On Being a Muslim

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

Villa Park, IL (USA)–“On Being a Muslim”

ansariSince becoming a Muslim many years ago, I have been compelled to strive for the potential I was born with, but up until that time did not use. My connection with God, through the teachings of Islam, has given me gifts of character and spirituality that I still find surprising.

Islam has made me smarter. God gave me a brain, but Islam gave me the reason to use it. For instance, being a Muslim woman has demanded that I grow intellectually. The Quran tells us over and over, “these are words for those who think.” Islam is a religion of thinking, questioning, revising our opinions, and considering the world from different perspectives. Over the years, I have listened to Muslim thinkers, scholars, and teachers who have changed, moderated, and enhanced their understanding of Islam as they themselves changed, moderated, and grew older and wiser. Islam has room for this. The message in the Quran is so layered and rich with meaning that it begs the reader to dive into the words over and over, only to surface each time at different places in its sea, leaving us gasping for breath from the complexity and simplicity that coexist simultaneously.

Being a Muslim has broadened my worldview. Being a Muslim in America means that I am part of a faith group that encompasses people of wildly different cultures and ethnicities. I have made friends and have worked with people from virtually all corners of the world. Since becoming a Muslim, I no longer view people through the lens of a television or movie camera, edited for my sensibilities; instead, I get to learn about them firsthand. I have friends who have transported me to their native land with a simple cup of tea and a little conversation. As an American Muslim, I have learned that the world is full of warm people who would give you their last meal, simply because that’s the way they have always lived.

Islam has taught me true empathy. I grew up in America’s safe neighborhoods, attending excellent public schools. With this advantage, I never experienced discrimination or disrespect from others until after I embraced Islam and wore the hijab, the Muslim headscarf. By taking on this visible identifier, I learned what it feels like to be the “other.” When someone spit on the street as I passed, just after the 9/11 tragedy, I experienced a little of what Catholics and Jews and other religious minorities in America went through in decades and centuries past. When my husband, a native of India, and I were swiftly refused a previously promised lease on a house after we faxed in our driver’s license photos to the out-of-town owner, I understood the resentment and frustration felt by those who suffer insidious bigotry. When I was made to stand with my arms and legs spread like a criminal for a physical pat down in plain view of other air travelers, I understood the humiliation of being profiled simply because of my faith. However, I consider these experiences a privilege, as they have taught me empathy for those who have suffered simply for being.

Islam has made me a stronger feminist. Contrary to common perceptions, being a Muslim woman demands that I become educated, one who questions authority and the status quo. The women who lived during the time of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad were constantly questioning the meaning of the revelations; they wanted to know where their place in society lay, and they asserted their intelligence in defining themselves. They asked the Prophet questions about their lives. They did not ask by means of their husbands or fathers; they spoke directly to the Prophet. Islamic teachings elevate women to equal status with men — the only qualifier of merit is one’s conviction of faith and actions. Islam leaves room for women to assert themselves in all aspects of community life, and while Musli ms in America are struggling against the misogyny brought from overseas, Islam gives us the strength and framework to claim equal standing with men in the mosque and in the greater society.

Islam has taught me real humility. Muslims are taught to perform each prayer as if we are in the presence of God — whose magnificence is more than any of us can fathom. Muslims must pray in a prescribed manner, and the most intimate position of the prayer is called sajud, where one kneels down and places the forehead and nose on the floor. In the very beginning for me, an American raised with a large amount of pride, it was difficult to pray in this position. I thought to myself, “This is humiliating,” but was told that this is the purpose of sajud. I performed the prayer as taught, but was disheartened when I did not find the solace promised. A wise Muslim woman told me to continue with the ritual, regardless of whether it felt hollow or not. So I persisted. Weeks passed, and I went through the motions of the daily prayers, until one day — all in an instant — I felt myself in the presence of God while in sajud. During those brief moments I gained everything I would ever need in this world — the eternal longing for that most intimate connection with my Creator.

My husband and I named our son Sajid, which means one who prostrates to God.

This article first appeared on American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith feature, Expressions of Muslim Identity.

Houstonian Corner (V11-I40)

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Astounding ‘Eid-ul-Fitr Celebrations as ISGH Organized Eid Prayers at GRBCC

Picture Q As per last week’s prediction by Pakistan Publications Inc., hundreds and thousands of Muslims thronged George R. Brown Convention Center (GRBCC). According to an estimate, more than 30,000 Muslims of all faces and facets of life responded this last Sunday, September 20, 2009, to the call of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) and attended ‘Eid-ul-Fitr prayers at the GRBCC. The prayer hall overflowed, and thousands had to stay outside due to fire-code regulations’ and were accommodated in a subsequent prayer.

Pakistan Publications Inc. extends Heartiest Congratulations and Kudos to the ISGH for organizing such a mammoth gathering in the most efficient and effective manner.

The Special Supplications and Presence Slogans (called the Takbeerats of Eid-ul-Fitr Prayers) by the attendees thundered in the hall since before 8:00am., while thousands of impressively dressed people in traditional dresses of almost the whole world, like the Far-East Australasia; South Asia India – Bangladesh – Sri Lanka – Pakistan; Middle East; Africa; Europe; and the Americas; made their ways through every door and into the Hall.

The meaning of these is Takbeerats is as follows : “Allah is Great, Allah is Great: There is no one worthy of prayer but Allah, and Allah is Great; Allah is Great, All praise be to Allah, It is He Who Guides.”

These Takbeerats continued for about one-hour, when around 9:00am. Shaikh Omar Inshanally, Imam at the ISGH Main Center Masjid, stood up to lead the prayers, which includes Seven Extra Calls of Allah is Great (Allahu-Akbar in Arabic) during the First Phase (called Rakat) and Five Extra Calls of Allah is Great (Allahu-Akbar in Arabic) during the Second Phase (called Rakat) of the Prayers.

During these Two Phased Eid-ul-Fitr Prayers, Shaikh Omar Inshanally recited from the passages of Quran that convey Allah’s unfathomable love for believers; remind believers of the inevitability of an end of everyone’s earthly life & the ultimate destination in front of Allah; and that Allah forgives all sins of those who sincerely repent and uplift their morality. Without exception, those interviewed after the prayer said that they felt deeply moved, and complimented the Imam’s Recitation (called Qiraa’at in Arabic) – The choice of passages, fluency, voice control, and mellifluousness.

After the prayers, ISGH President Dr. Aziz Ahmad Siddiqi provided in a positive fashion the State of Affairs of ISGH and the Muslim Community in the Greater Houston Region. He cited several major developments that whoever will seek, will benefit many, regardless of ethnic background or country of origin. President also mentioned that this year the ISGH membership has experienced an unprecedented growth of more than 25 percent. It was nice that Dr. Siddiqi’s presentation was not long and contained linguistic beauty.

Houston Mayor Bill White also addressed the audience, noting the size and importance of the local Muslim community. Mr. White is seeking higher state office, and a positive impression on him could be to the advantage of Muslims. The Chairman of the ISGH ‘Ulema Committee, Shaikh Abdul ‘Aziz of the Brand Lane Masjid also graced the occasion.

After the prayers and addresses the crowd filled the air with mutual bright smiles, cordial ‘Eid greetings, and warm expressions of love and unity. This all made for a truly awe-inspiring ‘Eid-ul-Fitr celebration organized by the ISGH. For more information, one can visit www.isgh.org.

Farouk Shami to Run For Texas Governor

Picture R He is the famous Houston hair-care millionaire Farouk Shami (originally from Palestine), seriously considering a run for Governor as a Democrat. He has already appointed a Treasurer, but has not yet filed papers.

At his Annual Ramadan Dinner at the Arab Cultural Center (ACC) Houston, the 66 year old Shami asked hundreds gathered if he should run or not and he got a tremendous “Yes,” with everyone standing and clapping.

One may recall that Farouk Shami first got some attention in the political arena during 2006 governor’s race, when as his business partner; he supported the independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman.

Farouk Shami got much appreciation last month for his decision to move 5,000 jobs from Asian manufacturing plants in China to Texas over the next five years to manufacture his famous hair-care products of BioSilk and CHI brands. He invented ammonia-free hair color products, was the official hair care sponsor of the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants and has sales that top $1 billion a year.

Farouk Shami in an inspiring speech said that Texas needs a change and he through his entrepreneurial spirit will bring fresh ideas to increase the tax base, create new jobs of the future, brings dignified healthcare for all, and make Texas the best place to live in the USA.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I39)

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

ISGH President Dr. Aziz Siddiqi at the Holocaust Museum

Picture P Holocaust Museum Houston invited the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) President Dr. Aziz Siddiqi at the opening reception of the Photographic Exhibition called “Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews During the Holocaust in Albania”. This Exhibition shows Heart-Melting Kindness and Righteous Determination of Muslim Heroes, who saved Jews during the Holocaust. The Exhibition started on July 17, 2009 and runs through to February 7, 2010.

After his welcoming remarks, Michael Goldberg, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Holocaust Museum, requested ISGH President Dr. Aziz Siddiqi to speak to the invited guests. Dr. Siddiqi welcomed the opportunity to talk to the guests and acknowledged a strong presence of Muslims in the exhibit reception.

Dr. Aziz Siddiqi said that throughout the Islamic history Muslims have always provided protection to the oppressed. Whenever persecution was carried out against Jews whether it was in Spain, Albania or anywhere else, Muslims were in the forefront to save the lives of innocent Jews. He also cited other examples of Muslims helping Non-Muslims from persecution in other parts of the world. He said, “Muslims practice what they preach” and quoted the Ayah (Verse) of Quran: “……………….And whoever saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the entire people…………..” Holy Quran, Chapter 005 Verse 032.

This Photographic Exhibition “Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews During the Holocaust Albania”, depicts about this European country with a Muslim majority, that succeeded where other European nations failed in dealing with Nazi Germany. Almost all Jews living within Albanian borders during the German occupation – those of Albanian origin and refugees alike – were saved. In a five-year project, Colorado-based photographer Norman Gershman set out to collect the names of righteous, non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust. He discovered that some of the names were of Albanian Muslims. He then began a quest to meet and photograph the Albanian rescuers or their descendents. During his interviews, when he asked why they had rescued Jews, the resounding response was “Besa” the code of honor deeply rooted in Albanian culture and incorporated in the faith of Albanian Muslims. As Gershman later would explain, “There was no government conspiracy, no underground railroad, no organized resistance of any kind – only individual Albanians, acting alone, to save the lives of people whose lives were in immediate danger. My portraits of these people, and their stories, are meant to reflect their humanity, their dignity, their religious and moral convictions, and their quiet courage.”

Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public. It is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline Street, Houston, Texas 77004. For more information about the Museum, visit www.hmh.org or call 713-942-8000.

The New Muslim Cool at ICNA Relief Iftar-&-Dinner

Picture O The Annual Iftar-&-Dinner organized by Islamic Circle of North America Relief (ICNA Relief) was held at Shahnai Restaurant Hillcroft, which was well attended.

Hamza Pérez, famously known as The New Muslim Cool, was the keynote presenter, who in a most emotional and motivational manner informed about the immense need and significance of humanitarian work at grassroots level in America, in which ICNA Relief is at the forefront. Present on the occasion were Ayub Badat, National Director of ICNA Relief; Haseeb Abdali, President of ICNA Houston; Saad Ansari, Director of ICNA Relief Texas; Dr. Aziz Siddiqi, President ISGH; Jaime Mujahid Fletcher, Founder & President of Islam in Spanish; Hashim Badat, Vice-President ISGH; Iqbal Badat Vice-President Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH); and many others. A slide show of all the nationwide projects of ICNA Relief was presented with remarks by Ayub Badat.

ICNA Relief is one of the largest humanitarian services organizations of the Muslims, working solely in USA. At present in Baton Rouge Louisiana and Houston-Galveston Texas, ICNA Relief has received federal grants to provide services to those, who got affected by Hurricane Ike.

The major human and social services work of ICNA Relief at the domestic level in USA is being done only through the assistance provided by the Muslim Community of USA. It includes Emergency Financial Assistance (rent & utility bills assistance; family support; hunger prevention; immigration support and funeral services), Women Temporary Shelter Homes; Domestic Disaster Relief; Medical Clinics; Educational programs; and so on.

For more information and contributions, one can visit: www.ICNARelief.ORg

Rooftop Films has screened Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s film New Muslim Cool, which chronicles the personal journey of Puerto-Rican American rapper Hamza Pérez. He ended life as a drug dealer 12 years ago, and started down a new path as a young Muslim. Now he’s moved to Pittsburgh’s tough North Side to start a new religious community, rebuild his shattered family, and take his message of faith to other young people through his uncompromising music as part of the hip-hop duo M-Team. But when the FBI raided his mosque, Hamza confronted the realities of the Post-9/11 world.

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Disengaging America from the Israel Lobby

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

No taxation by a foreign government without representation” is a basic American principle. Yet, the taxation currently endured by US taxpayers because of the Israel Lobby far exceeds the level of taxation by the British that led to the American Revolution. Pro-Israel organisations do everything possible to prevent Americans from openly discussing the fact that they are being taxed without consent.

Through subversion Israel advocates have orchestrated passage of the Patriot Act, Homeland Security abuses, and other erosions of civil liberties. Pro-Israel organisations file lawsuits to keep the question of Israel investments off local ballots. Jewish communal organisations bribe elected public officials with free trips to Israel to gain their support — even against the will of the majority of their constituents!

Financing Israel at the expense of basic American values victimises every citizen to benefit a very small sub-group of the population and also creates worldwide anti-US hostility, which puts all Americans at risk of terrorist retaliation. Obeying the Israel lobby goes against all logical American self-interest. Obeying Zionist pressure to invade several countries at once means watching America commit suicide, economically and politically, for the sake of Israel. Zionist activists are a real and present danger to the USA. They should be stripped of their US citizenship and sent to Guantanamo for interrogation.

America’s free press, justice system, and democracy are dependent upon the separation of American from Israeli interests. To survive, America must disentangle itself from the Zionist web of control. The common Zionist argument that Jews should get to keep what they stole just because they’ve been sitting on other people’s property for so many years is not a valid legal argument. International law as defined by the post-WW2 Nuremburg Tribunals does not confer upon occupiers any entitlement to “security.” Zionism is nothing less than a criminal ideology that completely rejects the fundamental American principle of sacred property rights.

America stands for equal rights, which applies to property and residency rights and other legal norms such as use of public transportation and voting. The US has acknowledged the injustice involved in colonising America at the expense of the native population. Even though economic disparities still remain, Native Americans have US citizenship and are allowed to rent, buy and sell property just like other citizens. This is not true for millions of Palestinian refugees who are denied any passports while they live under Israeli curfews and martial law. It is even against Israeli law for sympathetic Jews voluntarily to reconvey stolen property that they currently hold without legitimate title to the original, rightful owners. In general, Jews cannot even sell homes to Arabs. Yet Germany returned homes stolen from the Jews in World War II to their descendants.

Many Americans are aware that the subsidisation of the Israeli military at the expense of the US taxpayer puts all Americans at risk of retaliation. Yet the criminal acts begin right under our noses here in America by bankers and real estate agents. With the deep enmeshment of Israeli agents in the United States political spectrum, the Israel Lobby acts as a mafia facilitating the looting of billions of dollars via US military acquisitions from Jewish-owned defense corporations like General Dynamics and via capital transfers including ongoing complex beneficiary-obscuring transactions. In addition to ongoing US foreign aid for weapons purchase, the USA buys billions of dollars of weapons, declares the weaponry to be obsolete and then consigns it to Israel at practically no charge. Using full-scale militarised equipment supplied and paid for by the United States, the Israeli government uses US tax money to pay the IDF to force the non-Jewish Palestinian rightful owners to vacate their own property so that subsidised real-estate magnates can bulldoze the place to build suburban-style condos for foreigners outfitted with supplies from Home Depot and JCPenney.

As the Israeli government orchestrates increasing demand for Palestinian property, ordinary American Jews wishing to escape their credit card debts buy up stolen Palestinian property by means of mortgages that roll in existing indebtedness at subsidised interest rates. American Jewish purchasers can then resell the stolen properties at a profit and return debt-free to the USA with cash in their pockets. This outrageous criminal conspiracy takes place in broad-daylight generally under the aegis of taxpayer subsidised Zionist “charities” that encourage “Aliyah” (Jewish ascension to Israel).

Are American law enforcement officials investigating this racist organised crime network operating in full daylight? The Jews who move into this stolen property are participating in an international crime. The FBI should be attending all the Pro-Israel training workshops that take place on US soil and that promote both the subversion of all our basic national beliefs and also the looting of the US economy. The United States has no choice but to start investigating, arresting, charging, prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating American citizens participating in the Zionist settlement process.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article.

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Myths and Facts about al-Qaeda

September 3, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

al_qaeda The media myth of a global Islamic conspiracy never got much traction in America before 2001 because the minority Muslim American population simply did not seem like much of a threat, because Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States are loyal US allies, and because Americans generally have a positive attitude toward wealthy investors. After 9/11 pro-Israel propagandists exploited public ignorance and created a nightmarish fantasy of al-Qaeda in order to put the US and allies into conflict with the entire Islamic world. What is al-Qaeda? What do they believe? What do they actually do?

Osama bin Laden first used the term “al-Qaeda” in an interview in 1998, probably in reference to a 1988 article written by Palestinian activist Abdullah Azzam entitled “al-Qa`ida al-Sulba” (the Solid Foundation). In it, Azzam elaborates upon the ideas of the Egyptian scholar Sayed Qutb to explain modern jihadi principles. Qutb, author of Social Justice in Islam, is viewed as the founder of modern Arab-Islamic political religious thought. Qutb is comparable to John Locke in Western political development. Both Azzam and Qutb were serious men of exceptional integrity and honor.

While Qutb was visiting the USA in 1949, he and several friends were turned away from a movie theater because the owner thought they were black. ‘But we’re Egyptians,’ one of the group explained. The owner apologized and offered to let them in, but Qutb refused, galled by the fact that black Egyptians could be admitted but black Americans could not,” recounts Lawrence Wright in The Looming Tower. Qutb predicted that the struggle between Islam and materialism would define the modern world. He embraced martyrdom in 1966 in rejection of Arab socialist politics.

Azzam similarly rejected secular Palestinian nationalist politics as an impediment to moral virtue. He opposed terrorist attacks on civilians and had strong reservations about ideas like offensive jihad, or preventive war. He also hesitated to designate any Muslim leader as an apostate and preferred to allow God to make such judgments. Inspired by the courage and piety of Afghan Muslims struggling against the Soviets, Azzam reinterpreted Qutb’s concept of individual and collective obligation of Muslims in his fatwa entitled “Defense of the Muslim Lands, the First Obligation after Iman (Faith).” Qutb would have prioritized the struggle of Egyptian Muslims to transform Egypt into a virtuous Islamic state while Azzam argued that every individual Muslim had an obligation to come to the aid of oppressed Muslims everywhere, whether they are Afghan, Kosovar, Bosnian, Thai, Filipino, or Chechen.

John Calvert of Creighton University writes, “This ideology… would soon energize the most significant jihad movement of modern times.”

At Azzam’s call, Arabs from many countries joined America’s fight against Communism in Afghanistan. No Arab jihadi attack was considered terrorism when Azzam led the group, or later when bin Laden ran the group. Because the global Islamic movement overlapped with the goals of the US government, Arab jihadis worked and traveled frictionlessly throughout the world between Asia, Arabia and America. Azzam was assassinated in Pakistan in 1989, but legends of the courageous sacrifices of the noble Arab Afghans energized the whole Islamic world.

After the Soviets left Afghanistan, bin Laden relocated to Sudan in 1992. At the time he was probably undisputed commander of nothing more than a small group, which became even smaller after he lost practically all his money on Sudan investments. He returned to Afghanistan in 1996, where the younger Afghans, the Taliban welcomed him on account of his reputation as a veteran war hero.

There is no real evidence that bin Laden or al-Qaeda had any connection to the Ugandan and Tanzanian embassy attacks or any of the numerous attacks for which they have been blamed. Pro-Israel propagandists like Daniel Pipes or Matthew Levitt needed an enemy for their war against Muslim influence on American culture more than random explosions in various places needed a central commander. By the time the World Trade Center was destroyed, the Arab fighters surrounding Osama bin Laden were just a dwindling remnant living on past glories of Afghanistan’s struggle against Communism. Al-Qaeda has never been and certainly is not today an immensely powerful terror organization controlling Islamic banks and charities throughout the world.

Al-Qaeda maintained training camps in Afghanistan like Camp Faruq, where Muslims could receive basic training just as American Jews go to Israel for military training with the IDF. There they learned to disassemble, clean and reassemble weapons, and got to associate with old warriors, who engaged in great heroism against the Soviets but did not do much since. Many al-Qaeda trainees went on to serve US interests in Central Asia (e.g. Xinjiang) in the 1990s but from recent descriptions the camps seem to currently provide a form of adventure tourism with no future enlistment obligations.

Although western media treats al-Qaeda as synonymous with Absolute Evil, much of the world reveres the Arab Afghans as martyr saints. Hundreds of pilgrims visit Kandahar’s Arab cemetery daily, believing that the graves of those massacred in the 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan possess miraculous healing powers.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I36)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Qari Sharafat Ali & Hafiz Amjad Saeed Coming To Pak Center On 9/6/09

“Helping Hand For Relief And Development (HHRD)” is organizing an Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers at Pakistan Center on Sunday, September 06, 2009 (next day is national holiday). Program is open to public, but organizers have requested that if people can RSVP by calling 1-832-275-0786 or 1-214-707-8159, it will make life easier for them, as then they can appropriately arrange for food and other things.

HHRD is cordially inviting the community members, their families and friends to their Annual Ramadan Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers Program, to be held on Sunday, September 06th, 2009 @ 6:00pm. at the Pakistan Center located at 12600 Bissonnet (at South Dairy Ashford), Houston, Texas 77099. They have invited famous Qari Sharafat Ali from New York and Hafiz Amjad Saeed from Atlanta, who will InshaAllah enthrall everyone.

Helping Hand is requesting everyone to bring one or more Non-Perishable Food Items, which will be given to those in Need in our Houston Community.

Before Iftar-Mughrib-Prayers-&-Dinner, Community Youth and Qari Sharafat Ali will present heart-warming recitation of Quran; some Nasheeds & a Motivational Presentation about Helping Hand will be done.

After Iftar-Mughrib-Prayers-&-Dinner, arrangements have been made for Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers at the same place Pakistan Center.

After the Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers around 11:00pm., inspirational presentations by Islamic Scholars (to be determined) will be made on various subjects of public interest.

Again for more information and to RSVP for this inspirational event, one can call 1-832-275-0786 or 1-214-707-8159.

Healthcare System Can Bankrupt USA: US Rep. Al Green

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “If not reformed, the present healthcare system will bankrupt USA,” informed Congressman AL Green (D-TX) at a Press Conference in his Houston Congressional Office.

“Nationwide, health care costs consume about 20 percent of our gross domestic product. If we continue on our current path, health care costs will consume approximately 35 percent of our GDP by 2040, and the number of uninsured Americans will rise to 72 million, according to the Council of Economic Advisers. That would have catastrophic consequences:” Added the Hon. Al Green.

Congressman AL Green said he favors the Health Reforms suggested by President Obama, where if one does not health insurance, he or she will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for themselves and their families – coverage that will stay with them whether you move, change your job or lose your job. Secondly we will cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits. Thirdly, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. Lastly, these reforms will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable.

Even though we spend more than any other nation on health care, we aren’t healthier. Only three developed countries have higher infant mortality rates. Our nation ranks 24th in life expectancy among developed countries. More than one-third of Americans are obese.

These statistics are the signs of a system that is both unacceptable and unsustainable. They also show us the high cost of doing nothing. If we choose the status quo, more Americans will be uninsured, costs will continue to rise, and every American’s health care will be at risk.

For more information, one can contact the Office of Congressman AL Green at: 3003 South Loop West, Ste. 460, Houston, Texas 77054; Phone: 713-383-9234.

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Houstonian Corner V11-I35

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan Center Annual Dinner: Councilman M J Khan Given Bombaywala And Mian “Life Time Achievement Awards”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “I am happy to be here in Pakistan Center and want to congratulate the whole community that now we all have a home of our own”: These were the sentiments of the City of Houston Councilman M. J. Khan, as he handed out the highest award given by the Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH), “The Life Time Achievement Award”, to Former President Ghulam Mohammad Bombaywala and Mian Shabbir. All this happened during the annual dinner of PAGH on Friday, August 14th, 2009, which was attended by Consul General of Pakistan Aqil Nadeem, several Elected and Governmental Officials from the Homeland Security Department.

By the Grace of God, Pakistan Center is a huge place located in City of Houston District “F”, from where Masrur Javed Khan (past President of PAGH) got elected as the first Pakistani and Muslim City Councilman of Houston, but this past Friday was the first time M. J. came to this Center and everyone was most happy to see him and hoped this is not the only time.

Pakistan Center is the first of its kind in North America, was build in an old HEB Store, through the efforts done by the previous President of PAGH Ghulam Mohammad Bombayawala and his team. The huge Pakistan Center has several shops at the front end and huge party hall at the back, from where rental money is received, making the center self-sustaining. Center has nice offices, meeting rooms and library build for the administration of PAGH.

President of PAGH Khalid Khan had to leave for Pakistan to attend the 14th of August ceremonies over there being the Vice President of Peoples’ Party North America, but his wife and daughters filled up his spot pretty well by handing out flower bouquets to M. J. Khan and Mrs. Bombaywala.

Large numbers of attendees were entertained by famous comedians from Pakistan Kashif Khan and Pervez Siddiqui. Many people were listening to them for the first time and their jokes and presentation were quite fresh and most hilarious for everyone.

For more information on ongoing programs and projects for the community by PAGH, once can call 281-933-0786.

Bill King the Grand Marshall of the 1st Pakistan Day Parade in Downtown Houston

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Hundreds of Pakistanis and their friends from other communities gathered in Downtown Houston for the historic first ever “Pakistan Day Parade Houston”, which was held on Sunday, August 16th, 2009.

It is said that inaugural Pakistan Day Parade in USA was held in New York, which was attended by around 100 persons. But this inaugural Houston parade saw seas of human beings coming together to fervently celebrate the day.

People from other cities and States had also come for the Parade. Some people like Dr. Aziz Siddiqi came on their open cars with their names and message of Pakistan Independence Day written on their vehicles. Several Pakistani students from University of Houston and Houston Community College System had their separate floats and vehicles with Pakistani Flags and paling traditional music of various areas of Pakistan. All these Youth were organized by social figures like Mariam Issa and Dr. Birjees Ashraf.

Former Mayor of Kemah Texas Bill King was the Grand Marshall of this first ever Pakistan Day Parade in Houston, as he led several hundred enthusiastic Youth from the Houston Community College System and the University of Houston. Accompanying them were the Founding Members Khalid Mahmood (Chairman) & Nadeem Naik (Secretary); and the Consul General of Pakistan Honorable Aqil Nadeem & City Councilman M. J. Khan.

Later on at the stairs of Tranquility Park, where the parade culminated, having started at 400 Rusk Street and went around Rusk, Milam and Walker; the national anthems of Pakistan and USA were presented and several speakers made enthusiastic speeches. They included Bill King, City Councilpersons M. J. Khan and Jolanda Jones, Consul General Aqil Nadeem, Islamic Society President Dr. Aziz Siddiqi, Khalid Mahmood, Nadeem Naik, Mariam Issa, Dr. Birjees Ashraf and others. Stage Programs were coordinated by Saleem and Zara Syed of Young Trang; Rehan Siddiqui of Hum Tum City Radio and Moin Pirzada of Radio Perdes.

Following the parade, speeches and recognition of sponsors like Mega Energy, a concert; lots of food; intermingling of families, friends & colleagues and Pakistanis and Non-Pakistanis happened.

The next parade will be held in Houston on March 28th, 2010. For more information, one can call 832-876-2392; or visit http://PakistanDayParadeHouston.com

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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.

11-31

IFANCA responds to rumors about halal certification at Cargill/Better Beef Plant

July 23, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Ayub Khan, MMNS

CHICAGO, IL— In response to rumors circulating in USA, Canada as well as on the internet, the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America [IFANCA]  has issued a statement assuring  halal consumers and retailers that all its certified products meet the strictest of Halal criteria and can be consumed without any doubt.

“IFANCA’s procedures have been approved by a team of Islamic scholars and scientists who have developed a very stringent & independently verifiable halal authentication system, in all of its certified plants including Cargill’s Better Beef Plant. IFANCA’s slaughter methods are as close as practically possible to the traditional Islamic method of slaughter, where at least three out of four vessels are precisely cut, while also meeting the Canadian food safety requirements. 

All cattle are slaughtered by specially trained Muslim slaughter men, who are supervised by IFANCA inspectors, the statement reads.

The press release states that the claims by a group which say that the IFANCA approved animal slaughter method do not meet the Islamic criteria are untrue. 

The group in a blog posting suggests that the vertical method of cut during the animal slaughter does not meet the Islamic criteria and that it goes against the scholarly consensus.

To the above allegation IFANCA replied, “First the cut at the Cargill/Better Beef plant is not vertical cut. It is modified horizontal cut. Secondly, The claim about the jurists being unanimous is baseless. There are several methods of slaughtering animals, generally practiced being cutting the throat to sever  four (4) passages, trachea, esophagus, jugular veins and carotid arteries. There is disagreement among the scholars even with the required number of openings to be cut. According to Imam Abu Hanifa all four are required to be cut. (Badai Al Sanaih, 6/41). According to his student Imam Abu Yusuf only one of the two jugular veins are required to be cut besides that of throat and windpipe. (ibid).  According to other scholars only cutting of the throat and windpipe is enough. (Sharh Muhazzab, 9/84). According to Imam Malik the windpipe and the two jugular veins are required to be cut in order for the animal to be halal. (Sharh Al Sagheer, 2/154). According to another reference, the Hanafi School’s ruling is that at least three of the four openings should be cut. (Nasab ul Raya, 4/185-86).  [This requirement of cutting at least three passages as well as complete draining of blood are met at the Cargill/Better Beef plant].”

“ The slaughter men trained by IFANCA are especially instructed in cutting the required number of openings leaving no doubt about this method of halal slaughter. Hence Cargill/Better Beef is halal and zabiha, as has been certified for over 10 years by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America,” the statement reads.

11-31

Houstonian Corner (V11-I29)

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Sultans of Science: Yours’ To Rediscover At IDC Downtown Houston

Sultans of Science Exhibition At IDC (A)

The world famous Exhibition called “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered”, has opened on Wednesday, July 01, 2009 at the Islamic Da`wah Center (IDC), located at 201 Travis Street, Downtown Houston, Texas 77002. “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered” is a global touring exhibition celebrating the contributions of Muslim scholars in science and technology during the golden age of the Islamic world and the influence their inventions and contributions have had on our modern day society. The exhibition is very interactive, with sensory displays, and enticing designs and presentations.

With the summer break, the “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered” Exhibition is especially beneficial for Youth to attend. Organized by Liberty Science Center and MTE Studios, the Exhibition will run from July 01 till September 07, 2009. Hours of Admission and Fees to the Exhibition are: Monday to Thursday 10am – 7pm; Friday Closed; Saturday 10am – 7pm; and Sunday 12pm – 5pm. Tickets online at http://islamicdawahcenter.org/ are $15 (Adults); $10 (Children) and at the IDC Box Office $20 (Adults); $10 (Children). All tickets are for single entry: Special Groups Field Trips and School Groups require Reservation.
A Pre-Opening Celebration event was held last Friday, where several influential local political, professional and social leaders were present. Ameer Abuhalimeh, Executive Director of IDC welcomed everybody and read the message of famous basketball player Hakeem Olajuwan, who is President and Founder of IDC (he is presently in Jordan). Keynote Remarks came from City of Houston Councilmember, the Honorable M J Khan and Mayoral Proclamation was given by Minnette B. Boesel, the Mayor’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs.

Consul Generals of Pakistan, India, Egypt and Great Britain were present. Everyone was mesmerized to see the depth of information in a most interactive manner provided to the attendees. “It is a must to attend exhibition for all Houstonians’ and Americans,” said the Former Honorary Consul General of Pakistan in Houston Joanne King Herring.

For further information, one can visit http://islamicdawahcenter.org/ or call 713-223-3311.

Hundreds Thronged Rice University for 4th Annual ICNA-MAS South Region Conference

bill white Fourth of July saw a Major Islamic Conference coming to Rice University Houston: This was the 4th Annual ICNA-MAS South Central Region Conference. Several hundred families came from Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere to attend this one day event, whose theme was: “Serve Humanity for the Love of Divinity”. “Not only the theme was unique, but after attending various lectures and segments, I am convinced that all the speeches at the Conference had distinctive message and it was conveyed by all the speakers in a unique manner, which I have never felt at other Islamic Conferences. One needs to get the DVDs and CDs of this Conference for future reference and study,” said one of the regular attendee of the many Islamic Conferences in the Greater Houston Region.

Renowned scholars like Sheikh Nouman Ali Khan; Sheikh Abdool Rahman Khan; Imam Omar Suleiman; Imam Khalid Griggs; Imam Yousuf Estes; Dr. Zahid Bukhari; Dr. Muhammad Yunus; Dr. Mazhar Kazi; Sheikh Nisar-ul-Haq; Hafiz Tauqeer Shah; Sheikh Wazir Ali; Samid AL-Khatib; Reverand Kimberley; and many more, mesmerized the audiences with excellent presentations that had practical solutions to various issues facing communities nationwide in USA, as far as volunteering and assisting humanity is concerned.

“Window to Islam” Morning Session brought some Non-Muslims with Muslims and the Chapel besides Rice Memorial Ley Student Center was packed with people of all ages, as they understood the basics of Islam and learnt from Imam Yousuf Estes as to why he became Muslim. Other topics included “Islam: Not just a Middle Eastern Religion”; “The History of Relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims” and “Interfaith Panel Q-&-A”.

Special “Young Muslims Conference” in the afternoon drew many youth in the community to learn their very crucial role in the society, like “Lead Your Friends to Humanity for Your Lord”; “Islam: A Religion That Came on the Shoulders of Youth”; “Muslim Youth: Serving Humanity”; “Muslim Youth is Ready to Face Challenges”; and much more.

The main topics discussed in the Central Programs included “The Islamic Solutions to Contemporary Social Problems, like the Declining Family System”; “Dawah and Relief Go Hand in Hand”; and “Deliverance Through Service”.

Sumptuous food was served by Lazzezza Restaurant. For more information and getting Conference material, one can call Omer Syed, Secretary of ICNA Houston at 713-253-4599.

11-29

TX Muslim Candidate!

July 2, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By ILyas Hasan Choudry, MMNS

 

Houston, Texas: I attended a fundraiser for M. J. Khan way back in 2003. This was the first time he was vying to become the City of Houston Councilperson. Many including myself doubted and did all kinds of analysis that M J has little chance to win the elections in the 4th largest city of USA (Houston). Due to the blessing of prayers of hundreds; his personal hard work; his family’s absolute support; the funds he received from his friends and community persons; and team of shrewd advisors, he surprised several pessimists.

khan21

M J Khan will be termed out as the City Councilman in December 2009. Before that in November 2009, elections to various offices will be held in Houston. M J Khan, who in 2007 got the “Outstanding American by Choice Award from the USCIS-U.S. Department of State”, has again shown his courageous character, by confidently entering into citywide election race to become the Controller of the 4th largest city of USA (Houston). The distinction for the Controller of Houston is that it is an independent position and his or her decisions are not influenced by the Mayor or City Council. The City of Houston has strong Mayoral Form of Government.  On behalf of the citizens of Houston, the City Controller is the person that brings the much needed check-&-balance to the Mayor and City Council (the executive and legislative branches) of City government.

The position of Controller of the City of Houston has a rich history of about 106 years. The Controller is the Chief Financial Officer of the 4th largest City of USA, making decisions that affect each and every citizen and businesses of the city. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the assets of the City are properly accounted for and expended in a manner consistent with applicable laws, policies, plans and procedures. To achieve this, the Controller conducts audits of different departments of the City. Controller processes and monitors more than $2.5-Billion Annual Budget.

As such a M J Khan win in November 2009 elections, will not be merely a personal triumph, but a landmark occasion for all the smaller communities of Houston, where they will proudly see someone most competent from diverse communes, making tough decisions for the betterment of all the Houstonians.

More information on his campaign (Theme: “Fiscal Responsibility for a Stronger Houston”), can be received by regularly visiting www.MJKhan.Com Contributions can be made to his campaign at the website by Citizens and Permanent Residents from anywhere in USA.

M J Campaign for Controller is Viable

Saturday, June 27, 2009, saw the Gala Fundraising Dinner of M J Khan for Controller Campaign at the impressive Westin Galleria Hotel. Reasonable numbers of people attended the fundraiser. Prominent among them were all the close members of M J Khan’s extended family; Former City of Houston Councilperson Gordon Quan and his wife; Counsel General of Pakistan in Houston Aqil Nadeem and his wife; Director of Harris County Houston Sports Authority Board Haroon Shaikh; President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) Khalid Khan; Former President of PAGH Ghulam Bombaywala; President of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Dr. Tariq Hussein; President of Shifa Foundation Dr. Moien Butt; Chairman Executive Board of Ibna Sina Foundation Nasruddin Rupani; Attorney Noaman Hussain; Attorney Neiyar Izfar; Former Houston President of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) Dr. Asaf Qadeer; Entrepreneurial Zakaria Family; Media and Campaign Coordinators Ghulam Chisti and Azam Akhtar; and several representatives of community media.

Program started with heart wrenching recitation of Quran by young Hafiz Anis-ul-Haq, who recited verses about unity among the community and importance of calling people towards all that is good, while advising people to avoid doing evil. Following Hafiz Anis-ul-Haq recital, Dr. Attiya Khan, wife of M J Khan thanked everyone for coming and requested to support M J Khan for Controller Campaign.

Dr. Neelofur Ahmad was emcee on the occasion, while Ghulam Bombaywala, Dr. Asaf Qadeer, Dr. Abdul Kader Fustok; Attorney Noaman Hussain; Dr. Moien Butt; Dr. Mubashir Chaudhry; Faisal Ameen; and others helped with the fundraiser. It was informed that at the first fundraiser in 2003 for the City Council Election, M J Khan raised $250,000 from our community and six years later, several communities living in District “F” of M J received many dollars in grants to improve the living standards of people: As such the funds of our community, used in the election of the right person to the office of City Council, resulted in the betterment of whole of Houston. This positive investment also brought more than $5-Million to the Pakistani, Muslim and South-Asian Communities in the fields of health and social wellbeing.

It was further informed that the name of M J is not only restricted to Houston, but his name is heard in the Congressional Hallways in Washington, D.C. and Legislative Corridors in Austin, Texas.

More than $103,000 was received at this fundraiser in cash and pledges. M J Khan Camping for Controller already had more than $300,000 in the coffers before the fundraiser. It is projected that it will cost each candidate $1-Million to run for this position. With over $400,000 raised five months before the election, M J Campaign is in a strong position.

Before that, the former city councilman Gordon Quan, while introducing Councilman M J Khan also talked about the challenges he is going to face: “This is a city and not federal government, where one can print millions of dollars to come out of financial crisis. Here one has to balance the budget, show fiscal responsibility and take tough decisions for the future of this great city of Houston, which we and our children proudly call home. M J came up with the catchphrase that District F is the forgotten district and that after getting elected; he will make it the known and best district. With his persistence and hard work, he has brought several positive improvements to District F and we all need to applaud him for the excellent work he has done. With these six years experiences, his strong academic background having done MBA from the prestigious Rice University and having run a business, M J is one of the strongest and most capable candidates for this position. He will be a pride for all communities in these trying economic times.”

M J Khan in his presentation thanked his Sister Yasmin Khan, Wife Dr. Attiya Khan, all extended family members, friends and well-wishers and said his earlier win with Blessing of God due to sincere supplications by everyone in the community and requested for continuing prayers. He said in 2003, people did not give him much chance to win: That motivated him to persistently work and he did not win once, but three times due to the Grace of God. He said putting sincere and complete efforts with clean heart is what is needed; results are in the hand of God.

“I have worked diligently to serve all Houstonians including our community as the City Councilman and will work even more meticulously, if given chance by all Houstonians, to serve them as their proficient Controller:” Said M J Khan.

11-28

Houstonian Corner (V11-I27)

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Both Best of Times & Most Crucial Times in Pakistan: Imran Khan

Imran Khan Spoke About Future Of Pakistan At World Affairs Council (G)

The World Affairs Council (WAC) is one of Houston’s most prominent citizen forums. Through guest speakers and over 80 seminars and events, WAC gives chance to people of different view points on various issues to make presentation, especially matters related to current world events. Idea is to promote better understanding of international relations and contributes to national and international policy debates. The result is a better educated citizenry and the advancement of Houston as an important international center. Some of the prominent speakers at WAC have been: Madeleine Albright; James Baker, III; Prince Bandar Bin Sultan; Fernando Henrique Cardoso; Wesley Clark; William S. Cohen; Thomas Friedman; Robert Gates; George Mitchell; General Colin Powell; David Rockefeller; Lech Walesa; and Fareed Zakaria.

This past Monday, prominent philanthropist, sports and political figure of Pakistan Imran Khan gave a candid presentation to hundreds of WAC members on “Future of Pakistan” at a special luncheon at Omni Hotel. Program was sponsored by the Pakistani-American Council of Texas (PACT). President of PACT Sajjad Burki, Executive Members of PACT & Pakistani Community and Council General of Pakistan in Houston Aqil Nadeem were in attendance.

In his presentation, Imran Khan gave detailed history of Pakistan; South Asian Region; cultural traits of people of Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan; and much more. He said USA Government is not getting proper advise about this things and in his recent meetings with Senators Kerry and Ackerman, he has asked them to find right people to know more about the people of the area. Imran himself have gone on a road journey of all these areas and written books like “Indus Journey: A Personal View of Pakistan” and “Warrior Race: A Journey Through the Land of the Tribal Pathans”.

Imran Khan said that Pakistan is going through unprecedented times in her short 62 years history. Citing incidents of the rough times Chief Justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Chaudhry and Media in Pakistan have gone through in the past few years, Imran Khan said that today what we see in Pakistan was never seen before in the history of Pakistan, which is that the Judiciary and Media are independent. Elections are just one of the means to have democracy, but actually institutions like Judiciary and Media are what really build good democracy. True test of the independence and Vibrancy of Judiciary and Media will come, when the next General Elections will be held.

Imran Khan said while on one hand we have seen optimism through successful struggles of Judiciary and Media (which got overwhelming support from the public): On the other hand, Pakistan is plagued by the wrong policies of the war on terror, which have been implemented by Governments of USA and Pakistan (he has been against the policies used in war of terror from the very beginning). Terrorism is an idea and ideas are not fought by military powers. Reason is when one applies power, terrorists, who are not regular armies; they retreat into civilian populations or into other hide-outs, and massive collateral damage of innocent people means more recruits towards terrorist side. After 9/11, clearly AL-Qaeda was the main force and Talebans were not. The Talebans merely asked for proof and said they will hand over AL-Qaeda suspects if given proofs: That could have been easily done.

Imran further said that terrorism is a political issue and has nothing to do with any religion. Past eight years and similar war in Ireland are proofs that this war on terror can only finish with dialogue, as such a process clearly identifies, who are the wrong guys and then they can be surgically removed or even in cases won back into own camp. There is need to isolate the terrorist and not giving them opportunities to get more recruits through indiscriminate bombing and use of force. At present, what is happening in Swat has public backing: However this is also known that to catch about 5,000 persons, Government of Pakistan has displaced 3.5 Million persons, creating a catastrophe of mammoth proportions. Now if these 5,000 persons have run away like gorillas do and not captured, these 3.5 Million Displaced Pakistanis will demand the Government for retribution and God Forbidding if nothing is done, we have potential of more violence, as these 3.5 Million people have lost their entire livelihood.

As such discourse has to start at the earliest and such dialogues will result in several disappointments, rejections and failures, but past evidence and loud thinking clearly show that to persevere with the process of dialogue and avoidance of making way for people to join terrorist camps, is what will eventually bring peace and end the ideology of terrorism. He said Benazir Bhutto would have been better in situation like this.

Four Centers of ISGH Successfully Hosted ICNA Annual Knowledge & Skills Competition

ICNA Houston Quizz - Knowledge - & - Skills Competition - H (June 20 2009) For the past fifteen times, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Houston Chapter organized Islamic Knowledge and Skills Competition for various age groups of 4 and 19 at the University of Houston and Rice University. This year through the sponsorship of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), ICNA Houston Chapter organized competitions at four ISGH Centers (Adel Road, Bear Creek, Synott Road and Hwy 3). These year maximum numbers of youth were able to participate. Finalists from each zone will now compete at the 4th ICNA-MAS South Regional Conference at Rice University on July 04th, 2009 (more info at www.icnasouth.com). For more information, one can call 1-866-CUB-ADAM.

The Kuwaiti Quartet

May 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

610xggg Political crisis has marred the growth and development of Kuwait for the past few years as political upheaval has been the order of the day. The entire government has resigned no less than five times and the democratically elected parliament has been dissolved thrice in only a matter of years with the most recent dissolution coming just a few months ago. Even before candidates hung up their campaign posters or voters could go to the polls, there was an air of change floating around in Kuwait. Citizens have long tired of the bickering between the Emiri elected cabinet and the members of parliament chosen by the public. There were more ‘grillings’, where MP’s make accusations against another MP, than parliamentary decisions to pull Kuwait out of the current economic crisis it is wallowing in and put it back on track with its’ neighboring Arab rivals.

It has been a mere four years since women were granted suffrage rights and the right to run for parliamentary elections in Kuwait. Female candidates failed to win seats in the past two parliamentary elections. But this past week, history turned one giant page when a total of 4 female candidates won seats in the newly formed Kuwaiti Parliament. A total of 210 candidates, 16 of which were female, vyed for a coveted seat in the 50 member strong Parliament. “Frustration with the past two parliaments pushed voters to seek change. And here it comes in the form of this sweeping victory for women,” Massouma al-Mubarak told reporters following her victory.

Quite notably all four newly elected female MP’s were educated in the USA and hold Doctorates in their specific fields. Massouma Al Mubarak is a political science professor and was Kuwait’s first female Emiri appointed Cabinet minister. Rola Dashti is an economist and activist for women’s rights. She was at the forefront of the battle to win voting rights for Kuwaiti women since it began. Salwa al Jasser is an Education professor and Aseel al Awhadi is a Philosophy professor.

Supporters of the female candidates set off fireworks and feted them in a barrage of wild cheers and congratulatory celebrations rivaling even the poshest of Hollywood after parties.  However, there are several male MP’s who are unhappy with having to share parliament with women. Islamic fundamentalists have made statements to the local media that women do not belong in politics and have insisted that all of the female MP’s wear the Islamic hijab whenever Parliament is in session. Only two out of the four newly elected females MP’s observe the Islamic headscarf.

It remains to be seen if the Kuwaiti Quartet will be able to change the political scene in Kuwait, which has always operated on a crisis-by-crisis basis. Kuwaiti political analysts expect the power struggle between MP’s in the Parliament to continue regardless of gender. If this week is any indication, the Kuwaiti Quartet is already facing an uphill battle in their bid to makeover Kuwaiti politics. MP Massouma Al Mubarak was accused of trying to push through more female politicians into the Cabinet and the Kuwait Quartet were also accused of trying to form their own bloc to stand united against the male members of Parliament.

The State of Kuwait is often referred to as a ‘half democracy’ since only the Emir controls the Cabinet while the public chooses Parliamentarians.  Kuwaiti activists have long petitioned for the formation of political parties and for Kuwait to be a true democracy where the public has the right to choose all elected officials.

11-23

Trapped by Indifference

April 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

 

feral cats eat fishHis eyes glaze over as his head droops in defeat. His hair is a dingy shade of blonde. His plaintive wail can be heard all night, up until dawn when an eerie silence fills the air. He lays against a wall, slumped in such a way that it is difficult to see if he is alive or dead. His only crime was curiosity. He is a stray dog who made the mistake of climbing onto the roof of an abandoned building in Kuwait. Now he is stuck there, with little to no hope of rescue.

Unlike in the West, domestic animals like cats and dogs are not man’s best friend. In fact, they are considered to be filthy creatures often likened to cockroaches as carriers of disease. Cats, in particular, are as prevalent on the streets of Kuwait as squirrels are in rural America. They dig out their daily meals from dumpsters, sneak a snooze on the roof of a car and spend their days searching for small puddles of water to quench their thirst in the unforgiving desert where temperatures often well exceed 100 F.

It has only been within the past couple of years that stray dogs have made their presence known on the streets. More and more misguided travelers bring a dog home with them after trips abroad to Europe or the USA. Once back in Kuwait, reality sets in as pet supplies are not always plentiful and walking a dog in the desert heat several times a day is not always a welcome activity. It’s unfortunate that, for many, the best option is to simply open up the front door and let the dog run away to live a life of fending for itself on the harsh streets.

And the streets are brutal. There is a general lack of empathy for animals in Kuwait, which is surprising given that it is an Islamic nation. The Holy Quran gave rights to both man and beast centuries ago. It’s not uncommon to find children torturing a defenseless animal in a vacant lot and reports of building caretakers throwing stray cats from the rooftops down to their deaths is a too often reported crime appearing in the local newspapers.

Thankfully, there are some loving souls that have chosen to give animals the rights that they deserve. Even in the case of the dog trapped on the roof, several local residents have thrown food up to him and some have scaled a wall below the roof in an attempt to reach him. Unfortunately, the dog backs away. He fears humans as probably every experience he has ever had has taught him to do.

There are two primary animal relief agencies in Kuwait. PAWS and Animal Friends League of Kuwait are fighting an uphill battle as the unwanted pet population in Kuwait continues its upward spiral. Both organizations are active in the community, providing food and shelter for unwanted animals. And both have hotlines where members from the public can call in to report a stray animal or animal abuse.

As of press time, the stray dog on the roof remains stranded. But help is hopefully on the way, thanks to the animal relief agencies in Kuwait who have recently been contacted. While there is light at the end of the tunnel for this dog, scores of other animals will most likely have bleaker futures in Kuwait as the indifference to their suffering goes on.

Update:  Animal Friends came and one of their volunteers scaled the wall and grabbed the dog.

11-17

Is the U.S. Experiencing its First Brain Drain?

April 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy New America Media, Vivek Wadhwa

brain_drain Editor’s Note: When high-skilled immigrants and foreign students completing their degrees in the United States both consider returning to their home countries, it might be a sign that the United States is experiencing its first brain drain in history. NAM contributing writer Vivek Wadhwa has been tracking the effects of globalization on labor markets as a professor at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. Immigration Matters regularly features the views of immigration experts and advocates.

The USA has long served as a magnet for the world’s talented scientists, engineers and mathematicians. But, this trend may now be reversing and the United States may be experiencing the first brain drain in its history.

Between 1990 and 2007, the proportion of immigrants in the US labor force increased from 9.3 percent to 15.7 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 45 percent of the growth of the workforce over this period consisted of immigrants.

They came for the traditional reasons – education, professional opportunities, a chance at a better life. With them, many of these immigrants brought high levels of education and advanced skills. As a result, immigrants have contributed disproportionately to the most dynamic part of the U.S. economy — the high-tech sector. In Silicon Valley, over 50 percent of the startups over the last decade have had an immigrant as a chief executive or lead technologist. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google, eBay, Intel and Yahoo, to name a few.

Now many are going back. While the economic downturn has caused a rise in xenophobia and the enactment of populist legislation to restrict the hiring of foreign nationals by some financial institutions, the economies of India and China have been rising. Some of the most highly skilled workers in American corporations are returning to the lands where they were born and foreign students who would normally be the next generation of U.S. science and engineering workers are buying one-way tickets home.

There are no hard numbers available, but anecdotal evidence suggests a sizeable reverse migration of skilled talent is in progress. Our team of academics at Duke, UC Berkeley and Harvard interviewed hundreds of company executives, surveyed more than 1,000 foreign students and more than 1,000 returnees, and made multiple trips to India and China to understand the trend.

What we learned should alarm policy-makers who are concerned about long-term U.S. competitiveness.

The average age of the skilled workers we located was in the low 30s, and more than 85 percent had advanced degrees — precisely the type of people that the United States needs to fuel economic recovery. Among the strongest factors cited by these ex-immigrants as a reason for coming to the United States were professional and educational development opportunities. Ironically, this was the same reason they returned home. And, they had advanced their careers in the process.

Respondents reported that they have moved up the organizational chart by returning home. Only 10 percent of the Indian returnees held senior management positions in the United States, but 44 percent found jobs at this level in India. Chinese returnees went from 9 percent in senior management in the United States to 36 percent in China. Opportunities for professional advancement were considered to be better at home than in the United States by 61 percent of Indians and 70 percent of Chinese. These groups also felt that opportunities to start a business were significantly better in their home countries.

Surprisingly, visa status was not the most important factor determining their decision to return home — even U.S. citizens and permanent residents were returning home. Three out of four indicated that considerations regarding their visa or residency permit status did not contribute to their decision to return to their home country. In fact, 27 percent of Indian respondents and 34 percent of Chinese held permanent resident status or were U.S. citizens. In addition to job opportunities, the returnees we surveyed were lured by social factors such as closeness to friends and ability to care for aging parents.

The rationale for returnees moving home was echoed by responses of surveyed foreign nationals currently enrolled in U.S. universities. These groups have traditionally represented a disproportionate percentage per capita of advanced degree students. During the 2004–2005 academic year, roughly 60 percent of engineering doctoral students and 40 percent of master’s degree students were foreign nationals, and foreign nationals made up a significant share of the U.S. graduate student population in all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine) disciplines.

In the past, the overwhelming majority of these students worked in the United States after graduation. The five-year stay rate for Chinese holding Ph.D.s has been 92 percent and for Indians 85 percent. Most end up staying permanently. Yet, the overall consensus among students we surveyed was that the United States was no longer the destination of choice for their professional careers.

Most students in our sample wanted to stay in the United States, but only for short periods. Among respondents, 58 percent of Indian, 54 percent of Chinese, and 40 percent of European students said that they would stay in the United States for at least a few years after graduation, if given the chance. However, only 6 percent of Indian, 10 percent of Chinese, and 15 percent of European students said they wanted to stay permanently. The largest group of respondents— 55 percent of Indian, 40 percent of Chinese, and 30 percent of European students— wants to return home within five years.

Visa concerns were more evident among students. More than three-fourths of these students expressed concern about obtaining work visas, and close to that number worry that they will not be able to find U.S. jobs in their field. Few said they found anything but a warm reception here from the American people. But their concern over work visas could only have been exacerbated by the ongoing attempts to curtail work possibilities for foreign nationals in the United States.

Further, the students’ assessment of their individual opportunities mirrored their view for the future of the U.S. economy. The survey found that only 7 percent of Chinese students, 9 percent of European students, and 25 percent of Indian students believe that the best days of the U.S. economy lie ahead. Conversely, 74 percent of Chinese students and 86 percent of Indian students believe that the best days for their home countries’ economies lie ahead.

The anti-immigrant groups will no doubt celebrate the departure of foreigners. But the impact of a reverse brain drain could potentially be profound and long lasting for the United States. The country is effectively exporting its economic stimulus.

Vivek Wadhwa co-authored his survey of returnees (http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/united-states-losing-immigrants-who-spur-innovation-and-economic-growth.aspx) and foreign students (http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/foreign-national-students-in-united-states-plan-to-return-to-native-countries.aspx) with the Kauffman Foundation.

11-15

The Hummus War

October 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

081008_hummus

The inconspicuous chickpea, while puny in size, is causing a major war of words between Israel and Lebanon. Both countries lay claim to inventing the savory dip that has become a worldwide hit thanks to the tasty travels of visitors to the Middle East which has caused a dramatic demand for Hummus in North America as well as other regions like Japan.

So what’s all the fuss about? Apparently, Israel has been laying claim to such Lebanese national dishes as Hummus, Falafel, Baba Ghannoui and Tabbouleh, which have been adorning the dinner tables of Lebanese families for centuries. The Director, Fadi Abboud, of the Lebanese Industrialists Society is launching a lawsuit against Israel for infringement across food copyright laws. “It is not enough they (Israelis) are stealing our land. They are also stealing our civilization and our cuisine,” said Abboud in a recent interview. The case will be mirrored after the successful feta cheese copyright dispute, where the European Parliament declared Greece as the sole country with rights to brand the salty dairy product as originating from the Greek culture, which includes a mandate that says any cheese that bears the name ‘feta’ must be produced with either sheep or goat’s milk.

This culinary war is not merely about bragging rights but rather millions of dollars in export revenues that are at stake. In the USA alone, the domestic market for store-brand hummus has grown by 78% this year alone. Hummus sales in America are valued at approximately $250 million dollars for this fiscal year and that figure is set to skyrocket as the demand for hummus continues it upwards spiral. The global market for Hummus is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

The reason for the popularity of hummus is that it really is the perfect food. It’s smooth, goes down easy and digests well especially since it does not cause the ‘gassy’ after effects that most bean-based foods do. Hummus is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, healthy nutrients like iron and manganese, and is an excellent source of fiber. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey has even listed Hummus as one of the best foods for weight loss in her ‘O’ magazine citing that the creamy dip is filling and nutritious enough to snack on a few times a week.

Only time will tell who will win the rights to hummus as it remains to be seen just exactly where Lebanon will file it’s lawsuit given that it is officially at war with Israel. It’s also noteworthy to mention that the Palestinians also lay claim to being the originators of Hummus, however they have stayed out of the fray for the time being. If the case ever does appear in court, it’s likely another hummus contender may step in the ring. However, while their busy duking it out in court, anyone with a blender can whip up their own Hummus at home. Just visit www.allrecipes.com and search the word ‘Hummus’. Happy dipping!

10-43

The Muslim Observer

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

click here to visit The Muslim Observer website.

The Muslim Observer is the only Muslim weekly newspaper distributed in all 50 states in the USA. It is one of the largest subscription-based Muslim newspapers in the U.S. The Muslim Observer offers top-quality community, national, and international news.
We currently have domestic offices and correspondents in several major cities, with plans for further expansion within the U.S. We also maintain a large pool of writers and reporters around the world who provide interesting reports on current international events relevant to Muslims and Islam. Also, using the major news wire services, we cull stories and graphic images that are of particular interest to our readers but that might be under-reported outside of a special-interest newspaper like ours.

Our goal is continued growth and recognition within Muslim communities in the United States.

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