Community News (V12-I20)

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Karan Johar, others receive MPAC award

LOS ANGELES–Bollywood director Karan Johar and four other media personalities received the Muslim Public Affairs Council Media Awards at a glittering ceremony held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, CA.

The recipients in the categories were as follows:

* Director KARAN JOHAR for the groundbreaking Bollywood film “My Name is Khan”, blending of love story with the harsh realities of being a South Asian Muslim in the U.S. post-9/11

* Pulitzer-nominated author DAVE EGGERS for his bestseller “Zeitoun” about a Muslim American family facing the fallout of Hurricane Katrina

* First-time writer/director CHERIEN DABIS for her award-winning independent film “Amreeka” about a family of Palestinian immigrants grappling with intolerance and identity against the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War

* ABC TELEVISION for a touching episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” called “Give Peace a Chance” featuring a Muslim character in a positive role.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize these talented and inspirational voices for bringing humanizing and multi-dimensional portrayals of Muslims to millions of television and film viewers,” said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati.

Dr. Sultan Sikander Ali Khan obtains fellowship American Society of Hypertension

NEW YORK–Dr. Sultan Sikander Ali Khan, MD, FACP, FASH, has been granted the prestigious fellowship of the American Society of Hypertension. There are only 113 Fellows of American Society of Hypertension in the US.

The Hyderabad, India, born Dr. Khan is a Diplomate American Board of Internal Medicine, Diplomate American Board of Clinical Lipidology and Fellow of American College of Physicians.

He has published several articles in leading medical journals.

He is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at New York Medical College and has a private practice in Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Board recommends approval for Sheboygan mosque

SHEBOYGAN, WI–The Town of Wilson Plan Commission in Wisconsin unanimously recommended approval for a conditional use permit to allow to convert a former health food store into the county’s first mosque.

Commission Vice Chairman June Spoerl, who chaired Monday night’s meeting in the absence of commission Chairman Doug Fuller, said Mansoor Mirza, the owner of the building at 9110 Sauk Trail Road had satisfied “quite a few of the concerns we had,” including well, septic, fire code and occupancy issues.

The building’s 25 parking spaces also are adequate, officials said, but stipulated that no on-street parking be allowed and that if the parking lot is to be expanded, there would be no runoff onto neighboring property.

No public comment was allowed before the Plan Commission but will be taken when the Town Board meets at 6 p.m., on Monday, May 17, to consider final approval of the mosque.

If approved, the permit would be for two years at which time the mosque would have to apply for permit renewal.

Florida mosque firebombing condemned

JACKSONVILLE, FL–Political and religious leaders in Jacksonville have condemned the firebombing of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

In a statement issued to the press Florida. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp said, “I strongly condemn the alleged Monday night attack at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. No one in this country should ever be concerned for their safety when they practice their chosen faith. The free exercise of religion is one of our most cherished rights as citizens of this great nation. Ironically those targeted were exercising that right while gathered in prayer inside the Islamic Center as this act of hatred was carried out.  

I have full confidence that federal, state and local law enforcement authorities will conduct a thorough investigation and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this crime.”

The Interfaith Council of Jacksonville issued the following statement, “The Interfaith Council of Jacksonville deplores and condemns the attempt to bomb the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, one of our most faithful member communities. The attempted bombing on Monday night was a cowardly andmorally reprehensible act. Such an act besmirches the good name of our city and exposes how much work there is yet to do in teaching the values of religious tolerance and brotherhood. There is no more place in our city for this sort of religious intolerance and hatred than there is for racial bigotry. The IFCJ calls on all responsible citizens of our community to bear witness that this sort of violence will not be tolerated in our midst.”

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War & Water in South Asia

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Los Angeles—April 10th—Ashok C. Shukla, an independent scholar, who has written and edited several books on South Asian security issues that are largely available in India, but, unfortunately, too often have to be imported from there into North America.  He has been commissioned by an editor to compose a chapter on energy security in the environs for as yet unnamed publisher.

Most of the presentation was on the problematic future transport of oil and gas across Pakistan into India.  Yet, the crucial issue of water came up early.  With today’s political situation, fresh water is problematical there, too — competitive to say the least. The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin provides the fresh water or part of it for all but two of the area’s nations.  This probably supplies a billion people with their drinkable supply of water.  The competition between India and Pakistan is a volatile one, and most likely will not terminate itself to the satisfaction of all parties anytime soon.  At the very worse it could become a trigger for thermo-nuclear war between the two military giants within Southern Asia that could destroy hundreds of millions of people along with its ancient civilization!

(Also, not as pressing, towards the east, there have been unsubstantiated accusations that India has been skimming off part of Bangladesh’s aquifer.)

As has been intimated, Dr. Shukla’s chapter will examine the energy insecurity of the remarkably expanding economy of India.  (Since this is the Muslim Observer, although Bharat (India’s) population is only 12% Islamic [about the same percentage as Afro-Americans in the United States], it has the second highest Islamic national numbers in the world.  In Pakistan, 98% of the country is Muslim; Afghanistan, who potentially could play a role in the transportation of oil and gas to the Subcontinent, is circa 99%.  Bangladesh is an Islamic State Constitutionally along with substantial non-Muslim minorities, though; and most of the new raw energy-rich former Soviet Republics are (Socialist) secularized Islamic States currently rediscovering their Islamic roots.  (Your essayist wishes to point to the veracity of the Islamic political issues of the discussion which were not considered by Mr. Shukla.)

Both India and Pakistan are important to the interests of Washington because of the economic rise of New Delhi and the strategic military significance of Rawalpindi.  Also, within, South Asia, there are overbearing ecological issues impacting the entire globe.  India desperately, requires propulsion sources for their spectacularly expanding industries which resides in raw form in Central Asia and Iran, but Islamabad (and to a lesser extent Afghanistan) holds the key transit routes for the necessary pipelines.  The bad feeling between Indo-Pakistan means that in any crisis the Pakistanis have the capability to turn off the valves bringing India’s burgeoning economy to a halt.  Further, the United States is against India buying Iranian gas which would, also, transverse Pakistan.  (This goes back to our bad relations with the Persians which probably will turn out to be temporary anyway.) The United States is pressing for the pipelines to go through Turkestan.  Nevertheless, added to American opposition, New Delhi does not accept Pakistan’s terms to permit a pipeline from Tehran.) 

Whatever, SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) will not involve itself in political matters between India and Pakistan by the very nature of its charter (it is only an economic organization), and, thus, will not intervene in bi-lateral matters.  (For this reason, it lacks relevance as a prospective influential territorial negotiator on dangerous political issues over the vastness of the geographical extent of the Indic sphere. 

Ashok C. Shukla ended his proposed chapter with the statement that South Asia totally lacks energy security.

(Your reporter pointed to the fact that Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, may be sitting on a sea of gas.  Although a Muslim country it is friendly to India [as is Iran and the Central Asian Republics].  One of the reasons that the gas fields have not been developed is that the technology to liquefy the gaseous energy has not been perfected yet in large enough quantities to ship it to the West and China on ships.  It would make sense, though, to send it to India through pipes, and that would solve the energy security issue for New Delhi, and, further, it would help with the ecological problem since the Republic of India depends on coal for its industrial expansion, and natural gas is much, much cleaner burning).

Dr. Shukla rejected this due to Bangladesh’s nationalistic sensibilities (which your writer finds it hard to believe, for the East Bengals badly require foreign exchange, and their gas could make them as rich as some of the Middle East oil giants! ) 

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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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Negotiating with the Taliban?

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sleeping” with the Enemy”

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Differences Between the U.S., Afghani and Indian Governments

Point Isabel, Point Richmond (Calif.)–Your author is taking his subtitle from a less than notable American film of several years ago to finish up his report on the recent Indian Ambassador to Kabul’s comments , Gautam Mukhopadhaya.

At the moment your reporter finds himself at a lovely promontory pointing into San Francisco Bay, and it seems strange to be considering so many matters so far away that I begun two weeks ago from Berkeley.  At that time I decided to divide the presentation into two parts because of its length.

Mukhopadhaya continued on how the political position amongst the American voters regarding Afghanistan was shifting away from support to criticism of official military policy in the Hindu Kush.  Therefore, the District of Columbia had to change its tactics in response.

Pakistan operates in this War as it perceives to its own interests.  Thus, the Ambassador deems that NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s) allies in the Hindu Kush consider Rawalpindi to be unreliable — which is far from the truth in your writer’s opinion. 

Both the U.S. and Pakistan are targeting the Taliban, (but Islamabad only considers one branch of the Taliban to be hostile to their interests.  The other four branches – which are within their territory, too – they do not consider a threat, and all these parties are comparatively accommodating to the other – including Pakistan.  Up to 80% of the Pakistani Taliban resides in the federally administered Northwest Provinces.)

The Americans and Pakistani Armies mutually oppose one “clan” of Taliban, and they are fully within Islamabad’s Federally Administered Territories.  Thus, Peshawar sees no threat to their survival from the Afghani Taliban. 

Further, Washington sees no alternative to the Karzai government that the District of Columbia (D.C.) perceives as militarily undependable.  At the same time, the U.S. Administration comprehends Kazai’s Presidency to be a corruptible one – an uneasy alliance to say the least! 

In the London Conference on the Afghani conflict last January (2010), the European and Canadian allies supported the “Afghanization” of the War and the “regularization” (normalization) of our relations with the Taliban!  This, hopefully, would lead to meaningful discussions and, eventually, peace within the Mountains!  These talks should be mutually respectful between each party – including the Taliban.

At same time, the Indian representative from New Delhi’s Department of External Affairs had to take a dig at their traditional competitors:  “We need leadership from the Pakistanis!”  (This struggle beyond the Khyber is an opportunity to bring these two South Asian nuclear neighbors closer together instead of tearing them further apart to the dangerous detriment to all!)  His Excellency accused D.C. of a failure of leadership during this international crisis.  To settle the military security, he urged U.S.-Pakistan operations.  (Of course, the loss of Islamabad’s national sovereignty would be totally unacceptable to its Muslim citizenry, and put the security of Pakistan’s topography under question for its Western and regional allies!)  Simultaneously, the Saudis close allies to both, are working with Islamabad and Washington to bring their policies closer together.

On the other hand, the Taliban itself is fed-up.  The London Conference approved the Taliban’s grasp of the countryside while NATO and the Afghani government would occupy the cities.  This is not the battle plan of these “Students.”  They wish to hold the total fasces within the dry, cold hills, and their mindset is far from compromise at this time.

Yet the Americans presume that they have an upper hand, and, correspondingly, are in the position of strength to negotiate with their adversaries.  Actually, it is the Pakistanis who are central for negotiating with the problem some Quetta branch of the Talibani. The Pakistani Army has already begun to begin dialogue in Baluchistan.  Rawalpindi considers it has made some progress, and the Generals at their Military Headquarters are encouraged by their discourse with the irregular tribesmen.

The U.S.A. has been following a contradictory policy in the Af-Pak itself.  While D.C. has been throwing development funds in Southern Afghanistan, it has been shoring up the military on the frontlines in Pakistan.

Ultimately, though, Ambassador Maukapadya does not discern a desire by the Taliban to parley.  In the late 1990s, the Taliban regime in Kabul led the U.S. on their intentions.  (Your essayist has some questions about this, and that is His Excellency is not separating the goals of a Nationalist Taliban and an Internationalist Al’Quaeda.)  Would the Taliban be willing to form a coalition government with Karzai or whoever may succeed him (them)?  (Whatever, a re-establishment of the regime of the 1990s is totally unacceptable to International Civil Society without the checks and balances of the partnership of all Afghani peoples and tribes!)  The Ambassador is “…not optimistic.” 

There is preparation for a major NATO assault upon the Taliban stronghold around the southern city of Kandahar, the center of Talibani power.  Maukapadya  does not feel the battle will turn the War around.

Concurrently, Europe and North America and their regional associates are employing dual strategies against the Taliban who are replying in kind.  This War is far from coming to a mutually acceptable denouement.

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I16)

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Census 2010

 

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Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia Hosted Media Round-table to Encourage the Community Participation in Census 2010: Very Crucial For the Enhancement of Local Resources & Living Standards…

Avoid the knock on your Door: You can still do it by April 16th, 2010: Sheriff Garcia

“We have a challenge. I and my department are ready for it to go out; block walk, attend different community events; and encourage the diverse communities residing in Harris County, Texas to fill out the simple, but most crucial Census 2010 Ten Questionnaire Form. If people mail in this form by Friday, April 16th, 2010, the forms can still be with the Census Department by the final deadline of April 19th, 2010. Two weeks after that, people can start to expect knock at their doors by enumerators.”

These were the sentiments of Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, as he met in his new office building located at 1200 Baker Street, with the members of local South Asian media and community persons, amidst Census Reports that by April 12th, 2010, 60% of Harris County population has responded to the Census 2010 (67% in Year 2000), as compared to 66% national response rate up till now in Census 2010 (72% in Year 2000).

In Census 2010 Data for the State of Texas, the response rate is 61%, while this rate in the Year 2000 was 68% and in the same Year 2000, the national response rate was 72%. As such less percent of the population is responding to Census Questionnaire up till now, which is the challenge Sheriff Garcia had mentioned. Five top States at present include Wisconsin 77%, Minnesota 75%, Iowa 74%, Michigan 72%, & Nebraska 72%.

Present at the Harris County Sheriff Round-Table were of course Sheriff Adrian Garcia; Alan Bernstein, Executive Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Christina Garza, Media Relations Manager, Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Bala Balachandran of the City of Houston Planning Department; Mustafa Tameez, President of Outreach Strategists, LLC (a certified 8(a), M/DBE, SBE company); and Huma Ahmed, Director of Program Development and General Counsel Outreach, Strategists, LLC. Prominent community members including Shaukat Zakaria, A. J. Durrani, Sajjad Burki, & Hasu Patel; and media persons like Tariq Khan, Jameel Siddiqui, Shamim Syed, Koshi Thomas, Haider Kazim, & ILyas Choudry, were in attendance as well.

“It will cost everyone as tax payers, if more populations’ doors have to be knocked. It has been estimated, that if 100% of the households in USA mail back their census forms by April 16th, 2010, taxpayers would save 1.50 BILLION Dollars, a huge amount in these economics times. Let’s all do our part in the Asian Community and mail back our forms,” added Mustafa Tameez of Outreach Strategists, who is liaison with the Harris County Sherriff Department for the South-Asian Community (he can be reached at 713-247-9600 or E-Mail: MITameez@OutreachStrategists.Com)

The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States. The Census informs critical decisions, from congressional representation to the allocation of more than $400 billion annually in federal funds, and helps governments make decisions about what community services to provide. South Asians have been undercounted in Census reports in the past. Sheriff said many individuals don’t respond because they are afraid to share confidential information.

“It is very important that everyone understands that the information collected is protected by law. The Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including the IRS, FBI, CIA or any other government agency,” stated Sheriff Garcia, so as to help ease confidentiality concerns surrounding the 2010 Census among some members of that community.

“Even provisions of Patriot Act cannot be used to get information from Census Data,” informed Mustafa Tameez.

All Census Bureau employees take the oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. The 2010 Census form is one of the shortest in U.S. history, consisting only of 10 questions and taking about 10 minutes to complete.

The Census 2010 matters extremely to our community, in that every year, the federal government distributes more than $400 billion to state, local and tribal governments based on census data. These funds:

• Help leaders determine where to build new schools, roads, health care facilities, child care and senior centers and more;
• Help fund important community programs important to the South Asian population; and
• Assist with planning for education, housing, health and other programs that reflect diversity in the community.

The census is a count of everyone in the United States. Everyone must be counted. This includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens and noncitizens.

Households should complete and mail back their forms as soon as you receive it. Starting in May, Census workers will visit households that do not return forms to take a count in person.

A complete count is extremely important to the South Asian Community. Take the time to fill out the form and send it back. Just 10 minutes. 10 questions. We’re All Counting on You!

For more information about the 2010 Census visit www.2010.census.gov or call 1-800-923-8282.

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Islam in the Bahamas

April 1, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

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Jama’at Ahlus Sunnah Bahamas, Carmichael Road, Nassau

Introduction

Vacationing in the Bahamas, who would have thought that there are Muslims living in nice neighborhoods with a beautiful mosque. There are more than 300 Muslims in Nassau, Bahamas who are organized and have five daily prayers. Islam has come to the Bahamas more than 40 years ago via United States.

History

Which country is closest to Miami?  It is the Bahamas, only 40 miles from Miami to the east while Cuba is 80 miles to the south.  The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands, well known for their gorgeous beaches, sea of colors, vivid flamingoes, and Poinciana trees that line the edge of roads and tantalize the senses with their fragrant aromas. Christopher Columbus discovered it on October 12, 1492 and named it Bahamas (low water or sea).  The British have controlled it until the Bahamians achieved their independence on July 10, 1973.  The thirteen colonies fought the British and won the island for few years but at the treaty of Versailles in 1783, the British traded Florida for the Bahamas.

Economy

Nassau, the capital, is the queen of archipelago, most densely populated consisting of two thirds of total population of 342,000. Eighty five percent of people are of African descent with literacy rate of 95 percent. City of Nassau is decorated with architecture of British, Spanish, Indian, Chinese and flavor of southern US. In 2008, 4.6 million people visited Bahamas, 85 percent from the USA.  Its economy thrives on four areas for income:  tourism, fishing, banking, and farming.  The Bahamas, because of it strict secrecy laws, is called the “Switzerland of the West.” It has no income tax, sales tax, capital gain tax, estate tax, or inheritance tax. The nation’s stable government and economy as well as its proximity to the U.S. make it one of the most attractive areas for investors all over the world. There are 110 US affiliated businesses operating in the Bahamas, mostly in tourism and banking.

Coming of Islam

According to the old records, some of the early Muslims were brought as slaves from North Africa. In the 1960’s a Bahamian called Bashan Saladin (formerly Charles Cleare) preached Islam and converted his home into Mosque. In 1974, Dr. Munir Ahmad who returned from US as Dental Specialist and Mr. Mustafa khalil Khalfani joined hand to establish Islam. They were later joined by Br. Faisal AbdurRahmaan Hepburn. There is only one central college in Nassau and no large university.  For all higher education, the Bahamians must travel to the United States.  After independence, many Bahamians converted to Islam while studying in the US.  Everyone you meet has connection to the US.  There are many South Asian Muslims from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as Turkey and Guyana totaling to 20-30 people working as doctors, businessmen and teachers that visit the mosque.

Community Development

There are many Muslims from India, Pakistan and other countries that have helped develop this community. In 1978 when Jamaat-Ul-Islam, the Revolutionary Islamic Movement, was formed and Br. Mustapha Khalil Khalafani was chosen as its leader. The Muslims established Jamaat- Ul-Islam Mosque in Nassau runned  by Jamaat Management Consultancy Limited owned by Brother Faisal Abdurrahman Hepburn.

The Mosque

The Mosque rests on two acres of land, white in color with three domes (one large and two small) and one tall minaret.  It is surrounded by newly planted trees, a colorful courtyard and a parking lot.  Women area is separated by a perforated wooden partisan. The five daily prayers are performed punctually in congregation. Over 60 people attend the Friday sermon and prayer.  Other activities include brothers and sisters study circle as well as children’s Sunday school.

Conclusion

Islam in Nassau is growing with strong foundation for increasing the Dawa work in the area. Muslims are being ignored or marginalized in many ways, because of being a very small minority(less than 1% of the population). For example, the media refuse to air positive Islamic program and local newspapers are reluctant to cover events relating to Islam and Muslims. They are still facing problems in carrying on their activities. They could use some help and attention from US Muslims in order to energize their work. Muslims in the U. S. including doctors, engineers etc. can contribute by devoting their 1-2 week of vacation per year while doing seminars on Islam or having free medical clinics while still enjoying the scenery. The entire area is conducive to Dawa work due to high literacy, good command of English language, respect for people from US in general and religious background. The US national organizations of Muslims have special obligation to reach out and extend a helping hand. Any cooperation and coordinated activity will go a long way in establishing Islam in this part of the world. For more information about the mosque or the Islamic organization in the Bahamas, contact them at email: faisalhepburn@yahoo.com or visit their website: http:// www.jamaahlus-sunnah.com/.

Anis Ansari, MD,
Clinton, IA
Dr. Ansari is President of Islamic Society of Clinton County in Clinton, IA  and Board Certified Nephrologists. He can be reached at a.ansari@mchsi.com.

Mayor Anise Parker: South-Asian Community & Muslim Leaders For Census 2010

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bureau Conference Room at the City of Houston this past Tuesday was brimming with the leadership from the local South-Asian and Muslim Community, as they got together with Mayor Anise Parker for the Houston South Asian Community Census 2010 Kick-Off Meeting. The event was arranged by Outreach Strategists with the help of Staff Members of Census Bureau, Texas.

Mayor Anise Parker and members of the South Asians Matter Coalition led this Census 2010 Kick-Off event today at City Hall. The event marks the beginning of a joint campaign amongst Houston’s South Asian community to raise awareness for the 2010 Census.

The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States. Mayor Parker reminded the group that the Census informs critical decisions from congressional representation to the allocation of more than $400 billion annually in federal funds and helps governments make decisions about what community services to provide.

“It is very important to the City of Houston that we have a complete and accurate count for the 2010 Census,” noted Mayor Parker. “Among other things a complete Census count in Houston will aid in the creation of two new Houston City Council Districts.”

Former Councilmember M.J. Khan pointed out that the City loses an estimated $1,700 per person per year for everyone not counted. “Each of you here today has an opportunity to reach out to their networks and raise awareness so that South Asians are counted correctly.”

Judge Ravi Sandill also presented information to the group and touched on the confidentiality issues surrounding the Census, “By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.”

South Asian Community Organizer, Mustafa Tameez stated that, “In past years, South Asians have been undercounted. This year we must work to make sure that all South Asians fill out their Census forms to ensure that our community receives access to programs to better our communities.”

Guests received outreach materials, brochures, and posters translated into Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Tamil to display at local businesses and community centers.

Language barriers often contribute to the undercount of many non-English speaking non-residents. The Census Bureau has established Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC) to assist those unable to read or understand the form.  Information about the in-language 2010 Census form can be found at: http://2010.census.gov/partners/materials/inlanguage.php

The 2010 Census form will be one of the shortest in U.S. history, consisting of 10 questions, taking about 10 minutes to complete.

Strict confidentiality laws protect the respondents and the information they provide. Partnerships with for-profit and non-profit organizations and government entities are vital to raising awareness of and increasing participation in this historic event.

For more information, one can also call Outreach Strategists at 713-247-9600.

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A New Battle Begins in Pakistan

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD – Despite serious reservations, Pakistan’s military at the weekend began an all-out offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

The deployment of about 30,000 troops in South Waziristan, backed by the air force, shifts the main theater of the South Asian battlefield from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

That Pakistan has become a focal point was underscored on Sunday when six Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders were killed, as well as 37 other people, in an attack in Iran’s restive Sistan-Balochistan province.

Iranian state television said the Foreign Ministry summoned a senior Pakistani diplomat in Tehran, saying there was evidence

“the perpetrators of this attack came to Iran from Pakistan”. The Pakistani government was asked not to delay “in the apprehension of the main elements in this terrorist attack”.

The attack has been blamed on the group Jundallah, which is believed to operate from Pakistan’s Balochistan province and which recently established a link with al-Qaeda. (See Al-Qaeda seeks a new alliance Asia Times Online, May 21, 2009.)

On Monday, clashes between the Pakistan military and the militants continued for the third day in South Waziristan. Islamabad says that 60 militants have been killed, with 11 soldiers dead.

The army had serious reservations about sending ground troops into South Waziristan, firstly for fear of a strong militant backlash in other parts of the country and secondly because there is no guarantee of success. However, under pressure from the United States, and with the carrot of US$1.5 billion a year for the next fives years in additional non-military aid, Pakistan’s political government has bitten the bullet. The timing might have been influenced by a string of militant attacks in the country over the past few days.

The offensive is concentrated in the areas of the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan, which is also the headquarters of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

In preparation for the assault, the army made ceasefire deals with several influential Taliban warlords who run large networks against coalition troops in Afghanistan. They include Mullah Nazir, the chief of the Taliban in Wana, South Waziristan, who operates the largest Taliban network in the Afghan province of Paktika. Mullah Nazir is neutral in this Pakistani conflict and agreed to allow passage to the army to enter Mehsud territory.

In North Waziristan, two top Taliban commanders, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Sadiq Noor, also agreed to remain neutral. They are members of the Shura of the Mujahideen and a main component of the Taliban’s insurgency in the Afghan province of Khost.

This leaves a few thousand Mehsud tribal fighters along with their Uzbek and Punjabi militant allies to fight against the military. Thousands of civilians have fled the area.

However, Hakimullah Mehsud of the TTP, according to Asia Times Online contacts, has apparently adopted a strategy that will not expend too many resources on protecting the Mehsud area. Instead, he aims to spread chaos by attacking security personnel in the cities. Hakimullah was the architect of successful attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s supply lines in the Khyber Agency, which began in 2007.

The same contacts say that when thousands of people left South Waziristan last week under the military’s directives, a majority of the militants melted away to the Shawal region, situated at the crossroads of South Waziristan, Afghanistan and North Waziristan, besides going to Pakistani cities.

A very limited force is entrenched in the Mehsud tribal area, and by all accounts it is putting up fierce resistance.

In the cities, the TTP will be assisted by Punjabis, who will aim to replicate the audacious and well-planned attack on the Pakistani military headquarters in Rawalpindi on October 10.

This attack and subsequent siege in which a number of hostages were held exposed loopholes in the security mechanisms of the armed forces as well as the deep penetration of militants in the security forces.

A transcript of the militants’ calls, intercepted by the security forces and read by Asia Times Online, shows that the militants had noticed a damaged wall at General Headquarters Rawalpindi. They therefore engaged security personnel at the main gate, while at the same time sending about 10 men through the breach in the wall. These militants were given support by insiders.

The attackers made directly for the barracks of Military Intelligence and took several senior officials hostage, including the director general of Military Intelligence. They then presented a list of demands. According to some reports which have not been authenticated by independent sources, six prisoners were released on the militants’ demands before the hostages were released after a commando operation on October 11.

Washington has been keen to extend the war into Pakistan since early 2008. To reflect this, this year it coined “AfPak”, and even appointed a special representative, Richard Holbrooke, to handle this portfolio. The focus in Pakistan was to be the militant bases in the tribal areas which feed directly into the insurgency across the border.

The aim was to create breathing space for coalition troops in Afghanistan and eventually pave the way for an honorable exit strategy after initiating talks with sections of the Taliban.

This year, the US also stepped up its presence in Pakistan by acquiring new bases and the Americans developed a joint intelligence mechanism with Pakistan to hit al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan with Predator drones. These missile attacks have proved particularly successful in taking out key targets, including Baitullah Mehsud, the TTP leader.

The US also coordinated ground military operations such as Lion Heart, which saw coalition troops on the Afghan side working with Pakistani troops on the other side to squeeze militants. (Asia Times Online documented this last year – see US forces the terror issue with Pakistan September 16, 2008.)

There are parallels in what the US is doing with Pakistan to what happened during the Vietnam War, when that war was extended into Laos and Cambodia.

Beyond the South Waziristan operation

Washington is watching developments in Waziristan with keen interest. Both General Stanley A McChrystal, the top US general in Afghanistan, and US Central Command chief, General David Petraeus, are currently in Pakistan.

They will be pleased that Pakistan has committed its biggest-ever force for such an operation – 30,000 troops with another 30,000 in reserve. Yet the chances of a decisive military victory remain remote.

Given the nature of the opposition and the tough territory, there is a high probability of extensive casualties in the army, with resultant desertions and dissent. There is also no guarantee that if the conflict drags on, the warlords with whom ceasefires have been agreed will not go back on their deals.

At the same time, there are signals that the Taliban in the Swat area in North-West Frontier Province are regrouping after being pushed back by the army this year. It is likely that by the time the snow chokes major supply routes, the Taliban will have seized all lost ground in the Swat Valley. By marching into South Waziristan, the military has taken something of a gamble as it is highly unlikely to eliminate the militant threat. Indeed, the past seven or so years have shown that after any operation against militants, the militants have always gained from the situation. By the same token, the militants don’t have the capacity to permanently control ground beyond their areas in South Waziristan and North Waziristan.

In this situation, in which the militants and the military can’t defeat one another, and if the fighting continues, a political crisis could be provoked. This would weaken the state of Pakistan and its institutions. Alternatively, the authorities could accept the fact that Pakistan is a tribal society which always operates through bargains and deals, and move quickly to contain this conflict.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief.

12-9

Houstonian Corner (V12-I8)

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Haiti In-Kind Donations Container: Overwhelming Support by Houstonians

The Muslims and the South-Asian communities this past Saturday and Sunday did something for humanity that was not directly related to one of their own home countries. They came together at the International Courier Services (ICS) located at 6160 Westview Drive under the guidance of Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD), to send a 40-Feet long container from Houston for the dire needs of Haitians. Since there are many useful things from USA, which are not readily available around Haiti, this was indeed a much needed campaign to launch, so as to involve the kind-hearted Americans in the service of fellow human-beings in Haiti, who are in living dire situation.

For the last one month, HHRD team in Haiti has been working, taking care of injured Haitians in six rotational clinics.

HHRD has termed this $1.50-Million Campaign as Muslims for Haiti (www.MuslimsForHaiti.Org) to unify the community under the platform of providing human services at global level and so that world can view this as the work of people of Mercy Unto Worlds Messenger Muhammad Peace Be Upon him and at the same time, opening opportunities’ to all Americans (not just Muslims) to join in the good work.

Other than HHRD, the supporting organizations of this effort include: The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA); The Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH); The Houston Police Department (HPD);  The Nigerian Muslim Association of Greater Houston (NMA – Masjidul-Mu’mineen); The Haitian Multi-Cultural Association; The Darul-Arqam School of North Houston; The Omair-Sana Welfare Foundation (Dr. Kashif Ansari); The Young Muslims of North America (YM); and The Houston Shifa Foundation.

The event got good coverage from Mainstream American and South-Asian & Spanish Community Media, which resulted in several non-Muslim donors coming to the ICS with their in-kind donations. For more information, one can call Maaz Adil 281-468-2238 / ILyas Hasan Choudry 832-275-0786, or visit HHRD office at 11945 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77099; or visit www.MuslimsForHaiti.Org

Representative Al Green Inaugurated Quaid’s Exhibition at the Houston Consulate of Pakistan

Most unique exhibition of photographs of the founder of Pakistani Nation Quaid-e-Azam (The Great Leader) Mohammad Ali Jinnah was launched this past Saturday 02-13-2010 at the Houston Pakistani Consulate, by US House of Representative Honorable AL Green. Present on the occasion were His Excellency Consul General of Pakistan Aqil Nadeem; Commercial Attaché in Houston Consulate of the Government of Pakistan Zia Ahmed; Consulate of Pakistan Team Salient Members Manzoor Ahmad, Iftikhar Ahmad, Mohammad Arshid, Ali Mohammad, & Tanveer Siddiqui; President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) Khalid Khan; Honorary Investment Counselor Faisal Amin; Executive Director of Joseph Educational & Outreach Ministries Reverend Dr. Afzaal Firdous; Community Liaison in Rep. AL Green’s Office Badar (Bobby) Rafaei; and many others.

US Representative AL Green (TX-09) said he is aware that Quaid was born on a most joyous day of December 25th in the year 1876 and passed away on one of the saddest days for Americans 9/11 in the year 1948. He admired the constitutional battle with no military weapons, that was forged by Mohammad Ali Jinnah to achieve Pakistan. He chose the picture of Quaid with Mohatama Gandhi, which he plans to put in his office.

Later on Mr. Green met with the community members in the consulate and discussed about issues related to Pakistanis in USA like immigration, small business financing & taxes, healthcare, etc.; as well as issues facing Pakistan in terms of national sovereignty, democracy, educational uplifting, national security, terrorism, etc.

Consulate of Pakistan-Houston is located at 11850 Jones Road, Houston, TX 77070. To see the exhibition, one can visit the Consulate by calling in first at 281-890-2223 (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/)

12-8

Houstonian Corner (V12-I4)

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Friends of Gubernatorial Race Candidate Shami Organized Unity Dinner Meeting

Picture AP

Ahmad AL-Yasin, Muzaffar Siddiqui and other friends of Farouk Shami, candidate for the Democratic Party Nomination for Texas Governor, organized a dinner at the Arab Cultural Center, for Mr. Shami to speak to the community about his candidacy and campaign issues. It was termed as “The Unity Dinner”, since it was attended by people from all the diverse communities, including Caucasians, Europeans; African-Americans; South-Americans; Africans; Middle-Eastern; South-Asian; and South-East-Asians. Mr. Shami was accompanied by Jerome Ringo, one of his campaign consultants, who is an avid advocate for environmental justice, clean energy, and quality jobs. Present on the occasion was Paul Lynch, Consul General of England in Houston.

After his inspiring speech, Farouk Shami had a special meeting with President of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) Dr. Aziz Siddiqi to discuss his campaign. Dr. Siddiqi assured him that as candidate, he has all the chance to visit ISGH Masajids and meet with people: However ISGH being 501 (c) does not canvass for any candidate.

In his stirring and honest presentation after lavish Middle Eastern dinner, Farouk Shami said that both his rival Former Mayor of Houston Bill White and competing party’s candidate Rick Perry have bragged in the recent past about bringing job into Houston, Texas and USA: If one looks closely, one easily find out that majority of these jobs were brought by his company CHI Farouk Systems.

“I know how to balance billions of dollars of budget, while my main contender has recently left the City of Houston in huge budget deficit and $103 millions of dollars short. I have always run by company debt-free and this is how the State of Texas should be run,” said Mr. Shami.

“Vote for me and I will bring resources and opportunities to diversify Texas economy with the development of new market sectors through tax & other incentives, job growth, clean energy resources, rehabilitated transportation infrastructure, initiatives for food sufficiency in Texas and much more. I have good working relationship with high level businesspersons and government officials in more than 100 countries and I will use that leverage for a most prosperous Texas,” added Farouk Shami.

For more information, one can visit his website at: http://www.faroukforgovernor.org/

Helping Hand Organizing Medical & Relief Missions to Haiti

Executive Director of International Projects for Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD) Irfan Khurshid reached Port-Au-Prince on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 to place all the logistical systems and base camp to start providing assistance to thousands of Haitians’. With American forces occupying most of the airport in Port-Au-Prince, Mr. Khurshid had to reach Haiti from Canada, going first to Havana – Cuba, then to Santa Domingo – Dominican Republic, and then by land into Haiti. He has already started the food distribution in Haiti.

With this humanitarian crisis of massive proportions in Haiti, HHRD is in the process of setting up a base camp. Once the camp; systems, logistics; and procedures are in place, HHRD will need services from doctors and medical staff, as well as relief-&-social workers. To register for this Haiti Earthquake Recuperation Program 2010, one can reach ILyas Hasan Choudry, who is coordinating Medical and Relief teams for HHRD to go to Haiti. He can be reached at ILyas.Choudry@HelpingHandOnline.Org or call 1-832-275-0786.

In a communiqué received from HHRD, it has been learnt that HHRD, a leading US Muslim Community International Relief organization, has launched a $1.5 Million Haiti Earthquake Recuperation Fund. HHRD is one of the leading international NGOs of USA Muslim Community [501 (c) (3) - Federal IRS Tax Exempt ID: 31-1628040] and their motto is “Muslims For Humanity”, meaning wherever humanity will need assistance, HHRD will try the best possible way using all resources and networks to help our fellow beings.

HHRD has a matching donation program, so when someone donates to HHRD, they can ask their employer to fully or partly match that giving. For all updates and more information, one can visit www.hhrd.org or call Farrukh Raza, Chairman HHRD at 1-732-593-7017 and/or Shahid Hayat, Executive Director at 1-347-400-1899.

12-4

U.S. Bangladeshis Track Climate Changes Back Home

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By New America Media, Ngoc Nguyen

Mohammed Khan was a child when the deadliest cyclone ever recorded struck Bangladesh (at the time East Pakistan) in 1970. The cyclone brought torrential rains and winds stronger than those seen during Hurricane Katrina. As many as half a million people were killed. Then river waters rose and claimed the land.

“My family lives on an island called Bhola,” Khan recalls. “They have some land, but a lot of the land was taken by the river during a great flood.”

Khan, 51, who now lives in Queens, N.Y., has a daughter and more than 200 family members in Bangladesh. He’s worried about how his large extended family will fare when the next cyclone strikes, and he fears climate change will worsen such disasters.

“As the water levels rise in the next few years, much of southern Bangladesh will go into the womb of the river,” he says.

Concern about climate change among the public has waned, but the issue is foremost among many Bangladeshi Americans, because of the vulnerability of Bangladesh to climate change. Some community members are organizing seminars to learn about how rising seas and extreme weather will play out in their home country, and they’re making their voices heard on the political front.

Bangladesh is often considered ground zero for climate change. Crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers, much of the country is a massive flat delta, extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. As global warming pushes sea levels higher, Bangladesh would have the most land inundated among its South Asian neighbors, according to the World Bank. If sea levels rise by one meter, as much as a fifth of the country could be submerged, displacing about 20 million people.

In the last few years, awareness about climate change has grown among Bangladeshi Americans.

Hasan Rahim, a software engineering consultant based in San Jose, says Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was a wake-up call for him and many Bangladeshis in Silicon Valley. Rahim, who also teaches math and statistics at San Jose City College, says he organized screenings of the film in his community.

Rahim connected the film’s dire predictions about climate change to his homeland. “We live here, but we have roots there,” he says. “We are connected and we have got to become more aware of [climate change impacts].”

More than a dozen rivers, including the mighty Ganges, Brahmaputra, Jamuna and Meghna, flow across Bangladesh, emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The southern part of the country is a massive delta, with its fertile land known as the country’s rice bowl.

“It’s really a concern. We’re a small country with 150 million people, so lots of people would lose their houses, land, and become homeless,” says Abu Taher, editor of the newspaper Bangla Patrik, in New York. He says people want to know the future consequences of climate change on the country so they can tell family members to take precautions.

When he travels to Bangladesh, Khan says he notices changes in the environment. There used to be three crop seasons, he says, but now there’s one. “Normally, we would have floods during the rainy season, but now there is no one season for floods anymore,” Khan adds.

A construction worker, Khan also heads up a group made up of immigrants from Barisal, a southern province that is frequently hard hit by cyclones and flooding. The group has organized seminars to learn more about how climate change will affect Bangladesh. From the United States, Khan says he sometimes feels powerless to help his family back home.

“There’s nowhere for them to go. Bangladesh is a small country,” he says. “Where would they get the land? Who will give us the money? I can just advise them to use the deep tube wells to get clean water.”

Khan says his group wants to share the information with U.S. elected officials, and tell them they want the United States to curb its own pollution and help vulnerable nations.

“America as a leader should help all the poor and affected countries, including Bangladesh,” Khan says. “Affected families are dying without food, without a roof over their heads. We should provide financial assistance and even bring them here.”

In the last two decades, Bangladesh suffered the most deaths and greatest economic losses as a result of extreme weather events, according to Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index 2010.

At the climate change summit in Copenhagen in December, the United States and other developed nations pledged $100 billion in aid to countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

“It would make all the difference in the world if the aid were used not to buy finished products like solar panels, but to develop local indigenous talent,” says Rahim.

Bangladeshis have already had to adapt to higher sea levels, Rahim says.

“People who raised chickens are now raising ducks,” he says, and farmers are experimenting with “floating seed beds” to save crops during floods.

Until more funds are directed to helping people adapt to climate change, more frequent and more intense storms and floods will create more environmental refugees.

Queens resident Sheikh Islam says refugees have already poured into the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, which the World Wildlife Federation ranked as the city most vulnerable to climate change impacts out of 11 Asian coastal cities.

Islam says there’s more recognition now that climate change is causing the refugee surge into the city.

“They thought the migrants who came to the city were just jobless and landless. Now, the government is mentioning that they are jobless and landless because of climate change,” he says.

Islam says there’s also a growing perception that Western developed countries bear more responsibility for the problem because they contribute the most to carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

“Now, people know about climate change and they are talking about it,” Islam says. “Three to five years ago they don’t talk about it. They thought it was our problem. Now they think it is a global problem.”

12-4

Book Review

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ayesha Jalal,Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.), $29.95.

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Madison (Wisc.)–With many contemporary books, I find myself merely skimming over the text.  (I think this comes from reading information over the computer.)  This book by Professor Jalal is too absorbing to do that, though. 

I was commissioned to do a scholarly a chapter on Jihadi websites here and in an abridged form in Orlando during early April.  I was encouraged to read Ayesha Jalal because it is the latest and most authoritative statement on Indian Jihadism.

Jalal goes into the fascinating South Asian history and theology of Jihad.  This is a challenging book to comprehend, but it is well worth it.

To a sincere traditional Jihadist, Shari a does not prohibit nationalist wars.  Therefore, a Jihad is not always a “physical” struggle for God (Allah [SWT]).  Still, some temporal rulers employ the concept against the “infidel” (both those who practice different forms of Islam and the non-Muslim), and, thus, in essence these rulers along with their militaristic entourages are imperialistic.  Still, there are those who believe that there is an intrinsic relationship between outward physical Jihad and violent resistance and faith in their concepts of religious concepts of personal and collective identity.

Nonetheless, Jihad has high ideals, but the tragic end to so many Jihadi fighters has led to a eulogistic and nostalgic fog concerning their actions.

Even such outstanding thinkers such as Muhammad Iqbal theorized on Jihad, but he saw Jihad in the original Arabic sense which denoted “a struggle within, or as he states in a poem:

“Jihad with death does not befit a warrior

One [who] has faith [is] alive and war[s] with himself.”

Iqbal’s originality gives elucidation to the love of God (i.e. Allah [SWT]).  Further, Muhammad Iqbal saw his poetry as an explication upon the Koran; consequently, therefore, he wrote upon his vision of inward Jihad “In…the ‘sword’ of men” which found expressed in his life, throughout.

Finally, in her study, Jalal brings Jihad into the contemporary period, and the perversion of the concept of Jihad amongst a minority of Muslims who have reinterpreted it as a violent struggle: “Equating Jihad with violence and terror makes a sheer tragedy of a concept… [that]… remains [at] the core of Islamic ethics.”

Dr. Jalal points to the lack of understanding by the counter-insurgent:  While The American-led [War on Terror until recently promoted] a military dictator in Pakistan [Musharraf] while seeking, at the same time, to spread democracy in the Middle East…”

Your critic considers Ayesha Jalal’s study to be an essential one on the subject.  It is important reading for all Muslims – especially here in the West – where one hears so much erroneous claims and counter-claims on Jihadism.  

Parisians of Allah is not only a book for education for Muslims, but the information presented can here help to explain the true nature of Islam to those outside the faith and to clarify the misrepresentation on many subjects to the non-Islamic world.

12-1

Community News (V11-I52)

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslim women celebrated in new calendar

EDMONTON, Canada–A Grade 3 teacher with a passion for kickboxing is one of 13 Edmontonians featured in a new calendar celebrating local Muslim women.

Noreen Bashir will be seen in the calendar wearing boxing gloves and a sports hijab at the gym where she works out almost everyday. The martial arts champion first took up the sport as a way to exercise while recovering from a car accident.

“I’ve … never been part of any kind of project like that before especially in our community and I’m actually very proud to represent the Muslim women of Edmonton,” said Bashir.

The calendar is the brainchild of local photographer and filmmaker Shazia Javed. The women featured in the calendar were nominated by the local Muslim community and include medical students at the University of Alberta, a local youth worker and a pizzeria owner who raised triplets on her own. Some, but not all, wear head coverings.

“I chose the women which represented a wide spectrum,” Javed said. “To me, it’s all about what they do, rather than for what they wear, and whatever they choose to wear doesn’t hinder them from doing anything.”

Having Bashir in the calendar was important to the project, Javed said.

“This is a very, very important image and a very strong image to send out there, that Muslim women are active. They are fit and you know they’re into sports and they’re strong.

“So I think it’s inspiring to a lot of us in ways if we want to go in sports that yes, we can do it. It’s not against our religion or anything.”

Javed produced the calendar in collaboration with Islamic Family and Social Services Association (IFSSA), with the help of a grant from the Edmonton Arts Council. She hopes the stories of the women in the calendar will inspire Muslim girls.

“I hope it works for the youth in boosting their self esteem in seeing, you know, other Muslim women on (a) calendar for their contributions and also I hope to create some role models for them to say, ok, you know, this woman, she’s a boxer, you know, or this woman, she’s a scholar … so I can be too,” she said.

The calendar will be launched on Dec. 18th. Proceeds will go to the IFSSA food bank.

Support for Naperville Muslim Center

NAPERVILLE, IL–The development committee of unincorporated Naperville on Tuesday reaffirmed its support for a conditional use permit for the Irshad Learning Center. The plan as submitted by the center will go as it is to the Dupage Country Board, the Naperville Sun reported.

The committee heard from both supporters and opponents of the proposal. Neighbors of the property expressed concerns about noise, intensity of use and extending the usage of hours.

Dr. Mojtaba Noursalehi, a Naperville resident, Irshad trustee and one of five applicants on the zoning petition, said he and his fellow board members have complied with the county’s requests and urged the committee to consider the petition solely on its own merits.

The request will go before the County Board at its next meeting Jan. 12

Crescent Bancshares to raise $15m for bank acquisition in Chicago

Crescent Bancshares Inc. announces the kick-off for its capital raise process. The bank focused on the needs of minority communities in the Chicago-land area, plans to open doors for operation in 2010. “ We hope to operate our first branch in the City of Chicago in early to mid 2010” said Fawad Butt, the Managing Partner of Zeus Capital Advisers. Mr. Butt’s company is tasked with the overall project management for the Crescent bank initiative.

“The recent economic slowdown and the resulting financial crises created significant asset quality problems for many community banks in Chicagoland and across the country. The Money Center banks (such as) BOA and Citi are riddled with asset quality concerns” said Rohail Khan, an initial contributor in Crescent Bancshares. “This represents an opportunity for locally connected, locally owned community banks, to gain market share, and to differentiate themselves from the larger banks.”

Crescent bank shareholders, board of directors and the management team, will service all customers and carry a specific focus to develop products and services for the South Asian, South Eastern European and Muslim Communities.

The acquisition of the bank asset is underway. The group plans to finalize the acquisition after the end of the capital raise process.

11-52

Houstonian Corner (V11-I51)

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

HPD Convenience Store Safety Video Unveiled At Mezban Restaurant

SACC & ACC Collaborated

Houston, Texas (11-11-2009): The Houston Police Department’s (HPD) Assistant Chiefs John Trevino and John Chen, were present at Mezban Restaurant, with the office bearers of their partners the South Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) and the Asian Chamber of Commerce (ACC), in announcing the distribution of a convenience store safety video, which is produced by HPD and that has been translated into multiple languages as part of the city ordinance on convenience stores. Languages include Urdu, Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese and Korean. The Urdu Voice-Over has been done by famous radio host of the recent past from Sangeet Radio Talat Rehman and her husband Rafeeque Rehman. During the luncheon press briefing, the Indian Chamber of Commerce offered to translate the video into Hindi and Gujrati languages.

Rogene Calvert, President Board of Directors of ACC, welcomed everybody and thanked Sohail Feroze of Mezban Restaurant for providing the food for the occasion.

HPD Chief John Trevino informed that there has been dramatic reduction in the convenience stores crime over the years and one of the reasons is proper training of the store owners and their employees. This DVD in various languages will help the employees at various stores to learn the basic precautions and know-how about handling hazardous situations. Other than this video, starting January 2010, HPD has divided the city into 4 quadrants and will be giving hands-on training to all the businesses of Houston throughout the year.

Munira Panjwani-Zahid, Shaukat Zakaria, Soofia Aleem, Muneer Ibrahim, Ghulam Bombaywala, Shoaib Bombaywala, and others were present on behalf of SACC.

This Store Safety DVD was originally developed in 2001 after a rash of violent robberies and killings of convenience store personnel. Under the leadership of former Houston City Council Member Gordon Quan and produced by the Houston Police Department, the video was created and distributed to educate store personnel on safety tips and practices. Anheuser Busch and Silver Eagle Distributing provided a grant to translate the video into Asian languages. With the help of the HPD production staff, the South Asian Chamber of Commerce, Asian Chamber of Commerce and native speaking volunteers in the four languages, the project was recently concluded.

Copies of the DVD will be available for distribution at the press conference. HPD will also distribute copies through its Convenience Store Registration Program in which convenience stores are required by ordinance to comply with various safety measures, including using the DVD information with their staff.

Additional copies will be available through the Chambers of Commerce, for which one can call 832-660-2952 or 713-782-7222.

Youth Showed Initiative during ISGH Elections

Houston, Texas (12-08-2009): Shabab UL-Haq E-Newsletter taken out by Muslim Youth of the Greater Houston Region, called the “Crescent Youth”; this time as the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) came up, conducted interviews of all the candidates for various positions.

According to Kamal Husain, General Secretary of ISGH: “I sincerely commend the youth for voicing their concerns in matters relating to our society. I am impressed with their clarity and their professionalism in the way these issues are presented. I will be honored to sit with anyone interested in brainstorming ideas that will help to resolve at least some of these issues within the next six months. Please advice your willingness and I will make the time, Insha Allah.”

Although those who have won in the present elections, have been those, who have been serving the Muslim Community for a long time in various positions, but this initiative by Crescent Youth means that soon the leadership of ISGH will be going in the hands of Youth of the community and there is need to properly nurture them.

Unofficial ISGH Election results read like this:

Elected

Farouq Malik -Vice-President;
Aftab Silat – Treasurer;
Fuad Cochinwala – South Zone Director;
Mohammad Yusuf – NorthWest Zone Director;
Ziauddin Yousuf – South-East Zone Director;
Irfan Ibrahim – Associate Director Masjid At Taqwa – Synott Road;
Ibrahim Badat – Associate Director Masjid Bilal – Adel Road;
Dr. Majid Amine – Associate Director Masjid As-Salam – Champions

“Building Peace in the Pursuit of Justice: The Issue of Kashmir”

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

Executive Director, Kashmiri American Council/Kashmir center, Parliament of World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia

I feel gratified that the Parliament of World’s Religions is seized of the important matters relating to the building of peace in the pursuit of justice. The opportunity to exchange views on this important subject is wonderful.  The intellectual challenge is great and the stakes are equally huge. Men and women have yearned for peace and justice for ages. As the Old Testament taught, we should never sleep untroubled until justice flows down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

International peace has been recognized over the years as an essential condition for the enjoyment of human rights and justice for all. It is axiomatic that international peace defines the basic condition for the respect for civil and political rights and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights. In an environment of turmoil and tribulations, the very concept of human rights becomes a mockery.  The most promising way to prevent conflict is to eliminate its causes.  The latter are well known. Violence and mayhem ensue because of mankind’s desire for domination, wealth, territory and destruction of people and things that are disliked for religious, racial, ethnic, cultural or other reasons.

After an end to the ideological confrontation between East and West, the international community had reason to hope that hostilities in many parts of the world would also come to an end and the residual regional conflicts would be resolved peacefully through negotiations. However, contrary to our expectations, in many parts of the world, bloody conflicts are raging which have destroyed all the hopes for a humane and stable world order.  The unresolved conflicts of Palestine and Kashmir are a challenge to international leadership and the human conscience.

Although the UN has written declarations that affirm the rights of vulnerable populations, there must be a greater worldwide effort on the part of governments, NGOs, businesses, and UN agencies to incorporate peace, justice and human dignity into internationalization and globalization.  Peace, justice and human dignity cannot take a back seat as societies globalize their trade, supply chaining, and outsourcing.  Freedom and justice must prevail above all political and economic aspects of international trade relations, and treaties even if it requires canceling trade agreements with countries that blatantly allow gross human rights violations to continue.  It is the responsibility of everyone operating in the international arena to ensure that peace, justice and human dignity are protected.  Global ethics must be fully integrated into the process of globalization.

As long as any one human being suffers the indignation of rape, slavery, torture or sexual exploitation, then peace, justice and human dignity remain absent from the human race as a whole.

The South Asian region furnishes an undeniable evidence of how respect for human rights cannot be achieved without first creating conditions for international peace. The people of Kashmir were pledged by no less authority than the UN Security Council to exercise their right to decide their future under conditions free from coercion and intimidation.  The denial of this right is directly inter-related with the peace of the region.

I believe that peace and justice in Kashmir are achievable if all parties concerned – India, Pakistan and Kashmiris – make some sacrifices.  Each party will have to modify its position so that common ground is found.  It will be impossible to find a solution of Kashmir conflict that respects all the sensitivities of Indian authorities, values all the sentiments of Pakistan, keeps intact the unity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and safeguards the rights and interests of the people of all the different zones of the state.  Yet this does not mean that we cannot find an imaginative solution.  It is possible provided all parties will modify their stated positions and show some flexibility.

I also believe that peace and justice in Kashmir are achievable only if pragmatic and realistic strategy is established to help set a stage to put the Kashmir issue on the road to a just and durable settlement.  Since, we are concerned with setting a stage for settlement rather than the shape the settlement will take, I believe it is both untimely and harmful to indulge in, or encourage, controversies about the most desirable solution.  Any attempt to do so amounts to playing into the hands of those who would prefer to maintain a status quo that is unacceptable to the people of Kashmir and also a continuing threat to peace in South Asia.  We deprecate raising of quasi-legal or pseudo-legal questions during the preparatory phase about the final settlement.  It only serves to befog the issue and to convey the wrong impression that the dispute is too complex to be resolved and that India and Pakistan hold equally inflexible positions.  Such an impression does great injury to the cause.

We anticipate that this forum will make valuable contribution not only to build peace in the pursuit of justice, but also to build stronger partnership between members of various religious groups and civil society for this important task.

Dr. Fai can be reached at gnfai2003@yahoo.com

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Sir Syed Day 2009 in the San Francisco Bay Area

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ras Hafiz Siddiqui

SIRSYED

The annual Sir Syed Day 2009 gathering in the San Francisco Bay Area once again brought together south-Asian Alumni of this esteemed university and a rainbow of enthusiasts of the Urdu language at the India Community Center in the city of Milpitas on Saturday November 14th. And once again great pains were taken during this two part educational and literary gala to keep the legacy of a great man alive and to highlight the efforts of the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of Northern California (AMUAA-CA) in raising funds to offer educational opportunities to several disadvantaged students to enable them to attend AMU.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817 to 1898), the founder of the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College which became a full-fledged university in 1920 was a remarkable individual who defied the odds and was able to provide an avenue for Indian Muslims to get a scientific-modern education at a time when the community was shunning progressive ideas. And because of him and the institution he founded this event became possible because Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is recognized today for its academic and not to forget artistic contributions (e.g. Indian Actor Naseeruddin Shah).

The evening started with fine food from Chandni and some valuable networking opportunities as both the “Old Boys” and now “Old Girls” who have had the privilege of attending this unique institution located in Aligarh, India caught up on their current lives, the past, and speculated on the future. AMU, which started off as a somewhat exclusive Muslim university has now acquired a more religiously diverse student population whose its ethnic diversity has remained legendary. Scions of families from Peshawar to Dacca (Dhaka of the old) and from Kashmir to Hyderabad Deccan all have attended AMU from the early 1900’s onwards and some graduates have gone on to lead countries, states and other educational institutions. Today, the university population is global and they including over two hundred in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sitting at the table with Prof. Munibur Rahman and Prof. Steven Poulos was indeed an honor. We will revisit Prof. Rahman later in the report. His friend Dr. Poulos who has been Director of the South Asia Language Resource Center at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago and did research at AMU in the late 1960’s also shared his feelings on his visit there and where things stand today. The program at the University of Chicago has been instrumental in creating the first online Pashto dictionary and has created a Pashto proficiency test and also offers online courses in elementary Sindhi and intermediate Urdu.

The formal evening proceedings started off with an invocation and Ms. Huma Abidi made the necessary introductions, welcoming back Aligarians to Sir Syed Day and reminiscing about her own past experiences at the historic campus. She then invited AMUAA President Nihal Khan to present his thoughts. Khan Sahib highlighted facts on how the Sir Syed’s memory and the Aligarh tradition has been kept alive for the past decade in the San Francisco Bay area but also reminded everyone that there was a dual purpose for the evening which is to raise funds to provide students in need to get an education, making the purpose of this Mushaira (Poetry Recital) broader. He also thanked a list of sponsors for making this gathering possible.

Next, Keynote Speaker Dr. Aslam Abdullah who wears many hats including that of leading both American and Indian Muslims in thought, started by stating that in cities all over the world Aligarh Alumni pay tribute to that giant of a man (Sir Syed). Quoting from poet Allama Iqbal looking through Sir Syed’s eyes, Dr. Abdullah explained how Sir Syed’s efforts started when the Muslims of India were at their lowest self-defeating point. Modern scientific education was negated by the religious leadership of the time to the point when they defined the poor Muslim conditions post 1857 as a divine scheme to be accepted. “Sir Syed challenged that view,” said Dr. Abdullah. He gave the example of how at one time England was debating how many teeth a chicken had. The debate went on and on till Francis Bacon simply asked why don’t you open the chicken’s mouth and find out?  He said that Similarly, Sir Syed promoted analytical thought. “He wanted to inspire the younger generation,” he added. He wanted his community in India, especially the young to understand both the Holy Quran and modern thinking. . “He did not want to build an ordinary university,” said Dr. Abdullah. This was a revolutionary movement inclusive of others but people mistakenly made it a minority issue, which is not correct. “Today, we need to re-awaken that dream,” he said.

After a brief ceremony for a local Aligarh Cricket League where the “Man of the Tournament” and the winning team was presented awards, everyone was reminded of the fundraiser (www.aeef.net) and the first part of the event came to its conclusion with the traditional singing of the university anthem the “Tarana-e-Aligarh” in which many in the audience participated.

The second part of this program was once again the Urdu poetry recital or “Mushaira” which draws on the essence of a culture, which is associated with the Urdu language. Dr. Nausha Asrar from Houston, Texas conducted the proceedings and introduced all the poets and invited Prof. Munibur Rahman to preside as the most senior person present. And from that point started a literary journey of wit, humor, reason, wisdom and in the end emotion moved many listeners.

Starting with local San Francisco resident Engineer Vasmi Abidi who questioned why neighbors who share walls here don’t know each other, to India ’s Tahir Faraz asking why trees of friendship have little support from even a gentle wind while the trees of hate today are so full of fruit? And then Abbas Tabish from Lahore, Pakistan explained how his own condition has started to reflect the condition of his house and the lament of those who sell their village land and soul to big cities for a song. Nausha Asrar next added both his wisdom and humor while Khalid Irfan from New York was at his satirical best about donkeys in public places and the government and why one more mule would not make a big difference. He was also for the exchange of female Indian Bollywood dancers with extremists from across the border for better Pakistan India ties (We don’t believe that the Indians would agree).

Senior poet Meraj Faizabadi from India next brought the audience back down to earth speaking of glass houses and dashed hopes amidst betrayals. On Aligarh he asked what is a flame without its spreading light? On India-Pakistan friendship he explained that he was all ready to reach across the gap that divides the two people, but strangely he was still trying to find where that gap really was?

The other senior poet, Waseem Barelvi also from India requested that other avenues of expressing sadness be found, since his tears are now too old to express his feelings anymore. He spoke about the human relationship with God and the uniqueness of the Aligarh culture or “Tehzeeb”. He said that one should try to give up on expecting generosity from others to protect one from painful disappointment but on the other hand, one should be ready to hit a wall if the cause is just. And yes on the topic of love without which the language of Urdu poetry would remain incomplete, if you have lost in love, your loss is painful but in that loss it is still a gain, he said.

Last but not least the President of this Mushaira, Michigan resident Prof. Munibur Rahman, who holds two Masters Degrees from Aligarh, in History (1942) and Persian (1944) and a contemporary of this writer’s father, shared his thoughts. Prof. Steven Poulos was quite accurate in describing him earlier as he turned out to be an amazing presenter. Someone who can think in English, Urdu and Farsi simultaneously, he moved us all to an emotional level seldom reached. The pain of old age, the parting of his beloved wife, visiting a relative with Alzheimer’s disease, all this reporter can say is “Maan Gayay Sahib” (We knew that we were in the presence of excellence). Several people were moved to tears with his Nazm “Guftugu” (Conversation) written for his late wife in which he tries to bridge a gap between his current life and her death. Down to her “Chabi Ka Guccha” (Key Ring) a stark reminder of her, we found out what true love was. Prof. Rahman also highlighted his trials and tribulations on aging, trying to reach out to busy children and losing one’s old friends in a unique and beautiful manner. His standing ovation was certainly well deserved. All this writer can add is that I was humbled in his presence and Prof. Munibur Rahman is one fine example of some of the people who graduated from and taught at Aligarh.

In conclusion, this was possibly one of the finest evenings that the local AMUAA has put together in the past decade or so. Our congratulations to all the local volunteers who put this event together and a word of thanks to Nihal Khan, Dr. Shaheer Khan and their team for continuing to keep us in mind when Sir Syed Day comes around every year. It was almost surreal but this time “Mehfil Ka Mahol Bahot Khoobsoorti Say Ban Giya” (the environment of the event came to a beautiful medium naturally). Bahot Khoob!

Readers are encouraged to contact the AMUAA at http://www.amualumni.org/

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MJ Khan in Houston Controller Run-Off

November 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ilyas Hasan Choudry, MMNS

Houston—November 4–“It is a distinct honor for the Muslim, Pakistani and South Asian Communities that a competent person with right credentials, has qualified through Houstonians Votes, to the run-off elections of December 12th, 209 for the Controller Position of the fourth largest metropolis of USA.”

These were the sentiments of those gathered at the Campaign Headquarter of the termed-out City Councilman M. J. Khan located along Richmond Avenue just east of Hillcroft, as they celebrated the strong showing by M. J. on the actual voting day to come from behind into the second position behind the termed-out City Councilperson Ron Green and qualifying for the run-off on Saturday, December 12th, 2009. Early voting for Run-Offs is tentatively expected to be between November 30th and December 08th, 2009. M. J. Khan’s wife and son were also present on the occasion.

Khalid Khan, who was vying to replace M. J. Khan on the City Council Position “F”, came in a strong third place in a race of seven candidates. On the voting day of Tuesday, November 03, 2009, Khalid Khan was number two in the number of votes received, but Al Hoang got majority of his votes in the Early Voting.

When the early vote count came in around 7:00pm., M. J. Khan was third in the pack of three candidates for the Controller position, trailing the second place Pam Holm by about 1,300 votes. By the end of the evening, M. J. Khan had about 2,000 votes more than Pam Holm, who called into M. J. Khan Campaign Office to congratulate him for qualifying for the run-off.

In fact on the voting day of Tuesday, November 03, 2009, M. J. Khan received the most number of votes, as compared to Ron Green and Pam Holm, which according to analysts show that voters learned about M. J. Khan’s credentials late in the race through his TV advertisements and once the voters knew about his strong financial background, he got many votes. The same thing of educating voters through electronic media can help him win on December 12th, 2009 and for that M. J. will need good sum of donations from well-wishers and Houstonians.

This Controller race became most heated, when in the last few weeks to the elections, Ron Green admitted certain issues with liens on his properties by IRS and that these problems were much highlighted by his opponent Palm Holm, while M. J. Campaign stayed out from any negative comments.

M. J. Khan has created history by becoming the first ever Muslim, Pakistani and South Asian Candidate to be running in the run-off elections for the second biggest position of Controller of the 4th largest city of USA .

“I feel most humble that with the support of my community and right choice of the voters to elect a person with right credentials, I will be contesting in December 12th run-off. City of Houston is the best place to live and after having served the City for the past six years, I feel my qualifications are the most appropriate for the Controller position, so that I can contribute more towards the well-being of all Houstonians. I am grateful to each and everyone, who has voted for me and expect more voters to come out in the run-off and elect him to be the next City of Houston Controller because I have the right background and expertise to run the finances of this great city in the most amicable manner,” said M. J. Khan, as final results came in late around 11:45pm.

In other races, it will be mayoral election run-off as well. Here again all political pundits were proven wrong, when City Councilperson Peter Brown, even after spending more than $2-Million of his own and wife’s money, came in third. Since none of the candidates got 50%+, there will be run-off between top position Annise Parker and Gene Locke.

Here is how the final outcome of various campaigns was:

Houston Mayor – Annise Parker 54,193 (30.5%); Gene Locke 45,954 (25.90%); Peter Brown 39,904 (22.4%); Roy Morales 35925 (20.20%) (Run-Off);
Houston Controller – Number Of Votes Are For Harris County Only – Ronald C. Green 53,993 (36.3%); M. J. Khan 49,424 (32.5%); Pam Holm 47,701 (31.2%) (Run-Off);
City Council At-Large Pos. 1 – Stephen Costello 24.1%; Karen Derr 19.6% (Run-Off)
City Council At-Large Pos. 2 – Sue Lovell 48.8%; Andrew C. Burks Jr. 21.4% (Run-Off);
City Council At-Large Pos. 4 – C. O. Bradford Won 52.3%; Noel Freeman 21.1%;
City Council At-Large Pos. 5 – Jolanda “Jo” Jones (I) 42.1%; Jack Christie 36.4% (Run-Off);
City Council Dist. A – Brenda Stardig 31.9%; Lane Lewis 21.8% (Run-Off);
City Council Dist. B – Jarvis Johnson (I) Won 82.0%; Roger Bowden 18.0%;
City Council Dist. C – Anne Clutterbuck (I) Won 81.8%; Randolph Locke 17.5%;
City Council Dist. D – Wanda Adams Won 76.2%; Larry McKinzie 11.0%;
City Council Dist. E – Mike Sullivan (I) Won 74.1%; Wayne Garrison 25.9%;
City Council Dist. F – Mike Laster 2,436 (25.5%); Al Hoang 2,351 (24.6%); Khalid Khan 1,859 (19.5%) (Run-Off);
City Council Dist. G – Oliver Pennington Won 59.1%; Mills Worsham 17.8%.

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Ladies’ Qur`an Class By Fatimah Murad

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

P1040696 A delighted chatter permeates the room, occasionally an effusive call of “Assalamu-alaikum,” or “Alhamdulillah,” rises above the general murmur as two sisters greet each other for the first time. The setting is the Qiyam-ul-Layl program, organized by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) sisters-wing’s Chicago-land unit.

The majority of the participants are the regular attendees of a Quran Tafseer Class, also organized by the ICNA sisters. The class takes place in the morning after fajr prayer in a conference call room, throughout the year it takes place every Saturday and focuses on select Surahs but during Ramadan it becomes a daily occurrence so as to complete the reading of the entire Quran, in English translation, within the blessed month. This is the third year that it is taking place and, where it started as a local meeting involving sisters from the Chicago metropolitan area, it has now grown to include sisters from various states including Michigan, Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina and even from as far as Bahrain. There is diversity not only of location but also of background, there are revert Muslimahs and born Muslimahs who hail from various different nations. Many are of African American or South Asian background but there are also sisters from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and the Philippines.  

Every morning, the sisters take turns reading a few of the ayahs punctuated by brief explanations and insights into the Surahs by Huma Murad and Amina Jaffer-Mohsin, the two moderators. Roll is called every class by the ever reliable Amidah Burton, to acknowledge the nearly forty participants. Through sharing their love for the Quran and Allah, the attendees have come to know and love each other as well. One sister, Afsheen Khan summed up the shared sentiments of many participant in commenting that though she had physically attended similar classes before “…this was special because of meeting so many sisters and [feeling such] spirituality.” Sister Shahina Begg who has been a regular attendee for all three years continued in a similar vein when she commented that she felt blessed in being introduced to the class because it “brought me closer to Islam and my sisters,” she added that though she initially only met her fellow participant on phone she felt compelled to “keep in touch throughout my life and inshallah stay spiritually connected.”

It was in hopes of fostering this bond, and to reap the most benefits from the blessed odd nights of the last third of Ramadan, that the Qiyam-ul-Layl event was organized. The class participants are given a chance to meet face to face, some sisters travelling from out-of-town to take advantage of the opportunity, and share a night of spirituality and sisterhood. As sister Jameela Karim explained, “The Qiyam-ul-Layl is the glue of the class, and having the program helps us put it all together. Seeing the people you hear every morning, you are fully connected.” Many sisters said they felt it created something akin to family ties.

The program allowed the sisters to share food and each other’s company, but also to join together for congregational prayers of Taraweeh and Tahajjud, and group discussions on spirituality and remembrance of God. Revert sisters, who constituted a majority among the nearly fifty attendees, shared stories of their early struggles with their families in the way of Islam, while their companions reminded the group that the greatest struggle took place within and that we all had our own hurdles to overcome. One of the greatest examples of triumph that the sisters witnessed at the Qiyam-ul-Layl was in meeting sisters Habiba Castulo and Hina Altaf, both legally blind from birth, who regularly attend the class and diligently read the Qur’an in Braille.

Jamila Yusuf commented to great agreement how she was “inspired by Habiba and Hina’s dedication to the Quran.” It was one of many instances where the sisters felt their faith had been strengthened by their fellow Muslimahs.

Though initiated as a rather humble project in hopes of sharing the knowledge of God’s word, the Quran Tafseer Class has grown into something unique and transcendent. It is difficult for any of the participants to explain exactly why this class, among so many similar ones, feels special. Moderator Huma Murad has a theory that it is due to its timing, the Prophet (s) spoke many times on the blessings of reading Quran after fajr. The greatest factor in its success, however, is the dedication and enthusiasm of its members. Newcomer Vonzella Matin called being introduced to it the “best gift I could have been given,” by sister Amidah, but she and her fellow participants have, with the help of Allah, given this gift to each other many times over.

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Indian Diplomacy Towards Pakistan

September 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

NEW DELHI: History, internal politics, regional factors as well as diplomatic pressure from other quarters play a great role in shaping India’s diplomatic ties with Pakistan. Within less than two months of inking a joint statement with his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in Sharm El Sheikh on July 16, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent a totally different message to people at home. The joint statement described the two prime ministers’ meeting as “cordial and constructive,” during which “they considered the entire gamut of bilateral relations with a view to charting the way forward in India-Pakistan relations.” While accepting that terrorism posed a serious threat, they “recognized that dialogue is the only way forward.” “Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed,” according to the joint statement.

On Mumbai-terror strikes, which have had a negative impact on Indo-Pak ties, while Singh “reiterated the need to bring perpetuators of Mumbai attacks to justice,” Gilani “assured that Pakistan will do everything in its power in this regard.” They also agreed that, “real challenge is development and elimination of poverty.” They resolved to “eliminate” such factors and “agreed to work to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence.”

Later, expressing satisfaction on his meeting with Gilani on sidelines of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Egypt, Singh said that he had “good discussions” with him. During the meeting, “We discussed the present condition of India-Pakistan relations, its future potential, and the steps that are necessary to enable us to realize the potential,” Singh said.

Within less than two months of his talks with Gilani and just ahead of another top-level Indo-Pak meeting, Singh almost ruled out possibility of improving ties with Pakistan in the near future. “Until relations between India and Pakistan don’t improve and brotherhood does not increase, the atmosphere is not right for moving ahead,” Singh said at a function in the border district of Barmer in Rajasthan (August 29). At the same time, expressing his desire for improvement in Indo-Pak ties, Singh said: “I want our relations to improve.” “If relations between India and Pakistan improve, a lot of things can happen. I think border-states like Punjab, Rajasthan and other states will benefit if relations improve,” he pointed out.

Earlier in the week, while addressing the conference of Indian heads of missions, Singh said: “India has a stake in prosperity and stability of all our South Asian neighbors. We should strive to engage our neighbors constructively and resolve differences through peaceful means and negotiations” (August 25).

Difference in the diplomatic tone used by Singh on India’s approach towards Pakistan at different levels cannot be ignored. The joint statement inked in Sharm El Sheikh was certainly not confined to the Indian audience. It was released on sidelines of a multilateral summit, apparently to convince the world leaders that India and Pakistan are keen on normalizing their ties. A different message would certainly have been sent had the two prime ministers not held talks. Not only did they meet, held talks but they also released a joint statement. In other words, they exercised all diplomatic moves essential on the sidelines of another summit to assure the world that India and Pakistan are keen on improving their relations. Besides, the meeting was held a few days ahead of United States’ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s India-visit. India apparently was keen to convince US about its positive approach towards Pakistan. Had Singh and Gilani not held talks on an optimistic note, there prevailed the risk of United States using diplomatic pressure during Clinton’s visit for improvement in Indo-Pak ties. Thus, though the joint statement later invited strong criticism from opposition parties in India, it was framed and issued for the world leaders, including the United States. A similar diplomatic message was conveyed in Singh’s address at the conference of Indian envoys in the capital city (August 25).

The change in Singh’s tone stands out in the comments he made in Rajasthan, laying stress that atmosphere is not conducive for “moving ahead” with Indo-Pak talks. Similarly, while speaking at the inauguration of three-day conference of Indian envoys, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said that meaningful talks with Pakistan would only be possible after Islamabad ended cross-border terrorism. Krishna also laid stress that India was keen to resolve its differences with Pakistan through talks. “We are still to see Pakistan take effective steps to end infiltration and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism. We have maintained that a stable Pakistan at peace with itself is a desirable goal and we wish to address our differences with Pakistan through dialogue,” Krishna said (August 24). It cannot be missed that foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to meet in September in New York on sidelines of United Nations General Assembly meet.

Clearly, at one level the pause in resumption of Indo-Pak composite dialogue process gives the impression that two countries are still a long way off from normalizing their ties. Diplomatic significance of their holding top-level talks on sidelines of multilateral summits cannot, however, be ignored. They have not backtracked from their decision to normalize ties nor have restrained from making use of available diplomatic opportunities to shake hands and talk. While India is keen to let the world know about it favoring talks with Pakistan, at home, the government is apparently more concerned about convincing the people that cross-border terrorism remains a hurdle in normalizing ties with Islamabad!

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I31)

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan Federal Minister Mir Gul Mahmood Jakhrani in Houston

Picture A “Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) represents the whole country, as we have strong presence in all the provinces of Pakistan and we have always worked for the reign of democracy and never accepted dictatorship. The sacrifices of their own lives by the founder of the party Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and recently Benazir Bhutto, have been for stronger and democratic Pakistan and under the present able leadership of PPP, we will achieve the dream of good governance in Pakistan as we will finish our tenure of five years:” These were the sentiments of Mir Gul Mahmood Jakhrani, Federal Minister Pakistan. He was on a short visit to Houston, after attending 25th Annual Convention of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), which was held at Saint Louis, Missouri between July 2nd and 6th, 2009.

Earlier Vice President PPP USA Khalid Khan (who is also President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston – PAGH) and PPP Houston’ President Syed Riaz Hussain welcomed all the esteemed guests, among whom were Consul General of Pakistan in Houston Aqil Nadeem, City of Houston Councilperson M. J. Khan, Office Bearers of SANA, and many more. They thanked everyone to have come on a very short notice.

City of Houston Councilperson M. J. Khan conferred Honorary Citizenship and Ambassador of Goodwill Proclamation on behalf of Mayor of Houston to Mir Gul Mahmood Jakhrani.

For more infromation on PPP USA activities, one can visit http://www.pppusa.org/

Hillcroft to be “Gandhi Avenue”?

Picture B Efforts are underway, by the India Culture Center, to change the name of Hillcroft between Highway 59 and Westpark to “Gandhi Avenue” before October 02, 2009, which is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and the International Non-Violence Day. Some are in favor, while others are not.

Those who favor it, say that Houston is an international city and this diversity should be reflected in the names of the various streets of Houston. Also as Gandhi’s name is associated with Non-Violence, that will help to restrain crime and ferocity in the area.

Since Hillcroft, between Highway 59 and Westpark, has many international shops and restaurants from South Asia, those in favor of the change in name are saying that this section of roadway qualifies for the new name, which can be either Mahatma Gandhi Street or Gandhi Avenue.

There are others, who say that since majority of businesses are South Asian, it will be proper, if both Indian and Pakistani personality names are part of the new name for Hillcroft, like Gandhi-Jinnah Avenue.

Houston City Council Person M. J. Khan is favoring the change saying if majority of the people of the area want the name to be altered, then it should be changed.

However there are others, who feel that this same area has famous businesses belonging to Spanish, Guatemalan, Arab and Persian Communities: As such they feel that if there is need to change the name, it should be all inclusive.

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