March/April 2011/1432 | $4.00 | www.isna.net
Keeping a Green World | Book Clubs build Bridges
Tweet your way to success Utilize social media to grow your organization
Arabic Immersion From preschool programs to study abroad Worries on the Web Monitoring your child’s online presence
Are Schools and Parents Recognizing the Signs and Tackling the Problem?
Reg ISNA ist Con ra v pa tion enti ge o 31 For n m
Vol. 40 No. 2 March/April 2011 visit isna online at: www.isna.net
Cover Story 18 Beating the Bully Bullying has accelerated from an exception to a daily reality for many Muslim students in Islamic and public schools alike. Parents and educators must collaborate to address this rampant phenomenon.
19 Being Muslim in a Public School 24 Cyber Safety
Features 28 Rethinking How We Teach Arabic
From preschool to the university level, how new methods are revolutionizing the way we teach Arabic.
36 Living the Language Arabic immersion programs go beyond the mundane to provide students with a holistic educational experience.
38 Get the Best
Research will help students find the right Arabic language program to suit their goals.
40 Sharing Knowledge The Islamic Speakers Bureau helps teach about Muslims and their faith in schools around the nation.
42 Raising Awareness Wouldn’t it be sensible for Islamic schools to deliberately integrate the lawful and wholesome, Halal and Tayyib?
43 Let Kids Thrive Right under your Nose Can online education be an answer to the challenges that many Muslim parents face in providing quality education in an ideal environment?
Community Building 44 For the Love of Literature 46 Keeping A Green World 48 The New Elephant in the Room
Essays 50 51 53 56
Yes, Soups are Islamic WMDs Concord in Comradeship Stable Ties Uncovering Myths on Hijab
Departments 6 8 12 58 60 61
Editorial ISNA Matters National News Food for the Spirit Reviews Matrimonials
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Sarah Thompson. 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 Qur’an made are from The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Social Trauma Stings Deep How the Qur’an and hadith avert belittling.
remember my first experience with the Internet. Sometime in 1997, I sat at my hugely oversized computer, attempting to complete the final research project of my high school career. As I sat listening to the blaring noise of my dial-up modem, I marveled at the fact that I didn’t need to leave my bedroom to locate hundreds of sources for my paper. The ease of it seemed unreal. Little did I know at that time such a tool would revolutionize the way we communicate, learn and live. Unfortunately, while the Internet has facilitated much good, it has also become a prime method for bullies to keep tabs on their victims. From using aliases to dupe unsuspecting teens, to harassment via social media sites such as Facebook, bullies possess unlimited possibilities when it comes to preying upon others. The days of meeting your adversary after school at the flagpole seem archaic; bullying is an inescapable phenomenon no longer confined to the schoolyard. According to a new study, “Empathy Gaps for Social Pain: Why People Underestimate the Pain of Social Suffering” featured in the current issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, those who never experience bullying fail to understand the implications of bullying for its victims. “Everyone knows that social trauma is unpleasant, but people are often blind to the full severity of these experiences and therefore don’t do enough to protect or intervene when victims suffer,” said study leader Loran Nordgren (assistant professor of management and organizations, Kellogg School of Management). “News stories in recent months centered around bully victims who took their own lives out of desperation and fear, whether harassed
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRE SID ENT Mohamed Hagmagid Ali
physically in school, or emotionally via text message, online or through social networks. Only by having a heightened sense of empathy to victims’ true suffering can we begin to pave the way for reform and new policies.” Islam, as a holistic way of life, presents us with multiple injunctions to guard against such behavior. From the verses of Surah Al-Hujurat (49:11) that forbid us from laughing at, defaming or being sarcastic with each other, in essence, preventing bullying, to Surah Ar-Rum (30:22), which instructs us to appreciate the concept of diversity in the universe, God makes it clear that no one is deserves belittling. Surah Al-Israa (17:36) also guards against one of the most destructive forms of bullying—gossip: “And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart - about all those [one] will be questioned.” On the Day of Judgment, God will question us about the use of our ears, eyes, and hearts. How can we use such faculties to devastate a fellow human’s existence? A hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam) defines a Muslim as, “The one from whose tongue and hand, people are safe” (Tirmidhi). The wisdom of the Prophet prevents both verbal and physical bullying. As parents, educators, Muslims and human beings, it is our duty to ensure that those around us are safe from our tongues and hands, and create a welcoming environment for our children, students and friends to approach us with any concerns they might be facing. Be alert for signs that your child or student might be encountering—or might be—a bully. Deanna Othman Assistant Editor
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
is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2011 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch and LexisNexis, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 P O S T M A S TER
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Photograph by Waleed Rajabally
Rahima Foundation and Sons of Service receive the ISNA Community Service Award at the West Zone Seerah Conference.
In the Footsteps of the Prophet
Photos are by Kathleen Cameron and are property of the National Council of Churches.
“We must create ways to get to know one another. Humanity cannot be great without knowledge of one another. The Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) connected with the people around him every day; he knew his neighbors and his neighbors knew him,” said Imam Mohamed Magid (president, ISNA) in his keynote address at the ISNA West Zone Seerah Conference on Dec 24-25 in Santa Clara, CA. The event, held at the Muslim Community Association (MCA) under the theme, “In the Footsteps of the Prophet SAW: Nurturing Compassionate Communities,” energized the local community and area volunteers who worked side by side with ISNA staff from the event kickoff to the last event. The speakers highlighted the importance of outreach and inclusion. Many stated that compassion-
ate communities do not just isolate themselves by religion, age, country, or race, but support everyone in the community to develop a shared vision of progress. Safaa Zarzour (secretary general, ISNA) stressed, “A community is strong when it provides not only for itself but also provides benefit to the greater society around them.” Yasir Ali (vice president, MCA) highlighted the long-term relationship between MCA and ISNA. Dr. Altaf Hussain (member, ISNA Majlis Ash-Shura) reminded, “Islam and the practice of its principles teach us that clarity of thought, intention in action, and self-assessment are how we focus on what is right and purify our thoughts and actions. Our actions build a resume for review and the true resume is with God.” Muna Ali reflected on the Prophet, as he incorporated people of all faiths into
the communities of Medina and Mecca and did not limit the rights and benefits found in Islam to Muslim community members alone. She said, “Apart from spiritual reality, we need to develop an intimate reality with the Prophet and find aspects about him that make him personally identifiable to us.” For example, “We must also involve ourselves in community service projects that extend beyond service to our own Muslim community.” The conference tied community service and knowledge in Islam together, to show how they support one another and that doing service informed by Islamic principles is the most noble. The Rahima Foundation and Sons of Service were awarded for their inspirational dedication to community service guided in the principles of Islam and the example of the Prophet. The Rahima Foundation was developed 17 years ago from the inspiration of Habibe Husain, a local resident, who has committed the organization to provide food for the needy each week, along with other much needed resources and assistance. The Sons of Service evolved from a group of students and young professionals who wanted to share their blessings with those around them. Sons of Service volunteers commit a minimum of two hours of community service and donate at least $25 to a nonprofit organization each month. “ISNA hopes that these organizations and individuals will inspire others to join them as they live the example of our beloved Prophet,” said Zarzour.
Churches Celebrate 100th Year Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed said, “From the very beginning it was recognized that the roots of Islam were in Judaism and Christianity. In the rise of conflicting Muslim and Christian empires, Christians and Muslims lost their inclusiveness. Even now, the remnants of colonial existence continue to affect Muslims.” Dr. Syeed was a keynote speaker at the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service in New Orleans on Nov 9-11, 2010. This General Assembly was also a landmark
occasion because it commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Modern Ecumenical Movement. The interfaith luncheon for the entire assembly discussed interfaith relations at this period of history in the US, especially between the Abrahamic faiths. Dr. Diana L. Eck (chair, NCC Interfaith Relations Commission; director, Pluralism Project at Harvard University) moderated. The other keynote speaker was Rabbi Steve Gutow (president, Jewish Council for Public Affairs).
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
ISNA Leader Honored
ISNA joins in celebrating Muhammad Ali
The life and work of Champ Muhammad Ali was celebrated by “The Muslim Journal” with a weekend event entitled, “A Time to be Grateful” in Louisville, KY Dec 17-19, 2010. The interfaith event highlighted the accomplishments of Ali, as well as the Muhammad Ali Center, for their contributions to promote respect and peace while inspiring youth and adults to give to their communities and reach their full potential. Safaa Zarzour (secretary general, ISNA), highlighted the long commitment of Muhammad Ali to community service worldwide. Representatives from ISNA joined Zarzour at the ceremony to celebrate all those honored at the weekend’s events.
“This event was a wonderful way to honor and acknowledge the contributions of several members of the community in areas ranging from humanitarian projects to distinguished citizenship, from contributions to Muslim communities to all of civilization, from senior imams to rising young leaders,” commented Habibe Ali (chief operations officer, ISNA). Other awardees included Olympian Carl Lewis and Imam Plemon El-Amin (founder, World Pilgrims). Attendees enjoyed jazz music featuring prominent jazz pianist Ghalib Ghallab. Renowned designer of Islamic fashion, Rabia Zargapur from Dubai, orchestrated a fashion show entitled, “Celebration of Believing Women,” showcasing modest clothing of designers from the United States, Malaysia and the UAE. The uplifting weekend culminated with a play, “A Rose Among Thorns,” honoring civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Ali was ill and unable to attend, though his philanthropic spirit was felt and commemorated by all.
Campaign against Anti-Muslim Bigotry ISNA and some 25 faith-based organizations have launched a year-long Multi-Religious Campaign against AntiMuslim Bigotry. The initiative was finalized Sept 7, 2010, when senior religious leaders joined ISNA to gather at an Emergency Interfaith Summit in Washington, DC to make a clear statement to the public that anti-Muslim bigotry is morally wrong and debases essential American values. They called upon America to seek its higher ideals by ending anti-Muslim bigotry. The Campaign seeks to expand upon the work that began on Sept 7 and also to broaden and deepen the work of religious communities to end antiMuslim bigotry through congregations, and state and community organizations. In addition, the Campaign will expand this work internationally by making a clear
statement to both the Muslim world and the international community as a whole that religious communities in the US are committed to ending anti-Muslim bigotry. The Campaign director will work out of the ISNA Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington DC.
Rizwan Jaka (member, ISNA executive board; board member, All Dulles Area Muslim Society, and Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington) was bestowed the BRIDGES Award that recognizes a Loudoun County, VA resident who has put forth exemplary effort to promote peace and understanding among diverse faiths. The Loudoun Interfaith Bridges Day of Thanks event held in Nov 2010 acknowledged and celebrated the county’s cultural and religious diversity. Jaka, active in Muslim scouting, is also a member of the Goose Creek District Loudoun County Boy Scouts of America. “Mr. Jaka is especially devoted to breaking down the negative image that the Muslim community has endured since 9/11,” said Debra Dalley (board secretary, Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES), adding, “In his own way, Mr. Jaka is fighting the war on terror by reaching out to the broader community in the spirit of promoting peace and understanding.”
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, speaks in solidarity with Muslim Americans.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Highlighting Education ISNA Secretary General Safaa Zarzour delivered the keynote address at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Aldeen Foundation, a southern California-based nonprofit dedicated to support educational organizations through teacher development, leadership development, and enrichment education. The celebration held under the theme, “Building Brighter Tomorrows,” drew more than 200 educators, principals, and school board members from nearly 20 schools in the region. “The rise of any com-
munity begins with education and the fall begins with the lack of quality education; the most important instrument we have in the rise of our community are teachers. Teaching is the most noble profession, as evidenced by our Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who identified himself first as a teacher,” said Zarzour. Zarzour highlighted highlighted the importance of more events, such as the ISNA Education Forum, to increase such national collaboration on
the development of relevant curriculum and trainings for educators. ISNA, he said, “Is committed to lead the national community in the development of unified tools and resources for educators and youth,” adding, “Let us not forget that as an educator, we must always be mindful of the best interests of our learners.” Zarzour shared with attendees ISNA’s own re-doubling of efforts related to education in the last year, highlighting the proposed plan to develop an education department at ISNA, provide more than one education forum across the country each year, and other programs in the works for 2011. Zarzour also met with local leaders to share above-mentioned education strategies, along with other programs in the works, to help support local communities around the country.
Letters to the Editor No Membership Required I direct a program at the Minnesota Council of Churches designed to build community through interfaith relationships. We work extensively with our local Muslim partners to bring people together so that they can begin to know each and understand each other and work together for the common good. I am afraid that some of the information in the article entitled Embracing and “Transcending Differences) (IH, Jan/Feb 2011) could lead to a misunderstanding about Christianity for your readers. In that article Abdul Malik Mujahid is quoted saying, “Unlike churches, which are very strict on membership, mosques are open.” And later, “no masjid requires you to be a member to be praying there.” I fear this creates the impression that one must be a member of a church to pray. I know of no church that requires membership in order to pray. On the contrary, churches welcome visitors and many churches even have volunteer greeters to help visitors feel more welcome. It is true that in some Christian denominations only people who are initiated into the particular denomination can participate fully in all the rituals, such as communion, but all are still invited, even encouraged, to pray. Churches do encourage membership in the local church and ask members to pledge money to 10
How to Submit a Letter to the Editor
support the clergy salaries, upkeep of the church building and for ministry in the local community and globally. The amount of money pledged is not set by the church but is up to the individual church member. Membership is more like becoming part of a community rather than admission into a club. Gail Anderson Director of Unity and Relationships Minnesota Council of Churches
Rewriting History As an independent documentarian, I must commend “Islamic Horizons” for its informative “Islam in America’ series. However, the articles “A Legacy Revisited” by Michael Saahir and “Black America’s Path to Islam” by Ahmad Daniels (IH, Nov/Dec 2010) issue struck me as quite unsettling, as both authors seem intent on rewriting rather than revisiting history. Saahir claims that Elijah Muhammad never proclaimed to have received revelation nor that he claimed his teacher was Allah in human form. Yet it is well known and documented that this was the hallmark of Elijah’s teachings up to his death in 1975. Daniels on the other hand, attempts to oversimplify the issue by claiming that the “major difference between the NOI and traditional Islam was the exclusion of whites.” A. Idris Palmer College Park, MD
“Islamic Horizons” welcomes letters about any article that has appeared recently in the magazine. A letter must include the writer’s mailing address, telephone number, and email. We may edit letters for clarity, civility and accuracy, and they may be shortened for space requirements. We regret that we are unable to acknowledge letters. E-mail: email@example.com Tips on Writing a Letter to the Editor: • Write concisely and clearly. • Keep it to 150 words at most. • Letters are not rejected for publication because of their political coloration. On the contrary, Letters to the Editor is a forum for a variety of voices. Some criticize, some seek to set the record straight, some want to add a different perspective or expertise to an issue. We welcome them all: the agreers, the dissenters, the critics, the curmudgeons, and even those who are happy with us. • “Islamic Horizons” and its parent, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), reserve the right to include a response to any letter they deem. • We do not accept open letters, and we do not publish letters sent in a coordinated letter-writing campaign.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Will the ISNA Diversity Forum spark a new wave of understanding, transcending ethnic, economic, and madhahib differences? By Farayha Arrine
big diversity issue at the seminar: the need for Muslims from all backgrounds to take interest in domestic issues instead of focusing only on foreign matters affecting their home country. Many speakers discussed the great potential of unity among Muslims that would arise from this type of joint problem solving. Imam Zaid Shakir, in his keynote address, highlighted this by issuing a geographically-relevant challenge to Muslims of all backgrounds: to rescue the city of Detroit from the poverty and blight plaguing it for so many years. Shakir also invoked W.E.B.
Photographs by Osama Alian
arah Hekmati, an Iranian American who was raised as a Shia Muslim, stood in a gathering of Sunni, Shia, black, white, and brown Muslims on Saturday night, Jan 15, in Dearborn, MI to help a panel of renowned scholars and community leaders, at ISNA’s first annual Diversity Forum (Jan 14-15), come up with real solutions to take down the barriers between Muslims of different ethnicities, races, and schools of thought. For Hekmati, the topic hit close to home, as she explained to the audience that she
was raised in a Shia household while her husband is Arab and was raised in the Sunni tradition. “We are so grateful to have this type of forum,” she said. Apparently, so were almost 500 other people who attended the two-day event to engage in what Safaa Zarzour (secretary general, ISNA), called a much needed “heartto-heart” about intra-Islam challenges faced by Americans of various backgrounds who identify as Muslims and coexist in the US. One such challenge was addressed in a townhall-style-meeting on Sunni-Shia relations, at which Hekmati shared her ideas on how to unite these two factions: “Islamophobia is one concern shared by all Muslims — whether Sunni or Shia,” Hekmati said, adding that it could easily turn into a unifying topic that Sunnis and Shias could take on together and defeat. Other ideas come from such heavyweights in the Muslim community as Imam Zaid Shakir (Zaytuna Institute), Tariq Ramadan (through video conference), and Aminah McCloud, and focused on the other
Dr. Aminah McCloud, (right) professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at DePaul University, addresses the Forum.
Dubois when he insisted that Muslims take upon these domestic challenges to make sure that the problem of the “color line” does not translate into the 21st century.
person out of the circle. The volunteers did just this, only to realize that they had excluded a person from the circle without any rationale or basis, or without questioning Shakir’s reasons for demanding this. Later in the session, when another volunteer was told by Shakir to infiltrate the circle, the volunteers in the circle did everything in their power to also keep him out even though — as Shakir noted – he never asked them to do anything to keep the second person out. Shakir said his demonstration showed that “when a group forms, it takes on a life of its own.” In a few sessions, participants brainstormed ways to build genuine relationships and friendships between Muslims of different backgrounds in order to avoid the race and ethnicity-specific inclusiveness criticized by many of the speakers. One idea included the creation of a “dine-around” group in which Muslims of different racial and ethnic backgrounds would have dinner together on a regular and rotating basis in order to foster true personal relationships. Two other well-attended sessions of the seminar included a speech by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf — of Park 51 fame — who encouraged Muslims to create an interlocutory relationship between the ummah and the country that we love, and to not allow Islam to become a wedge issue in America or any other country. The seminar also featured a screening of the film “Bilal’s Stand,” which takes on the issues faced by young Black Muslims in the city of Detroit. The Diversity Forum’s format was a particular highlight for many attendees because it focused not only on what community leaders and scholars could teach the attendees, but also asked the attendees to participate
Muslims should take upon domestic challenges, such as the rescue of Detroit, to make sure that the problem of the “color line” does not translate into the 21st century. A few speakers also spoke more generally about the need for true friendships between Muslims of different backgrounds to foster unity, and also warned of the damage that can be done by the inclusive practices of racially and ethnically-specific social groups. Imam Zaid Shakir created a powerful visual demonstration of this concept by asking volunteers to create a physical circle and do anything in their power to keep one
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
and contribute to real solutions for seeking diversity through unity. The event was the first of what ISNA hopes will be annual diversity forums seeking to enhance and foster relationships between all types of Muslim Americans.
Farayha Arrine is an attorney at Dickinson Wright PLLC in Detroit, Michigan and specializes in the areas of commercial and financial litigation.
MAS-ICNA Lends a Hand The Muslim American Society – Islamic Circle of North America (MASICNA) held its 34th annual convention from Dec 23-27, 2010 in Rosemont, IL, gathering more than 5,000 attendees in celebration of the theme, “Lend a Hand—Help Light the Way.” Muslims from around the nation gathered to address issues Muslim Americans face everyday, focusing on civic engagement and taking responsibility for the future of our Muslim community, according to Waleed Yousry (marketing & media director, MAS Chicago). Session titles included, “Islamic Shari’ah: Source of Mercy, not Fear” and “A Road Map for Dealing with Muslim Teens.” Sheikh Yusuf Estes announced the grand opening of his new TV channel, Guide US TV, at the convention, surprising everyone. Other highlights included a visit from the “Green Sheikh,” Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi from the UAE, who elaborated on his mission to promote environmentally friendly, socially, and Islamically responsible, behavior. ISNA secretary general Safaa Zarzour focused on leadership during his contributions to the conference. Zarzour discussed
ISNA secretary general Safaa Zarzour (left) addresses the 34th annual MAS-ICNA Convention in Rosemont, IL. Egyptian Islamic Scholar Mustafa Hosny (right) closes the convention with a joint dua'a.
the contributions of Muslim American leaders to American public life and the future of both youth leadership and national collaborations between Muslim American organizations. “According to a Gallup poll conducted last year, Islam has the largest proportion of youth compared to all other major religious communities. We have a responsibility to educate and empower our youth now so that they can positively and productively lead us into the future. Our youth share the identity of Muslim and American more than many of their predecessors, as many of them were born and raised on American soil, and have a very unique ability to bring Muslims into the mainstream American culture,” Zarzour said. Zarzour was joined by Hossam Al Jabri (executive director, MAS National) to conduct the youth session, “Lead Yourself and the World Will Follow,” which focused on developing Prophetic leadership skills in ourselves to inspire a positive path for others to follow. Zarzour also shared the stage with repre-
sentatives of various leading Muslim organizations as they discussed the many past and current contributions of Muslim Americans to public life in the US. Muslim American leaders also met to discuss the development of a national Muslim leadership summit. They agreed that before any plans could be set in place for the summit, a much broader and diverse subset of organizational leaders was necessary. “This would include: racial, gender, ethnic, sectarian, and theological diversity. We want the broadest range of representatives at the table during this summit. If real collaborative changes in our community are going to happen, we must include as many of the diverse voices and perspectives in that process as possible,” stated Zarzour. Convention organizers hope future MASICNA conventions will, “play a key role in the development of our community, provide an environment and a place where our community members as well as leadership can come together to interact, share ideas and look for solutions to protect and take our Muslim community to the next level.”
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
MPAC EXPLORES ISSUES FACING MUSLIMS, AMERICA More than 1,100 people attended Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) 10th annual convention held Dec 18-19, 2010 in Los Angeles, featuring a dozen prominent speakers, including: government officials, interfaith leaders, civil rights advocates, imams, media professionals and young leaders. “This year’s convention was historic because it broke taboos on topics including gender relations, xenophobia, critical thinking, reform and violent extremism,” said MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati (president, MPAC), who moderated the session on “The State of Our Union.” The two-session program examined the impact of xenophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry on race relations and religious freedom, the question of domestic radicalization and the role of the Tea Party leading up to the election and beyond. It also took an introspective look at the Muslim American community by examining public perceptions of Islam and Muslims, the role
of mosques in America, the evolving demands on imams, gender relations, violent extremism and priorities for the Muslim American community moving forward. Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, reminded that “the role of the Muslim community is to stay on message that there is no justification for this form of violence in Islam.” Speakers included Imam Johari Abdul Malik (director of outreach, Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, Falls Church, VA), Aman Ali (standup comedian and co-creator of 30 Mosques in 30 Days), Fernando J. Guerra (director, Center for the Study of Los Angeles), Dr. Maher Hathout (senior adviser and founder, MPAC), Angela Oh (executive director, Western Justice Center, Pasadena, CA), Pastor Bob Roberts (founding pastor, NorthWood Church, Ft. Worth, TX), Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina (professor of
Tasmiha Khan, 20, is embraced by the children of Ward 12 Slum in Khalishpur, Khulna after distributing food.
Bangladesh is one of the most floodprone countries in the world and its people are in dire need of clean water sources. Tasmiha Khan, a junior at Wesleyan University, founded Brighter Dawns in the summer of 2010 to help alleviate the suffering of the Bangladeshi people.
While on a family vacation to Bangladesh in 2008, Khan was moved by the suffering she saw there. That cause soon manifested itself into a partnership with Dr. Motiur Rahman (executive director, World Peace and Cultural Foundation [WPCF] — a nonprofit orga-
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
religious studies, University of Virginia), Reem Salahi, (civil rights attorney), Madison Shockley (pastor, Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Carlsbad, CA), Asma T. Uddin (founder and editor-in-chief, altmuslimah. com), and Imam Suhaib Webb (law professor, Al-Azhar University). “What are the percentages of Muslims who believe that American values are incompatible with Islam?” said Dr Hathout. “If we address that we will be stepping in the right direction of finding our answer.” Keynote speaker Dr. Ahmed Zewail (Nobel Laureate and President Obama’s Science Envoy) stressed the importance of Muslim Americans working together.
nization working on health related issues in Bangladesh). Having worked with the WHO, Dr. Rahman was able to put Khan in a position to provide hands-on aid for people in need. She soon found herself as a volunteer clinical researcher in the slums of Dhaka, conducting research on Bengali women and infants, while also preparing food for distribution to malnourished children. Khan returned to Bangladesh in 2010, where Dr. Rahman now guided her to work in the slums of Khalishpur, Khulna district. In Khalishpur, she was able to organize health education seminars, teaching women and children the basics of personal hygiene, as well as how to prepare a nutritional meal. In addition, they were able to provide free diabetic screenings for hundreds of people in an attempt to educate them regarding diseases that are extremely prevalent in the country. Upon her return to the US, Khan, committed to helping the needy of Bangladesh, founded Brighter Dawns, a nonprofit organization. Since its creation in the fall of 2010, Brighter Dawns, the student-run organization, has held several fundraising events, with the most notable being a gingerbread house-making fundraiser at Wesleyan.
Record Stand for Breast Cancer
2010 Person of the Year Dr. Parvez Ahmed was named 2010 Person of the Year by “Folio Weekly”, a weekly newspaper for Northeast Florida. This year, Dr. Ahmed, assistant professor at the University of North Florida’s Coggin School of Business, was nominated by the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, despite attempts by local extremists to derail his nomination. Despite the high decibel of racist and Islamophobic rants voiced against him, Dr. Ahmed didn’t allow the controversy to disable his cause. The newspaper noted: “Parvez Ahmed isn’t being recognized for what he endured, but because of what he represents. Namely, that Jacksonville can move beyond the rhetoric of hate and religious inflexibility, and embrace a multicultural, well-educated future. He offers hope that diversity is an achievable aim, and that the truth about all of us — good or ill — wills out in the end.” Dr. Ahmed has been named outstanding researcher three times, outstanding teacher once, and in 2009 studied the economy of Bangladesh under a Fulbright Scholarship. He earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Aligargh Muslim University near New Delhi, then earned an MBA at Temple University and a doctorate in finance at the University of Texas. Ahmed, his wife and their two children reside in Jacksonville, FL.
Zulikha Hussein, a Muslim American and interfaith activist and resident of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, since August 2009, was part of the record setting human pink ribbon created in the Kingdom in Oct. 2010. Hussein joined several groups, centers and clubs for both expats and locals to learn Arabic and immerse herself in Saudi culture. “This past September, I joined the Breast Cancer Campaign, the first of its kind in Jeddah. Princess Reema Bint Bandar took on the initiative to spread the awareness of breast cancer and also to create the world’s largest ‘human pink ribbon’ here in Jeddah and thereby break the existing Guinness
World Records. Her goal to eradicate breast cancer suffering by spreading the word of early detection became our inspiration,” Hussein explained. Hussein visited colleges, schools, businesses and compounds to promote this message and encourage women to participate in the campaign. She came across many women seeking to improve the quality of life in Saudi Arabia with regard to healthcare. Soon, the 6,000 participants filed in— among them the old and the young. The Guinness official recorded the females who stood on the soccer field in the form of a pink ribbon: 3,952 women stood in Jeddah and broke the record, going down in history.
Dr. Nagamia receives Fredrick Reddy Award Dr. Husainuddin Nagamia received Hillsborough County, FL Medical Association Board’s prestigious Dr. Fredrick Reddy Award for the year 2010. This award — presented Nov 16, 2010 — was established in 2006 by the HCMA and is given to a physician who exemplifies the ideals set by Dr. Reddy, a past HCMA president (1994-95). Dr. Reddy, an African American surgeon, set the standards of compassion, generosity, philanthropy, and care given as an addition to his professional medical practice, one of excellence and dedication. Dr. Nagamia, an HCMA life member, has been practicing as a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon for the last 34 years in Hillsborough County, served as the chief of that department at Tampa General Hospital (2000-02) and during his term, offered his services selflessly to all private and indigent patients admitted to his care. He pioneered the annual charity festival in Tampa, where for the last 13 years about 3,000-5,000 indigent persons are fed, and about 2,000 toys and bicycles are given away annually to deserving kids. Over 200 medical tests are performed for free. Unlimited free clothing and new shoes are distributed. He has also received commendations and recognition from the US Department of
State, Tampa police department and by the Mayor of Tampa. Dr. Nagamia also served as the president of the Florida Association of American Physicians from India (FAAPI), and during his term helped raise funding (in excess of $150,000) for a scholarship at the University of South Florida for deserving medical students. He was an active participant in their “feed the hungry program” conducted during Thanksgiving holidays. Dr. Nagamia has volunteered at the Metropolitan Ministries’ feed the homeless program. As past president of the Islamic Medical Association of North America he presently serves as the chairman of the International Institute of Islamic Medicine, an organization devoted to the history of medicine. (Source: “The Florida Sentinel Bulletin,” Leon R Crews, Nov 18, 2010)
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Safe Ontario Families Families dealing with abuse in London, Ontario, will benefit from increased support to help break the cycle of violence. The province is helping the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration launch its new Family Violence Early Intervention Program with a Can$80,000 grant. The new program, targeting immigrants and refugees coming from conflict zones, will identify risk factors earlier and incorporate culturally appropriate family violence intervention strategies. These include: public presentations, community consultations and training sessions about healthy conflict resolution, which respond to the needs of immigrant families.
This latest initiative builds on the success of the internationally acclaimed Muslim Family Safety Project, initiated by Dr. Mohammed Baobaid in London in 2004. It will also help raise awareness of family violence in London’s Muslim community, educate victims about their rights and help prevent future violence. Preventing crime and promoting safety are part of the Open Ontario Plan to provide safe communities for Ontario families to live and learn. Ontario’s Victims’ Justice Fund is used to provide services to support victims of crime. Ontario invests more than Can$208 million each year in services to address violence against women.
2010 Citizen Diplomat
Sahar Taman was among the seven persons honored by the Washington, DC based US Center for Citizen Diplomacy (USCCD) on Nov 17, 2010. Taman was recognized for her groundbreaking interfaith study tours to and from the Middle East that have forged vital working relationships between Christians, Jews and Muslims in the US and the Middle East. Through a program sponsored by the National Peace Foundation and ISNA and funded by the US State Department, Taman led seven journeys over three years. In all, more than 70 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious and opinion leaders traveled to and from the US, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Qatar, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates to engage in dialogue and cultural immersion in an effort to better understand the issues which have long divided nations and people. Taman is using her cash award to co-found Journeys
to Understanding (www.journeystounderstanding.org) which will combine “immersion journeys” with educational media productions, training, and real-time social media tools, to build an international network of citizen diplomats within the world faith community. The recipients included Robert Redford (actor and founder of the Sundance Institute and Film Festival), Scott Beale (founder, Atlas Service Corps), Richard Webb (founder, ProWorld Service Corps), Jenny Buccos (founder, ProjectExplorer.org), Judith Jamison (world renowned dancer, choreographer, and artistic director, Alvin Ailey (American Dance Theater), and James Rolfe, DDS (founder, Afghanistan Dental Relief Project). The award ceremony was part of the US Summit and Initiative for Global Citizen Diplomacy sponsored by the USCCD in concert with the State Department. More than 600 high level opinion leaders from 39 countries gathered for the three-day summit which included, among its discussions, goals for identifying and equipping faith-based organizations to become involved in citizen diplomacy. The Center’s mission is to promote and expand opportunities for Americans to be citizen diplomats and affirm the indispensable value of citizen involvement in foreign relations. The Center’s goal is to double the number of citizen diplomats over the next ten years.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
An Interdisciplinary Conference on Islamic Bioethics and End-of-Life Care
A multidisciplinary conference entitled “Where Religion, Policy, and Bioethics Meet: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Islamic Bioethics and End-of-Life Care” will be held at the University of Michigan on Apr 10-11, 2011. This conference represents the first time in the US that Islamic scholars and religious leaders, social scientists, health professionals, and Muslim community stakeholders will come together to discuss Islamic law, bioethics, medicine and health policy. The conference is sponsored by the Center for Ethics in Public Life, the University of Michigan Medical School, Dar-ul-Qasim Islamic Institute and the Institute for Social Policy & Understanding. Additional funders include the Greenwall Foundation and the Rackham Graduate School. The conference sessions aimed to provide a foundational basis to the different disciplines engaged in the Islamic bio-ethical discourse. The conference co-chairs are Dr. Aasim I. Padela (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, Departments of Internal and Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan, and visiting fellow, Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies), and Dr. Hasan Shanawani (Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Wayne State University School of Medicine). Confirmed speakers include: Prof. Sherman Jackson, Prof. Abdulaziz Sachedina, Prof. James Jones, Shaykh Mohammed Amin Kholwadia, Shaykh Musa Furber, Dr. Ahsan Arozullah, Imam Hassan al-Qazwini, Imam Ali Suleiman Ali, Dr. Howard Brody, Prof. Ray De Vries, Prof. Sherine Hamdy, Dr. Robert Vischer, Dr. Joel Howell and Dr. Andrew Barnosky. To register: http://cme.med.umich.edu/ events/course.asp?no=U030681
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) invites nominations for the annual IDB Prize for Women’s Contribution to Development. The award was established in 2006 to enhance women’s participation in the socioeconomic development process and invites nominations, offering winners a cash award of $50,000 for an individual and $100,000 for an organization. The award serves to draw international attention to the vital role women play in developing their communities and the world. It focuses on a specific theme each year. This year marks the sixth edition of the Prize with the theme “Promoting Women in Science” and aims to recognize contributions being made by women scientists in improving people’s quality of life or in encouraging girls’ participation in the field as well as recognizing an organization which facilitates and disseminates women’s scientific innovation for improving the community’s quality of life. Deadline for nominations: Feb 15, 2011. To nominate or request information, please contact Human Development Department, Science & Technology and Technical Cooperation Division (STC), Islamic Development Bank, P.O. Box 5925, Jeddah 21432, Saudi Arabia. Tel: +966 2 646-6716/646-6787; Fax: +966 2 646-7828; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. S.M. Ghazanfar of the University of Idaho received the 2010 Idaho Treasure Award. The award honors retired faculty who have continued to make significant contributions and service to the University and the community. Among 35 such recipients, Dr. Ghazanfar is the only Muslim American thus honored. During his 40 years at this University, he served in various capacities, including economics department chair for several years, and after his emeritus status, as adjunct professor, 2003-08. He also directed the University’s international studies program, 1988-93, which he helped establish. He served the 16
Idaho legislature as a consultant on revenue forecasts for 25 years. Widely published, his most recent work has focused on the origins of economic thought in early Islamic discourses and Islam-West civilization linkages. Listed in numerous “Who’s Who’s” and Pride-of-Pakistan (UK, 2008), Dr. Ghazanfar has received teaching/research excellence awards, plus outstanding faculty awards, as well as life-time contribution award by the University. With over $100,000 contributed in his honor by students, the University established a classroom in his name in 2006. In 2007, his alma-mater extended him its highest recognition—Washington State University Distinguished Alumnus Achievement Award—and also inducted him in the University’s Hall of Honor. He serves on the City’s human rights commission, which he helped establish in 2004, having received the Distinguished Commissioner Award in 2008. He also received the Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Award from the University of Idaho in 2007. In 2007, he
founded the Moscow CommUNITY Walk event, endorsed by the Idaho Legislature, the Idaho governor, the city mayor, and the University. The UNITY-Walk event is celebrated each year. In 2006 he received the City’s Unity Award. He is an active member of the area’s interfaith council. Dr. Ghazanfar continues to be engaged in community and university activities, often involved in interfaith dialogue, and as a guest-lecturer/speaker in the region on topics related to Islam/Islamic Civilization/ Islamophobia, globalization, as well as various human-rights issues.
and elders meet together to establish whatever justice needs to be meted out. Faqeeri is working in communications and media relations. Both feel a sense of duty as legal professionals to teach Afghans what they’ve learned in the US about law. Khan served five years as Pinellas County public prosecutor, and Faqeeri served in the county’s public defender’s office.
Boston University trustee Bahaa Hariri has pledged $15 million to establish an institute for computational science and engineering that will open in fall 2011. Faculty affiliated with the institute will collaborate on research and education in biology and medicine, physical science and engineering, social and management sciences, the arts, communication and education. Hariri is a son of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who was assassinated and who donated $10 million to the university in 1990 when his son graduated from the School of Management.
The Morton Grove, IL based Indian Muslim Council - USA has changed its name to Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC; www.iamc.com) and adopted a new logo. IAMC president Rasheed Ahmed said the mission has not changed. IAMC, he said, continues to be an independent not-forprofit tax exempt organization committed to promoting peace, pluralism and social justice for all. IAMC, he added, is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.
A federal judge in San Francisco ordered the government on Dec 21, 2010 to pay nearly $2.6 million in lawyers fees and damages to officials with the Oregon based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation who Vaughn R. Walker, the chief federal judge, said were wiretapped without a court order under the surveillance program approved by President George W. Bush after 9/11. The ruling punctuates a multi-year lawsuit
Clearwater, FL based attorneys Moin Hassan Khan and his wife Shakila Faqeeri have moved to Afghanistan to help improve the legal system there. Khan, a Canadian-born American citizen who earned his law degree at Florida State University, aims to help reform Afghanistan’s Jirga system of justice, where village leaders Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
that tested the balance between civil liberties and the President’s authority. The principle the judge first laid out in a Mar 2010 ruling and expanded in December was critical to all parties. For charity officials and their lawyers, the ruling offered vindication in a case that the Justice Department fought largely by relying on the President’s executive power and the government’s claim to keep certain state secrets out of the judiciary.
NASA has named Waleed Abdalati the agency’s chief scientist as of Jan 3, where he serves as the principal adviser to the NASA administrator on agency science programs, strategic planning and the evaluation of related investments. Between 1998 and 2008, Abdalati held various positions at NASA in the areas of scientific research, program management and scientific management, and was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, a NASA exceptional achievement medal, and two NASA group achievement Awards. Abdalati’s research explores how and why the earth’s ice cover is changing and what implications this has for life on our planet.
Milia Islam-Majeed has received the 2010 USA Characters Unite Award, which celebrates those dedicated to combating intolerance, discrimination and hate, and promoting mutual respect and understanding of all. Islam-Majeed is the Executive Director of the Long Beach, CA based South Coast Interfaith Council (SCIC), an association of more than 140 churches, synagogues, mosques and more that promotes cooperation among people of all faiths and cultures. Prior to becoming the Executive Director of SCIC, she was the Program Manager of ISNA’s Leadership Development Center.
The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California has launched an online leadership and management course tailored for the leadership of mosques and nonprofit organizations. The course covers topics such as Enhancing Board’s Effectiveness; Team Building; Time Management and Communications and five other important areas for nonprofit management. This online course is conducted by Dr. Rafik Beekun (professor of management and strategy, co-director, Center for Corporate Governance and Business Ethics, University of Nevada). Dr. Beekun has also authored Islamic Business Ethics: Strategic Planning and Implementation for Islamic Organizations and coauthored (with Dr. Jamal Badawi) Leadership: An Islamic Perspective. “I highly encourage Muslim leadership to avail themselves of this invaluable resource that blends Islamic values and modern management principles helping us to serve our communities better,” said Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi (former chairman, Islamic Shura Council of Southern California). The online course is organized by IslamiCity and can be accessed at http://www.islamicity.com/OnlineEducation/.
Tariq G. Malhance, 66, a former comptroller for the City of Chicago, is now Cook County’s new chief financial officer. He most recently worked in business, and was once part of the Lakefront Independent Democratic Organization. He was recently elected vice chairperson of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Islam & Education
Beating the Bully Chances are one of your children has faced, or been, a bully. Why kids can be mean, and what parents and teachers can do about it.
By Leena Saleh 18
Islamic Horizonsâ€ƒ March/April 2011
thirteen-year-old student walks down the hallway of his junior high school, a daily ritual he dreads experiencing on Monday morning. The last thing he wants is a lesson to sit through and a test to take. Even more dreadful in this thirteen-year-old’s mind is the feeling he gets in his stomach when he walks down the hall and observes the sea of glances, motions, whisperings, smiles and smirks, all of which are invisible to the adult eye. For him, this is not a strange phenomena, but a daily reality and he is not alone.
Bullying Statistics: Age, gender, and victim rates According to the U.S. Department’s Health and Human Services, bullying is most common among middle school children, where nearly half of students may be bully victims. Between 15 and 25 percent of students are frequent victims of bullying, and 15 to 20 percent of students bully others often. About 20 percent of students experience physical bullying at some point in their lives, while almost a third experience some type of bullying. Lastly, studies have indicated that females may be the victims of bullying more often than males; males are more likely to experience physical or verbal bullying, while females are more likely to experience social or psychological bullying. Accounts of four suburban middle schools speak to these stats and shed light on real life examples. Hanan Abdullah, principal of Universal School in Bridgeview, IL says bullying “begins without them realizing it, with kids hurting each others’ feelings in class. Just hurting their feelings or excluding them as low as age three, and I think it becomes more with intention in grade six or seven.” Universal assistant principal Barbara Hammoud agrees that middle school is where it is most prominent but it really begins much earlier. “I think it’s at all ages, in different forms, but most
common in middle school. They’re trying to find themselves, coming in to their own identity. They don’t know which way to go, trying to figure out how to relate to others; but I think it’s at all levels, even preschool.” Antigone Campbosso (dean of students, Liberty Junior High, Burbank, IL) says that bullying, while recurring in middle school, “begins from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Kindergartners begin with pushing each other,” explained Campbosso. Abdullah explained that with males, the bullying is external, outward and direct while with female students, it’s more subtle and socially implemented. “With male students it’s more physical, with girls it’s more through innuendos,” said Abdullah. “It’s both male and female; boys can put each other down just as much as girls can,” commented seventh grade Universal teacher, Amber Hashim. “Girls are sensitive in certain areas, so where they can’t take a joke, boys can, but they have their own way of picking on each other.”
The Many Faces of Bullying When talking about bullying, the typical image that pops up is one of someone physically hurting someone, shoving them into a locker, pushing them down or knocking down their books as they pass. These images, courtesy of movies
When talking about bullying the typical image that pops up is one of someone physically hurting someone, shoving them into a locker, pushing them down or knocking down their books as they pass.”
BEING MUSLIM IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL by Zahra Cheema “In class when people are joking around, sometimes they’ll say ‘you’re a Muslim, [or] you’re a terrorist.’ They don’t really mean it; it’s kind of a joke in a way,” said Jana Hilmi, a seventh-grader at Southampton Middle School in Maryland. Jana said that these comments are never directed at her, but are ones she overhears used by some students, who are not Muslim, to tease each other. “Some people are like ‘I don’t mean to be rude by asking.’ And I’m like ‘I don’t care if you ask, you can ask, it’s better if you ask than [to] just make up your own thing about it’,” said Nimra Nadeem, an eighth grader at Edgewood Middle School in Maryland. Nadeem, the sole hijab-wearing student in her school that she knows of, said that classmates often ask her questions about her hijab; questions which she is happy to answer as long as they’re asked. “Mostly if someone asks if I’m Muslim, which is rarely, they’re just like ‘oh my gosh, I never knew that’ like as if it’s from a different planet,” said Nadyah Hilmi an eighth grader at Southampton Middle School. Nadyah said that many students in her school lack awareness not only of Islam, but of other religions and cultures as well. She said that besides herself and her sister, Jana, she only knows of a few other Muslims in her school; a very different environment from her third to sixth grade classrooms in Sri Lanka. “I know if you ask someone in my class what a Muslim is, they’ll say Azraf,” said Azraf Ullah, a junior and Muslim Student Association (MSA) member at Herndon High School in Virginia. Ullah said that the Muslim students are a wellrespected group with a strong presence at his high school. “Well the only thing I can really do about it is just be a good person,” said Naveed Abdulrahman after explaining that a common misperception people have of Muslims is that they are terrorists. Naveed, a sophomore at Aberdeen High School in Maryland, said that he is well-liked by his peers and that his religion should not, and does not, negatively affect people’s view of him. “Everything kind of just depends on yourself at one point. If you are strong about who you are, if you know what your identity is, then I don’t think you ever come across a problem,” said Aqsa Zubair a junior and president of the MSA at Stone Bridge High School in Virginia. Zubair said she faced a difficult time in middle school when she started wearing hijab and felt that former friends and classmates were teasing her in indirect ways. She now looks back on that experience as the beginning stages of her identity formation as an American Muslim and said that it helped to make her a stronger person and stronger Muslim. “Tell someone about it and don’t let it get to your head because they’re just trying to look smart in front of their friends,” said sophomore Nishad Abdulrahman when asked what advice he would give a student who is being bullied or harassed for being Muslim. Nishad, like his brother Naveed, said he has never faced bullying or harassment for being Muslim at Aberdeen High School in Maryland.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Zahra Cheema, a freelance writer, resides in Maryland.
Verbally, I get bullied like name-calling. It doesn’t affect me that much because it’s not consistent. I noticed that in my class everyone picks on specific kids because they’re easy targets. I’ve bullied before, I’d say something random in class as a joke." and pop culture, can be found everywhere. These stereotypical images speak truth to reality but do not in any way encompass the much more subtle undertow of bullying that occurs on a more molecular level. Taking a tour around suburban middle schools, there are many more faces of bullying that aren’t as familiar. “Sometimes purposefully and with letting students know that they will exclude them, which is a huge form of bullying,” referenced Abdullah. “How it works is someone takes the lead and decides on the participants and who will be excluded. There have been instances where girls will line up for prayer and take up the whole line to purposefully leave someone out,” said Abdullah. Statistically, non-physical bullying occurs the most often and such is the case at the Bridgeview, IL-based Aqsa School. “You’re not going to find a physical fight at Aqsa, it’s much more subtle,” commented Tammie Ismail (principal, Aqsa School). “It’s easy to identify someone who physically assaults someone, but the little forms of bullying, like rolling eyes, when it happens consistently, can hurt the person.” At Universal, bullying by male students can sometimes be physical, but not always. “For the boys on teams, they’ll always have someone who’s picked last. They form groups and intentionally leave a name out. Sometimes they put a leg out to trip somebody,” said Abdullah. Hashim also relayed a bullying incident she noticed in her class. “There was one case, a 20
student who looked a little different from the others, acted a little different—she was from a foreign country—and they wouldn’t pick on her exactly but would point out what was different or weird about her,” said Hashim. In Islamic schools, the notion may sometimes be that because of the homogeneous Muslim community, students and schools have a homogeneous value system, which decreases the likelihood of bullying from happening. Hashim explains why this isn’t the case. “Even though students are homogeneous in their religion, they are not in their practice of religion. Some come from families that are very practicing and others come from families that aren’t; they want religion in their life but it’s very secondary. Some students will experiment more with their clothing and makeup and other girls
dumb or loud. Sometimes kids would make fun of a teacher and I’d tell them to stop and they’d call me a retard.” She relayed another instance where she witnessed bullying in the form of verbal insensitivity. “One time I saw girls by the swing and one of them who wanted the swing said to the other: ‘Your father should take care of you.’ ‘Oh wait, your father’s dead.’ The other girl cried for a month afterward.” “I usually get bullied because of my weight. It happens like once a quarter, not often,” said one male student. “Verbally, I get bullied, like name-calling. It doesn’t affect me that much because it’s not consistent. I noticed that in my class everyone picks on specific kids because they’re easy targets. I’ve bullied before, I’d say something random in class as a joke.”
don’t because their families don’t allow that and so that causes rifts.” “It would be wrong to say bullying doesn’t exist. I think that it’s always present and I think it’s something that children try to hide very well. There are many discreet ways kids can bully someone in a classroom. It can be looks, name calling, or exclusion from events,” said Abdullah. What staff and teachers witness in terms of bullying is only the tip of the iceberg and oftentimes most bullying goes on unnoticed in the tides of class time or breaks where students are left to their own devices and are unsupervised. Some sixth graders at Universal School gave their personal accounts. “I have hairy arms and they’d call me hairy scary; this was in a public school. They would also pick on me for being smart or
Another sixth grader recalled his experience, “I had lunch money and an older kid pushed me and took my lunch money.” He also remembered an incident with his classmates where the odd one out was the one getting picked on. “There was a new boy in our class and he’s a slow learner and talks weird and they would always pick on him because he doesn’t learn fast. They would say: ‘Hey don’t be stupid.’ The teachers wouldn’t see them, they’d do it when the teachers were not there.” Recently swarming local news outlets and schools nationwide is the increasing trend of cyberbullying, which has led to many suicides, typically among high schools and colleges, across the nation. Cyberbullying is now beginning to permeate junior high schools, although the results have been to an extremely less severe degree. Accord-
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
ing to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 8 percent of students have been the victims of a cyber bully. With an increasing amount of young media consumers, cyberbullying is the evolved version of a whisper in the hallway. Campbosso commented on the trend of students using cyberbullying, “There hasn’t been consistent bullying. We’ve seen cases of cyberbullying through Facebook, like name calling threats like, ‘I’m going to hurt you in school.’ Males don’t typically cyber bully unless a girl begins a conflict with them and they respond to it or if it has to do with relationships.” Ismail also recognizes this new trend. “We have to adjust with texting and Facebook; there are new ways where bullying can take place and you have to adjust.”
Bully vs. bullied, Cause and Effect The question that meanders in the minds of concerned parents, teachers and staff is why? Why do children bully? Being witness to cases in their schools, as parents themselves and working in the post-secondary education industry, they have come to their own conclusions. Campbosso has many answers from her experience with junior high students. “Bullying is modeled after parents at home, older siblings, T.V. and video games ... These kids bully because they’re at a very vulnerable age. I don’t know why kids bully; they do it because they can. The weaker ones get picked on,” said Campbosso. She also elaborated other reasons for bullying, including physical appearance, as
their appearance is very important to kids in junior high. “People have been bullied back to the ’50s or even before that, but it wasn’t identified as bullying. Now we are beginning to identify and label it as bullying. The reason being, we see a lot more suicide attempts than before.” Andy Anderson (principal, Conrady Junior High, Palos Hills, IL) said, “Typically, when a student bullies it’s about belittling someone else to make themselves feel better.” The case at Aqsa, according to Ismail, is that the bullies themselves usually have a lot of insecurities and problems. Also, what often happens is that students who were bullied themselves become bullies. Other reasons she explained are that sometimes it’s for the fear of not belonging and sometimes it’s wanting power. “It comes down to
popularity more than anything else,” said Ismail. “Nine out of ten times the bully picks on someone because they have a problem of their own. Junior high is a very hard time; everyone wants to fit in.” From a teacher’s standpoint, Hashim offers her observations, which include creating rifts among classmates on the basis of skin color and financial class. “Even among Arabs, I’ve always seen the whiter, lighter students keeping themselves together and excluding the darker-skinned students. The ones with more money want to stay with those who are wealthier.” Hammoud has witnessed this exclusion on the basis of financial status as well. “At our school, sometimes it’s [bullying] confused with this ‘me, myself and I’ attitude. A lot of our students, Masha Allah, come from elite
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about 8 percent of students have been the victims of a cyber bully. With an increasing amount of young media consumers, cyberbullying is the evolved version of a whisper in the hallway." families and have everything and have a ‘give me more attitude.’ They have phones, iPods, iPads, and they have more than we do.” Hammoud referred to an example where students bullied, emphasizing this point. “I remember one incident, and it was very sad, where one of the kids touched another’s shoe and the kid said: ‘Oh don’t touch it because you can’t afford it.’” All of these cases and forms of bullying have behavioral effects on students, and to those who are vigilantly conscious, the red flags are obvious. Hashim explained that if there’s a student who doesn’t have people with her or him and they’re always looking for someone to sit with or play with, these are signs there is a problem. “If it starts out that way, it’s difficult for a student to get into the social mix once they’re outcast,” said Hashim. Some signs that someone is being bullied are that they become withdrawn, according to Campbosso, show changes in demeanor and a decrease in grades. There can also be a change in appearance, like not wearing clean clothes and also not getting enough sleep. According to Ismail, more red flags include kids not wanting to answer questions in class, sitting alone at lunch and being generally reserved. Another big one, she explained, is students skipping out on a field trip day, which is an easy target situation for bullies because they have more freedom to do things that would go unnoticed. More signs are absences. The kids give excuses to their parents for why they don’t want to 21
Cover STory go to school. “Some kids complain about frequent stomachaches and this is a physical manifestation of their worry and anxiety. The subtle bullying is what really breaks someone’s spirit,” said Ismail.
Stomping out bullying, breaking the cycle Bullying is a daily reality for many students, one that is multi-faceted, complex and sometimes difficult to discern. Preventing bullying and stopping what already occurs on a daily basis proves to be the greatest challenge for middle schools. Fortunately, educators, administrators, and teachers are finding new innovative techniques, which have helped regulate a decrease in bullying and an increase in prevention. In Universal, among other schools, social counselors are available and present daily. Abdullah explained that the counselor meets every day with four or five students who feel they’ve been harmed. The students know the day and time they can meet with the counselor. They are taught how to deal with bullies like talking directly and clearly, “I don’t want to be called that name, stop that, etc.” “One high school student recently came to me and said, ‘I want to see a counselor, I feel like I want to blow up because of the amount of things being said.’ It was innuendos, exclusion in games. Let’s all go here but you’re not going to go. They felt hurt and now they meet weekly with the counselor,” said Abdullah. Liberty Junior High has a counselor as well as a social relations officer in charge of dealing with student issues. Social workers are also in place for Liberty students. Counselors set up a schedule with students
and see them once a week. Students can go to the social worker themselves if they want to or they can be suggested to students. Social Relations Officers (SRO) have had conferences with students. “Sometimes they just need to see what the other kid is going through,” explained Campbosso. Liberty also has peer mediation programs run by social workers, which consists of students meeting with their peers and signing a contract which enforces their good behavior towards one another. The students are chosen by the staff and asked to participate. Universal also implemented a Character Development Program. This consisted of incorporating a book entitled, Bully Free School, and having teachers spend at least 15-20 minutes a week going through lessons that would promote bully prevention. Lessons included teaching how to stop
potential bullies and empower those who are bullied. Included in the program is the use of teaching children six essential character traits: respect, responsibility, trust, fairness, caring and citizenship. Teachers focus on one trait each month and have activities related to the designated trait. At Universal, a comedic entertainment group dubbed the “nerd team” presented a show for the kids promoting healthy selfesteem. At Liberty Junior High assemblies were held about “Character Counts,” where videos and other materials were shown to emphasize how to stop bullying and how they should be handled. Rewarding good behavior has also been a method of encouraging good deeds and preventing bullying. Universal implements the “caught doing good” program. When a kid is caught doing something good, they get a bracelet or a pencil. Liberty has a lotto and every month winners are announced and rewarded with a dress-down day where they don’t have to wear uniform. To enter the lotto kids must exhibit one of the six good character traits mentioned earlier. The use of workshops for teachers and parents has become increasingly common in an effort to stomp out bullying and offer solutions for handling it outside school walls. Many times, parents are out of the loop and this causes damage. “Parents need to talk to their children and provide appropriate behavior for them to model. Parents think their children can take care of themselves but they’re still children,” explained Campbosso. Ismail explained that another problem is people tend to dismiss bullying, saying ‘this is how girls are’ or ‘it’s a part of life.’ This is a
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Some kids complain about frequent stomachaches and this is a physical manifestation of their worry and anxiety. The subtle bullying is what really breaks someone’s spirit,” said Ismail. big mistake and awareness and education for teachers and parents is of crucial importance. This is why Aqsa held a workshop about Internet safety for parents that included a portion on cyberbullying. Ismail said they also encourage teachers and staff to attend workshops, one of which was entitled “Mean Girls,” and gave tips about how to handle adolescent strife and issues among girls. Liberty Junior High also provides a hot-line which is open round the clock for students. It is anonymous and the information shared is confidential. Administrators answer the calls and help students with bullying issues. Hashim also elaborated on small things teachers can do, like not grouping friends together for projects, incorporating rules where everyone at lunch must sit with the entire class and things of that nature. Universal also emphasizes the use of uniforms,
which can prevent the class division among students that has led to bullying. Students must wear all black shoes, making it difficult for them to create superior-inferiority complexes among one another. Islamic schools also promote religious values to students to help combat all forms of bullying and prevent bad behavior. Some of these include having programs for sixth graders where someone comes to speak about religious consequences of bad deeds and emulating the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) behavior. It seems to have made a significant difference according to one Universal student. “The first day of the program probably changed our life. He told us what’s haraam and halal and what would happen on the Day of Judgment for backbiting. Like, if you talk about someone, you’re going to eat their flesh and I don’t think any of us want that. A lot of people changed after that a lot.” At Aqsa, Ismail said that being an Islamic school means implementing certain values. “In homogeneous Islamic schools, trying to teach character building is continuously part of our philosophy.” Bullying in schools is as common and regulated as much as lesson plans and recess. Identifying it and recognizing it requires a keen and practiced eye. Because of the level of complexity and variety of methods, this may be a great challenge for educators and parents, but the battle is being fought diligently, with persistence and innovation.
Leena Saleh, a senior journalism student at DePaul University, is an intern reporter for the DePaul Documentary Project, and the editor-in-chief of UMMA Ink.
Vacancy Full-Time Position: Director of Administrative Services — Denver, Colorado. Colorado Muslim Society 2071 S. Parker Rd, Denver, Colorado, 80231 Telephone: (303) 617-4444 E-mail: email@example.com Colorado Muslim Society (The Society) is seeking a qualified fulltime Director of Administrative Services, to manage all its administrative functions and activities. The Society is the leading Islamic institution in the State of Colorado, and occupies its Islamic Center, a spacious especially built facility. It serves the Denver Metropolitan area’s diverse and rapidly growing Muslim community of more than 25,000 individuals. The Society is seeking a dynamic Director with a good understanding of Islam, commitment to serve an Islamic organization, knowledge of the US financial and legal systems related to the needs of not-for-profit organizations, and strong interpersonal skills. Candidates must be a graduate from an accredited educational institution, with an undergraduate and graduate degree in public or business administration, fluent in the English language (written and oral), have five years of experience in a similar position, and eligible to work legally in the United States. Salary is commensurate with educational qualifications and work experience. To apply send resume, names and contact information of at least three references, transcripts and diploma/s to: Colorado Muslim Society, Attn: Dr. M. Nabil Hamdy, Chairman, Search Committee for Director of Administrative Services 2071 S. Parker Road Denver, Colorado, 80231 Screening of applications will continue until the position is filled.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Parents should monitor Internet use, and get immediately involved when they detect cyberbullying of their children. By Samana Siddiqui
t was supposed to be a joke. The Muslim woman thought it would be funny to post a picture of herself and some friends holding beer bottles on Facebook, even though she didn’t consume alcohol. But for the person who saw the photo, copied it, and emailed it to the mother of this woman’s fiance—it wasn’t funny. She promptly canceled the engagement. This was even after the woman swore to her that she didn’t drink, and that the picture was meant to be humorous. “Marriages and engagements have been broken because of Facebook,” noted Shahina Siddiqui as she shared this incident. She’s seen firsthand how online media continue to negatively affect Muslims. Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association’s Canada branch, has counseled Muslim youth and families for over two decades. “Many of us are not on Facebook, don’t understand Twitter, and don’t know the influence social media has on young minds,” she said. She advises parents to never let their guard down once their children are online.
In the US, as of Sept. 2009, 73 percent of online American teens ages 12 to 17 had used a social networking website, according to the Pew Internet and American Life survey. A 2007 study by Cox Communications Inc. and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children noted that 47 percent of teens say they are not worried about others using their personal information online in ways they do not want, and 49 percent say they are unconcerned about posting material that might negatively affect their future.
Facebook, websurfing, and watching videos on YouTube, make up the bulk of parental concern.
“The dangers of online activity by, but not limited to, our young people are numerous,” said Imam Khalid Herrington (director, Sirat Services, Roselle, IL). “Everything from online predators, cyberbullying, unlimited sources of misinformation, explicit material, a black hole where time can be endlessly wasted, etc. can potentially have a dramatic effect on the mental maturation and the quality of life in relation to our youth. ” Facebook, web-surfing, and watching videos on YouTube, make up the bulk of parental concern. A recent addition to this list is access to the web via cellphone, as well as cellphone texting. According to a 2008 national survey by CTIA — The Wireless Association and Harris Interactive, four out of five American teens carry a wireless device, 42 percent say they can text blindfolded, and 57 percent see their cellphone as the key to their social life. Many Muslim parents have completely curbed or limited their children’s access, regardless of age, to all of them through various means. These include not allowing them to have a Facebook account at all, applying as many controls on the computer as possible to block access to inappropriate material online, as well as keeping track of which websites their children have visited. Age limits are a crucial tool when dealing with kids’ media use. “At 8, 9, or 10 I don’t know why kids need an email account,” said Habeeb Quadri (co-author, “The War Within Our Hearts: Struggles of the Muslim Youth”). He felt the same way about cellphones. Parents often give their children cellphones to ensure their safety and security, but Quadri said this is largely unnecessary before college. “If something happens, the school will call you. There’s a lot of nonsense now, even with the phone,” he explained. For parents whose children do have cellphones, constant vigilance is critical. One mother of four who wished to remain anonymous said that she receives all of her children’s cellphone and text messages via email. Such vigilance is practiced by many parents for online use as well. “We set up their accounts so that any incoming email to them is automatically forwarded to us,” said Khalid Mozaffar, an Orland Park, IL father of three children, ages 15 and under. “We talked to them about it and set it up as a condition to get an email
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
address. By monitoring emails at the earlier age, we are able to detect signs of bullying, peer pressure, language use, where we can hopefully nip it in the bud if it occurs.” While many parents use filtering software to block out inappropriate material online, some feel this is not enough. “I honestly don’t think anything short of literally standing over your child’s shoulder, or pre-approving every site your child visits will truly keep them from being exposed to things they shouldn’t be exposed to,” said Nikia Bilal, a mother of four from Chicago. “Just a few months ago, we had an ‘incident’ when my nine-year-old daughter did
MD. “Weekends should be enough time to spend on it, or holidays, and days off.” “At night, no one is allowed to have a cellphone in the room,” said the anonymous mother of four. In Zainab Murtaza’s Ottawa, Canada household, a time limit for all family members, adults and kids, is in place. For her children, ages 10 and 12, “Their time on the computer is limited due to our 6 p.m. cut off for ALL electronic devices rule,” she said. Murtaza and others added that putting the computer in a location frequented by all family members, like the kitchen or living room, is also key to ensuring no one misuses it. “The kids don’t have computers in their rooms,” she said. “They have access to two computers that are located in the loft, very open to my perusal.” Discussing rules of Internet use with kids is also essential before they tread online. “I talk to them about chatting with people, let them know that people lie about their identity, and to be careful,” said Carryl. “I explain how important it is not to give out personal or private information, as well.” Siddiqui said parents need to have an informed discussion with their children about this topic as they would about other serious issues like drug use.
a Google search for a teen actress she was looking up, clicked on a link that purported to have pictures of the actress in question, and instead was redirected to a porn site replete with women in various states of undress,” she said. Like Bilal, other parents feel in-person monitoring is essential. “My husband or I are always at their side,” said Naheed Sheikh, a mother of two from San Francisco. “We don’t allow them to surf the web without any supervision, even when they are looking at photographs of their cousins through my Facebook account.” “When they are on the ’net, I make sure I am beside them,” added Reena Bashir, a Sterling Heights, MI mother of two. “Sometimes, they request to see videos on YouTube, and again, I am right beside them to monitor.” Setting time limits is another method parents use to curb online and cellphone use in their families. “Restricting time on the computer is very important,” said Khadija Dawn Carryl, a mother of six in Elkridge,
Cyberbullying According to I-Safe, a non-profit focused on Internet safety education, 42 percent of kids have been bullied online, and one in four have had it happen more than once. This is something that tends to surface in the middle school years, a time when “life is all about friends,” said Quadri. He explained that insults, taunts, and bullying of the past were restricted to the schoolyard. Today, “it goes to everyone and it’s so hard to clear up. It circulates more quickly.” High profile cases of teenagers and college students who committed suicide after being bullied or harassed on Facebook, are just the extreme example of a problem that is becoming much more common. If a child is being cyberbullied, Quadri advised that parents immediately get involved. If the perpetrator is a fellow student, they should go to the school and talk to the principal. In the wake of the high profile suicides, a number of schools have started taking cyberbullying much more seriously.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
However, if a child’s school is unresponsive, parents should immediately contact the police before it’s too late. Cyberbullying is “psychologically torturing them and if kids have no hope they will go to extremes,” Quadri warned.
The trust issue Most parents are aware of the need to guide their children to proper online use, but some waver between offering protection through
surveillance and trusting their children. Herrington warns this ignores serious dangers. “It’s not a matter of trust. It’s a matter of particular realities that are undeniable,” he explained. “Mankind was created weak as stated by God in the Qur’an. These Internet usage parameters should not just be solely for children, but should apply to every member of the household. When our young people see that the rules are applicable to everyone, there can be no valid argument outside of those spurred by personal desire.” The anonymous mother of four agreed. “Kids are just too young to handle the responsibility of today’s technology,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with the kids. It’s just that the temptation is too strong and it’s so easy to go off on the wrong path. I just pray for all of our kids.”
Communication is king In the online world, experts argue that “content is king”. That is, good content is what will win the most visitors to a website. For parents trying to help their children have a 25
Cover Story healthy online experience, good communication is king. “We have heard it before — over and over again — but in my mind, it is the bottom line to whatever path a concerned parent chooses: keep talking to your kids. Talk, discuss, and talk!” said Mozaffar. “One of the underlying issues is the lack of consistent meaningful interaction between parents and children,” said Herrington. “This interaction is what creates a bond that produces open avenues of communication later on in their relationship when tough issues must be addressed. Some of the more deviously minded youth will exploit this gap in the parent-child relationship to achieve their own desires by playing the angel in their parent’s presence and keeping their parents ignorant of what occurs outside of their presence,” he warned. Even the most vigilant of parents cannot control everything, Siddiqui explained. The key is to have open communication. “By policing them, you know one password, but do you know the others?” she
said, referring to the practice of setting up secret online accounts unknown to parents. “Children guard their Facebook accounts the way they guard their diaries,” she added. Quadri explained that building a good relationship with kids goes back to face-toface activities, like having dinner together, reading Qur’an together, and making family time a priority in general. He emphasizes the need to make this “nonchalant time,” when issues like grades and other serious topics are avoided, allowing family members to interact in a relaxed atmosphere. Quadri also advises parents to pay attention to who their children’s friends are by inviting them over, or offering to drive them to school and other places with their own kids. “When you’re driving, keep your antenna open for what they are talking about,” he suggested. Outside of making more time for family, Herrington strongly recommended parents engage their children in healthy activities off the web as an alternative. “Parents [need to] make every effort to provide positive outlets for their children
to spend their time,” he said. “In doing so, hopefully, our young people won’t have time to waste on the Internet, and an even greater hope is that they won’t even care about it.”
Samana Siddiqui, content manager of Sound Vision Foundation’s website (www.soundvision.com), is also reporter and columnist for the “Chicago Crescent”.
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Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
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Islam & Education
Rethinking How We Teach Arabic Considering the centrality of Arabic to the faith, will Muslim Americans strive to optimize its effectiveness in Islamic schools and Muslim communities? By Fatima Khan
graduate the 12th grade at the beginner level of Arabic. Without the necessary benchmarks to assess improvement, the student often stagnates. It is not unusual for a student to start at the intermediate level and stay there for the entire 5 years of her Islamic school career. An administrator from a well established and one of the oldest Islamic Schools in the country said that the focus of their Arabic curriculum is entirely on grammar. The higher levels are comprised of strong heritage language speakers who learn how to case mark nouns and verbs. Even at the lower levels, students are asked to do the same tasks with vocabulary words they do not know. One of the major problems with Arabic in the Islamic school system is that there are no objectives to a lesson, a unit, or the entire school year, which is drastically different from any other subject taught. English, math and science textbooks have the objectives of each lesson and unit clearly labeled for the instructor. Because no standardized Arabic curriculum exists, these elements crucial to gauging stu-
nyone who has grown up in America, attending middle school, ranging from either weekend school or Islamic schools, may have beginner to advanced. There vivid flashbacks of copying pages upon pages of les- may be testing to see what level sons, memorizing vocabulary words they may not have a student falls in, but there is had any use for, or even pretending to read a page, when you were almost little to no mobility actually just recalling it from memory. between levels, as a student usuDespite years of reading the efit only those who are of Arab ally remains in the same level for Qur’an, even starting at early descent or heritage, and already the duration of their career as a childhood, many non-Arabic speak colloquial Arabic fluently. student. This is because there speakers do not pick up much Even when a school privately is no articulation as to what Arabic through this often develops a curriculum for its should be accomplished at each tedious and less-than-effective students, it still is not targeted level and what skills one would process. But why is this so? After to teach it as a foreign language. need to move on to the next. all, isn’t the simple ability to read Second, most schools have For example, students enter 6th the Qur’an enough? How essen- levels for Arabic starting in grade at the beginner level and tial is comprehension? First, most Islamic schools do not approach Arabic as a foreign language; they teach it as they Every curriculum has its positives and negatives, but would to native speakers. Most the widely adopted curriculum American universities curricula come from Middle Eastern countries or closely currently apply has shown enormous progress resemble Arabic curricula compared to that of the typical Islamic School. designed for Arabic-speaking children. These curricula ben28
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
dent improvement are missing. At what level should a student who has studied Arabic for their entire high school career be? How about a student who started from preschool? Parents at an established Islamic grade school said their children’s homework is consistently the same. They are asked to write the new vocabulary words 5 times each. This task is given for students from the first grade all the way until the eight grade. Testing consists of dictation quizzes on those words—there are almost no other types of assignments. Arabic is not taught for communicative purposes, and as such there is no role play, skits, games or use of multimedia. Surprisingly, Islamic schools do not have a system where they teach the complete beginner how to read Qur’an. Even small children will learn the alphabet, sounds, and connection of letters, but working on reading, and reading for Qur’anic Arabic, is not taught. Also, several parents supplement by enrolling their children in programs where their children learn to read Qur’an, or even hire private tutors. Third, administrators have not realized that they have a failing system that needs immediate change. Those who have realized it are not able to convince their boards that there needs to be an investment in resources and human capital to restructure the system. However, a handful of public schools have begun to teach Arabic with better outcomes than longstanding Islamic schools. These problems are not specific to one Islamic school, but to many nationwide. As a student of Arabic at the graduate level, I learned Arabic as an adult, and teach graduates of various Islamic schools, including the brightest and most accomplished students, and thus am aware of the problems. While they are the most driven, studious, and hard working, all of the non-Arab
students only placed out of one quarter of Arabic at Northwestern University—a meager 10 weeks. Comparatively, a Northwestern student with no prior Arabic background will be at the same level as these students after only 10 weeks. The exasperating part of this is that these students have studied Arabic in an Islamic school for between eight and twelve years. None of them can pass the proficiency exam, which would place them out of two years of Arabic. They can’t write a proper sentence in Arabic, conjugate verbs, or use pronouns correctly. Reading and comprehending a paragraph from the newspaper or conversing on any topic in Arabic seems like an unrealistic goal.
ize one cannot be expected to be able to teach his or her mother tongue. Is every English-speaker able to effectively teach an English class? Islamic schools must utilize the same standard when hiring Arabic teachers as they do with teachers of any other subject. Of course, no certification for teaching Arabic exists, but there are people who teach Arabic as a foreign language. Also, Islamic schools can begin by adapting and emulating the curriculum used at the university level. Every curriculum has its positives and negatives, but the widely adopted curriculum American universities currently apply has shown enormous progress compared to that of the typical Islamic School.
Responding to Critics Highlighting such an issue to community members only elicits excuses. They say that most teachers of Arabic are trying their best, and blame student apathy or lack of ability for the problems. Many will claim that the students do not care about Arabic, it is treated as a blow-off class, and they don’t put in any effort. However, if this was the case, why are the valedictorians of these high schools, who definitely care and have excelled in every class, unable to show any significant progress in Arabic? If they are putting in effort and not doing well, why are they earning high grades? Students and parents blame the outdated textbooks, poorly developed curriculum, and ineffective teaching. They must real-
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Responses to the Problem Several individuals have realized this problem and have decided to tackle it. In the not too distant past, people traveled to study Arabic in the Middle East and spent time there to immerse themselves in the language. This option, however, is limited to those who have the resources to do that. Many families have gotten together to create Arabic immersion programs for their young children starting at preschool age through kindergarten. It is a proven fact that the younger the child, the easier for them to learn a language with correct pronunciation. Although Arabic immersion programs have popped up around Muslim
communities, there is no answer as to how these children can remain connected with their Arabic skills as they move on in life and progress through the school years.
The Future As the language of the Qur’an, Arabic is a Muslim’s connection to God and His words. It should be of utmost priority to optimize its effectiveness in Islamic schools and Muslim communities.The time for change is now as the Muslim American community is being left behind. Public Schools, secular private schools, and other faith-based schools have begun Arabic programs that are more successful. Administrators, board members, and community members must push to change the stagnant system. It is not beyond our capability to produce masters of the Arabic language after 12 years of instruction. Composing poetry, knowledge of the most complex grammatical details, and comprehension of a magazine article in Arabic are tangible goals to strive toward.
Fatima Khan, a lecturer of Arabic at Northwestern University, has an MA in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Space Donated by Islamic Society of North America
48th Annual ISNA Convention July 1 – 4, 2011
Rosemont Convention Center
5555 N. River Road • Rosemont, IL 60018
• Events Include • • Main Sessions (ISNA, MSA, MYNA) • Break-Out Sessions • Bazaar with more than 500 booths • Islamic Entertainment • Qira’at Competition • Meet the Author • Community Service Recognition Luncheon (CSRL) • Matrimonial Banquets • Art Exhibit • Islamic Film Festival • Children’s Program • Babysitting • and much more… Early Registration Deadline May 31st, 2011 For Registration and Hotel Reservations: visit: WWW.ISNA.NET or call: (317) 838-8129 For Bazaar Booths and Sponsorships: visit: WWW.ISNA.NET or call: (317) 838-8131 Convention Program: email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: (317) 839-8157 ext 231
We encourage you to register online at www.isna.net. This will ensure accuracy and instant confirmation for registration as well as hotel rooms.
Early Registration Deadline is May 31st, 2011.
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How to Reserve Your Room July 1 – 4, 2011 1.
Hotel reservations must be made either online or on this form and sent along the registration form. Based on hotel availability, you would receive your confirmation within 3 weeks. Confirmation for online reservations will be received by e-mail immediately.
Rooms are assigned on a first-come first-serve and availability basis. If the hotel of your choice is full, you will be assigned to the next alternative.
Bed type is not guaranteed & subject to availability. There may be an extra charge for rollaway beds. (The hotel at check in will notify you.) Since there are a limited number of rooms with two double beds, and in consideration for those with families, please only request rooms with 2 beds if it is absolutely necessary.
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Hyatt O’Hare (Connected to the Convention Center)
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• Right to Vote during ISNA Elections
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Student Discount: To qualify for the special student/MSA rate, you must be currently enrolled in a university and submit a copy of your student ID or enrollment verification form. MYNA Scholarship Fund: Contributions to this fund go to a special endowment of the Muslim Youth of North America which will award scholarships to college freshmen who have been actively involved in Islamic work, have significant academic achievement and who demonstrate financial need. Literature & Materials: Distribution of unapproved literature or other materials or solicitation of any kind during the convention is strictly prohibited.
Community Service Recognition Luncheon (CSRL) The Community Service Recognition Luncheon is a formal luncheon hosted by the ISNA Founders’ Committee (IFC) to recognize an outstanding leader in the North American Muslim community. Cost:
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Islam & Education
Living the Language
Arabic immersion programs go beyond the mundane to provide students with a holistic educational experience. By Nadia Al-Ramahi
rom the moment man was created, an intuitive urge to comprehend his own surroundings by the wonder that circumferences the eye, the notions of intensity that electrifies when tasting a melon, or what seems like a thundering manifestation of sound that creeps into the caves of our ears, are all but narrative expressions of our personal experiences. And what better tool justifies our stories, gives life to our books, and passes a silly joke here and there to the next ear available? Language.
themselves through their targeted language of choice. Programs can differ, however, depending on the demands of people in a specific region. Louisiana ranks as the nation’s highest in administering language immersion programs due to the strong historical presence of traditional Acadian influence like that of the native Cajuns, in learning French. According to the Center of Applied Linguistics (CAL) 2006 data summary of total Language Immersion Programs, 263 schools have been surveyed and recognized as either instilling a total lin-
Children at Qur’an Blossoms celebrate the end of the 2009-2010 school year with a graduation ceremony.
God portrays the importance of language when He tells the Quraysh (12:2): “Verily We have sent it (Revelation) as in Arabic Qur’an to you people for you to reflect upon it and understand it.” Since Arabic is their native tongue, God draws a connection between the Divine Message and Himself. He “immerses” the Muslim Ummah with an outstanding message; we, as human beings, model the same notion within our households and our local schools. However, language is more than concrete syntax or the infamous “Three R’s” that structured school standards in the past— that is why more schools in America are steadily embracing Language Immersion Programs. This method of education is built upon creating an environment where both students and teachers converse and express 36
gual immersion model or by having partial lingual immersion — an 87-fold increase from having only 3 schools that practiced language immersion in 1971, when immersion programs were officially introduced nationwide.
chapter to their educational programs. Qur’an Blossoms, an early childhood program from the Muslim American Society (MAS), has an array of the latest acquisition techniques that can be immediately observed in the children upon entering the school.
The Language Immersion Program is built upon creating an environment where both students and teachers converse and express themselves through their targeted language of choice. Similarly, Bridgeview, IL, which is home to nearly 7.2 percent of Chicagoland’s ArabAmerican population, has an additional
It has been a long-term vision for Maysa Al-Nouri, one of the principal coordinators of the program, for quite some time now.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
“I remember one of our first phone calls [we received] and the first thing a parent asked was ‘Is it going to be fun?’ because the idea of Arabic Programs are that they are boring, tough, everything but fun,” she explains upon addressing parents’ concerns. Researchers affirm that fun and imagination play a crucial role in early childhood development as children begin to personify objects in a symbolism relating to their individual understanding. It is mental processing
language. What linguists have dubbed “codeswitching” shows that when children or adults do this, they have assimilated the grammatical patterns of both languages and are able to differentiate between the two— nullifying the common myth. As I jotted down my observations, I couldn’t help but recall my own struggles with the language at that moment. Of a multicultural background myself, I often found learning Arabic a dreadful task during my early childhood years in weekend school. The absence of a thoughtful way to promote healthy, continuous cognitive processes within me, rather than seeking an immediately gratifying response to what felt like a tasteless survey of stories in my workbooks made the road to learning a dull one. In order to adopt language into one’s lifestyle, one must have both the capability to converse by expressing their inner-selves with ease, while having the comfort and confidence to become resilient, no matter what mistake may taint a conversation. It is the responsibility of
mentally pinpointed the exact areas in which his friend had difficulty with saying. Like a mentor, he elongated a few of those words, just enough for his peer to catch on and correct it for himself, allowing the child to feel a sense of confidence and comfort in seeking help when in need. We often underestimate the power language maintains over us, as it is what preserves the livelihood of our paths and reels social togetherness into our multi-traditional melting pot. Canada is no stranger to embracing this, as it is our mother model of current US language programs. As recently as Dec 2010, the minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages James Moore, declared a three-year renewal plan in efforts to preserve Aboriginal languages within each province. Cultural identity gives light to a society by its varying positive contributions that can scope a wide-range of opportunity by meeting the needs of an ever-growing divergent world. Like Canada, Hawaii, being the second largest home for language immersion in the US, also acknowledges
at its finest, theorized by psychologist Jean Piaget. Children adhere to new experiences by manipulating them into action, which is a precursor to thinking about concrete occurrences in an abstract manner. Another major concern from parents: Will their child feel alienated from the class if both parents do not have Arabic as their native tongue? Al-Nouri smiled and directed my focus onto one child for me to observe. The child’s parents were both non-Arab; “I am the first one!” he said in Arabic as he led his classmates into the office as they waited for their parents to pick them up. He sat next to his brother and hugged him. “Do you love your brother?” Al-Nouri asked in Arabic. “Yes, very much,” he responded partially in English and in Arabic with enthusiasm. Critics may argue that speaking bilingually in one sentence is a sign that the child is confused, lacking proficiency in the target
educators and parents alike to foster these attributes within children since resiliency plays a vital factor in the outcome of their future success. The cozy atmosphere of Qur’an Blossoms felt like a second home for the children, stemming from a Waldorf approach, an early childhood philosophy that gives children a sense of harmony with one’s self and with their surroundings. As the time neared for the children to straighten their workplaces, Abeer Jaber, a teacher at Blossoms, sang an Arabic version of “Clean-up Time”. All of the children immediately began to put their toys and play-things away and a few began singing along with her. Two children followed, one who sang perfectly, while the other struggled with remembering how to verse the song and properly pronounce it. The child that was visibly advanced with the song looked closely at his friend and
the importance in restoring and honoring the many indigenous languages within its region. Parents across the globe can help promote further bilingual development in their communities by actively participating in school board member meetings, distributing beneficial resources to their local schools, or by holding administrative meetings with other parents in order to further establish the essence of securing a language and a culture. Also, by being aware of national standards and federal legislation laws, parents can involve themselves objectively to format new initiatives for our children to succeed. Al-Nouri explained, “Language feeds culture and religion with a soul…” I cannot help but embody it.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Nadia Al-Ramahi, a freelance writer from Lockport, IL, is pursuing a degree in early childhood education.
Photographs by Yemen Language Center
Islam & Education
At the Yemen Language Center in Sanaa (featured), the school and dormitories are side by side to immerse students into academic life.
Get the Best Research will help students find the
abroad going over the alphabet and learning to read. These are fundamentals that can be picked up in a local mosque, community college or even online.
right Arabic language program to suit their goals.
How to choose a program
By Zeeba Anarwala
ost non-native Arabic speakers have no access to the Qur’an except through translation, and are thus deprived of the Book’s real essence. Thus many have traveled abroad to study the language that will give them real access to the Qur’an. These programs can range from a few weeks to months. Language immersion and lower costs are some of the benefits of studying abroad. But many students have likened their experiences to an extended vacation. In addition to receiving an intense learning experience, they spend their time taking trips to tourist sites, exploring local cuisine and shopping for unique items.
Before enrolling in a program, the student must get a basic background of the Arabic language because without having such basic skills whatsoever, it doesn’t make much sense to spend months in a classroom
So you’ve made the decision to take a time out from the daily grind and go abroad for an experience of a lifetime. But how do you go about choosing a program or even the country you will visit? Popular destination countries of late include Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Yemen. Each of these countries has its pros and cons in terms of Arabic study, but if you do your homework, you should be able to get a beneficial experience anywhere.
Keep in mind you won’t be spending 24 hours a day studying, so make sure you choose a place where you can get a fulfilling experience outside the classroom.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
First, if possible, talk to people you know who have studied abroad for a similar purpose. Get their insights not only about how much they learned, but how they rate the experience in general. Second, set aside a generous chunk of time for research on the Internet. Many reputable programs have informative websites offering basic information about the programs, even tuition. Your Web search will also give you information about the school’s culture. Is it a school with only Muslims exclusively learning Qur’anic Arabic? Or does it enroll non-Muslims as well, studying Arabic for various purposes? Each school has its own benefits so it’s up to you to decide where you will be most comfortable. Keep in mind you won’t be spending 24 hours a day studying, so make sure you choose a place where you can get a fulfilling experience outside the classroom. Reading travel blogs online can be very useful in this respect. Call or e-mail the school with your ques-
tions. Many schools have English-speaking staff to help prospective students. Ask the private language schools if they can tailor the program to your needs. If you learn better in group study, it can most likely be arranged, but private tutoring is not uncommon. Oneon-one tutoring may be your best bet. Ask specifically about living arrangements and food. Some schools have dorms near the school but every arrangement is different. This information might already be listed on the Website, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Also, ask if someone affiliated with the school will pick you up at the airport. It seems trivial, but when you’re jet-lagged and don’t know the language, something as simple as a ride can make or break your day. Finally, ask if the school offers sightseeing tours during the term. You definitely do not want to miss out on this as it can be he highlight of your language-learning adventure. All of these countries have tons of historic sites, and it would be a shame if you skipped them.
Following are a list of centers in several countries: Egypt • Fajr Center for Teaching Arabic Language, Cairo http://www.fajr.com/ • Al Diwan , Cairo http://aldiwancenter.com/ Jordan • Qasid Institute for Classical & Modern Standard Arabic, Amman http://www.qasid.com/ Yemen • Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies, Sanaa http://www.ycmes.org/past.html • Yemen Institute for Arabic Language, Sanaa http://www.yialarabic.com/index. php?page=main • Sana’a Institute for the Arabic Language, Sanaa http://www.sialyemen.com/
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Once you’re there One of the most frustrating experiences will be the disconnect between the standard Arabic learned in the classroom and the dialect used on the street. For beginners this can be quite disheartening. Don’t feel shy, and practice what you know with the locals. They are usually very accommodating. Also, it might be a good idea to ask your teacher to spend even ten minutes a day going over basics of the dialect for a more comfortable stay.
Keeping up Finally, remember Arabic is a tough language. You will come back with much more knowledge, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be an expert on the Qur’an. After returning home, you will have to make a genuine effort to further your study or your hard work will have been in vain.
Zeeba Anarwala is a journalist living in North Carolina who has studied media Arabic in the Middle East.
Institute on Christian Muslim Relations For Pastors and Christian Pastoral Workers to Study Islam For Imams and Muslim Community Leaders to Study Christianity
June 12 – June 18, 2011
An intensive six-day institute Topics for Muslims Topics for Christians •The New Testament in the Bible •Muhammad and the Qur’an •Jesus, the Word •Contemporary Movements in Islam •Church and Society •Islam in America •Christianity in America •Church Teachings on Islam •Visits to churches •A Visit to a Mosque
Joint Sessions Christian -- Muslim Relations: History & Methods | Contemporary Issues Religious Diversity and Pastoral Questions
Presenters John Borelli | Suendam Birinci | Yvonne Y. Haddad Leo Lefebure | Dan A. Madigan | Sulayman Nyang | JohnO. Voll
Tuition: $800 | Optional Accomodations $382/Week For more information: contact Max Glassie | (202) firstname.lastname@example.org FOUR SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE FOR MUSLIM PARTICIPANTS
Islam & Education
The Islamic Speakers Bureau helps teach about Muslims and their faith in schools around the nation.
teach it or are unsure of how to teach about religion in public schools. As a world religions teacher, Groff is very aware of the legal parameters of teaching about religion in public schools. He said that he makes it clear in his syllabus and letters to parents that his class entails an academic and neutral study of the world’s major religions. He also invites parents to his classroom when guest speakers present. Groff said a parent has never expressed concern about a Muslim speaker visiting his classroom. Groff said he is comfortable inviting ISBN and recommending its services to other social studies teachers since speakers know what they can and cannot teach in classrooms. All ISBs adhere to First Amendment guidelines for teaching about religion in the public school system, which include not promoting or denigrating any religion.
By Zahra Cheema
Putting a ‘Face to the Faith’ In addition to supplementing education about Islam, speakers provide an opportunity for students to meet and interact with a Muslim. “I really want the students to meet a
ING-certified speaker Rusha Latif presents to a 7th grade Social Studies classroom in California.
hey’re just like us.” This is the comment Gary Groff receives most often from his high school students after a speaker from the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Nebraska (ISBN) visits. For many of Groff ’s students this is the first time they have met a Muslim. Groff, a public high school teacher for 31 years, teaches Introduction to World Religions at Central High School in Omaha, NB, the state’s largest public high school, where he is also social studies chair. Groff also teaches a course under the same title as an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Groff has worked with ISBN for over ten years and continues to invite speakers into his classrooms three to five times a year.
Faith and the First Amendment Nearly half of all presentations given by the ISBs nationwide are to public and private middle and high school students. Presentations enhance a student’s understanding of Muslims and their faith in social studies 40
Islamic Speakers Bureaus adhere to First Amendment guidelines for teaching about religion in the public school system, which include not promoting or denigrating any religion. classes, such as world history. Groff said that most state standards for social studies curriculum include instruction about the world’s major religions, including Islam. Besides its basic presentation titled, “Getting to Know American Muslims and their Faith,” ING also provides presentations titled, “Islamic Contributions to Civilization,” “Roots of Muslims in America,” and “Muslim Women.” According to Groff, many high school world history textbooks briefly cover Islam, touching on the Islamic empires and sometimes the five pillars. Through its experience, ING found that some teachers skip or skim over the unit because they feel ill-equipped to
believer of each faith, but particularly Islam because I think it’s real important to put a face to the faith,” Groff said. After 9/11, Groff noticed that his students came to class associating Islam and Muslims with terrorism. Although he feels that this perception is diminishing among his students each year as they have less direct exposure to the events of 9/11, he said that misinformation still exists. Groff said the ISB presents a side of Islam and Muslims that perhaps students do not get from national media. “The Islamic Speakers Bureau comes in and they show Muslims who are part of the community, who send their kids to school, who go to work,” he said.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
What is the Islamic Speakers Bureau?
One such person is veteran ISBN speaker and coordinator, Maisha Liwaru. When Liwaru walks into Groff ’s classroom, she smilingly greets the students with “Assalaam Alaikum,” and explains that it means “peace be upon you.” Liwaru, who has lived in Omaha for 20 years, introduces herself as a Muslim, former small business owner, wife, mother, and grandmother of 36 grandchildren. Like Liwaru, ISB members are volunteers who donate their time from work, family and college schedules to educate people about themselves and their faith. When Liwaru joined ISBN in 2000, she underwent ING’s training program that included an all-day training, written exams, and a mock presentation. She now administers this training and certification process to people interested in joining ISBN.
ISBN is one of nine Islamic speakers bureaus in the US that provides educational, nondevotional presentations about Muslims to different audiences including middle and high school students, educators, healthcare workers, corporate managers, and faith-based organizations. Each bureau is affiliated with the California-based Islamic Network Groups (ING; www.ing.org), a nonprofit educational organization that promotes interreligious understanding and dialogue. The Islamic Speakers Bureau (ISB) has been ING’s core program since the organization’s inception in 1993. In 2007 ING introduced a second program, the Interfaith Speakers Bureau, which consists of Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu speakers who provide interfaith panels on a variety of topics. Maha Elgenaidi, ING’s president and executive director, started the organization with her personal savings and the goal of “challenging stereotypes and preventing prejudice while promoting understanding through education and engagement,” said Elgenaidi. She feels that ING’s goal is more important than ever in a post 9/11 world.
What is in a Presentation? After introducing herself to Groff ’s class, Liwaru shows students ING’s copyrighted PowerPoint presentation that covers terminology, Muslim history and contributions in the United States, traditions and practices, values and major misconceptions. To accompany the digital presentation, she brings items to share with the class such as a prayer rug and prayer beads. Groff said students find the presentation to be informative and engaging. He said that they show particular interest in the commonalities between Islam, and for the majority of his students, their Christian faith. “They think, ‘The Qur’an talks about Jesus?! The Qur’an talks about Mary?!’,” Groff said. Following the slide show, Liwaru answers questions from students such as, “Why do you cover your hair?” Speakers are equipped with answers that are developed by ING in consultation with prominent American Muslim scholars including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Dr. Umar Faruq ‘Abd-Allah and Dr. Ingrid Mattson (a former ISNA president). Liwaru enjoys presenting to students because of their curiosity and willingness to learn. This is one of the reasons she joined ISBN. Liwaru said that even before 9/11 she understood that most people in the US did not know much about Muslims or their faith and therefore had many misconceptions. “I felt that [this] would cause some problems for our Muslims and that if young people could hear about what Islam really taught, that in the future there would be less discrimination and more cooperation between people of different faiths,” Liwaru said.
Birth of the First Bureau Azra Hussain was interested in the ISB the moment she heard about it. Hussain, president and director of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona (ISBA), attended an ISNA Convention workshop on ING’s work in California, led by Elgenaidi. Hussain and her friends approached Elgenaidi immediately afterwards to find out how to start a bureau. Six months after beginning ING’s rigorous certification process for their bureau (which included having an official board, obtaining nonprofit status, and certifying speakers) Hussain, along with two other founding members, launched ISBA in April 1999.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Initially ISBA marketed the program to middle and high schools in the Phoenix metro area by sending letters to world history and geography teachers informing them about ISBA’s free programs. That first fall, ISBA speakers conducted 52 presentations. This past fall, ISBA provided 143 presentations, 119 of which were to students. ISBA currently has nine active speakers who travel all over Arizona to provide presentations. Hussain said that the response from community members is very positive and that people often tell her how ISBA’s work is much-needed.
Promoting Understanding through Education Last year, ISBs nationwide delivered over 900 presentations to middle and high schools students. When asked about the need for the ISB, Elgenaidi points to American public opinion polls about Muslims and their faith. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, Islam is the most negatively viewed among major religions in the US by Americans and 43 percent of Americans admit to feeling at least slight prejudice against Muslims. A 2010 Pew Research Center survey found that Americans with favorable views of Muslims tend to have the most knowledge of Islam. Elgenaidi said that these polls highlight the importance of both education and faceto-face engagement in correcting the misinformation or misperceptions that generally lead to prejudice and misunderstanding in society. This is why Groff continues to invite ISBN speakers into his classes. “I really think it’s important that the more education they [students] have, the less fear they have, and the more understanding and the better relationship we’ll have among the different religious communities,” he said. After an ISBN speaker leaves his classroom, Groff asks his students for their thoughts. He often hears them say, “They’re just like us.” For Groff, this is exactly one of the messages he hopes his students take away with them. Elgaindi says those interested in initiating a bureau in their area or becoming a certified speaker, may contact ING’s program coordinator Everett DePangher at email@example.com.
Zahra Cheema, a freelance writer, is a certified Islamic Speakers Bureau speaker.
Islam & Education
Wouldn’t it be sensible for Islamic schools to deliberately integrate the lawful and wholesome, Halal and Tayyib ? By Susan Labadi
uslim parents and teachers push Islamic studies, Arabic and Qur’an, reading, writing, and arithmetic, and vie for their students to earn first place in the school science fair. We dole out these subjects in hopes that we are raising good and responsible Muslim students, but wouldn’t it be sensible to also deliberately integrate the lawful and wholesome, halal and tayyib? In the Qur’an, halal is always paired with tayyib, and the terms can roughly be translated as lawful and beneficial, or wholesome. Simple and pure; lawful by God; and good for one’s body, self (nafs), and society; along with the worship of one God, these summarize the gist of living Islam. Islamic schools provide an opportunity for a comprehensive and practical approach to inculcate these practices in our youth. The ISNA Education Forum planning committee conducted an informal survey of Islamic schools through the Islamic Schools’ League of Americas’ listserv (www.4islamicschools.org) to determine the priorities for the annual conference. One of the most perceived needs was for improving the Islamic integration and environment in our schools. Not surprisingly, most Islamic schools are diverse in cultures and students and teachers experience an interesting mix of traditional, multi-ethnic, multigenerational, and multinational personalities. Yet,
it is Islam that binds us together. All this, while living in an American popular culture, presents a challenge. What happens when everyone thinks that their way is the only right way — discord — which is usually
squelched in the “respect your elders” environment. We wonder if we are connecting with students for permanent guidance and Muslim identity integration. Wouldn’t it be prudent to leave judgments to God, and focus on solid Islamic studies scholarship and the critical values we share, in spite of culture, generation, or maturational status? An awareness of a halal lifestyle answers this need. It attracts because it is primal that we desire to please God; with ISNA is initiating the first US that as a foundation, all other Halal Accreditation Board, matters of life find their place. The future promises to protect consumers and to be bright for those who assure food safety. recognize the value of halal living. According to Adnan Durrani (chief halal officer, American Halal Company)
American consumers purchase about $3 billion of Kosher food products, and a significant portion of them are Muslim. While US halal food sales are estimated at $200300 million, Kosher does not equate with halal, because Kosher products may still contain alcohol or be made from animals fed animal byproducts, including pork, which are prohibited in Islam. Muslim consumers should be more educated and discerning to know that at this time in the US, both Kosher and halal certifications are not verified by accreditation. That is why ISNA is initiating the first US Halal Accreditation Board, to protect consumers and assure food safety. Many Muslims seek halal and organic products, but supply is falling short of demand. Ample growth in this sector is evident, but development of business by Muslims is trailing as some mainstream companies are scrambling to satisfy the niche. They acknowledge the over 1 billion Muslims in the global market, and they need guidance to effectively market to them. Our students can have a prosperous future in catering to this need. Beyond food, an awareness of the other halal industries is in order. They are finance and insurance, cosmetics, and personal care products. Also, industries identified as halal markets are baby products, vitamins and pharmaceuticals, healthcare, media, travel, and logistics. The development of careers in market intelligence, biochemistry, food science, legislative advocacy, manufacturing, and services for the Muslim consumer make this a lucrative avenue. If we help bring an expectation in our students’ lives that God brought us the means for a satisfying halal lifestyle, then the tayyib of it will bring Him closer to us. That peaceful assurance of God’s pleasure transcends difficulties in life. That is what will transform our schools into institutions which foster fellowship and purity in living. What greater resource and preparation for da’wah can we give to our students? If we discuss with them how to bring halal increasingly into our lives, we plant the seed for a righteous future of service for the sake of God and responsibility for humanity. In this way, our diversity is our strength and our salvation.
Susan Labadi, a member of the ISNA Education Forum planning committee, is educational professional development provider (geniusschoolonline.com); project coordinator, American Halal Association (americanhalalassociation. org); and editor-in-chief of “Halalconnect” (halalconnect. com/hc2010).
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Let Kids Thrive Right under your Nose Can online education be an answer to the challenges that many Muslim parents face in providing quality education in an ideal environment? By Kari Ansari
avesdrop on a group of Muslim parents and you’re likely to hear a conversation about the different choices families have for educating their offspring. In the US, those choices appear to be limited to public, private, or homeschooling. Typically, public schools offer diverse academic opportunities, but many Muslim parents are concerned about the environment. Smaller Islamic schools have the right social environment, but struggle to provide up-to-date materials, middle or high school grades, and differentiated learning options; plus, private tuition isn’t always affordable. Traditional homeschooling is an unfamiliar concept for many first generation immigrant Muslims, who may also be intimidated by the lack of support and amount of effort necessary to assemble curriculum. Hundreds of Muslim families, looking for a quality alternative, have found that online public schools are the answer. These tuition-free public schools eliminate classroom distractions and allow students to focus on their studies. Kelli Muhammad of Riverdale, GA has six children in K12’s Georgia Cyber Academy — the country’s largest provider of online learning programs to public schools in the US. Muhammad says at first she created her own homeschool program, but worried she was missing something. However, K12’s curriculum, certified teacher support, combined with online lesson assessments assure her that her kids are working at, or above, grade level. Another advantage of online schooling, she adds, is family togetherness. “My children are more open with me. Now, we have a closer bond through working Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Hundreds of Muslim families, looking for a quality alternative, have found that online public schools are the answer.
together on their lessons.” Muhammad also appreciates that all children who enter the program have equal access to a rich variety of hands-on materials and quality books. “I didn’t have access to computers when I was in school; this program makes sure no children are left behind in terms of technology — regardless of income.” Public online schools, like Georgia Cyber Academy, ship a desktop computer and printer to every family enrolled. Nasrat Ragab and his wife, originally from Egypt, have two sons in 1st and 3rd grades. Ragab says they always intended to educate them at home, and were happy to find California Virtual Academy. They want their boys to memorize the entire Qur’an, however, academics are equally important. Because the memorization training is rigorous, a regular school schedule would be impossible to follow. Not willing to compromise on either aspect of their children’s education, the Ragabs hired a tutor to be the learning coach for their boys using California Virtual while Mom and Dad do daily memorization training with the boys. “This allows us to teach the boys to memorize Qur’an while they are getting good academics on a schedule we like,” reports Ragab. Karina Bojoquez pulled her children out of public schools three years ago because she felt the school had given up on her son, José, who was in 5th grade and failing. Bojoquez says everyone had written her son off, “I decided I’d rather have my son fail with me as his teacher than have him fail in the system. I tell my children that as Muslims they have to strive for excellence, they have to be above-average students to grow as leaders in the world.” José has caught up to grade level and loves learning at home. Bojoquez says that her children have gotten the best out of the Internet technology utilized by California Virtual Academy. When asked about the potentially negative influence of the Internet, she says the online learning program has taught them to responsibly navigate the Internet for research. “My kids are taking advantage of the positive uses of the Internet versus the negative uses like Myspace or Facebook.” Instead, she says her kids get plenty of social activities outside the home with their active Muslim community, and a large extended family.
Kari Ansari is a writer, marketing consultant and co-creator of America’s Muslim Family Magazine, and Muslim Family Bookshelf blog.
For the Love of Literature How books clubs help build bonds and bridge gaps, one page at a time. By Hiba Masood
n a Friday evening, a group of men and women from different backgrounds, ages and occupations, gather in a mosque, in the heart of Milwaukee, WI, to exchange passionate opinions on “Radical Reform: Islam, Ethics and Liberation,” a book by Tariq Ramadan. Across the country, in the parlor of the Presbyterian Church of Western Springs, IL, a group comprised of church-going women and Muslim women from the nearby Bridgeview Mosque, are convening to discuss their views on “Sharon and My Mother-in-Law” by Suad Amiry. Over in Mississauga, Canada, Alia Kareem is browsing through her book club’s latest selection and noting questions she wants to raise in the next meeting. Book clubs are rapidly springing up across Muslim communities in North America as people discover the lifelong joys, the daily pleasures and the practical benefits of being part of a community that gathers to talk about literature. The clubs’ structures vary greatly. Some are for women only, while many are open to both men and women. There are those that have only Muslim members, and others which have a rich mix of different faiths. Despite not having a formalized classroom structure, reading groups promote personal learning. Participating in reading group discussions helps improve communication skills, effective expression and polished listening. Reading groups with a rotat-
Members of the Western Springs, IL book club. Standing, left to right: Carol Kellogg Stoub, Suha Hassan. Sitting, left to right: Carol Akhras, Ann Beran Jones.
ing roster of leaders means that everyone has a chance to practice their leadership skills and the management of a group of people, with different backgrounds and opinions. Carol Kellogg Stoub of the Presbyterian Church of Western Springs, a retired social worker, parent, and educator, is an ordained Elder and deacon in her church. Ihsan Atta, a self-employed Palestinian, raised in Milwaukee and married to an American convert, says his “involvement in the religious community has overwhelmingly been limited to attending
[My book club is] a chance to engage both the head and the heart with people I trust and admire. It’s an evening for every part of me — one that gives me intellectual stimulation, emotional sustenance and great laughs. 44
Juma’ prayer and sponsored events.” Kareem, a stay at home mother to three boys, originally from India, moved to Canada with her husband and has devoted herself to homemaking for the past ten years. Ann Beran Jones is a member of the same club as Stoub. HM: How does being part of a book club enrich your life? Carol: This is one of the best things I do with my life. The friendships, laughter and openness shared is beyond imagining. I believe this would not happen so easily in another venue. Reading is shared and safe so each of us is able to be true to ourselves and talk openly. We laugh a lot and apply the reading to our personal experiences. The discussions are rich and free flowing. We never have enough time and eagerly await our next gathering. Ihsan: I think any activity a person involves themselves with is a source of enrichment. Besides the thought stimulation, inter-
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
action with others is vital in teaching oneself to open their mind to the thoughts, beliefs, opinions and experiences of others. To learn about other peoples’ histories and life experiences is wonderful as it relates to the topics at hand. This interaction, especially in a thought provoking environment, lends itself to acceptance and/or tolerance of others’ opinions and personalities in a respectful manner. Alia: The book club keeps me in touch with the world. As a stay at home mother, it’s easy to get so busy in my own life that
been enlightening and educational. I believe reaching out to non-Muslims to participate (or just attend) has been a great opportunity for da’wa. It is a venue where there is no pressure, there is lively discussion and non-Muslims can experience an array of opinions from a diverse group. Ann: Talking with others of another faith helps me clarify my own and being with others of a different culture and customs enriches my understanding, better preparing me to live in our global community.
The Milwaukee, WI book club gathers to discuss its latest pick.
personal learning stagnates. The club makes sure I am aware of current books and authors. By reading about life in different cultures and societies, my understanding of the world has been enormously enhanced. I am then forced to view myself and my lifestyle with new eyes. HM: Has the book club played any role in your learning? Carol: I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that knowing others persons, cultures and beliefs is essential for peace. It is accomplished one person at a time and we learn from one another in natural ways. As Americans became fearful of persons different from themselves, I felt that I wanted to find ways to get acquainted with Muslims on personal levels. The interfaith Book Group has taught all of us about the other and ourselves. Ihsan: As a God-fearing individual who is not religiously active other than attending weekly prayer and some Islamic Center functions, I think the discussions that take place regarding various topics/issues have
HM: Why should you join a book club? Ihsan: Because it’s the thing to do on a Friday night! Just kidding. In addition, participation in Masjid functions ensures the success of such programs and insha Allah greater participation which in turn will lead to the success of the community. Carol: It is fun, the shared food delicious, and we read books we would otherwise ignore or not know about. It is also something that can be fit into a schedule as there are no minutes to take or reports to be given—just ideas and friendships shared. Alia: It’s a cherished opportunity for self-expression. A chance to engage both the head and the heart with people I trust and admire. It’s an evening for every part of me — one that gives me intellectual stimulation, emotional sustenance and great laughs. HM: What are some things or ideas you would recommend to making a book club more effective? Alia: I think members should always
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
outline what they consider the purpose of the club. Differing expectations is probably the leading cause of book club strife. If one person is expecting to spend the entire time in deep discussion while another signed up thinking there would be a little bit of book discussion plus lots of chat, somebody is going to be disappointed! Carol: It would be wonderful if we could expand the experience to others. There are many who care but finding participants is the hardest part. Ihsan: First and foremost there should be an understanding of respect and tolerance of others and their opinions. Diversity (in terms of ethnicity, level of religious knowledge, age, gender, where they fall on a religious spectrum, etc.) of those involved is key. Such diversity is what allows for interesting discussions and debates. I think having and rotating a moderator helps maintain control of the group and time. HM: How has your book club contributed to community building? Ihsan: I think we are fortunate, in that, despite the diversity of our group, we are quite open minded. We challenge one another, yet we listen to one another as well. I think as the group grows and attracts individuals that have been more set in their ways, it will have more of an effect on the community and will force change in circles of narrow mindedness and ignorance. Alia: At my first book club meeting, I didn’t know a single person in the room. Five years later, I have seen their babies grow up and I’ve made friendships with people I wouldn’t have ever met. One of the person’s in my club I am now closest to is a 72-yearold Jewish gentleman! I have learned so much about his faith and I hope he has learned about Islam. Our shared love of books has helped us transcend the difficult realities of our divergent political and religious views. Carol: Our meetings are announced in local church and mosque bulletins so information is shared. My Christmas letter told about the shared reading and I have had questions and responses all over the country. This is the first time the Presbyterian women were able to know Muslim women and to build true friendships.
Hiba Masood, an Ontario-based freelance writer, blogs about family, faith and parenting at www.halfyourfaith.com.
Keeping A Green World
Are Muslim community organizations geared toward directing their communities to lead more environmentally friendly lives? By Meha Ahmad
to fighting economic injustice, “Green Deen” covers just about everything one needs to know to establish a balance among one’s own life, mosque, and community. “[God] created this space for us to worship Him — destroying it not only prevents us from properly worshipping, but it is disrespectful to His creation,” Abdul-Matin said.
Getting Priorities Straight
The Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, IL, received the Environmental Hero Award as the first U.S. mosque to use solar panels to harness energy.
or the past decade, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has been dedicated to transforming our pollutionbased way of life to one that promotes the balance between our planet and its people. And he finds his inspiration and road-map in the teachings of Islam. In his book, “Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet,” he provides an in-depth lesson of sorts that connects environmentalism and Islam, giving shape to the idea of “green deen.” “Green deen” literally means “environmental path.” Abdul-Matin examines Islamic principles and how they can be applied to water, waste, energy, and food—the four things that any society needs to manage for survival. Raised in Brooklyn, NY by environmentally-conscious parents, AbdulMatin said that for the first five years of his life, he thought “the entire world was a sea of concrete buildings,” until his father took him on a hiking trip outside the city to Bear
Mountain. There, he had his first significant encounter with nature, becoming familiar with trees, dirt and moss. “I remember seeing my father pray on the mountain,” Abdul-Matin said. “He told me, ‘The Earth is a mosque. You can pray everywhere, everywhere is sacred.’ From that moment on, I felt a deep sense of responsibility to protect the planet.” He states that combating climate change, minimizing dependency on pollution-based methods, and generally saving the planet is a Muslim’s God-given duty. From conserving water while making wudu and eating organic,
Critical environmental issues abound— from the increasing temperature of the earth, to air pollution, to the ever-growing list of endangered species. It can hardly be taken up all at once. Abdul-Matin says that the absolute biggest problem that Muslims would do best to focus on first is gaining access to clean water. He said, “Muslims need to become advocates for worldwide clean water. No one uses more water than Muslims. We do wudu five times a day. We break our fast with water. Our Holy City of Mecca exists because of the well of Zamzam.” According to the UN, today nearly one billion people (one-sixth of the world’s population) do not have access to clean water. Furthermore, a child dies from a water-related disease every 20 seconds. And as bottled water companies seek to privatize water, even more people will be cut off from clean water supplies, the cost to humans is a slashing in the number of people who can afford access to it. “Join clean water campaigns,” urges Abdul-Matin. “Pressure the UN, the WHO, and other international organizations to make this a real priority.”
Combating climate change, minimizing dependency on pollution-based methods, and generally saving the planet is a Muslim’s God-given duty. Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
To further the Islamic environmental movement, Abdul-Matin states that “a Green Deen starts with the greening of your local mosque.” And that is precisely the attitude many Muslim institutions are practicing.
the mosque’s decision to go green. He added, “Earth is a place for worship for Muslims. A better earth means a better place to worship God.” Their current goals include encouraging neighbors to jump on the bandwagon. “We are focusing now on educating the community about going green.” Mosques Go Green And they’re not doing it alone. Other Buildings, like mosques, are energy-suckers, mosques and organizations are also blazconsuming 39 percent of ing trails when it comes to the energy and 74 percent implementing “green deen.” of the electricity consumed The Council of Islamic each year in the US, accordOrganizations in Greater ing to the US Department Chicago promotes a “Green of Energy. So some US Ramadan” each year to its mosques are leading the way member organizations. Just in establishing more envinorth of them, the Islamic ronmentally friendly ways Environmental Group of of functioning. Wisconsin’s 2011 program The Mosque Foundation is dedicated to informing, in Bridgeview, IL received an training and activating their Environmental Hero Award "Green Deen" author, community and its leadwhen they became the first Ibrahim Abdul-Matin. ers about Islam’s environUS mosque to use solar mental teachings. Online, panels to harness energy there are a growing number of sites who seek to educate and preheat water with the Muslim community and the sun rather than natural gas. With five prayers broader public to implement a day and a hundreds of more sustainable ways of Muslims making wudu living, including Blogspot’s each time, a lot of hot water EcoJihad and DC Green is being used. According to Muslims, Wordpress’s mosque officials, heating the GreenDeen, and Greenwater via the solar thermal Prophet.com. In Sterling, VA, the All system has saved them more than $10,000 each year. Dulles Area Muslim Soci“[W]e will do our part to ety (ADAMS) Center got reduce global warming and the idea about two years use the savings to expand our ago to launch an environmental educational charitable work,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul (president, Mosque Foundation) campaign in the community. That led the when the solar thermal system was installed mosque to reducing its carbon footprint in 2008. by 13 percent and its energy consumption Their green efforts don’t stop there: all by more than 20 percent. Friday sermons three floors of the mosque are carpeted are given on how to reduce your home’s with recycled fibers; the numerous win- carbon footprint, buy less wasteful grocerdows throughout the building allow maxi- ies, consume less energy, recycling, water mum use of natural light and minimize the use and about the balance between manneed for electricity; they save electricity by kind and nature. The community really got using LED lights, improved insulation, and involved when ADAMS Center started its they continue to empower and educate the now-annual Adopt a Tree program, invitcommunity on environmental issues and ing families, friends and neighbors to actions they may take to live more “green roll up their sleeves and adopt and plant deen” lifestyles. trees. Last year, they planted more than Imam Kifah Mustapha (associate direc- 300 trees, beautifying the neighborhood. tor, Mosque Foundation) said it was their The youth were key to promoting greener connection to and understanding of Islam’s ways of living, according to deputy director teachings on the environment that inspired Khalid Iqbal. Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
“We involve our youth as much as we can,” Iqbal said. In fact, students from ADAMS’ educational programs have been able to learn more about green deen through an astronomy club, and by taking part in the center’s organic vegetable garden. “The children may read a passage in the Qur’an [about the environment], and then they get to actually put it into practice by planting seeds themselves and watching them grow.” Even the vegetable garden is utilized to its utmost to reduce waste and expenses. The garden’s vegetables are used to promote healthy eating in the mosque, sold to raise funds for programs, and shared with neighbors. ADAMS Center also promotes water conservation to its members. According to a study conducted by the mosque, Muslim Americans “use close to three to four gallons of water when making wudu.” “We are aiming to teach our members to use less than half a gallon of water for wudu,” Iqbal said. To help in this initiative, ADAMS is “reducing the water pressure in the masjid’s faucets.”
Looking Forward Abdul-Matin urges Muslims to become involved in environmental innovation, demand that elected officials support related legislation, begin focusing on harnessing the power of the sun and the wind, and not allow coal mining companies to ruin entire communities and ecosystems. However, this might prove to be a bit of a challenge. The change of the power balance in Washington, DC may target what some call “excessive environmental” regulation. This includes adversely affecting the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and waste from power plants. Abdul-Matin wants Muslim Americans to create a movement to stop the anti-regulationists, who he accused of wanting to perpetuate a system of putting profits ahead of people. “[God] has entrusted us to take care of His creation and to leave it better than we found it,” he said. “We have everything we need on this Earth to live and thrive. We are part of this delicate balance. To destroy this balance is to do injustice. To maintain this balance is to do justice.”
Meha Ahmad, a freelance journalist, is social media manager for Sound Vision Foundation.
The New Elephant in the Room
How Muslim organizations can leverage social media and reach out to their many publics within and outside their own communities. By Kiran Ansari
tarbucks has 18 million, Disney has 15 million, and Kmart has 2 million. Not shareholders or customers, but something very powerful in this day and age — Facebook fans. Who knew the little blue squares of Facebook and Twitter as well as others like YouTube, LinkedIn, and Flickr would wiggle their way into every aspect of our lives. The bottom line is that social media is here to stay. In 2010, Twitter use from mobile phone browsers was up by 347 percent as compared to 2009. With 500 million users, Facebook has the third largest “population” in the world, only ranking below China and India. So what does the Muslim American community need to do about this explosion? Sit back and point fingers on how Facebook should be renamed “Fitnahbook,” immediately jump on the turbo-powered social media bandwagon, or choose something in between? Like everything in Islam, the middle path is the safest bet. Our mosques, Islamic schools, relief organizations and youth groups need to be where the people are — without compromising Islamic etiquette. In 2010, Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 2000) has outpaced the Baby Boomers and 96 percent of them are on a social media site; we cannot afford to be left behind. “Muslims often have the tendency to talk among ourselves,” said Maria Omar (director, media relations, Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America) based in Chicago. “We need to be where the party is at. One-third of Muslim Americans are under 18 and we need to engage them and the general public or we will be left out.”
Phase 1: Considering Social Media – Why Should I Tweet? Social media was still contained when it was limited to having a computer with Internet access. But with the advent of smart-phones and wifi, the exponential growth needs to be acknowledged or we may not be able to engage our youth and young professionals — the future leaders of our organizations. Muslims need to be using social media since many current news topics talk about Islam and we need to be a part of the conversation. We also need to take advantage of the public domain to be transparent and accountable
Yvonne Maffei (editor, My Halal Kitchen), whose site has 7,740 fans on Facebook. “Visuals often evoke a sense of responsibility and are great for donations.” Social media also works well for mosques and schools with tight budgets. “Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of free advertising that works for you while you are asleep?” said Maffei. “Social media has the potential to ‘go viral’ and transmit your campaign to people you may never have come across.” With a website, you have to wait for people to visit you and you need to have
If you watch YouTube videos at a stop light or wake up at 4am to check your Facebook but don’t pray Fajr, then it is time you hand over the reins to someone else. for the donations we receive. This encourages others to support our cause. Social media has proven to be effective in increasing attendance at events and being a virtual volunteer pool. Even if you do not see an immediate increase in money or people, rest assured, more people know about your organization. However, one size does not fit all. For instance, LinkedIn may not work for your masjid, but it may be perfect for the Muslim physician association in your area. “Perhaps 1-minute YouTube videos of a tour of the mosque or a message from the imam works better for your members,” says
some technical training in how to update the site. With social media, you automatically appear on people’s phones or computers via their newsfeed. And unlike fliers and word of mouth, you can measure this form of advertising such as how many people “liked” your status or how many messages have been “re-tweeted.” Social media is also great to share news stories. You can encourage others to write to the editor or comment online. If there is a positive story about Muslims in the “Washington Post” and 700 people have shared it with their friends, it is a good indicator for
the editor to know that this story was wellreceived and chances of them publishing similar stories in the future increase with your single click.
Phase 2: Trying Social MediaOpportunities and Challenges for Muslims Once you enter the social media domain, you need to maintain an engaging presence. Follow your organization’s social media policy and chalk out an action plan. “Always make your posts useful and related to your mission,” says Maffei. “Read everything three times before you post and only say something that you have no problem with the whole world knowing.” Save time by updating Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn in one go by signing up at HootSuite.com or Mashable.com. You can even schedule your posts in one sitting so you do not log unnecessarily multiple times a day. The biggest attraction factor of social media is that people can talk to you and give their opinion. To promote transparency and a healthy discourse, it is a great idea to post questions and polls, but remember that all responses will not be positive so have a damage control policy. “Don’t let the question simmer in their mind,” suggests Omar. “You have the opportunity to answer a question and turn it into a positive experience. However, if there is any profanity or unacceptable comment, you have the control to hit the delete button and un-follow or de-friend that person.” To make your media policy cognizant of Islamic decorum, perhaps decide not to post any pictures on social media avenues without the prior permission of the attendees. You can also make it a policy to share news items only after you have read them completely. Just having Islam in the title does not guarantee it is a story worthy of sharing. While all the sites are technically free, there is one caveat. As Muslims, we believe our time is not free. That is why an action plan and limit setting are crucial so we do not spend more time than necessary on these sites. Social media can be addictive, too. You need to be aware of the pitfalls so that you use social media to benefit your cause, not harm your work, school or faith.
Getting on the Social Media Bandwagon: Where should my masjid start? •
Identify a social media savvy employee or volunteer.
Research the different social media vehicles and see which seems like a good fit for your organization. What are your competitors doing? What sites are similar organizations using?
Create a social media policy with buy-in from your Board, staff and volunteers.
Do not create accounts on five different social media avenues at once. Having a useful presence on one is better than just having barebones accounts on five.
Respect the organization pioneers. If they have no clue what the “little blue bird” does, help them learn in a non-condescending manner. Arrange for an interesting social media 101 workshops as an add-on to another event at the masjid so no one has to specially come in for it.
Start slow and steady and keep monitoring and measuring.
Keep your members engaged with conversation, interesting links, polls, pictures etc.
Encourage your social media person to take free webinars and tutorials to improve skills and invest in paid training sessions too.
Include the logos of the social media sites you have chosen in all your communication outlets like newsletters, fliers, etc. so members latch on sooner.
“You should never comment just for the sake of it,” advises Maffei. “Keep your intention pure to benefit people and provide them with useful and related information.” Muslim Americans have their own set of challenges to embark on the social media endeavor, but they are very similar to other nonprofits and faith-based organizations. “The Muslim community needs to invest
in trained public relations professionals,” said Omar. “Volunteers may do the job, but experts in the field are more reliable when it is your image at stake. Perhaps a marketing student may do a better job than the president of the mosque who is an engineer by day.” Some smaller mosques may not even have their website, so they may shun the social media idea, citing that it is lower on their priority list. While a website has its own importance, in most cases, it requires money and expertise. With social media, these requirements are much lower and you can have your blog up in two hours and your Twitter account set up in two minutes.
Phase 3: Growing Your Social Media Presence – How Do I Get More Followers? If you believe social media is working for you, take it up a notch. “Like” and “re-tweet” other statuses and messages when they are useful and related to your mission. Recommend people on LinkedIn and they will reciprocate the favor. Include stories from your members like “What did the school valedictorian do in the summer?” People love photos; share pictures from the refugee kitchen kit drive at the masjid. Thank your followers for their donation or support by “tagging” them. Add variety to your posts by quoting Qur’an or hadith. Ask Board members and staff to suggest your organization page to their friends. It is hard to say no to prominent community leaders. Social media is and can be a very powerful medium that Muslim organizations should leverage. However, we should all know where to draw the line. For a small or medium-sized organization, spending 15 minutes on social media in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening should be enough. If you tweet five times a day but miss a prayer or two, something is amiss. If you watch YouTube videos at a stop light or wake up at 4 a.m. to check your Facebook but don’t pray fajr, then it is time you hand over the reins to someone else.
Kiran Ansari, communications director, Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, is editor of the “Chicago Crescent” (available on Facebook and on Twitter @CIOGC).
Yes, Soups are Islamic WMDs
American patriots unmask Campbell Soup Co.’s covert attempt to convert the nation to Islam By Meha Ahmad
slamists have found a new way to subtly impose their agenda among unsuspecting citizens, attempting to use America’s favorite soup can giant, Campbell Co., in their nefarious plot. In Jan 2010, Campbell Co. of Canada introduced its line of soups certified as halal by ISNA-Canada. Now Campbell’s is fighting a grassroots boycott of its product. Initiated by anti-Islam blogger Pamela Gellar, the boycott has its own Facebook fan page, with more than 4,600 fans. Comments range from “I will never eat anything halal,” to “Campbell Soup or any other halal foods will not make their money from me!” Geller is the same person who created the brouhaha over New York’s Park51 project. Campbell’s has said that, so far, they have not noticed any effect on sales since the boycott began. But whether or not sales have been affected, should this boycott have been expected, and is it perhaps even deserved? Offering halal soup can be seen as bending over backward for the Islamist agenda. To some, this means the terrorists have won.
Right and called them “Islamophobic,” this recent fiasco with “halal soups” from Campbell’s just proves the Right…well, right. But even comedian Stephen Colbert, host of the Colbert Report, recognizes what he calls the “Muslim Threat Down.” Colbert said, “Even our supermarkets aren’t sacred! How dare they construct a tower of Islamic soup so close to ground beef? It’s offensive. Oh, they called me crazy when I said baby carrots are trying to turn me gay! Well, now carrot soup is trying to turn me Muslim.” Colbert is indisputably right. Consuming halal foods will, in fact, automatically convert you to Islam from the inside out. Campbell’s halal soups are just the beginning. They will lead an army of halal products, filling your grocery stores and pantries, until no shelf is safe. This is the foot in the door for the Islamist agenda. Next on the their checklist: Shari’ah implemented across America. Campbell’s only introduced the soups in a few Canadian markets, with no plans to offer a similar halal soup line in the U.S., according to Campbell’s spokesman John Faulkner.
ISNA has issued a press release expressing their disappointment and anger at farleaning right wing bloggers like Geller: “It is unfortunate that Geller and others must resort to lies … and [are] trying to scare the American public into thinking they are unintentionally consuming foods that were blessed to idols when consuming halal foods. The allegations of halal foods as terrorism are also ridiculous.” Pah. That’s just what you want us to think, ISNA. In recent months (even years) — particularly during the 2010 midterm elections — right-wingers claimed that Muslims were getting ready to take over America and institute Shari’ah Law (good thing Oklahoma nipped that in the bud!). Campbell’s halal soups are While there are those just the beginning. They will among the liberal elite and mainstream media lead an army of halal products, (and by that, such as the filling your grocery stores and “Huffington Post” ) who pantries, until no shelf is safe. belittled the fears of the
And all right, fine, it may be possible a halal product may actually be healthier than the original product. And OKAY, maybe halal-observing Muslims would like to enjoy the comfort-food feel Campbell’s soups offered, much like observing Jews were able to do when Campbell’s offered their kosher line of products in 2003. Sure. Whatever. But let’s not underestimate the impact of halal soup! Do not allow yourself to fall into a false sense of security, because this threat is real. Muslims are taking over the world, one can of Campbell’s at a time. First Canada. But America can’t be far behind. And once it’s sold here, people will slowly cross over to the Muslim side, one slurp at a time.
Meha Ahmad, a freelance journalist, is social media manager for Sound Vision Foundation.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Concord in Comradeship How your competitive drive also fortifies brotherly bonds. By Sayem Huq
ome of the greatest things in life are underestimated or misunderstood. In a world where knowledge can be mistaken as ignorance and ignorance for wisdom, people look at each other and augment their mental maturity for the sake of competition. No doubt the mental maturity developing in youth will serve them well in a competitive world of careers, but we must realize that there are lines drawn, separating the use of mind and body. In the subconscious realm they remain equivalent to each other. While the overuse of one may not have hazardous results, it may deprive the individual of a strong social environment. Simply put: comradeship is a powerful thing. When a unique individual is with a mass of other unique individuals, the result is a collage of powerful minds and bodies able to conquer any obstacles real life may throw at them. But comradeship is not painless, nor is maintaining a close net of bonds risk free. There is sacrifice; time used (note that I did not write “time
wasted”); blood, sweat, and tears given for each other; selfishness superseded, ignorance inhibited, arrogance abolished; tears consoled or avenged, morals made straight, doubts disencumbered, and lives and personal matters shared and understood. Such qualities do not mar one’s values; rather, they strengthen the individual’s character so that it can form part of a brave and honorable contender of social conflicts in a band of brothers ready to take on whatever lies ahead in the course of life together. Sacrifices and selflessness result in memorable moments of unforgettable experiences — experiences where laughter is shared like a pack of gum and everyone wants a piece. There are those “did that just happen?” occasions where everyone looks at each other and wonders what happened and how they did it. There are those moments under a silent blanket of night sprinkled with stars and a shining moon undistracted by human-made lights where questions of reflection and trust come up, conversations so deep they would be uncomfortable to talk
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
about in one’s own abode. There are those times when tension boils like a steaming pot of gumbo and everyone wants to sneak a taste before it is done, when a matter of trust is questioned. During such times, when vital pillars of a community are tested and challenged, unity can grow and people can learn from mistakes and excel. Such moments of impugnation are constantly brought up in athletics and recreational activities. Regarding athletes, whether they play sports professionally or just for fun, they should know who their teammates are. This is not to tell athletes how to compete or what their limitations are, but to accent the team’s power and how it bolsters brotherhood or strengthens sisterhood. No matter the sport or how much skill is required to achieve victory, there is always a team there to celebrate or to extend a shoulder to lean on in the event of failure. For example, consider Formula One racing. Of course the driver is the main controller and competitor in a race; but he is nothing without a car and the car is nothing without its mechanics and designers. In fact, a driver is completely reliant on the racing team to change tires and refuel his car in record time so he can have a chance at placing first. After all, you don’t see only one man celebrating under confetti in the event of a victory — it’s the entire racing team. Imagine an ideal state championship basketball game. All your teammates are making their shots, even ridiculous ones, that get you off your seat screaming, “Ohhhhh!” You feel as if the team is really communicating well and understanding each other with just a signal from understanding eyes. With the third quarter dead and gone, closed by a remarkable buzzer beater from your point guard, you are twenty-four points ahead. With the way your team circled around giving hi-fives and screaming morale-lifting chants, you predict that the coast is clear and that it will be smooth sailing into a clean victory. Little were you prepared for the ace your opponents had coming. Moments before the fourth quarter buzzer rings, a player from the other team arrives late. The player is a monstrously tall 6’5” and has a wing span rivaling an adult albatross, legs that would make a giraffe 51
Essays jealous, and a visage emitting an “I will END you” attitude. You shiver as you glance at the opposing team’s coach’s ghastly grin, knowing that he’s thinking, “Oh, you guys are going to get it now!” At the time your team lets it go. In a unanimous decision, your comrades decide that “Yao Ming” isn’t really a threat because they already have a big lead and feel invincible. As soon as the ball is thrown up, however, the tall opponent takes it and passes it to the point guard, of your forward, who steals the ball and heads for the opponent’s basket. Knowing that the first point in the fourth quarter might demoralize the opponent even more, your forward hurries to the three-point line. Measuring a clean balance and form, the forward almost instantly jumps to release the ball. But then it is suddenly swatted away by the new tall behemoth of a center, who had followed the block with a low grumbling roar. You can tell that everyone on your team has one word in mind: beast. All of you are
Time flies by as the timer is now down to the last fifteen seconds. Points have already been scored back to back, and all time-outs have been used. With the score tied, your opponents bring down the ball slowly, probably to waste time until when, during the last few seconds, they can attempt to steal the game. You can feel your team’s crowd on the bleachers throbbing in anticipation to see how the next fifteen seconds will end. Time couldn’t have felt any longer. You slowly feel the tickle of a heavy sweat drop as it dances across you face and glistens under hot gymnasium lights. Unable to handle the wait, you signal to your coach that you’re going in for the kill. Ten seconds left. Your swipe toward the opponent’s point guard results in a loose ball, now lost in possession, bouncing down the middle of the court. Nine seconds left. Your comrade, the team’s forward, dives toward the ball but ends up crashing against the opponent, who has also made a desperate
Sacrifices and selflessness result in memorable moments of unforgettable experiences — experiences where laughter is shared like a pack of gum and everyone wants a piece.
in trouble. A couple of more minutes further into the fourth quarter, the game’s outcome seems evident. The opponent’s center has already used his height advantage to catch up from behind in points. It’s either teamwork or bust. You call more plays and pass the ball back to the point guard as you run down the court. Stolen again by the opponent’s center, he passes to his forward and watches as he scores. You quickly signal to your point guard to try again and to never lose hope. As you run the play again, you fake the pass to the point guard and switch positions. Acting as current point guard, you now find a back door to a fellow player and successfully pass the ball to him. The ball goes in with a foul, and as you watch your teammate take free throw shots you are happy to find a hole in their defense — one, hopefully, that you can use to beat your opponents. 52
dive to get possession of the ball. Blood has been spilled, and the game’s intensity rises. The ball continues to roll down the middle of the court. Eight seconds left. You see your rival, the opponent’s point guard, start a wild dash toward the ball. You do the same, hoping that all of your preseason training will pay off at that very moment. Seven seconds left. Neither you nor your rival can reach the ball, as it has rolled off the court’s boundaries. The ref who picks it up simultaneously blows his whistle to stop the all-important scoreboard timer and calls it the opponent’s ball. Already over-pumped and shaking with adrenaline, you barely hear the coach’s brief words of encouragement, for you are focusing on your next move. At seven seconds, the other team quickly passes the ball in to the point guard, who slowly dribbles it down the court. Six seconds left. You realize their intention to bring the game down to over-
time. As your team is not going to let that happen, your comrades double-team the point guard, as your coach had instructed, forcing him to pass. As the point guard passes, you go in for the kill and steal the ball. Five seconds left. With the drive-lane clear, you smile and head for the basket. The game is yours. Four seconds left. You carefully slow down and start to finger-roll the ball into the hoop. Confident in your skills, you know that your finger-roll never misses. Game over. Three seconds left. Suddenly, the colossal center rises from behind you, intercepts your lay-up, and chucks the ball down court. Two seconds left. You fall to your knees, knowing that you have let your team down. You already know what will come next. One second left. Your rival from the opponent’s team, the point guard, catches the footballlike pass and quickly takes a clean three pointer. The buzzer goes off. In anticipation, the crowd watches as the ball slowly travels in mid-air, knowing that nothing can stop it toward its destination. Without even touching the rim or rustling the net, the shot goes in. Swish. The opponent’s supporting crowd jumps off their bleachers and yells in victory. As if to simulate the complete opposite, your team retreats to the locker room. Instead of blaming you, your fellow team members pat you on the shoulder, remind you that it wasn’t your fault, tell you that there’s always next year, and let you know that a team that is strong enough to win together is strong enough to lose together. This is what brotherhood is all about. It’s not about the sweet feeling after a victory; it’s about the feeling of support you give one another during dismal times. It’s about sharing the somber taste of defeat with your comrades, who won’t allow you to taste it alone. It’s about having every brother be there for you when no one else is willing to help. It’s about watching each other’s back and calling fouls for them. It’s about carrying your comrade’s hope and dreams on your shoulders while they carry yours. It’s about parting ways in life and yet feeling closer than ever. It’s not just about falling when divided; it’s about standing united and falling united no matter what. It’s not just thinking differently to display diversity in a daft demeanor, for our differences actually make us more alike.
Sayem Huq, a University Texas-Arlington undergraduate, and author of “Bladin: Edge of Blade” (Xlibris: 2009), hopes to write his imagination and blazon it across the world.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Conflict is inevitable among people, but Islam offers ways to manage it. By Hanaa Unus
esolution of conflict has a strong connection to religion, a source of balance and guidance in a person’s life that provides a purpose, and guides one toward that goal through responsibilities and restrictions. Religion can also motivate a person to maintain healthy and peaceful relationships with those around them (Qur’an 8:1). David Brubaker (“Promise and Peril: Understanding and Managing Change and Conflict in Congregations” [Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2009]) identifies five levels of conflict: Level 1 – Problem to Solve: A short-lived phase characterized by conflict or disagreement; this can be controlled and resolved through dialogue. Communication must be encouraged, as clarification alone could end it. Level 2 – Disagreement: This becomes sharper and requires more effort to resolve, as the conflict gradually becomes personalized, thereby encouraging distrust and polarization. Level 3 – Contest: Personal attacks increase and “laundry lists” of grievances, possibly derived from emotions, can further complicate the situation. The problem, which may shift from a “disagreement” to a “conflict,” may require a third-party mediator. Level 4 – Fight or Flight: Now a “desire to get rid of the other party,” instead of a “desire to win;” the conflict has become far more intense and requires third-party involvement. Level 5 – Intractable Situation: Emotions are now so high that the issues involved cannot be examined individually. Entirely personal, and having spiraled out of control, the conflict is becoming highly destructive. All conflicts engender five major responses: confrontation, avoidance, withdrawal, submission, and resolution.
The Qur’anic Perspective A. Yusuf Ali, in his detailed explanation of the verse, “Hold to forgiveness. Command what is right but turn away from the ignorant” (Qur’an 7:199), writes that God revealed this verse to comfort Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alyhi wa sallam) after the Makkan unbelievers wronged him. God encouraged him to forgive those who persecuted and injured him, to continue to proclaim Islam and follow its teachings, ignore those who plotted against him, and avoid fighting with them. While encouraging the avoidance of meaningless conflict, Islam advises neutrality, objectivity, and fairness when mediating a conflict. For example, two days before the Prophet had to repay his loan to Zayd ibn Su‘nah, the latter grabbed the Prophet’s shirt collar and demanded to know when the loan would be repaid. When ‘Umar (radi Allahu anh) harshly rebuked him, the
Prophet stated: “We needed something other than this from you, O ‘Umar. You should have told me to repay the man quickly and told him to ask for his debt gracefully” (“Musnad Ahmad,” 3:153 and al-Tabarani in “Al-Mu`jam al-Kabir”). After seeing the Prophet’s reaction, Ibn Su`nah accepted Islam. As Qur’an 49:9 states, however, conflict may ensue if one party transgresses the limits of fair and mutually respectful cooperation. Islamic conflict resolution has three layers: the extended family, the community, and the spiritual dimension. An example of the first one can be found in Qur’an 4:35, where a couple in conflict is advised to “appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers.” In his explanation of the verse, Yusuf Ali suggests that such a method settles family disputes privately and avoids the unnecessary destruction of individual or family reputations. The second layer was discussed above in the explanation of 49:9. The final layer involves repairing the emotional (rather than the material) damage to heal the psychological wounds. According
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
to Imam Mohamed Magid (president US, ISNA), this metaphysical perspective allows one to seek benefit and reward from God, and motivates them to attain compensation or satisfaction in the hereafter.
Core Values in Conflict Situations
Dr. Taha Jabir Al-‘Alwani (“The Ethics of Disagreement in Islam”, Washington, DC: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2000) states that the Qur’an and the Prophet’s teachings express that, above all (with the exception of affirming God’s oneness), Muslim unity is essential. “Their [Qur’an and the Prophet’s teachings] object is to treat and rid the Ummah of any disagreement which disturbs the peace and harmony in Muslim relationships and ruins the brotherhood of believers. It may also be true to say that after the admonition of associating others in worship with God there is nothing more repugnant to the teachings of Islam than discord in the Muslim community.” The Prophet, he writes, who realized that the Ummah’s survival depended on the Muslims’ mutual harmony and affection, warned his Companions about the dangers of disagreement. He also realized that the Ummah’s ruin lay in the hearts of Muslims torn by mutual strife and repeatedly warned against the negative effects of dispute. When an argument does occur, however, all parties must adhere to the principles laid down in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. For example, when negotiating the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, Ali began the document with “In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.” The Makkan chief objected and demanded that the phrase read only “In Your Name, O God,” the customary formula. The Muslims objected; however, the Prophet recognized that he was not compromising a matter of faith and agreed to the change. Ali then wrote: ‘These are the terms on which Muhammad, the Messenger of God, agreed (to make peace).’ The Makkans stated: “We will not agree to this, for if we believed that you were God’s Messenger we would not prevent you. But you are Muhammad the son of Abdullah.” The Prophet, saying “I am God’s Messenger and also Muhammad the son of Abdullah,” told Ali: “Rub off (the words) ‘God’s Messenger’.” But Ali replied: “No, by God, I will never rub off your name.” So the Prophet did so and replaced them with: “This is what Muham53
Essays mad the son of Abdullah has agreed upon” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” vol. 3, no. 2699). Multiple leadership skills are exemplified here: as a leader, the Prophet delegated a task to Ali. When the latter hesitated to complete it, the Prophet immediately took responsibility and modeled the behavior he wanted Ali to copy. He remained emotionally neutral, for he recognized the latter’s internal conflict with fulfilling this particular task. Thus he remained calm, as an example to his Companions and his opponents, to keep the peace. In addition, he was the picture of humility, especially for the sake of encouraging a mutually satisfactory outcome. Thus without arguing or becoming upset, he acknowledged and accepted the proposed alternative’s truth. In other words, he gave something up to obtain his top priority and goal.
decision-making by the conflicted parties. In Islamic law, an agreed-upon settlement becomes legally binding upon all parties, says Irani (ibid., 11).
Techniques Dr. Iqbal Unus (director, The Fairfax Institute) has evolved the SALAM model as a technique for working through conflict: S (state what the conflict is about), A (agree that there is a conflict), L (listen to and learn
Understanding and managing conflict requires a keen awareness of human nature, traditions, and value systems; an understanding of emotions, listening to words, reading gestures and signals, and reading between the lines. Managing emotions in such situations is extremely important, for if they — particularly anger and fear — are not, disagreement can quickly escalate to level 4 or 5. However, if fear is not managed, a person will simply run away from a conflict and lose any potential benefit. Anger is unhealthy in conflict resolution, for it can quickly lead to personalizing the conflict. It is also tied in with the spiritual/ metaphysical dimension as well, for 3:134 states that God loves those “who restrain anger and pardon (all) people.” In addition, the Prophet said: “The strong [person] is not the one who can overpower others, but the one who can exercise self-restraint in a moment of anger” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” vol. 2). There are two parts to preventing or minimizing conflict. First, the parties must exercise active listening, says G. E. Irani (Islamic mediation techniques for Middle East conflicts, Middle East Review of International Affairs 3 : 3), so that emotions cannot take over the conflict. The parties must not allow anger to cloud their judgment or alter their speech, as this can quickly raise the level of conflict. Second, the leader or mediator can play a significant role here. The mediator and the place of mediation should be neutral in order to allow unbiased 54
Anger is unhealthy in conflict resolution, for it can quickly lead to personalizing the conflict. from each other), A (advise one another), and M (minimize disagreement). Identifying the conflict can immediately
remove any misunderstandings that led to it. If the parties differ on what the conflict is about, then reaching an acceptable goal or agreement will be difficult, if not impossible. All parties must agree what the conflict is about, and the mediator must be a neutral party unaffected by any assumptions (17:36). The mediator must also be aware of the metaphysical aspect, a person’s God consciousness and belief in something greater than the present world. Agreeing that the conflict exists, which actually helps detach issues from personalities, is a vital component of conflict resolution at any stage. Listening and learning means that both parties should listen in order to learn, rather than listen in order to respond. Advising is a stage where feedback can be given on how to best resolve or handle the conflict. This is the time when compromises begin to take shape. Lastly, minimizing areas of disagreement is a short-term solution, the effects of which can be seen after the conflict’s source(s) have been reduced and the parties involved have adapted themselves to the agreed-upon compromises. At the time of resolution, however, minimizing disagreements is essential when certain elements might lead to aggression or withdrawal. The teachings of Islam have offered practical suggestions for conflict resolution reflecting that conflict is indeed a part of life but can be resolved with the proper approach. Managing emotions, listening, and compromising lead to mutual resolution and have been reiterated in the teachings of the Prophet and can be used as approaches to contemporary conflict resolution.
Hanaa Unus is a graduate student at Georgetown University.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
12th Annual ISNA Education Forum (In collaboration with CISNA)
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Uncovering Myths on Hijab Sadaf Syed’s iCover explores the complex narrative of the Muslim American woman. By Marwa Abed
rom secular France to the Muslim-dominated country of Turkey, the hijab, or Muslim head-scarf, has been met with great resistence, stereotypes and overall disdain. Even within the United States, a country that often esteems itself on values of freedom and individualism, the hijab has become a subject of great controversy. A piece of cloth has seemingly terrified the nation. What about the hijab has caused such a stir? Sadaf Syed, in her photo documentary, “iCover: A day in the Life of a Muslim American COVERed Girl” (iCreate Publishing, 2009), presents photographs and stories of hijab-bearing Muslim women throughout the United States. Through Photojournalist Sadaf Syed, chosen as an influential Muslim-American artist by the White House, joined President Barack Obama and interfaith leaders at the White House to mark the beginning of Ramadan in August 2010.
the use of photography, and the stories that come from them, Syed is able to break through stereotypes of the submissive Muslim female by introducing readers to the empowering faces and personalities behind the hijab. The hijab, Syed explores, is one part of the complex narratives that belong to the many Muslim women who cover. Photographs bring a sense of intimacy to the stories being told. Syed introduces readers to a range of women that belong to every aspect of life: judge, politician, mother, doctor, surfer, fighter, human-being. Muslim women have names, faces, stories, and dreams, and are an important part of this unique society. iCover captures the individualism of Muslim women as opposed to the oft-portrayed blanketstereotypes. As noted in the forward, written by Merve Kavakçı, a Aspiring photojournalist/ elementary school teacher Aurelia Khatib.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
lecturer of Political Science at Howard University and George Washington University, this unique photo documentary highlights the success of the American dream, a dream that does not and should not exclude Muslim women. This book, writes Kavakçı, “pays tribute to a select group of women within this category. They are merely the epitome of a larger aggregate of Muslim-American women. The women who are featured in Syed’s book are Muslim-American women who defied the odds, overcame challenges, and strived to represent Islam in the best possible way, taking this duty to heart every time they left home at the start of each day.” This book is a tribute to the women who have indeed followed a religious mandate to cover but have also become symbols of power, strength and resistance. One of the main problems of our society is
Others claim that the hijab disrupts Western hegemony. Since when, however, has American patriotism, or Western hegemony, been based on the way we look? To suggest that the American identity is rooted in blue jeans, cowboy hats, and summer bikinis is a superficial overcast. What makes us Americans are not our outward manifestations, but our inward beliefs of individual rights, freedom, liberty, prosperity, and other values intrinsic to the American way of life. The stories included in iCover are truly inspiring. The title itself indicates how the stories represent the fusion of our hyphenated identities as both Muslims and Americans. In a post-9/11 era where often times Muslims, and Muslim women in particular, are not presented in the best of light, this book is a refreshing change. The post 9/11 era caste a new spotlight on the hijab, making it one of the most
that woman’s achievements dominant symbols of Islam. are often only esteemed Who best to tell the stories in superficial arenas, as of Muslim women, then the opposed to those that Muslim women themselves? display the beauty of the Sadaf Syed summarizes mind. The hijab, many the book best by citing the think, is a shield to bar a photo documentary as a “celebration of Muslim women’s beauty from her women” and a chance to male counterparts. This is highlight the status Islam not entirely true. Hijab is about self-respect and selfhas given to its female followers. The book is an eyeidentification as defined by the Muslim women herself. opening account inviting A woman’s hair and curves readers to understand, relate do not define her, but rather and appreciate the women (Top) iCOVER photojournalist Sadaf Syed. (Middle left) Atlanta-based boxer Mariem her intellect and successes who cover. Syed emphasizes Brakache, is a former IBA Jr. Middle Weight Champion. (Middle right) Hina Khando. iCover is able to pres- Mukhtar, a former English teacher from Northern California, homeschools her three the importance of this book ent the beauty of empower- children. (Bottom) Surf's up for artist Sama Wareh and Aurelia Khatib. in “spreading the Prophet’s ment through the stories of message and God’s word.” A Muslim American women in positions of noble achievement. simple narrative of women’s stories has done just that. Syed writes, “For some Muslims and non-Muslims, hijab is strange because it goes against the trend of globalization and modernization.” Marwa Abed is a senior at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
Food for the Spirit
In this World but Not of It
Can we attain balance in life and seek a better Hereafter? By Imam Magid and Samuel Ross
rophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), said, “Verily, there is a trial for every nation, and the trial for my umma is wealth’’ (Sunan al-Tirmidhi). What an extraordinary prediction this was! While the early Muslim community was rich of spirit, it was extremely poor of means. Who could have predicted that one day luxury and opulence would become one of the major tests for Muslims? Yet, within two centuries of the Prophet’s death, the Muslim world would overflow with wealth. Baghdad, founded by the Abbasid Caliph Mansur (709–14), became renowned for its gardens and palaces, furniture and decor. By the time of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid (786-809), whose name still appears in folklore as the prototype of wealth and power, the Abbasid realm stretched from Tunisia to South Asia, a breadth greater than that of the continental U.S. Yet if this test was great for the Abbasids, how much greater is it for us as Muslim Americans? The American lifestyle is arguably the most affluent lifestyle that history has known. According to one study, Americans have consumed more resources since
1950 than every human being who has ever lived. According to another, if all the trash generated each year by Americans were placed in a line of trashcans, it would stretch half-way to the moon. Such affluence takes its toll; it has spawned the term “affluenza” to describe the combination of stress, debt, overwork, and financial anxiety created by our continuous pursuit of more. We seek happiness in material comforts even though they fail to provide what we hunger for. Though we consume nearly twice as much now as we did in the 1950s, and though our home sizes have more than doubled, the number of Americans describing themselves as “very happy” peaked in 1957 and has declined since then. Our addiction to consumption also wreaks havoc on the planet. The destruction of ecosystems, pollution of air and water, and the threat of global warming are all direct results of our voracious appetites. We need to recognize that the consequences of our actions are often veiled from our sight. Much of the costs of our consumption habits are borne by the Third World. Let us consider just three sobering facts: we’ve chopped down half the world’s temperate and
tropical forests; 90 percent of large fish in the oceans are gone due to overfishing; and 75 percent of the coral in the Caribbean is virtually dead. If what we have done to our earthly abode in our heedlessness is any indication, our final abode may be in similar peril. We may have, in a sense, polluted our hereafter. Prophet Muhammad said, “By God, it is not poverty that I fear for you, but I fear that this world will be opened up with its wealth for you as it was opened to those before you and you will vie with one another over it as they did, and eventually it will ruin you as it ruined them” (Al-Bukhari). Our attachment to this world also robs us of tasting the sweetness of worship, the greatest sweetness we can know. As one of our early scholars Abu Talib al-Makki observed, the concern for the hereafter will not enter our hearts until the concern for this world leaves. And we will not taste the full sweetness of connection with God, until we stop being preoccupied with the sweetness of our desires. How can we know the extent of our worldly attachment and whether our spiritual lives are in peril? In his great work on spirituality, the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, Imam al-Ghazali provides a check-list for his readers to test themselves. Let us ask ourselves some of the same questions he posed and add some new ones: How often do we throw away uneaten food? The Prophet rarely ate meat. How often do we? Do we find more sweetness in praying, or in eating? How often do we find ourselves thinking about work or money during prayers? Do we own more than one tool or appliance for the same purpose? Do our homes have rooms that we rarely use? Do we own clothes that we have not worn in
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
more than a year? Did we purchase any of our clothes hoping others would be impressed by them? When was the last time that we gave in charity? How often do we go shopping without any particular need? If our answer to any of the above questions raises concerns, there are several steps we can take to refocus our lives. First, we must know what relationship God wants us to have with this world. “Short is the enjoyment of this world. The Hereafter is the best for those who do right” (Qur’an 4:77). Our scholars elaborated on this verse and others by describing a delicate balance of being in the world, but not of it, following a path they called zuhd. On one hand, they affirmed the tremendous good created by wealth, and indeed Islamic law seeks to foster economic growth. After all, a strong economy allows for public services, safety, educational institutions, the advancement of knowledge, both sacred and worldly, and the flourishing of the arts and human culture. Early Muslim society might have encountered tremendous hardship were it not for the wealth of Muslims like Uthman bin ‘Affan and Khadijah (radiya Allahu anhuma). On the other hand, our scholars affirmed the importance of being detached from our wealth. Zuhd, Ali ibn Abi Talib said, is being detached from what we have and not feeling sorry for what we do not have. We should strive to increase our livelihoods for the sake of God, but only to the extent they do not conflict with the rights of God or His creation upon us. When God imposes limitations on our sustenance, we should be satisfied with them, because He is the One who decreed what we have. We should not envy those with more, nor question why we have less, nor seek unlawful means for obtaining wealth. This verse also indicates the key to this detachment: focusing our concern on the Hereafter. We must always remind ourselves that our life is a test, and God only judges us by our hearts and deeds. Second, we should accustom ourselves to always comparing our worldly apportionment down and not up. In this manner we shift our focus from feeling resentful to feeling grateful. One way of manifesting our gratitude is by strengthening our belief in God’s munificence. Third, we should avoid going windowshopping and browsing stores online unless we have a particular need. When we are considering a purchase, let us fight our lower self ’s desire for mere accumulation without
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 need for it. Most importantly, we should ask if our time would be better spent with family or in worship, rather than working to pay for purchases. As God says, “O you
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
who believe! Let not your riches… divert you from the remembrance of God” (63:9). Last, we should be prepared to sacrifice some of the worldly comforts for the next, a lesson we learn from our daily prayers. Every morning we rise for fajr, a beautiful symbol of our relationship with God and this world. Our bodies need sleep, but after giving them their due we forsake our beds, for we have a greater purpose in life.
We look forward to incorporating your feedback and questions into future columns. Please send all correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also visit our website where you can download this and previous columns at: http://www.isna.net
Universal Academy of Florida 6801 Orient Road, Tampa, FL 33610 • www.uaftampa.org • (813) 664-0695 The Universal Academy of Florida, founded in 1992 as a private, full-time Islamic school, currently enrolls over 400 students from PreK – 12th grades and is accredited by SACS, FCIS, and FKC. UAF continues to grow and seeks qualified candidates to fill the following positions: • Administrative Staff • Guidance Counselor • Teachers for all Grade Levels (PK-High School) • Qur’an, Arabic, and Islamic Studies Teachers All applicants must have US work authorization. Candidates for teaching positions must have at least a Bachelors degree in Education or a related field. Certification preferred. Benefits: • Competitive Salaries • Comprehensive Health Benefits • Tuition Discounts for Your Children • Professional Development Opportunities To apply, please send cover letter and resume to Principal May Khdeir: email@example.com
Renaissance Academy 14401 Owen-Tech Blvd. Austin, Texas 78728
Renaissance Academy, a fully accredited Pre-K through High School has the following openings: Principal*— Immediate Opening Minimum Qualifications • A Bachelor’s Degree in education or related field. Master’s preferred. • Certification in relevant field is preferred. • 5 years of hands-on school operations and leadership experience • 3 years of teaching experience • Demonstrated leadership skills, sound understanding of Islam and practicing Muslim * may mange Elementary or Middle/High school
Elementary/Middle/High School Teaching Positions for 2011-2012 • Qur’an/Arabic/Islamic Studies Teachers • Elementary School Home Room Teachers (all subjects)
• Middle/High School Lang. Arts, Science & Math Teachers Minimum Qualifications • Bachelor’s Degree with minimum of 1 year teaching experience • Teacher Certification highly preferred Benefits • Competitive salary & benefits • Health insurance • Children tuition discount How to apply Please send your resume with a cover letter describing relevant strengths and three references to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact (512) 527-4879. More info: www.racademy.org/careers
Reviews In the Global Spotlight
Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North Linda Herrera, Asef Bayat (eds.) 2010. pp. 448. PB. $29.95 Oxford University Press, USA
Allah: A Christian Response Miroslav Volf 2011. pp. 336. HB. $25 Miroslav Volf (Author) Visit Amazon’s Miroslav Volf Page. Find all the books, read about the author, and more. See search results for this author. Are you an author? Learn about Author Central HarperOne, San Francisco, CA.
oung Muslims have been thrust into the global spotlight in relation to questions about security and extremism, work and migration, and rights and citizenship. This collection of research essays interrogates the cultures and politics of Muslim youth in the global South and North to understand their trajectories, conditions, and choices. Drawing on wide-ranging research from Indonesia to Iran and Germany to the U.S., it shows that while most young Muslims share many common social, political, and economic challenges, they exhibit remarkably diverse responses to them. Far from being “exceptional,” young Muslims often have as much in common with their non-Muslim global generational counterparts as they share among themselves. As they migrate, forge networks, innovate in the arts, master the tools of new media, and assert themselves in the public sphere, Muslim youth have emerged as important cultural and political actors on a world stage.
Volf argues for a new pluralism between Muslims and Christians who count for 3.6 billion of the world’s population. He states that the enormous contemporary interest in the theological and historical intersections of Islam and Christianity reflects how much is at stake. Islam and Contemporary Civilisation: Evolving Ideas, Transforming Relations Halim Rane 2010. pp. 266. PB. AU$49.99 Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Australia Rane offers an account of Islam’s interaction with Western civilization, and connects the past with the present, offering a critical analysis of some of the most problematic issues the two civilizations have faced in their relationship in recent times. Signature of a Muslim Junaid Rafique Al Hijazi 2010. pp. 80. PB. $14.95 Amana Publications, Beltsville, MD An internally-renowned speaker on Islam, Sheikh Junaid introduces many new techniques and concepts in advocating Islam, offering an effective guide into the art of influencing positively toward Islam.
I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity Izzeldin Abuelaish 2011. pp. 224. HB. $24.00 Walker & Company, New York, NY
Pathways to an Inner Islam: Massignon, Corbin, Guénon, and Schuon Patrick Laude 2010. pp. 211. HB. $80.00 SUNY Press, Albany, NY Laude provides an introduction to four Western figures influenced by Sufism who wrote about an esoteric or spiritual “inner Islam.”
r. Abuelaish’s account of an extraordinary life. A Harvard-trained Palestinian doctor who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, he has devoted his life to medicine and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Abuelaish has been crossing the lines in the sand that divide Israelis and Palestinians for most of his life — as a physician who treats patients on both sides of the line, as a humanitarian who sees the need for improved health and education for women as the way forward in the Middle East. On 16 Jan. 2009, the Israelis killed his young daughters during the assault on Gaza Strip. His response to this tragedy made news and won him humanitarian awards around the world. Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hatred, Abuelaish called for the people in the region to start talking to each other. His deepest hope is that his daughters will be “the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad: The Man Behind the Men Michael “Mikal” Saahir 2010. pp. 340. PB. $17 Words Make People Publishing, Indianapolis, IN Saahir offers a study of the influences that Elijah Muhammad has had in the lives of four African American Muslims: Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali, and WD Mohammed. He presents an account of the origins and evolution of the Nation of Islam.
Islam in the Heartland of America Imam Omar Hazim 2010. pp. 258. PB. $19 Imam Omar Hazim offers a glimpse into how Islam is taught in a mosque in the heartland of America, clarifying what is transmitted in Friday
services at a mosque.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2011
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NOTI C E Islamic Horizons has discontinued its Matrimonial advertisements page. Next issue, May/June 2011, will be the last issue that carries such advertising.