Muslim Leaders Participate in Mayor Emanuel’s Inauguration

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

CIOGC Report

kareem250 (1)Imam Kareem Irfan, President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago and former Chairperson of CIOGC was one of the faith leaders that offered an invocation at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s inauguration on May 16.

“It was both inspiring and humbling for me to to speak as the first Muslim President of CRLMC as more than 6,000 Chicagoans gathered in Millennium Park,” said Imam Irfan. “Having offered the first-ever Muslim prayer at Chicago’s City Council at Mayor Daley’s 2003 Inauguration, I felt privileged as an American Muslim to now offer focused remarks and an invocation for peace at Mr. Emanuel’s personal request and to a gathering which included Mayor Daley, the Chicago City Council, Vice President Biden and several members of President Obama’s Cabinet. Considering this a critical opportunity for wise dawah, I pray that I was able to provide an informed, firm and professional Muslim perspective reflective of our heritage of sensitive outreach and compassion for all.

Excerpt from his invocation:

“On behalf of all the faiths represented on our Council, most certainly including the Muslim community, be assured we will engage sincerely with your administration and the City Council as we together tackle the challenges of economic instability, gun violence, homelessness, healthcare, education and immigration. We will especially help counter the ugly resurgence of faith-related bigotry, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism by compassionate understanding and meaningful collaboration forged across Chicago’s diverse faiths in order to realize a peaceful and prosperous society. Today marks the launch of that collective commitment as all of us Chicagoans and Americans join hands in pursuit of these lofty objectives.”

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Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui honored with Human Relations Award

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

DrMuzammilSiddiqui-002ORANGE COUNTY, CA–Distinguished Imam Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui was honored with the the Community Leader Award by the Orange County Human Relations on its 40th anniversary.

On our 40th anniversary, OC Human Relations takes great pride in honoring these extraordinary people,” says C. William Wood, chair of the OC Human Relations Commission.  “These are Orange County’s unsung heroes, the people who dedicate tremendous amounts of their own time with no expectation of reward or recognition to make the county a better place for all people to live, work and do business.  At a time in our nation’s history when so many communities are polarized it’s a privilege to highlight the efforts of these bridge builders.”

The commission published an overview of Dr. Siddiqui’s long listing of contributions: “Dr. Siddiqi has served 30 years as the Imam of the first and largest Mosque in Orange County. Despite the hate and vandalism the mosque has too often faced, Dr. Siddiqi has always reacted with compassion. He brings a moderate, forgiving, open and embracing approach to his efforts. Dr. Siddiqi co-found the Academy for Judeo, Christian and Islamic Studies in the late 1970’s to build understanding between these three Abrahamic faiths and to emphasize their commonalities, despite the political conflict that at times drives wedges between them.

He has led and organized many interfaith dialogues, spoken at the World Assembly of Churches and participated in many seminars organized by the National Council of Churches and the National Council of Christians and Jews. In September 2001, President Bush invited him to lead a Muslim Prayer at the Interfaith Prayer Service at Washington’s National Cathedral. The Los Angeles Times, in recognizing Dr. Siddiqi as one of the 100 most influential people in California, described him as “…the religious leader of thousands of Southern California Muslims at a time when xenophobia is running high, he has been a leader in driving home the point that Muslims in the U.S. are peace loving.”

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$100 Million Mosque To Be Built Near Ground Zero

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“$100 million project will create a venue for mainstream Islam and a counterbalance to radicalism”

By Cristian Salazar, Associated Press

ground-zero NEW YORK In a building damaged by debris from the Sept. 11 airliners that brought down the World Trade Center and soon to become a 13-story mosque, some see the bridging of a cultural divide and an opportunity to serve a burgeoning, peaceful religious population. Others see a painful reminder of the religious extremism that killed their loved ones.

Two Muslim organizations have partnered to open the mosque and cultural center in lower Manhattan, saying the $100 million project will create a venue for mainstream Islam and a counterbalance to radicalism. It earned a key endorsement this week from influential community leaders.

But some 9/11 victims’ families said they were angered that it would be built so close to where their relatives died.

“I don’t like it,” said Evelyn Pettigano, who lost a sister in the attacks, during a phone interview on Thursday. “I’m not prejudiced. … It’s too close to the area where our family members were murdered.”

But the growing number of congregants at the only other nearby mosque, open only one day a week, created a need for an additional space for Muslim prayer in the neighborhood, said Daisy Khan, the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement and a board member of the Cordoba Initiative, the two organizations sponsoring the project.

The history associated with the building, a former Burlington Coat Factory store that closed after being damaged on 9/11, was a reason to pick it for the project, she said.

“We want to create a platform by which the voices of the mainstream and silent majority of Muslims will be amplified. A center of this scale and magnitude will do that,” Khan said. “We feel it’s an obligation as Muslims and Americans to be part of the rebuilding of downtown Manhattan.”

The organizations publicly unveiled the preliminary plan for the project, known as the Cordoba House, on Wednesday at a meeting of the finance committee of the local community board, which is composed of influential stakeholders in lower Manhattan. While the agency has no authority over what can be developed at the site, their support is viewed as key to gaining acceptance from residents.

Edward “Ro” Sheffe, the chairman of the financial district committee for Community Board 1, said the 15 members passed a resolution of support for the project, though he emphasized that the board had no authority to approve or disapprove of a house of worship, per se. Indeed, he said the developers could do whatever they wanted with the building, which they own.

“They came to tell us what they had in mind and see what we felt about it,” he said. “The understanding we came away with was that this was an ongoing dialogue.”

The members’ only concerns had to do with the aesthetics of the building, and whether it would fit with the surrounding architecture, he said. The overall feeling was one of goodwill because the financial district, a fast-growing residential area, lacks for amenities such as community centers.

“We very much need residential amenities for the people who live here,” he said.

But the simple idea of a mosque so near ground zero angered those whose family members were killed by adherents to radical Islam.

“I think it’s despicable, and I think it’s atrocious that anyone would even consider allowing them to build a mosque near the World Trade Center,” said Rosemary Cain, whose son, George Cain, a firefighter, died on Sept. 11.

Anita LaFond Korsonsky, a Livingston, N.J., woman who lost her sister, also said she had misgivings.

“I presume that these people aren’t going to be gathering there to plan another attack,” she said.

The Muslim organizations plan to announce the groundbreaking later this year, possibly to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the attacks, Khan said. It could take up to three years to build the Cordoba House; the groups currently have no funds for the project but plan to start raising money, she said.

A Friday prayer service has been held since September at the building, she said.

Marvin Bethea, a paramedic who survived the toxic collapse of the twin towers and suffers from a range of afflictions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and asthma, said he supports the mosque.

“Not all Muslims are terrorists,” Bethea said. “Muslims died on 9/11, as well. This is a tremendous gesture to show that we’re not all full of hatred and bigotry.”

[Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed to this report.]

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