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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Communal Violence Bill Incites Heated Debate

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Heated political debate is brewing between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over Communal Violence Bill cleared recently by National Advisory Council (NAC), led by United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-head Sonia Gandhi. The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Regulations) Bill 2011, if adopted by Parliament, will permit the center to intervene in cases of communal or targeted violence by invoking a provision in article 355 of the Constitution. As per this article, the bill permits the central government to declare any case of communal violence as “internal disturbance” and take actions considered appropriate. The center’s duty, according to article 355, is “to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and ensure the government of every state is carried on in accordance with provisions of this Constitution.” 

Criticizing the proposed bill, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said it would lead to intrusion into states, make the majority community culpable and damage inter-community relations. Countering BJP’s stand, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “We are shocked at the BJP’s reaction. Firstly, nothing has been finalized. Opinions are being sought from diverse sections. The BJP is trying to further its communal agenda. It is trying to do so by pre-emptive strike and debunking a draft bill under discussion.” He added: “The country knows which political party has communal agenda from its birth, continues to be bound by umbilical chord of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and carries the shame of Gujarat, Karnataka and Babri with ease.” With the party (BJP) being “naturally worried,” it has opted for this “pre-emptive strike,” Singhvi said.

The bill has also been described by the BJP as “dangerous, draconian, discriminatory and damaging to India’s federal policy.”  The Congress has retaliated by saying: “We will fight them to the end on this issue, there won’t be compromises. There will be a huge political cost involved for anybody who sides with the BJP on this issue.”

The Congress is confident that the BJP would be isolated in its opposition to the bill when it is introduced in the Parliament. “The BJP is free to challenge the constitutional validity of the law after it is enacted. Let it be tested in court instead of trying to abort it before its birth on petty and trivial grounds. The BJP’s pernicious propaganda is reflective of its communal agenda and guilt complex,” Singhvi said. The Congress is “determined” to bring the bill in the next session of the Parliament.

Rejecting BJP’s allegation on center’s plan to encroach into states’ domain, Singhvi said that the clause which permits this, also has safeguards. Before intervening, the center would first advise the state, if there was a communal flare-up. The center would wait for action and would intervene only if state’s inaction led the situation to further flare up.

Justifying the need for central intervention in serious cases, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal cited the experience of Gujarat-carnage. Despite nine years having passed by, FIR had not been registered in many cases, Sibal pointed out. A Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by Supreme Court, was still examining the need to lodge an FIR in the Gujarat-cases, which only necessitates the need for central intervention in extraordinary cases, Sibal said.

Demanding explanation on controversial provisions of the bill, which allegedly hold only majority community as responsible for riots, BJP senior leader Ravi Shanker Prasad said: “Tell us clearly, Soniaji- can the majority community in India become victims of communal violence or not?” Dismissing the need for the bill, Prasad said: “We all agree that riots should be prevented. But prevention should not become worse than the disease. There is civil society, courts and the media in the country which have helped in curbing riots.”

“There is no need for the bill. It will work to divide the majority and minority communities,” BJP leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said. Blaming the Congress for using the bill to divert attention, Hussain said: “There is peace and harmony in the country today. The Congress is not able to digest this.” Hussain also expressed apprehension on the bill being used against National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-ruled states. As current laws were enough to check communal violence, he said priority should be given to legal measures for tackling terrorism.

The sensitive bill was introduced in the Parliament in 2005. It has taken several years for the government to finally act on pushing the bill through the Parliament.  Despite the BJP sparing no measure to attack the Congress, the latter is confident that the party will be able to push the bill through the Parliament.  Describing the bill as “minority appeasement,” the BJP is hopeful of consolidating the support of majority community’s votes. The Congress is sure, according to party leaders, that parties such as Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Biju Janata Dal, Rashtriya Janata Dal together with the Left and Telegu Desam are least likely to side with the BJP on the bill.

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