Community News (V13-I50)

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Philanthropist Shahid Khan to buy Jaguars

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

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

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

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

Lafayette Islamic Centre to hold community kitchen

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

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

No prayer room at Purdue University Calumet campus

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

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

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

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

Tulsa police captain’s plea denied

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

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

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

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

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Muslim Spelling Bee

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Community News (V13-I39)

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Presentation on Islam in Humboldt

EUREKA,CA–In order to obtain cultural/inter-religious harmony in the community through diffusion of information, the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission and the Humboldt County Library are co-sponsoring a one hour presentation on “Understanding Islam” by Abdul Aziz, professor emeritus at Humboldt State University.

It will be held from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Conference Room of the Humboldt County Library, 1313 3rd St., Eureka, on Saturday.

Fundamentals of Islam including issues such as the concept of God, the life of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim beliefs, modes of worship, various forms of Jihad, status of women, suicide bombing and terrorism with reference to the current political and social environment will be discussed in light of the teachings of the Quran. However, any question on Islam will be welcome.

Aziz has taught an off-campus HSU course, “Introduction to Islamic Culture,” for a number of years. He is also a past Humboldt County Human Rights commissioner.

There is no cost to attend. Everyone is invited. For more information, call 707-822-8217

Fast-a-thon to be held at UNM

The Muslim Student’s Association at the University of New Mexico will hold its annual Fast-A-Thon this week to raise money and awareness for famine in the eastern horn of Africa.

Last year’s fast raised roughly $1,200 for flood relief in Pakistan. This year organizers says they hope to raise even more money and more awareness to help end world hunger.

“Just because now they don’t talk about it that much in the media, doesn’t mean people aren’t starving to death anymore,” said MSA President Mustafa in an interview to the student newspaper. “We need to keep focus and attention on people who need help, not just because it’s a news story, but because as human beings we all need to take care of each other.”

The event is not exclusive to Muslim students.

“This fundraiser is a human issue, meaning we want people of all different faiths, cultural backgrounds, different political ideologies, etc. to come help and support the people of the eastern horn of Africa,” she said. “As fellow humans we should bear the responsibility in making sure that we all help each other out, and this fundraiser is just another opportunity for doing so.”

New York cabbies win rights to veto racy ads

NEW YORK,NY–New York City cabbies who object to driving taxis topped with ads for strip clubs have won the right to veto the racy ads.

The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a new rule last week  that lets cabbies who own their vehicles say no to the racy ads.

Several cabbies told the commission they hated the provocative roof ads.

Previously the owners of taxi medallions could decide what ads to put on the cars. Many taxi owners do not own the medallion.

The racy ads were objected to not only by Muslim taxi owners but also others. A Sikh owner told the board that  his six-year-old granddaughter had told him she wanted to become a dancer after seeing an advert for Flashdancers on his taxi.

‘We should keep [the advertisement] there to tell the children that it is good?’ he had asked.

Dupage County approves mosque without dome

CHICAGO,IL–The DuPage County board voted last week to allow a mosque and Muslim community center to be built along Roosevelt Road near Lombard.

It will be built just east of Interstate Highway 355, at the southwest corner of Roosevelt Road and Lawler Avenue. Plans are for a main building with place for worship, a gym, a library, a learning area and a conference room.

But the board did not allow the Muslim group to build a 50 foot high dome to cover the prayer area. This is the second Muslim development in unincorporated DuPage County that has recently modified construction plans because the board denied approval for a dome.

The county sets a height limit of 36 feet in residential areas, and only grants variances to exceed that limit on a case-by-case basis.

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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.

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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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Community News (V13-I22)

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Syed Ali among top Shrewsbury students

SHREWSBURY, MA–This graduation season American Muslim students are making their presence felt with academic excellence. The Shrewsbury School Committee this week honored its top ten graduating senior scholars. Among them is Syed Ali who has excelled both in academic studies as well as extra curricular activities.

Academically, Syed has shined at Shrewsbury High School.  He is an exceptional student who has taken multiple AP classes, including four in his senior year.  Syed has won multiple awards for his academics including the Harvard Book Award, the Louis DeLabriere Award, the U.S. History Award, the Robert E. Roy Science Award, and he was a Silver Medalist for the National Spanish Exam, to name a few.  A member of the National Spanish Honor Society, Shrewsbury High School has certainly benefited from his involvement and energies that he has invested in our Math Team, Model UN, Town Crier, and Varsity Tennis Team.  Syed also holds leadership positions among the activities that he is involved with including captain of the Varsity Math Team and Editor of the Editorials.

Syed is also musically talented and plays the violin.  In addition to his extra curricular activities, Syed finds time to volunteer because he enjoys helping others.  He uses his academic strengths to tutor other students in math and Spanish.  His level of commitment and dedication are impressive.  This past summer, Syed volunteered over 300 hours at the Cleveland Clinic performing research.  He helped design and implement a study to reduce artifacting and repeats in MRI scans.   He continues to collaborate on the study and is communicating online with other members of the team.  The information being collected will be published in the near future.  Syed will attend Washington and Lee University in the fall, where he will major in Physics/Pre-Med in the hopes of becoming a doctor.

Dr. Faroul Khan chosen for international board

FREEPORT,IL — Freeport neurologist Farouk Khan, MD, PhD, has been chosen to serve on the International Advisory Board on Multiple Sclerosis, which convenes this year at the annual meeting of the World Federation of Neurology in Lisbon, Portugal.

The meeting brings together thousands of neurologists who specialize in hundreds of different disorders for case presentations, workshops, practical sessions and advisory board sessions like the one which Dr. Khan will participate. The meeting also offers an opportunity for continuous educations in all fields of neurology.

In northwest Illinois, Dr. Khan cares for patients with disorders including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, neuromuscular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and strokes. He is trained in the treatment of acute strokes using “clot busters” and is a member of the Allergan Institute of Distinction — one of the top 40 Botox specialists in the United States ( Botox is used in the treatment of dystonia and migraine).

New mosque to come up in Boynton Beach

BOYNTON BEACH, FL– South Florida Muslims may soon have a new place to worship.The land for the proposed mosque has already been approved for a religious institution in Boynton Beach.

A nearby neighborhood association says a mosque would be a good “neighbor.”

If built, the building would join about 7 other mosques in Palm Beach County.An informational meeting will be held on June 7 at the Lantana library.

Washington U. students get halal options

CLAYTON, May 23, 2011 (News Agencies)–  Muslim students at Washington University, near St. Louis, now have halal options in campus dining. According to the Muslim Students Association, Washington University is the first school in the state to offer halal food, Stltoday.com reported.

“The goal was to get it started, to get halal in one night a week,” explained David Murphy, director of operations for California-based Bon Appetit. “But now we’ve expanded, to prepare something every day. The goal is to really push it.”

For the campus’ Muslim students, the halal options mean more alternatives. For Bon Appetit and the food industry at large — from manufacturing giants Kraft and Nestle, to fast food restaurants McDonald’s and KFC — halal means big business.

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Community News (V12-I16)

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Taskeen Khan wins first place in writing contest

taskeen-khan CHICAGO, IL–Taskeen Khan,a sixth grader from Hadley Junior High in Glen Ellyn , has won the first place in Expository Category in a national writing context held by the Writing Conference, Inc.

Her entry, Courage, tells the story of woman named Ahlam who came to the U.S. because of persecution in her home country. Taskeen recounts Ahlam courage in speaking out, building a new life for herself, and helping others to do the same.

Taskeen has been invited to the National Awards Ceremony in Kansas, where the winning pieces will be acted out by high school students. Her piece will also be published in the Writers Slate, an online journal.

Zahir Dossa, Soros Fellowship Recipient

zahir-dossa This is the fourth installment of our series of profiles of Muslim recipients of Paul and Daisy Fellowships

Zahir Dossa was born in Canada before moving to Texas to parents of Indian heritage who had settled in, and then fled during the socialist regime from, Tanzania.  Zahir gained admission to MIT, where he and a fellow student founded an organization to distribute low-tech but very inexpensive irrigation pumps to low-income farmers in Sudan.  Their efforts were featured in an article in Popular Mechanics and a report on BBC World Radio.

Their organization has received various awards, including the $10,000 Davis Peace Prize.  Funded as an undergraduate by the Gates Foundation, Zahir graduated with majors in electrical engineering and computer science along with management.  He has remained at MIT, where he is now pursuing both a MEng in electrical engineering and a PhD in urban studies.   Continuing with his interest in international development, he has created a curriculum for practitioners and is working to create a minor in international development at MIT.

Students at NJIT call for bringing back halal menu

NEWARK, NJ–Muslim students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology are calling on the administration to bring back the halal menu in campus cafetaria.

The “Halal Grill”  in the cafeteria has been facing shortages in supplies since last year and has been completely taken out this semester.

In a letter to the student newspaper a Muslim student wrote, “We are a campus from countless walks of life, it is important to accommodate these groups and not marginalize them. I ask that Gourmet Dining Services either provides Halal food, or update its website – the Grill no longer offers a wide variety of Halal items.”

Calgary Halal food bank grows

CALGARY,Canada–Muslim Families Network Society, a Calgary based non-profit organization, started its Halal food bank as a community outreach program in 2004 with a mission to relieve poverty.

With food bank 24/7 services, MFNS also provides bi-annual city-wide food, meat and clothes distributions; once at Easter time and in the month of Ramadan.

Needs are fulfilled according to family size with food, halal meat, clothes, toys, books and food gift cards. MFNS has made it easier for people in need to buy the food according to their dietary specifications.

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AFMI’s Educational Mission: A Success

January 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

(A Press Note with photographs and a few comments of AFMI delegates)

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Delegates of American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) wrapped up their India-visit last week (January 10) on a satisfactory note. AFMI has been engaged for more than two decades in promoting literacy among Indian Muslims by establishing and/or aiding the existing educational institutions. As a part of its aim to achieve 100 percent literacy rate, the AFMI delegates hold an international convention every year in a different city of the country. This is followed by zonal conventions in several areas. Since the early 1990s, the AFMI has awarded medals (gold, silver & bronze), certificates and cash prizes to students having scored high percentage in Class 10th and 12th board examinations. While recipients of the awards are selected from across the country for the international convention, the zonal convention includes students of that particular zone.

Expressing satisfaction with increase in literacy rate of Indian Muslims, its key founder member, Dr. A.S. Nakadar said: “AFMI has made a difference.” Literacy among Muslims has increased by 60%, with 2008 being witness to greater upward trend than earlier, he said. He drew attention to increasing number of Muslim students scoring above 90%. Besides, Nakadar pointed to Muslim applicants to “higher educational institutions being higher than before.” He supported this point by referring to 50% quota in Muslim-minority educational institutions being now filled by Muslim students, which “earlier was not the case.” Nakadar, a retired cardiologist in Detroit, Michigan, visits India regularly to pursue AFMI’s literacy mission.

A key recipient of AFMI’s aid is Mijwan Welfare Society run by actor Shabana Azmi in the town called Mijwan (Uttar Pradesh), from where her father- renowned poet late Kaifi Azmi hailed. Azmi showed AFMI delegates the areas in which the students of this institution are engaged in. She expressed the need to further expand this organization with possible aid from AFMI, which is under consideration. The AFMI delegates were here last Thursday (January 8). AFMI delegates addressed the Zonal Educational Conference at Shibli National Inter-College, Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh the same afternoon.

The two-day international convention was held (January 2-3) at Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Among Indian dignitaries who addressed AFMI’s 18th annual convention were Union Minister of State for Corporate and Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) Salman Khursheed, Justice MSA Siddiqui, Chairman National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Mayor of Indore Krishna Murari Moghe and others. It was the first international conference to be held in Indore this century. It was also the first one, where people from diverse political backgrounds, spoke only on importance of enhancing the literary rate of India’s largest minority community- the Muslims.

The Indore convention was followed by a tour of several towns and villages of Uttar Pradesh, with Amroha being the first to be visited by AFMI delegates (January 5). They addressed the Zonal Educational Conference at the institution run by Hakeem Sirajuddin Hashmi. AFMI delegates addressed a similar conference at Hira Public School at Hanswar (January 6).

Summing up his opinion, AFMI President Dr. Iqbal Ahmed expressed that though “Indian Muslims have developed the awareness about importance of education,” “poverty remains a major hindrance in achieving education.” He cited instances of people who had approached him in Indore about their children having secured admission to B. Tech but were dropped as their loan application was rejected by banks. “Rich segments of Muslims, Wakf boards and other Muslim groups must come forward and share the responsibility,” he said. Ahmed is a medical doctor (gastro-enetrology) in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Shakir Mukhi, also a medical doctor (New York) said that AFMI delegates were “impressed” by increase in involvement of Muslims in pursuing higher education. Describing AFMI awards for bright students as providing the needed “incentive” to students to move forward, he said that AFMI plans to come forward with more incentives to help students and educational institutions pursue higher goals.    

Reflecting on AFMI’s achievements in UP alone, Ali Quraishi said: “We strengthened about 25 schools and built two new ones. It is not easy to complete this job.” Nevertheless, expressing confidence, he said: “AFMI’s aim is to promote education among Muslims so that no child is left behind. Our aim is to specially educate female students to help educate a whole family.” Quraishi, runs a business in Albuquerque, New Mexico and has built a number of educational institutions in Pune, Mumbai and elsewhere.

Psychiatrist Dr. Razia Ahmed (Cleveland, Ohio) said: “I am proud of AFMI which has definitely contributed to increasing awareness of importance of education among the Muslim community.” Laying emphasis on the need of involvement of other organizations to help in progress of Indian Muslims, she said: “I wish everyone joins us (AFMI) for this cause.”

During their India-visit, the AFMI delegates also met several leaders, including Ahmed Patel (Congress). They voiced their concern about “plight” of Muslim community in Gujarat. In a letter addressed to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, AFMI stated: “The Muslim community in Gujarat feels that opportunities that ideally should be available to all communities are denied to it because of its religious identity. Obstacles are created in its way to establish new educational institutions. State grant is not available to deserving institutions and meritorious students are discriminated in scholarship. In fact, the state government has failed to disburse the full Federal scholarship and grant money to deserving students which they were promised.” The letter also states: “The delegates of AFMI strongly feel that implementation of Mishra Commission as well as Sachar Commission” reports “would pave the way for ensuring rights of minorities in Gujarat in all walks of life.”

The signatories to the letter addressed to Congress chief include the AFMI delegates visiting India. These include Dr A.S. Nakadar (AFMI-Trustee), Dr. Aslam Abdullah (Trustee), Dr. Iqbal Ahmed (AFMI President), Dr. Shakir Mukhi (former AFMI President), Sheikh Muhammed Quraishi (former President) and AFMI members from various parts of USA and Canada. These are: Rizwana Quraishi (New Mexico), Dr. Razia Ahmed (Ohio), Dr. Khalid Khan (Nevada), Dr. Abdul Aziz (Florida), Dr. S. Ashraf (Washington DC), Dr. W. Baig (Ohio), Dr. Shahida Akhtar (Florida0, Dr Abdur Razzak (Massachusetts) and Mr & Mrs Gahffar Shaikh from Canada.

AFMI’s next international convention is scheduled to be held this December in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

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Interview with Two Blind Muslim Pakistani Students, Imran Ahmed, Hina Altaf…

June 18, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

DSC_0003r Speaking on the phone with Imran Ahmed, there is no way that a person could know that he is disabled, he has the same accent one would expect, and the same manners, but perhaps there is a gentleness to him, a mercy that has come to his heart from his illness. 

Imran Ahmed and Hina Altaf are brother and sister, although perhaps you might not know it from their names.  He is named after one side of the family, she after another.  And yet although they do not share a surname they share an unfortunate disease which has caused their blindness.

“We both have been blind since birth,” Imran explains, “we both have the same disease, none of our other family members have it–we both have light sections, light and dark, and we can tell how intense light is.  But we can’t see colors or shapes.  The disease is hereditary…  It is a very rare disease, and there are 2 cases every five years.” 

The two are studying at Carroll University in Waukesha Wisconsin, close to Milwaukee. He is 24, she is 25, and they hope to graduate next year.

“We were in Pakistan,” he explains, “my father’s cousin lived in Waukesha, and he suggested Carroll College–we applied and were accepted.”  After they found sponsors to help them, they came.

Despite their studies, they maintain contact with the Muslim community although such contact is difficult since they have to depend on others to bring them to and from the mosque, and since the Muslim community at their school is extremely small.

Hina - Comp 1 Imran explains, “Unfortunately it’s a very very small college, we are the only two Muslim students from Pakistan—there is another student that she lives up campus, we don’t have any Muslim student associations on campus.”

Although there are few Muslims, several people have been very helpful to the brother and sister.

“For at least one year into our stay, we didn’t know anybody,” says Imran.  “But one of our American friends brought us to the Islamic Center in Milwaukee,”  35 minutes away from campus.

Between the US and Pakistan, Imran explains, “there is a tremendous difference… in Pakistan, people don’t understand the meaning of a white cane–travel is difficult and dangerous.  There are potholes, there is always construction on the roads.  That hinders a lot of blind people from travelling.  The layout of roads is different.  Here there is always a curb so you know you are getting close–here there is a strategy to cross roads… things are a little better planned out here.  People have been more accepting here.  Even if people are reluctant to give you an opportunity, but there is always a hope that you will have an opportunity.  A lot of people of people appreciate and give you the opportunity to do things.”

Imran has optimism about his future–he and his sister both intend to build lives for themselves, each of them intends to work and marry as circumstances permit.
The difficulties they face, of course, make a mockery of the difficulties that many Muslims and others encounter–in order to study they must either find books in braille or find audio versions of their books–something which was nearly impossible in Pakistan.

Imran explains that he hopes to find a job in tech support or web design—”if possible, I would like to eventually move on to adaptive access technology, teach blind people, or sighted people how to use adaptive technology.”

And they would like to improve conditions in Pakistan for people who are not sighted.

“We want to start a Braille library, in Urdu,” and he wants to help to create OCR software for reading into Urdu as well.

To contact Imran: iahmed@carrollu.edu, or 262-305-9709.