Community News (V14-I1)

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslim author’s appearance cancelled after complaints

HATFIELD,PA–A Muslim children’s author had to cancel her talk at an elementary school after reported complaints by some parents. Lisa Abdelsalam is a Muslim convert who has written a children’s book focusing on her son’s experiences at his school titled  “A Song for Me, A Muslim Holiday Story.”

The book has illustrations based on pictures of the York Avenue school and details a Muslim boy’s efforts to fit into the holiday spirit at Christmas time.

The principal, according to Abdelsalam, told her a few parents had complained about the program and threatened to bring in an outside group to protest if the classes went forward. “They did not want a Muslim or a Muslim book read in their classrooms,” she was told.

The principal told Abdelsalam that she can go ahead with the scheduled talk but that they mutually decided to cancel the event as she thought, “It’s not a battle that should be fought in an elementary school parking lot.”

Islamophobic individuals appear to be targeting authors these days. Recently, a campaign was unleashed by them to stop award winning author from speaking at the prestigious Mercersburg Academy boarding school in Pennsylvania. That event, however, was held as scheduled and the only complaints where from outsiders who had no relationship with the school.

Missing Muslim student found safe

OVERLAND PARK,KS–A missing Muslim student of a Kansas college was found safe and unharmed. She esd reported missing from a university library more than week ago but it was later found that she had left voluntarily.

Her family had announced a $10,000 reward for any information leading to her. Theey have now decided to donate it to the Overland department and a few other charities.

Family members posted a statement Friday on Facebook thanking the public for its support but asking for privacy as they try to heal.

San Bernardino Muslims feed one & all

SAN BERNARDINO,CA–First Islamic Healing & Wellness Centre reaches out to the needy by helping them with food and clothing requirements. Last week the group held its  first Community Give Back event at Seccombe Lake Park.

Malek Bendelhoum of the group said that they do all they can. In an interview to the Sun he said, he finds people who have just fallen on tough times and need a hand.

“We aspire to be the people who can reach out that hand,” Bendelhoum said.

Programs are available at the center to people of all faiths, including 12 Paths of Recovery each Thursday evening, Job Preparation and Training, Purification of the Self and Peer to Peer Counseling.

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Al-Farouq Aminu: The Chief Has Arrived

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Al-Farouq Aminu represents the greatest hope for the Muslim world in the upcoming National Basketball Association draft of college players, to be held in New York City next month. Aminu just completed his junior season at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And, he is currently projected to be a top 10 pick in the draft. Al-Farouq grew up in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, and after an illustrious career at Norcross High School, he was given the prestigious honor of being named the state of Georgia’s “Mr. Basketball.” Rivals.com rated him the top small forward coming out of high school. And, he played in the 2008 McDonald’s All-Star Game for the nation’s best high school basketball talent.

The son of Aboubakar and Anjirlic Aminu, Al-Farouq and family are reportedly descendents of Nigerian kings. They are establishing themselves as kings of basketball as well. His brother Alade, 3 years his elder, played for Georgia Tech University and currently plays in the NBA. And, their 11-year-old younger brother, Al-Majid, appears to be following in their basketball footsteps as well. Alade told the Winston-Salem Journal, “I think he’s going to be the best Aminu.”

At 6 feet 9 inches and 215 lbs, Al-Farouq Aminu is surprisingly agile for his size. NBADraft.net describes him as, “a huge leaper with freakish athleticism, explosiveness and solid length, Aminu uses these 3 strengths to make him an excellent rebounder and defender.” With a 7 feet 2 inch wing-span, he demonstrates tremendous reach and shot-blocking ability. And, his lateral quickness is such that he can also guard smaller, faster players, while still having the strength and size to bang with the big boys.

A blemish on Al-Farouq’s record came just prior to his high school graduation in 2008. Through a combination of boredom, peer pressure, and teenage bravado, he and two friends fired a BB gun at an Atlanta woman. Aminu had nothing close to a criminal record prior, and has had no brushes with the law since. And, his remorse and stellar record were so strong that the woman herself requested leniency for the boys, and the charges were reduced to three misdemeanors. Al-Farouq and his two friends were given probation. He still remembers the impact of that brush with the law, and admits to becoming more of an independent thinker as a result. “…I guess it humbled me even more. It doesn’t matter who you are. The world looks at you just the same,” he told the Winston-Salem Journal.
Al-Farouq is a good enough basketball player to begin his professional career after only his sophomore year of college. But with the dedication he has shown on the court, and as a Muslim, the communications major will, by all indications, be returning at some point to complete his degree. Draftexpress.com asked him what a typical off-season day for him was like. He responded, “I pray, work out in the morning, and then have a pretty normal day.” That is the type of answer we would like to hear from all of our kids. And when Al-Farouq’s parents watch him take the stage next month after being selected early in the NBA Draft, they will be seeing further attestation to the translated meaning of the name Al-Farouq: The Chief has arrived!

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I19)

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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South Asian Chamber of Commerce Organized Higher Education Seminar…

Salute to South Asian Chamber of Commerce for Organizing Higher Education Seminar

The South Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) organizes every week (Free) Chai Exchange Programs, where over a cup of tea and some refreshments in a relaxed environment, topics relevant to the business community of the South Asian are discussed. This past Wednesday’s Chai Exchange at Westin Oaks Galleria “Roof” (top floor) was quite innovative and unique and for that all the members of Board of Directors and Executive Committee need to be highly applauded.

One important thing almost all South Asians have is zeal to provide good opportunities of education to their children. If you ask an Asian Businessperson why he is involved in commerce, one of his answers will be for his children higher level learning. Keeping this in mind, SACC organized a Seminar on Education during the past Chai Exchange event.

Idea was to help parents within the community to navigate educational opportunities for all ages. Senior officials from Higher Education institutions were present like:  Awty International School (Erika Benavente); HISD Magnet School Programs (Dr. David Simmons); Rice University (Amy Longfield); University of Houston (Linda Patlan); UT Medical School (Nancy Murphy); UT Dental School (Phil Pierpont, DDS); and South Texas College of Law (Bruce McGovern).

Houston Public Library was there for people to sign you up for a library card. Test Masters and Sylvan were present there to explain how they can assist in preparation of college and graduate school entrance exams, as well as enhance writing, reading, math and other such skills. Also present were members of the joint project called “Hearts” of the Memorial Hermann Hospital and University of Texas Medical School at Houston, where they study about various heart ailments and their cures.

Jeffrey Wallace, Executive Director of SACC started the meeting. Introducing the theme of the evening, immediate past President Mustafa Tameez informed about the various topics of the evening, which included the Competitive Edges that can help get child into Ivy League Undergraduate, Top Tier Law and Medical School. Dr. Asif Ali asked various questions which attendees wrote on cards, while Asif Dakari conveyed the vote of thanks & gave recognition certificates all the speakers.

The esteemed panel answering pre-prepared question of Mustafa Tameez and Dr. Asif Ali’s questions of the participants of the seminar, generally informed that a qualified students needs to have a good balance of high academic achievement; good effort to participate in some positive & healthy extra-curricular activities; good references from someone under whom student had done some shadowing volunteer work; and a well written essay telling from the heart why the student pursuing any particular field of study and reflecting the true character of the student. They emphasized that the essay the student should write should be reviewed by three to five persons for suggestions. Also they informed that students, who plan to stay on campus away from home in other cities, should know about themselves very well; meaning they should know how they are feeling, if stressed, can they control to be not over stressed, etc. All of them said competition is going up and for instance University of Houston is soon going t tighten its standard by needing higher scores in SAT and so on.

Events sponsors included Aisha Zakaria of Lone Star Petroleum; Dr. Shahina Ali, MD of Baytown Family Practice; Gayatri Parikh of Testmasters; while Exhibitors included Zaira Ali of Sylvan Learning Centers; Marcia Chapman of Central C.O.R.E. Service, Houston Public Library; Shami Gill of World Languages Center; and  Gayatri Parikh of Testmasters.

For details on future Chai Exchange Programs (free) and membership to this most active community organization, please call 832-660-2952 or E-Mail Jeffrey Wallace, Executive Director of SACC at  Jeff@SACCHouston.Com

About South Asian Chamber of Commerce Mission

The South Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) is a non-profit organization with the mission of providing leadership that will help create regional economic prosperity and success for its members, primarily in Houston.

The Chamber’s mission has expanded to include supporting the business relationships between South Asian entrepreneurs and professionals with the broader Houston community, and to close the cultural gap by promoting the best use of talent and capital within the communities.

The Chamber was founded in 1994, by and with the dedicated patronage of multinational entrepreneurs and professionals, representing the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Today, the SACC is comprised of members of South Asian-American heritage which include professionals and entrepreneurs from small to mid-sized businesses to large multinational corporations partnering with those in the broader local community interested in fostering relationships with South Asian-American businesses and professional enterprises.

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Deji Karim Begins NFL Journey

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

deji-karim Abdul Deji Karim had spent over two days waiting for the phone to ring. The running back from Southern Illinois University was awaiting his selection in the National Football League Draft, and the call finally came in the 6th round of the selection process. Karim was selected on April 24th by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hope to have him spell their star running back Maurice Jones-Drew and return kicks.

Karim, ironically, went to high school with the player that was the very first selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, Oklahoma University quarterback Sam Bradford. But Karim’s college football accomplishments at a smaller school proved more difficult to display to scouts. In fact, he was not even invited to the NFL’s national scouting combine in February. So, he instead secured an invitation to perform an individual workout for scouts on the campus of Northwestern University in Chicago. That is where he dazzled scouts with workout numbers that were in the top 5 of all running backs in the draft.

Now Deji Karim awaits mini-camp later this month, followed by training camp this summer. He may be a kitten amongst Jaguars for now, but he will continue to seek out every opportunity to roar.

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The Legacy of Lunch

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

lunch%20tray For the past couple of months now I have been intrigued with an anonymous blog project based in America that has captured the imagination of countless Internet users. The topic of the blog is school lunches in America and the blogger is a schoolteacher that masks her identity for fear of losing her job. Every day, she shares the food that not only her students are eating but what she is eating herself in the school cafeteria. The blog, Fed Up With School Lunch, has ignited a rallying cry that stretches clean across the globe with teachers in countries like Korea and France chiming in to share their school lunch victories and disasters. Most notably, the blog highlights the poor quality of food served in most American schools and the lack of nutrition to sustain students.

What strikes me the most about the project is not the fact that American kids are eating a ton of processed foods intermingled with a mere sprinkling of fresh fruits and vegetables, but the fact that kids in the USA are actually served lunch every day whereas my own children in the Middle East are not offered any form of lunch in their schools whatsoever. In fact, the vast majority of schools in Kuwait don’t offer hot or even cold lunches. And vending machines are absolutely nowhere to be found on school campuses. Most parents send their kids a packed lunch, usually potato chips or chocolate and Pepsi. Some don’t even send lunch at all. And what’s worse is that there is not an allocated time slot for lunch in most schools in Kuwait, so many children bring their lunches back home with them or eat while they are studying.

Kuwait is not the only Gulf country lacking when it comes to school lunches. Even wealthy Arab neighbors like Dubai have a school system that rarely serves lunch. Parents are left to monitor their own children’s nutrition at lunchtime with zero support from the faculty at their school. The biggest problem for parents of school-aged children in the Gulf region is a lack of proper nutritional information. In a recent survey that I conducted in my own daughter’s 3rd grade class, a whopping 90% of children had been given junk food for their lunch with only a handful of children having a healthy lunch and an equal number having no lunch at all.

The price for the ‘rubbish’ lunches, as my hero/cooking guru Jamie Oliver would say, is more and more children in Kuwait are battling obesity before they even reach puberty. The Ministry of Health in Kuwait has recently projected that the rate of diabetes amongst children in Kuwait is set to double in the coming years. And, so far, no one is doing anything about it.

So no matter which way you, slice, dice or reheat it, the legacy of lunch is something that affects children from all walks of life and in every region of the world. It’s up to adults to make the right food decisions for the younger generations, and win the battle over lunch once and for all.

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I17)

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Stronger Darul Arqam School means Durable Future of the Community

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“There is a famous saying it takes a village to educate someone. Why it takes a village to educate someone? Because in order to gain knowledge and training over time, there is immense need of resources. And why village needs to take interest in education its population. Because a progressing, resourceful, enlightened and prosperous village is dependent of how we educated and knowledgeable its inhabitants are.” These were the basic feelings of several speakers at Darul Arqam Private School (North) Fundraising Dinner held at Marriott Greenspoint North Houston this past weekend. Emcee of the evening was one of the parents of student of the Darul Arqam School North Houston Wasif Khan. Present on the occasion were Shaikh Moustafa Mahmoud (Scholar of Islam and Imam of ISGH North Zone Masjid); Dr. Aziz Siddiqi President of Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH); Roger Yelton Director of North Zone ISGH; Ibrahim Badat Associate Director Adel Road North Zone; prominent members of the community; and administrative & teaching staff of the school.

Darul Arqam North is the only Islamic accredited school in North part of Houston. It is a full time Islamic School offering classes from Pre K to High school. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.

Some of the speakers at the fundraiser included the first Superintendent for Darul Arqam School Dr. Shaikh Ahmad and Esteemed Principal Saboohi Adhami, who in a most enthusiastic presentation notified that Darul Arqam’s idea is not to just give a piece of credential to their students; their task is to give proper identity and direction about life to each and every student, so that they become role models for the community and society at large. Amidst applause, Ms. Saboohi Adhami informed about that with over 90% of students meeting the criteria of TAKS tests, Darul Arqam School (North) has achieved the coveted Exemplary School status. Over the past five years, Darul Arqam School North has also achieved excellent standings at the Islamic knowledge, literary and creative arts categories regional and national championship in the annual Muslim Interscholastic Tournament (MIST). Darul Arqam North has finished among the top in the past five years in the annual city-wide Islamic School Quranic Memorization/Recitation competition in 2007.

Ms. Saboohi Adhami said over the years, people have come with several excuses and points against the Islamic Schools; but By the Grace of God and dedicated efforts by Administrators, Teachers, Parents and Students, we are able to point out to real examples of high standards achieved by students of Darul Arqam School in Grades up till High School & MIST Competition (where public and private all schools compete) and also dispelled the myth that beyond the High School, Islamic School students will feel left out when they will enter Mainstream American Colleges and Universities, but all that has been proven wrong by several shining examples (some of those confident students like Ayesha Patel and Sara Dar made short presentations at the fundraiser as well).

Facilitator for the fundraising on the occasion was passionate speaker Imam Manzar Taleb of North Texas, who informed about history of Darul Arqam, saying Hadhrat Arqam (18) in Mecca accepted Islam on the hands of Hadhrat Mohammad (Peace & Blessings of Allah SWT Be Upon him – PBUh). He had a vision and donated his whole home to Messenger of Allah SWT so that Muslims could get educated over there every day and that was the first School of Messenger Mohammad called “Darul Arqam”. Centuries later few Muslims in Houston came with an insane idea of making Islamic School in USA and named it the same Darul Arqam. People within the community and outside the community came with several negative thoughts, but the visionaries persisted and today we have this realty of four campuses of Darul Arqam in Houston and growing.

“Just don’t be only dreamers: With hard work and dedication comes Blessings of Allah SWT and achievements: Be an Achiever,” added Imam Manzar Taleb. More than $120,000 was raised By the Grace of God.

Elementary and Middle School Students were asked to create Scientific Projects’ for the evening and the Judge of these various science projects was Engineer Kaleem Khan, an able project manager with a prominent engineering company in Houston. Following students got the awards:

Elementary School: First Maryam Beyabani; Second Akrum Alameldin; Third Saman Ansari; Fourth Yusuf Sham; Middle School: First Ceyda Kural; Second Zaynab Khalifa; Third Saddiya Badat; Fourth Jowanna Siddiqui…

For more information, giving your kind support to this school of excellence and enrolling your children for August 2010 – May 2011 School Year, please visit http://www.north.darularqamschools.org/

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Kuwait Exposed

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

ScreenShot003 Keeping secrets is a centuries-old ritual that typically occurs between friends and foes alike, held in a sacred trust that is often dependent upon just how juicy the ‘dirt’ is you have on one another. By definition, a secret is simply something that you don’t want someone else to know. Unfortunately, most people spill their secrets to a trusted friend or confidant and often find that the secret is not always kept in the confidence it was intended. If the secret revelations of some high-profile celebrities splashed all over the news in recent months is any indicator, the leaking of other people’s dirty laundry is big business.

Despite the conservative nature of the Middle East, most of the populace has just as many secrets as their western counterparts do. However, the spillage of secrets in the Middle East is not as ‘foot loose and fancy free’ as it is in the West. Certain secrets can land people in the slammer or worse. So, for many, they have little choice but to keep their secrets tucked safely inside where they slowly eat away at their very core.

For this reason alone, a string of secret exposing and tattle-telling websites have popped up on Kuwait-operated servers to help people in the tiny Gulf state clear out whatever skeletons they have lurking in their closet. The most recent website called ‘Kuwait Exposed’ was launched this past week. The website is very simplistic in nature, as minimalist as it is supposedly confidential. No one really knows the face, or faces, behind it. And the website’s mission statement leaves everything to the imagination, albeit in very questionable English, “Think of this place as a confession box, a place where you can share whatever you cant share out there in the real world. No one will know you, but you’ll get that junk of trash out of your mind. Sometimes things cant be shared with no one, its hard to, feel free to share whatever on your mind on here, this is our confession box. Let go on now, throw it all up!”

A foray into the posts is quite revealing and a bit painful as human tragedy is brought up close and personal. There is something a bit disconcerting about reading about the deep dark secrets of others. One anonymous poster shares, “Like every high school, there are always the girls who gossip and spread harsh rumors. Well, I was one of them and ruined someone’s high school days. She was practically the most beautiful girl on campus, with the most awkward personality among the other girls. With only one of two friends, she occasionally kept to herself and could be called a loner. I was envious of her beauty, and decided to make up the most random and crazy rumors which were mere lies concerning her having relationships with boys, even girls. Then on, she was the talk of the school. Fingers were pointed at her all the time. I always wondered if she ever questioned the origins of these lies.” There are dozens of entries that have already been shared, with romance and bitter scorn making up the bulk of posts.

Some critics of the new website has lambasted it as a mere imitation of another Kuwait-based website called Post Secret Kuwait, where users can send in their secrets on digital or real (delivered by mail) postcards. Others have said they detect a similar writing trend by most of the posters thus accusing Kuwait Exposed of being a scam. Quite notably the website administration issued this statement earlier in the week, “Thank you to every one who criticized us, either positively or negatively, we appreciate every word you guys said about us no matter how harsh or judgmental it was, we believe and respect different opinions, and we are open to hear any more future critiques.”

The website has gotten off to a running start thanks to some local bloggers in Kuwait helping it get off the ground. In it’s first week, Kuwait Exposed racked up over 10,000 hits. Looks like exposing secrets, in Kuwait at least, just might be the new national pastime.

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Masarrat Ali Runs as Texas Democrat

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

masarrat ali(1) Son of a poor tailor is Democratic candidate in Texas elections

An Indian-American is standing in American state-level elections. No big deal, it’s happened before. The elections are in Texas. Not much of a big deal either. Texas has politicians from immigrant families.

Now consider this: The Indian-American is Masarrat Ali, a biotechnologist-entrepreneur and a first-generation immigrant, son of a tailor from the village of Jhansi, UP, the eldest of nine siblings, all who got their first schooling in a run-down establishment that used to be part of Rani of Jhanshi’s kotwali. When you add to this the fact that Ali is the first Indian-American and the first Muslim to get a party ticket in Texan elections, then his case becomes special.

Masarrat Ali is the Democratic candidate for District No. 122 (in San Antonio) for the Texan House of Representatives (the lower house). San Antonio is no backwater—the second largest city in Texas and the seventh largest in the US. Ali’s rival for the Democratic ticket for District No. 122 was Art A. Hall. But on January 15, Hall dropped out and endorsed Ali’s candidature. The elections are in November and Ali has a tough job. District 122 in San Antonio, Texas has been held by Republicans for 18 years. Texas is a Republican-leaning state and Ali is a newcomer to politics. But, as Ali says, “If Obama could happen, why not Massarat? His (Obama’s) victory has given hope to all minorities.”

Win or lose, though, Ali’s is already a remarkable story.

It started in Jhansi, in the Bundelkhand region of UP, then as now, a place development has passed by. Ali was born to a tailor, Haji Maqbool Ali. Ali Senior says he used to stitch suits for “commissioners, collectors and ministers”. But the money wasn’t enough for his large family of nine children, of whom Masarrat was the eldest. They lived in a narrow lane crowded with old houses. The neighbourhood is called Gandhigarh Tapra. “It was a typical mohalla with little sense of education. It was full of eighth-class fails. The highest qualification there was high-school-fail,” Masarrat said.

The lane is still the same. But Ali’s house has changed — a well-constructed, three-storey building, marble floors, modular kitchen and modern furniture. “The house got renovated just a couple of months back,” said Ali’s mother Rasheedan Ali.

The school Masarrat attended—the Urdu-medium Wakf Board-run Islamia primary school —is just a stone’s throw from his house. “During my days, it had no chairs, no electricity, no bathrooms and just two-three teachers who never cared,” Ali recollects.

Today, it’s almost the same — a decrepit building whose plaster is peeling off and whose wall has ‘I love you’ scribbled on it at many places and posters of local politicians pasted on it. The school is on a single floor and the building that houses it was a kotwali during the time of Rani Laxmi Bai, according to Ali’s younger brother Zaheer , a local businessman. “When Masarrat was a kid, there was no power supply for homes in Jhansi,” the father recalled. “He would study with a lantern. Though he loved studying, he had no career ambition. When you are busy just trying to survive, there’s little time to think about lofty things such as ambition,” Ali recollects.

But the father—who also attended the Islamia school and didn’t study further —made sure that his children at least aspired to get an education that would make them fit for white-collar jobs. So, he didn’t let them mingle with other children in the neighbourhood; they had enough siblings to play with at home. “Without his efforts, I would have been lost in the galis of Jhansi today,” says Masarrat. But the father takes no credit. “Sab Allah Miyan ka diya hua hai. It’s god’s gift,” he said.

Ali’s education progressed from the Islamia school to the Hindi-medium Government Intermediate College and then Aligarh Muslim University. Everything Masarrat did after graduation, Masters in Biochemistry from Aligarh in 1977, PhD from the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, in 1981, post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Paris, France (where he was research assistant professor till 1984), the Louisiana State Medical University in New Orleans and Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, (together, he spent 10 years there) was on scholarship.

The tailor’s eldest son set the example for his younger sons — one is an MBA, the other is an IT professional and a couple others are graduates and running local businesses in Jhansi such as a pharmaceutical distributorship and a ladies’ clothes store. His daughters are either high-schoolers or intermediate-pass, which according to Ali, is “a great achievement” as women in his family had previously never attended school.

Masarrat Ali traded academics for entrepreneurship after he moved to his current residence, San Antonio, in 1993. That year, while he was doing his research on breast cancer at the University of Texas Health Science Center, his thesis supervisor, also an Indian, told him that research published only in papers or journals was “meaninglss”. That prompted Ali to do a “crazy” thing. He quit his comfortable job as an assistant professor, and started the Alpha Diagnostics International (ADI). ADI sells biotechnology laboratory equipment. Ali says it’s a success. ADI has a centre in San Antonio and one in Shanghai. How much is he worth? Ali won’t get into specifics.

And how did politics happen? Always a Democrat voter, in 2004, Ali was among those who founded the Texas Muslim Democrat Caucus, a body that, Ali says, voices Muslim political concerns within the Democrat party and also works to get Texan Muslims to register as voters. Masarrat is currently the Caucus’s vice-president. His ambition is to convert the caucus into a national affair and it has now been rechristened as American Muslim Democrat Caucus. San Antonio has 30,000 Muslims and Texas, about 5 lakhs.

Convincing Muslims in Texas to be politically active is tough, Ali says. Muslims from India are more willing, he says. Those from the Middle-East are the most reluctant. Two years ago, Ali was elected Precinct Chair for District 122, which required grassroots working like getting in touch with the voters and organizing them. The candidacy followed from that. Ali’s father, who visits his son in Texas every year, doesn’t have any particular views about his son’s political goals. But Ali Senior says, he “likes the Americans he met”. “My beard, my kurta-pajama, my topi don’t seem to be a problem when I am there,” he says.

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Community News (V12-I6)

February 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Farad Ali: Durham City Councilman

DURHAM, NC–Farad Ali serves on the council of city of Durham in North Carolina and is a rising star in the city`s politics.  A life long advocate for the city Ali has been pushing for accountability and integrity in the council.

Having attended Githens Junior High School and graduating from Jordan High School, Ali is a product of the Durham public school system. He remained in the area, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in finance, from the School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He went on to obtain a Masters in Business Administration from Campbell University.

His professional career began in the banking industry, Mr. Ali worked for over ten years as a successful community, commercial and corporate banker in the private sector.

Currently an executive at a nonprofit, Farad Ali works within an organization focused on addressing issues related to responsible community economic and minority business development. During his career, he has served on numerous local boards and advisory committees. He has served as a speaker and advisor for state and national financial and economic development programs. Mr. Ali has been intensively involved in programs to foster community development.

BYU publishes Ibn Sina translation

SALT LAKE CITY, UT–Ibn Sina, the great Muslim philosopher and scientist, is being reintroduced to the modern world through translations of his works by the Brigham Young University.

A section of Avicenna’s work from “The Healing” called “The Physics” was translated by Jon McGinnis, an associate professor in the department of philosophy of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The resulting two volumes, titled “Avicenna: The Physics of ‘The Healing,’” are now available as part of BYU’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative.

BYU’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative has published 16 works — including Islamic works, Eastern Christian texts and a series of works by Jewish rabbi Moses Maimonides. “Physics” is the seventh volume in the Islamic Translation Series of this initiative.

Hundreds come for Halal food course

TORONTO–In a sign of growing concerns over Halal foods hundreds of Muslim youth in the Toronto area turned out for a weekend course titled ‘Precious Provisions: Fiqh of Food and Clothing,’ taught by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi. Providing a comparative analysis of the rulings on food according to the various Islamic legal schools he said that a majority agrees that the food should be properly slaughtered and that the name of Allah (swt) be recited on the animal or bird.

Throwing light on the various controversies on the topic in North America he went on to demonstrate that the permissibility of the meat of the people of the book is not unconditional. He said it is permissible only if the Islamic conditions of dhabh are met.

He said that the importance of tasmiyah evident from the fact that it is even required for hunted animals, so how about non-hunted? He said that only school, the Maliki, consider the mentioning of Allah’s name is Mustahab. The majority opinion either considers it to be obligatory to mention Allah’s name in all circumstances or obligatory but forgiven if accidentally forgotten.

Shaykh Qadhi also discussed the reliability of the books which contain lists of halal and haram products. He said the utility of such books is limited as they are not written by Islamic scholars and adopt a a mechanical attitude in classifying products as Halal or Haram. This results in classifying things like water and milk in the prohibited category. He said that the just a presence of a particular doubtful or prohibited product on the ingredient list doesn’t make a product Haram but one has to look at its quantity and state.

He urged the Muslim communities to organize locally and develop a system to monitor and certify halal stores.  He also said that Muslims should respect divergent opinions and discuss things in an amicable manner.

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Fazal Khan, Health Law Expert

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

fazal khan health law expert

Dr. Fazal Khan joined the University of Georgia School of Law in the fall of 2006 as an assistant professor specializing in health law.  Khan teaches Health Law & Policy, Bioethics, Public Health Law and International Products Liability. 

His current research focuses on several themes:  reform of the US healthcare system, the effect of globalization on healthcare and the challenge of regulating emerging biotechnologies.  Representative articles and presentations include proposals on administrative regulations to protect against epigenetic harms (and endocrine disruptors) in consumer products; ethical regulations on human drug trials in developing countries; rethinking public health laws post-9/11 to ensure adequate protection of civil liberties and effective emergency response; the potential dissonance between personal health records and electronic medical records; and ethical safeguards that would allow organ donation from anencephalic infants.  Khan has presented papers at the University of Illinois, SEALS conference, Georgia State University and the Health Law Scholar’s Workshop at St. Louis University.  At the University of Georgia, he has given many academic presentations at the College of Public Health, the Center for International Trade and Security, the Department of Cellular Biology, the Department of Genetics, the School of Social Work and the School of Law, among others.

Khan has considerable experience in both legal and medical fields and has been interviewed and called on as an expert by both television and print media on topics ranging from national healthcare reform, assisted suicide laws and mandatory vaccination policies.  As a litigation associate for the law firm of Jenner & Block, he conducted a bioethics investigation for a major academic hospital’s transplant program, drafted an appellate amicus brief on the epidemiology of Agent Orange exposure and represented hospitals, physicians and pharmaceutical companies in various other legal matters. In addition, he developed a mock trial on scientific evidence for the National Foundation for Judicial Excellence and assisted in the development of the Federal Judicial Center’s Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence.

He earned his bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Chicago, where he was a National Merit Scholar. As part of the University of Illinois’ Medical Scholars program, he graduated magna cum laude from law school in 2000 and earned his M.D. in 2003. He served on the editorial board of the University of Illinois Law Review and was a Richardson Scholar at the College of Medicine.

Khan is proud to be active in his local community of Athens, Ga.  He serves as a board member for AIDS Athens, has given several public “town hall” presentations on healthcare reform all over Northeast Georgia and is a strong supporter of local artists and musicians. 

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Community News (V12-I5)

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

IMANA sets up clinic in Haiti

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Imana team on their first day in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti–The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) said today that it has helped convert an amusement park in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to a health care facility. The facility, which is seeing over 100 patients a day, is being operated through a partnership between IMANA, other medical teams, and local partners such as Aimer Haiti.

With existing hospitals in Port-Au-Prince overwhelmed with patients, IMANA said physicians at the facility are hoping to increase their capacity as quake victims continue to present with fractures, infected wounds and dehydration.

“On day one, an air hockey table doubled as a procedure table. Now, with our partners, we are providing services from pediatricians, obstetricians, emergency doctors, and surgeons to at least 100 patients a day. We are hoping to arrange equipment that would allow our surgeons to go from performing simple procedures to running a full mobile operating room,” said Dr. Sameer Gafoor, a volunteer physician in Port-au-Prince. Gafoor is a cardiology fellow in Washington, D.C.

IMANA  is planning to send additional teams of physicians and surgeons every week with shipments of supplies to support existing operations.

Flint Islamic center seeks expansion

FLINT, MI–The Flint Islamic Center, catering to more than 1500 Muslims in the area, is seeking a $4.5 million expansion to its existing facilities. The new complex will have a mosque, a grade school, and will double its size from its current facility.

Besides an expanded worship space, a multi-purpose hall for social gatherings, a professional kitchen and new offices, the plan is to revamp the school operation with a new media center, science lab, school cafeteria, a new gym, an expanded computer lab to include long-distance learning, and room for a new high school program, said board member Abed Khirfan to mlive.com.

The Flint area continues to attract Muslim professionals and their families to the area due to its excellent schools, communities, and hospitals.

Kais Menoufy honored for his human rights work

SACRAMENTO, CA– Kais Menoufy, a Muslim community activist in Sacramento, was honored by the Florin Chapter of the Japanese American Citizen’s League, for his commitment to civil rights.

Menoufy helps bring “Songs of Hope” – an annual concert performed by Arab and Israeli musicians – to Sacramento.

Since 2006, the Florin JACL has partnered with Muslim organizations to take Muslim American youths to the Manzanar Internment Camp in the Southern California desert where Japanese American were interned during World War II.

Eboo Patel to speak at Stanford graduation ceremony

Interfaith leader Eboo Patel is one of the featured speakers at this year’s graduation ceremonies beginning on June 11, 200. He will joing UN Ambassador Susan Rice and Stanford Philosophy Professor Debra Satz.

Patel is a member of the Obama administration’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. A Muslim born in India and raised in Chicago, he founded the Interfaith Youth Core in 1998 to inspire and train college students to build understanding.

He is the author of a Washington Post blog, “The Faith Divide,” which explores what drives faiths apart and what brings them together. He also wrote “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.” He holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois.

“We believe Eboo Patel’s lifelong work to encourage religious tolerance and to prompt young people to take action will inspire all of us to make a difference,” the class presidents said.

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I5)

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Picture AQ Picture 11
   
Above left:  METRO Bus…; Above right: TCF Primary School in Pakistan…
 

Houston Energy Corridor Has METRO Service

Houston, Texas: Energy Corridor District of Houston has partnered with METRO to launch the Route 75 Energy Corridor Connector, starting this past Monday 01-25-2010. The new service will run along Eldridge between the Katy Freeway and Westheimer. This will provide employees and residents who live and work in the Energy Corridor District a quick, convenient ride to stores, restaurants and businesses along the route, according to Metro officials.

Energy Corridor District employees who live in the downtown and Midtown areas can connect to the 75 Energy Corridor Connector by riding the 228 Addicks and 229 Kingsland/Addicks from the Central Business District to the Addicks Park & Ride. The Connector also links with popular routes like the 82 Westheimer and the 131 Memorial.

Service will run every 15 minutes, from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will also run every 10 minutes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

TCF: Beacon of Hope in Pakistan

“Problems in Pakistan are many: Poverty, Health, Education, and so on. As conscientious persons, founders of the Citizens Foundation (TCF) reached the conclusion after much deliberations that eradicating illiteracy and bringing real high standard schooling to the children of Pakistan is the solution to all problems: These were the words of Dr. Ahson Rabbani, Vice-President of TCF, who came for a special brunch event organized by Houston Community Activist Abdullah Jafari & his wife Anjum at the Crown Plaza Hotel Kirby. Also present on the occasion was Danial Noorani, CEO of TCF-USA, a non-profit entity in USA, which helps the educational services of TCF in Pakistan and gives chance to American donors to invest their hard earned money in a worthwhile cause and get tax deduction benefits at the same time.

TCF, established in 1995, is a unique foundation providing formal education for the less privileged children of Pakistan. The model on which it works is that education for the poor will not be poor (not substandard). Purposeful primary and secondary school buildings each accommodating 180 students and have art room, library, computer lab and toilets: Taking students off the streets and into schools: Maintain self-esteem of children by asking them to pay minimum Rs. 10/Month: TCF Schools are not limited to certain communities; they are present across Pakistan and constantly growing in number: TCF is a professionally managed by a team of highly dedicated leaders and staff employed on a full-time basis – Currently, there are 6000 full time employees, which includes 4150 qualified teachers: Comprehensive & dynamic curriculum as officially prescribed syllabus by the government, which is not taught at government schools, but here with TCF with the help of an army retired officer all schools are checked through secret visits that they are functioning.

As of 2009, TCH has 600 School Units (459 Primary School Units / 141 Secondary School Units); a network of 600 purpose-built operational school units nationwide; an enrollment of 80,000 students; a balanced gender ratio, which is close to 50% female students; has created 6,026 jobs of which 4,150 are female faculty positions.

“Although we have tried to apply for grants through USAid and other worldwide agencies and corporations, but we have not yet been very successful in getting such assistance: We believe that is not a problem, since this issue of eradicating illiteracy and making Pakistani citizens well educated and skilled is our own challenge and we should be at the forefront of resolving these issues with our monetary as well as moral support of all Pakistani: Added Danial Noorani.

For more information, once can always call Abdullah Jafari at 713.907.7786.

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Israt Ahmed Makes Scientific Discovery, Wins Siemens Award

December 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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NEW YORK, NY–The research of 11th graders Israt Ahmed and Xiao (Cathy) Zhou of Francis Lewis High School and Stuyvesant High School student Stephanie Chen helped them place third this past week at the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. The team will split a $40,000 scholarship for their work, which is thought to prove hominids migrated from Africa to Eurasia 200,000 years before scientists had previously estimated.

The teens made their discovery studying samples of teeth and tools found in France and Russia. The students’ findings have implications in the field of evolution and in climate change research. 

The students devoted months of hard work—over 800 hours apiece, their advisor said—to their project, spending summer days, vacations, and weekends in the lab. Their research culminated in an 18-page research paper and a presentation at the Siemens competition.

“They’re going to rewrite the history textbooks that we use in school,” their faculty supervisor, Dr. Bonnie Blackwell, said. “These students have done a fabulous job.”

Ahmed lists English, physics, world history, government and biology as his favorite subjects in school. His interest in government and history is evidenced by his participation in AP Government and his leadership role as President of his school’s Global Warming Awareness Club.  He is a member of the RFK Science Research Institute. He hopes to one day become both a geneticist and a neurologist in order to use the potential of stem cells to help cure diseases.   In his free time he plays tennis and is involved with video editing and production. He was born in Bangladesh and speaks Bengali, Japanese, Spanish, Hindi and Latin.

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Aamir Khan Adds Gandhian Touch To His Campaign In Gujarat

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI:  Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan has certainly taken a lead over politicians where his publicity campaign for his latest movie, “3 Idiots” is concerned. He has literally gone to the people, mingled with them and then surprised them by revealing his real identity. The silent message sent by this style of campaigning cannot be missed. The message stands out by the actor giving minimal importance to religious, regional as well as other socio-economic differences which are in contrast highlighted prominently by politicians when they try reaching out to the common people for their votes. This does not imply that the star has seldom given importance to communal tactics of Indian politicians. In fact, he earned a strong criticism in several quarters for having earlier criticized Chief Minister Narendra Modi for Gujarat carnage and supporting the Narmada Bachao Andolan (movement). Soon after Aamir criticized Modi in 2006, activists supporting Modi started persuading theater owners in Gujarat not to release his movies- “Fanaa” and “Taare Zameen Par.” They also demanded an apology from Aamir for his “anti-Gujarat” stand on NBA and his “anti-Narendra Modi” remarks. The actor had since stopped visiting Gujarat and had also refused to change his opinion on the two issues- NBA and Gujarat-carnage.

To a question on his stand, Aamir had said: “I had said that people killed in Godhra and its aftermath were not Hindus or Muslims for me. They were Indians, and whoever was responsible for the carnage was anti-Indian and anti-national. If that was the reason for this (ban on his movies), so be it.” On the financial losses that the ban spelt, accepting that they would be “huge,” he said: “And what about people losing their land and houses? I think that is a far bigger, deeper issue.” When questioned on whether he would apologize for his stand, he replied: “What should I apologize for? What wrong have I done? I am happy and proud of what I did.”

Against this backdrop, the nature of Aamir’s recent visit to Gujarat, the first since he faced the backlash, stands out. The actor apparently deliberately selected Lok Niketan Vinay Mandir, a small school in Palanpur village, about 135 km from Ahmedabad in Banaskantha district. The school is run on Gandhian principles, where the students weave their own khadi uniform. Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, the actor entered the school at around noon last Thursday (December 17). Initially, nobody recognized him, but when they did, the teachers and students were pleasantly surprised. After a discussion with the school principal, Aamir interacted with students from class seventh to tenth. He heard a student sing a song, talked to students about their dreams, played cricket with them and also shared food from a girl’s lunch box, cooked by her grandmother. When a student showed Aamir, the star’s photo that he kept in his pocket, he picked him up and kissed him. He gifted the school two golden rings, two cricket balls, six tennis balls, one volley ball, two footballs and four tickets of the film premier with air tickets. The school felicitated him with a khadi garland.

Earlier, when questioned on his plans against his ban of his movies in Gujarat, Aamir had replied: “There are many avenues I could take recourse to. There is the legal option, I could seek help from the film industry and the various film associations, but on this issue I want the people to decide. The people should decide if this is the kind of political party they want.” Criticizing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for using “brute force,” with “no value for human life,” he had said: “In life, nothing is in our control. The maximum we can do is to do what we believe is right. I strongly believe that each one of us has to fulfill our karma, to do what he or she feels is right. The BJP should do what it feels is right, the people of Gujarat and India should do what they feel is right.”

Undeniably, Aamir’s visit to Lok Niketan school was a part of his two-week nation-wide campaign to promote his movie. Among the other places, the actor has suddenly turned up at, include Kolkata (West Bengal), Jaipur (Rajasthan), a remote village in Madhya Pradesh, Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) and an unknown village near Faridkot in Punjab. The subtle message conveyed by his deliberately including a Gujarati-school run on Gandhian principles cannot be missed. He still remains hopeful and optimistic that secularism and Gandhian principles cannot be easily defeated even by communal atrocities, such as the Gujarat-carnage. While at the school, Aamir said that he wanted to “try and imbibe Gandhian values.” This was apparently his style of making people aware about the importance of Gandhian principles. A visit to the small school was not binding on the star. If he wished, he could have stayed out of Gujarat even now. But he did not. Rather, as is evident, he planned his Gujarat-visit to let the school run on Gandhian principles hit the headlines and gain substantial media coverage. The move has given his old critics (Modi-supporters) virtually no time or even reason to question his “campaign.”  

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Defining Muslim Work & Faith Based Institutions: Madrasah Islamiah of Houston

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Umme Abdullah

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

- Carl Jung

In the light of Islam, 21st century might be considered as the Platinum Era; and it is nothing but the blind faith in Allah that has resulted Islam to rank as the World’s Largest Religion! And by no means is it also the fastest growing religion in the West. Here, only question to all the fellow readers is; what is driving the western world to accept Islam? Is anyone gripping a gun under their heads? Or are the “Extremists” studying under the roof of Madrasah’s forcing these people to accept Islam?

Islam is not just a religion; it’s a complete way of life! When an individual unfolds into the bounty of Islam, he enforces its fundamentals to instill within. Albert Einstein once said it is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. And, in order to fulfill this quest; Madrasah’s are well known for its formal education and services towards Deen ul Islam. Creating the gateway to Madrasah’s; I have the following for you………

Let’s ponder, what exactly is a Madrasah?  And have we witnessed one? Madrasah is derived from the root word d-r-s, which literally means “a place where learning/ teaching is done”. In Arabic language, the word Madrasah simply means the same as school does in English language, whether that is private, public or parochial school as well as for any primary or secondary school whether Muslim, non-Muslim or secular. Unlike the understanding of the word school in British English, the word Madrasah is like the term school in American English, in that it can refer to a university-level or post-graduate school as well.

In Muslim states it is an instruction of higher education. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Madrasah functioned until the 20th century as a theological seminary and law school, with a curriculum centered on the Qur’an. In addition to Islamic theology and law, Arabic grammar and literature, mathematics, logic, and, in some cases, natural sciences were studied in Madrasahs. Tuition was free, and food, lodging, and medical care were provided as well. Instruction usually took place in a courtyard and consisted primarily of memorizing textbooks and the instructor’s lectures. The lecturer issued certificates to his students that constituted permission to repeat his words.”

Such being the layout of schools in the Islamic states; Madrasah Islamiah is one of the prominent authentic institutions, concentrating on Hifz course as the main stream of study in the United States. In the state of Texas, located in the southeast region of Houston; this unit servers as a moral structure that enhances the well-being of the Muslim community; locally and worldwide.

Hazrat Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal, founder of this sole Madrasah, initiated his journey to the state of Texas; in the city of Houston through an invitation by Sheikh Mehboob and Farkooh Malik of respected board members of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston in 1981 .Where he gave devout sermons and lectures to fortify Iman (faith) within the Muslim local community. Later in the years he spent a decade, serving Qur’an via home teaching; travelling 150 miles by car from one zone to another.  His sincere dedication, services and spirit to raise a Madrasah that has structure in place for the transmission of knowledge of Deen, and that has institutional credibility in the community; where teaching would be carried out with commitment laid the foundation of Madrasah Islamiah in the month of Ramadan in 1989.

The city of Houston being blessed with one of the most prominent Ulema from Pakistan, a religious scholar and one of the most eminent religious figures, Hazrat Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal had authoritatively erected the initial building blocks of Madrasah Islamiah in 1991. In 1993, the construction of the Madrasah was completed. Since then, Madrasah Islamiah has produced 70 Huffaz & a Hafiza; which serve the local community especially during Ramadan leading Tarawih and Qaiyamm ul lail prayers. Tarawih are extra prayers offered by Sunni Muslims at night in the Islamic month of Ramadan. Qaiyam ul Lail are late night prayers on the last ten days of Ramadan. Services rendered by this institution for the welfare of the community are summarized as below:

Salat is the Arabic term for formal prayer of Islam. Salat being one of the obligatory rites of the religion, to be preformed five times a day by a Muslim; the Madrasah  has the facility to offer these prayers in congregation at their prescribed times. Salat Al-Jumu’ah weekly congregational prayer; that is compulsory upon men is also offered in Madrasah Islamiah premises. Due to low capacity (800 people in one sitting) and huge participation of crowds; the Jumu’ah prayer is set twice, right one after the other. Madrasah Islamiah also puts forward Salat Al-Janaza; the funeral prayer held by Muslims, prayer performed in congregation to seek pardon for the deceased and all dead Muslims.

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Community News (V11-I45)

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Kentucky Christians, Muslims unite to knock out crime

LOUISVILLE–Muslim and Christian leaders in Louisville and Lexington are putting up a united front against crime in the two cities.

The group held a meeting on Tuesday night aimed at “stopping the killing and accept responsibility.”

One minister said that starts with every resident accepting responsibility for the condition of the community and working together to make a positive impact.

He said it’s important to hold everyone accountable including politicians and average citizens.

The group hopes to start a plan called “manhood training,” which seeks to reach out to drug dealers and gang members.

Decision on Naperville mosque delayed

NAPERVILLE, IL–The DuPage County Board has delayed its decision on the Irshad Learning Center for two weeks. The latter had requested for a conditional use permit on unincorporated land.

The mosque project has been delayed ever since was placed before the county last year. It was turned down twice by the Zoning Board of Appeal. It was then approved in a unanimous decision by the board’s development committee last week.

According to committee chairman Tony Michelassi, District 5 representative from Aurora, the legal counsel wants any permit issued by the county to specify that the center would be allowed to use only the structures that already exist on the three-acre parcel. Without that limitation spelled out, the center could add on as it wishes.

The County Board’s next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 on the third floor of the Jack T. Knuepfer Administration Building, 421 County Farm Road, Wheaton.

Lodi parents concerned about food choices

LODI, CA –Parents of children at Lodi’s Heritage Primary Elementary have voiced their concerns over the menu choices at the school. They have asked the school authorities to allow them to accompany their children to the state-operated pre-school program so that they can help their children avoid haram foods.

The parent’s request was made to the Lodi Unified school board meeting.

According to Lodi News 12 percent of the school’s population is Muslim. At present the school doesn’t have any halal meat options on its menu.

The school authorities say that they are working on resolving this issue as soon as possible.

Journalist Alison Weir visits University of Michigan-Flint

FLINT, MI–Journalist Alison Weir, who is also the creator of ifAmericansknew.org, gave a presentation on the plight of Palestinians at the University of Michigan-Flint campus. The event was hosted by the Muslim Students Association, reported the Michigan Times.

“MSA’s focus in this event was to educate students about the Palestine-Israel conflict as well as the media’s skewed approach to the issue,” said Leila Tarakji, senior honors biology and English major and president of MSA. “We encourage our members as well as all students on campus to be aware of injustices that take place both domestically and internationally. We also urge students to seek more information and draw their own conclusions as opposed to absorbing the media without reservation.”

If AmericansKnew.org is advertised as an educational tool for people who want to go beyond the headlines.

California Muslims join rally against Neo-Nazis

ANAHEIM, CA–The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), along with members of the Riverside Muslim community, joined a rally on Saturday against neo-Nazis who had gathered to protest undocumented day laborers.

The organizers of the counter-protest said more than 600 members of diverse faiths and backgrounds joined the rally to speak out against the hatred and bigotry espoused by the neo-Nazis.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush, who attended the rally with his children, said:

“It’s important for all Americans — whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Asian,, African-American, or other — to strongly and vehemently speak out against the hatred and bigotry of those who seek to dehumanize others.

“I brought my teenage children with me to the counter-protest to make sure they never take for granted the sacrifices of early civil rights activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez.

“With the continued economic downturn, anti-immigrant and racist groups are increasingly promoting anti-immigrant sentiment by unfairly blaming immigrants — documented or otherwise — for ‘stealing’ American jobs.

“CAIR-LA rejects such scapegoating and calls for immigration reforms that preserve the dignity and respect of immigrants and their families.

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Sania Rahim: National Chair of Young Democrats

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Sania_Rahim Beckley Student Sania Rahim named National Chair of the Young Democrats of America High School Caucus

“Earlier this year the Young Democrats of America held their bi-annual convention in which nearly 2000 members across the nation and abroad convened in Chicago. Local student Sania Rahim was named the National Chair of the Young Democrats of America High School Caucus in the highly contested race for the High School Caucus Executive Board. Miss Rahim is the third National Chair to be elected and the first Muslim-American woman to serve on the Executive Committee of the organization.

“As always, I am very impressed with your dedications to the Democratic Party” said Congressman Nick Joe Rahall of Rahim’s campaign and recent election. “Your long list of accomplishments is a tribute to your excellent work ethic and determination”.

“Because of your involvement in the Young Democrats organization, you are an outstanding leader ready to build a brighter tomorrow for both our great nation and mountain state”, says Governor Manchin of Rahim. “You have certainly cast a positive light upon Woodrow Wilson High School and all of West Virginia”.

The Young Democrats of America (YDA) is the largest youth-led, national, partisan political organization. The YDA has been the official youth arm of the Democratic Party since 1932. The Young Democrats of America High School Caucus (YDAHSC) is an organization within the YDA specifically geared towards high school students. Members of the YDAHSC represent high school students at all levels of the Democratic Party and claim a substantial percentage of YDA’s membership with about 20,000 high school students nationwide.

Rahim is currently in her junior year at Woodrow Wilson High School. She is active in other organizations such as Key Club International, Conservation Club, Student Government, and of course, the Woodrow Wilson High School Young Democrats”

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School Districts struggling to pay for needs of uprooted kids

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

TIDAL WAVE OF HOMELESS STUDENTS HITS SCHOOLS

By Karl Huus, MSNBC

OXNARD, Calif. – Nine-year-old Daniel Valdez is absorbed in “The Swiss Family Robinson,” the fictional story of a family shipwrecked on a tropical island. In real life, he and his family also are marooned, but there is little romance in their tale of survival in this seaside town northwest of Los Angeles. Daniel, his mother and five brothers, ages 1 to 17, live in a garage without heat or running water in a modest, low-lying neighborhood that sits between celebrity-owned mansions in the hills and the Pacific Ocean. Each morning, they arise at 6:30, get dressed and then leave quietly; they return only after dark — a routine born out of the fear that detection could mean the loss of even this humble dwelling. Daniel and his brothers have been sleeping in the garage for more than a year — members of what school officials and youth advocates say is a rapidly growing legion of homeless youth. While the problem may be worse in economically stricken regions like Southern California, where foreclosures and job losses are taking a harsh toll on families, anecdotal evidence suggests it is a growing issue nationally and one with serious ramifications for both a future generation and the overburdened public school system.

Research shows that the turmoil of homelessness often hinders children’s ability to socialize and learn. Many are plagued by hunger, exhaustion, abuse and insecurity. They have a hard time performing at grade level and are about 50 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. “Homeless children are confronted daily by extremely stressful and traumatic experiences that have profound effects on their cognitive development and ability to learn,” said Ellen Bassuk, a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor and president of the nonprofit National Center on Family Homelessness. “They tend to have high rates of developmental delays, learning difficulties and emotional problems as a product of precarious living situations and extreme poverty.” Mary Aguilar, Daniel’s mother, said she believes the family’s tenuous existence is largely responsible for her son’s struggles with his third-grade lessons.

“He’s depressed a lot,” she said of Daniel, whom she says has been the most affected of her sons by the loss of their home. “He does his work for class, but very slowly, like he’s thinking. He worries a lot about living like this.” Under federal law, schools are charged with keeping homeless students like Daniel from falling behind their peers academically. This can mean providing a wide range of services, including transportation, free lunches, immunizations and referrals to family services.. But with insufficient federal funding and budgets that are severely strained, many schools are struggling to meet the rising need. In Vista, Calif., about 35 miles north of San Diego, the population of homeless kids in the local school district reached 2,542 this year — about 9 percent of the student body and nearly 10 times the number just two years ago, said Rebecca Benner, the district’s homeless liaison.

“It’s like a tidal wave this school year,” she said. Benner’s role as homeless liaison — only part of her job providing student services — is now full time, as she scrambles to register homeless students for free lunches, arrange for transportation, provide P.E. uniforms, line up counseling and cover SAT fees. “It was supposed to be one small piece of my day,” she said. “… Now it’s almost insurmountable to get to the bottom of the phone messages.” Hard-to-get numbers – The number of homeless people in the U.S. is the subject of much debate and disagreement. An annual one-night count, performed by social service organizations and volunteers who then report to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, attempts to tally the number of people living on the street, in cars or makeshift tents and in emergency shelters.

The most recent survey — conducted in January 2008, before the full brunt of the recession hit — tallied 759,101 homeless Americans. Roughly 40 percent of them — or about 300,000 — were families with minor children, according to the survey. Advocates for the homeless say a more reliable picture of what is taking place comes through a separate count conducted in public schools, in which the definition of “homeless” is broader. Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, “homeless” includes not just children who live on the streets, but “any individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” In addition to those living in shelters or cars or sleeping on the street, that figure includes children whose families are doubled up with other families or living in trailers due to economic hardship, those who live in substandard housing and kids awaiting foster care placement.

In 2007-2008 — the last school year for which data is available — the nation’s 14,000 public school districts counted more than 780,000 homeless students, a 15 percent increase from the previous year. “I think that was the beginning of seeing the foreclosure crisis impact,” said Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. In a voluntary survey late last year by the association and another nonprofit, First Focus, 330 school districts reported that the number of homeless students appears to be far higher, said Duffield, co-author of a report on the survey published in December. She estimated that the number of homeless students is now close to 1 million — exceeding numbers in the period right after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“It’s this year, 2008-2009, that the rug was pulled out from under many school districts,” she said. Stimulus package to boost funding – Federal funding for schools to provide services fo r homeless kids is allocated through McKinney-Vento, a 1987 law that was bolstered by the No Child Left Behind legislation of 2002. “Under McKinney-Vento, every district is required to have a liaison with the responsibility to identify homeless kids,” said Duffield. In addition to the staff, the school districts are responsible for providing a number of services, which can include everything from meals and clothing to athletic uniforms and educational field trips. One of the biggest costs in serving homeless kids is providing transportation to and from school, required even if the kids move out of the immediate area, she said.

The law included funding, but school districts must apply for grants to tap into it. Duffield estimated that only about 6 percent of the nation’s school districts received money through McKinney-Vento last year, though many more applied. This year, schools were slated to receive $64 million to aid homeless students under the act. The newly passed federal stimulus package will add $70 million more in funding. That will be a big help, Duffield said, while maintaining that the program “was woefully underfunded” even before the economic crisis pushed more people over the brink. Duffield is now combing through the rest of the $787 billion economic stimulus package to see if funding in other categories might be used to help homeless students.

For instance, the stimulus package includes $79 billion for a “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” — about 80 percent of which is earmarked for K-12 education and is intended to offset state cuts in education funding. The stimulus also adds $13 billion for Title I, the biggest federally funded education program, for schools that have large concentrations of needy students. Under some interpretations, these funds cannot be used to pay for transportation or liaisons for homeless students. “(But) if the district identifies transportation, liaisons, social workers, gas cards, backpacks or shoes, they ought to be able to use their funds for that, because those are literally some of the needs,” Duffield said. “We’re looking for flexibility.”

Responses to the survey of school districts illustrate the variety of challenges that come with providing for homeless kids. The Wisconsin Rapids Public School District, which serves 5,700 students in the state’s rural heart, counted 160 homeless students, a 50 percent increase over two years ago.

“One of the biggest challenges is transportation,” Heather Lisitza, the school district’s homeless liaison, was quoted as saying in the report. “Our city has only one taxi cab service and no public bus system. Another challenge (is)… we … have long, cold winters, all students need proper outerwear to go outside — snow boots, hat, mittens, snow pants and a winter jacket that has a working zipper or buttons on it. This expense adds up quickly and it is hard to provide to the increasing number of homeless students.”

More families pushed over the edge – School districts also say they are seeing more students from middle-class, working-class and working-poor families being pushed into homelessness. Among them are Martin and Luz de la Rosa, who arrived one recent afternoon at the Ventura County (Calif.) Community Action Center, a facility that primarily serves chronically homeless men, for an appointment with a social worker. The de la Rosas explained that they were seeking government assistance for the first time because they and their eight children — ages 3 to 16 — were just days from being evicted from their apartment. Clutching a Bible, Luz de la Rosa said she lost her job at a small jewelry store as the recession kicked in. Then in November, her husband was laid off from the small Oxnard machine shop where he had been earning $19 an hour.
Martin said that left him with two untenable choices — continuing to collect unemployment benefits of $1,600 a month or taking a job at minimum wage, neither of which would cover rent for a home big enough for his family. The de la Rosas said they wouldn’t mind moving into a two-bedroom apartment, which is all they can afford here, but landlords won’t allow that many occupants. Social worker Delores Suarez said she would like to place them somewhere together, but at the moment, there is simply not enough emergency housing available. “They are probably going to end up split up among relatives” and attending different schools, she said. Other homeless parents said that some schools are either unaware of their obligations to help or aren’t eager to provide the required services because of budget constraints.

Next in Suarez’s appointment book was a 35-year-old woman named Sylvia, who declined to provide her last name. She said that after a divorce three years ago, she lost her home to foreclosure and then couldn’t keep up with rent when she was laid off from her job at a car parts factory. She and her three kids then moved in with a friend. “When the school found out we had moved (away from the neighborhood) … they wanted to remove the kids from school,” she said. Only after she met with district officials were they allowed to continue to attend, she said. Identifying the homeless – Compounding the problem of getting school districts to live up to their responsibilities is the fact that many homeless families are unwilling to acknowledge their living situation and therefore don’t receive services that could help them, said Susan Eberhart, principal of the Sheridan Way Elementary School in Ventura.

“People have to identify themselves as homeless (in order to get help), but that frequently doesn’t happen,” she said. “When the school found out we had moved (away from the neighborhood) … they wanted to remove the kids from school,” she said. Only after she met with district officials were they allowed to continue to attend, she said. Eberhart said she and her staff are accustomed to kids who are struggling at home — nearly all of the school’s 514 K-5 students are poor enough to qualify for free breakfast and20lunch. Although 86 of them were identified as homeless in the last survey, she guesses that, based on telltale signs, at least 100 meet the criteria.

“They have no place to keep stuff, so their backpacks are very full. Their clothes are not clean. They haven’t had a haircut, haven’t seen a dentist,” she said. “… Maybe a kid has asthma and is out of meds.” Eberhart said she is swamped by the scope of the problem. She no longer has the assistance of a county social worker who used to handle much of the load — a budget cut caused the county to eliminate that resource. Now she is urging people to ask for help — and prodding community organizations to help fill the gaps as she identifies them. “Some families are sort of floating, she said. “If we can get them to land, we can provide … continuity.” While the stigma of homelessness prevents some from acknowledging their plight, others have more immediate concerns, said Beth McCullough, homeless liaison for the Adrian Public Schools in economically battered southeast Michigan.

Families with children living in emergency shelters, pop-up campers, cars and tents can be charged with neglect by Child Protective Services workers, and there have been instances where parents have lost custody, she said. Fearing the loss of their kids, she said, “parents call in and say their kid won’t be in school because they are going to Disneyland for a week, when the fact is that (they) don’t have a way to get them to school. Or20parents will tell kids to lie about where they live.” Homework in pandemonium – For Mary Aguilar, the Oxnard woman living with her kids in the garage — which she rents for $150 a month from a cousin — the assistance her kids might receive at school is not worth the risk that other children will ridicule them if their living arrangement becomes known..

So she tries to help them stay on track, though it’s a daily struggle. Daniel recently missed several days of school because of yet another cold — a common ailment, his mother said, because the garage has been especially cold this winter. Normally she walks three of her sons to their elementary school, but some days heavy rains have kept them home. For now, the family has few prospects for better housing. The family became homeless after Aguilar’s boyfriend, father to the two youngest boys, left about a year and a half ago, and Aguilar could not pay rent. When an opportunity came to sign up for emergency housing five months ago, she lined up at the courthouse before dawn. For that, she got her name on a waiting list of about two years.

She has applied for jobs in stores and fast-food restaurants and come up empty-handed. She is exploring a work rehab program offered by the state. Meantime, the family gets by on about $1,300 a month in food stamps and cash aid — but no child support from the boys’ fathers. For now, the routine remains the same. After school, Aguilar and the six boys go to her20mother’s apartment, where her brother and sister also live. Aguilar’s family can’t stay overnight — that would put the others at risk of eviction — but it is a place to eat and for the boys to study.

But Daniel’s 11-year-old brother, Isaac, said he’s sometimes too distracted by the pandemonium of 10 people and the television to do his homework. “Then he tries to do it when we get back to the garage, but the light keeps everyone awake,” said Aguilar. Isaac has fallen behind a grade, and Aguilar’s eldest son, 17-year-old Joshua, is attending a remedial program for drop-outs. Aguilar is pleased that Daniel has so far been able to keep up with his grade level. Unaware of the tough odds he faces, Daniel says he plans to finish high school. Like other boys his age, he still has big dreams — of becoming a basketball star and working at something important someday. But first and foremost, he dreams of “a very beautiful house … with a room of my own.” The walls would be decorated, he said, “with posters, and pictures that I have drawn, and tests that I did in school.”

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Salim Fights For Beard & Wins

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service, MMNS

NEW DELHI: Mohammed Salim, a class ten student must be fairly pleased at the apex court finally supporting his decision to keep a beard. He was expelled last year from Nirmala Convent High School, Vidisha district, Madhya Pradesh for refusing to shave on religious ground. Describing the school’s decision to expel him for sporting a beard as “ridiculous,” a bench of Justices B.N. Aggrawal and G.S. Singhvi said: “Merely because you have a beard, they removed you? So if you are a Sikh, you will not be able to sport a beard. Tomorrow they will say you are not fair complexioned. Nowadays, it has become a fashion for some people to pierce their ears for putting the ring. So such persons will not be allowed to study. Prima facie, it’s ridiculous,” (September 11).

Salim is probably not the only Muslim boy who has faced discrimination at a non-Muslim educational institution. But he is one of the few Muslims to have decided to fight legally for justice in keeping with the fundamental right and duty on religious grounds guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. A major point of his argument was that he was clearly being discriminated against as those belonging to the Sikh community were allowed to keep a beard and sport a turban. If they were being permitted to keep the beard and wear the turban in keeping with religious dictates of Sikhism, why was he–a Muslim-not allowed to sport a beard? Why had he been expelled for refusing to shave on religious grounds?

Supporting Salim’s argument, the apex court bench directed the school to immediately take back the expelled student. Though the verdict has finally gone in his favor, it has not been an easy fight for Salim. He has lost a year in the legal battle. His stand has been: “I will die but not give up my beard. It’s a matter of my faith. Its in my religion.” Now he can go back to school with a beard. Salim plans to resume studies at the same school after Eid.

The ironical twist in Salim’s case stands out in it having been rejected earlier by the apex court. He had appealed in the apex court after the Madhya Pradesh High Court had rejected his plea. Dismissing his petition, Justice Markandeya Katju had made a controversial comment, for which he later apologized. Implying that keeping a beard on religious grounds was equivalent to turning to extremism, Katju had then said: “Talibanization of the country cannot be permitted.” Stating that Salim was expected to follow rules and rights set by the institution, the bench had said: “If there are rules, you have to follow it. You can’t say that I will not wear a uniform and I will wear only a burqa.” “You can join some other institution if you do not want to observe the rules. But you can’t ask the school to change the rules for you,” Katju had said (March 30).

Objecting to Katju’s controversial comments and expressing apprehension over his impartiality, Salim filed a review petition. The order “needs to be reviewed afresh as the core issue of a Muslim’s right to sport a beard as guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution (right to practice and profess one’s religion) was violated by the school,” Salim said.

Justices R.V. Raveendran and Katju withdrew the March 30 order on July 6. They requested that the matter be placed before the Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and be posted before another bench. Katju also apologized for his remarks on linking the beard with Talibanization. Salim’s Special Leave Petition was taken up formally last week by bench of Justices Aggrawal and Singhvi.

Undeniably, credit must be given to Salim and those who have supported him for pursuing their point even after it seemed that the apex court had turned down their appeal. Senior advocate B.A. Khan, appearing for Salim, had argued that his expulsion from school for keeping beard was against “his religious conscience, belief and custom of his family.” As per Article 25 of the Constitution, Salim had the right to pursue his religious practice of keeping a beard, Khan said. He described the regulation for shaving it as violative of the provision guaranteed by the Constitution.

In addition to complimenting the apex court for finally viewing Salim’s case, objectively and impartially, appreciation must be voiced for him and his supporters for not letting their stand on religious right get defeated by those who linked a Muslim’s beard with terrorism. True, all Muslim and Sikh males do not sport beards. But the decision to do so is based on their religious perceptions. Certainly, this does not imply that anyone who keeps a beard should be viewed as a “terrorist.” After all, even British writer Salman Rushdie has a beard, so does the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Salim’s case serves as an eye-opener to another hard reality. It still remains a taxing task for ordinary, religious Indian Muslims to convince even the elite Indian class that it is time the latter stopped viewing their beliefs and practices (including the beard) with a tainted approach. What is held as religious should not from any angle be linked with terrorism!

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Southeast Michigan (V11-I38)

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

BMUC Sunday School Opens

bmuc sunday school

Bloomfield Hills–September 9–Imam Hossameldin Musa welcomed 133 students to the Bloomfield Unity Center’s first Sunday School session last Sunday, September 6th. 

The Sunday school will be open 10AM to 2:45PM each Sunday except for ‘eid, Sept. 20th.

The imam was excited to tell TMO also about the hifz program which is beginning this year at BMUC, patterned on the extremely successful and powerful similar program at the Tawheed Center (which already has several graduates back in Western style schools)–the BMUC hifz teacher is Shaykh Ahmad Mabrook.

Imam Musa explained “we have a friendly school, it’s very clean, we have AC in every room, top of the line teachers–some of them with MBA’s–many were raised in this country.”

The Sunday school hopes to welcome many more students this year–so please consider joining the program to secure for your children a basic knowledge of Islam in a warm environment.  Imam Hossam emphasizes that one of the goals of his school is to give “warmth, love, and caring” to the students–nothing less than what they receive in their mainstream schools during the week.

The price of the school is $650 per year for BMUC members, and $750 per year for nonmembers–which is an amazing deal if you consider that for that price students receive food, books, and tuition for the program. 

Explains the younger imam Musa, “We use the I love Islam series–it’s really good.”

Most of the students in the program are from local public schools, some from Huda.

In school, children also pray dhohr in jama’at behind the elder Imam Musa, who is now the longest-serving imam in Michigan.

Michigan Food Pantry Program

Please support this program. The Islamic Shura Council of Michigan is supporting Gleaners Food Bank to buy food at a discount and distribute it throughout Michigan.  The program is year-round. 

www.zakatzone.com

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-12th) Needs Your Support

The only Muslim legislator in Michigan is under fire from political opponents after opposing a bridge project by Matty Moroun.  Apparently in collaboration with Moroun, political consultant Adolph Mongo has filed multiple recall petitions against Tlaib.

Tarek Baydoun is spearheading an effort to defend her.  To join the effort to defend and help her you can contact 313-297-8800.

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