The Women of Karbala

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Asghar Ali, Engineer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was feared the people of Kufa might betray him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Dawn, Karachi

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The Importance of Breastfeeding to the Muslim Child

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

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

mother-and-child-1a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Face the Faith

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ahmad Al-Hilali, TMO Foundation

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

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Community News (V13-I47)

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Howard gets women only swim times

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

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

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

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

Ali Khademhosseini honored with presidential award

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

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

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

Faisal Khan named Chicago city council’s new legislative inspector

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

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

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

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

Saba Ahmed switches support to Republican Party

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

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

Students demand resignation of professor for alleged remarks

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

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

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

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

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AFMI on Women Empowerment

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah-Chicago

Oct 3rd 2011

The American Federation of Muslims of Indian origin (AFMI) successfully held its 21st annual national convention in Chicago under the leadership of Dr. Tajuddin Ahmed, the incoming AFMI president, and the chairperson Dr. Siraj Ahmed, Co-chair Hassan Kaleemuddin and various heads of other committees. Over 350 people attended the banquet session.

The theme of the convention was “Women Empowerment Through Education”.

Distinguished and knowledgeable speakers from across the nation who participated during the whole day sessions discussed various issues like “Current Status of Indian Muslim Women”, “Tools and Models for Empowering Women Through Education” followed by the session for “Strategic planning and Moving Forward in to Action”.

Mrs. Priya Dutt, Member of the Parliament, address the banquet session of the convention. She is also in charge of women section of the Indian National Congress and Congress party’s general Secretary. The other Chief Guest was the former Illinois senator, Mosley Braun. The theme of the convention being women empowerment, both the main speakers focused on their educational and economic empowerment through creating opportunities at all levels. Priya Dutt is the daughter of Late Sunil Dutt, a Bollywood icon and a former minister of youth affairs. She is involved in running a number of women empowerment centers in the slums of Bombay.

The AFMI convention enables people from Indian origin to find ways of cooperation on issues of concerns for Muslims of India. AFMI organizes an international convention in India in December to distribute medals to students who out excel others in education. Besides, AFMI also runs and supports a number of educational institutions in different parts of India. Relief and political education are two other areas that form the focus of AFMI activities in India. The organization was established in 1989 to provide a platform to Muslims of Indian origin living in the US.to contribute their human and material resources for the Muslims of India. This year’s convention saw the emergence of a youth leadership in the organization as they made significant presentation on educational and economic issues. Some of the presenters presented the conclusion of their research in the city of Hyderabad and other places where women are making significant efforts in bringing about changes in their sociopolitical conditions.  The emergence of a women leadership in India’s Muslim dominated areas is a fact that is being recognized by the community as was suggested by one of the speakers.

Mr. Ashfaq Qureshi, the current President of the organization said that the organization was focused on education and has adopted a motivational approach to help Muslims achieve the goal of 100 per cent literacy.

Dr. Abdul Raheman Nakadar, the founder of the organization presented an overview of the organization’s projects in different part of the country that includes schools, hospitals, clinics, and relief centers besides the distribution of medals to the achievers of highest academic honors. Dr. Nakadar presented the graph of progress in the field of education asserting that the encouragement and recognition of highest achievers create an environment of healthy competition and inspires students to become high achievers.

Among those attended the convention were Dr. Khurshid Malik, a prominent Chicago physician involved in several developmental projects in India. Manzoor Ghori, of the Indian Muslim Relief Committee, Rashid Khan of American Indian Muslim Council, Dr. Abidullah Ghazi, prominent Muslim educationist, Dr. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Media professor at Western Illinois University, Macomb, Dr. Azhar Quader, a community activists and former President of the Chicago Area Council of Muslim organizations, and recipient of AFMI’s award of Excellence. Dr. A. Razzaque Ahmed, recipient of AFMI’s “Excellence” award and an internationally known dermatologist. The youths who made a mark and were keen to participate in AFMI activities were: Dr. Fareen Parvez (Boston), Dr. Tasneem Osmani (Chicago), Dr. Sana Uddin (South Bend-Indiana), Dr. Saad Mahmood (Boston) and many others.

This year’s AFMI international convention will take place in Ranchi on December 24 and 25, zonal conventions in UP is slated for Faizabad and Lucknow. MP zonal convention will take place in Burhanpur.

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The Eternal Jihad is Doable

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karima Friedemann

Modern psychology seems to agree with Islam that there are two kinds of people in this world, ultimately: Power Over and Power Within people. Marriages and nations have been destroyed because of the conflict between these two human philosophies. It seems completely impossible that they could ever live in peace, because one viewpoint says that in order for me to win, you must lose. This is the viewpoint of Jahiliyyah. The other viewpoint says, “I can never win unless you win also.” In Islam we have learned that if even just a small part of your body hurts, the entire body cannot sleep. It is the classic domination vs. cooperation framework conflict. It is as old as time. It would take a philosopher to really delve into it, but basically, the Prophet (s) told us this struggle will go on until the end of time! This is the eternal inner jihad.

When the medieval Christian world came into contact with the Arabian and African Muslim world, they did not have a complete code of honor. Because Christ’s teachings involved turning the other cheek, there was no actual Christian law to govern war. Therefore, there were no boundaries. It is very similar to India’s meat industry today. Because eating meat according to Hinduism is a sin, there are no laws or ethics governing the treatment of cows in India. They treat it like an all or nothing situation.

As a result of Europe’s dance with the Muslims during the Anglo-Saxon period, Christians absorbed what they learned from their Islamic enemies and interpreted things in their peculiar ways. Europeans had never before seen women on or near the battlefield. The Muslim women who accompanied their husband “Saracens” on long journeys were described as promiscuous witches in traditional English literature. Yet curiously, indirectly, the Islamic hadith got indirectly written into the tales of King Arthur, who is the fictional equivalent in literature of our Imam Ali.

Ali (sa) is best known for refusing to kill the pagan enemy simply because he didn’t want to kill out of anger or ego, he would only kill for the sake of Allah. The man had spit on Ali’s face. Ali just let him go! Ali is the ultimate historical character across all nations that defined righteous behavior on the battlefield. The Anglo-Saxons after their experience with the Muslim world adopted the creed that war was supposed to be about freeing prisoners, feeding widows and orphans and helping the needy and oppressed, and this wisdom was spread throughout Europe through the tales of King Arthur. Before Christians came into contact with Islam, they thought war was just about killing people for power and commercial products. They didn’t accept Islam directly but they rewrote their own teachings to include the Islamic wisdom indirectly.

There are even earlier teachings in Islam that involve this basic human conflict between ignorance and reason. The Prophet Sulayman (as) when approaching the Queen of Sheba in marriage made it clear that the pagan system of her empire was going to have to submit to Islam if she wanted peace with her neighbors. There truly cannot be any compromise between hedonistic materialism and the prophetic way. They are like night and day.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D writes in an article about Good Self Esteem, “Our society often confuses personal power – “power within” – with “power over,” which is about controlling others. There is a vast difference between personal power and control. Personal power comes from an inner sense of security, from knowing who you are in your soul, from having defined your own intrinsic worth. It is the power that flows through you when you are connected to and feel your oneness with a spiritual source of guidance. It is the power that is the eventual result of doing deep inner emotional and spiritual work to heal the fears and false beliefs acquired in childhood.”

All people on earth are obligated by the promise that they made before time with Adam (as) in front of God to do this work of inner searching towards guidance and ultimate truth, including banishing the false teachings of our childhoods. There are no excuses. According to Islam, nobody has the right to say they didn’t realize they were supposed to do this in their lifetime. We made that promise to God before birth.

Dr. M. Paul continues: “Even if you do manage to have some control through anger, criticism, judgment, or money, this will never give you personal power – When the soul has dominion over the body, you have the power to manifest your dreams, to stay centered in the face of attack, to remain loving in the face of fear. When the soul has dominion over the body, you have tremendous personal power.”

Every person who is serious about their role on this earth is going to have to learn how to control their animalistic impulses especially when feeling wronged. We cannot make rational decisions about how to deal with a situation until we let go of our attachment to knowing we were wronged.

The animal instincts of fight or flight – the instincts of the body – often have dominion over our choices, but these reactions are largely caused by adrenaline. After prolonged periods of adrenaline stimulation without any change in the situation, the immune system begins to shut down. It is a huge journey to learn how to stand up to injustice without losing your center of control within.

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Community News (V13-I32)

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

San Francisco Court throws out Circumcision ballot

SAN FRANCISCO,VA–A California judge last week struck from the ballot a San Francisco initiative that, if passed, would have banned circumcision.

A coalition of circumcision opponents had gathered around 7,700 signatures to place the issue on the November ballot, attempting to prohibit something that is at the heart of Judaism and Islam. It would have had no religious exception.

Judge Loretta M. Giorgi ruled that under California law, the state has regulatory power over medical procedures, the Los Angeles Times reported. She also found that it would violate the free exercise of religion.

“[T]he evidence presented is overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure,” she wrote.

Muslim-American comedians to perform at show in Murfreesboro in August

MURFREESBORO, TN — Muslim-American comedians will step on stage with their best jokes at Middle Tennessee State University.

The comedians will take part in a free stand-up comedy show called “The Muslims Are Coming!”

The comedy tour will present a series of free shows in August that will take the comedians to Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee from Aug. 5-15, The Daily News Journal reported. One of the final stops on the first tour is in Murfreesboro on Saturday, Aug. 13 at MTSU’s Wright Music Hall.

The show comes amid controversy surrounding a proposed new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Saleh Sbenaty, a spokesman for the Islamic Center, says the entire community is welcome to attend the show. Sbenaty says he hopes everyone can find something to laugh about.

Muslim women exercise

KANSAS CITY,MO–American Muslim women are increasingly taking up healthy lifestyles including physical exercise without compromising on their religious principles, reports the Kansas City Star. The paper profiled several hijab wearing women who undertake a grueling exercise regime.

Several of the women are new to athleticism. They completed “Couch to 5K” training last fall and had their first race on Thanksgiving.

Nadine Abu-Jubara remembers being out of shape in college, going to the gym in bulky workout clothes and being sensitive to the more physically fit “cute sorority girls” using equipment nearby.

“I already felt self-conscious, and it was hard to work out alone,” she said.

After graduation, she dedicated herself to changing her eating habits and exercise. She lost 65 pounds. And she found herself surrounded by Muslim women at social gatherings, all eager to learn how she dropped the pounds and brightened her self-outlook.

San Ramon Valley Islamic Centre Reopens

SAN RAMON–The San Ramon Valley Islamic Centre has opened for the first time since April when it was closed for renovations. The old single building was increasingly inadequate for the growing Muslim community in the area, reports the Patch.

“In the past we have had to lock the doors or send people away because of room capacity,” said Hana Khan, a Dougherty Valley High graduate who has been a member of the congregation for a dozen years.

In November 2009, the Islamic Center purchased two buildings adjacent to its original site. Now, those rooms serve as additional prayer halls.

The expansion improved the capacity of the Islamic Center, which aims to cater to a community of 500 to 800 people. According to Sattar, the largely donor-funded renovations were necessary to accommodate a rapidly growing and vibrantly social Muslim community.

“From 1992 to now, the city’s population has doubled. Our community has grown 13 fold. We started with 30 families and now we have 400,” he said.

Virginia prisons asked to accommodate Ramadan diet

FAIRFAX,VA–Citing past complaints, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia is reminding jail officials to honor the dietary rules followed by Muslim inmates during the holy month of Ramadan.
The ACLU said Friday it has sent emails to jail officials across Virginia reminding them that inmates who are Muslim take their meals between sundown and sunrise during Ramadan.

The ACLU’s executive director, Kent Willis, said the courts and Congress have made it clear that inmates have the right to practice their religious beliefs behind bars, provided they do not impose a security threat.The civil liberties group said the Virginia Department of Corrections honors the dietary strictures of Muslim inmates. The ACLU said that has not always been true in local lockups.

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Islam, Muslims, and Cancer

June 23, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Something pretty important has come to my attention that probably should be discussed among Muslims. The sun. Admittedly, the sun is pretty central in our existence in this world. It has been found that most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, which is obtained in its natural form from sunshine. Medical science has found that people who are deficient in Vitamin D are more likely to become ill – in the long run, with cancer. In a way, humans are like plants. We will wilt, wither away, and eventually die without attention to certain physical things like adequate sunshine, water, exercise and of course nutrition.

The Muslim community has been very strict and frowning upon those who drink alcohol or smoke. But many public functions feature soda in  place of water. After low levels of sunshine, a high level of sugar in the blood is the second top cause of cancer. Soda in fact actually dehydrates you as it contains salt (sodium). Drinking soda is like drinking sea water in terms of how it replenishes you. It does not.

But getting back to the sunshine issue, how can Muslim women who wear hijab prevent themselves from wilting away from lack of Vitamin D? Fair women need to apply sunscreen to their faces to prevent redness, moles and brown blotches. Some husbands are so “sensitive,” they won’t even let their wives go out wearing sandals. It may be necessary for Islamic scholars to convene to discuss this issue that is causing widespread death in our community, which is the lack of sunshine, whether it’s because of too much computer use or because of women having nowhere to go outside in privacy.

In the medieval times, wealthy Muslims used to build a tall wall around their home so that the womenfolk could go outside in the garden uncovered without strangers passing by. But what about today? What about those of us that don’t have that kind of money? How do we get our Vitamin D? Surely a vitamin that is given off by the sun is a blessing from Allah that it would be a sin to deny. From personal experience I know that staying “in purdah” too long results in such Vitamin D deficiency. The immediate effects include erratic heartbeat, aching in the bones, and the vague panicky feeling that one is about to die, without knowing why. Even ten minutes a day inside a car will improve these types of symptoms, but surely Allah wants us to thrive, not just survive.

A scientific study in India showed that women who rarely leave their homes are deficient in Vitamin D, despite the fact that India is a very sunny country.

A shaykh I know used to tell women who felt a strong urge to go to the beach and swim, that they should travel to someplace where nobody knows them, wear a bathing suit just like everybody else, and therefore attract less attention to themselves.

For those of us not ready for this level of liberalism, perhaps it would be a good time to travel somewhere away from the city, where there are not a lot of people, take a walk on some nature path, and remove the hijab and long sleeves. In America’s vast and beautiful National Forests you can find secluded rivers in which to bathe unwatched, where you can commune with nature.

Now that the American Muslim community has come to terms with the importance of protecting reproductive health through modesty, we are hopefully also ready to come to terms with the fact that a woman cannot live her life never knowing the feeling of wind blowing through her hair. This is a human right, not just a desire. Science has proved it. If we don’t spend some regular time outdoors uncovered, we will die. This is the top cause of cancer, not drinking or smoking.

Another strong factor in the escalating cancer rate in America is use of cell phones. All cell phones emit radiation, as do the wireless phones inside the home. In fact, anything emitting electricity causes cancer. I know it’s hard, but we have to look at these factors. Maybe we should use cell phones for auto emergencies only and keep them turned off most of the time if possible. At the very least, we should keep them away from children, even when they are not in use. Within five feet of a cell phone is the most dangerous zone. We have to be aware of the dangers of cell phone use by children, because brain cancer is now the top cause of death in children, second only after accidents.

We have to be aware of so many things. Even worse than cell phones, pesticides cause cancer in humans. We must give up spraying the grass now! And try to avoid eating food that has been contaminated with pesticides, especially when it comes to dairy and meat products, because the cows collect all that poison within. Since the halal meat system is separate from the regular grocery store supply system, this could easily be accomplished – once the Muslims decide this is important.

Avoiding the immorality of television lifestyles is key to personal dignity. Yet, Muslims have a long way to go when it comes to demonstrating that our lifestyle is the most healthy lifestyle.

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Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) 2011 Spring Reception and Conversation

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

Immigrants and Urban America

Dearborn–May 14–The ISPU’s event this past Saturday really amounted to a celebration of Arab culture.  The venue for the event, the food, the main speakers (Fatima Shama and Rashida Tlaib) all tended to create the impression of a family reunion of Arabs more than an Islamic event or an intellectual event.

About 100 people attended this ISPU event in Dearborn on Saturday at the Arab American museum.  The evening’s speeches were preceded by a guided tour of the museum–the tour guide described many of the exhibits at the museum–having a tour guide did add another dimension to the exhibits, even to me although I have toured the museum more than once.

Following the guided tour there was a buffet table filled with Arabic food and then there were speeches in the museum’s auditorium basement.

The two people present with the most political clout were Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-12-MI), one of the most prominent Muslim women in the nation as the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan legislature, and the keynote speaker Fatima Shama, New York City’s Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

The rise of Fatima Shama was attributable to her outspokenness and firm convictions, which was shown by the story she told the ISPU audience Saturday.

After 9/11, seeing the need to attenuate the hatred of non-Muslims for Muslims and Arabs, Shama quit her job in order to reach out full time to people she didn’t know (helping to form a group called Muslims Against Terrorism), trying to give a face to a religion caricatured by the actions of 9/11–to the very people most scarred by those horrific events, New Yorkers.  She had served in community service organizations (New York’s Arab American Family Support Center, similar to ACCESS), and like Ms. Tlaib had become a lawyer. 

After MAT, she began working for Mayor Bloomberg, and spoke out in favor of Palestinians and Arabs in ways she thought would cost her her job.  But her outspokenness earned Bloomberg’s respect and she rose in prominence to her present position. Ms. Shama has since argued in favor of allowing Muslim holidays in New York schools, has served as Mayor Bloomberg’s liaison with immigrant communities of Muslims, granting him a level of sensitivity to Arab concerns over, for example, Israel and Palestine.  She speaks very respectfully of Bloomberg’s own commitment to his ideals, for example his support for Park51.

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Chicago Muslim Journalist Attends White House Correspondents Dinner

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Haia Radwan, CIOGC

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As a Deborah Orin Scholarship winner, I was recently invited to the Annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. This experience was possible because of the grace of Allah and my work as a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

It was truly a humbling experience, Alhamdulillah. I was able to enter a VIP room before the event where I met Sean Penn, Jon Hamm and Seth Meyers – Hamm even complimented me on my hijab. I was able to take pictures with President Obama and the First Lady. I talked to the President about the horrendous traffic in Chicago every time he visited, and it made him laugh.

After dinner, the program began with the award ceremony. As my name was called, I walked confidently across that stage. I did not feel nervous; rather I was proud to wear hijab on national television and represent Muslim women. It was great to show the world that Muslim women are smart and educated, and not oppressed. Islam has always given women the rights to vote, be educated, work, and be an integral part of society. It is so beautiful how the Quran has a whole chapter called Surat An-Nisaa (Chapter of Women) dedicated to women

Meeting the President and receiving an award in journalism was wonderful, but the highlight of my night was to show what Muslim women can do. Being the only one wearing a hijab made me very recognizable and that was a good thing. Many people including journalists, congressmen and women and even some celebrities congratulated me. I believe my hijab is empowering, and a blessing.

When employers look at my work, they can judge me based on my talents and not the way I look. The important thing is to be proud of the hijab, and proud that the United States gives us the freedom to be who we are. Now it is our jobs to give back as active citizens. We need to vote and be involved in the community on every level.

I left the event with many business cards and contacts. However, what was even better was leaving knowing that I represented Islam for what it really is. Alhamdulilah, I never once felt uncomfortable about who I was as a Muslim. I hope that Allah gives me the strength to excel as a journalist and I hope I can inspire other young Muslim girls to be proud of their identity and to know that anything is possible.

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Telling Muslim Women What Not to Wear

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

France has now officially outlawed the Islamic niqab or burqa in public. French President Sarkozy said in 2009, “The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity … The burqa is not a religious sign; it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women. I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on our territory.”

This statement by Sarkozy isn’t going to save any Muslim woman’s self-respect or free her from her oppressor by forcing her indoors and out of public life. If a woman is being forced to wear the burqa or niqab by a dictatorial husband or father, the French have just made it more difficult for her to break free from her oppressor. However, most Muslim women choose to wear the niqab of their own free will, and with this ban France has just pushed another segment of their Muslim population further from the mainstream. France outlawed the hijab, or the simple headscarf in public schools and institutions in 2004, and it has forced girls who want an education to either compromise their religious values, or compromise their academic and professional future. Where’s the liberté in that?

A small minority of Muslim women in certain parts of the world wear what is known as the abaya (black cloak) and the niqab (face veil). It is known as a burqa in South and Central Asia and seen most often as the blue full-body veil worn by Afghan women. This form of covering is the manifestation of the strictest interpretation of modesty in Islam. Women who choose this practice consider themselves seriously observant Muslims and believe this form of dress allows them to move about the outside world while protecting their dignity.

People get nervous around these women. I have often heard the refrain, “You need to see a person’s face to judge their character.” I disagree based on my own experience with Muslim women who wear the niqab. I have always known them as highly disciplined, and solid in their faith convictions despite society’s derision. They believe in keeping their physical attributes out of the public conversation by covering. While I don’t subscribe to this strict interpretation of Islamic modesty, I respect the woman who does.

Case in point: I had been corresponding with a young woman in regard to a part-time position on the behalf of one of my clients. The job would include conducting various marketing events within her local Muslim community. Because she lives in another city, I had no chance to meet her until this weekend when I traveled there. Because I am familiar with this city’s Muslim community, I was not surprised to meet her wearing a black abaya and black headscarf. She and I had coffee in a café, and as the interview progressed she proved to be everything her emails and our previous phone conversations led me to believe about her without the benefit of a face-to-face meeting. She is an extremely enthusiastic and professional young woman filled with exciting ideas for marketing my client’s product. Toward the end of the conversation she mentioned that she usually wore the niqab face veil but she decided that she would not don it for our meeting in case I would be uncomfortable. I told her I wouldn’t have been bothered by it in the least. I felt sorry she had come out without her veil on my account — but to be fair, she didn’t know me. While she knew that I’m also a Muslim, she couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t discriminate against her on behalf of my client. After I assured her that her faith practices are her own business, and that my client has great respect for Muslims, she visibly relaxed and we continued our conversation.

Her character, personality and professionalism were evident long before I saw her clothing, or her face. In her American city she happily moves about her neighborhood dressed the way the French have now outlawed. She told me the Muslims are an integral part of her city’s greater community, and she is very comfortable wherever she goes in her graceful, black garments. I will recommend that my client hire this young woman; I’m completely confident that she is going to far exceed the expectations we had for this position.

As I’ve written before, if you strip a woman of what she feels is her dignity, you’ll have a lot of indignant women. We all know American women can become pretty indignant if someone tells us what not to wear.

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Community News (V11-I52)

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslim women celebrated in new calendar

EDMONTON, Canada–A Grade 3 teacher with a passion for kickboxing is one of 13 Edmontonians featured in a new calendar celebrating local Muslim women.

Noreen Bashir will be seen in the calendar wearing boxing gloves and a sports hijab at the gym where she works out almost everyday. The martial arts champion first took up the sport as a way to exercise while recovering from a car accident.

“I’ve … never been part of any kind of project like that before especially in our community and I’m actually very proud to represent the Muslim women of Edmonton,” said Bashir.

The calendar is the brainchild of local photographer and filmmaker Shazia Javed. The women featured in the calendar were nominated by the local Muslim community and include medical students at the University of Alberta, a local youth worker and a pizzeria owner who raised triplets on her own. Some, but not all, wear head coverings.

“I chose the women which represented a wide spectrum,” Javed said. “To me, it’s all about what they do, rather than for what they wear, and whatever they choose to wear doesn’t hinder them from doing anything.”

Having Bashir in the calendar was important to the project, Javed said.

“This is a very, very important image and a very strong image to send out there, that Muslim women are active. They are fit and you know they’re into sports and they’re strong.

“So I think it’s inspiring to a lot of us in ways if we want to go in sports that yes, we can do it. It’s not against our religion or anything.”

Javed produced the calendar in collaboration with Islamic Family and Social Services Association (IFSSA), with the help of a grant from the Edmonton Arts Council. She hopes the stories of the women in the calendar will inspire Muslim girls.

“I hope it works for the youth in boosting their self esteem in seeing, you know, other Muslim women on (a) calendar for their contributions and also I hope to create some role models for them to say, ok, you know, this woman, she’s a boxer, you know, or this woman, she’s a scholar … so I can be too,” she said.

The calendar will be launched on Dec. 18th. Proceeds will go to the IFSSA food bank.

Support for Naperville Muslim Center

NAPERVILLE, IL–The development committee of unincorporated Naperville on Tuesday reaffirmed its support for a conditional use permit for the Irshad Learning Center. The plan as submitted by the center will go as it is to the Dupage Country Board, the Naperville Sun reported.

The committee heard from both supporters and opponents of the proposal. Neighbors of the property expressed concerns about noise, intensity of use and extending the usage of hours.

Dr. Mojtaba Noursalehi, a Naperville resident, Irshad trustee and one of five applicants on the zoning petition, said he and his fellow board members have complied with the county’s requests and urged the committee to consider the petition solely on its own merits.

The request will go before the County Board at its next meeting Jan. 12

Crescent Bancshares to raise $15m for bank acquisition in Chicago

Crescent Bancshares Inc. announces the kick-off for its capital raise process. The bank focused on the needs of minority communities in the Chicago-land area, plans to open doors for operation in 2010. “ We hope to operate our first branch in the City of Chicago in early to mid 2010” said Fawad Butt, the Managing Partner of Zeus Capital Advisers. Mr. Butt’s company is tasked with the overall project management for the Crescent bank initiative.

“The recent economic slowdown and the resulting financial crises created significant asset quality problems for many community banks in Chicagoland and across the country. The Money Center banks (such as) BOA and Citi are riddled with asset quality concerns” said Rohail Khan, an initial contributor in Crescent Bancshares. “This represents an opportunity for locally connected, locally owned community banks, to gain market share, and to differentiate themselves from the larger banks.”

Crescent bank shareholders, board of directors and the management team, will service all customers and carry a specific focus to develop products and services for the South Asian, South Eastern European and Muslim Communities.

The acquisition of the bank asset is underway. The group plans to finalize the acquisition after the end of the capital raise process.

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Swiss Politician Apologizes For Calling For Ban On Muslim And Jewish Cemeteries

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Rachel Slajda

A Swiss politician has apologized today for calling for a ban on Jewish and Muslim cemeteries two days after the country voted to outlaw minarets on mosques.

“I am sorry. I didn’t mean it like that,” said Christopher Darbellay, president of the Christian Democratic People’s Party of Switzerland, a centrist party and the smallest member of the government coalition.

“It was about the principle that we all belong to the same Swiss society,” he added.

In his call for the ban, Darbellay said, “I don’t imagine that in this country, every religion or sect can have a separate cemetery in every town. It wouldn’t be manageable to make these exceptions. … Principle requires that one does not distinguish on the basis of origin or religion.”

Darbellay has also called for a ban on burkas or veils worn by some Muslim women.

Switzerland made international headlines Sunday when residents voted to add a line to their constitution banning the construction of minarets, or prayer towers, on mosques. The initiative, backed by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, passed by more than 57 percent of voters.

“The minute you have minarets in Europe it means Islam will have taken over,” said one SPP politician.

The Swiss have a long history of trying to keep their culture free from the influence of both Muslim and Jewish immigrants.

In 1893, Switzerland banned the practice of shechitah, the kosher way of slaughtering animals, citing cruelty because the animals are not stunned first. Although the government opposed the measure, a group called the Anti-Semite Committee gathered more than 83,000 signatures to bring it to a referendum.

Even now, Jews and Muslims must import their kosher and halal meat from neighboring countries. In recent years, some groups have gone farther, trying to ban even its import. In 2003, for example, the Swiss Animal Protection group began a campaign to ban its import, but failed.

Six other European countries join Switzerland in banning the practice: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The European Union recognized such slaughter earlier this year and declared kosher and halal meat can be sold in every country, but did not go so far as to legalize the slaughtering practice throughout the EU.

Much of the xenophobia in Switzerland seems rooted in the belief that immigrants will not assimilliate into Swiss culture. In 2006, the citizenship application of a Turkish woman and religious teacher was rejected because she didn’t want to integrate into society.

Muslims are one of the fastest-growing groups in Europe, sparking culture clashes throughout the continent. In France, for example, President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to ban the burka on the grounds that such veils oppress women.

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