25th Unity Dinner Bigger, Better

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

P9180121Detroit–September 18–The CIOM’s annual unity dinner happened again for the 25th time, this time in a new venue, the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Hundreds of Muslims attended, representing the majority of the Southeast Michigan mosques. 

A full program welcomed the visitors, with a screening of “On a Wing and a Prayer,” tours of Detroit’s art gallery, a children’s program, and speeches by many prominent people including the Muslim filmmaker Alex Kronemer, Archbishop Allen A. Vigneron, Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, and Craig Fahle of WDET.  CIOM speakers included Dr. Muzammil Ahmed, Victor Ghalib Begg, and Dr. Abdalmajid Katranji.

Alex Kronemer spoke on the importance of communicating across boundaries of race and religion, and of the importance of being a positive force in the world while negative forces hold so much sway over the human mind.

Archbishop Vigneron spoke eloquently on the importance of cooperation across religious lines on issues where there is mutual agreement, and he emphasized those areas, namely that God is One, that He created the universe,  that He created the human race, giving them reason and freedom, that He spoke to His creatures, teaching them, that all men and women will be held to account. He offered powerful arguments to show that despite popular wisdom to the contrary, faith and religion have always been powerful forces behind scientific inquiry.

 

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Day of Goodness

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

P4178782 Southfield–April 21–Small fundraiser highlights up and coming local Muslim organizations, delivers goodness despite missing keynote speaker.

The Islamic Shura Council of Michigan’s “Day of Goodness” last Saturday night was deprived of its keynote speaker due to a problem with specialized visas. 

However, many prominent and active Muslims from local organizations still attended, perhaps showing more in quality than in quantity, with about 100 people present, but among those people perhaps 10 imams, and the leadership of the many organizations associated with the Islamic Shura Council of Michigan.

The event is essentially a fundraiser, and by the end of the evening it had earned approximately $75,000 towards its stated goal of $150,000.  The event was in a conference room at the Southfield Westin hotel on Town Center Drive.

ISCOM Chair Dr. Mouhib Ayas explained that intended keynote speaker Jamal Badawi’s visa did not permit him to speak at Not-for-profit fundraisers.  So Badawi was not able to speak despite his coming to Michigan from Canada, and despite his having given the khutbah at the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center earlier in the day.

ISCOM was established in 2005 as a non-profit umbrella organization with, according to the dayofgoodness website, “the mission of providing coordination between and building cohesiveness among the Islamic centers mosques, and organizations in Michigan.  The council works for the betterment of all Muslims, to advance Muslim interests, and to promote Islamic values.”

The chairman of the Board of Directors is Mouhib Ayas, and its Vice Chair is Arif Huskic.  Attorney Misbah Shahid is the Secretary, and several other prominent Southeast Michigan Muslims are also on the board–the executive assistant and first employee is Reheem Hanifa.

20 different mosques, comprising the majority of the major mosques in Southeast Michigan, including the biggest Shi’a mosque and most of the big Sunni mosques, are involved.

Dr. Ayas gave a long but interesting presentation with a slideshow demonstrating the accomplishments of ISCOM.  He pointed out the association of ISCOM with Gleaners Food Bank, and also showed the institutional progress the organization has made by hiring a grant writer to apply for available grants–this alone has netted thousands of dollars in projects and may likely bring more projects in the near future.  One project the grant writing process obtained was a $25,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield project.

One program he spoke about was the “Maintaining Houses of Allah” program, which is designed to address the disparity between the wealthy mosques and the mosques with less money that are sometimes dilapidated and run down for lack of funds.

In a moving presentation Dr. Ayas pointed to pictures, first of a wealthy mosque then of a more destitute mosque, saying “This is a house of Allah, and this is a house of Allah,” driving home the point that ISCOM is working to benefit Muslims who really need help in order to worship Allah in clean and nice mosques.

P4178785 Another ISCOM project is working with MSA’s, using them really as a lever to connect to non-Muslims in universities–”we need to start influencing minds when people are young.”  He explained the goal is to meet future leaders of this country early on, and Dr. Ayas gave examples of programs where non-Muslim students fasted (not during Ramadan) in order to understand the effects of fasting on Muslims.

Dr. Ayas explained also that in order for the institution to move forward, ISCOM needs to start hiring professional full-time people, and he gave the example of Mr. Reheem Hanifa who has begun working full-time for the organization.

Dr. Ayas also showed a fairly inspiring diagram which showed ISCOM as the hub of a wheel reaching about 15 different important Muslim organizations in Southeast Michigan, including Muslim Family Services, MSA’s, the Huda Clinic, Islamic schools, and more.

There was a presentation by a relatively new organization called Muslim Social Services, www.muslimsocialservices.com, whose mission is to extend the reach and value of social services to Muslims in Washtenaw County, Michigan. 

There was a strong fundraising effort by a young but dedicated medical student, Farhan Abdul Aziz.  He told a beautiful story of a Chinese Muslim who travelled to the United States and passed away knowing nobody, but who was able to be buried by Muslims because of the social service institutions that had been set up in the city in which she died, which drove home the vital importance of such institutions.

For more information about ISCOM, you can visit either www.islamicshuracouncil.com or www.dayofgoodness.com.  You can also contact Dr. Ayas at 248-705-9137.

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Tariq Ramadan, Keynote Speaker at SoundVision Fundraiser

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

Sunday–April 11–Tariq Ramadan is not what you probably expect. 

Tariq Ramadan

You might expect someone barred by the Bush administration to have an Arabic accent, to have an angry or at least emotional manner of public speaking, but the reality is Tariq Ramadan better fits the mold of a French intellectual than the typical Muslim populist.  In fact, from his nature it does not appear that he has any intentions towards seeking any political power, other than spiritual and intellectual power or accomplishments.

The subject of a six-year ban by the Bush administration, ended only recently by Secretary of State Clinton, speaks English and even Arabic with a French Swiss accent, and has the breezy intellectual worldly air of a French intellectual–he seems as though he has certainty about many things.  For example during his speech he interrupted emotional applause for one popular point that he had emphasized, saying “let me explain the rules,” instructing listeners not to clap during his speech (“not because it is a fatwa, although it is”) and then going on to say that the emotional reaction to his words may detract from what “we are trying to accomplish.”

Tariq Ramadan is called, by the reactionary right, an “Islamist” of Egyptian ancestry. (By Islamist do they mean someone who likes Islam? So is George Bush a Christianist?) In fact it may be his ancestry which scared the Bush administration more than any other fact about him.  His mother’s father was Hassan al-Banna, the Supreme Guide and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.  His father was Said Ramadan, who was also prominently involved in Ikhwan, and who married Hassan al-Banna’s daughter.  He was raised in Switzerland, where his famous parents sought refuge from Nasser’s Arab nationalist animosity to the Ikhwan. 

Ramadan is now 48 years old. He is no firebrand.  He was ranked by the British Prospect and American Foreign Policy magazines eightth in a list of the world’s top 100 contemporary intellectuals in 2008.  He has authored several books, focusing on the issue of Islam and the West.  He wears his intellectualism on his sleeve–on Sunday he said of his most recent book that he had made it very thin so that American journalists would actually read it, although he complained that they still do not.

Ramadan is in the book 500 Most Influential Muslims–2009, being listed in the Scholars section.  He is even an honorable mention for the top 50 listings in the book. 

His entry in the book is as follows: 

Ramadan is Europe’s preeminent Muslim intellectual writing about Islam in public life. He is a professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University and formerly a visiting professor at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He has a weekly television show, ‘Islam and Life’, on Press TV, and is an advisor to the European Union on religion. He has written 15 books and produced over 100 recordings.

P4118761

Ramadan did not in his SoundVision speech show real leanings either toward extremist Islamic views nor even towards the strong organization-based approach to Islam of Ikhwan.  Rather he focused on his theme of building consciousness of God through spiritual endeavor, a consciousness of God which would empower one to seek his or her rights when those rights are denied by people (he emphasized Western anti-Muslim people) who overreach their authority in working to the detriment of Muslims.

Ramadan certainly understands the West better than his grandfather did (whose entire reaction to the West came from an unpleasant encounter with a drunk European), and to casual observation it is clear that the younger Ramadan has imbibed its values more than even he probably realizes.

He remains, despite being a European intellectual, a Muslim intellectual as well.  He thinks and speaks and writes about living Islam in a real context.  He thinks about what God says that He wants from us in His Holy Book, and Ramadan endeavors to accomplish that.

Soundvision

Soundvision’s event was, even aside from its invitation of such a memorable figure, very impressive.  The event filled the Burton Hall banquet facility nearly to capacity, with approximately 600 guests in attendance.

There was a description of the difficulties and opportunities that lie before SoundVision and then a fundraiser which appeared to gross approximately $150,000 in about 20 minutes.  There was a dinner and appetizers.

Many prominent Muslms from Southeast Michigan were in attendance, among them CAIR Michigan’s executive director Dawud Walid, Ghalib Begg of CIOM, recently selected by the Detroit News as one of a handful of “Michiganians of the Year,” and many prominent Michigan imams.

Dawud Walid spoke on the importance of SoundVision to his own family, citing the books and videos he has bought for his own children from SoundVision.

There was a brief video by SoundVision, emphasizing the Adam’s World show, with a “One Big Family” soundtrack.

Janaan Hashim, a SoundVision director, spoke at length about SoundVision and its strategic goals–and perhaps her speech did the most to reveal the terrible importance of SoundVision’s work.

Ms. Hashim is an attorney, journalist and teacher, as well as a mother.

The theme for SoundVision’s future was plastered throughout the fundraiser event, “Helping Tomorrow’s Muslims today.”  Ms. Hashim emphasized this meant helping them now.

She showed the terrible current state of Muslim youths by showing a chart of anger among youths aged 18-29 by religion, which showed anger among Muslim youths at 26%, which was almost double the rate for Protestants and Mormons (14% each).

She showed statistics that 75% of American Muslims felt that they had been discriminated against or had witnessed discimination, 12% of Muslim students in New York public schools felt doubt about Islam.  7% of Muslims had been assaulted.

95% of Muslim youths, she said, are in normal public schools, and do not attend Juma’a prayers.  Less than 5% of Muslim youths go to Muslim schools.

Where do the children spend their time? On average, they spend 53 hours per week online, 7 hours and 38 minutes per day.

Hashim quickly demonstrated the overwhelmingly negative nature of the information about Islam–much of it provided directly by people who hate Islam and Muslims, like Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes.

Hashim pointed out that many Muslim youths respond to these many overwhelming pressures by changing their names, possibly even changing religions, or at least by caving in to such pressures as drinking alcohol or joining gangs.  She cited a statistic that 47% of Muslim college students report having drunk alcohol, and about 10% report binge drinking.

“We must rethink things for kids,” she said.  “We must reallocate our resources.”

Therefore Muslims need to create a powerful online alternative to these hate sites that assault the minds of our children with their ignorance and negative stereotypes of Islam.

SoundVision  came up with a thorough plan to address these challenges after one year of research.  This is their strategic plan:  1) they plan 1,000 pieces of new content in the next 12 months; 2) they plan to emphasize new media for ipods, pda’s, iphones, etc.; 3) they plan mega-websites, age specific, and their model is the Disney websites (they intend good sites competitive with Disney); 4) they plan to make it all free (because they need to connect to the 95% who are slipping through the cracks); 5) Weekend 2.0–a web-based Islamic School 2.0 with lesson plans for existing schools, teaching basic Islam; 6) Networking among stake holders–creative arts hubs to allow youngsters to engage in creative activities; 7) Crucial Concepts (to teach skills, values, pluralism, response to objections, citizenship training, and career and marital counseling).

Ms. Hashim explained that much of this work has already been completed:  SoundVision has enlisted the help of 270 artists, scholars, 18 editors.

SoundVision’s website is ranked a very respectable 100,000 on Alexa’s ranking system (The Muslim Observer has risen to about 335,000 over several years of assiduous work).

SoundVision pioneered Adam’s World, the Al-Qari software, Islamic songs, and a Muslim radio program (which in fact is hosted by Ms. Hashim).

She emphasized that SoundVision is at the cutting edge, and that its software has attracted attention for its very high quality and for its advanced technical competence.

In fact SoundVision has pointed out a potential disaster that faces the American Muslim community, but has also stepped forward to face our problems.

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CAIR Michigan’s Watershed Annual Banquet

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

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CAIR Founder Nihad Awad, Wendell Anthony, Imam and CAIR Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid, Congressman John Conyers, CAIR Michigan Attorney Lena Masri, Civil Rights Activist Jesse Jackson, Jr., Ron Scott, Raheem Hanifa, and Jukaku Tayeb of CAIR Michigan.

Photo courtesy Nafeh AbuNab, American Elite Studios, 1-800-218-4020.

Dearborn–March 31–This year’s CAIR banquet really was special.  Every year, CAIR Michigan and many other organizations have gala awards and fundraising banquets, but typically in the past Michigan’s Muslim organizations have been less connected to the political landscape than some ethnic organizations which have in the Southeast Michigan region managed over several decades to establish long term ties with all levels of the political landscape, from the local to the federal level.

The Muslim organizations however, from the mosque level up to the level of national organizations, have not opened strong and lasting relations with any political groups (other than coordinated discussion groups and organized means of complaining to politicians and mainstream media about perceived and real injustices), other than an occasional speech by a political celebrity.

Perhaps a stronger movement has been the involvement of individuals in politics, such as for instance Farhan Bhatti, Deputy Campaign Manager at Virg Bernero for Michigan.  There are Muslims who have been elected to individual office, such as Rashida Tlaib in the Michigan legislature, and Keith Ellison in the US congress.

This year’s CAIR gala, with about 1,000 attendees including many powerful audience members from the business, media, and political community, on the other hand, seemed to offer the potential of a long-term conflation of interests between the Muslim community and America’s established civil rights aristocracy.  Present at this year’s fundraiser was Nihad Awad, who founded CAIR and set it up as a not-for-profit franchise operation of sorts, with now branch offices across the country to advocate for Muslims.  Mr. Awad is not always able to attend all of these gala events, but it seemed that he sensed the importance of this particular one. 

But the real jewels in the crown of the 2010 CAIR Michigan fundraiser were the civil rights workers who for sixty years have been deeply involved at their own personal peril with the struggle for civil rights in the USA. 

Jesse Jackson Sr., the keynote speaker, was one of those.  But there was also Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-14), whom Jackson described as “perhaps the only man who was ever endorsed by Martin Luther King.”  There was Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15).  There were many others, including the strong gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero (currently Lansing’s mayor). 

But famous people frequently collect together–many famous politicians have given stilted practiced speeches before Muslims, hoping to say what pleases their audience and earns their political support, but rarely does the politician seem to be present in deference to his or her own inner principles–and this is perhaps the characteristic of Sunday afternoon’s banquet that was uncommon.  Famous people with shared bonds of suffering coalescing in defense of a group they perhaps had not previously thought of as being within their shared interests.

The feeling wasn’t just from their presence in the same room; rather the feeling was in the mutual love between those famous people, and their expression of that love in the context of the protection of Muslims against injustice from government interference.  Jackson and Conyers both spoke of the famous people they had met and worked with through the years, including King, and Rosa Parks (who worked for Conyers for many years), and their describing the debts of gratitude they owed one to another–for example Jackson’s mentioning of MLK’s endorsement of Conyers, and Conyers mentioning publicly his gratitude to John Dingell for supporting him in his early days in the US House of Representatives.

What was different this year was that CAIR did not just bring politicians to speak for their own interests, rather CAIR Michigan bought into a movement, a movement that has been intrinsically and vitally important to the American landscape for the better part of a century, carrying with them the ghosts and spirits of men who gave their lives in that journey.

Nihad Awad offered his goal, a vision of a seemingly impossible world, post-911, in which Muslims face no discrimination–he argued that CAIR is working toward that goal from where we are now.

Jesse Jackson is a famous man, and in consideration of his famous personal failings it is sometimes surprising to see him still on the national stage–but in seeing him speak you understand the source of his sway across the American public–his voice carries so strongly and he has a magic in his delivery that is present in person but that is not felt through the television.  He speaks with vivid images and polished phrases and a very powerful and loud delivery, almost more like a musician or conductor than a politician, but he speaks logically and intelligently also, intimately conversant with the big picture of American politics, even if sometimes the details he cites are not precisely accurate (accidentally he cited the total number of coalition KIA in Iraq and Afghanistan together as Americans KIA in Iraq). 

But on the broad points he has very sharp insight. For example he stated that what is vital in the civil rights movement is to “change the frame.  Once you change the frame, you can change the furniture around whenever you want.”

Thus, he argued that after the recent health care legislation, eventually there must be a public option, although the public option was compromised away in the course of the bill being passed.

The theme of his speech was an argument to get Muslims to buy into a broader political agenda.

He argued that Muslims have to engage in issues beyond Muslim issues, offering the analogy that if one is in a burning house, he must try to put out the fire for the entire house–if the house is saved his room will be saved but it is impossible to save his room without saving the house.

He cited as examples labor union issues and health care issues.

Perhaps the most inspiring thing he said was that “we are not the left, we are the moral center,” thus dismissing the arguments from reactionaries who term his agenda a leftist agenda.  And this connected to another powerful theme from his speech, that “we are winning” in this struggle by the grace of God, and it is because God supports us because we are right.  He cited the achievements of abolition and civil rights, labor, and, at length, health care.

He said not to worry about government informants, arguing the view that the solution is to be completely above board and transparent and above reproach.  He said that several informants were intimately connected with the civil rights movement, saying that “our controller who signed all of our checks was a government informant.”

“Yes it does get dark,” he said, “innocent people get hurt, there is pain, but there is joy in the morning.”

“Through it all, keep marching, fighting, pursue excellence, don’t have time to hate.”

The involvement of the civil rights community with Muslims seems to have begun Sunday evening, and the person likely responsible is CAIR Michigan’s Executive Director Dawud Walid, who had the vision to pursue this goal, and who also has worked to bridge gaps between African Americans and other Muslims, and Sunni and Shi’a.

It remains to be seen whether the large-scale involvement of Muslims as players on the political (and not religious) landscape is healthy or potentially dangerous, and it remains to be seen whether non-Muslims from the civil rights community will be good partners in working toward civil rights for Muslims; also it remains to be seen to what extent Muslims can endorse  the agenda of a civil rights community that too often supports for example abortion services and homosexual issues; but perhaps these are the details, the furniture.  What is important is that the frame may have changed–to one where a Muslim organization has built a bridge or harmony and good will to an entire movement that is intrinsic to the American political landscape–this seems to be an important move in a good direction.

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Islam – America’s Answer to the Race Problem

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

Repeated from earlier article.

“O mankind.  We created you from a single (pair) of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other).  Surely the most honored of you in the sight of ALLAH is he or she who is the most righteous of you.  And ALLAH has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). 

Hujurat:13

There is none more aware of the differences of human beings than the One who created them.  It is through the generosity and graciousness of ALLAH that He made us different nations, tribes and colors.  Just think for a moment how dull the world would be if everyone were pink and thought exactly alike.  We could not learn from each other – and thus, we could not grow.  But ALLAH, with His infinite wisdom, has made us different- so we may know each other.

In the early 1960’s, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X) returned from his pilgrimage to Mecca and made the profound statement that “America needs to look at Islam as the answer to its race problem.”  Here was a man whose mind had been previously clouded by erroneous assertions of Black superiority and Caucasian devilishness.  While on hajj he wrote to his wife that he had sat down and eaten with blonde-haired, blue-eyed people and there was no racism there – only brotherhood.

Recently, in Southeast Michigan where I live, there have been a rash of ugly racial incidents and feelings put out.  There have been cross-burnings and even opposition to the building of a major mall because it would attract people from other cities nearby.  Southeast Michigan has the reputation of being one of the most racially segregated areas in the country.  Cities separated by a few miles are 90% African-American and 98% Caucasian respectively.

This can be looked at negatively as a sign of hatred, which in some cases it might very well be.  But what is more important than where people live is what is in their hearts.  ALLAH says regardless of where we live or were born, ALLAH says we are one ummah, and He is Lord (21:92)

In my nearly 30 years as a Muslim, I am a witness that Muslims, for the most part, look upon other Muslims as brothers and sisters, regardless of their culture, ethnic background, or school of thought.  As an example, a Muslim from China can meet a Muslim from the Netherlands while they are vacationing in Brazil, and there is an instant kinship and recognition – and most times a universal greeting of As Salaam alaikum.  I have seen this in no other group of people whether it be religious or fraternal.  Even Muslims who don’t necessarily like each other still share this kinship.  And it is not fake.  You know in your soul and heart if someone really likes you or not.

This is a blessing from ALLAH to those who are adherents to the highest form of existence for a human being…Islam.

Our charge now is to exercise this brotherhood by more visible interaction of the various Islamic communities.  Even if we live, work and play in different areas, we must make a conscious effort to be seen interacting and cooperating with each other.  This is not only good for us, but it will also be a sign and a help to those who are not Muslim.  It will raise the esteem of Muslims in the general society as having something very positive and beneficial to contribute to the entire world.

Let’s look in our communities and see how we can aggressively promote this religion.  Do you want to end racism?…..try Islam.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

12-11

Michigan Muslims Help Haiti

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer

Doctors from around the world have travelled to the island of Hispanola, on which stands the beleaguered and battered nation of Haiti. 

It is an honor for the Muslims of Southeast Michigan that several doctors from the Muslim community are among the many doctors and others who have gone to the nation to offer their assistance.

Muslim doctors travelling to Haiti from the Michigan area include Dr. M. Azhar Ali, MD (Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery) and Dr. Khalid Rao, MD  (Internal Medicine). 

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Hojjaj Party at Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center (BMUC)

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

P1108645 Bloomfield–January 10–Many Muslims made the hajj pilgrimage this year from the Southeast Michigan region, and so the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center had a party this past Sunday night to celebrate their noble accomplishment.

About 150 people were present at the function which was in mood more spiritual than most of the other functions at the center.  The marks of hajj were in fact visible on some of the attendees, many of whom had shaved their heads at the end of the hajj and were still growing back their hair.

Imam Musa explained to TMO that “This year there were less people because of swine flu.”

BMUC presented small token gifts to about 10 people who recently came back from hajj, and a slide show played through the event, showing familiar faces and familiar places that one might not have seen together before, like Imam Musa on Arafat for example.

The Hojjaj party gave a chance for each of the hojjaj to present a few brief words either of advice, of admiration for having made hajj, or of lessons learned from making the hajj.

P1108646 One piece of advice was to make the hajj while one is still young because in fact it is a demanding exercise.

Many of the returning hojjaj remarked that they didn’t feel the exhaustion from the trip until after their return to home, because of having been so overwhelmed with fascination during their trip.

“Don’t stay away too long from this place,” advised one returnee.  “Come back in a year or two.”

One man said, “It is very hard to explain the feeling of seeing the Kaaba for the first time–it is something that comes from the heart.”

One returnee was moved to tears, and said “I was amazed what Prophet (s) did for all of us.”

The Unity Center will have an umra trip early this April.

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Muslims, in Concert with Jews, Perform Acts of Kindness on Christmas Holiday

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adapted from an Associated Press article by TMO

Detroit–December 25–Many Jews consider Christmas Day an opportunity to serve their community while Christian neighbors celebrate their holiday. This year, what’s also known as Mitzvah Day in southeast Michigan is getting an added boost from Muslims.

For the first time, about 40 Muslims joined 900 Jews for what they call their largest annual day of volunteering. Leaders say it’s a small but significant step in defusing tensions and promoting good will between the religions — particularly on a day that is sacred to Christianity, the third Abrahamic faith.

Mitzvah Day, a nearly 20-year tradition in the Detroit area also practiced in other communities, is so named because Mitzvah means “commandment” in Hebrew and is colloquially translated as a good deed.

The new partnership stemmed from a recent meeting between members of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit — which said it was unaware of any similar Mitzvah Day alliances.

The Jewish groups organize Mitzvah Day, which consists of volunteers helping 48 local social service agencies with tasks such as feeding the hungry and delivering toys to children in need.

Victor Begg, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, said he was seeking a public way for the two faith communities to “build bridges of understanding and cooperation,” which led to joining the Mitzvah Day effort.

“These guys are really organized,” he explained to TMO, saying really there was no need for Muslim organizations to try to put together their own event when the event has already been sustained over a long period of time by the Jewish organizations.

“The general public is what we need to give the message to, our entire community,” he said.

Not only are most Muslims and Jews available to serve on Christmas Day, but leaders also recognized a shared commitment to community service. Charity in Judaism is known as “tzedakah.” Actually this Hebrew word is pronounced the same as sadaqa, which is an analogous Islamic term of doing charity.

“It’s an interesting parallel,” said Robert Cohen, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “Both of our faiths predispose us to engaging in this sort of thing.”

Muslim and Jewish volunteers will work together at the Gleaners Community Food Bank in Pontiac, about 25 miles north of Detroit.

“We felt it was a perfect activity for people to be getting together like this because you work side by side with one or two other people as you’re moving the boxes,” Cohen said. “The grass-roots connection builds relationships on a personal level.”

Cohen said the local bonds are important given global animosities. He said Muslims and Jews here “have serious differences about what happens in the Middle East,” but that shouldn’t be the only dynamic defining their relationship.

Begg added the two faiths can set an example in the Detroit area, which has historically large Jewish and Muslim populations.

“Whatever happens in the Middle East, we have no control over it,” Begg said. “But here, our kids go to the same school, we work together. … We need to focus on building an inclusive community.”

Mitzvah Day is planned months in advance, so the number of Muslim participants is modest to start, but both groups expect it will grow. Next year proves challenging for Jewish volunteers because Christmas falls on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

Details have yet to be worked out, though Cohen and others are considering moving Mitzvah Day. That would give Muslims the opportunity to try a solo run on Christmas, join Jewish groups on another day, or both.

Both Mr. Begg and Mitzvah Day organizers explained that next year it will be impossible for the Jewish organizations to do Mitzvah Day on Christmas Day because it falls on their Sabbath, Saturday, therefore 2010 might be an opportunity for CIOM and area mosques to do a similar event on their own.

The Muslim volunteers this year came mainly from two mosques, the Islamic Center of America, whose Eide Alawan has for decades been involved in community and interfaith outreach work, and Canton’s MCWS mosque, from which about 20 volunteers came.

“The bottom line is we really want to do it together,” Begg said.

12-1

Post-’Eid Gathering Fills Rock Financial Showplace

December 3, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

Novi–November 29–Much better than last year.  That was the consensus after this year’s mass ‘Eid celebration at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi.

“It was packed all day,” said one vendor at the US Census booth, describing the events at the Rock Financial Showplace.  “People asked lots of intelligent questions,” she said, including many people who had worked for the 2000 census and wanted to do it again in 2010.

There were approximately ten different rides inside the Showplace, many bounce house style rides including slides, bounce houses, and even an imitation rock climbing wall over which children climbed to go down a slide on the other side.

There were many carnival rides, including go-carts and many different kinds of merry-go-rounds.

Mr. Muhammad Mohiuddin of CIOM explained that there were three main issues that the carnival planners emphasized after their first experience the previous year; first, they improved the layout of the ‘Eid celebration by pushing more vendors to the front entrance and eating area, so that crowds had to filter through the vendors on their way to the rides.  Second, there were more things for adults to do.  Third, last year there had not been enough publicity so this year the event planners made a bigger effort to reach out to everyone in Southeast Michigan.

The music from last year, he explained, had not worked very well, in part because the sound of it was so overwhelming in a closed space, and so this year there were no bands and in fact this change also improved the layout of the Rock Showplace.

Vendors almost universally said that this year’s ‘Eid carnival was much better than the previous year.  I talked to five vendors and while they did not all disclose how much money they had made they all seemed as though they had at least broken even on the day’s events.  Renting a booth at this year’s ‘Eid carnival cost about $150, which is in fact a reasonable price.

Many of the vendors had been at the previous year’s carnival as well, and most agreed that this year had been better.

Dr. Alam S. Syed sold sunnah health products including honey and black seed, and looked satisfied with they day’s receipts although he said “they should reduce the price” for vendors.

Mr. Brandon Metzger of Toner Solutions sold sunnah bathroom products and had sold about 20 units through the day, each for $50.  These units are portable plastic bidets with sprayers that extend when water is coming out–they can be attached to any toilet in just a few minutes.

Muhamed Halilovic, an artist from the Canton community, sold very reasonably priced calligraphy and paintings of mosques in his native Bosnia.  He was somewhat disappointed in his business for the day but perhaps next year will be better than this year.

An estimated 6,000 people attended this year’s ‘Eid carnival at the Rock Financial Showplace.

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Southeast Michigan (V11-I49)

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

eid carnival 2009 Detroit ‘Eid Carnival 2009/1430

Sunday, November 29, 2009 (The 3rd day of Eid al-Adha)

12:00pm-6:00pm at Rock Financial Showplace in Novi

(46100 Grand River, Novi, MI 48374)

For more information contact: carnival.eid@gmail.com or your local community leaders

The new website will be launching very soon at http://www.eidcarnivaldetroit.com

Limited Tickets: Register in advance at www.eidcarnival.com (on line registration begins 11/13)

Tickets: $10/person or $40/family (includes 2 parents + their children) for admission, parking, and unlimited rides

‘Oudhiya Program

Many local mosques are participating in the Michigan Oudhia/Qurbani,  a collaborative program among major Islamic centers in Detroit area. The meat will be donated locally to needy families and to soup kitchen in Southeast Michigan.

To participate in this local program you can:

- Donate on line by loging into www.muslimunitycenter.org  and clicking  the Buy now link

- Mail your check to the unity center ASAP and write in the memo section write “Michigan Oudhia)

-Pay by Credit card at the Muslim Unity Center’s office or by calling 248 857 9200.

Bloomfield Unity Center ‘Eid Prayers (Friday 11/27)

Eid Program:

8:15:First Eid prayer

9:45: Second Eid Prayer

10:30 Eid Breakfast and kids program

1:40 Jumaah Prayer(the first Jumaah prayer will be cancelled the day of Eid)

IONA ‘Eid Prayers

IONA is following FCNA on the issue of ‘Eidul Adha, and FCNA in turn is following Saudi Arabia’s announced days for hajj as determinants of when ‘Eidul Adha falls. 

This is also the conclusion of the European Council of Fatwa and Research.

‘Eidul Adha at IONA will be at 8 AM at IONA center

· In order to lessen congestion in the parking lots, we ask you to car pool. Once IONA’s parking lot is full, it will be closed and you will be directed to park at King Plaza’s BACK parking lot. Additional parking is at the Professional Medical Building (behind King’s Plaza by 12 Mile Rd.) Please use the back end of their parking lot.

· Please park in the designated parking areas only. Please do not park illegally. Parking on people’s driveways or streets is not allowed.

- Absolutely no praying outside the building.

·  No food will be served after the Eid prayer. Please DO NOT bring food of any kind nor any drinks to the center.

· We ask you to keep your children with you at all times.

“We look forward to your cooperation. Have a blessed and happy Eid.”

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Muslim Organizations Issue Statements Re. the Shooting of Imam Luqman Abdullah

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Farmington—November 4—The shooting of Imam Luqman A. Abdullah by the FBI sparked controversy, partly because it stirred up memories of America’s past persecution of African American leaders, partly because of the demeaning circumstances, and partly because news reports relating to the shooting have cast far reaching and highly unlikely aspersions on Imam Luqman.

The shooting spurred local and national Muslim organizations to issue alarmed press releases, the common theme of which was that they condemn any illegal activities if Imam Luqman was involved, but ask that news reports refrain from alleging any terrorist conspiracy absent any such evidence. Another theme echoed in several was the demand for an independent investigation into the events of the day.

The facts alleged by the reports do not conflict with one another, although only the MPAC statement actually explores the then-known facts of the incident.  On Wednesday 10/28 the FBI raided 3 Dearborn warehouses, to arrest Imam Luqman and 11 associates on many federal criminal charges.  At the end of the raid, Imam Luqman was dead, shot apparently 18 times.

The American Muslim Taskforce (AMT), Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), Muslim Public Affairs Coalition (MPAC), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Imams’ Committee of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM), ISNA, and Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR Michigan, all made statements regarding the incident.

The American Muslim Taskforce  (an umbrella group including AMA, AMP, CAIR, ICNA, MANA, MAS-Freedom, MSA National, MUNA, and UMA) demanded an investigation and demanded that the government “stop injecting religion into this case,” apparently operating on the belief that the government may have had a valid criminal case against Imam Luqman but no terrorism case and that his religion was extraneous to the events that took place.

The Imams Committee of Michigan’s powerful CIOM unity group (representing most of Southeast Michigan’s mosques including Sunni mosques and Shi’a mosques) met with the director of Michigan’s FBI office (Mr. Andrew Arena, who had previously expressed satisfaction with his agents’ handling of the case) to discuss what happened.  They asked for clarification of what happened, without demanding a full investigation.  They also emphasized that religion should not be brought into the case.

ISNA, America’s largest and politically the strongest Muslim community organization, also made a statement saying it “is distrubed by the recent shootout.”  “The details of the incident are still sketchy,” read the statement, “but the way the incident is presented as a terrorism case when the actual charges involve criminal conduct, including alleged fraud and theft.” 

ISNA joined the chorus asking for a full investigation of the incident also, while also expressing support fot the “vital work carried out by law enforcement agencies” and spoke against resisting arrest, saying “[t]he only morally and legally acceptable way to challenge the actions of law enforcement agents is by working through the justice system and the court of law.”

MANA (which Imam Luqman was a part of) issued a statement which opened more directly the issues involved in the case, saying “Reference to ‘the Ummah’ as a ‘nation-wide radical fundamentalist Sunni group consisting primarily of African Americans’ is an offensive mis-characterization.”

Further, the MANA statement said that “to those who have worked with Imam Luqman A. Abdullah, allegations of illegal activity, resisting arrest, and ‘offensive jihad against the American government’ are shocking and inconsistent.”

MPAC’s statement had one wise piece of advice, “With so much left unknown in the developing case, MPAC is warning government agencies and media outlets of the alarming exploitation of this isolated incident that is stigmatizing Muslim American communities around the country.”

MPAC’s primary concern appeared to be avoiding national backlash against Muslims based on the Imam Luqman shooting and resulting media coverage.

More facts have come to light since the organizations’ statements were made, including that Imam Luqman apparently resisted arrest and shot an FBI dog that was loosed to attack him before going down in a hail of FBI bullets.  Several senior Muslim community workers have explained that as Imam Luqman lay dying from 18 gunshot wounds, he was handcuffed to a stretcher and left to die while the FBI dog was medically evacuated by helicopter. 

News reports around the incident portrayed Imam Luqman as a violent anti-government jihadist bent on a government takeover, but foiled by FBI action. 

However the best report about the incident was in fact the one by this newspaper’s Imam Abdullah El-Amin, who traced a convincing story about FBI provocateurs luring Imam Luqman into dealing in stolen merchandise and then springing the trap before he could escape, perhaps even orchestrating his reaction and demise.

Unfortunately the national theme in investigations of Muslims has largely been one of government provocateurs luring down-and-out Muslim men into situations they don’t fully comprehend and which appear to be fully funded, planned, and coordinated from inside the FBI.  Then the poor stooges are arrested in midnight raids by SWAT teams in body armor and paraded before camera crews as dangerous al-Qaeda terrorists. And the poor slobs are carted away through years of trials which often as not end in their being released.

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Southeast Michigan (V11-I36)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Bloomfield Unity Montessori and Daycare

Farmington–August 25–Ms. Ayesha Ali, co-principal of the Bloomfield Unity Montessori and Daycare took some time to talk with TMO about her school this week.
This Montessori school is in fact not a direct competitor with most of the other Islamic day schools that TMO has interviewed in the past years, as it is a preschool–in fact it is a feeder for the other Islamic schools, like Huda and others.

The Bloomfield Montessori school has about 30 students, and is based inside the BMUC mosque.  The Montessori program focuses on children up to six years old, and has accepted children as young as 8 weeks.

Inspired by the success of the Tawheed Center’s hifz program, which has really become the gold standard for local mosque’s religious instruction, Ms. Ali explained to TMO that the Bloomfield Montessori preschool will offer a hifz program patterned on Tawheed’s–with reliance on Calvert’s home school curriculum, and reliance on Shaykh Ahmad, a trained qari–to instruct the children in tajweed and memorization.

The hifz program at Bloomfield will be for 1st and 2nd grade students.  Ms. Ali explained that “three or four” students have enrolled in the hifz program so far, and that the class will be capped at ten.  The hifz program will cost $600 per month.  The regular Montessori program is $700 per month.  Preschool is $550 per month, and the school is available to parents for the entire year if they want.

Local Mosques and Ramadan

Farmington–August 26–FCNA calculations this year coincided with the Saudi ruling regarding the beginning of Ramadan, leaving most Southeast Michigan Sunni mosques on the same note with regard to the beginning and perhaps also the ending of Ramadan.

FCNA, the Fiqh Council of North America, which calculates based on the physical visibility of the moon in Mecca, determined that the Ramadan moon, which entered early Thursday morning, would not be visible after sunset in Saudi on Thursday therefore the Ramadan month was said to begin Saturday.

The Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia in somewhat of a surprise announcement on Thursday said also that fasting would begin Saturday.

Other nations fasting Saturday included Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei–the majority of Sunni nations.  Four nations however began fasting Friday, including Turkey, Albania, Bosnia, and Libya. 

Shi’a followers of the Lebanese marja Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah also began fasting Friday, relying also on calculations.  However, followers of other Shi’a maraja began fasting Saturday.

Local Michigan mosques mainly began fasting Saturday, however with varying reasoning.  The Tawheed Center of Farmington, the Muslim Center of Detroit, and Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center all began Saturday based on following the recommendations of FCNA.

The Flint Islamic Center, MCA of Ann Arbor, and the Grand Blanc Islamic Center began Saturday as well, but for the reason that Saudi Arabia had announced it would begin fasting on Saturday.

MCWS, the Canton mosque, also following FCNA.  ‘Isha and tarawih at MCWS will begin at 10 for the first 10 days, then 9:45 for the second 10 days, and 9:30 for the final 10 days.

Dr. Saleem of the Flint Islamic Center on Corunna explained that ‘Eid will also be based on the Saudi ‘Eid.  ‘Isha and tarawih at FIC will be at 10pm for the first 2 weeks and at 9:30pm for the final 2 weeks.

Flint is having a community dinner every Saturday night, with about 500 people, Dr. Saleem explained to TMO. 

After Ramadan many of the local mosques likely including Flint, intend to participate in the mass ‘Eid celebration at the Rock Financial Showplace, continuing last year’s beginning of the tradition.

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