All-Female Health Seminars for Minorities in Michigan

December 15, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Nargis Rahman, TMO

IMG_5454

The audience listens to the 2nd lecture in a series at the the women’s health seminar on breast and cervical cancer.     

Photo by Subha Hanif

Hamtramck, Michigan– Bangladeshi Americans for Social Empowerment, a non-profit group in Michigan, will host a health seminar in Hamtramck on osteoporosis in January for minority women.

Project Coordinator, Subha Hanif of Rochester Hills said, the seminars are a continuation of a project started in October for Bangladeshi women. Women from Hamtramck, Detroit, Warren and Sterling Heights in Michigan were invited.

Many of these women are uninsured or do not have a regular doctor, said Hanif, based on women who attended these seminars. The seminars are available to other minority women who may fall into the same categories. Hanif said, “It’s not helping in any way if people are not coming.”

Two seminars have been held in Hamtramck, at Jalalabad (above Aladdin Sweets & Café), which has the largest population of Bangladeshi Americans in Michigan, roughly three percent of the city’s total population.

Participant Razia Begum of Detroit said she liked the program. Everyone benefitted from the program by learning about free health care, she said.

Hanif, an undergraduate biology major at Oakland University, who is a Bangladeshi American said she understands the needs and limitations of women from this culture. Women are traditionally shy, “overshadowed” by men, and unlikely to ask important questions regarding their health.

The seminars are female-oriented, including the doctors, to form a comfortable no-men environment, said Hanif. “In a room where men are not allowed, women have embraced the freedom [to ask questions].”

Doctors from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine spoke at the seminars, which ranged from taking care of your health, to learning how to detect breast and pelvic cancer. Hanif translated in Bangla.

Begum said she looks forward to the next program. “I want to go in January to learn about tooth pain and bone problems.”

Participants can talk one-on-one with doctors after the seminars; something which Hanif said is not always available at free clinics that have limited time slots for patients.

Hanif’s passion to help others comes from her Muslim faith, parental encouragement, interest in public health, and community service. My parents allowed American assimilation, while retaining the Bangladeshi culture, she said. “We were only allowed to speak Bangla at home, which has motivated me to help Bangladeshis.”

She hopes minority women – who are insured or uninsured – bring their mothers, daughters and neighbors to bond and learn together. “The goal is to make women better agents in taking care of their health and the family’s,” said Hanif.

BASE provides laptops, handouts and materials for the program. Hanif’s dad, Abu Hanif, is on the board of directors.

Flyers will be passed out to businesses in Hamtramck before January’s program.

For more information, contact Subha Hanif by phone at 248-707-9521 or email shanif@oakland.edu .

Pictures: Subha Hanif

13-51

Imam Salie: Preparing Islamic Chair at UD Mercy

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

Imam SalieFarmington–August 10–Imam Achmat Salie, who championed an effort to establish an Islamic studies school at Oakland University, is now in the planning process of establishing a similar program at the University of Detroit–Mercy, a Catholic private university in Detroit.

Imam Salie is trying to establish a Chair at UD Mercy for Islamic Studies, and he explains the purpose of creating a chair is “to create a permanent place–if not, every year you have to beg for money, and spend so much time.  Once there is a chair, the money is there for life.  In 10 or 20 years, if I am gone, someone else fills that place.”

He says the chair of Islamic studies would help the Muslim community by fueling mutual understanding across religious lines and even within the Muslim community by providing bridges across the gaps of Shi’a-Sunni and other doctrinal disagreements.  “This will be a cosmopolitan approach to Islam, not an orientalist approach–an insider view, different from the skeptical and suspicious outsider view.  But this will still be objective, there will be analysis, it won’t be superficial.  Muslims speaking for themselves.  Founded by Muslims, with an Islamic ethos, with an accurate portrayal of Islam.”

The Oakland University program eventually failed under fiscal pressures.  And the learning process that Mr. Salie went through from Oakland University definitely shows in his approach to UD Mercy.  First, he chose UD Mercy in part because it is private rather than public.  

“With the recession, a lot of uncertainty in universities, public universities… [T]his is a private university, and there is more stability,” explains Salie.

He has also addressed the fundamental gap in funding that sidelined the Oakland University program.  Imam Salie has now secured “matching funding” from the IIIT, a well-funded Muslim not-for-profit based in Washington DC.

There are many Muslim graduates, Salie says, of UD Mercy’s various schools, practising dentists and lawyers, and he asks that they choose now to give back. 

“Education, like journalism, provides a safe environment, a great way to promote understanding.  Previous communities went through education to create understanding.  Catholic and Jewish communities promoted understanding of themselves by being present at educational institutions.”

The utility of the program, Salie argues, would be that it would provide exposure of Catholics to Islam, to alleviate the sometimes tense relations between the communities.  The program would also provide means for Muslims to speak across sectarian boundaries to one another.

Salie looks forward to this program because he has found “broad appeal” and acceptance at a very high level from the school and from the infrastructure of the Catholic church in Detroit, namely Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron. 

Even more importantly within the Catholic church, the pope has also expressed support for maintaining good relations with Muslims.

“The pope has wonderful relations with Turkey.  There are delegations from the Vatican to Turkey.  But at the lowest level, this type of enlightenment doesn’t necessarily filter down.” 

Imam Salie points to distrust and animosity directed against Muslims from rank-and-file Catholics, including prominent Catholics like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

“One out of four Christians is Catholic,” Salie explains.  “We should not take the Catholic position for granted–they are not all at the same level as the good people at the top.”  Therefore he says it is important to reach out to the Catholic community.

Also, Salie’s experience with Islamic Studies at Oakland University taught him that sometimes the most attentive students are not those you might expect. 

Sometimes practicing Muslims attend, merely hoping for “an easy A, but the quality of their work is very bad.”  Salie cites one atheist student who devoured the material in the Islamic Studies course and then wanted to teach other atheists about Islam.  “Muslims are fooling themselves if they are expecting an easy A.”

Salie’s Islamic Studies classes are a way to reach Muslims who no longer practice.  “I have had students from everywhere, Bosnians, Albanians, Pakistanis… totally disconnected from the religion.”  The Islamic Studies courses are sometimes for these young people a safe way of reacquainting themselves with Islam.

Muslims wanting to participate are welcomed by Salie.  “One way is through donations…. Some people offer money, some offer expertise.”  Salie invites the various communities of Muslims to participate by offering their knowledge of their own practice of Islam, or of their own national community.  Salie emphasizes that specific communities of Muslims will be spoken for by that community, rather than having an intolerant view of any branch of Muslims imposed by an outsider to that community.

Salie is trying to establish an endowment at the university.  “For the first year, we need at least $200,000 to get started. That will be used up the first year.  If we get an endowment, it takes one year to mature, and then with that endowment money in, we don’t need much in donations.”

Imam Salie aims to collect $2,000,000 in donations, which will be matched by IIIT, amounting to $4,000,000 which will be an adequate endowment to build a self-sustaining Islamic Studies program at UD Mercy.

To contribute, please contact salieac@udmercy.edu.  Or call 248-659-2109.

13-33