.
This courageous undertaking was the inspiration for other subsequent movements to aid the beleaguered people of Gaza.

Those who believed that the mission was over, that the dream had ended, did not reckon correctly with the dedication and courage of the people of the Free Gaza Movement. This spring a flotilla of six to ten boats will again sail to Gaza. Of these, five have been funded by IHH from Turkey, and a third, a cargo ship, has been funded by donations from the people of Malaysia. This time the Israeli Navy will be faced with a small navy, a navy of freedom fighters.

The ships will carry reconstruction material essential to the rebuilding of Gaza yet forbidden to them by the Israelis.

Fundraising is essential as is maximum publicity. Returning members of Viva Palestina and the Gaza Freedom March make excellent speakers for fundraising events. Since the Israeli occupiers do not permit the importation of paper or paper products, the Free Gaza Movement has launched a campaign which it has titled: The Right to Read. Books that are desperately needed are listed on the group’s web site: <www.freegaza.org>. If reconstruction material is to be donated, please contact friends@freegaza.org.

Three leaders and founders of the Free Gaza Movement were recently honored by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Greta Berlin, Paul Larudee and Kathy Sheets were each given a Gertrude Welch Peace and Justice Award.

The California organization established the award to honor those who made an outstanding contribution to social justice and peace both locally and globally.
Those who support the goals of the Free Gaza Movement but are not able to make the trip are urged to work in an auxiliary capacity.

In addition to fundraising and publicity supporters can urge their members of congress or parliament to join the voyagers. The Movement already has Members of Parliament from South Africa, Turkey, Malaysia, Europe, and South America on board.

Members of a land crew, support crew and media are also needed for the coming journey.

Suggestions, volunteering and contributions may be made at the above cited web site.

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