Omar Samhan: A Big Fish Seeks a Bigger Pond

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

omar-samhan Omar Samhan has always been a man amongst boys. At 6 foot 11 inches, he sticks out even on a college campus. But, as a basketball star for St. Mary’s University, he sticks out even more. And as a Muslim-American now in the national spotlight, there is no ignoring him.

Samhan grew up in San Ramon, CA, only minutes from the St. Mary’s campus. He is the son of an Egyptian father and an Irish mother. And he is also a Muslim student at a Catholic university, not to mention a basketball player with heritage from a country where soccer rules all sports. The paradoxes abound with Omar (not the least of which is his pre-game ritual of listening to the music of teeny-bopper Taylor Swift, as reported to Sports Illustrated!).

But when it comes to his game, everything is straightforward. Draftexpress.com writes, “Few players at the college level boast Samhan’s combination of touch and post instincts.” NBADraft.net describes him as “…A late bloomer that has shown steady development throughout his college career.” The other teams in the NCAA Tournament found this out first hand, as he put up 29 points and 32 points respectively, against higher-seeded Richmond and Villanova. And he’s no slouch on the defensive end either, as he was voted the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Omar Samhan will spend the next few weeks helping NBA scouts figure out his pro potential. But Omar, a graduating senior, seems to have already figured out how to accomplish what his fellow Arab-American, radio personality Casey Kasem always preached, “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”

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Community News (V12-I10)

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslim and Jewish comedy show

FAIRFIELD, CT–The Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Jewish student group KADIMA  at the Fairfield University in Connecticut co-hosted their first event Wednesday night, a comedy show called “Stand Up for Peace,” featuring Scott Blakeman, a Jewish comedian, and Dean Obeidallah, a Palestinian-American comedian, the Mirror student newspaper reported.

The two comedians have been performing since 2002 in an effort to bring Muslim and Jewish people together and promote peace and understanding between the two groups.  They began by performing shows for Seeds of Peace, an organization devoted to bringing Palestinian and Israeli teenagers together.

“When we found out about Stand Up for Peace a few months back, we thought, ‘What better way to do this than co-sponsor this with MSA?’” said Alison Goldberg ‘11, president of KADIMA.  She said that she and Nargis Alizada ‘12, president of MSA, had wanted the two organizations to put on an event for a while.

“We wanted to raise awareness to the fact that Jewish and Muslim students don’t hate each other,” Goldberg said.

Mosque redevelopment plans rejected by Lomita CA

LOMITA, CA–The Islamic Center of the South Bay was stopped in its tracks to redevelop its property. The Lomota Council unanimously rejected the Center’s proposed redevelopment plans last Monday.  It cited traffic concerns as the major reason behind the decision.

“Basically it just caused too much traffic on the streets in that neighborhood,” Mayor Don Suminiga said. “People are coming from all over to this area. The Islamic Center in Lomita is the only one around. People are coming from Orange County, San Pedro, Torrance.”

The mayor said that the mosque can likely be remodeled without increasing the number of people coming to the center.

Muslim claims NYPD discriminated against him

NEW York, NY–Said Hajem,a 39 year old Moroccan born immigrant, claims that he was not hired by the New York Police Department because of his faith and the fact that he was born outside of the United States. He is now suing the department for discrimination.

According to the New York Times Hajem took the police exam in February 2006 and scored 85.6 which is much higher than passing.

In June of the same year he received a letter of congratulations from Commissioner Kelly and began prepared to enter the force.

“I started dreaming of becoming one of the Finest,” Hajem told the Times. “As an important person who is going to save lives and stop terrorism.”

But in the four years since Hajem first started having those blue dreams, his application seems to have been stalled in a black hole.

Hajem, who has filed a lawsuit against the city, says that in July  2006 an officer reviewing his paperwork told him that he disapproved of people from “other countries” joining the NYPD, according tot he Times.

That officer, Ricardo Ramkissoon, allegedly also didn’t accept references from people with Middle Eastern names.

“He told me, ‘I need American names,’” Hajem told the Times. “He said, ‘You may be a terrorist.”

The city and police department for their part content that they have “successfully recruited native speakers of Urdu, Farsi, Arabic, Pashto and other languages,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. “Our linguist program is the envy of law enforcement worldwide.”

Lawyers for the city filed a motion asking that Hajem’s claim be thrown out, but U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Sullivan ruled on Jan 29. that there was enough evidence for the suit to go forward.

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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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Community News (V10-I30)

July 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Mohammad Khan, President and Founder. ViVotech is the President and Founder of ViVOtech Inc.

Mr. Khan held several engineering, marketing, and business development management positions during the 15 years he worked with VeriFone.

Joining VeriFone in its early stage in 1983, Mr. Khan helped the company develop its payment automation systems and later helped successfully market these products in more than 96 countries.

Included were the smart card and security payment products he conceived for VeriFone and launched to its worldwide markets in the early ‘90s.

Mr. Khan was also a co-founder of the Internet Commerce Division within VeriFone and was responsible for expansion of its Internet payment systems business into more than 25 countries. Khan is a co-founder of Sparkice, Inc., China’s e-Hub for global commerce, where he worked as its senior vice president.

Mr. Khan holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In 2006 Mohammad Khan was recognized as a leader of the Electronic Payments Industry by the Transaction Trends Magazine and in 2005 as a “Mover and Shaker” of the Electronic Payments Industry by the Transaction World magazine.

ViVOtech is a market leader in contactless payment software, over the air (OTA) card provisioning, promotion, and transaction management infrastructure software, NFC smart posters, and contactless readers/writers.

These innovative solutions allow consumers to make contactless payments with radio frequency-enabled credit cards, debit cards, key fobs, and NFC-enabled mobile phones. ViVOtech’s products are used by some of the most prominent retailers in the United States.

ViVOtech’s products are in use at movie theaters, fast food restaurants (QSR), casual dining establishments, convenience stores, gas stations, drug stores, grocery stores, buses, taxicabs and vending machine locations, enabling a wide variety of businesses to accept contactless payments.

Nevada brings people of diverse faiths together

LAS VEGAS–With an interfaith picnic Sunday, Nevada showed to the world that Christians (various denominations), Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and others could discuss similarities and differences in their religions across the picnic tables and make friends with people of “other” faith.

There were prayers in Hebrew, Sanskrit, Arabic, and English when Christians Muslims, Hindus, Jews and others gathered at Second Annual Northern Nevada Interfaith Community Picnic in Rancho San Rafael Park of Reno.

Besides coordinators Methodist Pastor John J. Auer, Rabbi Myra Soifer, Imam Abdul Rahim Barghouthi, several other religious leaders from the area participated in the event.

Muslim and Christian leaders to meet at Yale

NEW HAVEN–More than 150 Muslim and Christian leaders, including some of the world’s most eminent scholars and clerics, will gather at Yale University July 28-31 to promote understanding between the two faiths, whose members comprise more than half the world’s population.

Prominent political figures and representatives of the Jewish community also will speak at the conference, which launches a series of interfaith events planned around the world over the next two years.

These gatherings respond to the call for dialogue issued in an open letter, A Common Word Between Us and You, written by major Islamic leaders, to which Yale scholars responded with a statement that garnered over 500 signatures.

A watershed in Muslim-Christian relations, this interfaith meeting was organized by Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith & Culture under the leadership of its founder and director, Miroslav Volf, together with the director of the Center’s Reconciliation Program, Joseph Cumming. Volf will co-teach a course on faith and globalization at Yale this fall with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“I firmly believe that few things are more vital to our shared future than that people of different faiths understand each other better, respect each other more, and work together more closely. That is why I, along with countless others, was hugely encouraged when A Common Word was published.

I warmly welcome the fact that one of the world’s premier academic institutions, by hosting this gathering, is seeking to carry the debate and the dialogue further and deeper,” said former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Yale Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge said, “I am extremely pleased that Yale Divinity School is hosting this important conference.

The Divinity School is committed to bringing the best insights of faith and intellect to bear on contemporary life, and the relationship between Christians and Muslims is one of the most pressing issues of our time.”

Notable leaders expected at the conference include Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan; former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi of Sudan; top Evangelical leaders Leith Anderson and Geoff Tunnicliffe; prominent Ayatollahs from Iran; Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi of Palestine, Grand Muftis of several Middle Eastern countries; Antonios Kireopoulos of the National Council of Churches; and John Esposito of Georgetown University. Senator John Kerry as well as other senior U.S. government officials also are expected to attend.

Residents pack meeting on Wallingford Mosque

WALLINGFORD, CT-Residents opposed to the construction of a mosque in Wallingford packed  Planning and Zoning Committee meeting. They held signs saying they don’t want any new development in the area.

The dispute is over the construction of the Salma K.Farid Islamic Centre on a 6.5 acre site. The mosque which would serve up to thirty people on Fridays is being built by Tariq Farid,39, a successful entrepreneur in the area.

Opponents of the mosque say that they are concerned about traffic. Some of them denied that they are anti-Islamic and said that they are only opposed to development.

A recent traffic study found the intersection and road satisfactory for the mosque’s traffic projections.

The Planning and Zoning Committee is expected to vote on the subject in September.

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Community News, North America (US & Canada)

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Curtain controversy in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL— The board of the Muslim Community Centre in Chicago has voted to let the organization’s president to work on a compromise on whether to replace a curtain hung to separate the men and women’s areas of the mosque.
The curtain was removed during renovations and since then has not been replaced. In an earlier meeting the board had voted 13-2 in favour of the “Not To Raise Curtain” resolution with two members abstaining.
Despite the vote Dr.Abdul Sattar, president of the MCC, said that a majority of the community wants the curtain divider and called for last Sunday’s meeting.
The new resolution calls on the president to take into consideration how women felt and to try to please everyone.

Minister praised for interfaith work

AUSTIN,TX—The Rev.Jim Mayfield, pastor of Tarrytown United Methodist Church, who retired recently was praised for his years of interfaith work. Imam Safdar Razi of the Islamic Ahlul Bayt Association said Rev. Mayfield played an important role in supporting the local Muslim community in the wake of Sept.11 attacks.
Under Mayfield’s leadership, the organization gathered clerics from different religions to pray on the steps of the Texas Capitol and “helped the Muslim communities a lot by letting people understand that Muslims also condemn the acts of terror and terrorism,” Razi told the Statesman.

Muslims join immigrant rights rally

DES PLAINES,IL— Muslims joined hundreds others in a rally calling for immigration rights and reform in the Des Plaines suburb of Chicago.
“We come here to work. We don’t come here to do anything bad or — we come here to have a better future,” said Lizeth Rios to ABC News.
What they’re doing right now is shameful and they’re trying to take away people’s hope. But there are good people who are doing things like that. We re trying do things in a peaceful matter. God did not create any borders,” said Rita Gonzales, Latin Americans United.
The rally ended with a prayer for those who had died trying to cross the border.

Nazir Baig passes away

BALTIMORE, MD—Nazir Baig, prominent Baltimore area Muslim community leader, passed away this week. He was a board member of the Muslim Community Center of Maryland. He also served as the organization’s trustee and chairman for 5 years and as president for 10 years. His tenure saw tremendous growth in the organization. He actively took part in various community building activities. He worked as a town planner for the Montgomery County.

New mosque in San Luis Obispo

SAN LUIS OBISPO,CA—- The Islamic Center of the Central Coast is seeking a building permit to build a new mosque and community center on Walnut Street in San Luis Obispo. The new mosque will be bigger than the centre’s present one.
Architect Heidi Gibson said the mosque’s new location makes it a good fit among San Luis Obsipo’s cultural and spiritual centers.
“We have the mission downtown. We have the other downtown churches,” Gibson told the Tribune. “Now weíll have a mosque.”
The mosque has already received approval from the city’s commissions and it can take three months to a year before permits are granted and construction begins.

Eid ul Fitr poem wins Ray Bradbury award

CHICAGO, IL—Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem Eid-ul-Fitr, 1946 won the coveted Ray Bradbury Poetry Writing Contest surpassing 118 entries received from across the world. Mohyuddin, 27, teaches English teacher at Highland Park High School.
The poem is described as a wrenching, fictional ode to a little boy lost amid the prayers and politics of Pakistan.”
“[The poem] is about impending loss, a lot of violence, pain and suffering,” Mohyuddin told the Chicago Tribune.
Mohyuddin’s other entry, The Sadness, also attained a honourable mention in the contest.

Saudi culture shared at Valparaiso

VALPARAISO, IN— Saudi students at the Valparaiso University held a special program to inform the community about the Saudi culture including music, food, religion and life. Around hundred people attended the event sponsored by the International Studies Office of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Student advisor of the Saudi Culture Mission Dr.Faleh Al Hogbani told the student newspaper: “In the Saudi culture we encourage this kind of event and encourage students to spread the culture to the real people of America, not just in D.C.”
The attendees were treated to a multimedia presentation, demonstration of Azan and prayers and lectures. Dr.Nelly Van Doorn-Harder, Patheja professor of world religions and ethics at the university, discussed the history and significance of Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world.
“Saudi Arabia is a country that despite everything, upholds the true concept of Islam,” said Van Doorn-Harder, who has traveled all over the world to study religion.
There are 80 students from Saudi Arabia currently studying at Valparaiso University.

Egyptian student shares perspectives

MADISON, WI— Ahmed Ayad is computer science student working on his Phd at UW-Madison. He is one of of about 60 students from countries around the world who volunteer to share their experiences and perspectives with audiences on and off campus as part of the university’s International Reach program.
Ayad,31, says he wants to present a more realistic picture of Egyptian culture while speaking to a group of eighth graders at Waunakee Middle School. “I want them to come away with a closer-to-reality idea of what a place like Egypt looks like,” he told the State Journal.
The International Reach program was started in the 1990s by Lise Skofronick, a member of Madison Friends of International Students, and was later adopted by the university, said Merilee Sushoreba, student services coordinator, who coordinates the program’s on-campus component.
But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, International Reach was put on hiatus because of staff constraints and the need to focus on implementing new federal policies for students from other countries, said Stephanie Cowan, international student advisor, who coordinates the program’s off-campus component.
The program began making a comeback in 2004, and is now going strong after receiving a $5,000 grant from the university’s Kemper K. Knapp Bequest, which has paid for a student assistant this year to help with scheduling and other costs, such as materials and transportation.
Ayad, who came to UW-Madison in 2000, said people have a lot of misconceptions about the Middle East. “The most troubling to me is the misconception about religion,” he said.
While the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the current war in Iraq “have not helped,” Ayad said they also have sparked interest in the Muslim faith.
Though he keeps his presentations “as neutral as possible,” sticking to subjects such as history and culture, Ayad told his audience of eighth- graders, “You guys can ask me any question you want.”