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VOL. 43 NO. 1 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014  visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET

COVER STORY 20 Reclaiming Bilal

The task is to make the reclaiming of Bilal one that retains his African heritage, while providing critically needed leadership/direction to the whole Muslim American community, and ultimately, to the world.


26 Another Growing Component of the Muslim Fabric 28 Part of the Stream 35 Oklahoma Muslims Unite



38 Thinking Outside the Bubble 40 Hijabi for a Day 42 New Marvel Hero is Muslim Teen 44 46 50 52


Health Care for All Americans Judge, Jury & Executioner Photoblogging Women’s Experiences in Mosques Speaking Up



54 University Halal Food Service


56 Anti-Muslim Pogroms Continue in India


58 Nohad Toulan and Dirce Toulan

6 8 14 59 60

DEPARTMENTS Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters Reviews Food for the Spirit

DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Madihah Krishnamurthy. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.




Strength in Unity


PRE SID ENT Mohamed Hagmagid Ali

the saying goes, “everything is bigger in Texas.” That’s also true for the Muslim community in Houston. The story of Muslims in Houston is similar to that of most Muslim American communities: it started small, mainly as a means of coming together for Jumu’ah (Friday) congregational prayers, and eventually blossomed into strong and active communities. The nation’s largest Muslim community organization, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston traces, its beginning to arranging Friday prayers in 1969 at a small house. The group today embraces 19 mosques and Islamic centers. Among their achievements is graduating 150 huffaz — students who have memorized the entire Quran. The organization also runs four clinics offering an array of free health care services to those who need help, irrespective of their faith. There are similar Muslim communities in Chicago and Southern California that are an inspiration to others. Oklahoma, a state with a relatively smaller Muslim population, has also launched a unifying community organization. The constellation of Muslim communities includes mosques, schools, and clinics, that also provide services to the general


PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)

community. Muslim Houstonians stepped up to help when those affected by Hurricane Katrina came to their city as refugees. The experience of the Houston Muslim community is enriched by its members reaching out to help and support various segments of society with innovative projects. It is heartening to see that the founding MSA spirit continues to prosper in these organizations. MSA welcomes all Muslim communities to become active partners. ISNA is a collection of communities and welcomes and supports such initiatives. It is commendable that Muslim communities are growing and creating city and statewide umbrella organizations. It may be useful if all such organizations organize workshops at ISNA’s national and regional conventions and conferences to share these experiences, and to help and support other city and state community groups in establishing similar umbrella organizations. After all, it is Divine advice given in the Quran, “And hold firmly to the rope of God all together and do not become divided...” (3:30) This also is MSA’s motto, and MSA, ISNA and MYNA embody this message.  ■



Omer Bin Abdullah FE ATURE S EDITO R Deanna Othman D EPA RTMENT S EDITO R Aisha Kishta ED IT O RIA L A DVIS O RY B OA RD

Imam Mohamed Magid (acting Chair); Haroon Mughal; Sohaib Sultan; Wafa Unus. ISL A MI C H O RIZO NS

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ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid met with the Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, Senegal, on Oct. 29. This was their second meeting. President Sall reaffirmed his commitment to hosting a conference in Senegal in early 2014. The U.S. delegation included Ambassador Rashad Hussein,

President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, ISNA’s director of community outreach, and Sandra Clark, chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Senegal. Sall invited the ISNA delegation to begin organizing a conference on citizen-

ship and rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries, an initiative that ISNA has continued to work on since recent conferences in Mauritania and Tunisia. Sall was enthusiastic about such a conference’s impact on ensuring equal rights, which will bring together more than 40 leading Muslim scholars from around the world and Africa, in particular. He also emphasized the conference’s consensus building nature, and that a declaration outlining the rights of religious minorities will ensure peaceful coexistence amongst diverse faith groups. The delegation also met with the president’s religious advisor. The ISNA delegation met with Senegal’s health minister to discuss a conference focusing on challenges facing health workers working to eradicate polio. After meeting with Bill Gates in Doha in April 2013, ISNA discussed partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to dispel misconceptions about health programs in Muslim majority countries. Imam Magid discussed this with the health minister, who welcomed the possibility to partner and expand the reach of such programming. 

VOICE AGAINST TORTURE Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, appears in the “No Doubt, It Was Torture!” documentary featuring experts and faith leaders on why torture is always wrong, and the short video, “There’s Nothing Faithful About Torture,” produced by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). The 11-minute “No Doubt, It Was Torture!” documentary is on YouTube and on the NRCAT website at, where there are links to a discussion guide and other resources. It is also available on DVD. ISNA is among the founders of NRCAT. 


at Georgetown University, spoke about “The Origins and Development ISNA joined the U.S. Conferof ‘Mutual Understanding and ence of Catholic Bishops in orgaEsteem’: Nostra Aetate in the Connizing the 15th annual Midwest text of Vatican II.” Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Public Opening remarks were delivLectures, sponsored by the Bediüzered by the Rev. Richard G. zaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Lennon, bishop, Catholic Diocese Studies at John Carroll University Abdullah Antepli John Borelli Richard Lennon of Cleveland, the Rev. Robert L. Oct. 28-29. The event was coNiehoff, S.J., president, John Carroll Unisponsored by the Walter and Mary Tuohy “Catholics and Muslims: Challenges and Chair of Interreligious Studies. Opportunities in the Post Vatican II World.” versity, and Dr. Jeanne M. Colleran, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, John Duke University’s Muslim chaplain, Dr. John Borelli, special assistant to Carroll University.  Imam Abdullah Antepli, spoke about the president for interreligious initiatives




On Oct. 11, 2013, ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, D.C., hosted the outgoing secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, for a discussion on global

interreligious partnership and cooperation. OIC, the second largest intergovernmental organization, after the United Nations, comprises 57 member states. Ihsanoglu, who has served as OIC’s secretary general since 2004, has strived to advance

the organization’s impact and visibility worldwide. ISNA has partnered with OIC on numerous international programs, including recent work on the rights of minorities in Muslim majority countries. “ISNA appreciates the collaboration and the growing working relationship with the OIC, especially under the leadership of Secretary General Ihsanoglu, and we are looking forward to continuing this cooperation for the benefit of Muslim communities around the world and society at large,” ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid said. Ihsanoglu expressed his support for ISNA’s work, particularly in the area of interfaith partnerships and coalition building, and was briefed on Shoulderto-Shoulder, a national campaign of interfaith, faith-based and religious organizations standing together to end anti-Muslim sentiment. He renewed the OIC commitment to work with ISNA on various projects, and specifically mentioned ISNA’s efforts to address religious freedom and the rights of minorities in OIC member countries. 

CLARIFICATION A photo appearing on Page 18 of the Nov./ Dec. 2013 issue, top left, was cropped, giving the impression that Dr. Mujahid Ghazi of IMANA was a patient in a clinical setting. Ghazi was at the IMANA Health screening booth getting his blood pressure checked. Islamic Horizons regrets any inconvenience caused by this misrepresentation. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014



Seeking the Prophetic Mosque ISNA convenes its First Annual National Forum on Masjid Development BY IHSAN BAGBY


merican mosques traditionally have served as a communal focal point, where people gather for prayers, potluck dinners, Eid festivals and send their children to Islamic school. More recently, demographics have changed. Community needs have evolved, and Muslim Americans are feeling more disconnected from their local Islamic centers. ISNA’s decision to make mosque and community development a top priority prompted its Masjid Development Committee to organize the First Annual National Forum on Masjid Development, held at ISNA headquarters Nov. 8-10. The forum brought together more than 70 Muslim leaders representing 37 communities, including leaders of mosques, imams and Muslim activists, to begin the dialogue and work of strengthening and growing American mosques. The committee commissioned a needs assessment of mosques associated with ISNA and North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), and to gauge the views of mosque leaders. The “National Needs Assessment,” authored by Dr. Ihsan Bagby, was published a week before the forum and placed on ISNA’s website. The forum’s top priority is to develop a vision of the Prophetic Masjid — the 10

example set by Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) — by a thorough review and understanding of the Quran and Sunnah. A scholarly document that reflects a broad-based consensus, which details the Prophetic Masjid, should be produced by a panel of scholars, and then signed by as many leaders and scholars as possible. Other major priorities are: increasing involvement of attendees; developing a sense of community; connecting people to the mosque and strengthening their attachment to it; getting ethnic, cultural, and economic groups involved; and increasing participation of women and youth. The idea is to emphasize that the mosque is not just for Jumuah prayer. There is a need to instill a sense of ownership, kinship, unity,

commitment, mission and purpose, as well as finding appropriate ways to resolve conflicts, have civilized discussions, and increase volunteers. Many Muslim leaders strongly favored increasing youth activities and programs in mosques, improving the quality of youth programs, and enhancing weekend and fulltime Islamic schools. They also noted that young adults are a different age group than youth and their needs should be brought into the conversation because most “unmosqued” Muslims are among young adults. The forum consisted of five panels. The beginning panels set the framework and foundation for the whole endeavor of masjid development. The first panel, “The Prophetic Masjid,” focused on representing the vision of ISNA is trying to achieve. Imam Abdur Rahman Khan, a member of the Fiqh Council of North America, was the main speaker. His speech was followed by remarks by Tayyibah Taylor, founder and editor of Azizah Magazine, and Sami Catovic, executive director, New Brunswick Islamic Center. Bagby was the main speaker of the second panel, which concentrated on setting the “Agenda for Masjid Development.” He cited the results of the “National Needs Assessment” listing the greatest needs and priorities for mosques. Aisha al-Adawiya of Women of Islam (NY) and Farooq Malik of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston were panelists. The other three panels focused on important aspects of masjid life: “Youth and Young Adults,” the main speaker was Haaris Ahmad of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs-Detroit; Sarah Sayeed of Women of Islam addressed the issue of “The Women-Friendly Masjid,” while ISNA Secretary General Dr. Iqbal Unus discussed “Issues of Masjid Governance.” The forum’s banquet featured speeches by Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, executive director of the Fiqh Council of North America, and ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid.



The forum was organized to be a working conference. Participants were divided into four groups, which met to discuss recommendations, then decided the next steps and agreed on a few resolutions. Participants agreed priority should be given to board training programs. They recommended developing a template for such a training program accompanied by written and video material, and urging mosques

to organize such programs. Participants formed a “Masjid Development Network” — open to all masjid leaders and Muslim activists — to serve as an open platform for sharing ideas and best practices, a clearinghouse for information and resources, and a vehicle for producing policies, guidelines, and standards. ISNA’s Masjid Development Committee agreed to take the lead in developing the

Volunteering with ISNA BY SHAMA FAROOQ


he volunteer recruitment and management processes for ISNA events have become more sophisticated over the years. The goal is to build a team of dedicated, energetic, knowledgeable and responsible volunteers who then become stakeholders in the success of the organization through the investment. These volunteers can be counted on to handle the dozens of tasks required for an ISNA event that ISNA staff members cannot cover. For example, the annual ISNA Convention requires hundreds of such volunteers to perform tasks including manning the registration and information booths, checking name badges and providing extra security, transporting speakers and VIP guests from airports to the Convention Center, assist with managing the special events, and ensuring smooth operations in the bazaar. To handle this, the Convention Department at ISNA has developed a steering committee which divides such tasks among various subcommittees chaired by individuals. ISNA requests a local community leader to serve as chairperson of the steering committee and provides a guide in the form of a handbook to describe the roles and needs of each subcommittee. The steering committee chairperson then recruits the subcommittee chairs and other volunteers. The Washington, D.C., community has hosted the last two annual ISNA Conventions — 2012 and 2013. ISNA board member and local community leader Rizwan Jaka served as chairperson of the steering committee both years. Under his leadership, the committee recruited volunteers using an

online program called Signup Genius beginning with the 2012 Convention. This central website provided all necessary information about volunteer roles, committee assignments and tasks, and shift schedules. Infor-

mation about the volunteer opportunity was disseminated through personal contacts. Interested parties were able to log on, establish accounts and sign up for committees and shifts. Steering committee leadership could easily track volunteer recruitment online. The D.C. steering committee includes several tech savvy individuals who set up macro programs that allowed for quick analysis of the Signup Genius data to determine eligibility for benefits, such as a commitment of the requisite number of volunteer hours to qualify for hotel rooms. The Signup Genius program also gave ISNA the ability to simultaneously communicate with the hundreds of individuals who had signed up through email and text messages. By the time the D.C. community hosted the 2013 Convention, Signup Genius allowed for electronic signatures obviating the need for separate emails and paperwork for most consent forms. Also in 2013, the steering


Masjid Development Network, which will be an independent body. Leaders agreed a website should be created for the network for disseminating and sharing information. Participants recommended the forum should be an annual conference, and proposed the next one should be held this May in Detroit. 

Ihsan Bagby is an associate professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky.

committee leadership implemented volunteer management lessons derived from the 2012 experience. The committee took steps to make its expectations of volunteers clear and published procedures regularly via email messages. Other feedback resulted in substantive changes to the services provided to convention attendees. Based on the recommendations of the accessibility committee, instituted in 2012, ISNA for the first time rented a number of wheelchairs for convention attendees in 2013. In addition to the practical management benefits this system afforded the steering committee, it also allowed for increased inclusivity of individuals who had never had exposure to the ISNA experience. The result was an amazing diversity of volunteers. ISNA was able to benefit from the services of dedicated volunteers as young as nine years old to more than 70 years old, who hailed from Denver to Amman, Jordan, including individuals who had just moved to the United States a few months before the convention and were thrilled to be making a difference in the largest gathering of Muslims in North America. The only requirement to volunteer was a willingness to humbly provide themselves for the assigned task. Many volunteers worked more than 16 hours a day and still appeared for duty on time every morning. No doubt, there remains great room for improvement both with the signup system as well as onsite management. Volunteers at both conventions were given the opportunity to provide feedback, criticism and suggestions. Through this feedback, organizers become aware of the critical changes necessary in the Signup Genius system. Organizers also are aware of the human relations improvements that are necessary, including stress management skills trainings. 

Shama Farooq is a public defender and an ISNA volunteer.



The Seed Before the Bloom ISNA Central Zone conference focuses on growing through life’s challenges BY MARIAM SIDDIQUI


he Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati welcomed hundreds of attendees from the Midwest and Southern Ohio region on Nov. 22 during ISNA’s third annual regional conference in Cincinnati, “Growing Through Life’s Challenges: Lessons from the Quran and Sunnah.”

The three-day conference was thematically entwined with the Quranic verse (3:200), which illustrates the model for achieving greatness. “The idea was that there are many challenges in our life, at an individual, spiritual, community and global level. And the (program) was to provide insights and solutions from the Quran and Sunnah,” said Nazim Fazlani, who served as one of the local conference organizers along with Aman Ahmed, Shamila Malik and Nehad Omara. Topics included “Balancing Spirituality & Modernity,” “Cultural Influences on Religion,” “Generation Change,” “Marriage and Familial Rights in Islam,” “Intra-faith Communication,” “Interfaith Partnerships,” and issues related to the development of the Muslim community. ISNA and the local community invited renowned scholars to address attendees. Conference lectures conveyed the mes12

sage that to build the perfect community, Muslims must come to terms with the complexity of their Muslim American identity — understanding what power that holds

— and must first understand, purify, and strengthen their souls. In order to build the perfect community, the purification of one’s own self must be duly emphasized, and then the Muslim community will inevitably, branch by branch, become whole. The first step of the Muslim community is to understand the magnitude of its existence: the power of Muslims’ abilities, gifts, and talents. “Are you going to say we are an Ummah that doesn’t count? You have abilities and the means to dream whatever you wish to be. We (the elders of the community) are simply here to direct the traffic jam,” said Abdullah Idris in the opening session about balancing spirituality with modernity. The session was meant to inspire those who feel as if spirituality and cultural allegiance are mutually exclusive. “We don’t have to modernize the deen,” he stressed. “We have to have a wide background and understand that people may have different points of view. And that’s okay.” Speakers emphasized that change is inevitable — the Muslim attitude will broaden with the tide as the definition of the American voice becomes clear. Usama Cannon illustrated in the MSA session, “Clash of the Titans: The Intersection between Culture and Religion,” how Muslims can be powerful, if they choose to be honest with themselves. “America is still defining herself,” he said. “Neither America nor Islam is static. The experience of Muslims is ever changing. Are we doing the work that needs to be done to bring about (change in) defining America and what it means to be Muslim?” The message was poetically fitting: no


matter the tribulations, there is always constancy and serenity within, if we allow it. Speakers addressed the diversification of the Muslim identity and the labeling that has become a reality within the community. Sheikh Abdul Nasir Jangda said in his lecture, “Boundaries of Theological Tolerance,” that labeling poisons the Muslim community’s roots. “The moment we start labeling shows the reality of the division,” he said. “When we ask, ‘Who’s a part of the Ummah and who’s not?,’ that is the main problem.” Jangda said differences should not be feared, as illustrated by the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam). He taught five different versions of the tashahhud. Why? If there can be diversity in our prayer — which is a spiritual action — he is teaching Muslims to rise above their differences, Jangda said. Jangda emphasized that Muslims must actively propel this change of perspective by being more accepting. “The concept of division has its source in our religion, with this idea of the prayer being taught differently. This was not meant to divide us, but to challenge us,” he said. Cannon said salat is the main way for Muslims to connect with God and that it builds gratitude. “It is the foundation of Islam. It keeps Islam standing,” he said. “The best reason to pray? Gratitude to God. We must establish the purpose of our existence.” Jangda said that Muslims must become more practical, more realistic, in order to become more sincere. “We often emphasize exotic differences in ideology, but we need to stop with the metaphysical mumbo jumbo and go back to practical spirituality. [These ideologies] are detrimental to our soul. We must strengthen our prayer, our du’a — go back to the foundations,” he said. He said often intellectual discussions about various Islamic ideologies only create larger divisions and problems. “People are deprived because they don’t have a connection with God. The human being drowns. Feed your soul, not your vanity,” Jangda said. Speakers emphasized the analogy of a tree that provides shade and comfort, and sustains life for generations upon generations to come. With internal solidification and purity the tree will inevitably, (with Allah’s help), grow and become stronger, but it all starts with a single seed. 

Mariam Siddiqui teaches at the International Academy in West Chester, Ohio.

A Blessed Land: A Noble Cause



early 2,000 people from across the United States attended the sixth annual Conference for Palestine in the U.S. Nov. 28-30 in Rosemont, Ill. The conference, “A Blessed Land; A Noble Cause” hosted by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP;, included several sessions, workshops, book signings, film screenings, a diverse bazaar and an entertainment lineup. Attendees learned about the Muslim connection to the Holy Land and the occupation, while also celebrating Palestine’s rich culture and heritage. The entertainment included a play in which Lord Arthur Balfour, author of the 1917 Balfour Declaration that partitioned Palestine, is put on trial. Kristin Szremski, AMP national director of media and communications, said the event educates people, “not only about the occupation and Israel’s continued violations of international law, but also to help Muslims understand the Islamic significance of Palestine and how all people can take action to help bring justice to Palestine.” Experts including Sheikh Abdelfattah Mourou, co-founder of Tunisia’s Tendency Movement, Israeli historian Dr. llan Pappe, Columbia University professor Dr. Rashid Khalidi, the Rev. Donald Wagner, executive director of Friends of Sabeel, Jewish Voice for Peace representative Daniel Kaplan, AMP chairman Dr. Hatem Bazian, and others


discussed religious, political and cultural issues related to Palestine and the region. A moving presentation by Um Kamel Al Kurd via Skype brought people to tears as she recounted how Israeli Occupation Forces and Jewish settlers threw her and her family out of their home in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Her husband suffered a heart attack during the ordeal and died two weeks later. She erected a tent on her property and lived there for several months as a form of protest, even though Israeli soldiers demolished it several times. She was prevented from attending the AMP conference when Turkish officials, citing a U.S. Department of State call, turned her back at the Istanbul airport. The state department did not return AMP’s request for comment. “This shows how Palestinians still are impacted by the occupation today,” said AMP conference chairman Salah Sarsour. Um Kamel was awarded the prestigious AMP’s Al Quds Award for her courage and bravery. Workshop participants learned how to affect change in their own communities and schools, from influencing elected officials to learning about Palestine in the classroom. AMP leaders also met with imams and representatives from more than 30 mosques and Islamic centers, forging partnerships for future community and educational projects. 

Leen Jaber is a writer and musician from Chicago.



Hartford Islamic Chaplaincy Program Appoints Heads Hartford Seminary’s Islamic Chaplaincy Program has appointed professors Feryal Salem and Timur Yuskaev as codirectors. Dr. Salem, assistant professor of Islamic Scriptures and Law, also is the director of the Imam and Muslim Community Leadership Program. She received her doctorate from the University of Chicago and studied in Syria, where she received certification to teach Quranic recitation and Islamic law according to a number of schools of practice. She also has completed a degree in hadith sciences at the Nuriyya Hadith Institute of Damascus. Since 2010, she has been actively working within the Muslim American community to establish the Nur Foundation for Sacred Sciences, which focuses on providing opportunities for education in the Islamic sciences for Muslims living in the West. The Islamic Chaplaincy Program trains Muslim chaplains for work in institutions, such as colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons, and the military. The impetus for the program came in the 1990s after the U.S. government approached Hartford Seminary,

Serving the Homeless

asking for a program to address the need for Muslim chaplains in the military. Officially launched in 2003, it is the only such program accredited in the United States, and graduates have been named to positions in many prominent institutions, most notably at Yale University, Williams College, and Princeton University. Yuskaev, assistant professor of Contemporary Islam, has been appointed co-editor of The Muslim World, joining professor Yahya Michot, who served as the editor. Founded in and sponsored by Hartford Seminary since 1938, The Muslim World is published quarterly by the Macdonald Center and Wiley-Blackwell. The Imam and Muslim Community Leadership Program — started in 2010 in cooperation with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Herndon, Va., and its Fairfax Institute — prepares male and female students to understand and affirm the variety of religious commitments they will encounter as spiritual caregivers and leaders of Muslim communities that are engaging with secular and other religious communities in North America. 

Another Muslim Mayor Dr. Saud Anwar, the new mayor of South Windsor, Conn., recently joined the ranks of Muslims elected to public office. “The people of South Windsor are very caring, embracing individuals who respect people of all backgrounds, so my being elected is more about the people of South Windsor and less about me,” Anwar said. The nation’s first Muslim mayor was Charles Bilal of Kountze, Texas, elected in 1991. Anwar is believed to be the first Muslim mayor in New England. Anwar, a Yale-educated pulmonolo-


gist, has a history of serving people in many capacities, including working on interfaith relations in Connecticut, and outreach to Haiti. Anwar was recognized for his service to the state by former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, former Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and former Democratic Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, and members of the Connecticut General Assembly. Anwar, his wife, Dr. Yusra Anks Anwar, and their children, Taha and Taseen, were honored by the Anti-Defamation League. 

South Florida’s Muslims joined the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County on Oct. 18 to provide health and human services for the homeless in West Palm Beach during a “Day of Dignity.” The Day of Dignity is an annual, nationwide campaign, now in its ninth year, coordinated and sponsored by Virginia-based Islamic Relief USA. According to Islamic Relief, a Day of Dignity is not just a one-day event, it is an effort to mobilize communities and establish long-lasting programs that foster the spirit of service and volunteerism all year round. Each year, the event brings together volunteers from around the country to distribute food, clothing, blankets, medical care and other services, and provides beneficiaries with information about resources available to them. Day of Dignity events were held this fall in other cities, including Washington, D.C., Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Tampa, Baltimore, Md., Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Brooklyn, N.Y., Bronx, N.Y., Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., and Flint, Mich. In Dallas, Masjid al Islam mosque coordinated the program. 

Manitoba Proclaims Muslim History Month On Oct. 18, the Manitoba legislature officially proclaimed October as Islamic History Month ( events.html) to recognize and celebrate the history and heritage of Manitoba Muslims — the first Canadian province to create such designation. “In Manitoba we value and cherish our ethnic diversity, to which the Muslim community contributes so richly,” Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Christine Melnick said in a news release. “Muslims of Manitoba are very happy and honoured our province is embracing Islamic History Month,” Shahina Siddiqui, chairwoman of Islamic History Month Canada, said in the release. Manitoba’s Muslim community has grown to more than 9,000 people from 48 different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It is estimated by 2031, more than 25 percent of Winnipeg’s population will be people from visible minority communities. 


Overwhelming Victory

Calgary Mayor Naheed Kurban Nenshi, 41, was reelected, receiving 74 percent of the vote in the Oct. 21 election, three years after the Harvard alum became the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city. He was first sworn in as Calgary’s 36th mayor on Oct. 25, 2010. The city of 1.1 million was among the hardest hit by Alberta’s June 2013 floods. More than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes in Calgary and the surrounding areas. Nenshi’s handling of the aftermath, which left the city waterlogged for a week, received national attention. 

Manitoba Liberals Elect Muslim Head Rana Bokhari, a Winnipeg born lawyer who was raised on a Manitoba farm, was elected to head the Manitoba Liberal party on the first ballot at a leadership convention in Winnipeg. Bokhari aims to bring in new members and rebuild the party’s financial base, reported The Globe and Mail (Oct. 26, 2013). The Liberals had only 700 members a year ago, but Bokhari brought in more than 600 new members during the campaign. At present, the party only has one seat in the provincial legislature and does not hold official party status. Its only seat is held by outgoing leader Jon Gerrard. Bokhari’s focus is less on getting a seat and more on building support outside the legislature. 

Iowa Neurologist Honored The American Society of Nephrology inducted Dr. Anis Ansari into the Fellowship of American Society of Nephrology (FASN) Oct. 7. FASN honors members who have achieved a distinct level of excellence in clinical nephrology. FASN status represents recognition by the society of outstanding credentials, high professional achievement, commitment to the field and demonstrated scholarship. Of the 10,095 nephrologists in the United States listed by US News, only 1,363 have achieved this distinction thus far as the acceptance criteria are stringent. Ansari, the only neurologist based in Clinton, Iowa, has served four counties for the last 14 years since joining as a medical associate in 1999. He has published more than 30 medically related papers, many of them dealing with nephrology. He is board certified in both internal medicine and nephrology. He has garnered several recognitions during the last two years for his excellent care. 





University of Toledo Installs First Amjad Hussain Professor

From left, Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, chancellor and executive vice president for biosciences and health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, Dr. Thomas Schwann, the first S. Amjad Hussain Professor of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, professor emeritus of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, and Dr. Gerald B. Zelenock, professor and chair of surgery.

Dr. Thomas Schwann was installed as the first S. Amjad Hussain Professor of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery on Oct. 15. The endowed professorship honors the

Pakistan-born Dr. Hussain, his contributions to the university and the greater Toledo area as a surgeon, teacher, researcher and writer. The $1 million endowment was made possible through the efforts and generous

Missouri Muslims Helping to End Hunger

The Islamic Center of Central Missouri (ICCM) celebrated its 30th anniversary with 150 volunteers across the age and ethnic spectrum gathering Nov. 3 to help pre-package 30,024 meals to send to children in need in nearly 34 countries. ICCM’s “Spread Peace, Feed the Hungry” event made it the first Muslim American organization to follow ISNA’s lead in hosting the volunteer event to help end world hunger.

ICCM worked with Stop Hunger Now, which brings the food and supplies to the group providing the manpower. Meals cost 25 cents each, amounting to $7,500 total for 30,000 meals. The event was led by Dr. Rashed Nizam, ICCM’s Shura Council chairman, and co-sponsored by ISNA and Zakat Foundation. Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, ISNA director of community outreach, said a similar event held at ISNA’s 50th Convention in Washington, D.C., with Stop Hunger Now generated 50,000 meals in two hours. He encouraged other Muslim communities to arrange similar events. Safaa Zarzour, Zakat Foundation’s chief operations officer, said the food packaged at this event will be sent mainly to countries in Africa and the Middle East. 

CORRECTION: In our preview of the film, Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Islamic Horizons. The review features the Spy Princess in the title. The film is not based on the book Spy Princess but research done by its producers. The book Spy Princess has been licensed for a separate film. The oversight is regretted.


contributions of Hussain’s family, friends, colleagues and grateful patients. Hussain is the author of more than 50 scientific papers, 13 books and has been an op-ed columnist for the daily newspaper Toledo Blade for nearly 20 years. He is an accomplished surgeon, researcher and teacher who has held many leadership positions, including president of the Academy of Medicine of Toledo, the Toledo Surgical Society, the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America and Khyber Medical College Alumni Association. Hussain also is an internationally recognized explorer and an award-winning photographer. The endowment will help support Schwann’s research projects. Schwann, a medical graduate of Columbia University, holds a professorship in the Department of Surgery and is the division chief of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at University of Toledo. He is nationally and internationally known as an innovative surgeon and a diligent researcher. 

Teen Muslim is Genius Fifteen-year-old Saheela Ibraheem, who made “The World’s 50 Smartest Teenagers” list for 2013 and was accepted into 13 colleges, became one of the youngest students to ever attend Harvard University. The New Jersey native was sought out by other universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Brown, and the University of Chicago. Ibraheem is interested in languages, and knows Yoruba, Arabic, Spanish, and Latin. The hijab-clad teen plays softball, soccer, and the trombone. She also serves as president of the school’s investment club. At Harvard, she plans to major in either neurobiology or neuroscience and hopes to study how the brain works. Ibraheem’s Nigerian parents have been a guiding light for the young scholar, often teaching her subjects the schools neglected to teach. 


Pharmaceuticals Testing Wizard Muhammad Hamid Zaman, associate professor of biomedical engineering, medicine and international health at Boston University, was recognized by the Scientific American magazine making its “World Changing Ideas” list for his innovative product Pharmacheck. Pharmacheck was chosen as one of the world’s top 10 technologies in Scientific American’s December 2013 issue. Every year, the magazine highlights 10 technologies that have the potential to change the world. The journal directs the selection process based on the potential impact of the discovery or technology. Pharmacheck enables the testing of drug quality and potency within minutes. It’s not just a scratch code to see if the packaging

is right, it tests the ingredients and whether they are in the right amount and right chemical composition. Zaman plans to introduce the product into the market for commercial use within a year to 18 months. According to Scientific American, up to 30 percent of medicines in developing countries are substandard that can cause severe side effects and death. Many of these countries lack routine inspections or have scarce testing equipment. Pharmacheck, the magazine notes, may offer a portable, inexpensive and informative solution with implications for medicine regulation, especially in addressing the global problem of substandard and counterfeit drugs that kill hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. 

St. Louis Bosnians Building a Mosque On Nov. 9, the St. Louis Islamic Center Nur, the St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-St. Louis), and the Bosnian Muslim community celebrated the groundbreaking for a new Islamic center. St. Louis is home to one of the world’s largest Bosnian Muslim communities outside of Bosnia. Refugees began arriving in the city in the mid to late 1990s, fleeing genocide in their homeland. According to the International Institute, there are roughly 77,000 Bosnian Muslims living in St. Louis. “The Mosque will not only include a school but a café, senior citizens meeting point, provide social services, incorporate a wedding venue, and commemorate our Bosnian heritage,” Imam Ahmed Serdarovic, said in a news release. Speakers for the groundbreaking ceremony included, Democratic Missouri Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, Councilman Steve Stenger, Imam Serdarevic, and Alija Dzekic, president of the St. Louis Islamic Center Nur. 


CAIR Honors OIC Secretary General

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) hosted a farewell reception at its Washington, D.C., headquarters for Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), whose term concluded at the end of 2013. CAIR presented an award to Ihsanoglu in recognition of his “lifetime commitment to interfaith and intercultural dialogue and of his pioneering work to increase understanding of Islam and Muslims.” 

Muslim Canadians Nourish First Nations Attawapiskat, a remote community in northern Ontario, is in a state of emergency, Hussain Guisti with the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation told the Winnipeg Free Press in an Oct. 26 interview. The foundation has donated food to remote aboriginal communities for the past five years. “It’s the first time it’s gone this far afield,” Guisti said. He spoke to Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who made headlines with a hunger strike to draw attention to poor housing and other problems First Nations face. Spence told him they have 100 people homeless and 400 families who rely on social welfare. During Eid ul-Adha, Guisti collected food and supplies and drove 870 miles (1,400 km) to Timmins, Ontario, from where Thunder Air transported the 3500-pound (1,588 kg) freight at a discount into the community more than 300 miles (500 km) north of Timmins. The long trip from Winnipeg on James Bay has not stopped Manitoba’s Muslim community from delivering food and disposable diapers to the needy in Attawapiskat First Nation. With a population of nearly 1,800, “Attawapiskat is talking about starting a food bank,” said Guisti, adding that “the deposit from Manitoba donors will give it a boost.” 



Long Beach, Calif., Islamic Center Nears Completion First African Minneapolis the Long Beach Press Telegram in an Oct. Council Member

Construction of the Long Beach Islamic Center’s 2,025-square-foot facility is anticipated to be completed by year end, Tarek Mohamed, the center’s chairman told

18 interview. The expansion builds upon the foundations laid out by the city’s first mosque, Masjid Al Shariff. The Long Beach, Calif., City Council, in a unanimous vote on Oct. 15, approved the facility’s request for a conditional use permit, which gives the center 540 days to complete construction. In November 2004, the center acquired the 13,500-squarefoot lot and was initially approved by the council in 2007. However, the project has had a series of delays due to lack of funds, and expired building permits. 

Muslim Woman New Broward County Mayor Barbara Muhammad Sharief, 42, will lead Broward County for a year in a largely ceremonial role after county commissioners selected her as the new county mayor, the Sun Sentinel reported Nov. 19. The county is home to some 43,000 Muslims. A mother of five and selfmade businesswoman, Sharief has worked mostly on health care issues and issues regarding aggressive dogs since her 2010 election to the county. She grew up in Miami, the daughter of a self-employed clothing salesman and a retired schoolteacher. Her late father, James Mohammed Sharief, started a food program, and she grew up packing food and taking it to the needy. Sharief ’s father had been well-known in the Muslim community, and an active member of the Masjid Al-Ansar mosque in Miami. 

Abdi Warsame became the first African-born Minneapolis City Council member on Nov. 5. Born in Somalia and raised in London, Warsame is the executive director of the Riverside Tenants Association, which advocates for the residents of the high rises in Cedar-Riverside area, home to many Somali Americans. He was endorsed by the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) — what the Democratic party is known as in Minnesota. Warsame joins one of the youngest city councils in recent memory with most of the councilmen in their 30s. 

New Chapel at Indianapolis Airport

New Mosque Approved for Greater Augusta The Islamic Society of Greater Augusta’s application to build a 1,230-square-foot mosque was unanimously approved by the city planning board Nov. 12. No one opposed the proposal and the mosque won strong support from leaders of other faiths. ISGA treasurer told the Kennebec Journal in a Nov. 13 interview that the group previously met for prayers at various places, including apartments of members, the chapel at VA

Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus, and, most recently, in rented office space. The group has desired to build a mosque in Augusta since it was founded four years ago. The seven-acre lot is in the city’s low-density residential district, where religious activities and associated uses are allowed under the city’s land use rules. ISGA President Nazeer Khaja said the society has been an organized community for more than 10 years. 

Cemetery Expansion Needs $1.5M Nothern Virginia’s All Muslim Association of America (amaacemetery. org) Cemetery or Stafford Cemetery, which has provided free burial land to more than 900 families, estimates its current seven and half acres will be used up by December 2015. In 2008, AMAA purchased 77 acres next to an existing cemetery, which was fully paid off in 2013. AMAA requires $1.5 million to complete the expansion project. 


On Nov. 8, the Indianapolis International Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy (IIAIC) dedicated a new chapel/meditation room. ISNA’s Director of Chaplaincy Services Abdul Rasheed Muhammad, airport officials, IIAIC board members, Indianapolis area clergy, and a number of donors attended the interfaith dedication service. The meditation room was named after Indianapolis Airport Authority board member Gene Haflich. Ashfaq Lodhi, also an airport authority board member, has served as the Muslim chaplain since 1996. Chaplains provide various interfaith services and support to airport employees, travelers and visitors to the airport. The chaplains observed a moment of silence alongside TSA agents to honor the TSA agent killed in the Los Angeles airport shooting Nov. 1. 


Detroit Clinic Recognized

Detroit’s HUDA Clinic, a free clinic in downtown organized and serviced by local Muslims, was presented the 2013 Ibn Sina Award for Excellence in Humanitarian Service by the Chicago-based Compassionate Care Network (CCN). Azher Quader, CCN executive director, lauded the devotion and commitment of Detroit physicians participating in the clinic, along with many other volunteers who donate numerous hours to serve the underserved. The award celebrates Ibn Sina, a renowned Muslim physician/philosopher whose towering accomplishments in the field of medicine dominated the scientific field for centuries during the Middle Ages. HUDA — Health Unit on Davison Avenue — Clinic was established in 2004 to serve the health care needs of the poor and underserved. The clinic, which is open three days during the week, has 16 doctors who provide clinical services by rotations and lots of volunteer personnel. 

Muslim Spelling Bee On Nov. 8, the Herndon, Va.,-based International Institute of Islamic Thought hosted the formal announcement of the publication of “Parent-Child Relations: A Guide to Raising Children,” co-authored by Dr. Hisham Altalib, Dr. Abdulhamid AbuSulayman, and Dr. Omar Altalib. 

More than 240 finalists and their families from the United States joined in the World’s First Muslim Spelling Bee second season finals Nov. 30 in Chicago, the Global Muslim Observer reported. The goal of the event was to connect Muslim students across the U.S., regardless of whether they attend public, private or Islamic schools. “The Muslim Spelling Bee has become the most talked about event in the community and this is due to (their) support,” founder Tausif Malik said. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recognized and praised the event, which has been nominated for the Thompson Reuters/ Global Islamic Economy Award. 



RECLAIMING BIL Can Muslim Americans rekindle the spirit of Bilal ibn Rabah in founding an inclusive community? BY JIMMY E. JONES


ny cursory, open-minded reading of the numerous non-polemical biographies of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and accounts of the Meccan and Medinian communities led by him would reveal three inescapable conclusions. The Prophet’s announcement of and belief in the worship of the one God alone presented a clear, unmistakable threat to the then-existing Meccan economic, political and social order. This was a society wherein “might made right,” and one’s social status was highly dependent either on the group you happened to be born into, or alternatively, what powerful group you and your people were able to attach to in a subordinate “client” status. Consequently, power almost inevitably trumped justice with the powerful usually taking advantage over the others. The emigration (hijrah) of the nascent Muslim community from Mecca to Yathrib (Medina) not only marked the beginning of a new era for the Prophet and his companions, but as is clear from any honest rendering of world history, was the beginning of what the 2001 PBS mini-series on great empires called “The Empire of Faith.” It is clear that from its early beginnings, the community that the Prophet gathered around him was multigenerational, multicultural and relatively womenfriendly. It easily assimilated and respected the young, such as the Prophet’s cousin, Ali (radi Allahu anhu), one of the first believers, the Jewish youth who took shahadah on his deathbed, and Usama ibn Zaid, (radi Allahu anhu), who though still in his teens was tapped by the Prophet to lead a major military expedition force that included many men who were much older and more experienced. Furthermore, Usama was of mixed parentage — son of Arab Zaid and African Barakah (radi Allahu anha) — both former slaves, which was an indication of the multicultural nature of early Islam. This community founded on the Arabian Peninsula also welcomed Salman the Persian (radi Allahu anhu) and Suhayb ar Rumi (radi Allahu anhu) from the Byzantine empire. Early Islam also was relatively women-friendly in that it categorically banned the


widespread practice of female infanticide, established women’s universal right to own property and to consent to marriage, allowed women’s worship in the Prophet’s Mosque, and allowed women to voice their opinions in public when it came to discussing matters, major and minor, affecting the entire community. Inclusiveness seemed to be a core value of this fledgling community.

The Unbroken Chain of Quranic Freedom: From Africa to New Africa


he emergence of the Black Power movement of the 1960’s could be ideologically traced to the first Muslims to come to the Western hemisphere, through the resistance of Muslim Maroons and their ultimate influence on Marcus Garvey and his ideology, and Garvey’s influence on the Nation of Islam and the Islamic perspectives of Malcolm X and Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, said Dr. Hakim Rashid, professor of human development at Howard University, addressing a panel at the recent 98th convention of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in Jacksonville, Fla., held Oct. 2-6, 2013. ASALH was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Week, now Month, in 1916. Rashid was addressing a panel at the 98th convention of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in Jacksonville, Fla., held Oct. 2-6. Rashid’s paper formed part of the panel discussion titled, “The Unbroken Chain of Quranic Freedom: From Africa to New Africa,” which was chaired by Dr. Sulayman Nyang, professor of African Studies at Howard University. Presenters included Dr. Qadir Abdus-Sabur, chairman of the board of the Richmond, Va., based Tawheed Prep Academy, and Dr. Zakiyyah Muhammad, executive director of the Institute for Muslim American Studies. Rashid, in his paper “From Slave Revolts to Black Identity: The Historical Influence of Al Islam and Muslims on the African American Freedom Struggle,” discusses the historical presence of African Muslims in the Western hemisphere prior to the voyages of Columbus. He examines the role of Muslims in major slave revolts beginning with the 1522 revolt of Wolof Muslims from Senegal against Columbus’ ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014

LAL Elijah Muhammad

Noble Drew Ali

It is in this multi-generational, multicultural, women-friendly milieu that we find Bilal ibn Rabah al Habashi (radi Allahu anhu). Born of an Abyssinian (Ethiopian) mother and Arab father, he was looked down upon in the broader Meccan society for two reasons. He was born a slave and, like in many other societies, was among the lowest ranks in terms of social status. Secondly, he was of African descent. As

son, and discusses the perspectives of prominent African American scholars such as W.E.B. DuBois and Edward Wilmot Blyden on Islam. He also describes the role of Islam and Muslims in the development of Black Nationalist thought from Marcus Garvey through Malcolm X and the Black Power movement. Abdus-Sabur said the spiritual underpinning of African Americans was the cornerstone of their identity. He discussed spirituality among Africans in the precolonial period as slaves, following the Emancipation Proclamation, and following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and today’s secular influences on their spirituality. He concluded that African Americans lagging behind, and the gradual loss of their faith in the Almighty, many people of color find themselves wandering in a quagmire. On a personal level, they frequently abuse themselves, and disrespect traditional social institutions. He believes the solution for African Americans, as well as for all people irrespective of their ethnicity, lies in their ability to rekindle the spiritual dimension of their being and to recapture societal norms and values predicated upon what is pleasing to God. In so doing, their condition will also please other humans with whom they must interact in the greater society. Zakiyyah Muhammad addressed “Reconciling the Soul and the Intellect: A New Vision for a New People,” stressing the need to return to Quranic guidance to reconcile the soul and the intellect, enrich all human beings and keep the Quranic chain of freedom unbroken. From the Quran, she reviewed human identity specifically, original human nature (fitra), the soul (nafs), spiritual direction (ruh), and intellect (aql). “Our group reminded the audience about the Islamic factor in the African American experience and the history and longevity of this tradition, which now clearly links the 500 years of the Columbian narrative with our individual and collective lives,” Nyang said. “Our panel at the conference definitely reminded the audience and the listening audience through the Internet that Islam is not a stranger, but an increasingly recognized partner in the building of the New American society, where all the children of Adam are brought together under one political roof.” 


W.D. Fard

a black man in Meccan society, he was automatically seen as an outsider. Despite these apparent disadvantages, Bilal rose to become one of the Prophet’s most trusted and loyal companions. The Prophet even sought advice from him in matters of faith as is clear in this famous hadith narrated by Abu Huraira (radi Allahu anhu), that God’s Messenger said to Bilal, “Bilal, tell me which act you did at the time of the morning prayer for which you hope to receive a good reward for I heard during the night, the sound of your footsteps before me in paradise?” Bilal replied: “I did not do any act for which I hope to get any benefit, but this, that when I perform complete ablution during the night or day, I observe prayer with that purification, what God has adorned for me” (Sahih Muslim). Consequently, when it comes to Bilal, it is clear that both the Sunni and Shia revere him. He is recognized as the first beautiful-voiced muezzin calling the adhan who was also a strong, committed Muslim and the Prophet’s trusted and constant companion. He was so close to the Prophet that immediately after the Prophet’s death, he stopped calling the adhan because he was overcome by extreme tear-filled sadness when he called for the fajr prayer the day after the Prophet died. Unquestionably, Bilal was held in high regard in early Islam and until today. One indication of this is that his first name is common among African American Muslims, and also among Muslim males the world over, which shows that he is revered for more than his African heritage.

FROM BLACK TO BILALIAN Some of the first expressions of “Islam” in the early 20th century U.S. were, in part, reactions to the brutal reality of post-slavery Jim Crow laws and a white supremacist mentality that likely was amplified by the passing of 21


Warith Deen Mohammed



the U.S. Constitution’s 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery in 1865) and 14th Amendment (guaranteeing blacks equal protection under the law in 1868). Racism has a curious history on the North American continent. As pointed out in volume one of “The Invention of the White Race” by Theodore Allen (2012), “When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no white people there.” Allen’s welldocumented study and Matthew Jacobson’s compelling book, “A Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race” (1999) explore the simplistic, mistaken essentialism that pervades the thinking of many Americans when it comes to blackness, whiteness, and racism. Allen and Jacobson make clear three important points: “Race” as we know it today simply did not exist prior to the establishment of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It is factually true that the idea of being “white” did not even appear in available public records of the Virginia colony until around 1690 as the economic feasibility of black slavery began to take hold. In other words, “blackness” and “whiteness” were unintended consequences of trying to control the new “black” slaves who were clearly seen as more of an economic asset than white (and black) indentured servants and Native Americans in the agrarian economies of many North American colonies. This relatively new concept of “race” was strengthened yet again by the outbreak and aftermath of the bloody Civil War that lead to the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. As Jacobson points out in his book: “What has become of the 19th century’s Celts and Slavs, for instance? Its Hebrews, Iberics, Mediterraneans, Teutons and Anglo-Saxons? This book tells the story of how these races — these public fictions — rose and fell in American social consciousness, and how the 20th century’s Caucasians emerged to take their place.” As Jacobson argues effectively in his book, this latest version of “whiteness” is clearly a reaction to the fear generated by the wholesale post-Civil War manumission of nearly four million African American slaves (the 1860 U.S.

census counted about 31 million Americans in total). Such fears were among the factors that led the United States to be the first country to implement eugenics policies in the early 1900s. These policies were aimed at “improving the race” and were supported by scientific racism that used physical anthropology, craniometry and other “disciplines” to reinforce racism based on “scientific” typologies. Finally, the works of Allen and Jacobson and others, clearly prove that the idea of a scientifically supported notion of “race” was and is pure fiction. In other words “race” was and is indeed a politically and economically driven social construct. In this racially overheated context were born groups such as the Moorish Science Temple founded by Noble Drew Ali (Timothy Drew) in 1913 and the Nation of Islam started by W.D. Fard and Elijah Muhammad in 1930. Though their teachings were somewhat different, they included a similar idea in their respective philosophies — to restore black people to their former greatness and respect as a people on the world stage. It is small wonder that these groups were operating about the same time that Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) was also flourishing in the U.S. This was a famous black nationalist fraternal organization that operated with a strong religious motif. The UNIA motto, “One God, One Aim, One Destiny,” may have been inspired by Duse Muhammed Ali, a Muslim who had employed Garvey in London (1912-14) at Ali’s journal, The African Times and Orient Review. Under Elijah Muhammad’s leadership, the Nation of Islam (NOI) grew to be an influential force in the African American community. Even those who did not belong to the NOI looked to it as a leader in the movement toward “black consciousness.” Malcolm X’s ministry with Elijah Muhammad’s community between 1952 and 1964 intensified the NOI’s role in raising black consciousness in the broader African American community. For many in the African American community, the 1960s’ “Black Power” movement was, in part, inspired by NOI’s work. They opened businesses, sold newspapers, fish and other products, and held numerous rallies in the African American community that often featured the NOI’s black nationalist “do for self ” ideology. As a result of the NOI’s efforts, many African Americans took a serious look at Islam as a possible religion. Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975 ultimately led to a major shift of NOI’s focus. Under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad’s son, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, the group admitted whites to its ranks, changed temples to mosques and Islamic centers, began fasting in Ramadan according to the lunar calendar instead of its past practice of fasting in December, and moved more toward “orthodox” Islam. During this period, the group underwent several name changes ending ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014

Malcolm X


with the name The Mosque Cares at the time of Imam W.D. Mohammed’s death in 2008. As with any major change, there were people who disagreed with the group’s new direction. Consequently, some people split off forming their own groups. One of the most notable among these was what Lawrence Mamiya (1982) called the “resurrected” Nation of Islam, established in 1978 by Minister Louis Farrakhan and still led by him. One of the changes implemented by Imam W.D. Muhammad during his leadership was his urging of African Americans to call themselves “Bilalians” in honor of Bilal ibn Rabah. Mamya argues in his Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion article titled “From Black Muslim to Bilalian: The Evolution of a Movement” (1982), that: “The use of ‘Bilal’ and ‘Bilalian’ by the American Muslim Mission fits into the long historical tradition of ‘Ethiopianism’ in black religion.” As St. Clair Drake argued in his perceptive monograph, “The Redemption of Africa and Black Religion” (1970), the theme and myth of “‘Ethiopianism’ has persisted from slavery to the present.” Mamiya makes clear this invoking of “Ethiopianism,” in this case though Bilal has a long history in the broader African American community. Consequently, it predates Imam W.D. Mohammed’s adoption of the term “Bilalian.” Although Bilal was clearly important to the overall founding narrative of Islam, the road from being Black to Bilalian can be seen as a very short one indeed.

AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSLIMS TODAY For Muslims currently living in the United States, the 444-day long 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and Sept. 11, 2001, presented versions of Islam to the American public that were both angry and scary. For much of the general American public today, a good deal of what they perceive Islam to be is filtered through these two historical watershed events and the relatively recent, fear-driven Islamophobia industry. The latter has been well-documented by groups such as the Center for American Progress (“Fear Inc.” 2011) and the recently released report by the Council on


American Islamic Relations (CAIR) titled, “Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States” (2013). CAIR’s report includes two key findings that do not bode well for Muslims living in the United States: • The U.S based Islamophobia networks’ inner core is currently composed of at least 37 groups whose primary purpose is to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. An additional 32 groups whose primary purpose does not appear to include promoting prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims, but whose work regularly demonstrates or supports Islamophobia themes make up the networks’ outer core. • The inner core of the U.S.-based Islamophobia network enjoyed access to at least $119,662,719 in total revenue between 2008 and 2011. Groups in the inner core are often tightly linked. Key players in the network benefited from large salaries as they encouraged the American public to fear Islam. African American Muslims who make up 25 percent to 30 percent of the overall Muslim American population are as negatively affected by these fearmongering tactics as the rest of the Muslim community. Despite the fact that Barack Hussein Obama currently occupies the White House, the African American Muslim also faces anti-black racism. Consequently, it is clear African American Muslims are subjected to a double whammy — Islamophobia and racism based on the color of their skin. “Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first Black president,” according to a 2012 Associated Press poll. “The survey results indicated that anti-black prejudice rose in the years between 2008-2012 as measured by an implicit racial attitudes test.” On the other hand, the findings in Eugene Robinson’s groundbreaking book, “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America” (2011), shatters many common notions about the current status of the overall African American community. In his first chapter titled, “Black America Doesn’t Live here Anymore,” he persuasively argues that instead of the somewhat unified one black America community that used to be, there are now four: • A mainstream middle class majority with a full ownership stake in American society. • A large, abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction’s crushing end. • A small transcendent elite with such enormous wealth, power and influence that even white folks have to genuflect. • Two newly emergent groups — individuals of mixed race heritage and communities of recent black immigrants — that make us wonder what “black” is even supposed to mean. African American Muslims need to figure out how 23

COVER STORY to survive, thrive and revive the inclusive ethos found on the early Muslim community. The task before them and the broader Muslim community is to reclaim Bilal in a way that does not end up essentializing racial identities and leaving it hopelessly divided on matters of race as the larger American populace. Rather, the task is to make the reclaiming of Bilal one that retains his African heritage, while providing critically needed leadership/direction to the whole Muslim American community and ultimately to the world.

RECLAIMING BILAL: FACING AND RENEGOTIATING THE FUTURE It is now 1435 Islamic years after the Prophet’s historic hijrah or emigration from Mecca to what was to become Medina. On the Gregorian calendar we are still in the first quarter of the 21st century. Although much has changed in the roughly 100 years since the establishment of such groups as the Moorish Science Temple and the Nation of Islam, one thing that still lingers in America is the fear-driven prejudices against certain groups. A visit to the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC; http:// this past December, yields the following disconcerting information, “The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 1007 active hate groups in the United States in 2012.” While we do not have an accurate census of such groups that existed 100 years ago, it would be fair to say that some things simply have not changed. Today, the U.S. public discourse is clearly racially, and religiously, overheated in a negative way. In New York State alone, the SPLC counted 38 known hate groups ranging from the anti-Muslim 9/11 Christian Center at Ground Zero to the white nationalist Women for Aryan Unity-Headquarters USA Chapter. It seems that Islamophobia and racism are still quite alive and well. In this racially and religiously overheated context, the Muslim African American community is at yet another crossroads when it comes to the issue of identity. What does it mean to be fully Muslim while being authentically African American, and responsibly American at the same time? Sherman Jackson’s thought-provoking book, “Islam and the Black American: Looking Towards the Third Resurrection” (2011), was a characteristically, academically well-grounded, bold, no holds barred attempt to open an honest discourse about this issue within the “Blackamerican” and between the “Blackamerican” and broader Muslim American community. Unfortunately, it still seems that African American Muslims and the rest of the Muslim community have yet to move beyond one-dimensional, essentialist caricatures of each other as “black” and “immigrant” that rectify the current serious ethnic divides in many of our communities and places of worship. There is no problem with Africans or African Americans being proud of or strongly identify24

ing with Bilal due to his African ancestry. While the Prophet loved Mecca and the Quraysh tribe to which he belonged, he consistently reminded that whenever his ancestry and worship of God were in conflict, God always came first. If Muslim Americans want to reclaim Bilal’s true legacy as they renegotiate their identity in this time and place, three basic points should be kept in mind: Despite being born into a society where he was disadvantaged because of his color and caste, Bilal asserted himself in a way that his primary identity was that of a true believer in and worshipper of God, and a devoted follower of the Prophet. Upon being released from the extreme hardship of being tortured by his master, Umayyad Ibn Khalaf, Bilal devoted himself to working with the Prophet to institutionally establish the Islamic political entity as Islam’s first treasurer distributing alms to the poor and needy. Finally, despite the hardship he had overcome and the companionship of the Prophet he enjoyed, Bilal seemed to be an unpretentious person who always kept his priorities straight. His love for God was unquestionable, his devotion to the Prophet unmatched, and his work for Islam was unceasing. Muslim Americans (African American and others) should strive harder to emulate Bilal’s virtues as a Muslim. One of Bilal’s contemporaries pointed out in this hadith found in Bukhari’s collection, narrated by Jabir bin ’Abdullah: “Umar used to say, ‘Abu Bakr is our chief, and he manumitted our chief,’” meaning Bilal. 

Jimmy E. Jones is associate professor and chair of the African Studies and World Religions Departments, Manhattanville College; president, Islamic Seminary Foundation, and national board secretary for CAIR.

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Nahela Morales marches with other Latino Muslim women at a Hispanic pride parade in Union City, N.J. on October 5., 2013.

Another Growing Component of the Muslim Fabric Latino Muslims are bringing another experience to the Muslim American community BY RACHAEL LEVY


hen Yusuf Alamo became Muslim five years ago, people looked at him strangely. When he married a Muslim woman in 2011, his father’s side of the family didn’t attend the wedding. Alamo, 34, a Puerto Rican who was raised Mennonite in the New York City borough of Bronx, says he feels more accepted five years after his conversion to Islam. “Now, all these guys over here, when they see me, they’re not even Muslim, they say ‘salaam aleikum,’” Alamo said. While Hispanics in New York began converting to Islam in the 1970s — often in connection with the larger African American Islamic movement — conversion rates have been rising in recent years in the Bronx and the greater New York area, community members say. At Musa Mosque in Belmont, N.Y., where Alamo converted and later married, there were no Latino Muslims 15 years ago, said Virgil Asanov, a mosque employee. Now there are at least six out of about 200 regular attendees, Asanov said. 26

Converts cited different reasons for why they were drawn to Islam. Some converts never felt at home in Catholicism. Others say the increased focus on Islam after Sept. 11 prompted them to look into the religion for the first time. Still others convert through marriage, experts say. An influx of Muslim West Africans to the Bronx also increased Latinos’ contact with Islam, said Medina Sadiq, a Puerto Rican who converted to Islam 40 years ago and who is the executive director of the Southern Boulevard Business Improvement District in the Bronx. “Although the Bronx is predominantly Latino, there is a big influx of West Africans

and a big influence on the Puerto Ricans and other Latinos, and they are converting,” Sadiq said. “In the Bronx, it’s a tremendous change,” she added. About half of Bronx residents are Latino, according to the U.S. Census. The Bronx’s sub-Saharan African population grew from 51,609 in 2005 to about 63,510 in 2012, according to the American Community Survey. From 2000 to 2010, the number of Muslims in the Bronx tripled, from about 12,000 to more than 38,000 adherents, or about 3 percent of the Bronx population, according to the Religious Congregations & Membership Study. No conclusive data on Latino Muslims exists, said Harold Morales, a religious studies professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who specializes in Latino Muslim groups. “It’s completely unknown because the difficult part of this is, how do you define Latino?” Morales said. “If they have a grandmother or grandfather who is Latino, does that make them Latino? And if that’s the case, we don’t have that kind of demographic work.” “Each group has a different conception of what Latino means and what it means to be Muslim,” he added. Varying estimates put the number of Latino Muslims in the U.S. somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000, Morales said, though he believes that figure is on the lower end of that scale. There were about 52 million Latinos in the U.S. in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “Even if you find numbers, I’d take any


numbers with a grain of salt,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said. “We have a hard enough time getting numbers for the entire Islamic community.” Yet, some research suggests conversion rates among American Latinos doubled from 2000 to 2011, from 6 percent to 12 percent of all converts to Islam, said Ihsan Bagby, an associate professor of Islamic Studies at Kentucky University who studies the Muslim American community. Bagby led a research project, published in “The American Mosque 2011,” which bases its estimates on mosque attendance. “It’s not a big number, but it’s a growing number,” Bagby said, noting that conversions have historically taken place in East Coast urban centers, but have spread in recent years across the U.S., and anywhere there is a large Hispanic population. Imam Al-Hajj Talib ’Abdur-Rashid, president of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, said conversion rates for Hispanics are higher than 10 years ago and have increased among Dominicans. “What I’ve noticed over the past decade is Islam is spreading to other Spanish-speaking ethnicities,” ’Abdur-Rashid said. Abbas Barzegar, a professor of Islamic Studies at Georgia State University, characterized the population as “steadily growing but it’s not an exploding trend.” Many converts come from inner-city environments along the East Coast, Barzegar said. “Other conversions seem to be taking place either through marriage or across marriage or as a general flight away from Catholicism,” he added. In Union City, N.J., Latino conversions are occurring at a quicker pace than a decade ago, said Nahela Morales, the national Hispanic outreach coordinator with the Islamic Circle of North America. She estimates the Latino Muslim population at 200,000 nationwide and said that most Latinos converting to Islam at her mosque are women. Morales, who herself converted about 10 years ago, was born in Mexico and raised Catholic in Southern California. She said her background helps her connect with Latinos who want to learn about Islam. “It’s very different to be a convert than a born Muslim, because when you’re trying to give them outreach and they have many questions, I can be there and say I’ve been there, done that,” she said.

WHILE HISPANICS IN NEW YORK BEGAN CONVERTING TO ISLAM IN THE 1970S — OFTEN IN CONNECTION WITH THE LARGER AFRICAN AMERICAN ISLAMIC MOVEMENT — CONVERSION RATES HAVE BEEN RISING IN RECENT YEARS IN THE BRONX AND THE GREATER NEW YORK AREA. Islam attracts Latinos because it emphasizes family, a shared value in Hispanic culture, she said. About 30 percent of Morales’ Union City mosque, which attracts 600 to 700 people for Friday prayers, is now Latino, she said. Shafiq Alvarado, 44, a Dominican convert to Islam and administrator for the Latino American Dawah Organization, an online support group for Latino Muslims, said he used to feel lonely when he first converted 12 years ago. “Now there are more and it’s not like that anymore,” Alvarado said. Yet, not everyone in Alvarado’s family has accepted him, especially his father. “I think to this day he thinks I was brainwashed,” Alvarado said. Alvarado said he has lived in Greentown, Pa., since 2003 but was born and raised Catholic in the South Bronx. Growing up in the Dominican minority meant that he always felt a little different. That made it easier for him to transition to Islam after he began questioning discrepancies in Christian practice and scripture, he said. After his conversion, Alvarado’s mother was less critical than his father but worried someone might hurt him since he dresses in distinctive Islamic garb, he said. “As Hispanic people, we see ourselves as having it bad as it is,” he said. “Just to add something to it, most people wouldn’t choose to do that. So that kind of worried her.” Alvarado thinks the biggest reason Latinos are coming to Islam is because of Sept. 11, 2001. “Once 9/11 happened, everyone was


interested in Islam,” Alvarado said. “Everyone wanted to know, does the Quran condone this? Do Muslims believe this? A lot of people were afraid.” “Some even maliciously hoped to buy the Quran and find the verse and say ‘you see,’” he added. “They literally had that intention but as they read it, they kind of liked it, and were like, ‘wait a minute.’” Bagby is unsure why more Latinos are converting but said increased contact with Muslims, especially in urban areas, is creating a “snowball effect.” “The further Latinos are from their home country, the more likely they will change religions,” he said, adding that conversion to Islam is most common in second and third generation Latinos. Latino Muslims are taking on new traditions and combining them with old ones. Nahela Morales, the outreach coordinator in Union City, N.J., said she substitutes lamb for pork in Mexican dishes she cooks for iftar. During an annual parade in Union City that celebrates Hispanic Muslims, she said she dressed her 8-year-old son in a Mexican soccer shirt and a ranchero hat with a kufi underneath. “So we do integrate culture with religion, as long as it doesn’t interfere,” she said. Sadiq Abdul Malik, formerly known as Lorenzo Chimelis, is a convert who dons Islamic garb. Malik, who lives in the West Bronx, said Latinos occasionally talk about him in Spanish, calling him a terrorist. But Malik has come up with a playful retort. “The only thing I’m a terrorist on is a plate of rice and beans,” Malik, who is Puerto Rican, playfully tells them in Spanish. Such a response can open the door to further discussion about Latino and Muslim identity, he said. Alamo, one of the converts in the Bronx, said the Latino community continues to recognize his heritage. And his Latino peers have also become more welcoming about his choice to convert to Islam — greeting him in the street and making him feel at home. “Every time I go to pray, they come and shake my hand, even the old men, the old Puerto Rican guys, you know what I’m saying,” Alamo said. “They give me a pound. They know I’m Muslim. They know I’m Puerto Rican,” he said. “But they respect.” 

Rachael Levy, a freelance journalist, is an M.A. candidate at City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.




PART OF THE STREAM A vibrant Bayou City Muslim community contributes to Houston’s prosperity 28




or the last two years, Houston has been ranked as the city of the future. Newspapers, research institutes and trade magazines have showered the city with accolades, such as the coolest, most multicultural, best international, and the most business-friendly of all American cities. The world is finally taking notice of what so many have long known about America’s fourth largest city — its diversity is its strength. Diversity and strength are two words that aptly describe the Houston Muslim community. Houston Muslims are strong because they draw from many perspectives and cultural heritages. Houston is home to more than 100 mosques and Muslim organizations, including the ubiquitous Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), which with its current 19 integrated mosques and Islamic centers is the largest local Islamic community organization in the United States. Houston’s Muslims account for 1.2 percent of the city’s population, making it the ninth most Muslim populous American city, according to an Aug. 10, 2010, article in The Daily Beast. The metropolis’ Maryam Islamic Center New Territory in Sugar Land has a prayer area capable of accommodating 1,300 men and women — bigger than that of the largest mosque in the nation, the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich. ISGH no longer conducts a central prayer service, in part because of the increased accessibility of mosques and Islamic centers throughout the region. The city boasts one of the largest South Asian communities in the nation. It also has a historic African American Muslim community, a rapidly growing Latino Muslim community, along with established Arab and North African populations. Houston enjoys substantial communities from every corner of the Muslim world, including an

active Turkish community along with rapidly growing ethnic African and Indonesian communities. Many of the most active Muslim communities are founded by or have key leadership positions held by converts to Islam. What really makes the Houston Muslim community unique is also what makes Houston special. Houstonians not only get along with each other, but get along together and get together often!

NO ZONING LAWS Houston’s sheer size of more than 600 square miles, and the absence of zoning laws has allowed mosques and Islamic community centers to be peppered across the city. Houstonians are never more than 15 minutes away from a place of worship. In most cities, this would mean that each mosque’s community was, for the most part, culturally or ideologically uniform. Houston has its share of standalone organizations that cater to the specific needs of a particular cultural subset of its Muslim population. Yet, ISGH, with its 19 diverse member mosques and Islamic centers, six full-time Islamic schools, four affiliated medical clinics, and three funeral facilities, helps bind all parts of the Muslim community together. ISGH’s founders understood the potential growth of Houston. And did the opposite of what most Muslim American communities have done. They made a strategic decision to establish new

ISGH’s Masjid Attaqwa and Shifa Clinic are within walking distance of several churches, two Hindu and one Buddhist temple — all neighbors on Houston’s Synott Road. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014


ISLAM IN AMERICA MuslimGo members at the 2013 Houston Marathon.

centers across the city rather than insisting that all Muslims come to attend activities in a single mosque. The system created a balance between local, individual mosque leadership and a strong, consistent and centralized support structure. The result is an integrated network of mosques that remain united under one organizational umbrella, while having the flexibility to meet the unique needs of their local suburban community members. This also meant that ISGH had to be established as a non-sectarian, non-ideological, Muslim American organization that welcomes members from every part of the Houston Muslim community.

MORE THAN MOSQUES Whether its social service or socializing, Houston’s Muslim community has initiatives to help its members make a positive impact on society. The mosque infrastructure in Houston has developed beyond the standard private schools and community halls often seen in American mosques. Houston’s Muslim community has developed many core services and programs — such as Islamic private schools, zakat distribution, free and low-cost health care clinics, prison dawah (inviting people to Islam), regular open houses, interfaith and outreach events, participation in community events — to meet its religious and social obligations. While ISGH is the leading organization that directly or indirectly delivers almost all of these services in Houston, there are a number of other organizations that are actively involved in various religious and social service activities. This gives the Houston Muslim community the ability to experiment with unique initiatives designed 30

to increase its commitment toward building a better society and encouraging the integration of Muslim Americans into the mainstream. One such example is a group of young Muslim professionals who regularly volunteer their time at the Houston Food Bank. This group founded MuslimGo which combines volunteerism with participation in athletic events supporting a good cause.

THE SPIRIT OF HOUSTON On the fourth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, Houston’s Bohri, Sunni, Shia, Ismaili, Sufi, and Salafi communities came together with members of the Nation of Islam and virtually every other group that claims to have roots in the Islamic tradition. They came together to work for a cause beyond serving the Muslim community. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, then-Houston Mayor Bill White — who held office from 2004-2010 — invited the religious community to put their faith in action and serve the needy as they arrived. On Aug. 31, 2005, and in response to

the mayor’s call, Houston’s religious leaders gathered at a public meeting held at Houston’s Second Baptist Church, one of America’s largest congregations. Leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other communities convened to see how they could help in the hurricane aftermath. The larger Christian congregations and smaller faith communities each took on the responsibility of providing manpower for one day of service to the evacuees staying in shelters set up in the city’s sports complexes and convention centers. Pastor Ed Young — whose church hosted the meeting — publically called on ISGH and the Houston Muslim community to provide the estimated 3,000 volunteers needed on Sept. 11, 2005. With less than two weeks, leaders from Houston’s local Islamic organizations mobilized roughly 3,300 Muslims to receive the mandatory volunteer training. Support poured in from the national Muslim American community through organizations like ICNA Relief, and Muslim Americans donated more than $120,000 in relief funds for Hurricane Katrina survivors. The Houston Chronicle reported on Sept.

Volunteers for Amaanah Refugee Services’ Rock the Block distribution event, brightening Eid for Houston’s new American Muslims. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014

13, 2005: “The volunteers gathered Sunday at the Convention Center, working in shifts to feed the hurricane survivors there. The group was mobilized by the Houston Muslim Relief Group, an alliance of 20 mosques and Islamic organizations that joined together to help Katrina’s victims. The organization joined Operation Compassion, an interfaith project coordinating volunteer efforts. According to organizers, the different religious groups drew lots to decide which day they would help, and the Muslim group was assigned Sunday, Sept. 11.” Houston Muslims are empowered through proactive relationships with the city’s government, media and area nonprofits, which have helped create a culture of service. On June 22, the Houston Muslim community partnered with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Texas Line of Duty Death Taskforce to host a groundbreaking multi-faith one mile fundraising walk and rally in downtown Houston. The event honored firefighters who lost their lives battling massive fires in Southwest Houston and Central Texas in April and May of that year. The desire to provide comfort and relief to people in need runs deep in Texas, and Houston’s culture is no exception. Houstonians are willing to put their differences aside and get to work to help their fellow residents. The Houston Muslim community celebrates this culture with organizations like Amaanah Refugee Services. Houston is the nation’s number one destination for refugees. Amaanah was started by volunteers from

the University of Houston’s Muslim Students Association, who after hearing about the depressed conditions of entire communities of Muslim refugees wanted to bring some joy into their lives during Eid celebrations. These volunteers organized toy drives and food distribution events. The students’ outstanding efforts eventually grew into a registered nonprofit refugee support agency with an annual budget of $475,000. Today, Amaanah is a member of the mayor’s advisory panel for refugee affairs and works closely with nonprofit organizations and other resettlement agencies. Amaanah operates two after school tutoring centers, supports clothing and furniture drives and maintains strategic partnerships with organizations like ISGH to distribute zakat and sadaqah donations to deserving individuals and families.

SPRAWL: DISTANCE MAKES HEARTS GROW CLOSER Just like the city itself, Houston’s Muslim community is large, spread out, diverse and regularly comes together for a good cause or for celebration. Job opportunities in the Houston area have led to population growth in the Muslim community, which has included immigrants filling jobs at energy and information technology firms, community leaders said. The Associated Press on Nov.16, 2010, reported that after decades of growth, the Muslim community is expanding and building new facilities at an unprecedented pace, with features and amenities that rival fivestar hotels. “Multimillion-dollar plans for

major mosque expansions and constructions are moving forward throughout the Houston area, coming on the heels of recently finished developments,” the AP reported. The AP article noted that the local projects are being funded by donations from the community. Perhaps to ward off any concern over construction of mosques, Muslim leaders emphasized that the community’s plans for new facilities were a response to demand and not an attempt to conquer land in the name of Islam. “We are all Americans. We’re not taking anything over,” Dr. Aziz Siddiqui, then-ISGH president told the AP.

RAPID MUSLIM GROWTH FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS The 1950s marked the first known organized Muslim community in Houston. That predominantly African American community met in Charlie Boyd’s barber shop, and in 1978 they established the Houston Masjid of Al-Islam, also known for many years as the Belfort Masjid. The historic mosque was made possible by a donation from boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali that helped purchase and renovate the Christian Scientist Church into Houston’s first mosque. The mosque was rebuilt 33 years later after damage caused by Hurricane Ike. In 2011, the mosque was renamed Masjid Warithudeen Mohammed in honor of Imam WD Mohammed. The mosque community always has focused on local activism and interfaith outreach, addressing issues of social justice and the uplifting of disenfran-

More than 20,000 people attended ISGH’s citywide Eid ul-Fitr salat at Houston’s Reliant Center — part of the Houston Texans pro football team facility.



ISLAM IN AMERICA chised people. The mosque’s current director, Imam Wazir Ali, is recognized throughout the city as an effective leader in reaching out to all segments of the Muslim community for mutual cooperation, understanding, and dawah. He has established a much-needed new mosque in the South Asian business area known as Hillcroft, which has proven to be a boon to local businesses and their staff who wish to offer prayers during business hours.

A HUMBLE BEGINNING In 1969 a small group of immigrant Muslims, mostly students and some professionals established regular prayers and Friday prayer at a small house near a medical center. This congregation led to the founding of ISGH, one of the nation’s most unique Islamic organizations. Always growing, ISGH currently operates 19 mosques and community centers, six full-time private schools, four community health clinics, three full-service funeral homes and burial ground, along with weekend Islamic schools, recreational facili-

the vast distances between sections of town as follows: North, Northwest, South, Southeast and Southwest. Each zone, like the organization as a whole has elected leadership that works to coordinate the activities and needs of the community in their respective areas. ISGH also has been instrumental in developing a close bond between the local Muslim community and the elected city government. It worked with the mayor of Houston to participate with the Muslim community in recognizing one day during Ramadan as “the Mayor’s Iftar,” which has been attended by successive elected mayors for the past 12 Ramadans. Nearly 2,000 people attended the Grand Houston Iftar-Annual Iftar Ramadan dinner with Houston Mayor Annise Parker on July 27, 2013. Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was the guest of honor and Parker delivered the keynote address. There are several other Muslim organizations with mosque community center

likes of Los Angeles and New York as the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the the United States, according to a Rice University report cited in a Huffington Post article on March 5, 2012. In its June 25, 2012, edition, the Huffington Post cited the “2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study” produced by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies that found Houston to be one of the nation’s top 10 most interfaith friendly cities. The Houston Business Journal on Aug. 28, 2013, cited a analysis of the 20 largest U.S. cities that found the Bayou city leadership business friendly resulting in the strongest/largest economy in the nation. The report also gives Houston high marks for its growth rate (third in the analysis), which comes from the Milken Institute’s 2012 Best Performing City survey. Houston also ranked No. 1 in Forbes Magazine’s list of America’s Coolest Cities To Live, July 6, 2012 issue.

ISGH Maryam Masjid — Houston mosques are evolving into full community centers, complete with school, recreational facilities and other amenities.

M.J. Khan, Houston’s First Muslim City Councilman.

ties, and a hifz program with more than 150 students who have memorized the Quran. ISGH quickly gained success as a platform for all Houston Muslims because of its structure and bylaws. Although the bulk of ISGH’s constituents are Sunni, its commitment to all Muslims in Houston dates back to its first elected president, Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi. Yazdi later returned to Iran and became a politician and diplomat serving as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs in the interim government of Mehdi Bazargan — Iran’s first prime minister after the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. As Houston grows, so does the Muslim community here. The first generation of ISGH leadership recognized the vastness of the greater Houston area and planned accordingly. ISGH operates through five primary “zones” across the area. These zones divide 32

facilities or offer community services. The larger ones include, The Aga Khan Council for Southwestern United States, Andalucia Media Arts Center, Islam in Spanish, CAIR-Houston, Clearlake Islamic Center (CLIC), Helping Hand USA (HHRD), Houston Masjid Al Islam, Ibn-e-Sina Clinics, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Cypress Dawah Center , Islamic Dawah Center, Madrassah Islamia, Makkah Masjid, Masjid Al Farouq Islamic Center, MAS Houston, Katy Center, Mecca Masjid, Masjid Warithudeen Mohammed, Al-Noor Society of Greater Houston, Houston Shifa Services Foundation (HSSF), and Raindrop Turkish Center.

HAKEEM OLAJUWON AND HOUSTON ISLAMIC DAWAH CENTER Houston has proven itself to be a place of opportunity for Muslim Americans. NBA

BEYOND TOLERANCE Houston leads the nation in many important ways. In 2012, it was named the nation’s most diverse city. Houston has surpassed the ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014

superstar Hakeem Olajuwon’s devotion and commitment to Islam was not merely accommodated, but it was celebrated as he led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back championships. His example of fasting during Ramadan while playing in an NBA game made him an inspiration to Muslim youth everywhere. It also was a great dawah to Houstonians of other faiths and traditions leading to their better understanding of the individual spiritual commitment of a Muslim during Ramadan. Olajuwon’s charitable donations to the city and to Muslim organizations have served as a positive example for the world. He established the Islamic Dawah Center, which is the first mosque in downtown Houston and the first center dedicated solely to Dawah. To this day Olajuwon’s actions teach people how to be humble and assertive. In 2008, when the Rockets wanted to memorialize his legacy, he refused a statue and had a monument of his jersey commissioned instead.

HALAL FOODIE PARADISE Houston has consulates from nations with substantial Muslim populations, such as: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey.

“NEW” MUSLIMS Given Houston’s diversity, one would

expect that it would also have a significant number of Muslims would have accepted Islam through choice and dawah. For more than a quarter of a century, there has been one, unfailing dawah outreach in Houston — that effort has been Dr. Mazhar Kazi’s class on “Islam for new Muslims.” This consistently popular class, which is held at ISGH’s Main Center Masjid facility, has attracted people from all backgrounds looking to learn more about Islam. Through his books, lectures and efforts, Dr. Kazi’s impact on Islam in America is nearly impossible to measure, however, it is easy to appreciate his passion. “Growing up in an environment and family where one’s Islamic identity was of foremost importance had a great subconscious impact on me,” said Abu Ammaar Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, Dr. Kazi’s son and himself a noted Islamic scholar. “I remember, so many times when I would come home only to find a new convert sharing dinner with us. Frankly as a teenager sometimes I would even get irritated at such ‘intrusions’ into our family environment, but of course, overall this was a demonstration of how my father loved helping people come to the straight path of Islam.”

Hamza’s Halal Taco Truck: From Japanese food to Tex-Mex, in Houston foodlovers can find halal places to enjoy an assortment of cuisines.

POLITICAL LEADERSHIP Houston’s Muslim population has developed an in-depth and sophisticated understanding of the American mainstream political landscape and Houston was one of the first major metropolitan cities to see a successful Muslim politician elected to a high city office. M.J. Khan left the City of Houston Council after being reelected three times, which is the term limit for council members. Currently Emerge-USA is active in the eightcounty Houston metro area in promoting Muslim grassroots political involvement and voter turnout.

Jones Halal Fried Chicken: From Iranian cuisine to halal KFC, anyone who desires zabiha food in Houston will not have a problem. There are at least 70 Houston area halal restaurants, according to, a website that lists halal eateries in cities around the world.



bathrooms are designed to conserve water and LCD screens throughout the facility are used for announcements in place of paper flyers. There’s even a tablet installed on the donation box with a special adaptor allowing for secure online donations by credit and debit cards.


IslamInSpanish offerings include, short films, lectures, and an audio translation of the Quran.

Rosanne Khan, who accepted Islam, said she got integrated into the Muslim community through attending Dr. Kazi’s classes. “Dr. Kazi has always shown empathy when solving and resolving community issues, as well as addressing interpersonal issues. He took it upon himself to help me get integrated in to the Muslim community, to get married (into a wonderful family), and to find the educational resources I needed to grow as a Muslim. He continues to be a source of inspiration for me as I further my Islamic education.”

LATINO MUSLIMS Houston is home to a rapidly growing Latino population. Latino Muslims are among the fastest growing segments of the Muslim community there. Latino converts are energizing all aspects of Islam in Houston. Today, there are regular Friday services offered in Spanish. Houston has two full-time Latino Imams — Abdullah Danny Hernandez of Puerto Rican descent who studied at Al Azhar in Egypt, and Isa Parada who is El Salvadorian and completed his education from the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia. Both are presently affiliated with ISGH. Prada, who used to serve as an altar boy at his family’s Catholic parish, told the Houston Chronicle in a June 27, 2012, interview that working with Jaime “Mujahid” Fletcher, another Hispanic convert from Houston, the pair produce a myriad of Spanish language videos, audio files, pamphlets and other literature to educate Latinos about the belief and practice of Islam. Their website is called IslamInSpanish. Being interviewed for the Chronicle in 2008, Fletcher said that he 34

found a wealth of Hispanic culture present in Islam and wanted to share that with others. IslamInSpanish is an educational, nonprofit organization that produces original multimedia and translates classical Islamic texts into Spanish for distribution worldwide. Fletcher, a Colombian American film producer, founded the organization after he and his immediate family converted to Islam and they could not find adequate resource material about Islam for Latinos. In addition to organizing potluck dinners, lectures and other social events across the city, IslamInSpanish also opened the Andalucia Media Arts Center, a nonprofit multimedia studio designed to educate and empower people through media production and dialogue.

THE CLEAR LAKE ISLAMIC CENTER: WHERE MUSLIMS “CLIC” It’s not uncommon to hear of a mosque adding a community hall, a basketball court or some other feature. Typically, these developments happen after the prayer space is built, while the parking issues are sorted out much later. The Clear Lake Islamic Center took a dramatically different approach. CLIC was not founded to be merely a place of prayer. The center embodies its motto: Learn, Pray, Play. Every year CLIC paints a mural in the main lobby area. This mural, known as the “Theme of the Year Wall,” is painted by a local artist incorporating inspirational quotes reminding the community of each year’s theme. For 2013, the theme of “Happiness” is infused into CLIC’s programming, classes and sermons. CLIC is designed based on the “green deen” concept. The mosque’s

Houston is a young city with the bulk of its population being in their 30s. The American Muslim community there also is young, with a large percentage of professionals, entrepreneurs, and small business operators. Houston’s Muslim organizations have long been at the forefront of empowering converts and young professionals. Muslim youth are well integrated into the fabric of Houston and they are comfortable with the diversity of the city and their Muslim identity. It is commonplace to see multi-ethnic Muslim couples, and far more common to see people from all backgrounds working on common causes. Houston went from a small town to a thriving metropolis with a truly diversified economy. Houston is also among the most diverse in terms of ethnic cuisines available, the Houston Business Journal reported in a July 17, 2013, issue citing The Chicago-based online and mobile food-ordering service analyzed restaurant offerings in more than 500 cities across the country to identify which cities offered the widest variety of the site’s 69 different ethnic cuisines. Houston ranked No. 10 on the list of most food-diverse cities, with 28 ethnic cuisines available. The city is home to a 17-block Theater District, a world class Museum District, more than 40 colleges, universities and institutions of higher learning. Houston also is home to professional sports franchises, including: the Houston Rockets, the Houston Astros, the Houston Dynamos, and the Houston Texans. The Greater Houston area has the largest medical and healthcare research complex in the world, one of the world’s busiest ports, NASA, cutting-edge IT companies, leading engineering firms, and the city maintains its title as the Energy Capital of the World. Houston is a place of opportunity — a city that nearly 200,000 Muslims call home. Houston is a place where people pursue their dreams — it’s not just possible, it is the norm. 

*Hashim Badat is president of ISGH. Several individuals and ISGH employees contributed to this report.



Oklahoma Muslims Unite Muslims fight prejudice with kindness



t’s the state people associate with the Dust Bowl, the American South, and perhaps a vagueness often akin to mentioning a foreign country, such as Brunei or Kazakhstan. Yet Oklahoma, though situated in the south, with many small towns sprinkled across its landscape, is home to an estimated 35,000 Muslims. Though many Oklahoma Muslims have been inhabitants for decades, it was not until 2008, that an umbrella organization evolved to unite its small towns and big cities, mosques, and Islamic organizations. This umbrella organization is now known as the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, or the ICO. “(It was) after 9/11, that we got the idea to unite, and in 2008 we started revisiting bylaws,” said M. Shafi Chaudry, ICO chairman and a resident of Edmond, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City. “In 2009 we filed (for) 501(c)(3) status and registered ICO in the state.” Chaudry, who has lived in California and other areas, stressed the need for Oklahoma Muslims to be represented at the “local and state level.” He also has served on the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma chapter’s (CAIR-Okla.) board since its inception in 2006 and currently serves as vice chair.

SPREAD OUT Oklahoma’s largest cities are home to the largest

number of Muslims. According to Chaudry, of the state’s estimated 35,000 Muslims, Oklahoma City — the state capital — and Tulsa and their respective suburbs collectively account for about 25,000 Muslims. Oklahoma City has a sizable children’s fulltime Islamic school, Mercy School, with a diverse student body and dedicated teachers and staff. The University of Oklahoma, also situated in Oklahoma City metropolitan area, has an active MSA, and international students from across the Muslim world. Adnan Shurbaji, a resident of Ardmore, a town two hours north of Dallas and two hours from Oklahoma City, recounts just how spread out Muslims are. “We have about 15 masajid and musallahs in the state, eight members of the ICO, and here in Ardmore, we have a small community, but we just bought a building for a new masjid.” Shurbaji, a jeweler at Ardmore’s only shopping mall, notes that Oklahoma is always getting new residents. “Until 10 years ago, we hardly had anyone in Ardmore, now masha’Allah we have





Shafi Chaudry

Imad Enchassi

about a dozen families and it’s small but nice,” he said. In 2011, Imad Enchassi, imam and president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said his mosque had about 67 people attending Friday prayers in 1997. Today, there are between 700 and 800 people attending Friday prayer there, and additional prayers are held at Mercy School in northwest Oklahoma City. Despite expanding the mosque twice, there is still a need for more space, so they offer two prayer services on Fridays. Enchassi feels several factors contribute to such exponential growth. One is the migration from nearby states due to economic woes, with many Muslims opening up medical practices or small businesses in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas. Another is the growing number of conversions, especially among African Americans. While most of the state’s Muslims are Pakistanis, Arabs and African Americans, there are some Iranian, Somali, Kenyan and Turkish Muslims, as well. At the Islamic Society of Tulsa’s Masjid Al Salam, Muslims from more than 40 countries and at least three Native American tribes pray side by side.

Sheryl Siddiqui

— Oklahoma Center for Community & Justice Annual Awards Dinner. “Every member mosque assigns two delegates to the council,” she said. “Mosques with more than 200 members assign an additional delegate for every 100 members beyond that. This assures that even rural Muslims are well represented.” In 2010, the council conducted a survey of mosques and then started addressing the priorities of the mosques, helping them maximize their resources and provide services that were needed. A statewide youth committee was formed to give Muslim students opportunities to meet with others, and work together on service projects, participate in ropes courses, lock-ins and field trips. “For kids in rural communities this was a big deal,” Siddiqui said. “Teens in the cities stopped taking it so much for granted and joined the fun.” The first khateeb training was held to help train more imams across the state. At this time there is only one full-time, professionally trained imam in the state. The council also maintains a listing of khateebs whom mosques can call upon for Friday sermons. The council issues endorsements for qualified Muslims to provide lay-leader chaplaincy services for Muslims on a local military base. ICO is frequently called on by media and it then consults the leadership of its member mosques before responding. Media releases and relations are beyond the resources of some of the smaller member mosques so this is a welcome service. ICO promotes best practices within mosques, shares their event announcements with other mosques and

Islamic schools, and has been called on to assist with conflict resolution. “Oklahoma Muslims are living the American dream, but there are strong anti-Muslim undercurrents and political opportunists here,” Siddiqui said.



Oklahoma may be home to many Muslims and minorities, but this does not spare them from facing undertones of racism and hate crimes. The “Save Our State Amendment,” or commonly known as the sharia constitutional amendment, was approved by voters in a November 2010 referendum during midterm elections. This amendment barred courts from considering Sharia in cases involving Muslims. Oklahoma legislators — dominated by conservative leadership — argued that the amendment did not infringe upon anyone’s religious practices saying, “It neither favors nor discriminates against any religion.” The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the amendment on behalf of CAIROkla. in federal court. CAIR-Okla. Executive Director Muneer Awad argued such an amendment singled out Muslims’ religious laws, and publicly presented the Islamic faith as a threat to the state. Despite the COMMUNITY UNITES Sheryl Siddiqui is often the “go-to” person amendment being approved by more than for matters concerning Oklahoma’s Muslim 70 percent of Oklahoma voters in 2010, U.S. community. A state resident since 1984, she District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange struck serves as a delegate and ICO spokesperson it down in August 2013. Miles-LaGrange representing Tulsa. wrote in her decision that a “compelling state Siddiqui has served on the CAIR-Okla. interest” was needed to justify the amendboard since its inception in 2006 and curment, and that it was unconstitutional to rently serves as the board secretary. Siddiqui forbid courts from considering Islamic law in judicial decisions. has been praised on numerous The attempts by some Oklahooccasions for her selfless dedication to the Oklahoma community, mans at negativity notwithstanding, including, but not limited to, the Muslims have made efforts to reach following: 2005 Urban Tulsa’s List of out to everyday people through acts 100 Most Influential Tulsans; 2007 of kindness. Tulsa Interfaith Alliance’s Russell As the state is located in “TorBennett Award; 2008 Governor’s nado Alley” and one of the most Ethnic Advisory Council’s “Outvulnerable to tornadoes, Muslims standing Muslim Citizenship in Muneer Awad at the podium, announces the filing of a lawsuit have been in the forefront of assistOklahoma Award”; 2012 Honoree challenging State Question 755 at the state Capitol. ing those affected. In the after36


islation in 2010, spent the bulk of his time speaking on the importance of sharia in the lives of Muslims, and how Islam is merciful. He talked about misconceptions of sharia and how it coexists with Western law. “We shouldn’t talk about each other, we should work to help each other,” he added. Enchassi led the fundraising call. The event committee was pleased with the collections.



Al Salam mosque.

math of the May 2013 tornado that killed 24 people, Muslim leaders gathered at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City mosque and launched a community donation drive. Within two days, they had collected thousands of food items and other necessities. The Islamic Circle of North America dispatched its Disaster Relief Team, which helped with debris removal and repairing damaged houses. Such actions show a more human face of Oklahoma Muslims to their neighbors and across the country.

ICO FIRST FUNDRAISER To maintain past achievements and further accomplish ICO’s mission, the organization needed to add staff and create a greater sense of direction. This prompted the first ICO fundraiser held Sept. 28. The ICO had institutional members, a vision, and a list of achievements, but lacked exposure among the greater Oklahoma Muslim community, and the funds to expand. To build awareness and strengthen the network of mosque leaders, the fundraising dinner was preceded by an afternoon workshop. Mosque leaders statewide were informed about ICO’s achievements by CAIR-Okla. board Chairman Michael Aziz Gipson, then together the attendees updated the mosque survey of needs and priorities. Gipson, a native Oklahoman, began his professional career as an engineer in Illinois and New Mexico before returning to Oklahoma to become an entrepreneur. He is the administrator of Mecca House, a

sober living facility whose clients suffer from drug and alcohol abuse and also serves as a transitional housing site for Department of Corrections offenders on parole or discharged. He currently is the convenor of the advisory council at Masjid Mu’min, board member of the Eastside Capital Gateway, a Main Street Program, and an interfaith dialogue and community activist. Gipson is one of the 2009 recipients of the Metropolitan Better Living Center Oklahoma Achievement Award. Shakeel Syed shared his expertise and lessons learned from the Islamic Shura of Southern California, where the civil rights activist serves as executive director. His organization serves 500,000 Muslims, while ICO covers a larger land area but less than one-tenth of the people. Dr. Jamal Badawi offered his insights and generous moral support to the project. The fundraiser brought together roughly 275 people at a hotel in Norman, Okla. The first speaker was one of Oklahoma’s own, Shafi Chaudry, who presented an overview of ICO, its mission and goals. Syed said ICO could take lessons from his organization, which represents nearly 70 mosques, and gave a historic overview of the bumps and trials it faced. Syed, who has been involved with Southern California’s Shura Council for eight of his 20 years living in the area, stressed the importance of community outreach. He spoke of mutual consultation and supporting the organization’s leaders. Badawi, realizing that 70 percent of Oklahomans voted in favor of the anti-sharia leg-


“Oklahoma is ground zero for Islamophobia,” said Syed. “So Muslim leaders of the state must transcend their own respective enclaves and realize their strength in collective work.” Siddiqui said ICO could help improve communications among mosques and maximize resources to improve the lives of Muslims statewide. The banquet renewed Oklahoma Muslims’ faith in the power of unity. “We are doing this for upcoming generations and the youth,” Badawi said. 

Eman Shurbaji is a freelance journalist from California.




it makes it all worthwhile. She believes that every family with a special needs or sick child goes through such an emotional rollercoaster that having memories of when their kids are smiling is priceless. From a circus theme and a session at the cider mill, she even photographed a 5-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with leukemia, in her mom’s wedding dress, shoes and veil. “It’s amazing to see how a small act can make such a big difference in these parents’ lives,” she said. Taufiq believes that many Muslims, some even unintentionally, get stuck in the community bubble. Others choose to serve their mosque only due to time constraints. “Islam has taught us to give back in any way that we can. We need to learn to take the time out for others without expecting anything in return,” Taufiq said. “We can’t always do everything, but we can always do more than we think.”


Taskeen Khan (far right) with her friends Clair Tylke, Diana Rivera, and Jeremie Barbosa at the bake sale just before they slept out in a tent all night to raise awareness for the homeless.



ine-year old Jena is put on a ventilator every night since she has congenital central hypoventilation syndrome. This means she cannot enjoy sleepovers like the rest of her friends. Instead of just feeling sorry for her, Anam Taufiq, a pediatric physical therapist and budding photographer in Michigan, gave Jena a daytime slumber party photo shoot. Add in some fun friends, plush pajamas, sleeping bags, and pillow fights, and Jena has pictures that remind her she can still be a kid and enjoy a sleepover like anyone else. This wasn’t the first time that Taufiq has made a whole family smile by offering free photo shoots for children with special needs or chronic illnesses. Ever since she came up with the idea in July this year, she has been flooded with requests. She doesn’t charge a fee. She even makes most of the props


herself. All she asks is permission to share the photos on social media to raise awareness for her idea. “I wanted to keep it free of cost to the families when they are already juggling finances between paying for insurance and medical bills and even just equipment for their kids,” Taufiq said. “I don’t think people realize how much actually comes out of pocket when you have a child with special needs. Last thing I’d want to do is ask for them to pay for the photo session.” Taufiq tries to get as many family members as possible in the photos so scheduling can be a little challenging. But when the parents’ faces light up as they see the photos,

Texas-based Aamina Masood also has a special way to light up a room. She donates specialty birthday cakes for kids with special needs and works her magic on making any request come true. A trained pastry chef by profession, Masood learned about “Icing Smiles” at the North Texas Sugar Art show in April 2013. The very next month she made a zebra rainbow cake for a little girl, Kadence. She also volunteers at “Treats of Christmas” bake sale at Northpark Mall in Dallas every year. Proceeds from the event go to a homeless shelter in downtown Dallas. She finds people within the Muslim community on either end of the spectrum when it comes to volunteering. “There is one group that solely volunteers at masajid but not outside, and then there is the group that donates time to March of Dimes and Habitat for Humanity, but not the masjid,” Masood said. “But I see hope as the Muslim youth is trying to do both.” Along with her supportive husband, Masood is trying to teach her daughters and Girl Scout troop how to volunteer for causes within and outside the Muslim commu-


nity. Last year, their troop was responsible for a successful book drive for the Children’s Hospital. As a family, they volunteer at the Breast Cancer and Lung Cancer marathons. “You can do much more than you think you can. Just keep pushing yourself,” Masood said.

YOUTH HELP THE HOMELESS Two examples of young Muslim Americans who are giving back to the larger community are Taskeen Khan and Muzzamil Farooqi, both from Illinois. Both teenagers spearheaded teams to raise awareness and funds for Bridge Communities, an organization that helps the homeless in DuPage County. The fundraising culminated in adults and youths sleeping out in their cars, boxes or tents as part of “Sleep Out Saturday” on a cold November night in Chicago. Along with their families, friends, classmates and mosques, they raised nearly $4,000 for the cause, learned a few lessons along the way, and taught a few lessons too. “I learned what red tape is and how it’s not always easy to have organizations support your efforts, even when they acknowledge your idea is good,” said Farooqi, an eighth grader who spent the entire night in a cold car. “But despite the red tape from institutions, my family and friends helped in every way possible for me to get a team together.” Farooqi believes it’s the duty of Muslims to help everyone, not just their own faith group as the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was kind to everyone. He was known to be a mercy to mankind, not just Muslims. “We are so blessed. It’s important not to forget those who aren’t as lucky,” Farooqi said. Ninth grader Taskeen Khan had slept out once before with her mother and brother when she was in elementary school. This time she took it up a notch by rallying her high school friends and sleeping in a tent all night. “Bridge Communities was the perfect charity to help because they were local, and really helped people get back on their feet, not just for a day or two, but for life,” Khan said. “Also, I wanted to make Sleep Out Saturday a part of the culture at Glenbard West (my high school), an event the student body would know happens every year, and would provide a more regular source of donations. I felt like by doing this with my school and friends, it would reach a wider base of people, and be more effective overall.” Khan said it was easier to convince kids,

than adults, to sleep out because for most of them it was almost like an adventure. On the flip side, it was easier to convince the adults to donate money than actually sleep out, she added. At her team’s bake sale, she saw many adults and teachers give them an extra dollar or two, along with what they paid for their cookies. “We knew we were going to be in several layers of warm blankets with our friends,” Khan said. “But it still does make us realize what real homelessness can be like where you don’t have your friends with you, don’t have an unending supply of food, piles of blankets, and have to go through it for several consecutive nights.” Khan said when Muslims volunteer in the mainstream, it helps with the public image of Islam. “People from all faiths get a tiny snapshot of what Islam is all about — helping others and doing good,” she said. Khan said that at times Muslims don’t like to invite others into their bubble, and don’t spread their good deeds beyond the Muslim community. They don’t try to collaborate with the local schools and businesses and instead prefer to stick with using the Muslim community as their main resource, she said. Getting past this hesitation could make the community’s endeavors more effective, she added.  “Even if you don’t think you are making a big difference, stick with it, you might be surprised with what happens,” she said.

STARTING YOUNG Eleven-year-old Yousuf Khan applied to be a part of an after-school “Best Buddies” club to spend time with special needs kids. After a few interviews, he was paired up with Anthony. They play games, and enjoy activities and snacks once a month. “I’m glad I have a new friend,” Khan said. “Anthony is around my age and we enjoy all the same activities. Even though wheelchair-bound, he can make the best turns in musical chairs.” Khan has an aunt with special needs. He saw her unable to do everything with the family and was inspired to help others like her. He said he doesn’t find any aspect of it challenging and is happy to just expand his circle of friends. “Helping others is a no-brainer; it’s just the right thing to do,” he said. 

Kiran Ansari is a freelance writer who lives in Illinois with her husband and two children.




Hijabi for a Day Illinois MSA women hijab teach-in is a model for others campuses BY KIRAN ANSARI


uring Islam Awareness Week at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in October 2013, 200 women from all faith backgrounds wore hijab as part of the MSA’s “Wear a Hijab Day.” The university’s campus was where MSA of the United States and Canada (now MSA-National) was launched in 1963.

Sophomore Annette Guzik was one of the students who tried wearing a hijab for the first time in her life. It took her friend a half hour to wrap it the way she wanted. “First it was wrapped too loosely, then too tightly. Finally it felt just right,” Guzik said. “At first, I couldn’t help but feel nervous about my hijab falling out of place. But, this worry slowly vanished as the day passed and my constant readjustments of my hijab stopped as well.” Vivian Castellanos also tried on the hijab for the first time that day.


“I feel the hijab served as a reminder to us, women, that our intellect and inner beauty is much more appealing than any physical features,” Castellanos said. “Many people don’t even know that it is a woman’s personal choice to wear the hijab. I enjoyed hearing other people’s hijab stories and appreciated learning more about its significance.” It was not just people from different faiths that participated in the event, some Muslims who do not regularly wear the hijab also joined in. “I was mentally prepared to receive weird


looks from my peers who had never seen me in a hijab before,” said Samra Matin. “I expected fewer strangers to hold doors open for me or smile when we crossed paths. However, none of this actually proved true. My friends, who are from other faiths, greeted me as usual, and no one even addressed my hijab. My suggestions during a meeting were still taken as seriously, and no one stared at me. For the first time, I was outwardly representing my faith, and I felt that it was my responsibility to project a positive image.” Matin, who had never seriously considered wearing a hijab until her positive experience that day, now has a chance to explore the hijab and is encouraged to think

MANY PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS AND TRADITIONS CAME TO THE MSA BOOTH, HEARD PERSONAL HIJAB STORIES FROM PEERS, TRIED ON A HIJAB AND CALLED ON THEIR FRIENDS TO TRY IT ON AS WELL. about transitioning into wearing it. This was the second year the university campus hosted the “Wear a Hijab Day,” but other MSAs have had similar events across the country. “We thought it would give women of other faiths and traditions an opportunity to walk in the shoes of a covered Muslim and feel firsthand the response from society,” said Hafsa Siddiqui, UIUC MSA outreach chairwoman. During the summer, Siddiqui heard


about a new online hijab store called B. Hijaby and contacted the owner, Asima Bhatty in Massachusetts. “Asima was so generous and helpful through the entire planning and execution of the project,” Siddiqui said. “She gave us 200 amazing quality, extremely cute hijabs at a huge discount and shipped them to us for free. We chose the pebbled coral print scarf as we wanted it to be feminine and graceful.” “I feel there is so much that people don’t know or understand about hijab that the idea of approaching students and handing them a free scarf to wear was a great idea,” Bhatty said. “Being part of this event has personally helped renew my intention for why I started this business in the first place.” Since the event, Bhatty has been approached by several other MSA members to replicate the event on other campuses. At first, the UIUC MSA was nervous about receiving negative feedback, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. Many people of other faiths and traditions came to their booth, heard personal hijab stories from peers, tried on a hijab and called on their friends to try it on as well. “No one gave us a hard time,” Siddiqui said. “I firmly believe that knowledge gained through experience cannot be taken away from us,” Guzik said. “I thought I knew quite a bit about hijab, but I was wrong. I thought that people would stare at me and make me feel awkward. But, I actually found my time in the hijab very humbling and I understood why women choose to wear it. I felt more ladylike and it reminded me to think of a higher power — God.” 



New Marvel Hero is Muslim Teen G. Willow Wilson offers glimpse into the life of a Muslim girl growing up in America



his February, Marvel Comics will unveil a new Ms. Marvel back as Kamala Khan, a 16-yearold daughter of Pakistani immigrants living in Jersey City. Kamala — the series first protagonist who is both female and Muslim — is part of Marvel Entertainment’s efforts to reflect a growing diversity among its readers while connecting to the contemporary relevance that have underlined its foundation since the creation of Spider-Man and the X-Men in the early 1960s. Kamala is the brainchild of Marvel editors Sana Amanat and Steve Wacker, who developed the character after Amanat entertained Wacker with anecdotes from her Muslim American childhood. When author G. Willow Wilson — a hijab-clad convert to Islam — heard about the project,


she was eager to jump on board as the series’ writer, particularly because she had written her own graphic novel titled “Cairo.” “I wanted Ms. Marvel to be true-to-life — something real people could relate to, particularly young women,” Wilson said in a news release. “High school was a very vivid time in my life, so I drew heavily on those experiences — impending adulthood, dealing with school and emotionally-charged friendships that are such a huge part of being a teenager. It’s for all the geek-girls out there, and everybody else who’s ever looked at life from the fringe.” The inspiration behind the character “stemmed out of a desire to explore the Muslim American Diaspora from an authentic perspective, and yet, this story isn’t about what it means to be a Muslim, Pakistani or American.”




DC Comics last fall relaunched its “Green Lantern” series with Simon Baz, an Arab American and Muslim. The character reflects writer Geoff Johns’ Lebanese ancestry and his upbringing in the Detroit area. Other comic book publishers have also explored this realm. In 2010, DC Comics introduced Nightrunner, a young Muslim hero of Algerian descent reared in Paris. Another character from Marvel is Dust, a young Afghan woman whose mutant ability to manipulate sand and dust has been part of the popular X-Men books. Kamala’s backstory, growing up Muslim, is an element of the storyline, but is not the critical foundation of the series. Her charISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014


acter is cast as a suburban teen trying to figure out who she is and forge an identity when she suddenly bestows great power and learns the great responsibility that comes with it. Wilson, 31, a Boston University graduate, lives in Seattle with her husband, Omar, and two young daughters. Her first graphic novel, “Cairo” (Vertigo, 2007), was based in Cairo, and was listed as a top graphic novel for teens by both the American Library Association and the School Library Journal. In addition, her comic series “Air” was nominated for the Eisner Award, and her first novel, “Alif the Unseen,” won the 2013 World Fantasy Award. Since Marvel has revealed the news, author G. Willow Wilson has been inundated with world media attention — most of it positive. She took out the time to share her thoughts with the readers of Islamic Horizons magazine: Islamic Horizons: Your superhero’s name is Kamala. Being conversant with Arabic, would you, at any stage, let the readers know what the name means and how it has affected her development, knowing what her name stands for? Willow Wilson: Yes, there is certainly a significance that will play into the story. One sees the male name “Kamal” fairly often in various Muslim societies, but “Kamala” much more rarely — in the story, the name has a special significance to the main character’s father. IH: How will Kamala’s storyline, particularly her relationship with her family be relatable to other Muslim girls, and how will this help non-Muslims better understand someone like her? WW: We hope to show the great diversity of thought and practice in the American Muslim community. The struggles, bonds, affections and ideals that Kamala and her family share will be familiar to all readers. This is a human story, not just one about a specific minority group. But Muslim American girls in particular — especially those who’ve grown up as the children of immigrant parents — will, I hope, see their own stories reflected in Kamala’s life. IH: Take us to the drawing board; what was the process like in creating Kamala’s character, from the development of her character to her caricature? What sensitivities (for example, clothing, etc.) were considered with this being a Muslim character, and at the same time what ideas were nixed due to this concept? WW: I was first approached by the series editor, Sana Amanat, about creating a teenage Muslim girl superhero. Having grown up a Pakistani American herself, this was an idea very close to her heart. We collaborated about all the details of her background, her family, her costume (which is a variation on a shalwar kameez). We tried to be sensitive to the particularities of Muslim American life, while also being honest about the struggles and challenges young Muslim women face today. IH: Having documented your own life story in your published book, “Butterfly Mosque,” do you plan to use any of your own life experiences in Kamala’s ventures? WW: Yes and no. I didn’t grow up Muslim, so I have to draw heavily on the experiences of others. But I think all teenagers go through a period of self-definition, in which they try to decide what paths their lives will take. I certainly did. So there’s an element of universality there. ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014

IH: Can you share how your interest in gaming has influenced your literary/creative work? WW: I was actually drawn into gaming by a conservative Muslim friend. We had long ingame discussions about whether it is halal for a digital character to consume digital pork. It was all sort of in good fun, but it got me thinking a lot about the way religion intersects with pop culture. Obviously that carries over into novels and comics as well. That intersectionality is a big part of my work. I like to explore the borders between ideas. IH: Can you share a little about how you balance family and work life? How do you manage such a productive professional life with two young children? WW: It’s not easy! I say “no” to a lot of professional opportunities in order to spend the most time with my children. I’m very picky about travel. Many successful writers are away from home for as much as a week out of every month, but I only make speaking trips four or five times a year. Becoming a mother has made me a better person on every level. Mothers are — subhanAllah — given unique strength and resilience. What I really miss is sleep. That’s what inevitably must be sacrificed in order to attend to the needs of others. 




President Barack Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010 at the White House.

Health Care for All Americans Can the Affordable Care Act fix the health care crisis? BY UMBEREEN S. NEHAL


resident Barack Obama came to Boston in October 2013 to celebrate a milestone — the seventh anniversary of “RomneyCare,” health care reform adopted by Massachusetts in 2006 and signed into law by then-Gov. Mitt Romney. That legislation was the model for Obama’s signature national health care reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (, often referred to as “Obamacare.” By many mea-

sures, the Massachusetts experiment was a success, providing insurance coverage to 97 percent of people, and has been received favorably by most doctors, employers, and patients. Yet the question remains: does the rest of the country really need healthcare reform or is it a liberal idea that could only succeed in a state like “Taxachusetts”? Currently, the national health care expenditure is 18 percent of the gross domestic product, GDP, making it nearly one-fifth of the economy, according to World Bank. Despite higher costs, there are fewer

doctors (2.4 versus 3.1 per 1,000 people), fewer hospital beds (2.6 versus 3.4 per 1,000 people), according to a PBS “Newshour” Oct. 22, 2012, report by Jason Kane on “Health Costs: How the U.S. Compares With Other Countries,” and lower life expectancy. Many of the chronic illnesses like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, which account for seven out of 10 deaths in the U.S., could be prevented with better primary care, per a 2009 study published by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The Milken Institute estimates



Growth in Total Health Expenditure Per Capita, U.S. and Selected Countries, 1970-2008 Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2010), ”OECD Health Data”, OECD Health Statistics (database). doi: 10.1787/data-00350-en (Accessed on 14 February 2011). Notes: Data from Australia and Japan are 2007 data. Figures for Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, are OECD estimates. Numbers are PPP adjusted. Break in series: CAN(1995); SWE(1993, 2001); SWI(1995); UK (1997). Numbers are PPP adjusted. Estimates for Canada and Switzerland in 2008.

seven chronic, preventable diseases — cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions and mental illness — cost the U.S. more than $1 trillion yearly, including lost productivity. Yet, a Gallup Well-Being report published Dec. 14, 2012, found one in three Americans skip health care due to cost. The Affordable Care Act harnesses the power of “bulk purchasing” for better pricing through “exchanges,” similar to how large employers negotiate better contracts with insurance companies than small businesses. Small business owners get tax breaks for offering coverage to employees. This is especially relevant to the Muslim American community where one in five people are self-employed or small business owners. Also, in mostly immigrant communities like Muslim Americans, the elderly may not have enough work history in the U.S. to qualify for Medicare. Health care costs are the number one cause of bankruptcies among Americans, ahead of unpaid credit cards and mortgages. The individual mandate, which is the heart of Obama’s health care reform law, was first suggested by the Heritage Institute, a conservative think tank, as a market-driven solution to control costs. Requiring everyone to have health insurance was meant to protect taxpayers from costs of the 47 million uninsured Americans or “free riders.” Due to EMTALA (Emergency Treatment and Active

Labor Act enacted in 1985), hospitals cannot turn away those needing emergency care. Later, Medicaid reimburses such unpaid bills though the “Disproportionate Share Hospital” fund. American taxpayers were already paying for the care of others, but doing so in the most expensive and least effective way. Then-Gov. Romney had argued, “If somebody could afford insurance they should either buy the insurance or pay their own way. They shouldn’t be allowed to just show up at the hospital and say, somebody else should pay for me.” Insurance companies agreed to consumer protections and regulation in exchange for more customers. Before the health care reform law, individuals most in need of medical care were either denied health insurance or were unable to afford care. Often, they were only able to buy “junk” plans with high deductibles, which did not pay for routine health care. The law now bans insurance companies from denying coverage based on “pre-existing conditions” such as asthma, cancer, and pregnancy. An insurance policy cannot be cancelled when someone gets sick. Women cannot be charged more for their gender. Under the law, insurance plans must offer a minimum level of care and all preventative services must be free of charge. That includes screening for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer, and routine vaccines. The goal is to encourage people to stay healthy.


The health care law also addresses the variation in healthcare pricing. In a report released by the federal government that compared prices, it showed that joint-replacement charges ranged from $5,300 at a hospital in Ada, Okla., to $223,000 at a hospital in Monterey Park, Calif. This is why one provision of the law is transparency through public reporting — hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies are required to publish pricing and costs. Also, hospitals and doctors must report on “quality measures” that show how well their patients do and how happy they are. This is meant to empower the consumer to make smart choices. Making informed choices was the reason was designed as a one-stop shopping destination. Consumers can compare the benefits and costs of plans. Yet, the roll out in October was plagued with glitches. To some, this proved that “big government” was inefficient and the legislation was a failure. Critics say there was not enough oversight of the private contractors entrusted with building the website. “There’s no excuse for it. We are working overtime to improve it,” President Obama said about the website’s initial problems. The administration’s self-imposed deadline to fix the website by Nov. 30 was met. In early December 2013, Consumer Reports, an independent product-testing organization, reversed its early warning on the website. Now Consumer Reports calls healthcare. gov “terrific.” Regardless of political persuasion, Americans today have an opportunity to reform a health care system that is not helping the average American stay healthy in an affordable way. ISNA published a policy brief in 2009, urging all Americans to support Obama’s health reform legislation. Government alone cannot fix problems and only engagement by the American people will lead to lasting change. This mirrors the Quranic verse, “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” Each person must have healthy habits, have adequate health insurance, seek appropriate medical care, be an informed consumer, question doctors and hospitals about pricing and quality, and encourage family members to do all this as well. The deadline for signing up is March 31, 2014. 

Umbereen S. Nehal, MD MPH is an academic pediatrician in the Boston area.



Judge, Jury & Executioner Do Americans realize “accurate” drone attacks kill innocent people, including children? BY ARUBA MAHMUD


ct. 24, 2012, was a beautiful sunny day in the village of Tappi in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Mamana Bibi, 67, a well-respected midwife, was picking vegetables in her family’s field to prepare the feast for Eid ul-Adha. She promised two of her grandchildren, 13-year-old Zubair ur Rehman and his 9-year-old sister, Nabila, that if they helped her, they could sample some of the sweets which they had prepared the night before. Zubair, who describes Eid as a “magical time, filled with joy” could not wait to celebrate the next day with his family. He would never have that chance. As they picked vegetables, a drone fired overhead


and then, “the earth shook.” His grandmother was thrown 20 feet and blown into pieces. Nabila and Zubair were wounded and “in great agony.” Their cousins came outside, only to be injured by a second strike. The children’s father, Rafiq ur Rehman, returned home from running errands to find his mother being buried. “My mother was the string that held our

family together,” said Rafiq, an elementary schoolteacher. “Since her death, our family has been broken, and our lives have not been the same. We feel alone. We feel lost. Four of my children were injured that day, and four of my brother’s children.”

FROM WAZIRISTAN TO WASHINGTON, D.C. One year after their tragic loss, the Rehman family shared their heartbreaking stories at a U.S. Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., in October 2013. The hearing was called by U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, and was facilitated by Brave New Foundation’s Robert Greenwald and Reprieve lawyers Jennifer Gibson and Shezad Akbar. Akbar, director of the Pakistan-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights, was refused an American visa and could not attend.


THE HEARING, WHICH WAS STREAMED ONLINE, WAS THE FIRST OPPORTUNITY FOR DRONE STRIKE VICTIMS TO SHARE THEIR CONCERNS WITH AMERICAN ELECTED OFFICIALS. OF 535 CONGRESS MEMBERS, ONLY FIVE SHOWED UP AT THE HEARING. The hearing, which was streamed online, was the first opportunity for drone strike victims to share their concerns with American elected officials. Of 535 Congress members, only five showed up at the hearing.


THE REHMAN FAMILY SPEAKS At the hearing, Rafiq and two of his four children, Nabila and Zubair, shared their sadness, confusion, anger, and the challenges they have experienced over the past year. “Unfortunately, we’re all poor people and we don’t have the opportunity to share our stories. And even if we did, it’s not as if many people want to hear it,” Rafiq lamented. Rafiq comes from a family of educators.

He and his brothers are teachers and their father is a retired principal. His life was one of simplicity, where he taught, tended to his fields and animals, and aimed to live in peace and educate his children. Now, he is in debt because of his children’s medical bills. Rafiq’s translator broke down in tears when he asked, “Congressman Grayson, as a teacher, my job is to educate. But how do I teach something like this? How can I, in good faith, reassure the children that the drones will not come back and kill them too, if I do not understand why they killed my mother and injured my children?” Rafiq’s son, Zubair, described spending Eid in the hospital. His first surgery was unsuccessful as removing the shrapnel in his leg required specialized surgery in Islamabad. It took his father several months to borrow enough money from friends and neighbors to fund the costly procedure. “We have had to borrow money and sell land to pay for the children’s medical treatment,” Rafiq said. “There has been no compensation to help with these bills.” Zubair told Grayson, “I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey. And for a short period of time, the mental tension and fear eases. I wish (Americans) could understand how I and other children in my community see drones.”

PTI Chairman Imran Khan explaining Pakistan's stance against drones to NATO ambassadors Dec. 5, 2013 at the Greek embassy in Islamabad.



Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, reported that as of September 2012, President Obama had “already authorized 283 strikes in Pakistan, six times more than the number during President George W. Bush’s eight years in office.” Initiated by Bush in 2004, drone strikes are tacitly supported by the present and past Pakistani governments; for instance Michael Hirsh, writing in the “National Journal” Oct. 23, 2013, quoted an unidentified Pakistani official that the then president Gen. Pervez Musharraf had permitted drone attacks, and this understanding has not been renegotiated by the two successive Pakistani governments. Ironically, these illegal attacks are lauded by Pakistani secularists and liberals. Only Imran Khan, founder and chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI; Pakistan Justice Movement) who appears in Greenwald’s documentary, “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars,” has been condemning the strikes since they started because these are catalysts of terrorism in Pakistan. PTI won the second largest number of votes in the 2013 elections. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian groups also have called for an end to drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, reporting high numbers of civilian casualties and psychological trauma. Greenwald’s powerful and timely documentary addresses these concerns. Grayson calls the documentary “essential viewing for every American with a conscience.” “I ask everyone to watch the full documentary and ask the pressing questions that will come to mind. And that’s why we’re here today,” he added. Grayson declared at the hearing, “American drone policy is wrong. It is dead wrong.” He cited statistics that 10 percent to 30

percent of drone attack victims are innocents. “There is no acceptable collateral damage,” he added. Grayson and others especially criticized the Obama administration’s “signature strikes.” Signature strikes target anyone deemed suspicious “based on guesses — no jury, no judge, no trial, no defense, but because they’re sitting in a certain pattern, because they’re in a certain place or if they’re critical of U.S. drone policy,” he said. These individuals, regardless of proof, often are labeled as terrorists or militants by the government and media. After Rafiq’s mother was killed, he was frustrated when “the media reported that three, four, five militants were killed, but only one person was killed that day — Mamana Bibi — a grandmother, a midwife, a mother who was preparing to celebrate the Islamic holiday of Eid. Not a militant, but my mother.”



Zubair described how the village children always played outside, enjoying a game of cricket or football. But now their fear keeps them indoors. Children also have stopped going to the few schools that exist, which he says, “is a big problem as what everyone really wants and needs is education. But education isn’t possible as long as the drones circle overhead.” Nabila, a shy nine-year-old, spoke only briefly, yet the pain in her striking hazel eyes was evident and she cried several times throughout the hearing. She recalled how after she heard the missiles hit, “everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream.” “I don’t know if it was my grandmother but I couldn’t see her,” she said. “I was very scared but all I could do was run. I looked at my hand and there was blood. I tried to bandage my hand but the blood kept coming. The blood wouldn’t stop.” Rafiq powerfully ended his statement with the following words: “My mother is not the first innocent victim of U.S. drones. Numerous families living in my community and the surrounding area have also lost loved ones, including women and children. Dozens of people in my own tribe that I know are merely ordinary tribesmen have been killed. They have suffered just as I have. I wish they had such an opportunity as well to come tell their story. Until they can, I speak on their behalf as well: drones are not the answer. In the end, I would just like to ask the American public to treat us as equals. Make sure that your govern48

ment gives us the same status as a human with basic rights as they do to their own citizens. We do not kill our cattle the way the U.S. is killing humans in Waziristan with drones. This indiscriminate killing has to end and justice must be delivered to those who have suffered at the hands of unjust. Thank you.”

A MESSAGE FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA Rafiq said during his short visit he noticed that Americans live peacefully. “It’s a nice life, everyone enjoys being with each other and no one lives in fear,” he said. “And my hopes and dreams are that my children too can live in a similar environment in North Waziristan. I dream that my children will complete their education and will help rebuild Pakistan, a country that will be guided by humanity and peaceful means. And I think this is something

that both the Pakistani government and the American government need to work together to achieve.” Zubair added, “I hope that I can return home with a message. I hope I can tell my community that America listened. That America is not just drones that terrorize us from above, but a country that listens and is trying to help us solve the many problems that we face. And maybe, just maybe, America may soon stop the drones.” After all they have been through, Rafiq and his children expressed their hopes that one day they, and all others living under U.S. drones, can once again enjoy clear blue skies and a life without fear — blessings that so many take for granted. 

Aruba Mahmud is a freelance writer currently pursuing a doctorate in education at Western University in London in the province of Ontario, Canada. (NOTE: The author has based the article on the transcript of the testimony available online.)

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Photoblogging Women’s Experiences in Mosques BY SARAH SAYEED


he spiritual cohesion of Muslim communities is symbiotically linked with thriving and vibrant mosques, where people become rooted in their faith and develop ties that bind them into a community. Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) taught through example about building an inclusive mosque space that shunned no one and nurtured everyone. In a November 2013 survey of mosque leaders affiliated with ISNA and NAIT, more than 60 percent of the sample identified as their number one priority the work of building an inclusive mosque. Chicagoan Hind Makki shares their sense of priority, and her blog “Side Entrance” draws attention to the ways in which women in particular feel included and excluded in mosques. Makki was “propelled to start the blog in Ramadan 2012,” after one of her

friends during summertime Taraweeh prayers, finding her mosque’s basement to be hot, loud and moldy, attempted to pray on the upper floor behind the male congregants, as is the sunnah of the Prophet, and was “berated and nearly kicked her out of the mosque.” This experience is not unique. Makki’s blog exposes women’s experiences of exclusion, raises community awareness and promotes change. Her “crowdsourced” blog allows individuals to post photographs of their mosque spaces. Makki said people take pictures to document their everyday experiences, and she uses this cultural trend to “catalyze the conversation on women’s spaces.” Rather than posting her own individual thoughts and photographs, Makki’s format enables participants to document their unique experiences of prayer spaces, which varies from mosque to mosque. Some mosques have no prayer space allocated for women, while others may have separate rooms for


Hind Makki



Can Muslim Americans learn from experience, create more women-friendly mosques?

women or a prayer area shared with male congregants. The photographs do not show one type of space, but a range of practices across the United States and other countries. Makki acknowledges her purpose may be misunderstood by community members or mosque leaders, some of whom have claimed that she is “airing dirty laundry and giving Islamophobes more fodder for their hate.” However, she said her goal is not to “shame mosque leaders,” but rather to give community members and leaders a visual tool to describe their space and share ideas on solutions. While most of the photographs submitted offer the views of typically younger, second and third generation Muslims, she wants her blog to “reach the ears of mosque and community leaders, who have the capacity to change reality on the ground.” Critics argue that mosques are obligated to provide space for men since it is required for them to attend Friday congregational



Islamic Center of North Hollywood

prayers. Women do not have the same obligation. “People often look to religious communities to satisfy a primordial need for belonging,” Makki responded. “In the West, and especially in North America, the mosque is a glue that holds us together, teaching Muslims about Islam, providing a space for Muslims to be in community with one another. Regardless of whether it’s obligatory or not for women to attend mosques, the reality on the ground is that the mosque is often the only place a North American Muslim woman can deepen her understanding of her faith and be with other Muslims for religious purposes.” Makki added that she has received tremendous support for her blog from male members of the Muslim community. “Many of them were shocked and dismayed that the spaces their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are forced to pray in are often subpar and lead to a mosque experience that is dramatically different — and

markedly less pleasant — than the male mosque experience,” she said. “If more brothers could see some of the spaces that women are forced to pray in, the more they would collaborate with us to develop women-valuing, inclusive mosques.” “Side Entrance” received the 2013 Brass Crescent award for “Best Female Blogger.” Makki plans to work with like-minded

individuals and organizations and contribute to building mosques that value all community members. She hopes that in two years a majority of the photos submitted “are of beautiful and utilitarian spaces for women.” 

Sarah Sayeed, Ph.D., is a board member of Women in Islam, Inc., a New York City-based organization involved in education and advocacy for mosque spaces that value women.

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Are there barriers to public expression for Muslim women?

Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti



SNA’s 50th Convention, held Aug. 30-Sept. 2, was the venue for the groundbreaking Quran recitation by ustadha Tahera Ahmad, associate university chaplain at Northwestern University.

Ahmad became the first woman to recite the Quran at such a public and diverse Muslim event in America. Although initially well-received by most Muslims, many also criticized the move. Some Muslims even called it haram (prohibited) by Islam and a poor choice for ISNA to open the convention with a female recitation of the Holy Book. Twitter and Facebook were ablaze with both praise and criticism. Some critics were unabashedly harsh. “Most Muslims simply want to know whether female recitation amid non-mahram men is permitted and the legal reasoning from our tradition, which either supports or negates the practice,” Ahmad explained. “The concern of textual authenticity for one’s spiritual path is indeed praiseworthy and perhaps even necessary for the faithful practice of the tradition. However some Muslims actually view the public recitation of the Quran as something that God has only ‘deemed fit for men.’” Shaykh Hamzah Wald Maqbul, assistant director of Darul Qasim, the Glen Ellyn, Ill.based Institute of Higher Islamic Learning and Research, in his blog said according to his research, the Maliki school of thought prohibits men from listening to an unrelated woman’s voice, if it will cause a fitna (mis-


guidance). Similarly, a woman is prohibited from unnecessarily speaking in front of a man, if she feels that it will cause fitna. “The opening recitation of the Quran for an ISNA session is not such a need,” he said. “And given that the young lady in question (whom I have met in the past) is almost surely to have caused some impropriety by having recited in front of a mixed gathering, I am not terribly excited about what happened.” While restraining from harsh criticism of Ahmad, he added, “All of the ulema [scholars] I’ve ever studied with would be mortified by the prospect of a young woman reciting in a mixed gathering. And that fear is not based on bigoted patriarchy, but on the firm principles established by the Sunnah.” Yet, not all scholars agree with this perspective. “Many young Muslims in America are trying to accommodate their Islamic identity with their American identity,” said Khaled Abou El Fadl, professor of Islamic Law at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law. Many people refer to the Quranic verse (33:32), in which God Almighty instructs the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) to soften their speech when speaking to men, lest the

Kifah Mustapha

weak hearted become full of desire. This is often cited to support their opposition to the recitation of Quran by a woman (and even speaking) in public. However, Abou El Fadl explained that this verse does not prohibit women from speech, but asks them to be mindful of the content of speech. “There is no pre-modern jurist that forbade women from reciting Quran, saying adhan or leading dhikr,” he added. Some countries, such as Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt are known for female Quran reciters and women who sing nashid or Islamic songs. “If we shut women out, Islam wouldn’t be what it is today. Women played a huge role (in the history) of Islam,” Abou El Fadl said. Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti, the mufti of Washington, D.C., and Virginia and a classically trained scholar of Islamic law, said that the Hanbali school of thought — one of the strictest schools of thought — allows women to lead men in non-mandatory prayers such as taraweeh prayer. “If a woman can lead taraweeh, how can they say it is not allowed for her to read Quran,” Al-Hanooti asserted. The controversy, perhaps, did not arise because of the conflicting opinions in Islamic law, but rather because of a greater cultural and political concern.


Abdul-Malik Ryan

Mariam Sobh

“The majority opinions of sheikhs are dominated by culture,” Al-Hanooti explained. Abou El Fadl, agreed with Al-Hanooti. “Many people (in the West) have anxiety about losing their identities, so they become guardians of righteousness. There is a tendency to make culture sacred and project it onto religion,” he said. Perhaps the more contentious issue is not a woman reciting Quran in public, but rather that she is doing it at an Islamic venue. “The issue we have as minorities in the West is that we kind of live a schizophrenic lifestyle,” said Abdul-Malik Ryan, the Muslim chaplain at DePaul University in Chicago. Many Muslims often are okay with female entertainment, speaking freely with females in a work environment, or having a non-Muslim woman speak or address mixed crowds in an Islamic environment, but the rules and norms change when they are applied to Muslim women in a Muslim setting. “It is interesting that several college and university Muslim Students’ Associations and Muslim institutions will invite a nonHijabi to speak on stage, but will resist female recitation of the Quran in public because it crosses over into the notion of ibaadaat or acts of worship. Thus, the decision is often to

go with the option of avoidance as to maintain the status quo,” Ahmad said. Ryan said this perhaps illustrates a double standard that exists in what is still a burgeoning community, which could be a disadvantage for many young Muslims growing up in the West. “I think sometimes we would rather just have male reciters or speakers or male performers because this is ‘safer’ and avoids the chance of fitna,” Ryan said. “One problem with this approach is that it does not take into account the possible harms of having male performers. First, there is harm to Muslim women when they cannot see people like themselves in positions to which the community attaches value and respect. This can be addressed partially, but only partially, by creating more environments where women are in front of other women. There are also harms in the extent to which men lose out by not being exposed to the particular gifts that Muslim women can bring to these roles.” According to Zahra Billoo, the executive director of CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area, between 9.5 percent and 12.5 percent of speakers at most Islamic conferences and conventions are female. “This is a self-perpetuating problem,” Billoo said. “Muslim women and girls have no access to mentors.” Billoo started a database of female Muslim speakers. The database is an open Google document that people nationwide can add to and reference when planning events and conferences. Although contact information isn’t visible (event coordinators must contact Billoo directly), the speaker’s name and field of expertise are clear. Billoo doesn’t endorse any particular speaker or organization on the list, but rather just manages the logistics of the document and leaves it up to people to choose speakers at their own discretion. Another budding area of performance for Muslim women in America is singing. But this also has been met with caution and criticism from the community. There is an assumption among Muslims that it is not permissible for women to sing in public. And although some scholars have reasoning based on practical and viable concerns for society, the textual and historical evidence conflicts with this point of view, according to some community leaders. “I lean toward the permissibility for females with the condition that the content must be of righteousness and the environment must be safe ethically,” said Sheikh Kifah


Mustapha, imam and associate director of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Ill. “The Prophet did hear females sing regular songs in his house. The hadith is in both Bukhari and Muslim. In the hadith, even when Abu Bakr (Radi Allahu ’anhu) tried to stop them, feeling that it is improper, the Prophet stopped him and said ‘O Abu Bakr, let go. Every nation has a holiday and this is our holiday.’” Mariam Sobh, a news anchor for WBEZ Chicago Public Radio and the creator of the popular Hijab Trendz website, has been singing and songwriting since childhood. She describes having received mixed reactions from people, particularly when approaching Muslim record labels. She has been asked several times why she doesn’t just sing for women. Sobh expressed her frustration with Muslims taking issue with women singing in public but having no problem promoting young male singers for primarily young female audiences. “I wish there was a space for women. It doesn’t make sense that we (women) would isolate ourselves,” Sobh said. “Why don’t men just sing for men?” Shaz Kaiseruddin, a human rights lawyer originally from Wilmette, Ill., who is pursuing a singing career full time hopes to inspire others and “serve all of humanity” with her musical talent. Sobh and Kaiseruddin are now recording and finding their voices in the mainstream, and not limiting themselves to just the Muslim entertainment scene. “I am using music to promote justice and build bridges,” Kaiseruddin said. “There is no reason to just share this with one gender over others. It’s a universal message.” 

Leen Jaber is a writer and musician from Chicago.


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University Halal Food Service Easy, Profitable Muslims on American campuses can find halal food services with little effort SUSAN LABADI


Future trends indicate that the halal food market is the place to be, as the estimated 1.6 billion global Muslim population, as of 2011, is expected to grow to 2.2 billion by 2030. That means 26.4 percent of the world population is expected to be Muslim by then, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life (http://www.pewforum. org/2011/01/27/the-future-of-the-globalmuslim-population/). With so many Muslims regularly eating halal, and many of the associated ethnic cuisines appealing to the national palate (think hummus and biryani), many food service companies are starting to take notice of this trend. Therefore, campuses are ripe for inclusion in this market. Additionally, housing, food, and education are top ranked categories of expenditures for Muslim American households. It would seem appropriate that many universi-


ties offer halal foods to their students, but survey results from a recent American Halal Association (AHA) study ( show many universities still do not. Offering halal food could attract more students, improve customer service for health conscious and observant students, and ultimately create new revenue streams for universities. Even to the general public, top-notch, halal producers are perceived as being healthy, hygienic, humane, and of high quality http://www.foodsafetynews. com/2012/10/halal-more-than-a-niche/#. UpvzVcRDvtU. Food service professionals in several market segments, and now universities can work collaboratively with students and organizations that have had previous success.

HALAL FOOD SERVICE SURVEY The AHA study found 70 percent of those universities/colleges surveyed did not serve


ccording to DinarStandard’s American Muslim Market 2011 Study ( american-market-2011-aha/), 88 percent of Muslim families purchase halal food products for home use, and the market value estimate is at least $13 billion.

The Union Commons is the only place on campus where halal food is prepared and offered.

halal food. Students were interested in both entrees and snacks, and 94 percent indicated that they were “moderately” or “very interested” in having halal food service. Of ethnic preferences, an equal number favored American and Middle Eastern cuisine, with



a relatively close request for South Asian. Not as popular were the options for Chinese and Latino entrees. MSA chapter presidents were asked about the perception of their universities’ administration welcoming halal selections. The

results show 97 percent of MSA presidents were open to the prospect. Of these, 82 percent indicated their chapters had at least 16 members. Of those responding, 96 percent expressed they were willing to work toward helping their institution’s food service, if they were asked to assist.

meat byproducts such as animal rennet in cheeses or animal-based broths in foods. • Avoid cross-contamination in preparation, cooking, serving, and on utensil surfaces. • Train staff in what constitutes halal and proper cooking and handling.



Make a Halal Team: Know your landscape. Initiate a preliminary survey for your campus to justify that medical and religious dietary options are warranted. And assert your rights as a paying customer. In 1999, a student at a Virginia university successfully argued that being officially mandated to live in a dorm, he paid for food like anyone else and deserved food that he could eat. If other special options are currently available, Muslims have justifiable grounds to expect similar compliance. What food and cuisine preferences exist in your institution? Plan to have answers to these questions when meeting with food service directors and chefs. Suggest a trial run to initiate and test the diners’ for their feedback. Everyone gets excited about new menu items. Know if your foodservice is outsourced. Many institutions use companies like Aramark or Sodexo. Often these companies can easily source from larger distributors that feature halal certified products such as Sysco, U.S. Foods, and Reinhart.

There are several manuals that students and foodservice professionals can reference for assistance, and they’re all free. • MSA National, “How to Achieve Halal Food on Campus” campus_guides/halal_on_campus.pdf • IFANCA, “Halal Food Service Kit” detail/4f2ad4c0-faac-4f77-b1ab68a0adcb6390 • ( https://www. aspx

WHAT IS HALAL? With these preliminaries accomplished, you can initiate dialogue with everyone and present the simple explanation of halal with the following: • Halal merely means that something is permissible. Halal foods are natural, whole foods, or certified halal meat, poultry, and processed foods. Since grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables are already halal, the list of specially purchased items is small. • No alcohol is used in cooking or as part of a recipe ingredient (extracts, wines). • No pork or pork byproducts (bacon, ham, gelatin); nor any non-halal meat or


ALWAYS FOLLOW THROUGH Failure is not an option because a lack of leadership can stymie a second attempt. However, do not be discouraged if there is initial resistance, just retrench and fortify your case. Several respondents in the AHA survey gave heartwarming anecdotes about how they had to live on canned fish in college, and that they would have truly favored having halal food as undergrads. Any initiative likely has a few hurdles and the effect can fly or flop, depending on whether the halal team sustains the campaign going forward. Keep up on promotion with press releases, informative presentations, indoctrinating the new leadership on campus, and have scheduled meetings with food service management and administration. Consider having students vote for their favorite menu, and try to make life easier for the people who provide service. 

Susan Labadi is project coordinator of the American Halal Association, president of Genius School, Inc., and VP of ActionNet Trade, Inc.




uslims living in Muzaffarnagar have been victims of violence since Aug. 27, 2013. Muzaffarnagar, in Uttar Pradesh state, is located 75 miles northeast of New Delhi, and about 125 miles southeast of the Haryana state capital, Chandigarh. Hindu-Muslims riots have left more than 50,000 people displaced and homeless. Current riots started due to several factors; the politics of hate in the state and a fight that broke out between two Jat youth that left both of them dead — one being a Muslim. The Jat traditionally are non-elite tillers and herders in Northern India and Pakistan. Before the riots took place, the Jats and Muslims lived alongside in peace and harmony. However, things soured because of political unrest and a fake video posted online by the ultra-right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party; abbreviated BJP) showing the two youth being beaten up brutally.

The California-based Indian Muslim Relief & Charities (IMRC; www.imrcusa. org/) swung into action and now its relief teams are helping the displaced and forcibly evicted people.

INTENSITY OF RIOTS The riots have affected more than 250 villages. Muslims, employed by the Jats on their farms and homes, have been left unemployed and unable to support their families. Muslim-owned shops also have been torched. The two groups suffering the most are children and women, specifically young women. Traumatized by the riots and the violence happening around them, the children do not eat for days. Young girls are raped and then burned alive and women are being harassed. Vaseela, a mother from Laakh village, shared a horrifying story about her daughter being brutally raped by a four-man gang and then burnt alive, as the family was flee-

ing their village to escape the violence. The family filed a police report about the incident, but no action has been taken. Many such cases and incidents occur daily, but many victims are too afraid to come forward to seek government help.

WHAT IMRC HAS DONE Within three days of the riots, IMRC distributed food, hygiene kits, and warm bedding to thousands of victims. IMRC visited the camps to get an overview of the situation. After four weeks of riots, an assistance team visited the camp to assess needs. The victims are the poorest of the poor. IMRC’s team has undertaken legal work and rehabilitation for these victims. Both of these tasks require huge resources. Based on past experiences, it takes time for legal work and rehabilitation in India to take action. IMRC has published a white paper on the riots. Besides providing bedding for the winter, IMRC is starting self-employment projects (such as tailoring, weaving, and small businesses), providing legal assistance, and building houses/shelters. 

Maryam Ibrahim Biangoro is a IMRC office assistant

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Nohad Toulan and Dirce Toulan Legacies of Service


ohad A. Toulan, 81, a renowned urban planning expert and founder and emeritus dean of Portland State University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning, died Oct. 28, 2013, in a traffic accident along with his wife, Dirce Angelina Moroni Toulan, 78, as they waited at a stop sign outside Punta del Este, Uruguay. Toulan and his wife were key figures in Portland’s modern urban development, City Commissioner Nick Fish told The Oregonian in an Oct. 29 article. Their bodies were brought home for burial. PSU hosted a public memorial in their honor on Nov. 19, 2013. Toulan pioneered urban planning in his native Egypt, in Cairo, and Mecca, Saudi Arabia, before settling in Portland in 1972. Under his 30-year leadership, the college garnered international prominence as one of the country’s most comprehensive public service programs. The school of Urban Studies and Planning was renamed in his honor in 2005. Toulan retired as dean in 2004. Dirce Toulan was an architect, planner and former Fulbright Scholar who established an endowment to support College of Urban and Public Affairs’ library, and continued to contribute to it in subsequent years. She led the effort to support the College’s library, now named the Dirce Moroni Toulan Library, which was listed as one of the seven wonders of Portland State University. She was a founding and contributing member of the


American Research Center in Egypt, Oregon chapter, and served on its board as vice president from 2002-2010. Previous to the establishment of ARCE/Oregon, she was active with the Ancient Egypt Studies Association.    The news of their deaths spread on social media. Friends and supporters said Toulan set the gold standard for politics, infrastructure planning and government in Oregon and was a bridge builder who worked to build connections between Muslims and people of other faiths. “Dr. Nohad was a champion of the universal values that he believed all peoples and faiths shared, long before such ecumenism was popular,” said Wajdi Said, executive director of the Muslim Educational Trust. “Generations of Oregon governors, PSU students and presidents, professors, Arab Americans, and Muslims benefited from his insight and wisdom. It is very hard to imagine the American Muslim and Arab communities and Portland without Dr. Nohad and Dirce Toulan. Both were and will continue to be the pride of the Muslim community in Oregon.”

According to his profile on Portland State University’s website, Toulan received his degree in architecture from the University of Cairo, his masters in city planning from University of California at Berkeley and his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. He became the first planning director of the Greater Cairo region in 1965, and came to PSU from Columbia University in New York in 1972. He took a 20-month leave of absence from Portland State (1984-85) to prepare a comprehensive regional plan for the city of Mecca. Toulan also served as an advisor to the United Nations Development Program and to local and foreign governments on development issues. Credited with helping to draft Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary in 1977, Toulan played a central role in the planning and building of PSU’s Urban Center, a $33 million multi-use building with academic, retail and office space completed in 2000. “Few represent the ideal of Portland State University more than Dean Toulan,” PSU President Wim Wiewel said. “He was a visionary whose work has shaped metro Portland and cities around the world.” On Oct. 30, acting City Commissioner Amanda Fritz declared a moment of silence to open that day’s council meeting. The city council honored the couple’s memory at the start of the session and the City of Portland flag was lowered to half-staff. The couple is survived by children, Mariam and Omar. 

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Thomas Jefferson’s Quran: Islam and the Founders

The Epistle on Legal Theory Imam al-Shafi’i (Author), Joseph E. Lowry (Trans.) 2013. Pp. 544. HB. $40.00 Library of Arabic Literature* New York University Press, New York, N.Y. Joseph Lowry, associate professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading scholar in the Shafi’i school of thought, offers a new translation of Imam alShafi’i’s Risalah. The Epistle on Legal Theory represents one of the earliest complete works on Islamic law, one that is centrally important for the formulation of Islamic legal thought and Islamic legal tradition.

Denise A. Spellberg 2013. pp. 392. HB. $27.95 Knopf, New York, N.Y.


he burden of proof that the Founders wanted an inclusive society fell upon Minnesota congressmanelect Keith Ellison, who in a 2007 photo-op reenactment of his oathtaking used the English translation of the Qur’an that Thomas Jefferson purchased in 1765. In 1765, it would be 11 years before the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Spellberg relates that while Jefferson held little or no respect for Catholicism, Islam, or Judaism, he recognized that the adherents of Islam should have the same rights as those of other faiths; even though they were unsure if there were any Muslims in America. Instead they set to chart an inclusive future — a setback to those who sought a Protestant nation. Jefferson pursued a lifelong interest in the study of Islam. Ironically, however, the translation that Jefferson could obtain then was the work of George Sale, who did not accept that Prophet Muhammad (Salla Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam) was divinely ordained. Thus, he thought him unequal to prophets Moses and Jesus (’alayhimus Salam), and considered him merely “the legislator of the Arabs.” Perhaps, the lawyer in Jefferson prompted the translation’s purchase. Spellberg’s highly-researched book is more importantly a focus on the early key lawmaker’s interest in ensuring religious tolerance to the fullest extent. While her book was not there when U.S. Rep. Ellison was facing harsh criticism for his choice, it comes at a time when prejudice against Islam and Muslims continues to rise. This book should serve as a eye-opener for those who violently protest that America is a onereligion state. 

PRESERVING LEGACY God Is Beautiful and Loves Beauty: The Object in Islamic Art and Culture Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom (eds.) 2013. Pp. 406 + 400 color + 20 b/w illus. HB. $75.00. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.


his book examines a dozen exquisite objects at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, where 12 prominent scholars reflect on works representing various centers of Islamic life, from early Spain to 17th-century India, as well as a range of media including textiles, ceramics, metalwork, and miniature paintings. Accompanying texts put the objects into context, exploring the relationships to those people who produced and lived among them. The Islamic world, spanning centuries and far-flung regions, is renowned for its diverse cultural and artistic traditions. The essays in this volume are based on papers delivered at the Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art and Culture held in Doha in 2011. Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair, a husband-and-wife scholarly duo, jointly hold the Hamad bin Khalifa Endowed Chair of Islamic Art at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Norma Jean Calderwood University Professorship in Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College. Architectural critic Paul Goldberger, who discusses the museum, which was designed by the prominent architect I.M. Pei and opened in 2008, notes the architect who knew nothing about Islam then, set about his learning by reading the Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ’alayhi wa sallam). 


A Treasury of Virtues: Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of Ali Al-Qadi al-Qudai (Compiler) Tahera Qutbuddin (Ed. & Trans.) 2013. Pp. 310. HB. $35.00 Library of Arabic Literature* New York University Press, New York, N.Y. Tahera Qutbuddin, associate professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Chicago, translates a collection by the Fatimid Shafi’i judge al-Quda’i (d. 454 H/1062 CE) of sayings, sermons, and teachings attributed to ’Ali ibn Abi Talib (Radi Allahu anhu). Ali is an acknowledged master of Arabic eloquence and a sage of Islamic wisdom. While several versions of the text exist, Qutbuddin is primarily using the Istanbul text. The volume includes “One Hundred Proverbs” attributed to the eminent writer al-Jahiz (d. 255 H/869 CE). *Supported by a grant from the New York University Abu Dhabi Institute, and established in partnership with NYU Press, the Library of Arabic Literature publishes key edited and translated works of classical and pre-modern Arabic literature in parallel-text format.

Dispatches from the Arab Spring: Understanding the New Middle East Paul Amar, Vijay Prashad (Eds) 2013. Pp. 384. HB $69.00. PB $22.95 University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minn. Professors Paul Amar and Vijay Prashad have assembled a group of activists, scholars, journalists, and policy experts to compile an analysis of the ongoing Arab spring that they say is misinterpreted in the West. Instead of basing their thesis on the view that Arab culture is unfit for democracy, they provide insights drawing from social history, political geography, cultural creativity, and global power politics. Ashes of Hama: The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria Hardcover Raphael Lefevre 2013. Pp. 288. HB. $29.95 Oxford University Press, USA The flavor of times offered by unpopular regimes and their defenders is to blame “Islamists” (read The Muslim Brotherhood and other “jihadists”). However, not much literature exists about the Syrian Islamic movements. Raphael Lefevre offers a comprehensive account of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s history to date, and its 55-year bitter history of struggle with the Assad regimes [Hafez and now Bashar]. This well-researched book leads through the development of the Syrian MB, its trials and tribulations under the Baath dictatorship, which shows the accommodative stance of the founders such as their support for “Islamic socialism” versus communism. Lefevre dwells upon how French colonialist machinations have affected the decades of turmoil. 



Rocks in the Sand The delineation of priorities is crucial to success in life's endeavors. BY IMAM MOHAMED MAGID WITH SAMUEL ROSS Wisdom #194: “A sign of compliance with capricious whim is haste in nonobligatory good deeds and sluggishness in fulfilling obligations”. (Ibn, ‘Atā’ A. A. M, Victor Danner, W M. Thackston, and al-Harawī A. A. M. Ansārī. The Book of Wisdom. New York: Paulist Press, 1978).


n this aphorism, the great spiritual master, Ibn ’Ata Allah, explores why we sometimes busy ourselves with low priority religious activities while neglecting higher priority obligations. We might for example expend great energy on Muslim community projects while failing to always pray on time, or focus on memorizing more of the Quran while our hearts suffer from spiritual diseases. When we do so, it is invariably for one of two reasons: either our ignorance of what is more pleasing to God, or our lower selves’ capricious inclination toward what is of lesser importance, in spite of our knowledge to the contrary. Here Ibn ’Ata Allah does not address the possibility of ignorance, though it certainly is real. Perhaps he assumed that his readers, being well-educated in Islam, would have known what was most pleasing to God. For us, however, far from the lofty spiritual circles of 13th-century Cairo, where he lived, it is worth reviewing the methodology of discerning the high priority from the low priority in our spiritual lives. The first place to begin discerning God’s priorities for our lives is with the insights of the scholars of Islamic law and the heart. They categorized human actions and character traits into the five-fold classifications


of obligatory, recommended, neutral, disliked, and prohibited. One common misconception, however, is that there are only five grades. In fact, scholars observed that they occupy an infinitely graded spectrum, with the aforementioned categories merely a convenient shorthand. Thus, there are actions that are strongly recommended and lightly recommended, strongly disliked and slightly disliked, and everything in between. They also sought to guide us in our decisions by carefully evaluating the relative emphasis of the Quranic verses and hadiths that discuss them. How frequently did God in the Quran, or the Prophet in the hadith emphasize something? What type of language was used to describe them? If the Prophet mentioned the reward for something, how does it compare with the reward for doing something else? Similarly, if a punishment was mentioned, how severe was the punishment? From reliable scholars, their classes, and books, we can learn the relative value of spiritual goals competing for our time and energy. Next, there are several general principles we can use to help us evaluate the priority of what we do: (1)  Belief in God and His Messenger is the most precious thing we have. If we have any hesitations about either, we should

take the first opportunity to address them through speaking with scholars we trust, counseling, study, and prayer. (2)  Obligatory worship should never be left for what is merely recommended. The five daily prayers should thus never be delayed past their time to avoid disrupting a meeting or class, or to spend time with a friend/co-worker. While it is true that work, study, and socializing done for the sake of God can themselves be worship, none are as high a priority as the obligatory prayer. (3)  The Prophet said, “Your body has a right over you…and your wife has a right over you” (Bukhari, Vol. 7, Book 62, Hadith 127). When we fail to fulfill the rights of others, we are oppressors. Extra activities and projects should thus never come at the expense of our families’ rights or damage our physical health. While many people can help the community, we are often the ones who can directly help our family members. Only we can give our bodies the exercise, nutrition, and sleep they need. A useful test of our sincerity to God is our willingness to drop everything to ensure the rights He has ordained are fulfilled. If we discovered that our family was suffering, would we be willing to drop our non-obligatory activities for them? (4)  The people most deserving of our kind treatment are those closest to us: our parents, spouses, and children. Do we sometimes interact more patiently, politely or forgivingly with coworkers and strangers than with our own family members? If so, we have our priorities backwards. Our families deserve our kindest treatment. (5)  Wealth is useful, but our relationship with God and our families is far more important. If our pursuit of a career or money is distracting us from worship or harming


our parents, spouses or children, we have misprioritized our time. (6)  The Prophet taught, narrated by Aisha (radi Allahu anha), “The most beloved deeds to God are the ones that are continuous, even if they are few” (Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 471; and Muslim). It is thus better to continue doing something beneficial, if God has previously made it one’s habit, rather than leaving it in pursuit of a new and different recommended action. (7)  Paying off debts incurred to other human beings and to God in the form of missed prayers, fasts, and zakat should always take priority for our time and resources. It is inappropriate to give voluntary charity when we owe someone money and haven’t agreed upon a plan to repay it. Similarly, we should focus on making up missed worship rather than making extra voluntary worship. In thinking about our priorities, an important caveat is that we should always be wary of false choices. Sometimes it can feel like we don’t have time for everything; that we only have time to work or to pray, to spend time with our families or to exercise,


Please help “Food for the Spirit” better meet your needs by completing a 2-minute survey at: etc. In reality, our lives are frequently full of misused time and inefficient work due to interruptions and distractions. In such situations, what we need is not a “to-do list”, but a “not-do list” — a list of unimportant tasks and habits to remove from our daily lives and to minimize distractions so that we can work more efficiently. Through economizing our day we can create room to accomplish everything for which God will hold us accountable. Another strategy for ensuring that we accomplish all that we need to do is to schedule our most important priorities as if they were appointments in our calendar. A frequently used metaphor in business is that of filling a cup with rocks and sand. If the sand is added first, the rocks will inevitably pile up on top and not fit in the cup. But if the rocks are put in first, the sand will fill in the gaps around the rocks so that both can fit. So too in our lives we should strive to give


first priority to the “rocks” — the rights of others and the obligations that God has placed upon us. We can then accomplish lower priority items in the gaps we find over the course of the day. Another useful strategy is to schedule time for items that are important but not urgent. Many goals that relate to our spiritual lives are important but not urgent: reading the Quran, getting exercise, spending a special evening with our spouses and children, taking an Islamic class, etc. Such things are rarely urgent; they can always be postponed. But if we keep on delaying them to make room for lower priority items, we will find that another day has gone by without us reading the Quran, another week without having exercised or spent quality time with our spouses, another year without having progressed in our knowledge of Islam. Wisdom, so the sages say, is knowing what action is best in each situation. May God grant us the wisdom to spend our time always occupied with that which is most beloved to Him, for “He to whom wisdom is granted has surely been given a tremendous good” (Quran 2:269). Ameen. 


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Islamic Horizons Jan/Feb 14  
Islamic Horizons Jan/Feb 14