One Ummah

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The 15th Annual Western Regional Convention of MAS

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

maslogoThe United States faces serious problems, both domestically and internationally, problems that at a glance seem insurmountable.  Ignorance of Islam and Islamophobia are rampant. Muslim organizations are needed to combat the latter two and to offer Muslim solutions based on Muslim values to provide answers to our crises at home and abroad. Our culture is moving from R rated to X rated: What to do?

Many Islamic groups are active in offering such aid. One in particular the Muslim American Society (MAS), deserves special mention.

The Muslim American Society held a highly successful annual Western Regional Convention, the organization’s fifteenth, this past weekend in Los Angeles. The title of the event and its theme was: “One: One Ummah, One Brotherhood, One Pulse”.

More than two thousand people were in attendance in an event that began on Thanksgiving Day and ran through the following Saturday. The Muslim American Society of Greater Los Angeles (MAS GLA) was the host.

The majority of the three day convention was devoted to workshops, many intended for youth. The titles of the work sessions mirrored the theme of the convention. They included, but were not limited to: “The Believers are But a Single Brotherhood”; “One Ummah, One Body”, “The Fiqh of Priorities”, and “Our Means to a Beautiful End”.

Each session was conducted by learned speakers who were available to answer questions and expand on their presentations at the end of each session.

In one particularly timely session,  students from the original Irvine 11 spoke about their legal ordeal which grew out of their collective exercise of free speech at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in February 2010. At that time the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, addressed a student audience and was confronted by a group of young Muslims vis a vis the illegal actions of the state of Israel.

Their subsequent arrest and indictment – almost a year to the date after the original incident and days before the statute of limitations would expire – angered civil libertarians. The students became a symbol of the limitations on free speech imposed on Muslims.

In a session titled: “I Don’t Plead the Fifth: Irvine 11 Speak out”, the students received a standing ovation, and many in the audience sought their autographs after the session ended. Each of the students stated unequivocally that he was glad of his actions and, given the opportunity, would do it again.

“What brave people” said one young woman in the audience. “It makes me feel  so proud”.

During a session titled: “A Quilt to Cover the Nation: Shaping the American Society by Applying the Fabric of Islamic Family Values”, two young Muslims introduced the Islamic Speaker’s Bureau.That organization will send Muslim speakers to address schools and law enforcement officers, to name but a few potential audiences, in an effort to explain Islam to non-Muslims and to counter act Islamophobia. Farhan Simjee and Shaista Azad invited the attendees and others who are interested to contact them at: isbsocal@gmail.com.

In one of the final sessions of the convention, the topic could not have been more timely. “One Ummah, One Pulse: Education and Mobilization to Help our Syrian Brothers and Sister” featured three speakers who gave the history of Syria, both ancient and modern, and offered practical actions that might be taken on Syria’s behalf.

One of the speakers,  Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the greater Los Angeles area spoke movingly on behalf of the aspirations of the Syrian people. “We have a common bond as human beings and as Muslims”.

He called for the following actions. Be outspoken, use Facebook and e mail; talk to the media, and take part in protests; Get the DVDs sold at the booth of the Syrian American Council (SAC) in the bazaar, stay in contact with the activists (syrianetLA@gmail.com); wear buttons and T shirts to advertise your cause; donate money to help the victims in Syria.

“The right to freedom is a human right”.

A bazaar was held in the lobby during the convention. Attendees could purchase Islamic clothing, books, jewelry, and DVDs, and they could learn of different community organizations.

The booths included, but were not limited to: CAIR (http://ca.cair.com), ACCESS (www.accesscal.org ), InFOCUS News (www.infocusnews,net), One Legacy Radio (www.onelegacyradio.com),and the Institute or Arabic and Islamic Studies (IAIS) (www.islamic-study.org) and (www.legacyofpeace.net).

The Muslim American Society began in 1993 as a charitable, religious, social, cultural and educational  organization. It has grown since then to its present strength of fifty chapters across the United States. It is a go-to group for information and commentary, held in high esteem by the media and government officials on all levels. MAS emphasizes proactive community involvement such as community service, interfaith dialogue, youth programs, and civic engagement. It seeks to build strong Muslims with strong faith and a deep knowledge of Islam.

The recent roots of MAS can be traced to the Islamic Revival Movement that took place at the turn of the 20th century. Its ancient roots, of course, can be traced back to the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). The recent convention lived easily up to the standards of the Muslim American Society – to fulfill its mission for God consciousness, liberty and justice through the conveyance of Islamic values.

For more information on the Muslim American Society, please use the following email address: http://www.mascalifornia.org.

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Pakistan at War with Itself

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Berkeley–As your reporter beings his narrative, Europe and America are raging, and Cairo has once again erupted in violence.   In your author’s area of the world (Northern California), the focus has gone from the urban streets to the college campuses.  On those streets, one man was killed in Oakland and another (a student at the University of California) was gunned down under questionable circumstances here on the Berkeley campus while on his way to classes.   At U.C. Davis near Sacramento, there was a horrible incident of peaceful protestors being pepper sprayed with ensuing calls for the chancellor to resign. 

Both labor unions and military veterans have come into the picture.  Two of the protestors, who were badly injured by the Oakland police, belonged to the Iraq Veterans against the War.  Not all American soldiers were anti-Muslim, but were sicken by George W. Bush’s two Wars.  They should be accepted by all of us as true allies.  Nonetheless, there has been some talk of a 1932-type situation arising when the U.S.A.’s World War I veterans marched to Washington to demand bonuses promised them for their service only to be most violently ousted by General MacArthur with General Patten of World War II fame during Herbert Hoover’s Presidency.

The Unions have joined in on the fray — both the powerful Longshoremen’s Union on the Oakland Docks and the Union representing Professors and Lecturers on the California State Universities (C.S.U.’s).  Both at Hayward in the Bay Area (North California) and Dominguez Hills in Greater Los Angeles (Southern California) were chosen for a one-day strike over a promised wage increase a fortnight ago.  Muslims have been involved in many of these various protests.

Meanwhile, over the “pond” in Roman Catholic Italy, where Islam now is the second largest religion,  Rome herself is about to default, too, and, if she does, the Euro-zone will collapse along with her, and that Southern European republic ‘s economy is too big for Brussels to bail out like the EU (European Union) did with Greece.   It is as though we are entering a “Revolutionary” period?

Two months ago (September 20th) to the day of this writing, in calmer times, a foreign affairs editor and writer for the Washington Post with an expertise in  the Af-Pak region came to the Berkeley campus here with her new book  Playing with  Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself which is getting a bit of attention on the “circuit.” 

She started that the reaction within Pakistan itself at the assassination of Osama bin Laden at Abattobad by American Special Forces on their very soil, and the “ignorance” of high-ranking Pakistani military officers of his presence so close to Islamabad, the national capital, itself, and, also, with a military garrison nearby the event, the United States has deeply offended and embarrassed Pakistan’s Government and proud military. 

The two things with which that Government is obsessed are India and internal public opinion.   The U.S.-Pakistan relationship as allies is a long one, but 9/11 changed much of the inherent trust between the two traditional partners.  The average citizen there “Feels that the West is out to ‘get’ Islam.”  There is a sense of nationalism along with the raise in a belief of the centrality of Islam itself. 

The recent slaying of the Minorities Minister in the Punjab was committed due to his religion (Christianity).  The current Government is a liberal one by Pakistan’s standards, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the aforementioned Minister, represented that liberality.  Those Taliban south of the Durand Line claimed responsibility.  Further, the Government’s position is lax on the enforcement of the Blasphemy (especially perceived against the Prophet [PBUH]) Law which puts it at odds with the religious right – especially those in the Northwest Provinces where the rebellion against the Center emanates.  Unfortunately, for the Body Politick, there has been an outpouring of support for this dastardly murder (Bhatti was never accused of committing blasphemy, incidentally.)  Alarmingly, the argument that has been created by the religious conservatives was that homicide was enjoined by the Koran!  The Military did not make a statement, but followed the civilian Prime  Minster (P.M’s) order to arrest sundry supporters of the Blasphemy ordinance in response to the slaying.

That reporter claims that those on the fringes do not wish to come to power, but, at the same time, the State finds itself only a heartbeat away from the awakening in the Middle East.  Also, within twenty to thirty years the Pakistani nation will be the most populous Muslim one on earth!

At the same, times the people there do not trust the system they are under.  There is a sense that the appeal of the marginal political actors (i.e., the Taliban) is justified.  The historical result of the War against the Soviets is now “a plague upon the land.”  There is a different type of militant presently:  Homegrown! 

After the foray upon Osama’s compound upon Punjabi soil, terrorism within the country increased.  The West and other outsiders were blamed for all their domestic problems – especially for the terrorist attacks against the residents — within that Islamic Republic.  The relationship with the District of Columbia (D.C.’s) traditional ally has deteriorated drastically with the drone attacks above the Northwest Provinces.  These have churned up the residents’ resentment against Washington. 

Your author first found his love for Islam studying the traditional South Asian Muslim Sufic mysticism as a graduate student here thirty years ago.  Today the Taliban is waging a pogrom against that very domination within Islam and their sacred shrines.  This represents more of a Middle Eastern perception of by the fundamentalist Ulema followed by the Taliban and fellow-travelers than the traditional South Asian expression of the religion.  

The perception of Pakistan in the West is perceived (questionably) as a “weak” entity, yet it has the Bomb to defend itself against India.  The father of that Bomb, A.Q. Khan, though vilified by much of the world for spreading their nuclear technology to other Third World countries – mainly Muslim — is still a national hero in his homeland.  Ms. Constable felt that Islamic land “celebrated the wrong heroes in the name of freedom [independence].” 

“What we are doing is wrong,” also, for South Asian Islam has equated our (U.S.) democracy with alcoholism and irreligion.  We have to find a better relationship with Pakistan once again.  We must keep in mind that “Pakistan sees everything in relation to India.”  While the U.S.A. keeps lying about the drone assaults, civil society, the press and the judiciary are a very positive force there.   In fact, Pamela in her work as a journalist has “…met many unsung heroes!”

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