July/August 2011/1432 | $4.00 | www.isna.net
Muslims Without Borders • Egypt's Revolutionary Graffiti
Faith communities unite against rising anti-Muslim bigotry
Vol. 40 No. 4 July/August 2011 visit isna online at: www.isna.net
Cover Story 26 Standing
Interfaith leaders speak out and organize against anti-Muslim bigotry, and vow to promote religious liberty.
29 Congress Stands Up For Muslims
26 Faith in Action 20 LA Clinic Expanding To Meet Local Needs 21 Group Helps Women Gain Independence 22 Muslims Without Borders: Empowering the Helpless
Society and Culture 32 Ensuring the Integrity of Halal Products from the Ground Up 34 A Very American Perspective 36 Three Authors, One Voice 38 Book-turned-movie Disappoints 39 When Muslims Play Football
Around the globe 40 42 46 50 51
Seeking Closure In Bosnia Farah Pandith: The Nation’s First Special Representative to Muslim Communities The Egyptian Revolution Told Through Street Graffiti Kashmir Deserves Immediate Attention Is India Shining?
Essays 52 Prayer, Earth and the Environment 54 The Prophet’s Speech
40 Departments 6 8 14 58 60
Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters Food for the Spirit Reviews
56 Hodari Abdul-Ali 56 Omar Ahmad DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Meha Ahmad. 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.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Faith Communities Show Unified Front
famous quote attributed to 21st century theologian Martin Niemöller, about the inaction of Germans when the increasingly powerful Nazis sought to eliminate certain groups, reads: “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” The American faith community has acted before there is no one left to speak. Responding to rising Islamophobia, leaders of faith communities heard ISNA’s call and, in fall 2010, joined to form the “Shoulder-toShoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values” campaign. The 26-member body spoke out on issues such as the anti-Muslim hysteria surrounding New York City’s proposed Park51 Islamic center, and the Pastor Terry Jones’ campaign to burn copies of the Quran. The faith leaders expressed their shared responsibility in protecting religious freedom for all Americans. A unified religious voice speaking out against anti-Muslim bigotry universalizes the issue to one of religious freedom. They declared: “Our freedom to worship in congregations of our own choosing, to give witness to our moral convictions in the public square, and to maintain institutions that carry out our respective missions—all of these are bedrock American freedoms that must be vigorously guarded and defended lest they be placed at peril.” Anti-Muslim bigotry will not end soon. In fact, the new election cycle will only add to it. We should not forget that in the last presidential election, conspiracy theorists and average Americans alike created a ruckus surrounding the possibility Obama might be a Muslim. Famously, Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.) — a Republican — spoke out at the 6
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRE SID ENT Mohamed Hagmagid Ali
time, saying, “But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-yearold Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ‘He’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.” There are many who would not let go and found ways to fan anti-Muslim hysteria. Just this spring, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the committee on Homeland Security, convened the first hearings on “the Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” Shoulder-to-Shoulder members responded by submitting a joint statement to the committee. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) responded by convening Senate hearings of his own." The campaign’s members continue to disseminate information about national campaign efforts to their local communities. However, Muslim Americans need to take a more proactive approach and become vigorously involved in educating their fellow Americans. The members’ commitment is evident as they have jointly funded a one-year campaign to work against anti-Muslim bigotry. However, the campaign needs to become a permanent institution because the detractors of Islam and Muslims have assumed that they can gain political benefits through exploiting and exacerbating Islamophobia. Little do they realize that spreading disease does not contribute to anyone’s welfare. The only resort for Muslim Americans is to do their own work so that all their fellow citizens not only get an accurate picture of Islam and Muslims, but also realize the harmful impact of Islamophobia on the nation. ISNA has provided the platform and it is up to Muslim Americans to join and support the effort.
SECRE TA RY GENER A L Safaa Zarzour ED IT O R
Omer Bin Abdullah A ssistant Editor Deanna Othman ED IT O RIA L A DVIS O RY B OA RD
Susan Douglass (Chair); Dr. Jimmy Jones; Dr. Sulayman Nyang; Dr. Ingrid Mattson. ISL A MI C H O RIZO NS
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ISNA Matters US-Islamic World Forum Offers Unexpected Openness
ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid and former ISNA President Dr. Ingrid Mattson participated in the eighth annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum held in Washington, D.C. on April 12-14, and hosted jointly by the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution and the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first such seminar to be held in the U.S., the event concluded with pragmatic but optimistic assessments of the evolving and improving state of relations between America and the Muslim world. This enabled greater participation by U.S. officials, policymakers, journalists, academics, religious leaders and entrepreneurs. In her keynote address, Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton promised deeper American involvement in resolving the IsraeliPalestinian dispute and congratulated young Arab world political activists for inducing a thaw in a “long Arab winter.” The forum was opened by Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who reviewed U.S. and the Islamic world relations. A poll released in conjunction with the Forum by the University of Maryland and Brookings found 57 percent of Americans support pro-democracy uprisings in the Arab world, even if they lead to regimes more apt to oppose U.S. policies. A majority of Americans also reject the view
Islamic Finance Training for Imams
The American Islamic Finance Project (AIF) conducted its first program in California, a three-day training on Islamic Finance for imams. AIF, a collaboration among many organizations, including 8
ISNA, underwritten by Guidance Financial, sponsors the imams and recruits experts from the Ethica Institute for Islamic Finance to provide the three-day curriculum. This program was free and was designed specifically to increase education and awareness of the viability of Islamic Finance in America. “This training is the first of many to come through AIF. The Muslim American community is finding it increasingly difficult to attend higher education or purchase
that violent conflict is inevitable between western and Muslim cultures. Representatives of more than 30 Muslim states attended the conference. The Forum brought together diplomats, business leaders, academics, religious leaders, and media figures in what is seen as the foremost international event dedicated to issues affecting U.S. and Muslim interests. Working groups and roundtables at the Forum addressed leadership development in the Muslim nonprofit sector, higher education reform in the Arab world, entrepreneurship and job creation, Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, and the role of youth in the Arab world upheaval. Closed-door working groups presented the results of their dialogue to the Forum. Martin Indyk, vice president and director of foreign policy for Brookings Institution, termed it a “success.” Among the speakers and participants were Qatar’s deputy foreign minister Mohammed Abdullah Mutib Al-Ruhaimi, Jordanian foreign minister Nasser Judeh, Sen. John Kerry (D-Penn), Farah Pandith, Rashad Hussain, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Meet the Press moderator David Gregory, CNN host Fareed Zakaria, and Margaret Warner from PBS’s Newshour. There was a larger number of Muslim participants at this year’s forum. ISNA was involved this year in recommending sessions and speakers.
homes in compliance with the principles of Islamic Finance or find credible information about the process itself. Imams work regularly with the community and therefore, were the perfect segment of the community to start our education programs,” said ISNA Secretary General Safaa Zarzour. The imams also visited the Zaytuna Institute in San Francisco and attended a special session with ISNA leaders to directly communicate the needs of their local communities with ISNA. ISNA has taken those needs to heart and will continue to work with the imams to develop tailored “ISNA Days” which bring leading professionals to local communities to build sustainability and support growth.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
ISNA Joins Anti-Torture Campaign
On April 8, ISNA’s Board of Advisers joined other faith groups, religious institutions, and people of faith in encouraging President Obama and the U.S. Senate to prevent torture everywhere by ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). This effort is led by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) that ISNA helped found in 2006. OPCAT, a UN treaty, requires signatories to create mechanisms to prevent torture from occurring in detention centers, police stations, mental health hospitals, and prisons. Fifty-seven nations have ratified OPCAT so far — unfortunately, the U.S. is not among them. Not only would OPCAT help protect U.S. prisoners from abuse, including the shackling of women prisoners during childbirth, it would enhance the U.S. government’s effective-
Youth Workshops in Iowa ISNA’s Youth Programming and Services Department (YPSD) Director Iyad Alnachef conducted workshops in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Ia., April 8-9, to motivate the youth to become active in their communities and embrace their Islamic identity. Workshops were also held to increase parents’ and community members’ understanding of youth needs and the challenges they face. Critical issues, such as how we communicate Islam to the next generation, the risks of confusing Islam with culture, empowering youth, the role the youth should play in their society, were discussed during the workshops. Alnachef, facilitated these sessions and helped attendees arrive at the result of formalizing the youth group in Iowa City. YPSD will be following up with the
ness and credibility in urging other countries to stop their use of torture. ISNA strongly believes that torture is always wrong. During the Torture Awareness Month this June, ISNA encouraged Muslim communities to watch the 10-minute film, “Repairing the Brokenness,” available online at nrcat.org. ISNA past president Dr. Ingrid Mattson joined other faith leaders in talking about repentance, redemption and healing our nation from the brokenness caused by the use of torture. It calls for a Commission of Inquiry, to ascertain the extent to which U.S. interrogation practices have constituted torture and “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”. Understanding the causes and scope of U.S.sponsored torture is essential for preventing it in the future and eliminating it altogether. You can join ISNA and help make a difference by going online to nrcat.org, and signing both the statement urging the U.S. to ratify OPCAT, as well as the statement to establish an inquiry commission on torture.
local youth committee to ensure that they continue to build on the momentum generated by this event. The program also offered a session with the parents only that addressed issues their youth go through and practical tips and resources on they can address such issues. A portion of this program hosted Dr. Saba Ali (associate professor of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, University of Iowa’s College of Education) who helped parents and youth navigate issues of identity development from an academic perspective. The conference concluded with an interactive, energized youth-parent town hall meeting where youth and parents discussed generational and cultural gaps. “There is a tremendous need for programs that address youth issues in practical and relevant terms,” said Iyad Alnachef. “We are eager to work with communities to fill this need whenever they call on us.” He invited communities that believe they can benefit from such programs to contact him to discuss bringing this type of event to them.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Islam as a Response to Extremism On April 11, ISNA, in collaboration with think-tank organization Muflehun, hosted “Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism from a Theological Perspective,” a round-table discussion at its office in Washington D.C. The event focused on engaging leaders in a dialogue about the role Islamic theology plays in countering extremism. Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, a distinguished scholar, led the discussion and addressed a number of concepts related to extremism, emphasizing the need for people to study texts with the help of qualified scholars, to ensure that their readings are accurate and interpreted in the appropriate context. He also addressed the misrepresentation of Jihad by many both in the Muslim community and among its detractors, emphasizing that enforcing the law is only the job of governments. He called for a new description to define a state of coexistence appropriate to modern context, emphasizing the Prophet Muhammad’s lesson that Muslims may live where they want and always positively contribute to the society in which they live. Shaykh Bin Bayyah, who served as a judge (qadi) in the Mauritanian justice ministry, later served as a vice president of the nation. He also headed the Sharia section in the court of appeals and was appointed High Authority for Religious Affairs for the country’s highest office. Presently, he has emerged as one of the leading authorities of the science of legal rulings that relate to Muslims living as minority communities among nonMuslims (fiqh al-‘aqaliyat).
ISNA Matters cago, where ISNA Secretary General Safaa Zarzour and Director of Community Outreach Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi introduced the DICID to leaders of several leading interfaith organizations. They then traveled to Los Angeles, and then Washington, D.C., meeting with other leaders and organizations along the way, engaging in interfaith dialogue and discussing future collaborations. “Through all of these interactions, the tour helped build a better mutual and comprehensive understanding of methods to collaborate with interfaith partners for the common good, in order to build peace at home and abroad and to provide muchneeded services in every community,” Dr. Elsanousi said. The DICID, which officially opened in 2008, is committed “to be a leading model in achieving peaceful coexistence between followers of different faiths and an international reference for interfaith dialogue.” It is the only international interfaith institution of its kind in the Middle East, and hosts annual conferences on topics of religious and international interest.
Grassroots Interfaith Work ISNA hosted the president and board members from the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID) on a 7-day trip across America. Their trip was titled “Exploring Interreligious Approaches to Collaborations for the Common Good.”
Their visit, focused on the grassroots, helped introduce the DICID officials to ISNA’s key partners in the local American interreligious communities and allow them a firsthand look at the leading interfaith projects in the U.S. ISNA began the exploration in Chi-
ISNA Outreach to Grassroots Islamic Institutions In April, ISNA Secretary General Safaa Zarzour visited Al Hedayah Academy in Forth Worth, Tex., meeting with school leaders, and talking to students and staff. He also gave the keynote address at the school’s annual fundraising banquet, focusing on the role of Islamic schools in American society. Al Hedayah is housed in a facility that serves partially as a mosque for the local community. The school is up to grade 10 and is actively exploring offering grades 11 and 12. As a part of this goal, school officials are hoping to establish a standalone masjid alongside the building so that the multi-purpose facility in which classes are currently held can be fully dedicated to maintaining and enhancing school activities. Having served as a long-time educator, principal, and board member of an Islamic school, Zarzour met with the school’s leaders to discuss many of the challenges that they face and opportuni10
ISNA President Discusses Islamophobia
ties they may have as they take on the challenge of sustaining a successful community school. The Al Hedayah visit is in line with ISNA’s strategic priority to support community institutions and to reconnect with the grassroots by making an impact on local Muslim communities. Supporting Islamic schools and enabling them to fully carry out their missions in their respective communities is central to ISNA’s focus on strengthening Islamic educational institutions.
ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid appeared on MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show to discuss Islamophobia in America. Directly following the announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s death, there were a number of hate crimes perpetrated at mosques across the country, further reinforcing the misconception by some Americans that Islam is synonymous with terrorism. Imam Magid discussed strategies used by ISNA and its other faith partners to combat this misconception and to show what they are doing to ensure that the message of peace and tolerance is promoted across America, in mosques, churches, synagogues, and all public places.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
ReScripting Islam and Muslims in the Media It is an image we are all too familiar with when flipping to the news on our televisions, listening to it on the radio, or
reading it in newspapers and magazines — Muslims portrayed as anything but friendly and peaceful. “On the whole, it is not necessarily that the media want to portray Muslims in a negative light. The problem is the context of news itself,” ISNA Secretary General Safaa Zarzour told a conference hosted by Indiana University on “Rescripting Islam and Muslims in the Media.” The two-day program featured panels of leading journalists, community leaders, scholars, and professionals to explore narratives about Islam and Muslims in the media and practical steps to shift the conversation of changing narratives into practice. The event, organized by the University’s Voices and Visions Project, aims to increase inter-
cultural understanding, inform and promote dialogue, replace misinformation, and promote accessible scholarship on topics regarding Muslims. “The problem is not malicious journalists, although there are a few of those out there; the problem is the focus of news itself. Muslims are only considered worth reporting on when a crisis has happened; they become a link to something potentially dangerous or harmful, as either the aggressor or the helpless oppressed victim,” Zarzour said. “This, unfortunately, creates a misguided image in the minds of community members that Muslims are all dangerous or oppressed by their religion. It is the responsibility of the Muslim community and journalists to work together to shift the focus of coverage to more positive and accurate stories.” Zarzour highlighted some of the efforts within ISNA and the Muslim community in the past few years to collaborate with media and share the stories of Muslim programs focused on community service, education, promoting tolerance, eliminating extremism aimed at any community, and to show the true diversity of Muslims in America. ISNA West Zone Representative and Executive Council Member Monem Salam joined Zarzour to discuss his experiences producing a film in the post-9/11 era about a man who wanted to fulfill his lifelong dream of learning to fly; the man just happened to be Muslim. Representatives from the New York Times, Indianapolis Star, Muslim Voices, Wisconsin Public Radio, Muslimah Media Watch, University of Colorado, Georgetown University, Indiana University School of Journalism, and more also led panels throughout the event.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Educators Continue Education Islamic school teachers and administrators share experiences at the 12th annual ISNA Education Forum By Meha Ahmad
eachers never really stop learning. And the ISNA Education Forum has become a staple of this continuing education. The 12th annual ISNA Education Forum held in Chicago April 22-24 under the theme “Understanding, Living and Sharing Islam”, brought together Islamic schools educators administrators. They shared their own teaching experiences, and sought new ways to improve their schools’ environments. “Each one of us—one way or another—was affected or influenced by a teacher,” reminded Azhar Azeez, vice president of ISNA. “The learned teachers of Islam are the true heirs or followers of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).” The three-day event included sessions and workshops led by some of the most seasoned educators in the Islamic education field. Participants said they return every year because of the wide variety of topics discussed, and because even a teacher never really stops being a student. “As teachers, we’re always learning,” said Sarah Albahadily, a middle school teacher at Mercy Islamic School in Oklahoma. “We’re trying to deepen our perspectives.” Her colleague Buthaina Jwayyed agreed. “We come to get new tools for our teaching toolbox so we go back [to our classes] refreshed,” the 4th grade teacher said. Addressing the welcoming dinner, ISNA Secretary General Safaa Zarzour emphasized the uniquely difficult yet rewarding job of being
an educator. “We come together every year because we know Islamic education is a labor of love. It’s not a job for everyone and it’s not a job for most,” he said. Session topics ranged from “Nurturing Spirituality in Our Schools,” to the “Best Financial Practices for School Sustainability,” to “Muslim Students in the 21st Century.” At the session “How is the Weather At Your School?” workshop facilitator Habeeb Quadri, an Islamic school principal and educational consultant, speaking on how teachers influence the climate and culture of a school, said, “Teachers are the heart and foundation of the school. In order to promote positive school climate, teacher input, ideas and participation are essential.” The panel, “What Is Happening in Children’s Literature” addressed the growing need of children’s Islamic literature. Children’s book author Fawzia Gilani urged teachers to take matters into their own hands, and write their own children stories, books and teaching resources. At “Brain-Compatible Teaching Strategies,” workshop speakers Maribel Quiles-Moukadeem and Teresa Hernandez showed educators and parents how to engage students and implement teaching methods that will maximize their class’s learning potential. Quiles-Moukadeem said, “Learning is about making connections. Brain-based research shows that in order for teachers to have the fullest impact on their students, they must connect with their students both academically and emotionally.” The educators felt they have a revived spirit for teaching and new resources to take back to their schools and classrooms. Principal Haleema Siddiqui from Al Ihsan School in Cleveland said the Forum gets better every year, adding, “[it] teaches us how to make Islamic schools succeed while parents expectations change every year. It teaches us how to keep our expectations high for the school. I also learned, as a principal, more about how to always be a role model for students, parents and the community.” Though networking and learning were major themes, the Forum was also about recognizing extraordinary dedication and work in the field. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to Azmeralda Alfi, a longtime educator and trailblazer, and founder of Aldeen Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing high-quality, yet affordable, Islamic education to students. Keynote speaker and ISNA President Imam Mohamed Hagmagid, who presented the award, emphasizing his great respect for teachers, said, “This Forum is one of the greatest things ISNA does. We are celebrating great people like you. You’re touching people’s hearts and changing people’s minds.” Imam Kifah Mustapha, of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Ill., who addressed the Forum’s main banquet, reminded teachers that with every lesson they teach, they can benefit as much as the students. “It is God who taught Adam the names of things. Everyone who is in the business of teaching is honoring that first lesson … For each letter you teach a child, for every child you teach wudu, and for each person they turn around and [pass those lessons on to], that is Sadaqa Jariyah (continual charity) for you.”
We come together every year because we know Islamic education is a labor of love. It’s not a job for everyone and it’s not a job for most.” — Safaa Zarzour
Meha Ahmad is the copyeditor of Islamic Horizons.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Community Matters Mentor Physicians Awarded
Islamic Schools Accreditation
Dr. Rashid Rashid (left) and Dr. Andrew Miller (right)
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education gave the prestigious David C. Leach Award to Dr. Andrew Miller and Dr. Rashid Rashid based on their work performed through the Morzak Research Initiative, an initiative they jointly founded and directed. Previously, they have been recognized with numerous other national awards including the American Medical Association, as well as regional, local, and institutional honors. Miller and Rashid’s Morzak Research Initiative has been an amazingly effective
and productive effort to further medical education and scientific investigation among students and residents. Over a fouryear period, this pair of highly-motivated residents has mentored 19 students, 18 residents, five fellows, and two attending physicians; several among them earned awards, recognitions, and important appointments. These mentorship experiences also resulted in over 100 published projects. Dr. Miller earned an editorial position with Virtual Mentor: The AMA Journal of Ethics.
Utah Community Distributes Qurans Eight Salt Lake-area Muslim women showed their gratitude to more than 50 women at the Wasatch Presbyterian Church in Utah with a joint meal for the church’s generous act of distributing Qurans free of charge. Led by Pastor Scott Dalgarno, the Elders of the church donated $600 of their own money, to purchase 60 Qurans. They coor-
dinated with a local bookstore to pass them out, and 75 copies were requested within two hours. This was the church’s response to Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who threatened to burn a copy of the Quran on Sept. 11, and then actually did it on March 20. Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks, the youth director at Wasatch Presbyterian, said, “We do not want Christianity to be defined by Christian extremists. We believe silence is consent. We had to do something.” Inspired by the public’s desire to read the Quran, Maysa Kergaye, the Muslim organizer of the lunch, has arranged to distribute the Quran, and basic information books, such as “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam,” through the local Salt Lake County Library System.
The Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA) has achieved an accreditation partnership with AdvancEd. On March 14, the CISNA board, led by President Dr. Kem Hussain, met with AdvancEd’s Dr. Eddie Krenson, senior vice president of non-public education, and Dr. Robert Leveillee, the senior vicepresident for international education, at their headquarters in Atlanta, to secure a partnership to accredit Islamic schools, with an added Islamic component. “Although we have developed a complete set of standards for Islamic schools, we could not have enacted the process due to a lack of some essential resources,” says Dr. Hussain. “It was here that I thought that collaborating with the best would raise our own standards which led to our continuous effort to build partnership with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the North Central Association, and ultimately AdvancEd.” CISNA Vice President Necva Ozgur said the move “will be beneficial to the future of the Islamic Schools and generations to come.” CISNA, established in 1991, resolved in 1998 to focus on accreditation. AdvancED serves more than 27,000 public and private schools and districts across the U.S. and in 69 countries, involving over 15 million students.
Bell Rings for Reformist City council members of Bell, Calif., elected their new mayor: fellow council member Ali Abdullah Saleh, 35, on April 17. Bell is a suburb of the city of Los Angeles. The newly-elected mayor, a lifelong resident of the city, business owner, and founder and director of the Bell Business Association, vows to restore integrity to the scandal-plagued city. The father of four is also founder of Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, the Bell Police Officer’s Association and the AFSCME Council 39, a union committed to restoring ethical and honest governance to the city.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Illinois Muslims Win Municipal Elections
Dr. Nishtar (second left) with Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, George Washington University (first left), Dr. Lawrence Conway (second right), and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Oh.) (first right)
Dr. Sania Nishtar, Pakistan’s first female cardiologist, was among the five physicians inducted in the University of Toledo’s Medical Mission Hall of Fame on April 6. They were recognized for the impact their work has had on the health of people in the far corners of the world. In 1998, Dr. Nishtar quit her lucrative medical practice to establish Heartfile, a health-policy thinktank that led to the creation in Pakistan of a national plan for the prevention and control of disease and the promotion of health in just four years. She
now advises prestigious international organizations and task forces such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health. A prolific writer, she has published eight books on health policy, including Choked Pipes, a 2005 book about revamping Pakistan’s poorly functioning healthcare system. Globally, the book links health system improvements to macroeconomic reforms that aid the poor. The book was hailed as a landmark publication by the UN.
Ahlam Jbara with essay writer Bana Zayyad.
9. The award-winning essay was submitted by Bana Zayyad, a junior at Aqsa School in Bridgeview, Ill. Zayyad’s essay highlighted Jbara’s devotion to community service and volunteerism through her work on various civic projects, among them the Get Out the Vote campaign. The essay contest is part of the Illinois Dollars for Scholars program, which awards scholarships to the winning writers. From the approximately 150 essays received, 19 winners in each of the Illinois congressional districts were chosen by judges representing Loyola University Chicago, Trinity Christian College and McKendree University.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Food Industry Leaders Meet
Chicago Leader Receives Lincolnland Legend Award Ahlam Jbara, associate director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, was presented the Lincolnland Legend award as part of the sixth annual Lincolnland Legends Essay contest on April
In the April 5 municipal elections in Illinois, three Muslim candidates won the races in their communities, illustrating how Muslim Americans can play a role in public office, as well as serving community needs. Nuha Hasan was elected park district commissioner for the village of Justice; Ahmed Aduib, elected to the Bridgeview library board; and Asif Yusuf scored a sweeping victory as Oakbrook Village trustee. Yusuf, who won by more than 1,800 votes, even out-polling the village president, held the post four years ago. Local community organizer Marwa Abed—who knocked on doors and passed out pamphlets to encourage Muslim neighbors to get out the vote— called this election “historic” for the local Muslim communities. “We laid our footprints and began treading the path towards greater political presence.”
Photos by Project M
Photo. Dan Miller, University of Toledo ©
Global Faculty Honoree
The 13th International Halal Food Conference 2011, the nation’s only conference geared exclusively toward halal products, was hosted by the Chicago-based Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA). Held April 10 to 11, it brought together food industry leaders such as Pepsico, the Coca Cola Company, 15
Community Matters Nutrilite, Cargill, Wrigley, Saffron Road, and American Halal Association. Their presence reflected the growing interest in halal ingredients in products, both in the U.S. and Muslim majority markets. Abbott Nutrition, several of whose products are halal certified by IFANCA for U.S. and export markets, was recognized as the company of the year. At the conference, ISNA with American Halal Association (AHA) announced that it is working towards creating an American Halal Standard and a Halal Accreditation Board. Ahmad Adam, who represented AHA, outlined this endeavor. IFANCA president, Dr. Muhammad Munir Chaudry, welcomed this initiative and offered full cooperation and assistance in establishing such an entity.
FBI Leadership Award Dr. Shakila Ahmad, a volunteer at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati (ICGC), was recognized by the FBI for her work in educating the public and bringing diverse communities together. Ahmad received the 2010 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for the Cincinnati Division on March 25, for serving as a strong partner with law enforcement agencies and the area’s Muslim community. In 2008, Ahmad worked closely with the FBI to assemble a Multi-Cultural Advisory Council to strengthen ties between the field office and local ethnic, religious and minority communities. Ahmad has taken a proactive role in promoting peace through dialogue with the founding of the Muslim Mothers Against Violence. She also initiated the Bullies and Victims school violence prevention program while serving as president of the Academy of Medicine Alliance of Cincinnati. An active member of the ICGC board of trustees since 1995, Ahmad is the first woman to serve in this position. She also spearheaded the creation of the nationally recognized “A Visit to a Mosque in America” educational DVD to promote the understanding of Islam and Muslims in the U.S.
Soha R. Abdeljaber, a professor of mathematics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology was named among the top 25 professors for 2010-2011 on RateMyProfessors.com—the largest trafficked U.S. college professor ratings site with almost 6,000 schools, one million professors and 7.5 million ratings. Four years ago, the hijab-clad professor was named among the top 50. Abdeljaber, whose favorite subject since elementary school was mathematics, has taught pre-calculus and calculus in the department since 2000.
Kansas City lawyer Tariq Abdullah was honored with Ingram’s Business Magazine’s “40 Under 40” award. He helped his family open Café Chai Shai, where he served mango shakes. Abdullah, who believes in family first, cites “their contributions they have made to his own successes.” Since earning his Juris Doctorate from UMKC in 1998, he has clerked at a local boutique law firm, then went to work as an attorney for Sprint (in two separate gigs), as negotiator and attorney for his own firm in Olathe, and as assistant general counsel/chief compliance officer for the Kansas Health Policy Authority in Topeka. For the past three quarters, he has served in a similar capacity for the Kansas Bioscience Authority, a $581-million bioscience venture capital fund. He is president of the Crescent Peace Society, which aims to foster understanding among people of different faiths.
Physics teacher Amir Abo-Shaeer, of Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, Calif., and his robotics team are the subjects of a recently released book, “The New Cool.” Each year, Abo-Shaeer leads the school’s robotics team into a rigorous national competition that requires months of preparation and a season’s worth of intense face-offs. Last year, the 39-year-old teacher was awarded a MacArthur Foundation $500,000 “genius” grant. Abo-Shaeer grew up in Goleta, the son of an Iraqi theoretical physicist who had worked and studied on four continents. Abo-Shaeer has managed to launch an in-school engineering academy and to raise $6 million for it.
Shaan Khan, a Glen Ellyn, Ill. high school student, was among the award winners of the international essay contest sponsored by the Gulen Institute Youth Platform, which
Maarij Baig was inducted to “Who’s Who” among students in American universities and colleges at the 100th commencement of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., on May 7. The selection is based on scholarship, leadership, community activities, citizenship, and service to the university. Baig, who received a B.S. degree, served as honor council representative and on the judicial review board.
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is affiliated with the University of Houston. More than 600 students from 53 countries responded to the topic: “The use of military means as a solution to today’s international and national political issues: Diplomacy or war, democracy or military coup?” Gulen Institute, along with Rumi Forum, hosted the winners for in Washington, D.C. from April 4-8 where the students, parents and educators met with Congress members, community leaders, and visited think tanks. Winners received their awards from diplomatic representatives of their respective countries and Congress members representing their districts. Khan, son of Chicagoland community activist Moin ‘Moon’ Khan, received his award from Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.).
Amer Ahmad was appointed Comptroller of the City of Chicago by Mayorelect Rahm Emanuel. Ahmad, a senior vice president and head of the public sector group at KeyCorp, has also served as deputy state treasurer and CFO for Ohio Treasury, where he oversaw more than $11 billion in state investments. He received his MBA from Harvard Business School and his Bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia. Prior to becoming a public servant, Ahmad was a vice president at William Blair & Company, LLC, an investment banking firm headquartered in Chicago, where he worked in the corporate finance department for seven years. He has also served as an advisor to the president of Estonia and worked at Wasserstein Perella & Co. in both New York and Tokyo.
Dr. Khalid J. Qazi—among the five community leaders recognized by Leadership Buffalo—received a Values Award for his tireless dedication to the Muslim community of Western New York and his commitment to making diverse voices part of the political, business and civic equation in Buffalo and all of Western New York at the 8th annual awards luncheon in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 5. The citation said that Dr. Qazi “has continued to educate the region and create a bridge of understanding about the Muslim culture in his role as president Somali refugees and newcomers from other countries thrive in and out of the classroom. Girreh is a mother of two daughters, both University of Vermont graduates. In addition to volunteering at schools and nonprofits, she helps out with personal requests that come in frequently via telephone. The first female in her family to finish high school and university, Girreh earned a degree in economics from Aligarh Muslim University in India in 1981, and a second degree at Trinity College in 2001.
Maryam Salah of Al-Hamra Academy in Shrewsbury, Mass., won top honors in Level 1 in the statewide “Letters About Literature 2011” competition on May 3. "She read her letter at the State House Awards event. Her letter has been sent on to the national competition." This year, nearly 4,300 students from Massachusetts wrote letters about books that made an impact on them. In addition, Al-Hamra students Mohammad Jaber and Farah Djunaedi were semi-finalists in Level 1, ranking in the top five percent of the competition, said Sadia Khan, the school principal. In Level 2, Osama Mahmoud received honorable mention, and Nigha Ali, Mustafa Hashmi, Samia Khan, Ibraheem Sandakli, Edil Yassin and Saed Salah (last year’s top honors winner) were semi-finalists.
Waris Malik has been appointed chair of Special Olympic Toronto - Community Council. He is founder of the Hot Soup Day at the Islamic Foundation, Islamic Soccer League volunteer and Muslim Annual Awards ceremony organizer. Special Olympics provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with special needs.
South Burlington’s Nimo Girreh, 54, represented Vermont at the Mom Congress on Education, held in Washington, D.C. from April 10 to 13, and keynoted by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Girreh was selected by judges at Parenting magazine, for making a difference in Burlington, particularly through her work to help
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University, addressed 150 bishops from around North and South America at the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church annual retreat
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of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York.” Leadership Buffalo is the region’s premier network of business, civic and professional leaders. In 2002, Dr. Qazi, the director of the internal medicine training program for the Catholic Health System, was named an “Outstanding Citizen” by “The Buffalo News” for becoming a “strong, reassuring voice of reason” after 9/11. He also serves on the national boards of directors for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles and the Kashmiri-American Council in Washington, D.C.
in Omaha, Neb.— the largest gathering of bishops in the U.S. each year. The day’s topic was: “Who is my neighbor? Islam and Christianity.”
Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), received the Spirit of Detroit Award from the City Council of Detroit and the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights’s MCHR 2011 Activist Organization Award for advocating for the civil rights of all Americans through encouraging dialogue and building coalitions that promote justice and understanding.
Saturna Capital Corporation, a U.S. investment management company, received two “Best Global Equity Fund” awards for the performance of the Amana Income and Amana Growth Funds, at the Sixth Annual 2010 Failaka Islamic Fund Awards in Dubai on April 17. Amana Growth Fund was recognized in the one-year category by achieving the best performance among 30 sharia-compliant equity funds for the one-year period ending Dec. 31, 2010. Amana Income Fund was recognized for its performance among six sharia-compliant funds for the five-year period ending Dec. 31, 2010.
Community Matters Iftekhar Hai, the president of United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance, represented the Muslim community of San Francisco at the Martin Luther King anniversary celebrations, attended by 4,000 people. “MLK taught us to embrace non-violence means to change the society and the events in Arizona [Jan. 8 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Az.)] challenges the nonviolent movement that we Americans are embracing,” Hai said.
Shareq M. Amin from Troop 222 was awarded Eagle rank in a Court of Honor ceremony held in the State Capitol Building in Olympia, Wash. After 11 years of scouting and acquiring 21 merit badges, Amin became the first Muslim scout to earn the rank in Thurston County—the top rank offered by Boys Scouts of America. Scout Master Dean Knox awarded the medal and Scout Commissioner Andrew Barkis presided the Court of Honor ceremony, watched by his parents Sakhawat and Farzana Amin.
The scouting tradition has deep root in his family where two of his younger siblings are now in cubs scout. For the Eagle Service project, Amin built benches for and open-air classroom in his old elementary school.
Sacramento’s $5.5-million, 21,000-sq. ft., two-story Moorish-style mosque and Islamic center opened April 30. The ochrecolored mosque and center for higher Islamic learning, which features a 54-foothigh green dome with a crescent on top, was built by SALAM, the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims. The new center houses a school and educational programs, with an 8,000-volume library planned. SALAM, which began as a P.O. box in 1987, now holds Friday prayer for 800 people, said founder Metwalli Amer, a former accounting professor at California State University, Sacramento. He donated $500,000 to the new center along with his wife, Rosalie, who is working on the new library. Bassam Dahduli, a Muslim American real estate investor has pledged $1.5 million and raised $1.5 million more.
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Faith in Action
LA Clinic Expanding To Meet Local Needs
UMMA Clinic branches out to offer healthcare to one of the nation’s most underserved communities. By Deanna Othman
he debate regarding the cost, availability and legislation surrounding healthcare has divided the nation along partisan lines, both garnering supporters and dissidents against what has been dubbed “Obamacare” by its detractors. However, one group of dedicated individuals had been working to alleviate the ailments of one segment of our nation long before this debate, and has recently announced plans to expand its services. The UMMA Clinic of South Los Angeles, the nation’s first freestanding and free Muslim clinic, will open a second clinic on the John C. Fremont High School Campus in South L.A. in January 2012, says CEO Dr. Yasser Aman. The satellite clinic, only a mile away from the main clinic, will serve one of the most at-risk high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and its surrounding community. “If the nation has a cold, then South L.A. has pneumonia,” says Aman, highlighting the disproportionate number of health disparities that exist in the area. “We’re always one step higher in terms of physical, emotional and mental health, as well as with poverty and overpopulation.” Fifteen years after Muslim students established UMMA Clinic in 1992, conditions have only gotten worse. A government-commissioned study recently found that LAUSD, the nation’s second largest school district, was one of
the most at-risk districts in terms of health disparities based on the needs of students and graduation rates. Six of the 15 high schools identified as hot spots were in South L.A., one being Freemont High. “When looking at the health disparities at Freemont, it was too horrible for any community to accept,” Aman says. “With almost 5,000 students, 46 girls were pregnant and half of the kids entering ninth grade don’t graduate.” UMMA Clinic exemplifies Muslims engaging with their surrounding community for the benefit of all, according to Aman. “Personal connection with people is a great thing for the Muslim community. We are operationalizing the theme ‘Loving your neighbor,’” Aman says. “We are Muslims leveraging public and private funds, and
The idea is to really impact prevention and health education through actively learning about healthy eating and healthy living.”
intersecting with communities that never intersect at all.” One of the most effective public health models is a school-based healthcare model, according to Aman. “Oftentimes people scratch their heads and don’t understand why we are on campus,” Aman says. “You take a community health clinic and plop it on campus, and essentially we will be serving the students and the community.” Due to its close proximity to the main clinic, Aman says students who go to the oncampus clinic can benefit from continuity of care at the main location. This is especially critical for students looking for prenatal care, which Aman says will now be available for the first time, along with mental healthcare. UMMA is also partnering with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust to create the Fremont High School Wellness Community Garden Project, a one-acre garden along with the full-service primary care community health center that will provide educational programming, job training opportunities, healthy food access and direct clinical care to the students and community members. “This has never been done in the U.S. at this scale,” Aman says. “The idea is to really impact prevention and health education through actively learning about healthy eating and healthy living.” Aman says a disconnect often exists between teaching healthy food choices and what is being cooked at home. Holding culturally-appropriate cooking classes, and promoting a comprehensive approach around overall heath and well being treats the disease rather than just the symptom, Aman says. The garden will feature a park, farmers’ market, and an academy of health and agriculture created by the high school with a curriculum centered around the clinic and garden. Teachers can demonstrate principles in economics, health, and agriculture, and make it relevant for all disciplines, according to Aman. UMMA Clinic is examining the broader policy implications of nonprofits collaborating with community public entities like schools, Aman says. The main clinic sees an average of 170 patients weekly and now has a patient population of over 15,000 individuals who have logged more than 25,000 visits. UMMA’s mission is to promote the well-being of the underserved by providing access to highquality healthcare for all, regardless of their background or ability to pay.
Deanna Othman is the Assistant Editor of Islamic Horizons.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Group Helps Women Gain Independence
A Muslim American women’s group helps spread development and social advancement overseas. By Zeeba Anarwala
ith all the talk in by factors such as life expectancy, fertility recent years about Muslim rate, contraceptive rate, marriage age, and women’s empowerment, literacy, according to these groups. MWF has funded two pilot projects so you may be surprised to learn that the Muslim Women’s Fund is far—one in Pakistan and the other in Senegal. the first global initiative aimed at the eco“We select programs very carefully and nomic advancement of this 800 million- support and help scale up existing programs strong group. which have demonstrated ground impact Inspired by Islamic teachings as well as and have shown transformational social historical examples, co-founder and board member Nadia Malik says the group’s aim is to fund projects that promote the educational and economic development of women and girls so they can contribute to their families, engage with their communities and build bridges of peace. Malik, who has a corporate banking background, teamed up with her mother, Dr. Sarwat Malik, and a group of eager women in 2006 after attending a Muslim women’s conference in New York. There was no shortage of great projects that could be carried out by local organizations MWF provides microloans to women in Senegal. across the globe, but they lacked funding, according to the younger Malik. change through educational and/or eco“A consensus emerged from 136 Muslim nomic advancement of women and girls,” women—scholars, NGO leaders, writers, Malik says. politicians, filmmakers, and musicians In Senegal, MWF has teamed up with from 26 countries who attended the meet- Tostan, a nongovernmental organization ing—that the single greatest barrier facing that promotes education and community progressive Muslim women was a lack of engagement in the West African nation. funding from an entity that understood the Tostan’s micro-credit program is in full force, local religious and cultural context for their providing loans of up to $30 for women’s innovative endeavours and organizations,” start-up enterprises such as soap-making, Malik says. agriculture and fabric dyeing. To ensure Five women began to work on just such a success, before granting the loans, Tostan project, and by July 2009, MWF was formed. requires financial management training and MWF uses economic and social data from other business skills. Participants also learn the World Economic Forum and the UN about the freedom to choose a marriage to emphasize that gender inequality is one partner and the hazards of giving birth at of the main reasons development lags in a young age. the Muslim world. Development is defined Income generated from the micro-credit Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
enterprises are often invested in community projects such as building schools and latrines. In Pakistan, MWF has teamed up with the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy to execute the “madrasa curriculum reform program.” The program takes advantage of the role men can have on reforming lives of women. “Even though our programs are for Muslim women and the communities they live in, we partner with men where needed, to bring about transformational social change at the local level,” Malik says. She gives the example of tribal leader Haji Muhammad Ayub Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly the North-West Frontier Province. Khan, who was against educating girls, changed his views after being persuaded to attend a community training program. “Haji Khan was a changed man,” Malik says. “He started a peace commission ... and recruited 150 citizens—from the community, the police and schools.” Malik says the groups are careful to respect local traditions and customs. “MWF partners ... with men and women, local community leaders and NGOs who are attuned to the cultural sensitivities, religious and cultural traditions and are very sensitive not to offer them ... our solutions,” she says. Currently, MWF is working toward convening local advisory councils in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, Pakistan and Nigeria to understand women’s realities and needs there. Incidentally, Saudi Arabia and the UAE already have much higher development rates than the other countries listed. Malik is especially eager to see the madrasa project replicated and scaled up as a way of promoting what she calls an egalitarian and peaceful Islam across the Muslim world. “I would like to see that we can witness and collaboratively work towards peace, while reigning an era of enlightenment, progressive thinking and [the] golden age of Islam, with educational and economic advancement for all beings in accordance with the teachings of my faith,” she says.
Zeeba Anarwala is a freelance writer based in North Carolina.
Faith in Action
Muslims Without Borders:
A student-run group delivers aid—and nurtures future leaders. By Deanna Othman
eaving a lucrative corporate job to save the world is usually the stuff of movies. Not for Shafi Khan. In December 2008, Khan was working at an international risk assessment firm in Washington, D.C. when he got an email asking for help in finding shelter for a widow and her children. Khan put his work aside for three days to fundraise and was able to collect enough money to house the family for one year, with their bills paid. On the fourth day, Khan returned to work—to quit his job. “My boss told me to think about it, and come back in the next day. I did come in the next day, and turned in my resignation.” Khan, the founder and current director of international operations for Muslims Without Borders (MWB), began his quest to empower those in need, while developing and training future Muslim American leaders.
Initially, Khan visited an nun-operated orphanage in Central America for children with HIV. Deeply affected after seeing children dying and suffering from the debilitating illness, Khan knew he had to do more. Though many people thought he was crazy for leaving his job and risking his family’s livelihood, Khan took such criticisms as a positive sign that his vision was worth accomplishing. Mentored by Dr. Ahmad Elbendary, the founder of Islamic Relief USA, Khan worked under him for one year to gain international contacts and learn the processes and protocols of relief work. “Then the Haiti earthquake happened,” Khan says, “and I was embedded with a team from Muslim Hands from the U.K, and delivered aid to a masjid in Port-au-Prince.” When Khan returned from Haiti, he met with a group of students from George Mason
University in Fairfax, Va., who wanted to do more than collect money. MWB was then born in July 2010 and its founding members were embedded in emergency response teams that delivered aid to Port Au-Prince just one week after the earthquake. The first student-based relief agency, MWB seeks to foster leadership development through service.
Students come up to me and say, ‘I can’t tell you how much I love Muslims Without Borders. This is what I’ve been looking for.’ We are really filling a vacuum.”
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Empowering the Helpless
College students assemble hygiene kits for Haiti relief.
“It is meant to change lives at both ends— those who need our help, and those who want to help others. We see in our community almost every week students are relegated to selling tickets for a fundraiser... maybe, if they are lucky, get a T-shirt and go home,” Khan says. “We feel students are much more valuable than that. We want to inspire them to go beyond just selling tickets and get involved in the relief process itself so they can make a real difference with their own hands.” MWB now has seven staff members, hundreds of volunteers, and chapters all over the world, from Boston and Florida, to Washington, D.C., London and the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. “We have also received dozens of applications from students all over the States to open chapters, but we are very selective in our application process. We only look for the most sincere students that have a real passion to make a difference in the world,” Khan says. Major projects of the group include the 1000 Wells Project, with the goal of building 1000 wells around the world, Hygiene Kits for Haiti—assembled by hundreds of stu-
dents from across the U.S.—and the set-up of a class in Haiti to train Muslim women to sew abayas and jilbabs. To promote selfsufficiency, MWB will teach these women to sew, sell the products in the U.S., with 100 percent of the profits to be sent back to Haiti. MWB was also the first American Muslim relief agency to cross into Libya. “We entered Libya with a convoy of medical aid that was
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delivered to a hospital in Benghazi right after the east was liberated. When we reached Benghazi, the government buildings were still burning. We were so fast going in, that Al-Jazeera English and the Los Angeles Times asked if they could ride in our convoy because there was no other way in, and we happily took them in with us,” Khan says. MWB has delivered more than $115,000 in aid to Libya thus far. “We’ve all grown spiritually as Muslims and as people,” he says. So many students have thanked Khan for the opportunity to contribute. “Students come up to me and say, ‘I can’t tell you how much I love Muslims Without Borders. This is what I’ve been looking for.’ We are really filling a vacuum.” Khan hopes what he calls “the service mentality” will spread among the Muslim community similar to the way it has become an integral part of the Christian community. Though he is optimistic about MWB’s exponentially rapid growth, he remains cautious. “We are trying to slow down. We don’t want to be a shooting star and fade away.”
Deanna Othman is the Assistant Editor of Islamic Horizons.
Standing Shoulder-toShoulder Interfaith leaders speak out and organize against anti-Muslim bigotry, and vow to promote religious liberty. by Zahra Cheema
ewish, christian and Muslim religious leaders huddled together around a wooden podium facing a room full of reporters and White House staff at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 7, 2010. Alarmed by the rise in anti-Muslim sentiments surrounding the proposed construction of the mosque near Ground Zero and Florida Pastor Terry Jonesâ€™s threat to burn copies of the Quran, they decided to take a stand. Islamic Horizonsâ€ƒ July/August 2011
Cover Story said. “That’s what America is and that’s the message that I pray that we will get out to all the people of the world...” Encouraged by the success of the interfaith summit, participants voiced interest in sustaining a national interfaith effort to protect the religious liberty of Muslim Americans. It was in this spirit that the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign was born.
Shoulder-to-Shoulder members meet with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
This event would be the foundation upon which the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign was built. “Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values” is a coalition of 26 faith-based organizations and religious denominations working to end anti-Muslim bigotry.
The Beginning: The Interfaith Summit About 40 senior Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders from all across the U.S. met in D.C. and produced a join-statement against anti-Muslim bigotry. The press conference was part of a daylong interfaith summit organized by ISNA. Recognizing that the religious voice receiving the most media coverage was that of Jones and his supporters, ISNA representatives mobilized their national interfaith partners to denounce anti-Muslim rhetoric. Dr. Mohammed Elsanousi, community outreach director at ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliance (IOICA) in Washington D.C., says that the summit also served as a call to protect fundamental American principles. “There are fundamental American issues that were in danger like the freedom of religion, respect, tolerance and acceptance of others,” he says. The faith leaders expressed their shared responsibility in protecting religious freedom for all Americans. “Our freedom to worship in congregations of our own choosing, to give witness to our moral convictions in the public square, and to maintain institutions that carry out our respective missions—all of these are bedrock American freedoms that must be vigorously guarded and defended lest they be placed at peril.” 28
At the press conference, which was broadcast live by both CNN and C-SPAN, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick spoke about his fear that anti-Muslim bigotry could project a false image of America to the rest of the world. “[W]e have to make sure that our country is known around the world as a place where liberty of religion, where respect for your neighbor, where love for your neighbor ... are the most prominent in our society,” McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of D.C.,
Our freedom to worship in congregations of our own choosing, to give witness to our moral convictions in the public square, and to maintain institutions that carry out our respective missions—all of these are bedrock American freedoms that must be vigorously guarded and defended lest they be placed at peril.”
Shoulder-to-Shoulder includes members from the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism among others. It aims to promote tolerance by standing against antiMuslim bigotry and protecting religious liberty. Convened by ISNA, the campaign is funded through a one-year grant and financial contributions from members. “There is great potential of extending this beyond one year because I don’t anticipate the issue of anti-Muslim bigotry will end in one year,” Elsanousi says. The breadth of the campaign is far-reaching with a set of national, state and community, and international goals. At the national level, Shoulder-to-Shoulder members plan to continue to stand against anti-Muslim bigotry by addressing the public together, and by proactively engaging with Congress, White House staff and media. Members also plan to take the national efforts to end anti-Muslim bigotry to regional, state and community levels by providing strategies and support to local-level religious leaders and congregations engaged in this work. They intend to send a clear message to the international community that religious leaders and groups in the U.S. are committed to ending anti-Muslim bigotry and protecting religious freedom. Elsanousi says this international-level engagement will also include denouncing any crimes against religious minorities in Muslimmajority countries—something ISNA has been involved in for decades. Most recently, ISNA denounced the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and Pakistan’s federal minister of minorities. ISNA President Mohamed Magid says that a unified religious voice speaking out against anti-Muslim bigotry is very important because it universalizes the issue to one of religious freedom. “[W]hen the voice of other people, other
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faiths [is] also heard, it shows that it’s not a Muslim issue anymore; it is [an] American issue,” Magid says. “It’s about freedom of religion, about tolerance, about building understanding between people of faith [and] also about responding [to] people who try to marginalize minorities in this country.” Magid says that throughout U.S. history, people of faith have been at the forefront of addressing issues of discrimination against minorities and underrepresented groups, including the poor, Native Americans, and African Americans. “Muslims happen to be the minority that is vulnerable this time,” Magid says. “Tomorrow it could be [an]other minority as well.”
Congress Stands Up For Muslims
Senators take note and respond to rising anti-Muslim bigotry
n response to rising anti-Muslim bigotry, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) convened a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on protecting the civil rights of Muslim Americans on March 29. The hearing addressed issues of discrimination faced by Muslim Americans and set a different tone from a congressional hearing held almost three weeks earlier by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on the alleged radicalization of Muslim Americans. “[M]any law-abiding Muslim Americans face discrimination and charges that they are not real Americans simply because of their religion… American Muslims are entitled to the same constitutional protections as every other person,” Durbin said during the hearing. Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates— an association of Muslim legal professionals, testified at the hearing and provided details on incidents of discrimination faced by the community. Khera was the only Muslim to testify, and discussed job discrimination, Farhana Khera was the only Muslim to testify at the bullying in schools, and verbal Durbin hearing. and physical abuse. Khera said that anti-Muslim sentiments have been on the rise in recent months, even among public figures. “Prominent religious, military and even political leaders have joined the fray, feeding fear and hysteria, with some going so far as to say Islam is a cult, not a religion,” Khera said. Members of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign, an interfaith coalition focused on ending anti-Muslim bigotry, submitted a written statement to Durbin and Graham commenting on their leadership in convening the hearing. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a Shoulder-to-Shoulder representative, also testified at the hearing. Durbin closed the hearing with a reading from the statement. “[W]e remain profoundly distressed and saddened by the incidents of violence committed against Muslims in communities across American, by the desecration of Islamic houses of worship, and by the destruction of sacred texts. We stand by the principle that to attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans. We encourage all citizens of this country to honor freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution that enable the free exercise of religion across our great land,” Durbin said.
Official Launch: King’s Hearing On March 10, national religious leaders joined together again in D.C. to officially launch Shoulder-to-Shoulder and, more urgently, to protest a controversial series of hearings convened by U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.). King, the new chairman of the committee on Homeland Security, convened the first of these hearings on “the Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” Critics of the hearings said that the American Muslim community was being unfairly targeted and demonized for the violent acts of a few. Shoulder-to-Shoulder members immediately responded by submitting a joint statement to the committee. While they were committed to ending violent extremism in all its forms, they were opposed to the hearing’s specific focus on Muslim Americans, placing an entire community under scrutiny and suspicion. They said that, as spiritual leaders, they had a moral obligation to denounce bigotry, regardless of which community was being targeted, and that the hearings involved bearing false witness against Muslim Americans. “As spiritual leaders and people of faith, we call on the Unites States Congress, elected officials at every level of government, and all American citizens not to perpetuate damaging false witness against our neighbors,” according to the joint statement. “To assert that Muslims as a broad group are not deeply devoted to America’s safety and the peaceful interaction of its entire citizenry — that is false witness.” In addition to Shoulder-to-Shoulder testimony, several members submitted testimony
on behalf of their respective organizations or religious denominations speaking against King’s hearing. Following the hearing, Shoulder-toShoulder members held a press confer-
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ence and officially announced Shoulderto-Shoulder to the public. “[W]henever a religious group is singled out because of its faith, we will be there. We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder wherever, 29
Cover Story whenever it is necessary,” Mark Pelavin, director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, says. The Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, invited fellow evangelicals to stand with Muslim Americans. “It is a dangerous thing when one group is singled out in the front of the rest. It is humiliating; it is shaming; it is stigmatizing; and it almost always invites citizens to marginalize that targeted group,” Cizik says. “[E]very American evangelical should stand shoulder-to-shoulder, today especially, with our Muslim friends, neighbors and believers.” On the same day, several Shoulder-toShoulder members met with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to introduce her to Shoulder-to-Shoulder. They also met with senior White House officials, and staff from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. In each meeting, they expressed their concerns about the dangerous precedent King’s hearings were setting by scrutinizing a single religious community.
Standing Together Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (RHR-NA) contacted ISNA in January to express interest in joining Shoulder-toShoulder. RHR-NA is an organization of rabbis representing every Jewish denomination dedicated to protecting the human rights of all. Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of education and outreach at RHRNA, says that joining the campaign aligned with RHR-NA membership’s concern about growing Islamophobia nationwide. She says that many members were involved in supporting the Park 51 center in New York City, and that King’s hearings in particular encouraged the organization to become further involved with Shoulder-to-Shoulder. RHR-NA submitted written testimony to the Committee on Homeland Security, denouncing the hearing for unfairly scrutinizing the Muslim American community. “[F]or Jews, it’s interesting because it’s not so long that we were the subject of religious discrimination in the United States,” Kahn-Troster says. “And I think for many of our rabbis, the idea that a group could be singled out for discrimination because of their religion really, really resonates.” Kahn-Troster says RHR-NA’s guiding principle is that every being is created in 30
Shoulder-to-Shoulder leaders gather at the Sept. 7 press conference in D.C.
God’s image, and that interfaith work is woven into the fabric of the organization. At the local level, RHR-NA members are working with imams in their communities to address issues of bigotry. Rabbis and rabbinical students have also created a video series in which they explain why Islamophobia is against Jewish values. She says that a second video series is planned that will feature a rabbi, imam and other faith leaders speaking out against Islamophobia. “I think a religious voice is stronger the more religious groups it incorporates,” KahnTroster says. RHR-NA’s guiding principle, she says, is one of her own personal motivations for the work she does. Demonizing the other, she says, goes against the idea that every person is created in God’s image; while it may be easy to demonize others, God is asking people to see the humanity in everyone. “[I]t’s much easier to be suspicious of other people and to single them out,” KahnTroster says. “What’s hard is to learn to see everybody as your neighbor, to learn to see everybody as your friend. That is what God is asking us to do—to learn to see the image of God in every person.”
Kahn-Troster hopes the Shoulder-toShoulder Campaign will rehabilitate America’s image in the international community by sending a positive message. “I think it’s really powerful that in the United States, where we have religious freedom, that Jews and Muslims and Christians and people of all faiths are coming together to support Muslim Americans,” she says. The Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, general secretary of the American Baptist Churches in the United States (ABC-USA), has been part of Shoulder-to-Shoulder from its inception. ISNA invited him to represent ABC-USA at the Interfaith Summit in September, where the campaign first began. ABC-USA was the first member organization to pledge financial support to Shoulder-to-Shoulder. ABC-USA representatives have partnered with ISNA in interfaith activities for several years, particularly on Baptist-Muslim dialogue. This dialogue is also taking place at the international level among senior Baptist and Muslim leaders through the Baptist World Alliance, where Medley sits on a committee to oversee respectful dialogue. ABC-USA is a denomination of 5,500
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
freedom during the first of King’s hearings in March. “We felt that these [hearings] were inflammatory and discriminant, and that they did not live up to the promise of religious liberty that is [a] founding principle in our government and a principle for which Baptists have long fought,” Medley says. As ABC-USA continues to increase its dialogue with the Muslim community at the national level, Medley says he receives support from local congregations across the country. “People… have said, ‘Thank you for doing this at the national level, it has opened the door for us at the local level.’ [O]thers… have written and said, ‘We have been involved in relationships with our local Islamic center or mosque for a while now and it is wonderful to see this now being taken up at the national level by our denomination as well,’” he says.
congregations with over 1.3 million members across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Medley says that ABCUSA joined Shoulder-toShoulder to implement his faith’s call to love one’s neighbor and to protect religious liberty. He says that the Baptists value religious freedom very highly because they themselves faced religious persecution during their early history. “[We] want to stand alongside those whose right to religious liberty is being infringed upon,” Medley says. He adds that the American Baptist tradition also has a long history of standing with marginalized groups in society, including Native Americans and African Americans. Following 9/11, Medley, who at the time was executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey, wrote a letter to American Baptist churches cautioning congregants not to assume that all Muslims were terrorists and calling for the protection of rights for Muslim Americans. ABC-USA renewed this call for religious
Engaging with Local Communities Shoulder-to-Shoulder members continue to disseminate information about national campaign efforts to their local communities, and ISNA’s Elsanousi says their grassroots outreach will intensify when a campaign director is in place. Local and regional organizations involved in similar work as Shoulder-to-Shoulder continue to show interest in becoming involved with the campaign. The Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, founding president of the Guibord Center in California, is aware of Shoulder-to-Shoulder efforts through her interreligious work on behalf of the National Council of Churches in Christ USA and the Episcopal Church USA, both members of Shoulder-to-Shoulder. Gui-
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
bord, who was also involved in writing the joint-statement for the September Interfaith Summit, says her involvement is both moral and religious. She believes that the way for religious communities to support each other is through education. “The way for us to stand shoulder-toshoulder is for us to really educate ourselves about each other,” she says. In an effort to do this, Guibord co-founded the Christian-Muslim Consultative Group (CMCG) of Southern California in 2006, along with Jihad Turk, religious director of the Islamic Center of Southern California. In 2008, the CMCG developed the Standing Together project, a seven-series study program that brings Christians and Muslims together to learn about each other and to challenge stereotypes about one another. “The goal is… for people to develop relationship[s] … based on integrity and trust,” Guibord says. Project materials include a workbook and DVD to facilitate learning and dialogue. Guibord says that, historically, interreligious study guides were written by Christians about Muslims with the purpose of proselytizing, which she says she finds appalling. Guibord says that what makes the Standing Together project material unique is that all its material about Islam is written by Muslims, and all its material about Christianity is written by Christians. When Guibord thinks of the concept of standing shoulder-toshoulder, she is reminded of something she learned at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, where she was a Christian leader of an interfaith pilgrimage of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. “I learned that the Muslim community prays shoulder-to-shoulder as to not allow that which is evil to get in between people who are praying in that holiest of time, in ... interaction with God,” Guibord says. “For me, that is iconic because we, who are people of faith, must not allow that which is evil, untrue, [or] inappropriate characterizations of any other person of faith to get in between us.”
Zahra Cheema, a freelance writer, resides in Maryland.
Society and Culture
Ensuring the Integrity of Halal Halal certification is a long-drawn process leading from handling of the raw material to final packaging. By Susan Labadi
at free; sugar free; natural; fiber-enriched: these are buzz words we see on many consumable products that vie for our attention. Yet it has become increasingly clear that we must read the labels on every single packaged food product and get an advanced degree in food science to understand if our food choices are halal. Many of us have purchased groceries, as innocuous as yogurt, cereal, or candy only to have someone in our family shriek, “This has pork” or “That has liquor in it!” If we are lucky enough to live in an area with other Muslims, we try to be conscientious and buy from our local Muslim vendors. However, let’s consider, if we know the chicken and fish are halal, we may still be suspicious about the beef. After all, it has a USDA label on it. So does the USDA know if something is
halal? Who is watching out for the consumer? Well, the answer is that there are some legitimate, God-fearing guardians out there, but the system is still coming together whereby we can assuredly state that all products that claim to be halal truly are. This is why ISNA is diligently striving to create the first American Halal Accreditation Board so that consumers know, and other nations can trust, the integrity of U.S. halal foods. Although there are several American certifiers, only a few are accepted overseas, where governmental organizations have to approve halal imports. The USDA does know what halal is. When ISNA and the American Halal Association met government officials in Washington, D.C., they referenced “Guidelines for the Use of the Term Halal” from the Codex Alimentarius of the Food and Agriculture Organization
of the U.N. Besides improving food safety, animal welfare, and guarantee of halal status for American products, the bonus incentive to develop a U.S. halal accreditation board would be to open U.S. products to a global market that would accept the integrity of American accreditation. To highlight halal integrity in the U.S., Maria Omar, spokesperson for the Islamic Food Council of North America (IFANCA), the nation’s largest halal products certifier, highlighted the certification process. Today, some 23,500 products worldwide bear IFANCA’s Crescent “M” symbol. American consumers may recognize several of IFANCA’s clients, including Kraft, Abbott Nutrition, Cargill, Nestle and Pepsi. But not all products of these companies are halal. They market to the world, and value reputable halal certification, as required by the importers.
Starting at the source Today, the creation of food is a complicated process. Food undergoes many changes of hands, and even geographic locations to get to its final state. Thus, a raw material could be
IFANCA Flow Chart for Halal Food Certification Customer Service
• Review Application • Provide Timeline and Quote
• Ingredients and Sources Veriﬁcation and Halal Compliance • Process is also known as the Ingredient Review to help design an ingredient formula acceptable for Muslim consumption
• 2nd Review of Ingredients and Sources Veriﬁcation and Halal Compliance
Onsite Inspection of Manufacturing, Packaging + Storage, and Sanitation & Hygiene Check
Meat & Poultry Continuous Inspections • Daily and Continuous On-Site Process and Supervision of Compliance by IFANCA inspectors
One Year Certification (for non-Meat Products) • Certiﬁcation issued pending ﬁnal audit • Must maintain formula and sources to re-certify or reapply for a new certiﬁcation • Renewal will necessitate an annual on-site inspection
Batch Certification (for Meat-Based Products) • Meat, Poultry, and Gelatin types of products are batch certiﬁed to ensure zabihah halal process in their production
• Batch Certiﬁcation always contains shipping container number, seal number, and shipping number for Export Documentation Compliance at Sea Ports and Shipping Seal Veriﬁcation
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Products from the Ground Up extracted in Venezuela, processed in the U.S., shipped to South Africa for production, and the final product sold in Canada. This is why non-meat-based food and pharmaceutical products have the potential for prohibited ingredients or contamination. Consider the widely loved and seemingly innocent products like chocolate. Chocolate is made from cacao beans that are essentially handpicked from plants. Beans are opened, fermented and dried by hand. However, after that they are shipped to another processing plant that converts them into liquid, powder, or any other ingredient form for future use, it also means that they change hands and get exposed to various manufacturing ingredients and processes. Some ingredients added along the way may include sugar, milk powder, emulsifiers, flavors, and preservatives. Each new ingredient, even if used in minuscule amount, has to be examined for its “halal-ness.” The final product, a packaged bar of chocolate, as innocuous as it may sound, even poses a concern in terms of the packaging itself, which may be at risk for halal contamination. Sometimes the packaging may be made from an undesirable source, perhaps coated with a prohibited product, like a wax. Reading the ingredients labels is not enough because the FDA does not require manufacturers to list processing aids and packaging materials. Omar described the scrutiny that products like the chocolate bar receive at IFANCA’s halal certification process. IFANCA was established in 1982 in Chicago by a group of concerned Muslim food technologists who were aware of why so many packaged goods and foods, like chocolate, would not fit the bill for the Islamic diet. They set up a certification process closely based on models of other certification companies. It all begins with filling out a comprehensive application form with details about the product’s complexity and production volume size. IFANCA staff provide a time and price estimate for completion of the rigorous process. Using the chocolate example, Mujahed Khan, an IFANCA food technologist, explains the time difference it would take to review cacao powder and a chocolate bar. The chocolate bar would have gone through many more stages of production, and ingredients com-
pared to the powder extracted from beans. Hence, reviewing the ingredient formulas for the bar would be longer, and more costly. Similarly, the size of the manufacturing process also affects the audit time and cost. Professional auditors assess the product’s industrial production. If the chocolate is handmade in a small mom-and-pop enterprise, naturally examining their production facilities and advising proper changes will take much less time. However, if the same chocolate product is produced in five factory units, in huge volumes, the time associated to review all the machinery, lubricants and packaging will take much longer and the cost will reflect this.
ISNA is diligently striving to create the first American Halal Accreditation Board so that consumers and other nations can trust the integrity of U.S. halal foods. The Road to Halal Certification The first step is the Ingredient Review Stage, where food technologists trace the product’s suppliers and sources to track and verify if each ingredient used in the product is halal. The ingredient review process is always divided between two reviewers. Halal certification is a matter of religion and trust which is why any possible mistakes are minimized by a twice-over ingredient review, says Khan. Certification becomes void if the companies, once certified, change ingredients in their formulas, or sources of them. Any new ingredients or sources must be certified halal. The second part of the halal certification process is a physical, on-site audit of the production facility. Physical audits and inspections apply to all products; from dairy to processed food, as well as pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Take the case of chocolate pro-
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
duction. From the first machine where the raw cacao powder is filled in, the auditor follows the various stages of production and the machinery involved to check for potential cross-contamination issues. This review will also include checking cleaning supplies, product storage facility, and packaging materials. The auditor’s role is detecting problems and providing practical solutions that have industrial applicability. In cases of sensitive products like meat and poultry, an IFANCA inspector is assigned for every production day to supervise and check the whole process. Since IFANCA’s in-house ingredient team already breaks down food formulas down to the last enzyme and cell, a third party laboratory analysis is reserved only when a clearer picture is needed in unknown breakdown elements. A shipping specialist at the research center also sleuths for logistics and documentation about sources, contents, and weights to rule out fraud. Exports are particularly scrutinized so that seaports and other means of transportation logistics are sound, and that shipping seals are preserved. Finally, all reports are compiled by an auditor are reviewed by the certification team. If everything is in compliance, the product receives certification for one year. Most exporters show their halal certificates to governments, at seaports, and they display them on websites to show potential buyers and consumers. Each subsequent year, an on-site visit and laboratory analysis are required. If formulas or suppliers change during the certification year, the company is contractually obliged to inform IFANCA and have new ingredients reviewed for acceptability. In case they do not, they risk losing their certification. Jobs classified as agricultural and food science are expected to grow significantly by 2018. The rationale is that food jobs are not adversely affected by poor economics, and there is a growing need for specialists as our food production becomes increasingly sophisticated. It would be comforting to know that Muslims are participating in developing food science, safety, and the integrity of halal for the world.
Susan Labadi is an educational professional development provider, project coordinator of the American Halal Association and editor-in-chief of “Halalconnect.”
Society and Culture
A Very American Perspective
of the Quran is due to the legalities of using copyrighted materials.
Sandow Birk creates a Quran using traditional methods but a New World point of view. By Abu Ali Bafaquih
hy did someone born in Detroit and raised in the L.A. suburbs—who surfed before school and went to punk gigs in Hollywood at night—launch a project to prepare a hand-painted volume of the English translation of the Quran, interpreting the chapters through contemporary examples of American life like car racing? “Many different things in my head brought me to the idea of this project,” says Sandow Birk. He attributes the inspiration of his project to his travels, over the course of 12 to 15 years, throughout Muslim regions and his fascination with the various cultures of the countries he visited. “I had been visiting museums and had seen mosques and heard the call to prayer in different places all over the world. It was in Casablanca that I first bought a copy of the Quran, and I later bought other copies in English and started to read it. No one in Birk’s family was an artist. However, when Birk wanted to go to art school for college, his parents were a bit dismayed, but supportive. He went from high school to art school, didn’t like school much in any form, and dropped out and tried to drive from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro with a surfer friend. He wanted to see Carnival in Brazil and yearned for adventure. It took them eight months, surfing their way through South America but they eventually made it to Rio the day before Carnival. Birk ended up spending four years in Rio, which he declares “is one of the greatest cities in the world.” In the middle, he traveled to Europe and completed another year of art school before returning to Rio. “Living in America, there is so much discussion among politicians and in the media 34
about Islam. And there is the fact that the United States is fighting two wars in Islamic nations, and the events of Sept. 11. All of these events and discussions and attention in the media made me think it was important for me to learn for myself about Islam, rather than listen to what other people were saying,” Birk says, regarding his path to the Quran project. As an art student, Birk studied the Western traditions of illuminated manuscripts, and even a little about Persian miniature painting. “While on a trip to Ireland, I went to the
Initially, he envisioned that the finished project would be bound into a single manuscript and displayed as one book, a one-of-a-kind, handmade volume as in the tradition of ancient Qurans. However, due to the time the project has already taken and the years still left to finish it, Birk decided to exhibit parts of the project as they become completed. So far, there have been four small shows of the project, with each exhibition featuring about 30 double-page spreads at a time, or about 12-18 different chapters. Over the course of those exhibitions, many of the chapters were sold to art collectors so now they are dispersed among many people. However, all the first 90 completed pages have been gathered back together and were on display at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, where they attracted a lot of attention. Birk estimates that it will take another three exhibitions to finish the project, which he thinks will need about 210 pages.
I eventually thought that it would be an interesting thing, as an artist, to attempt to make one entire book, alone, using the traditions and techniques of ancient book illumination.” Chester Beatty Library in Dublin where they have one of the biggest collections of ancient Qurans in the world, so I was able to study many of them very closely,” Birk says. He went back to Ireland three times to visit the library and other places where he could see and study ancient manuscripts. “I eventually thought that it would be an interesting thing, as an artist, to attempt to make one entire book, alone, using the traditions and techniques of ancient book illumination.” In his project, Birk is, however, using various translations but trying to create a “book.” Birk, a non-Muslim, is also aware that quite a few translations done during the 18th century came from Orientalists who had a particular axe to grind. Birk explains that the only reason he is using older and more awkward translations
Right now, he is just over halfway finished. Birk declares: “There will definitely be a publication of the finished project into a book, and there will definitely be a traveling exhibition of the entire project when it is completed. There have already been several institutions which are interested in exhibiting it when it is finished, in this country and in Europe.” The recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright, Getty and City of Los Angeles Fellowships, Birk was also awarded an Artist in Residence Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. in 2007. While there, he researched and worked on the “Illustrated Constitution of the United States” that was shown in New York City in 2008.
Abu Ali Bafaquih is a freelance writer.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Society and Culture
Three Authors, One Voice Crafting a niche for themselves, Muslim children’s book authors serve to inform and educate. By Naazish YarKhan
eet Haroon Siddiqui, the award-winning editor and columnist of Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, the Toronto Star and author of Canadian bestseller, Being Muslim, which has sold more than 20,000 copies. Siddiqui has been awarded the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his journalistic contributions as well as for his volunteer work. Why is the book as important today as it was when it was first released? “Well, we live in dangerous times. The [book] is an alternative, a preemptive move to appeal to Muslim youth and adults alike, with balanced, informed insights. Let there be no mistake, there are those in our very midst who believe that violence is justified, and that distorting religion to fuel violence is justified. They exist and they recruit our vulnerable,” he says. “While North American Muslims, by and large, have not indulged in the kind of terrorism that UK has witnessed, we need to make sure our communities have balanced perspectives made available to them,” Siddiqui added. While aimed at youth, Being Muslim arms all readers with facts, figures and contexts relevant to the sociopolitical situation that Muslims have been experiencing over the past few years. Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah explores the tragedy of 9/11 from the perspective of a Muslim widow. Abdullah attempted to capture how ordinary Muslims were affected by 9/11— the silent majority who lead very normal lives and are law-abiding citizens of this land. Saffron Dreams relates the basic human desire to be accepted in society, no matter what your background, ethnicity, or race. “Reading the heartbreaking stories of those whose loved ones were the victims of this senseless tragedy was very tough for me,” Abdullah says. “It’s amazing to watch a story unfold; it sometimes surprises even the author. The character of the protagonist’s son who was born with a rare disability required methodical research,
too. It involved interviewing parents of such children and really getting to know their daily struggles.” Though Abdullah says she has never been a direct victim of discrimination, she definitely has heard enough stories to know that it exists.
I write books about Muslims that are mainstream in nature. They’re for everybody, not just Muslims.” —Rukhsana Khan “On subtle levels, I have observed some changes in the way I am viewed,” she says. “There was a time before Sept. 10, 2001, when I could jaywalk down 6th street in downtown Austin and blend in with the locals. Not so anymore. Some of that anger was directed towards those who shared the race and religion of the terrorists, especially those who publicly exhibited symbols of their faith such as veils, beards, even their own names.” Toronto-based Rukhsana Khan is the multi-published author of Dahling, If You Luv Me, Would You Please, Please Smile. Her works provide young Muslims with characters they can identify with and, at the same time, offers non-Muslims a better understanding of their Ramadan-observing, Jumaah-praying, halal-eating, hijab-wearing neighbors. Khan has wanted to be a writer since she was 13. And today that is what she does full time. “I write books about Muslims that are mainstream in nature. They’re for everybody, not just Muslims. I’ve built up quite a following within the Canadian publishing industry,” she says. The response to Khan’s books has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s a novel that captures the American/Canadian Muslim experience while portraying how each of us deal with problems that range from wanting to fit in to having to contend with friends. And she manages it without resorting to a schoolmarm mindset or manners. Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
“I was with my husband at his business booth at this festival called Word on the Street, when a teen came by. She picked up my novel, Dahling, and said, ‘You know, I loved this book!’ I thanked her. Her mom was with her and she said, ‘No, you don’t understand. She really loved that book. It’s the first book nobody ever had to force her to finish.’ The teen was nodding. I felt flabbergasted. I was so surprised,” says Khan. Khan is often invited to schools with significant Muslim populations to discuss her experiences.
“I’d often have the kids laughing and engaged for my whole presentation. Then the Muslim kids would come up to me afterwards and tentatively ask, ‘Are you Muslim?’ I used to get so surprised. I’d laugh and say, ‘Of course!’ The Muslim kids would grin, stand a little taller and say, ‘I’m Muslim, too!’ But thinking on it later, I realized that they’d never really met a funny Muslim.”
Naazish YarKhan writes for various media including for Common Ground News Service and Huffington Post.
Help Build a Masjid First Masjid in the State of Montana!
The Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis
one of the largest and oldest Islamic centers in the St. Louis area, is looking for:
A Qualified and Dynamic Imam Required Qualifications: • • • • • • • • • •
hould have a degree in Islamic studies of seven S years from a recognized Islamic Institution Should have excellent knowledge of the Qur’an, Hadith, Seerah, and Fiqh Should be a Hafiz of the Qur’an, be able to recite well and must have knowledge of the Tajweed rules Should be able to lead daily, Jumaa, and Taraweeh prayers and be able to conduct educational programs/activities for the community Should be able to interact with the youth and provide for their spiritual growth through educational programs and other activities Should be fluent in English and have excellent communication skills Should have adequate knowledge of the Arabic language Should be US citizen or US permanent resident Should have knowledge of interfaith and be able to participate at interfaith forums Should be able to promote harmony within the Muslim community and with other communities living in the area
Desired Qualifications: • • • • •
hould have some experience in pre-marital and S marital counseling Should have knowledge of different schools of Fiqh Should have some experience in conflict resolution Should be able to lead marriage ceremonies and funerals Compensation and benefits commensurate with education and experience
Please email resumes to: firstname.lastname@example.org and include telephone number Mail to: Imam Search Committee, Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis • P.O. Box 240219 • Ballwin, MO 63024
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
“He who shares in building a Masjid for the sake of Allah, Allah will reward him with a dwelling in paradise.” The Prophet (PBUH) The Islamic Center of Bozeman (ICB)* calls upon our Muslim brothers and sisters to support our ongoing Masjid project which will be the first Insha’Allah in the State of Montana. Your support is perpetual charity (Sadaqa Jariya) that will be rewarded tremendously by Allah (swt). To donate online, please visit: www.montanamuslims.org Or mail a check payable to: Islamic Center of Bozeman 1627 West Main Street, #163 • Bozeman, MT 59715 *ICB is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code.Tax Exempt ID No. 20-3020086. Website: www.montanamuslims.org
Wanted Imam—Director of Education Qualifications: • Formal degree in Islamic Studies. • Fluency in English. • Excellent communication skills. • Experience and skills for organizing and teaching children, youth and adults education programs. • Ability to organize and represent in outreach and interfaith programs and conduct Da’wah activities. • Ability to act as Imam for prayers, especially Friday prayers. • Be well versed with different Islamic schools of thought and be able to appreciate practices, traditions of diverse Muslim population in the community. • A good knowledge of Arabic and recitation of Quran is required. Visa and Residency Requirements: Must be a US citizen, Permanent Resident, or have a US work visa. Compensation: Competitive salary, commensurate with experience and qualifications. Please send resume along with a cover letter and at least three references to Islamic Society of Evansville P.O. Box 8065, Evansville IN 47716 Telephone contact (618) 384-2226
Society and Culture
The Hollywood-friendly film “Miral” neutralizes the agony of the Palestinian struggle. By Marwa Abed
iral,” a movie by Jewish American filmmaker Julian Schnabel, attempts to deconstruct the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict by introducing viewers to a series of characters and stories that span 40 years of history, beginning prior to the birth of Israel. The film is based on the novel of the same name by author Rula Jabreal. Schnabel’s film follows the lives of three generations of Palestinian women. The movie begins in celebration, with main character Hind Husseini celebrating Christmas in Jerusalem. Upon heading home, Hind stumbles upon a group of orphans from the Deir Yassin village, a village that had been attacked by Jewish gangs in the prelude to the creation of the state of Israel. Hind, out of empathy and supported by her wealth, takes in the traumatized orphans and founds the Dar al-Tifl orphanage as both a shelter and an educational center. The film then jumps—and the word “jumps” is key in understanding the sporadic and overwhelmingly fragmented nature of this film—to the 1960s and to character Nadia. Nadia is a sexually-abused runaway that is working as a dancer inside of the now 12-year-old Israeli state. While taking the bus, Nadia is arrested and imprisoned for smacking a Jewish woman who has insulted her. In prison, she meets fellow inmate and former nurse Fatima, who had lost her job as a result of attempting to aid Jordanian soldiers fighting the Israeli occupation, and ended up in jail after a failed bombing plot. After leaving prison, Nadia marries Fatima’s brother who is also the leading imam at the al-Aqsa mosque. In an attempt to connect the lives and stories of the various characters in the film, viewers are subjected to a series of short-lived vignettes that offer some stimulating questions but don’t allow for adequate development or
appropriate explanation. Though the film is not a historical documentary, it introduces viewers to realities of prisons and racism, and emotions of anger and frustration without allowing for a contextualization of the overarching reality of war, or why the conflict was taking place. Without the proper explanation, the brief stories lack context and seem like isolated cases of injustices rather than pieces of a grander puzzle of war and apartheid.
The film inaccurately portrays the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a parallel struggle, with both sides having equal agency in the direction of the fractured country.
The story thus continues with the vignettes overlapping. Former prisoner Nadia, and the aforementioned religious man, Jamal, have a daughter named Miral, played by “Slumdog Millionaire” actor Frida Pinto. Miral is sent to the orphanage to be under the care of Hind after her mother commits suicide. The orphanage, against what most would assume, is an elitist establishment found within the walls of Israel and not the occupied Gaza or West Bank. Miral struggles between accepting her seemingly comfortable life within Israel, or going against her father’s wishes and joining the resistance movement and assisting the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO is headed by Miral’s love interest, Hani. Here, again, viewers are introduced to a deeply flawed stereotype. Miral’s imam father is a pacifist and opposed to any form of resistance, whereas the politician, Hani, is secular and progressively motivated. A division is created that separates the religious and the secular and attempts to create a contradiction with any overlap. The film then abruptly ends with the introduction of the Oslo Accords—a failed attempt at a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The film portrays the Oslo Accords in a positive light and prescribes its failure based on dissenting outliers from both sides. The film inaccurately portrays the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a parallel struggle, with both sides having equal agency in the direction of the fractured country. At offset, “Miral” is portrayed as a proPalestinian film; this is not entirely the case. The film only further reinforces negative stereotypes while depicting the Palestinian resistance movement as flawed and failed. The success of each character was deterred, according to the film, by their own selfdestructive behavior. The film thus suggests that attempts to bring an end to Israeli occupation are futile and should be avoided. “Miral” is less of a film on the actual occurrences of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and more of a film that seeks to neutralize the agony that continuously occurs in the region by presenting a Hollywood-friendly film of isolated dreamscape stories. “Miral” does have its moments of introducing viewers to emotional depictions of life under occupation; however the film falls short in attaching the sympathy to any sort of education or understanding of the actual conflict.
Marwa Abed is a graduate of DePaul University with a degree in international studies and Islamic world studies.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
When Muslims Play Football
Film portrays how a Dearborn high school football team breaks down barriers. By Meha Ahmad
ordson: Faith, Fasting, and Football” captures the stories of several high school football players as they prepare for The Big Game against cross-town rivals, the more affluent Dearborn High. The film illustrates how the players balance football and Ramadan, as they endure grueling practice sessions while fasting. “Ramadan teaches us discipline. And that translates to [the field],” Fordson Tractors coach, Fouad “Walker” Zaban, says in the film. “We need that discipline in football.” But scratch beneath the surface, and “Fordson” is more than just a movie about Muslim kids who play football in Ramadan. The real story is the resilient, proud, AllAmerican community that surrounds them, and just so happens to be mostly Muslim. Dearborn boasts the largest single concentration of Arabs and Muslims outside the Middle East and though the documentary focuses primarily on Fordson’s preparations for the big game, it is simply a vehicle to lead the viewer to the close-knit community behind the team. You get to see how, even post-9/11, a city is able to reconcile love for their faith and their country through their love of the game. To say that the players and their community struggle to achieve this balance would be inaccurate. In fact, the delightful surprise of “Fordson” is that it is a story not told often—the one where Muslim Americans are not suffering some identity crisis, but instead are comfortable in their own skin and have reached a point where there is little to no conflict with being an Arab, Muslim and American. But while the city itself has developed a rhythm that works within the community— creating almost an Arab/Muslim utopia complete with a myriad of halal food stores, mosques, Middle Eastern restaurants, etc.—it does not leave the residents immune from outside prejudices. In the film, we see two young Arab Muslim men from Dearborn falsely arrested on suspicion of terrorism, a scandal that rocks the community. Students are sometimes called “camel jockey” or “towel head.”
Even the high school is called names, referred to as “the Islamic school,” or “Hezbollah High.” Tractor running back Bilal Abu-Omarah says he hears the names, and knows it’s more than just thoughtless ribbing. “[People will say] tons of ugly words and hate. And it’s real hate. You feel it,” says Bilal, who has learned to brush it off. “It gets to us but we are better than them. We’re better than people like that.” When faced with the occasional obstacle, the town rallies and does what must be done, even if that means cheering their hardest at the next football game. Come game night, players put on their
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
pads, and get ready to meet their rivals on the field. The lights on the field are shining. The bleachers are filled with family and friends of both teams, in fan T-shirts and holding up self-made signs of support. Each game starts with the Star Spangled Banner poignantly sung to the crowd. Fans settle in with their game-time snacks. It feels as if this could be any high school in America. Except many of the players are Muslim, and are in a pre-game huddle making dua that they win this game. And that’s O.K.
Meha Ahmad is the copyeditor of Islamic Horizons.
Around the globe
Seeking Closure In Bosnia
Bosnia continues its efforts to identify the remains of Srebrenica’s dead and disbursed to provide families the comfort of giving them an Islamic burial.
Photo (C) Esref Kenan Rasidagic
By Ermin SinanoviĆ
Bosnian Muslim families achieve closure, laying the long-missing bodies of their relatives to rest.
he names of 774 Bosnian Muslim victims of the Serbinflicted Srebrenica genocide, plus a Bosnian Catholic who suffered the same fate, echoed through the village of Potočari, near Srebrenica, on July 11, 2010, during the annual commemoration that included mass funeral prayers and a singular Catholic burial, led by an imam and a Catholic priest, respectively. The process of discovering and identifying about 8,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys killed after the Serb forces overran Srebrenica in July 1995 continues. In any given year, only a few hundred are buried after their remains are collected, gathered, and identified. The surviving family members are then notified, making it the final step in the quest to put their long-missing family members to rest through proper Islamic burial.
Finding that the U.S. and NATO forces have aerially photographed the mass graves, Serbs exhumed the victims’ bodies and spread them over numerous, smaller sites. Thanks to DNA technology, the identification is accurate, although time consuming.
Nixed Hopes The Memorial Center in Potočari stands at the old UN wartime base. President Clinton, at its opening in 2003, said, “We must pay tribute to the innocent lives, many of them children, snuffed out in what must be called genocidal madness ... Srebrenica shattered the illusion that the end of the Cold War would sweep away such madness.” Though the 1990s started with great optimism, the succession of wars in the former Yugoslavia proved that the Great Powers’ realpolitik still persisted. Unable to agree on how to deal with the dissolution
of this southeastern European nation, they clamped the status quo by instituting and enforcing an arms embargo on Yugoslav Republics. Thus, Serbia and the Serbs, disproportionately represented in the Yugoslav People’s Army, controlled most of its weaponry, holding an advantage over the Federation’s other groups and republics. When Bosnia and Herzegovina was attacked in March 1992, the Serbs were fully armed, while the Bosniaks and, to some extent, the Bosnian Croats, were hugely disadvantaged. Bosnia’s declaration of independence in March 1992, followed by its UN membership two months later, created hope that international recognition would save Bosnia from sinking into greater bloodshed. But, by that time, the combined Bosnian Serbs and Serbian military forces were already executing a genocidal campaign in eastern and northeastern Bosnia.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
The (Un)Safe Areas The launching of the Serbian aggression coincided with the end of Ramadan, and what was supposed to be the first Eid in newly independent Bosnia. Tens of thousands of Bosniak refugees were forced from their homes in a systematic process which the international community euphemistically described as “ethnic cleansing,” in order to avoid the “g”word and the action that alternative designation would necessitate. The European unwillingness to intervene more forcefully was balanced by American insistence that, although Bosnia was a European problem, the issue was Russian support for Serbia. Perhaps the arms embargo and the unwillingness to intervene on the Bosniak side were also a result of the European uneasiness with a possible Muslim-led nation in Europe. The refugees from eastern Bosnia gathered in three cities that were still under Bosnian government control: Srebrenica, Žepa, and Goražde. These cities, and their surrounding areas, were considered as islands of safety for these refugees. The problem was that they were cut from the territory controlled by the Bosnian government. The situation in Srebrenica was particularly bad, where the Serbian forces continued their assaults and artillery shelling. Srebrenica was eventually proclaimed a “safe area” by the UN Security Council Resolution 819; Resolution 824, voted on the same day, proclaimed Žepa, Goražde, Sarajevo, Bihać, and Tuzla safe areas as well. The resolutions were purported to place the safe areas under UN control, demilitarize these regions, and to prevent the Serb forces from occupying them. A mechanism was created to enforce the safe areas through NATO air forces, and especially the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. In theory, if the Serb forces ever decided to attack the safe areas, NATO and the U.S. would intervene and stop them.
Fateful events of July 1995 By 1995, the situation in most “safe areas” was dire indeed. Most of them were cut off from Bosnian government-controlled areas and there were chronic shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities. By mid-1995, there were reports of people dying of starvation there. Despite Resolution 819, the Serb forces never demilitarized around Srebrenica. The Dutch UN battalion, stationed in and around Srebrenica, lacked full control over the situation. In early July 1995, Serb forces, led by
General Ratko Mladić, attacked Srebrenica. They took several Dutch soldiers as hostages, using them as a bargaining chip against the possible NATO and the U.S. intervention. On July 11, 1995, the Bosnian Army’s resistance was finally broken and Serb forces entered Srebrenica. Much of what was happening was captured on camera. Among the most stunning footages was Mladić’s declaration: “Here we are, on July 11, 1995, in Serbian (sic) Srebrenica. On the eve of another Serb holiday, we deliver a gift of this town to the Serbian people. And, finally, the time has come that, after the Dahis uprising, we take revenge against the Turks in this region.” Dahis were the leaders of the Ottoman Janissaries. Mladić was referencing the 1804 Serbian uprising against the Dahis, and which led to the First Serbian Uprising later that year. British
Families of the victims of Srebrenica may attain some closure knowing that Ratko Mladic, a top military general in the Republika Srpska responsible for the slaughtering of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, was recently arrested and extradited to The Hague. newspaper “The Independent” confirmed that the Greek government was conducting an investigation into the involvement of a dozen Greek volunteers with the Serbs, four of whom were later honored by the wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić—now under trial in The Hague. Greece has yet to publish the findings of this inquiry. As the situation in Srebrenica deteriorated rapidly, more than 20,000 Bosniak refugees and civilians sought protection near and around the UN compound in Potočari by late evening on July 11, 1995. By that time, the Serbs had surrounded Srebrenica, murdering and raping with abandon. They separated the
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
men and boys from women and children. About 15,000 men refused to surrender to the Serbs and marched toward the Bosnian government-controlled city of Tuzla, a city about 35 miles away. Many perished; most were killed by the Serbs who pursued them relentlessly, some committed suicide, and others were perhaps killed by their comrades due to disorientation caused by hunger and exhaustion. By the time the Serb forces finished their genocidal rampage, more than 8,000 Bosniaks had perished. By mid-2010, more than 6,500 victims were identified, while almost 1,500 are still considered missing.
The Aftermath The Srebrenica tragedy was followed by the Serb shelling of Sarajevo’s Markale market in late August. The U.S. and its NATO allies finally launched a bombing campaign against the Serb positions on Aug. 30, 1995, which lasted for three weeks. The warring parties, the Serbs, Bosniaks, and Croats, were brought to the negotiating table at the U.S. Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio. They signed a peace agreement which officially ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Dayton Agreement maintained Bosnia’s territorial sovereignty, while creating two “entities” within the country: the Serbdominated Republika Srpska, and the joint Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many feel Dayton rewarded Republika Srpska, which comprises of 49 percent of the overall Bosnian territory, and legalized the ethnic cleansing and genocide perpetrated by the Bosnian Serb leadership. Two people, considered most responsible for genocide in Srebrenica, Karadžić and Mladić, became among the most wanted war criminals. Karadžić, finally arrested in Belgrade in July 2008, is now under trial for war crimes and genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. Mladić -- after being on run for a decade - was arrested on May 26, 2011, and immediately handed over to the court. Many of the victims’ families still await a confirmation that their loved ones’ remains are found. Until all of them are laid to rest, the annual commemoration and mass burials in Potočari will continue.
Dr. Ermin Sinanović is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not represent official views of the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Department of Defense, or Islamic Horizons.
Photos by the Department of State
Around the Globe
Pandith with a Muslim youth leader in Dandenong, Australia, 2011.
Farah Pandith: The Nation’s First Special Representative to Muslim Communities By Zahra Cheema
he’s on Facebook and Twitter, and if you’re a Muslim under 30, she is interested in hearing from you. Farah Pandith is the nation’s first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities. Appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in June 2009, Pandith works on people-to-people engagement with Muslim communities worldwide with a focus on Muslim youth. Prior to joining the Department of State, Pandith worked for the National Security Council (NSC) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Since her mandate is overseas, she does not work directly with Muslim American groups, but taps into their wisdom to share ideas, learn, and create new partnerships for the future. Working with offices overseas, she is now channeling their power to help in the formation of a global network of similar young leaders. Pandith spoke with Islamic Horizons to discuss her work.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Islamic Horizons (IH): What does a U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities do? Farah Pandith (FP): I think when people hear the title Special Representative to Muslim Communities they are not sure what it is. It is so that we can find ways to build partnerships with Muslims around the world. At the State Department we do that through our embassies. We work with the [embassy] teams that are engaging … young people to get to know … the next generation of movers and shakers. We’re talent scouting. IH: Why was this position created? FP: President Obama said he wants to build long-term partnerships with Muslims around the world based on mutual interest and mutual respect. What’s very important about this role is that it’s a people-to-people role. It is not me going to the foreign ministry of another country and having high level conversations about policy … but rather it’s going into community centers, … schools … nonprofit organizations, and … places where regular people meet to talk with [them] about the issues that are of concern to them. We are focused on Muslims in Muslim majority countries and Muslims that live as minorities. IH: In which ways do you engage with Muslim communities around the world? FP: We do things like town halls …round
tables, [and] virtual connections. We are online so that means that the average person who may not have a chance to meet with me in person can actually send me their ideas. That has never happened … the idea that I can hear something from an average person and I can connect that idea to one of our ambassadors who is doing something on the ground in that country and that they can connect that idea with a business person in that country. It also means that the young person that has a great idea may
have a similar idea to somebody I’ve met in another part of the world and so I am able to connect those people together. IH: How important is the use of social media to your work? FP: It is critically important because it provides an opportunity to link ideas very quickly … to offer a chance for a young person … to send me a direct message on Twitter or a direct message on Facebook and have an opportunity to share their perspectives. I read my tweets. I read my direct mes-
Pandith on a syndicated radio show in Melbourne, Australia, 2010 (top); with policewomen cadets in the Maldives, 2010 (bottom).
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Around the Globe sages. I want to hear what young people have to say about particular things that are going on in the world. One of the biggest problems that many governments have is that they only go to the same people over and over again to get their perspective on a particular issue. Well if you know more people who are doing different things, [if] you know more entrepreneurs, [if] you know more innovators, [then] you’re able to bring them into the conversation and that’s really important.
One of the things my team and I are focusing on is identifying some of these talented young bloggers, and acting as a convener to bring them together with other like-minded thinkers so that we can amplify their power. Last year in Nigeria, I was able to meet a youth organization that wanted to produce and disseminate a film … promot[ing] democratic participation in Nigeria through YouTube and cell phones in the hopes of reaching young people, women, and first-time
Pandith at the Yes We Can orphanage in India, 2010.
IH: Is there a message that you want to relay to Muslim youth worldwide? FP: I wanted, first of all, to provide the opportunity to talk because I think that’s very important … to listen to them and talk with them about issues that are on their minds. The second thing is to break it down into ways in which we, as the United States government, can be the convener, the facilitator and the intellectual partner with the ideas that we hear on the ground. If you want to see change happen, you go to people and you ask them what needs to happen in this neighborhood to make change. IH: Which are some organizations and individuals you have partnered with? FP: One of the highlights of my job is meeting amazing youth organizations and individuals around the world. In Sweden, I met with a young Swedish woman who runs a blog called “Inlänning” or “The Insider,” to educate the public about Islam. In the Netherlands I met with a man who runs a blog called “We are Staying Here,” which provides a platform for mostly young Muslim voices that are not heard in traditional media. 44
voters. [I] helped them get partnered with our embassy. In New Zealand I met with the Women’s Organisation of the Waikato Muslim Association that had been working with our embassy to develop a leadership and mentoring programs for 15 young Muslim women, many from refugee backgrounds. In Singapore, I met and strengthened our partnership with Yayasan Mendaki, a group committed to empowerment through education, who, inspired by the Qur’an and the need around them, are leaders in helping disadvantaged people in their community build better lives. IH: In past interviews, you mentioned that many Muslim youth express issues of identity formation. Can you elaborate on this? FP: No matter where on the planet I have been … something is happening to the generation under the age of 30 and that is a navigation of identify. They are in crisis. What does it mean to be modern and Muslim? What’s the difference between culture and religion? They are asking questions that their parents and their grandparents never asked. This is a generation that has unfortunately grown up at a time, in a post-9/11 world,
where the words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ have been on the front page, online and offline, every day since September 12th. How does that reshape who you are? It is very problematic if they are not given role models or they are not given an opportunity to talk with people to help them navigate through very important questions. IH: What was your experience like growing up as a Muslim American? FP: I was born in [Indian-occupied] Kashmir and came to America when I was a baby and I grew up outside of Boston. My parents divorced when I was ten. I was raised by a mother who was very well educated [a pulmonologist]. She explained to me how … to manage being proud of my heritage, being proud of my religion and being a proud American. I was very privileged to have a mother who knew the Qur’an very well and who was well read so when I asked her questions, she was able to give me answers in the context of being American and how I lived my life. IH: Do you engage with the American Muslim community? FP: Since my position is at the State Department and our mandate is overseas, I do not work directly with American Muslim groups as a focus of my work, but I do have the ability to tap into their wisdom to share ideas … learn from each other, and create new partnerships for the future. In September of last year, we invited 74 of the most innovative young Muslims in America to be a part of “Generation Change.” It started as a conversation, bringing together poets, activists, entrepreneurs, technology gurus, and other doers, and has been built into a community of leaders that harnesses one another’s passions and abilities. IH: What are some of your greatest achievements in this position so far? FP: My greatest success is really the success of our partners around the world. In my travel to over 40 countries, I have been able to reach out and help bring to light some talented, young, Muslim social entrepreneurs. But the real change, the real success, comes from the young people I meet who are using our efforts as a platform to empower themselves. Our people-to-people diplomacy is most successful when it gives our partners the tools and networks they need to become their own best advocates and bridge builders.
Zahra Cheema, a freelance writer, resides in Maryland.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Around the Globe
The Egyptian Revolution Told Through Street Graffiti By Assia Boundaoui
ighteen days after the Egyptian Revolution began, the 30-year rule of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak was brought to an abrupt end by widespread protests. The very next day, I arrived in Cairo. The scene was unforgettable. Egyptian flags waved from apartment windows and patriotic music blared out of the speakers of nearly every car. Billboards that once framed massive photos of the president had been ripped down. All over Cairo, people greeted one another with “Mabrook!”—congratulating one another on the ousting of the dictator. The air of jubilation in Egypt was electric.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the movement was bustling with activity, and the streets that lined the square were covered in graffiti. On the side of the National Museum, on the glass windows of the nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken, and on the walls of the streets leading to the Square, there was visual evidence marking this incredible moment in history. The graffiti was as varied as it was visually striking. There were elaborate drawings, intricate calligraphic scripts, as wall as amateur drawings and simple messages scribbled on the walls. One hastily written note memorably read, “All it took was 18 days.” In Arabic, English, Italian, French, and even Russian, the messages on the walls were both triumphant and mournful. Some celebrated the victory of the youth-led revolution, and the phrase “January 25”—which was both the date the uprising began and the name of one of the youth groups that helped organize the protests—figured prominently on the walls. Some of the graffiti served as eulogy to the hundreds of Egyptians who lost their lives in the revolution. One text, written in Arabic, read, “This is all for the sake of the martyrs.” Some drawings echoed religious unity between Coptic Christians and Muslims in the country, with images of the crescent and cross drawn together. And others echoed a chant that was resounding across Tahrir Square: “Proud to be Egyptian!” The graffiti, presumably drawn throughout the 18 days leading up to the president’s ousting, poignantly captured a historical moment in Egyptian history. It symbolizes a period when the people felt they were finally able to etch out their own histories. The street graffiti was, in effect, self-determination on display.
Assia Boundaoui is an Algerian-American freelance reporter based in New York.
Top: "This is for the sake of the martyrs." Bottom: "Egypt first."
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Around the Globe
Much of the graffiti on the walls celebrated the unity between Muslims and Coptic Christians exhibited throughout the Revolution. The image of the crescent and the cross drawn together was frequently seen on posters in street demonstrations and tagged on walls as graffiti art. “January 25” was the day major popular protests erupted in Cairo. More than just a date, “January 25” became the name of the Revolution, and is seen tagged on many walls across the city. Eighteen days after popular protests erupted in Cairo and spread across the country, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down and relinquish power. This short but potent note on the wall pays tribute to the short number of days it took to topple the 30-year rule of the Mubarak regime.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Islamic Horizonsâ€ƒ July/August 2011
Around the Globe
Kashmir Deserves Immediate Attention Do U.S. policymakers realize that the road to peace in Afghanistan starts in Kashmir? By Ghulam Nabi Fai
A Kashmiri brutalized by the Indian occupation force.
ince the beginning of the 1989 resistance in Kashmir, India has fully exploited the American policy, regardless of the policy’s intent. Indian policymakers consider American pronouncements that India and Pakistan must settle the dispute bilaterally as an endorsement of their stance. They regard as immaterial the balancing statement that the U.S. regards the whole of Kashmir as disputed territory. Between India’s insistence that a settlement must be “within the four corners of the Indian constitution” and Pakistan’s demand that it must be based on the international agreement embodied in the UN Security Council resolutions, there cannot be a meeting point which the two governments can find by themselves. Neither can disentangle itself from the massive undergrowth of the dispute. There needs to be a third way which neither admits nor challenges any claim or proposition on the question of sovereignty over Kashmir. Equally distressing has been the reported lobbying in India for enforcing autonomy on Kashmir within the Indian Union. The Kashmiri leadership, which has the support
of masses for its stance, finds this totally unacceptable because it would be liable to revision or repeal by the Indian legislature, with or without a change of administration. And most importantly, it would not be incorporated in an international treaty or agreement with the support of all states neighboring Kashmir as well as the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The appointment of a U.S. special envoy on Kashmir will certainly hasten the process of peace and stability in South Asia—home to one-fifth of the world’s population.
There are apprehensions that, whether on account of its internal weakness or under external pressure, Pakistan will be forced to dilute its stance on Kashmir. If this happens, it will not end the dispute because Kashmiris will not consent to rule by a power that, as history has shown them, is not above brutalizing them into submission. The element that has been missing in efforts toward a settlement is the political representation of Kashmiris. There is no way to provide this on a principled basis except by holding elections in Kashmir under impartial control and supervision. This would enable all ethnic communities and zones in Kashmir to elect representatives who in turn will appoint a team or teams with the mandate to negotiate a settlement with both India and Pakistan and to manage the transitional phase in the State. No drastic overhaul of the existing administrative machinery will be required to initiate this phase. But the removal of the military and paramilitary troops from Kashmir and freedom of movement of State subjects between the two parts is prerequisite. As President Barack Obama has rightly observed, the key role the U.S. can play in resolving the Kashmir issue is to facilitate better understanding between India and Pakistan. He has articulated on several occasions that resolving the Kashmir dispute will very likely eliminate the raison d’être for militant extremism in South Asia, and will address the root cause of the arms race between India and Pakistan. In an April 2010 interview, Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer said America should be interested in Kashmir because the resolution of the Kashmir conflict would be helpful in addressing the problems of instability, not just in Afghanistan, but in the entire region. Kashmiris have faith that Obama’s Kashmir policy will be shaped by the principles of a just and durable peace, and not by the relative strategic value to the U.S. of India or Pakistan. They also hope that the U.S. will not continue to ignore the Kashmiris’ wishes, nor bypass the expression of those sentiments. Obama should encourage both India and Pakistan to initiate a peace process that includes both the UN as well as the Kashmiris to ensure that a just settlement is achieved. The appointment of a special envoy on Kashmir will certainly hasten the process of peace and stability in South Asia – home to one-fifth of the world’s population.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is executive director of the Kashmiri American Council, Washington, D.C.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Is India Shining? As poverty and segregation unravel Indian "secularism," the nation's 200 million Muslims suffer disproportionately. By Manzoor Ghori
have known and witnessed poverty in India for more than 50 years. This year, however, the experience was more painful because of the extremely cold weather in the north. In the Jahangirabad camp (Barabanki district), it was frigid; one night the temperature dropped to down to 5 degrees. Imagine living in such severe weather without a heater, hot water or even warm clothes or shoes. The cold wave killed about 100 people. You have to see the poverty to believe it and experience the pain to feel it. About 60 percent of this region’s population is Muslim—most of them uneducated and poor. The date Jan. 31, 2011 reminded of another historical date—Jan. 30, 1948, the date of Gandhi’s assassination. My next stop during my trip was Ahmedabad and Anand in Gujarat— Gandhi’s hometown. One cannot help but recall Gandhi’s struggle for independence and his fight for justice, which started against apartheid in South Africa. But I was shocked when I visited Gandhi’s Ashram the next day. This beautiful and well-preserved monument to his life and work, in Kheda, located on the banks of the rivers Vatrak and Shedhi, is now almost deserted. The few there were mostly foreigners. In the evening, my friend and I wanted to visit the old Muslim part of town, Jamalpur. After every motorcycle rickshaw driver refused to go there, we gave up. On the way to our rooms, the rental sign caught my attention: “For Rent,” and under it, “Non Veg Do Not Apply.” (The vast majority of Muslims are non-vegetarians.) What irony! Almost 70 years later, Gandhi’s hometown is practicing segregation. The beautiful mausoleum of Wali Daccni, father of Daccni-dialect Urdu poetry—demolished during anti-Muslim riots—has not been rebuilt. Instead, the Narendra Modi-led RSS government built a road over it. In vibrant Gujarat, business is booming, but poverty, hatred and segregation is booming faster. Gujarat ranks thirteenth
Manzoor Ghori with Indian Muslim children at an IMRC supported project.
in poverty just ahead of Bihar and West Bengal. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer; not only in Gujarat but all over India. However, the poor, in most cases, are the Muslims. In Hyderabad, my hometown, two issues dominated newspaper headlines while I was there. First, about Muslims being falsely implicated in Macca Masjid bomb blasts, causing hundreds to be imprisoned and tortured. It was confounding: I couldn’t understand how the government was still holding innocent Muslim youth in different state prisons, and no one was doing anything except issue statements. The second big issue was the proposal to create a separate Telana-
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
India’s common culture and values are being destroyed by the segregation which is growing in every big city, especially among the well educated and now moving toward villages.
gan state, which has led to strikes and work stoppages. Osmania University is now closed and a hotbed of politics.
Segregation Segregation started in 1992 with the political maneuvering of Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party and the militant Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with Rath Yatra led by future deputy prime minister L.K. Advani. Advani allowed the demolition of the 700-year-old Babri Masjid that same year. This captured the attention of Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government after riots broke out, killing thousands. Its peak was in Gujarat. Narendra Modi came to power in 2001. In 2002, a Godhra train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire and several died; Muslims were blamed and mass killings followed. Advani and Modi have done more damage to the country’s secular tradition and philosophy of “composite nationalism”—where some felt that Muslims (who were a pivotal part of the centuries long struggle against British occupation) could exist in a Hindu-dominated India. India’s common culture and values are being destroyed by the segregation that is growing in every big city—especially among the well educated—and is now moving toward villages. Extremism by both Hindus and Muslims will be a problem for both sides. But it is a bigger problem for the 200 million Muslims of India, especially for their security, justice and equality as citizens. It will be a problem for their advancement in education, housing, employment, leadership, and living with dignity. This in turn will create more social unrest in India as a 200-million-strong minority is a number to be considered. Another example of segregation emerged in the May 2011 elections in Assam and Kerala, where all major political parties denied fair participation of the Muslim minority. Muslim representation in the parliament has declined from 48 to 30, though their population has increased. India seeks a bright future but it has go back to historical values of moderation and value peace and harmony within and around the society. This has been our tradition for hundreds of years brought by the Sufi tradition of Islam and Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence.
Manzoor Ghori is founder and executive director of Indian Muslim Relief and Charities.
Prayer, Earth and the Environment
Prayer: The Mark of the Believer
In protecting, guarding, and nurturing the environment, Muslims are only fulfilling the trust humans accepted as God’s vicegerent on earth. By Saffet Abid Catovic
rophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), in his last moments on earth, his head hot with fever and resting on the lap of his wife Aisha (‘alayha rahmat), opened his eyes, looked up and addressed those present, advising: “Take care of your prayer and those whom your right hands possess.” Most Islamic scholars consider this as a significant component of the Prophet’s last will and testament. With these last words, he established—for all times—the mutualistic
spiritual and organic, intimate connection between humanity and God in the vertical plane on the one hand, and all of creation in the horizontal plane on the other. In the language of the Quran, “Cable lifeline that connects man to God along the vertical plane and cable which connects man to the rest of creation.” Each cable conditions and is conditioned by the other. This in turn creates mutual rights, duties and obligations between humankind and God, and humankind and the rest of creation, or the worshippers.
Muslims must establish a comprehensive neighborhood watch and take a leadership role in ensuring the well-being of all creation.
Prayer is Islam’s distinguishing characteristic and the mark of the believer. Its importance lies in the fact that its legislative enactment required the Prophet be brought into God’s direct presence during the Isra wal Miraj (Night Journey). Prayer is the Miraj (Ascension-communion) with the Lord; it is the first matter on which Muslims will be questioned on Judgment Day. If it is sound, all of one’s other actions will be deemed sound and if it is defective, all one’s other actions during one’s worldly existence will be deemed defective. Prayer forms the primary vertical (spiritual) nexus and pathway to the Lord, yet its relative effectiveness is not realized except through its positive and constructive effect on one’s life and interactions with all of creation outside of the prayer. God reminds the believers in the Quran: “Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular prayer, for prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and the remembrance of God is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And God knows the (deeds) that you do,” (29:45). A. Yusuf Ali explains that this recitation implies: rehearsing or reciting it and publishing it abroad to the world; reading it to ourselves; studying it to understand it as it should be studied and understood (2:121); or meditating on it so as to accord our knowledge, life, and desires with it. When
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
this recitation is done, it becomes real prayer and purges believers of anything they would be ashamed of or anything that could cause injustice to any creation. Such prayer passes into our innermost life and being, because we realize God’s presence. That is the true remembrance—bringing to mind things as present to us which might otherwise be absent to us. It is subjective; it fills our consciousness with God, because in any case, He is always present and knows all. Regarding the place of prayer, the Prophet had remarked that among the unique and distinguishing aspects of his Message and that of his brethren and predecessor prophets and messengers was that “the earth was made a place of prayer and a means of purification.” With these words he emphasized the sacred nature of earth or soil, not only as a pure entity but also as a purifying agent. This reverence toward soil, which physiologically is the shared creative raw material from which our bodies, along with that of the rest of animal and vegetative earthly creation was formed, is also demonstrated in the ritual of tayammum, or “dry or waterless wudu,” which permits the use of dust in the performance of ritual purification before prayer when water is unavailable. Also suggested in the Prophet’s words is the expansion of the boundaries of the sister Abrahamic faiths’ thresholds of temples and churches, within which they were required to carry out certain rites, rituals and sacraments. Islam sacralized all of Earth. Modern Islamic thinkers and philosophers, like Allama Muhammad Iqbal and others, have tended to privilege the political implications of this hadith: i.e. Islam’s rejection of the modern (Western) world’s bifurcation and separation of the sacred and secular. But in a time of existential threats to all of earth’s creatures, including Homo sapiens, brought on by human activity, a more organic and earth-centered understanding echoing the views of early generations of Islam’s scholars needs to be revisited and revived. For we will all be reminded when we are placed into our home in the earth after the janazah prayer: “From this earth We created you, from this earth We return you and from this earth We will bring you forth again.” Prayer — with its various motions, postures and positions—is mirrored in the changing positions of the shadows of all our fellow creations (16:48-50). Especially when performed outdoors—the preferred location to conduct prayers for the Islamic holidays,
Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha — the prayer is a pathway. This pathway, if consciously understood and reflected upon, not only exposes but more importantly reconnects and harmonizes the believer — body, mind and soul — with the natural rhythms of the earth.
Placed in Trust The Arabic phrase ma malakat aymanukum is found in similar constructions in over a dozen Quranic verses, as well as in other Hadith. In many of these, it was interpreted as a descriptive term for those who had been taken captive in war, particularly females, who then were placed as servants/slaves in households of some of the Muslim captors, in accordance with the pre-modern Islamic policy of that time. Given the specific circumstances and context in which the Prophet’s final directive
was spoken, an alternative meaning that is derived primarily from the Arabic language itself presents itself as being appropriate. Linguistically then, the term ma malakat aymanukum, can be understood to mean “what possessions (land, property, fortune, spouses, etc.) that you have been given command, authority or power over and have taken an oath or covenant to care for. The oath or covenant here can be understood as a reference to the trust that mankind took on (33:72): the just and effective administration of all that has been placed under our control and use in their multifaceted role as vicegerents (6:165). In other words, the trustee has a high degree of freedom and accompanying responsibility (and accountability) in the use (or misuse) of the given trust.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
This trust not only encompasses the web of human relations, but extends outward in ever-expanding concentric circles to include all within the natural world, our ecological neighborhood, and all that man through his participation, intervention, actions/inaction has the ability to control and/or manipulate (16:3-18). The Khalifa’s role in a comprehensive view includes at least three aspects: duties of reflection and worship; vicegerent in the sense of temporal ruler of the earth has authority and disposal over creatures; and as cultivator and developer of the Earth. Just as man has disposal over beings and has the ability to order them and utilize them according to his needs and wishes, so he has the capacity to develop the sciences and arts, and the development of agriculture. The Archangel Gabriel emphasized the rights of neighbors to such an extent that the
Prophet thought that God would make them share in his inheritance. In a real sense, all of creation is our neighbor: fellow humans, animal and plant life and the entire visible and invisible world that surrounds us. Thus, is it not about time that Muslims to establish a comprehensive neighborhood watch and take a leadership role in ensuring the well-being of all creation? By correctly fulfilling our roles as Khalifa, we will not succumb to the Quranic warning of being rash in administering the trust, as the Quran warns Man of his audacity to take it on: “He (man) was indeed unjust and foolish.” (33: 75-76)
Saffet Abid Catovic, a longtime community activist, is a fellow at GreenFaith, the premier interfaith coalition for religious-environmental leadership.
The Prophet’s Speech
Clear articulation constitutes the foundation for delivering a message — especially if the message is the word of God. By Mariam Abushanab
mong the many things we may take for granted at times is our ability to produce speech clearly and effortlessly. Anyone who has watched the Oscar-winning film “The King’s Speech” has witnessed the arduous and heart-wrenching journey of a leader stultified by his struggle with a speech impediment. Since speech production is not done consciously for most, the blessing of being able to lucidly communicate one’s thoughts if often ignored. The processes involved in the production of speech and language are extremely complex and require many physical and cognitive adjustments. In order for these processes to take place in a normal pattern, every process involved must function properly. When the necessary processes for speech production do not function normally, various forms of communication disorders may appear. These include fluency disorders, motor speech disorders, voice disorders, language disorders, and phonological disorders. The extent to which these disorders may impact a person’s ability to communicate effectively depends on the severity. As an example of a mild case is Prophet Moses (‘alayhi as salaam). He was born in an environment where the tyrant Pharaoh was killing male newborns to ensure that they would not grow up to challenge him. Since Moses was born during this time, his mother feared for his life and decided to place him in a floating basket, leaving him in the river stream, putting all her trust in God. Moses was picked up by one of Pharaoh’s aides and was put in the protection of Asiya, the virtuous wife of Pharaoh. Although Moses landed in the killer’s palace, he was safe under royal protection. An influential and intelligent lady, Asiya was able to convince her husband not to kill the baby. Under her tutelage, Moses grew up in a very stable environment, which allowed him to develop healthy traits. Later in his life, Moses went to Mount 54
Sinai, where he found himself in God’s presence. There he was told by God that his people had gone astray. Even though this was confirmed news, there is nothing in the Quran mentioning that he lost control of his behavior. The main process involved during this event was auditory-sensory. When he returned and saw his people’ waywardness, he chided his brother Aaron for being unable to manage them. He grabbed his brother’s head and shook him. He lost his temper and threw the plates of the Torah on the ground. He became incensed that his people were worshipping a heifer crafted by Al-Samiry. The main process involved during this event
explain his heightened reaction to seeing how his people have gone astray. When God asked Moses to return to the palace where he grew up and deliver the divine message to the Pharaoh, He told him to address Pharaoh with qawlan layyina (soft and mild words). This is when Moses asked God to open his heart, give him calmness, coolness, and untie the knot of his tongue. He requested his brother, Aaron, to accompany him; Aaron served as the main spokesperson in addressing the Pharaoh. This shows the importance of clear articulation in communication and delivering a message. Moses himself had a communication disorder, an uqdah (knot) on his tongue, while his brother was fluent in speech. Even though Moses could not communicate as effectively as his brother, his management and leadership skills were outstanding. Clear articulation in this context constitutes a very basic foundation for delivering a message, especially if the message is the word of God (recited word). Unsurprisingly, the first word revealed in the Quran is Iqra’ (read). In fact, the literal meaning of the word “Quran” is “reading.” Likewise, the
God says, “We clearly state and explain the verses.” Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was given the mission of clearly stating and articulating to the people whatever had been revealed. Each of these examples shows the importance of clear articulation and maintaining effective communication skills. was visual. The knowledge Moses received during his meeting with God was at the level of Ilm al-yaqin (certain and decisive knowledge) since this information was given by God. On the other hand, when he came back and saw the situation, this was Ayn al-yaqin (knowledge acquired by sight). Moreover, one could possibly argue that Moses had a visual-sensory preference—in other words, his brain may have processed visual information more actively than other sensory processes. On the basic level, the senses operate in the same way, but each extracts information in different ways and transfers it to its own specialized processing region in the brain. In theory, this could
Quran is described as bayan (clear statement), and mubin (clear expression). In many verses, God says, “We clearly state and explain the verses.” Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was given the mission of clearly stating and articulating to the people whatever has been revealed. Each of these examples shows the importance of clear articulation and maintaining effective communication skills. Moreover, along with the many other things we should be thankful for; we also need to remember to thank God for giving us the ability to speak and making communication easy for us.
Mariam Abushanab is a graduate student in communication disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
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Hodari Abdul-Ali A Peacemaker and Activist 1954 – 2011
odari Abdul-Ali, a respected Muslim businessman, journalist, activist and leader died of cancer on April 30 in suburban Washington, D.C. His life and work was celebrated by his friends and family in D.C. less than a week before he died, an event attended by an overflowing crowd.
Abdul-Ali was born in San Diego, graduated magna cum laude from Howard University’s School of Communications in 1976 and undertook graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University. He was editor-in-chief of Howard’s campus newspaper, “The Hilltop.” In 1976, he founded Liberation Information Distributing Co., a leading national wholesaler of books and periodicals about Africa, African-Americans and Islam. In 1981, he founded Pyramid Books in D.C., which grew to become the first chain of independent African American-owned bookstores. Since 1995, he had operated Dar Es Salaam Books/Health Center in suburban Washington, D.C. As an activist, Abdul-Ali received numerous awards for community service and was involved with a variety of nonprofit organizations. He was a member of the governing body of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), director of the Universal Human Rights Network, executive director of Give Peace a Chance
Coalition, and a member of NCOBRA - the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America. Also, he was director of the Imam Jamil Action Network. AbdulAli, who also hosted a radio program, “The Struggle Continues!” was also involved with a variety of organizations ranging from those advocating reparations to those opposing the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He traveled to India and spoke before a conference of Dalit (“Untouchables”) activists, and visited Sudan with observer missions. “I started practicing Islam in 1975,” Abdul-Ali said in a March 2010 interview with the DC Islam Examiner. “Malcolm X inspired me after reading his autobiography in high school in 1971. From that point on, I became oriented towards Islam. My love of Islam was to use it as a vehicle to fight for freedom. I didn’t know about all the Surahs or the Fiqh and Hadith. I just saw Islam as a vehicle to fight for our freedom.” Abdul-Ali’s name, an acquaintance said, really was meant to be “Abd Al-Aali,” meaning “Servant of the Most High,” and never “Abd of Ali ibn Abu Talib,” as the spelling may imply. He is survived by his wife, Ayana, his four children—sons Haziq, Sadiq, Muhahid and daughter Qadira—and his five grandchildren, Jaela, Zayan, Asad, Najah, and Sanaa.
Public Servant and Entrepreneur 1965 – 2011
ayor Omar Ahmad of San Carlos City, Calif., died of heart failure May 10. He was 46. A widely respected politician, businessman, and community leader, he was elected to the San Carlos City Council in November 2007, and subsequently selected to serve as the mayor by his fellow council members— becoming the second Muslim mayor of an American city. He had previously served as a member of the city’s Economic Development Advisory Commission. During his term on the city council, Ahmad also served on several committees and boards, including: the Airport Roundtable, Belmont-San Carlos Fire Commission, C/CAG Airport
Land Use Committee, Caltrain Board of Directors, San Mateo County Council of Cities, among others. He was a well-known entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, having been involved in the start up of a number of companies over the years, including the Discovery Channel, @Home, Trusted ID, Grand Central Communications, Napster, Netscape and most recently as the co-founder and CEO of SynCH Energy Corporation. He made time for other community organizations and served as executive director of American Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism. Ahmad—before becoming an engineer, entrepreneur, a pilot, photographer and mountaineer—grew up in Ohio and then
moved to Florida to attend the University of Florida. Ahmad is survived by his father, Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad, his mother, Nadira Ahmad, and his two sisters, Fataima Warner and Leah Berry. Flags were lowered to half-staff in front of city buildings across the Bay Area in honor of Omar Ahmad. The state Senate and state Assembly in Sacramento adjourned in his honor.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Food for the Spirit
The Four Paths to Wisdom Muslims are in a unique position when seeking wisdom because besides imitation, experience, and reflection, they also have Revelation. By Imam Mohamed Magid and Samuel Ross
he world, it is said, is undergoing an “Information Revolution.” There are now an estimated 100 billion documents online, and more than a million e-books. Every year, nearly 500,000 new books are published, according to UN. Such achievements are staggering and certainly worth celebrating. Yet an important question remains: has more information led to a simultaneous growth in wisdom? If such a growth is underway, we might expect to see people more successful in reaching their goals, in solving their problems, and thus more happy. While undoubtedly there have been improvements, but many of our greatest challenges vex us now more than ever before. We are inundated with advice about how to be happy. Yet the number of Americans who report themselves as “very happy” has been steadily trending downward since 1972. TV financial shows abide and financial woes grow higher; diet books are perennial bestsellers, and yet the obesity rate has doubled since 1990. Why hasn’t access to oceans of information enabled us to better reach our goals? One answer is implicit in the poet T. S. Eliot’s famous question, “Where is the wisdom
we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” We are so inundated with information that we are often tragically unable to discern what is actually worth knowing anymore. There are for example so many conflicting studies about weight loss—carbs, no carbs, eating for your blood type, eating raw foods, etc.—that it can be exhausting to just sort through them all. In the end, it can be easier not to bother dieting in the first place. Perhaps a more profound, answer is that, even when we know what we should do, we often lack the willpower to act. We may save money for one month only to frivolously spend it the next. We may purchase a new pair of jogging shoes, only to let them collect dust in the closet. What, then, can we do? First, it is essential to recognize what we are looking for. The Quranic word for “wisdom,” is hikma, and God says: “He grants wisdom (hikma) unto whom He wills: and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted tremendous good” (2:269). In its Arabic usage, hikma is actually different from “wisdom,” which MerriamWebster’s defines as “accumulated philosophic learning.” Hikma in Arabic entails not just knowledge but also action. Hikma
comes from the triliteral roots Ha, Kaf, and Mim, which imply to restrain for the purposes of improvement. Hence the related word hakama in Arabic refers to part of the bridle worn by a horse to prevent it from being unruly. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya defined hikma as “beneficial knowledge and righteous action.” Thus a doctor who fails to heed his own advice and consequently has bad health is neither “wise” (hakeem) nor does he have “wisdom” (hikma). He simply has ‘ilm (knowledge). Only when he acts upon his knowledge, doing things in the best possible way, is he hakeem. Second, we need a path. Confucius is said to have remarked that the paths to wisdom are three: imitation, experience, and reflection. Imitation he believed to be the easiest, experience the bitterest, and reflection the noblest. Muslims are in a unique position to successfully tread all three: Islam confers a special facilitation with each. Indeed, Islam even gives us a fourth path unknown to Confucius. For imitation, we have the example of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wqa sallam), about whom God says, “Certainly you have in the Messenger of God an excellent exemplar” (33:21). His life is a veritable treasure trove of wisdom. He exemplified not just how to worship, but how to interact with others, and even how to perform everyday tasks such as eating and sleeping. The wisdom in his example is felt by those who practice it and is even being slowly discovered by people of other faiths. He, for example, taught us to brush our teeth long before the American Dental Association recommended it. He taught us the social harms of alcohol, long before the Temperance movement. He taught us not to
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
place our mouths directly on water pitchers, long before we knew about the germ theory of disease. A wonderful daily ritual that we can implement, to grow in our knowledge of his example, is to read a hadith or short section in his biography with a friend or loved one and contemplate how we can more fully follow in his footsteps. Doing so can add tremendous barakah to one’s life and become a cherished routine. We have an incredible wealth of biographical and autobiographical literature, aphorisms, and counsel by hundreds of Muslims of the highest spiritual station. In his Deliverance from Error, Al-Ghazali recounts his search for truth as a youth and ultimate arrival at knowledge of the Divine. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, in his ‘Igatha al-Lahfan min Masayid ash Shaytan, documents the various tricks that Satan tried on him. Ibn Ata’ Allah in his Hikam shares nearly 300 aphorisms summarizing the entire spiritual path. In the business world, it is conventional wisdom to seek out the best “practices,” or techniques for accomplishing given tasks. As Muslims, we too seek out best practices in our daily prayers: “Guide us to the straight path, the path of those on whom You have favored” (1:6-7). Is not our prayer, in a sense, a plea to be shown the “best practices” of those who are successful? Let us transform our prayer into action by benefiting from the experiences of the great men and women who came before us.
WHAT SPIRITUAL TOPICS MATTER MOST TO YOU? Please help “Food for the Spirit” better meet your needs by completing a two-minute survey at: www.isna.net/foodforthespiritsurvey
Third, we have reflection. By taking the time to reflect and read the reflections of others we can learn much that is insightful about the world, our spiritual path, and our own souls. But there is a danger inherent in reflection that Islam mercifully helps safeguard us against: many of the greatest reflections are admixed with falsehood. How many famous novelists, for instance, were keen observers of society yet mistaken in their moral conclusions? How can we be, as Imam al-Ghazali counseled, like moneychangers who reach their hands into bags containing counterfeit coins and extract only that which is pure? One important step is the Quranic injunction of shura (consultation): “That which is with God is for those…who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation” (42:36-38). Unfortunately, our own impatience and
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
lack of humility can often lead us to baseless— and consequently harmful—conclusions. A second step is to strengthen our relationship with God: “He grants wisdom (hikma) unto whom He wills… but none will understand except the ulul-albab (possessors of sound hearts and minds)” (2:269). Who are these possessors? In Surah al-Zumar, God clarifies: “Those who listen to all that is said (from guidance and misguidance), then follow the best of it; … those are the ulul-albab” (39:18). Muslims are in a unique position because, unlike Confucius who only knew of imitation, experience, and reflection, Muslims also have revelation. Muslims have—in the Quran and the commands and prohibitions of the Prophet—a prescription for life that rescues us of the need to resolve so many questions that only years of trial and error could otherwise resolve. Let us strive to increase our connection to the Quran and the Prophet’s teachings. Every Muslim should have a short wird—a set number of pages that they strive to read every day from the Quran, even if it is just a single page. Ideally, we should read the translation as well and set aside some time for contemplation. The Information Age has made extraordinary things possible, but the danger of perishing in the flood of information is real. Let us build our ark through the imitation of the best of mankind, learning from those before us, reflecting with sound hearts, and connecting with al-Quran al-Hakim (36:2).
Reviews Transnational Experience The Homeland is the Arena: Religion, Transnationalism, and the Integration of Senegalese Immigrants in America Ousmane Kane 2011. pp 336. PB. $36. Oxford University Press, USA
ane addresses the modes of organization of transnational societies in the globalized context, and specifically the role of religion in the experience of migrant communities in Western societies. Kane offers a case study of the growing Senegalese community in New York City. By pulling together numerous aspects (religious, ethnic, occupational, gender, generational, socio-economic, and political) of the experience of the Senegalese migrant community into an integrated analysis, linking discussion of both the homeland and host community, this book breaks new ground in the debate about post-colonial Senegal, Muslim globalization and diaspora studies in the U.S. A leading scholar of African Islam, Kane has also conducted extensive research in North America, Europe and Africa, which allows him to provide an insightful historical ethnography of the Senegalese transnational experience.
Suspended Civil Liberties Detained without Cause: Muslims’ Stories of Detention and Deportation in America after 9/11 Irum Shiekh 2011. pp. 258. PB. $28. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY
heikh collects personal narratives of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. who were racially profiled, detained indefinitely, and mistreated following 9/11. The collection of six narratives includes firsthand descriptions of physical abuse within American prisons to a harrowing account of extraordinary rendition and torture in Egypt. Exploring themes of identity and ethnic tension against a backdrop of the global war on terror, Sheikh provides an outlet for former detainees to tell their stories and reveal the human cost of suspending civil liberties after a wartime emergency. This account of a troubling period of recent American history gives a voice to those who suffered, deprived of their constitutional rights.
Short Takes My Early Life Sultan Bin Muhammad al-Qasimi 2011. pp. 320. HB. $50. Bloomsbury, New York, NY In this first part of his autobiography–translated from the Arabic–al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah, presents an insider’s account of the tensions between the emerging Gulf states and the British occupation in the 1950s and ’60s. In his engaging narrative, he reveals some untold parts of the history of the Gulf state. The Heart of Islam Stephen Blanton 2011. pp. 168. PB. $11.99. HB. $19.99. AuthorHouse, Indianapolis, IN Blanton argues that not all Muslims are violent. He outlines the roots of Islamic teachings, explores history, and today. Never Give Up Majid Shano 2011. pp. 216. PB. $10.58 AuthorHouse, Indianapolis, IN In this inspirational book, Shano, an Ethiopian who sought asylum in Germany, describes his remarkable journey, rising to a physician specializing in sports medicine. Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims Stephen Sheehi 2011. pp. 272. PB. $16.95. Clarity Press, Atlanta, GA Sheehi examines the rise of anti-Muslim and antiArab sentiments in the West and concludes that Muslim and Arab-hating emanate from all corners of the American political and cultural spectrum, serving poignant ideological functions in the age of economic, cultural and political globalization. Muslims and Media Images: News Versus Views Ather Farouqui (ed.) 2011. pp. 368. PB. $35. Oxford India Paperbacks A collection of essays by prominent Muslim and non-Muslim Indians focusing on topics that include how the media view Muslim post-9/11, and what Muslim Indians are doing to change distorted media images of themselves. Hunting to Cloning: Unearthing Civilizations through Quran Mahmood Jawaid 2011. pp. 193. PB. $20. InstantPublisher.com Jawaid, comparing Quranic statements with the archaeological data, states that he was able to unearth the civilization that thrived since Adam and to predict the time and place of the appearances of Quranic/Biblical prophets.
Islamic Horizons July/August 2011
Job Opening Director of Youth Programs Key Duties • Oversee the development and implementation of objective-oriented youth programs, compatible with the Mosque Foundation’s mission • Manage Youth Department at the Mosque Foundation • Recruit, train and mentor youth program staff and volunteers • Document all processes and internal policies • Develop and implement sustainability planning • Develop and implement community outreach campaigns Qualifications • Solid Islamic character and understanding • Minimum experience of 5 years working with youth • College graduate of related field • Visionary with ability to devise long-term youth strategic plan • Strong managerial skills • Strong communication and teamwork skills • Ability to think creatively Compensation depends on experience, education and skills. Please send cover letter and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the address: HR Committee • Mosque Foundation 7360 W 93rd Street • Bridgeview, IL 60455
The Islamic Society of Sarasota & Bradenton seeks qualified candidates for the position of Imam to lead a growing community with a New Masjid being completed. DUTIES: • Lead daily, Jumuah, Eid Prayers • Conduct halaqahs and activities for adults and youths • Lead educational classes for Muslims and non-Muslims • Provide counseling and guidance services as needed • Help manage the weekend Islamic School • Perform marriages and Funeral services QUALIFICATION: • A degree in Islamic studies or Shari’ah from an accredited University. • Fluency in Arabic and English with excellent written and oral communication skills. • Comprehensive knowledge of the Quran, Hadith and Fiqh. • Mastery of Tajweed. • Hafiz of Quran preferred. • Minimum 3 yrs experience as an Imam. • Charismatic personality, motivational speaker and active Daeya. Work Eligibility Requirement: Permanent Resident or US citizen Compensation package is competitive based on qualification and experience. To apply: Qualified candidates must submit a resume and cover letter along with three references to the Secretary of ISSB at: kashifkhan65@ gmail.com or: 4350 North Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota, FL 34235
Positions Available The Islamic School of Louisville is looking for enthusiastic and experienced applicants for the following positions: • Principal with a Masters Degree in Education. At least two years of experience required. • Certified Elementary Teachers (Concentration in Math or Science) • Certified Middle School Teachers in Social Studies and Language Arts • PreK Teachers with a Degree in Early Childhood Education All applicants should have a U.S. work permit and teaching experience. Negotiable and competitive salary based on experience and qualifications. Benefits include health insurance and tuition discount. Application Procedure: Send cover letter, resumes, salary requirements and references to: Islamic School of Louisville Attention: Principal Naima Abuazza 8215 Old Westport Road Louisville, KY 40222 Phone: (502) 412-7826 Fax: (502) 412-7826 Email: email@example.com, www.isofl.info/
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168-0038
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