Community News (V12-I19)

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Two Muslim students named winners of  Spirit of Princeton Awards

PRINCETON, NJ–Two Muslims are in the list of eight winners of the 2010 Spirit of Princeton Award, which honors undergraduates at Princeton University for their positive contributions to campus life. The award recognizes eight seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the undergraduate experience through dedicated efforts with student organizations, athletics, community service, religious life, residential life and the arts.

This year’s winners were selected from a group of more than 90 nominations and will be honored with a book prize at a dinner on May 5.

The profiles of the two students are as follows:

Muhammad Jehangir Amjad, from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, has worked to create awareness of Pakistani arts and culture. He is the founder of the student group Pehchaan and is a member of the Muslim Students Association. Amjad also has been involved with the International Relations Council, both as a delegate and as a conference leader. In Rockefeller College, he has served as a residential college adviser for two years and a residential computing consultant for three years. An avid cricketer, Amjad worked with other students to create an informal team that competed with Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania. He is majoring in electrical engineering and pursuing a certificate in engineering and management systems. He was elected to Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society, and has worked as a teaching assistant for computer science and electrical engineering courses. Next year Amjad will be working for Microsoft Corp. as a program manager.

Mariam Rahmani, from Kent, Ohio, is majoring in comparative literature and pursuing certificates in Persian language and culture, and European cultural studies. Rahmani has been the president of the Muslim Students Association and a co-convener of the Religious Life Council. She has worked to create a healthy environment for Muslim students through interfaith iftars, Eid banquets, the annual Fast-a-Thon and the creation of an alumni community group. With the University’s Religious Life Council, she participated in a trip to India to study religious pluralism, spoke at the World Parliament of Religions in Melbourne, traveled to Tanzania in summer 2008 and participated in a Muslim-Jewish dialogue trip to Spain. Additionally, Rahmani served on the selection committee for the first Muslim chaplain at Princeton and for the new vice president of campus life. In her senior year, she spoke to the freshman class at “Reflections on Diversity” and is a residential college adviser in Butler College.

Vandals deface Ottawa mosque

OTTAWA, CANADA–Ottawa’s Muslim community has condemned the defacing of a sign in Barrhaven marking the future location of a mosque and community centre.

The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) said local residents discovered on Friday that offensive words, phrases and symbols were spray painted in red and black on the sign.

“Such acts are offensive, hurtful and intimidating to local citizens,” the council said in a statement.

“While the recurrence of such incidents is deeply disturbing, CAIR-CAN does not believe that such acts represent the sentiments of the vast majority of Canadians,” the group said. “Which is why we ask our fellow citizens to join us in condemning this and all such incidents.”

The group said mosques in Calgary, and in the Ontario cities of Hamilton, Waterloo and Pickering have also been vandalized in the last four months.

Dr. Zarzour delivers keynote speech at Lexington Islamic school

LEXINGTON, KY–Lexington Universal Academy (LUA) a full-time accredited K-8 Islamic school in the heart of Central Kentucky held its annual fundraising dinner at the local Marriot in Lexington, KY, on April 25. The dinner attracted close to 330 community members from diverse backgrounds. Addressing the guests, LUA President shared the school’s accomplishments for the academic school year.

The keynote speaker, Br. Safaa Zarzour, Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America delivered a passionate speech on the importance of Islamic Education.

He shared his personal and professional experience with regards to the important role Islamic schools are playing in building future Muslim leadership.

“In Chicago alone, only 0.5% of Muslim high school graduates come from Islamic schools, yet 60 % of the Muslim student leadership at Chicago universities are graduates of Islamic schools”, said Br. Safaa. He invited the community members to support this noble and critical initiative and exceeded the organizers’ fundraising goal of $100,000.

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The Muslim Population in Haiti

January 28, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

CNN

2010-01-27T190252Z_394306782_GM1E61S08FL01_RTRMADP_3_QUAKE-HAITI-CANADA

Pallbearers carry Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent Doug Coates in Ottawa January 27. Coates died in the Haiti earthquake.

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) — Tucked away on a corner of the Haitian capital’s dusty, congested Delmas Road, a modest white building bears a curious sign, painstakingly stenciled in green Western and Arabic script.

“Mosquee Al-Fatiha,” it reads. “Communaute Musulmane d’Haiti.”

An attendant splashing water on the ground greets a visitor who approaches the gate. “As-salaam aleikum [peace be upon you],” he says, breaking into a smile. “Welcome to the mosque.”

Haiti, the Caribbean nation closely associated with the African-derived faith of voodoo, is home to a small but growing community of Muslims. Two Islamic centers in the capital of Port-au-Prince are among nearly a dozen around the country started by those who have converted to the faith.

Officials with the major Islamic groups estimate there are between 4,000 and 5,000 Muslims in Haiti, a nation of about 8 million people.

In the lanes of the historic Carrefour-Feuilles quarter, a neighborhood that snakes up the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince, a plangent, timeless sound echoes.

Among the market women haggling over prices while portable radios blare popular Haitian “compas” music, the muezzin’s call to prayer goes forth from a new Islamic masjeed, or prayer center.

“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, La ilaha ila Allah,” — “God is greater, God is greater, there is no god but God.”

Haiti is about 80 percent Catholic and 20 percent Protestant, according to State Department figures, while some 85 percent of its people regularly practice voodoo.

Muslims noticeable in cities

But followers of Islam have recently stepped into the public eye. Muslim men distinctive in their kufi headwear and finely groomed beards, and women in traditional scarves, are now seen on the streets of several cities.

Nawoon Marcellus, who comes from the northern city of San Raphael, recently became the first Muslim elected to the Chamber of Deputies, Haiti’s lower house of parliament.

“I returned to Haiti in 1985 just to preach Islam,” said Abdul Al-Ali, the Delmas mosque’s white-bearded, commanding imam, or spiritual leader. “I converted while I was in Canada and we bought the space for the mosque in 1993.”

“Haitians would like to have the truth and Islam will bring it to them. If we follow Allah, peace be upon him, I think things can change.”

In impoverished Haiti, beset by a faltering economy, malnutrition, political violence and a two-year-old electoral dispute that has led to a freeze on $500 million of international aid, some converts find the attention Islam devotes to charity and social justice particularly appealing.

“If you see someone who is in need, the ones who need help, whether it’s education, money or what have you, we Haitians as a whole tend to be very generous in helping with one another,” said Racin Ganga, the imam of the Carrefour Feuilles center, who attended college and was introduced to Islam in New York.

“Those who don’t have anything tend to help out. It is in some way inborn to us as Haitians, as well as Muslims, to help out. So that principle of responsibility, of helping those less fortunate, resonated very well.”

Yacine Khelladi, an Algerian economist who has conducted an informal survey of the religion in Haiti, said in its idealized form, Islam could address many of Haiti’s needs, including social justice, literacy and a sense of community.

“It even regulates business, land disputes, banking and other things — all of which could be perceived as attractive in Haiti as an alternative model,” Khelladi said.
Inspiring revisionist history.

The study of Islam has also resulted in some provocative new theories about Haitian history, including a revisionist view of Boukman, a rebel slave who inspired other slaves to rise up against their colonial masters.

“Boukman was never a voodoo priest, like they say; he was a Muslim,” said Samaki Foussoyni, a worshiper at the Delmas mosque.

“When they describe his name, Boukman, in English, as he was from Jamaica, they are really describing ‘book man,’ because of the book he was always reading, which the French here in Haiti always referred to as an “upside-down” book,” Foussoyni said.

“They described it as such because it was the Koran, which you read left to right. When they say they had a voodoo ceremony at Bois Cayman, where Boukman lived, it was in fact ‘Bwa Kay Imam,’ or ‘the woods of the house of the imam’ in Creole.”

Although the mosques are locally maintained and receive no assistance from Islamic charities abroad, the nascent faith got an international boost from the U.S.-led military force that entered Haiti in 1994 to restore exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.

“The Pakistani and Bangladeshi soldiers came to our mosque to pray and enjoy our faith and they encouraged us with this belief,” Al-Ali said.

Conscious of their status as outsiders in overtly voodoo and Catholic Haiti, a nation that endured decades of dictatorship and brutal military repression, Muslims are quick to stress the peaceful nature of their faith and to distance themselves from the September 11 attacks on the United States.

“Allah says that if a man kills another man it is as if he has killed all humanity,” said Racin Ganga. “The people who did what they did in New York, they are not even human. Islamic people should use the weapon of their love, because violence, as we’ve seen here in Haiti, will not take us anywhere.”

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Letter for Marwa

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

marwa sherbini wedding
Egyptian Marwa El-Sherbini and her husband.

The following touching letter was published in the August 2009 edition of the Muslim Link in honour of the late Marwa El Sherbiny:

On July 1st, 2009 my friend, Marwa El Sherbiny, was killed in a German courtroom. She was there to bear witness against a man who had harassed her in a Dresden park where she was playing with her infant son. This man had called her a terrorist because she wore the hijab, the Islamic headscarf. Marwa had chosen to defend her rights and her dignity by taking legal action. She won the libel case and was in court again to testify at the appeal. Before she had the chance to do so, the same man pulled out a knife and stabbed her to death. She was 32.

When I first heard the news, all I felt was shock and anger. Anger that such a dear person was gone at such a young age; anger that her young son no longer had a mother to hold him tight. Anger that this is what ignorant, senseless hatred has brought us to. I’m angry that careless politicians, spouting fearful rhetoric, created a climate where a mother could be murdered in front of her son, in a court of law, and our society responds with a deafening silence. I imagine I will continue to feel angry for a long time to come, but constantly piercing through that anger, and often overshadowing it, is the memory of a beautiful, kind face and a tender heart.

I met Marwa in 2000 on the first of many trips to her home city of Alexandria, Egypt. One of my strongest memories from that first visit to Egypt was seeing Marwa after she had just decided to start wearing the hijab. As a “westerner” and an outsider I was shocked by her transformation, but not for the reasons one might expect. I was stunned because she was absolutely beautiful. It was not that she wasn’t beautiful before, because she was, only it had become a different sort of beauty. She shined. She looked like an angel. And Marwa was an angel in every way: incredibly strong and extraordinarily gentle. One of the first times I was struck by the beauty of Islam was when I saw it reflected in her face. I will miss one of the most generous souls that I was fortunate enough to be touched by.

Marwa had the strength to stand up for the truth, to stand against discrimination and hatred. She is an example to all Muslim women, like myself, who have silently faced the kind of insults that are sadly becoming a more common reality. Her action was an action to protect us all. I hope and pray that we can follow her example so that her struggle, her loss, will not be in vain.

I will pray for her, I will pray for her little boy, I will pray for her husband, and brother, and mother, and father, and friends – and I will pray for a better world for all of us.

Julia Williams,
Ottawa

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