March/April 2013/1434 | $4.00 | www.isna.net
Career Choice Challenges Religious Identity and Alcohol Use Latina American Hafitha
Making the Best of an Islamic Education MYNA and the Creation of a Muslim American Genre of Music
50 Co th n An v n en u t i al o I n S N 7 A
Integrating Islamic History into the Curriculum Utilizing Islamic Literature in the Classroom
Vol. 42 No. 2 March/April 2013 visit isna online at: www.isna.net
Special Features: 24 Creating an Islamic History Curriculum 28 The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling 30 Career Struggles: Off the Beaten Path 32 Scholarships for Muslim Students
24 Education Forum Focus 34 Building Skills for Deeper Learning 36 A Treasury of Muslim Literature 38 Literacy Centers Develop Skills
Muslims in Action 40 44 45 48 50
MYNA Raps Turn 20 Having a Ball on the Ice Elevate Culture The First Latina American Hafitha Launching Project Downtown
Politics and Society
52 Challenging Islamophobia Through Education 54 College Students and Alcohol Consumption
Around the World
55 Peace in Kashmir 56 Andalucía: Paradise Still Lost?
58 Inayat Lalani 58 Linda “Jamilah” Kolocotronis Jitmoud
6 8 18 59 60
Departments Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters Reviews Food for the Spirit
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Meha Ahmad. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD. Cover illustration by Abdullah Fadhli.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
An Inclusive Education Fund
he successful convening of the ISNA Education Forum—and now its West Coast manifestation—is a tribute to the educators who serve Islamic schools in various capacities. It is a tribute to the devotion of the organizers at various levels who continue to raise standards, making it a must-attend event for teachers, administrators and officials. Education may be a corporate pursuit for some but education is a sacred responsibility. While public schools have an assured source of finance, religiously-oriented institutions, especially Islamic schools, remain constantly challenged to find the resources to do their job and to fulfill their mission. It is a common recurring feature in Islamic centers, mosques, and of course, Islamic schools to find flyers and announcements about fundraising events. Many a parent of a child who attends an Islamic school will list the number of fundraising events their children partake in annually—chocolate sales, taffy apple sales, box-top collections. Some schools even include a mandatory donation amount as part of their tuition package. It is not inconceivable that the less fortunate communities may usually fall short of their financial goals. Even public schools located in less fortunate areas struggle, regardless of government funding. For instance, in December 2011, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan released a study done by his Department on Title I and other high-poverty schools that confirmed the unfortunate reality in our nation’s education system: “Many public schools serving low-income children aren’t getting their fair share of state and local funding.” The state of fundraising in Islamic organizations is highly challenging. While many non-Muslim organizations
benefit from “taxes” such as churches tithes, Muslims usually feel comforted by annually giving away 2.5 percent of their savings. And we have heard about the generosity of many mainstream donors. Recently, it was reported that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tallied $1 billion in donations to his alma mater, starting with the $5 contribution he made after his graduation. Muslim organizations, especially schools, might consider pooling their resources, creating an entity such as a national Islamic education fund that pools the funds, invests them Islamically, and provides need-based financing of Islamic schools and their projects. In most cases, local fundraising must be fulfilling a year or two’s needs, once again pressing the need to fundraise again. Such small pools would hardly afford a waqf fund whose income can provide the continuity in funding that educational institutions need to operate efficiently, grow and sustain themselves. The Muslim community in the U.S. and Canada cannot afford to let down its institutions, and its members. In hadith 6258 of Sahih Muslim, Prophet Muhammad said that the Ummah is like a body where the whole body hurts if any part, howsoever minor, aches. We cannot continue to find satisfaction in funding institutions in our neighborhood, overlooking the many who cannot even find the means to organize a fundraising event. If Islamic organizations came together to help create a national Islamic education waqf, a resource that could serve the community at all levels, more schools could focus more closely on curriculum development and enrichment, instead of fretting over paying the bills.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRE SID ENT Mohamed Hagmagid Ali ED IT O R
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ISNA Matters Safaa Zarzour Leaves Office of ISNA Secretary General Safaa Zarzour, who served as ISNA secretary general for three years until January 2013, has moved on to another position, announced the ISNA Board of Directors and Executive Council. ISNA expressed its appreciation for the contributions his tenure provided and supported his decision to focus on family and education. For the past three years, Zarzour traveled extensively addressing communities around the country, and representing ISNA and Muslims in various forums in the American mainstream and overseas. He will continue to be a partner in ISNA activities such as education. He participated in the second ISNA West Coast Education Forum this January. Prior to joining ISNA, Zarzour served the community in multiple capacities.
Zarzour is a passionate educator, having served as a teacher and then principal at Universal School, one of the largest PreK-12 independent Islamic schools in the U.S., for more than a decade. During his tenure at Universal, the school tripled its enrollment and became known among
ISNA President Prays for Obama’s Success Imam Mohamed Magid said a prayer, Dr. Abdullah Khouj called the Adhan, and Laila Muhammad conducted the closing prayer on Jan. 22, at the 57th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service with prayers from national Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders. Magid is the ISNA president and director of the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society. Khouj is the Islamic Center director and chief imam. And Laila Muhammad is the eldest child of 12
Imam WD Mohammed. Magid joined other faith leaders in praying for the president’s ability to address our nation’s needs and challenges throughout his second term. “Guide, we beseech You, O Allah, all those to whom we commit the government of this nation,” Magid said in his prayer. “Give them the discernment and self-control necessary to our time. May they consider all questions calmly, negotiate sincerely, and act wisely and promptly
Islamic schools in North America for pioneering educational and social service programs, as well as outstanding student academic achievement. In the last 15 years, Zarzour helped establish and has served on the boards of a variety of local community and advocacy organizations, including being the chairman and a founding member of CAIR-Chicago. As an attorney, Zarzour is a principal of the law firm of Zarzour, Khalil & Tabbara, LLC. He focused his law practice in the areas of local government, education and nonprofit law. ISNA has launched the search for a new appointee. In the meanwhile, ISNA continues its work of organizing programs and services to the Muslim American community under the supervision of the Chief Operations Officer Habibe Ali.
in all things. Give them the desire to uphold the right, abhorring the wrong and performing that which is just so that in all things, Your will may be done.” The service held at the National Cathedral in D.C. was led by The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, and attended by both President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their spouses. Approximately 2,200 people attended. On Jan. 21, Imam Magid and ISNAU.S. vice president Azhar Azeez attended the second inauguration of President Obama, congratulating our nation’s leader on four more years. On Jan. 20, ISNA co-sponsored the Muslim American Inaugural Benefit Gala in D.C., which provided a venue for Muslim Americans to celebrate a national event as well as their achievements over the past four years. Imam Magid spoke at the event and members of ISNA’s Majlis ash-Shura were in attendance. At the event, Rashad Hussain, Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, congratulated ISNA on its 50th anniversary of outstanding service to the Muslim American community.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Religious Leaders Seek New Middle East Peace Initiative
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, national director, ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, joined Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Rabbi David Saperstein, and 30 other faith leaders, and declared on Jan. 25 that “twilight has fallen on the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The faith leaders who are part of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI) called for “a bold new U.S. initiative for a two-state peace agreement before it is too late.” “The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilizes the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity. These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict,” they said. The leaders, acknowledging that “the challenges are daunting,” added that “we believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the Obama Administration in 2013. We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides.” Addressing the U.S. responsibility and role, they asserted, “Our nation has unique leverage and credibility in the region. Indeed, no past progress toward peace has occurred in this conflict without U.S. leadership, facilitation or staunch support. Once again, we need active, fair and firm U.S. leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late.” The NILI leaders are pledged to mobilize strong public support for bold, determined U.S. leadership for peace in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
ISNA Supports End to Gun Crime On Jan. 15, just a month after the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., and on the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, national director, ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, joined other religious leaders to demand that political leaders respond to the gun violence crisis in our country. At the event, more than 40 religious leaders representing millions of Americans released a letter to President Obama, Vice President Biden, and
them. They will ask why some in their community did not call on demand laws against gun violence. We must all take action to stop this injustice.” ISNA, a member of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence as well as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), has continually spoken out after each major tragic shooting in the past year, and it is time to stop the epidemic of gun violence once and for all. ISNA supports and reaffirms the Second Amendment constitutional rights, and seeks
members of Congress, calling on them to require all gun buyers to pass a criminal background check, remove high capacity weapons and ammunition magazines from our streets, and make gun trafficking a federal crime. Syeed reminded that the Quran (81:8-9) says that on the Day of Judgment, a child will ask for what reason she was killed, holding the perpetrators responsible. “On the Day of Judgment,” he said, “the children who were killed in Newtown will ask the same question. They will ask why regulators did not put laws in place to protect
federal policies to ensure that guns stay out of the hands of those who pose a risk to society. ISNA joined Faiths United and the CSGV in calling on Congress and the president to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and those with serious mental illness by closing gaps in the background check system, including requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales. Federal policies, they said, should enhance law enforcement’s ability to combat the flow of illegal guns into our communities and enforce existing gun laws.
ISNA Central Zone Conference
CONNECTING FAITH WITH SERVICE: The Journey of Building a Vibrant Community
ffective and lasting change requires a paradigm shift,” said Dr. Jamal Badawi, in his opening address to the ISNA Central Zone Conference Dec. 7-9, 2012 at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Affecting a paradigm shift in any situation, requires a willingness to honestly examine where we are now in light of the essence of the Shariah, the stories of the prophets and the way of the Sunnah. “The most beautiful aspect of Islam,” he said, “is the eternal message of truth whose universal application unites the core values of humanity in cohesive efforts to quicken and enliven one another, achieving positive integration by assimilation, not isolation.” Throughout the ages, the proper applica-
tion of Shariah unified its adherents through common religious practices and civil laws while protecting freedom of beliefs in all its forms for its non-Muslim citizens, neighbors and visitors. In a minority situation, like in the U.S., Muslims are obligated to live by Fiqh al Aqalliyat (Fiqh for Minorities). “It is false and misleading to suggest there is a contradiction between being faithful Muslims and loyal American citizens. Islamic teaching requires we respect and uphold the laws of the country we live in,” Badawi said. Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America, said at the conference that the U.S. legal and social system supports pluralism as well as democracy and freedom of religion, and should be respected.
We should observe Shariah except in the matters of civic and criminal laws, in which case we should follow the laws of the country of residence.” —Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi 14
“We should observe Shariah except in the matters of civic and criminal laws, in which case we should follow the laws of the country of residence. Responsible citizenship includes accepting the Constitution of the United States and living by the laws of the land,” Siddiqi said. Azhar Azeez, vice president of ISNA-US, recalled how the Prophet Muhammed was a role model for mercy and compassion by telling the stories of the Prophet’s relationship with all of creation. Wherever he went, he treated plants, animals and humans with respect and honor. Azeez encouraged us to continually focus on stories of hope and to make every effort to communicate that hope to those who are hungry for it. “Inspire yourselves and each other with your story, telling your experiences and the truth of Islam,” Azeez said. Iyad Alnachef, director of ISNA Department of Youth Programming and Services, addressed the panel on “Inspiring Change through Leadership and Meaningful Conversation.” “Islam is beautiful. We don’t have to beautify it with plastic surgery. It was sent perfected. Don’t make your deen a PR campaign. Just be a Muslim, please God, and people will flock to Islam,” Alnachef said. “We are
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
messengers, not judges. Don’t sacrifice your beliefs when involved in interfaith dialogue.” Soumaya Khalifa, founder and executive director of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta, advised that interfaith dialogue participants know their religion, exhibit goodwill, and act humble and sincere. She said that participants use the third person, such as “Muslims believe,” or “Islam believes” instead of “We believe.” She added that it was important to know your audience, know when to stop, and to know how to handle difficult questions. Addressing the youth, Dr. Kiaresh Jahed from the Muslim Community Center of Louisville, Ky. and MYNA alum, said: “Have humble personalities, not humble aspirations. Don’t belittle yourself. God loves your lofty aspirations and hates your weak aspirations.” “The question we face,” said Azizah magazine editor, Tayyibah Taylor, “is how do you maintain your identity in the face of media provocation? We have to remember, that with every choice, there is a result and whether that’s positive or negative is up to you and your actions. This follows the same basic scientific law—that with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” She added, “The choices we make not only impact you, but future generations.” “Time is our greatest resource,” said ISNA Majlis Ash-Shura member and former MSA national president, Dr. Altaf Husain. We are continually challenged and called to use this resource wisely by integrating our efforts towards spiritualism and materialism. He
reminded us that the Prophet was a master of time management. Just like us, he had many roles: husband, father, grandfather, son-inlaw, businessman and head of state. “There is a relationship between baraka and time, and baraka and wealth,” he said. “A proper use of each in the service of Allah achieves ‘superhuman’ or miraculous results.” Dr. Badawi, Soumaya Khalifa, and Azhar Azeez focused on 9:128 (Quran) that service should be viewed as an opportunity to benefit ourselves through serving others. Playwright, attorney, journalist and blogger Wajahat Ali was the keynote speaker at the celebration banquet, honoring local Muslim leaders Dr. Freda Shamma, and Dr. Majid A. Qureshi for their efforts to establish a vibrant Muslim community in North America. Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) presented the awards commemorating their service and spoke encouraging words about patience and persistence in gaining a foothold in a new world. Ms. Latifah of Poetic Vision Tour, a rising star in the next generation of Muslim Voices in America, inspired the audience with poetically infused music. One of the most popular workshops of the weekend was “Responding to Provocations in the Media”, hosted by Azhar Azeez, Wajahat Ali and Karen Dabdoub, executive director of CAIR-Ohio, Cincinnati chapter. Each panelist provided a unique perspective addressing the current challenges facing the Muslim identity in the media and tools to effectively incite positive change including writing letters to the editor, blogging and maximizing our use of technology.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
“It is with deep appreciation and gratitude that we recognize the Muslim community of Cincinnati for their partnership in bringing this event to Ohio,” said Safaa Zarzour, ISNA secretary general. “Communities like yours make these conferences possible.”
Compiled and written by ISNA staff and volunteers.
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ISNA West Coast Education Forum
West Coast Education Forum
Unites and Inspires By Eman Shurbaji
SNA’s Chicago Education Forum has long been an anticipated, calendared event for educators and administrators of Islamic schools across the country. Yet for the second year in a row, the West Coast Education Forum has been addressing issues encircling schools in California and neighboring states. The forum’s overall goals included providing attendees with: informational sessions and workshops; networking opportunities; and inspirational speeches to encourage and unite Islamic schools. The Forum was held Friday, Jan. 18 to Saturday, Jan. 19. And from the responses of attendees, it surely did these things and more. Friday’s sessions began in the morning with three unique parallel sessions that included workshops. One session included a workshop wherein participants exchanged ideas about how to design activities that fit the needs of learners at different levels. After lunch and juma prayer, three parallel sessions
once again convened—this time with a focus on building a positive environment conducive to learning. There was also a session about the hindrance a lack of standardized assessments has on teaching the Arabic language. Six additional sessions took place before and after Maghrib prayer, and then the inaugural banquet took place. The banquet included Quranic recitation, dinner, and compelling speeches by Ustadah Maha Hamaoui (a longtime educator in Southern California) and Sheikh Yassir Fazaga. Ustadah Maha spoke of Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq and how he was instrumental in his form of dawa: because of his recitation, many embraced Islam.
“Words have a different power, that depend on the heart it’s coming from,” said Ustadah. She also emphasized that patience and endurance are important aspects of being a teacher. Ustadah Maha outlined that children love a message, a sense of humor, and relevance within the message. “Before they go into my world, I must go into their world,” she concluded. Sheikh Yassir Fazaga also spoke of the importance of “delivering Islam in a sound intellectual context.” Sheikh Fazaga serves as the Religious Leader of Orange County Islamic Foundation, and spoke of his experiences on how to develop future leaders in our communities. Saturday began with a light breakfast and a networking session. While most of the representatives at the conference were from California, a few were from Texas and Illinois. Dr. Haleema Shaikley, principal of the City of Knowledge School in Pomona, Calif., was delighted to meet fellow principals for the second year in a row. “The forum was very good. Topics were excellent and speakers were highly qualified,” she said. “They hit issues that needed to be addressed.” Saturday’s afternoon sessions included some about the use of technology, using authentic texts from the Arab world, and
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
promoting a positive school environment, including the relationship between the school’s board and principal. Ahmed Khorshid, a teacher trainer and curriculum developer of the New Horizons school system, enjoyed the presentations made by fellow educators. “I’m here to benefit from different experiences of different colleagues. I appreciate the variety of presentations,” he said. The day ended with a luncheon and final sessions. The luncheon included presentations of the essay contest winners that had been announced among schools in the weeks before the Forum. There was also a speech by former students and parents. Hadeer Soliman is now a first year law student, having attended Islamic schools and University of California, Irvine as an undergraduate. She said that, throughout college, she realized the importance of Islamic education because it provides spiritual education, allowing one to make a decision as an adult, with role models and love of the Quran. “I grew up loving the Quran and loving the message,” she said. The second speaker spoke as a parent: Dr. Eba Hathout’s son and daughter attended Islamic Schools in Southern California, and now attending Harvard University, one as a medical student. She spoke words born out
of love and gratitude for Islamic schools. Finally, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui also spoke of the importance of having Islamic schools that are strong in their curricula and values. Although most schools do not have a high school, those that do, such as City of Knowledge School in Pomona, have high rates of college attendance, with many going on to universities in the University of California (UC) system, such as UC Irvine and UCLA. Shahida Alikhan of New Horizon’s Los Angeles branch’s Sunday school, was impressed happy with the outcome of the convention. “It takes a lot of effort in getting things
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
together, but it’s worth it, and there’s a lot of weekend schools,” she said. Vendors of Islamic books and materials were naturally on hand at the Forum. Weekend Islamic Schools, ISF Publications, and Jarir Books were among the vendors showcasing their books and educational products. “It’s nice to see teachers come and look into new books for students,” said Abdullah Khatib of ISF Publications. The Forum was sponsored by Minaret Academy. ISNA, Aldeen Foundation and Merit helped organize the conference. As the Forum is brand-new, there are plans to include schools from nearby states like Oregon and Washington. Yet the vibrancy and whole-hearted attendees will surely go back to their respective communities with newfound appreciation, and utmost love for their jobs, and most importantly, Islam.
Eman Shurbaji is a freelance feature writer from Bakersfield, Calif.
Imam Position Opening @Masjid As-Salam, Memphis, TN Please visit the link below for more info www.memphismuslims.org/Imam_Job_Description.pdf
Community Matters Muslims Boost Canadian Aborigines
The Canada-based Human Concern International (HCI) sponsored four Aboriginal youth from the Ottawa area for participation in the UN International Day of Peace event in New York City on September 2012 through Pacifest. Rankin, Brittany Jones, Caitlin Tolley, and Sahra Maclean were part of a student delegation that traveled from Montreal, QC to the UN headquarters. The theme for the event, Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future, highlighted the importance of youth not only being leaders of tomorrow, but to act now and be leaders of today. The UN invited 500 youth from across North America to attend the event. The Aborigine youth were among the 193 selected to participate in the flag ceremony in the UN
Rose Garden to begin the event. The also represented The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and voiced their concerns of the extremely higher rates of violence that face Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. NWAC has documented over 582 occurrences of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, and seeks a governmental inquiry commission addressing the issue requires that the factors causing it are correctly identified, and that those individuals, processes and policies responsible for maintaining the status quo—and the subsequent harm to Aboriginal women and girls—are remedied. Recommendations and action for change are needed to increase the safety of Aboriginal women and girls in all walks of life across Canada.
Passion for Community Recognized with Medal Senator Salma Ataullahjan presented the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal to Malika Syed, 70, for her volunteer work and community involvement. The honour was presented at the Muslim Seniors Circle at the Islamic Center of Canada on Jan 4. The Mississauga resident of nearly 40 years says her entire family has a passion for helping and giving service to their community Syed volunteers with the Muslim Seniors Circle, which was on hand to see the medal presentation, and regularly visits hospitals
to do what she can. But she says her greatest pleasure has always come from helping children. Trained as a teacher in India, Syed worked for several years as a supply teacher here. She says she has volunteered to serve not just the Islamic community, but the broader Canadian community. “Malika has spent 45 years doing volunteer work in Canada and it is so appropriate she should receive the medal here in the Islamic Centre,” said
Kaleem Akhtar, executive director, said HCI has been active in raising funds for Aboriginal children since 2010 and works with Aboriginals to assist the needy. Dr. Pam Palmater of Ryerson University told pre-Christmas fundraising event last year that many Aborigines lack food, pure water, adequate housing and schooling. “There is a direct link between discriminatory federal laws and policies, and the crisis of poverty and preventable deaths in First Nations,” Palmater said. “Canada controls the lives of First Nations, provides them with inequitable funding that results in conditions of extreme poverty, which research has shown leads to their premature deaths. The ongoing funding inequities of basic social services have resulted in desperate living conditions, poor health, barriers to education and employment, social dysfunction, over-representation in jails and children in care, and premature deaths in First Nations.” Dr. Cindy Blackstock, executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and an associate professor at the University of Alberta, said Canada is violating its treaty obligations with Aboriginal people through discrimination and neglect. The Aborigines have sued the government before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. During the last Eid Al-Adha, Manitoba’s Zubaidah Tallab Foundation provided food essentials to the neediest 200 families in two remote First Nations communities in the province. This is the fourth year that this was done. Perimeter Aviation airlifted the supplies.
Ataullahjan. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is awarded to Canadians who have made a difference in the community.
Malika Syed (right) receives an award from Sen. Salma Ataullahjan. 18
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
New Face of Muslim Consumers The fourth American Muslim Consumer Conference (AMCC) was held in Newark, N.J.on Nov. 17, 2012. The theme was “The New Face of Muslim Consumers: Socially Conscious, Innovative and Engaged.” AMCC, founded in 2008, serves to raise public awareness for the Muslim American market. The keynote speaker was Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, founder and CEO of Teshkeel Media Group and creator of THE 99, the first group of comic superheroes with an Islamic background. AMCC gives a multicultural award every year. Saffron Road received this year’s Multicultural Award—that recognizes a company which promotes diversity and multiculturalism and is inclusive to all minorities in America. The Saffron Road brand’s focus is to reach out to customers beyond the Muslim/Halal food market and address the needs of consumers looking for healthy, organic, antibiotic free and humane alternatives. “Saffron Road has proven that Halal is not just for Muslims anymore,” said Sabiha Ansari, AMCC event director. AMCC also launched a new award: the “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award, which recognizes entrepreneurs whose contributions are making a major impact in addressing Muslim American needs. Crescent Foods CEO Ahmad Adam was recognized for his leadership role in the Halal food industry while implementing Islamic principles in financial, social and ethical areas—taking “Halal” to a new level. More than 325 community leaders, entrepreneurs and professionals, attended the conference. The event highlight was the Entrepreneurship Showcase, hailed as the “Shark Tank” which included five companies; Taaza2u, Noor Kids, Noriba Investing, Strategic Realty Solutions and Hygienna selected to present their business plans to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for expert advice.
ICNA Opens New Mosque The Islamic Circle of North America inaugurated its new mosque in Greater Alexandria, Va., on Jan. 12. The new two-story mosque, opened in mid-December last year, came about after three years of construction and fundraising, replaces the house purchased by ICNA and the Muslim community in 2000, which served as a mosque for a decade. The main goal of the ICNA Northern Virginia Chapter is to reach out to the non-Muslim neighbors, including those in the local faith community. “I thought it went better than planned,” ICNA Virginia President Rameez Abid said.
Intern in Washington D.C. Summer 2013
“It brought everyone together and people shared their experiences. I thought that was wonderful.” Virginia Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44th District) and members of Ventures in Community attended the inauguration ceremony presided over by ICNA President Dr. Zahid Bukhari. Surovell said that the Mount Vernon community is emblematic of many cultural changes in Virginia. During construction, the mosque’s congregation arranged prayers at local venues including Good Shepherd Catholic Church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and at Aldersgate United Methodist Church. Aldersgate UMC pastor, the Rev. Dennis Perry, appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2011 to explain his decision to allow the ICNA to worship in their space. Bukhari thanked the three houses of worship for their assistance during the construction phase.
For more pictures visit: www.facebook.com/ICNA. Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
The Center for Global Understanding (CFGU) is offering 20 scholarships for college students to intern in Washington D.C. during the summer 2013 as part of its Civic Engagement Initiative. Tailored toward students’ interest, students of all majors are welcome, said CFGU co-founder Atif Moon. Past placements include the Department of Commerce, Department of Interior, VA Medical Center, FDA, Voice of America, Library of Congress, Peace Corps, advocacy groups, and lobbyists. Students will take a seminar-style class for about three hours one evening per week. Students may get academic credit from their college or university. Public Affairs Series offers networking and discussions with Muslim American leaders from Congress, business, public health and other fields. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and at least a college sophomore at an accredited college with a minimum of a 2.75 GPA. To apply, visit: http:// centerforglobalunderstanding.org/ how_to_apply.php
Islamic Medical Ethics Award Aasim Padela, M.D., was awarded the 2012 Ibn Sina Award from the Compassionate Care Network (CCN) of Chicago for his outstanding work and contributions in the field of Islamic medical ethics. Padela, director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine and a faculty member of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, was honored for his scholarship in the Islamic ethico-legal tradition and the ways it influences the health behaviors of Muslim patients and the lives of Muslim physicians.
He examines how religious beliefs, values and identities affect the healthcare decisions of Muslim Americans, as well as the healthcare inequalities they face. Padela is working with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago to investigate the influence of religion-related factors on breast cancer-screening practices in the local Muslim community. His applied Islamic bioethics scholarship focuses on how modern scientific data are incorporated within, and can be used in, traditional Islamic moral reasoning and scholastic theology. Padela
works with traditional Islamic jurisconsults at Darul Qasim, an Islamic institute, and the Tabah Foundation. Padela, a Templeton Foundation Faculty Scholar (2012-14), is studying the theological and ethical roots of the physician-healer in Islam and how Muslim physicians express their personal and religious identities in America. During 2008-11, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan. He is a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C. Compassionate Care Network, founded in 2004, conducts free health screenings around the Chicago area and offers reduced cost access to healthcare for the uninsured.
El-Erian Leads Global Development Council President Barack Obama has appointed Mohamed ElErian, 54, the chief executive officer and co-chief investment officer of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Pacific Investment Management Co., chair of the Presidents’ Global Development Council. Established Feb. 9, 2012, by President Obama, the council advises senior U.S. officials on U.S. global development policies, supports publicprivate partnerships and solicits public input on global development concerns. El-Erian, the son of an Egyptian diplomat, is fluent in English, French and Arabic, and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from Cambridge University as well as a Ph.D. from Oxford University. Besides serving some leading global investment companies, he also worked at the International Monetary Fund for 15 years, and served as the
Khaki Recognized The University of East London (UEL) awarded an honorary doctorate in technology to Mohamed Jawad Khaki, a former corporate vice-president of Microsoft, on Nov. 27, 2012. Khaki, who founded the Ithna-asheri Muslim Association of the Northwest in 1997, served as its president until 2011. A long time UEL supporter, Khaki has supported its research bids for both staff and students. The Tanzanian native, and an active volunteer since he was 13, Khaki serves NGOs in Tanzania, Pakistan, the UK and now in the 20
IMF’s deputy director from 1995 to 1997. El-Erian, who wrote a book “When Markets Collide” in 2008 which was a New York Times bestseller, regularly writes commentaries for newspapers and websites on topics ranging from the global economy to education. The council’s other eight members are Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation; Esther Duflo, economics professor at MIT; Sarah Beardsley Degnan Kambou, president, International Center for Research on Women; James M. Manyika, director, McKinsey Global Institute and a senior partner at McKinsey & Company; William K. Reilly, senior Adviser to TPG; Steven Schwager, retired CEO of the American Joint Distribution Committee; and Smita Singh, former director of the global development program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
U.S. In 1985, Khaki moved to the U.S.; three years later, he joined Microsoft, where he stayed until 2009 and then rose to corporate vice president. In 2003, he received the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom award from the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, in recognition
of his commitment to religious freedom, democratic values, tolerance and diversity. The same year, he set up the Khaki Foundation which works globally to tackle poverty. “This is quite an honor and I feel very humbled by the whole experience,” Khaki said, speaking at the award ceremony in London. “As a boy who grew up in Tanzania in a completely rural environment, today feels like fairyland. I’m very indebted to the education sector, and I look forward to a great association with the University of East London.” Khaki set up Uhuru Software in 2011, which supports the development of a new cloud computing design.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Muslim Canadians Condemn Domestic Violence
Canada joined the worldwide Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign, a grassroots effort to end violence against women. On Dec. 14, 2012, imams across the country delivered the Friday khutba, raising awareness on the serious issue of violence against women in Canada. They reminded about the saying of Anas ibn Malik, a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, who said, “I have never seen anyone kinder to one’s family than the Prophet Muhammad.” (Sahih Muslim) The Campaign, which was launched Nov. 25, 2012 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) culminated in White Ribbon Days at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention (RIS) held in Toronto (Dec. 21 – 23). The campaign aims to break the silence on violence against women in the Muslim community, promote healthy relationships through education, and create partnerships among mosques, women’s organizations, and social agencies to create a future without violence against women. The facts and figures on domestic violence and abuse are staggering. On average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her spouse/intimate partner. On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence. Each year, more than 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence—that’s about 12 percent of all violent crime in Canada. Because approximately only 22 percent of all incidents are reported to the police, the real number is much higher. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
California Democrats Elect 28 Muslims California Muslims made political history when 28 Muslim candidates (five as executive board members and two as alternate delegates) were elected as delegates and alternate delegates to the California Democratic Party (CDP). This constitutes the largest number of Muslims ever elected as delegates in California, which has 80 assembly districts. At least 36 California Muslims ran for delegate positions. CAIR said that this encouraging achievement was reached with the help of CAIR-CA PAC, an independent political organization, which closely worked with candidates and organized voters to support them. The CDP is governed by the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) which has approximately 3,000 delegates. Some are appointed by elected officials, but about onethird are elected every odd numbered year through elections divided by assembly district. Twelve individuals (six women and six men) from each assembly district are elected as delegates to serve a two-year term to the DSCC. Elected delegates vote on candidate endorsements, help shape the CDP platform, approve the rules by which the CDP functions, vote on resolutions of concern to various communities, and choose CDP representatives to the Democratic National Party. Delegates are also responsible for attending the annual statewide convention. Additionally, one representative from every 12 delegates is voted to the executive board. The executive board (E-Board) has all the duties and powers of the CDP when it is not in session (at the Democratic National Convention). E-Board members are required to attend three quarterly E-Board meetings each year, as well as the statewide convention.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
CORRIGENDUM: IH expresses its regrets for the mix-up in the photo caption published on p. 22 of its January/February 2013 issue that mentioned state senator James N. Robey’s (D-Md.) name instead of that of Howard County Muslim Council’s past president Raghid Shourbaji, who is in the photo.
NEWS BRIEFS Priscilla Martinez, ADAMS Boy Scout Troop 786 committee chair and ADAMS Cub Scouts Pack 1576 Den Leader, was appointed District Chairman for Goose Creek District (GCD), National Capital Area of Boy Scout of America for 2013 scouting year. GCD of BSA represents all of Loudoun County—in suburban Washington, D.C.— which includes the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) main center and Ashburn branches. She has been serving ADAMS Girls Scouts and ADAMS Boy Scouts past many years. A mother of six, Martinez is the first Muslim to serve in this position. Her husband Rizwan Jaka, member at large, GCD, is a board member of ISNA. ADAMS president and ADAMS Cub Scout Pack 1576 committee chair Farhan Syed also serves on the GCD. ADAMS has four Units (Troop 1576 and & 786, Pack 1576 and Crew 1576) with over 100-plus registered scouts and adults.
New York City artist Shahzia Sikander received the State Department’s inaugural Medal of Arts, from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The award—launched November 2012—recognizes each artist’s outstanding commitment to the now 50-year-old Art in Embassies (AIE) program and international cultural exchange Sikander’s work, highlighted during an exhibition in the U.S. Consulate in Karachi in 2011, is now on permanent display. The Pakistan-born artist has been instrumental in reviving an old tradition—miniature painting—adding new meanings and new possibilities. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Sikander spans a variety of mediums, including drawing, large-scale wall installations, animation and video. Her work is included in the collections of the 21
Community Matters Museum of Modern Art, and several wellknown art museums. Her work has been exhibited at venues worldwide including major solo surveys. Her many recognitions include: Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (2006); The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1997), the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Medal of Excellence, Pakistan, 2005), and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award (2006). About 400 students gathered in Chicago on Jan. 13 for an innovative project called “Humanitea Time,” a launching pad for youth leadership to inspire youth activism around local and global social causes. This event, an initiative of Zakat Foundation of America (ZF), a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, was cosponsored by Amnesty International USA and University of Chicago Global Voices Program. This cafe-style event featured motivational narratives by legendary Chicago activist Father Pfleger and Imam Suhaib Webb, performances by poets Tasleem Jamila Firdausee and Amal Kassir, and the Kuumba Lynx Performance Ensemble. Youth were presented with causes to inspire and discover their potential as change-makers and encouraged to pursue meaningful work. They were invited to sign up to join prearranged programs to follow a cause of their choice—such as gun control, food justice, global water scarcity, or human rights crises. The grand prize is a student-service trip to Ghana in the summer of 2013 with ZF. Second prize is a $1,000 scholarship; third prize is a $500 scholarship.
Muslim American Inaugural Benefit Gala in Washington, D.C. The gala was attended by elected and public officials, community leaders, activists, entertainers, and athletes. According to the event sponsors, the Golden Minaret Awards Program is “similar to the ALMA or NAACP Image Awards. It recognizes a cross section of American Muslims and their organizations and institutions. Areas of recognition include media and entertainment, medicine and civil rights. Also during the event, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad presented Golden Minaret awards for education and youth leadership to the Muslim Interscholastic Tournament (MIST) and the Mohammed Schools of Atlanta. The Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago welcomed its new board for 2013-2015, elected at its House of Representatives meeting Jan. 26. The new board members are: chairman: Mohammed Kaiseruddin; vice chair: Mohamad Nasir; secretary: Karen Danielson; treasurer: Tasneem Osmani; and directors: Syed Shahnawaz Khan, Zahid Mohsin, and Awad Hamdan. Maryland’s Prince George’s County Parkdale High School principal Cheryl J. Logan has found a way to accommodate Muslim students to practice their religion.
A friendly Muslim community in a town of approximately 150,000 population is seeking an energetic candidate with the following requirements: • • • •
Dr. Anis Ansari, chairman of the department of medicine, Mercy Medical Center, Clinton, Iowa, was named “Leading Physician of the World” and “Top Nephrologist in Clinton” by the International Association of Health Professionals. Last year, he received a Spirit of Excellence award from Mercy Medical Center. He also serves on the board of a free medical center.
Wanted Director of Education-Khateeb
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) received the first-ever Golden Minaret Award for “Excellence in Civil Rights” on Jan. 20, at an event marking President Obama’s second inauguration. CAIR National Legal Director Nadhira Al-Khalili received the award at the
She gives those with parental permission and high grades a pass out of class every day to pray. About 10 Muslim students, who belong to the school’s chapter of the Muslim Students’ Association, get out of class for about eight minutes each day to pray together on campus. She explains that public schools are not religious, but are legally allowed to accommodate students to practice their religion in some ways. Muslims have to pray five times a day.
Formal degree in Islamic Studies. Fluency in English. Excellent communication skills. Experience and skills for organizing and teaching children, youth and adults education programs. Ability to organize and represent in outreach and interfaith programs and conduct Dawa activities. Ability to act as Imam for prayers, especially Friday prayers. Be well versed with different Islamic schools of thought and be able to appreciate practices, traditions of diverse Muslim population in the community. A good knowledge of Arabic and recitation of Quran is required. Visa and Residency requirements: Must be a U S citizen, Permanent Resident or have a U S work visa.
Compensation: Competitive salary, commensurate with experience and qualifications. Please send resume along with a cover letter and at least three references in confidence to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
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Muslims & Education 24
Islamic Horizonsâ€ƒ March/April 2013
Gardens of La Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Making History Islamic schools empower their students with lessons of the past. By Leen Jaber
t is a special day for juniors and seniors of Mr. Alkhateebâ€™s Islamic History class: breaking the monotony of the lectures and exams, they are feasting on centuries-old foods from a very critical time of Muslim history. On Historical Food Day, these high schoolers have prepared recipes from a 900-year-old cookbook created during the Abbasid Empire, perhaps one of the most powerful eras in Muslim history, but certainly not the only one. This, among numerous others, is a lesson from the past that young Muslims are learning in Islamic schools throughout the country. But what role is the subject of Islamic history playing in the education of our children? What emphasis are Islamic Schools putting on the history of Islam?
Islamic Horizonsâ€ƒ March/April 2013
While many schools in the U.S. are offering students the opportunity to take a concentrated Islamic history class to fulfill their social studies credits to graduate, most are not. While most schools recognize the importance of such classes, they either lack the resources or the faculty to offer them. Most schools are incorporating Islamic history
Muslim world. In the process, students learn and discover for themselves the greatness of the Muslims that came before them. This includes Muslim Spain, the Muslim Golden Age and the many other contributions Muslims have made to the world. Most young Muslims are completely unaware of the inventions Muslims have
Most young Muslims are completely unaware of the inventions Muslims have made and the power that Muslims once yielded in the world. lessons into the students’ religion and Islamic studies classes or spending some time on the subject in 8th or 9th grade world history and social studies. Suburban Chicago-based Universal School, however, offers Islamic history classes as an elective to both 11th and 12th graders. Although it is not a requirement yet, the school certainly values the importance of this course for its students. “I want my students to understand why the Muslim world is the way it is today,” says Firas Alkhateeb, who has taught Islamic history at Universal for three years and is working on the course becoming mandatory for students to graduate. Alkhateeb teaches the course much like a college-level course, concentrating on the most significant points of the history beginning with the Umayyads, after the death of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, in the 8th century and continues to the fall of the Ottoman Empire and inception of the modern 26
made and the power that Muslims once yielded in the world. “They can see what the causes of greatness is and how they can be affected [today] as Muslims,” Alkhateeb says. “This isn’t just a story. It’s a guidebook of how they themselves should live their lives.” In today’s world, Muslim children and adolescents in America are constantly bombarded with negative images of Muslims in the news and pop culture. Students in the West are also taught history through a Western, colonial lens, concentrating on Western accomplishments and victories, while minimizing other cultures. Perhaps, this is one of the most crucial reasons for incorporating Islamic history into the curriculum of Islamic Schools in a full-time capacity. “The purpose of Islamic school is to get students grounded in their religion. Another part of that is their history,” says Sanah Yassin, who has been teaching Islamic
History at Aqsa School in Bridgeview, Ill., for three years. The course is a requirement for seniors at the all-girls high school, designed to give students an understanding of their history beginning with pre-Islamic Arabia to the beginning of the 21st century. Although students gain instruction about the life of the Prophet in their religion courses from elementary school, Yassin explains that covering this early part of the history really “sets the backdrop” of how Islam rose in the region and how it subsequently spread creating some of the most powerful and influential civilizations of all time. Throughout the year, Yassin spends a great deal of time on the rise and fall of the various Muslim Empires, concentrating on what lessons can be learned and applied. “How and why did these empires decline? […] We were so developed and well-rounded and had so many high points. How did that change?” Yassin asks. These lessons are meant to enlighten the communities we have created here in the West, she adds. Other important lessons highlighted in the course are the female contribution to the Muslim world. “It is important to have a full appreciation and understanding of our religion. We need to know the people who built it,” says Yassin. And this includes males, females and even children “builders” of Muslim civilization. Echoing similar sentiments, Alkhateeb also spends significant time highlighting the scientific and mathematical discoveries of Muslims and even contributions of Muslim women to the world of fashion, a topic particularly favored by his female students. Islamic art is another topic of great interest to many Muslim students. Many of these topics can be underestimated by Muslim scholars
Universal School, High School – Class of 2010
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
he following is a list of books, articles and online material for teachers who are at a loss when it comes to finding age-appropriate materials and lesson plans for covering Islamic history. Most books can be found on Amazon.com.
and teachers of Islamic history, but in the experience of many educators, these topics of discussion have empowered students. While both Universal and Aqsa teach Islamic history for one school year as more of a survey course, the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in Alexandria, Va., provides students with more detailed instruction spanning four years. ISA being an International Baccalaureate (IB) school and having a curriculum all taught in Arabic parallel to a non-Arabic track, students are given a much different experience. The Arabic curriculum is taught to students who are in the U.S. on a temporary basis and will most likely return to their home countries to complete university. The material is much more rigorous and starts in the 7th grade. Throughout the four years of instruction students are taught in detail about the lives and contributions of the 25 prophets mentioned in the Quran, the long-lasting effects of World War I and II on the Muslim world, geography and the creation of modern forces
such as the U.N. and the Arab League. A great deal of time is spent on the life and history of the Prophet, providing students with a detailed framework for more modern history. “It is important for them to have the correct information about the Prophet,” says Mohamed Mekky, who has been teaching Islamic history for more than 10 years at ISA. “This way they know how to speak to non-Muslims.” Although the Arabic curriculum for Islamic history is quite detailed and intense, the English curriculum for Islamic history is much different. There is no specific Islamic history course taught in English at ISA, but a lot of traditional historical material of the Muslim world is covered in the World history course that students are required to take. In this course, students are introduced to the bountiful contributions that Muslims have made during the Middle Ages, which added to and preserved the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans, which subsequently led to the Renaissance. They are also introduced to the great Muslim Empires: Safavid, Mughal and Ottoman. Much of this information isn’t available in detail in textbooks. However, Dolores Rader, who teaches the course, makes an exquisite effort to outsource much of the material to give students a balanced look on the subject. “It is a part of their Islamic heritage, and as a history teacher, I think it is important for them to be knowledgeable about this aspect of their religious background,” says Rader. As another option for students on the English track, a course is offered to 11th and 12th graders that looks at Europe and the Muslim world during the Middle Ages: as
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Books and Articles 1,001 Muslim Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization Editor Salim T.S. Al-Hassani Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansawi The Arab Roots of European Medicine (ARAMCO WORLD, May/June 1997) A History of the Modern Middle East by William Cleveland Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun (English Translation is available) Lost History by Michael Hamilton Morgan The Middle East: A History by William Ochsenwald Websites: http://www.princeton. edu/~arabic/poetry/ http://www.muslimheritage. com a side-by-side comparison. The technique and organization of the material varies at different Islamic schools, but one thing that can be agreed upon is that students thoroughly enjoy the subject matter and are enlightened and even bewildered by what they have learned. “After getting bombarded by U.S. and European history, they are happy to look at Islamic history because they can relate to it,” Alkhateeb says. Moreover, students are so impressed by the Muslim civilizations before them; they find themselves more equipped and motivated to recreate the greatness of past Muslims in the world they live in today.
Leen Jaber is a freelance writer and musician from Chicago.
The Lowdown on Homeschooling By Sana Hamed
ducation is one of the most important decisions for parents to make. Besides public, private and Islamic schooling, some have included homeschooling as a top choice. However, many believe that homeschooled children do not receive the best education, that they lack social skills and that children should attend state-certified schools with qualified teachers. Despite such arguments against homeschooling, many parents sing its praises, while also acknowledging the struggles involved. Fatima Ibrahim, of Norfolk, Va., started her children’s education in a public school. Sami and Eman thrived; they fit in fine and were ‘A’ students. But Fatima felt that although they were thriving, they were missing something more important—an Islamic education. It hit her one day as she visited a cousin. She heard her cousin’s children using Arabic. Upon seeing their cousins’ Islamic school homework, Fatima felt that she was failing her own children. Her search led her to an Islamic school about 20 minutes away from her home. Fatima said she didn’t hesitate—she enrolled them that same week. Her husband supported his wife fully, but money became a bigger issue. But they thought of it as a sacrifice for their children’s Islamic health. When Sami entered the seventh grade, they noticed a change in him. “He started acting out, and at first we took it as normal. He was going through changes,” Fatima says. But then his grades started slipping and he got suspended for fighting. They found that Sami had made some new friends who were leading him in the wrong direction. Faced with a dilemma and after some research, she opted for homeschooling. “I loved that my children learned so much about their deen, they became better Muslims. They memorized Quran and knew how to read and write Arabic but I couldn’t lose them.” She admits that money also played a role in her decision. Now Sami is in the eleventh grade and has begun to take college courses
for credit, Fatima does not regret it at all. Not simply for financial reasons, Kris Madhi of Chicago decided to homeschool her daughter because Islamic school was not affordable, nor did she want the public school influence. Madhi, a product of public schools, knows firsthand about the pressures and influences that existed for her and does not “want those influences to be central in [her child’s education.” As she was learning more about Islam, Madhi says, “I just realized that I didn’t want my child to think her peers and pop culture are her idols. I want her to grow up caring about her religion and it is important for her father and I that she has a strong foundation in what we believe as Muslims.” Madhi likes that she has “influence over the type of friends [her] daughter has at this point in her life.” To ensure that her daughter is not missing out, Kris is part of a homeschool cooperative and also has a few friends that homeschool, so they tend to stay busy. She also has her daughter involved in many activities, including a homeschool art class. Her daughter has no learning issues. “I do feel like it has been good for us because it is focused time we have together every day. It also allows us to spend more time on things she is interested in and our schedule is flexible and we can take more time off during Eid and when she is sick,” Madhi says. Madhi’s six-year-old goes to school four days a week. Her lessons take about an hour and a half since she is in the first grade.
Madhi hasn’t made up her mind about the rest of her daughter’s education. “I’m taking it year by year at this point. I don’t want to lock myself in and not be flexible to circumstances that will change,” she says. Madhi advises parents to “read about the history of formal education as well as read some home school intro books.” She also said, “I talked to many homeschool parents and have found that many of my fears disappeared after trying it.” “Do your research, come up with lesson plans, test it out and most of all have patience,” Maryam Ali says. The mom from Orlando, Fla. says homeschooling is not easy at times and it can get very trying, but she believes if parents really think that public schools or Islamic schools are not the perfect fit for their kids, homeschooling could be the best option. Ali’s son Yusuf , who has been homeschooled since first grade, is now in fifth.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
She plans on enrolling him in public high school when he reaches that point. “I think by the time he enters high school, he will be strong enough not to be easily influenced by others. I’m not sheltering my little boy but I’m trying to give him what he needs most—attention, morals, guidance and a strong education, and most importantly an Islamic foundation. I want him to always remember who he is first, I want him to know his prayers, I don’t want him to get caught up in life so young. I don’t want him influenced negatively,” Ali says. She says there is nothing wrong with a public or private school as she herself attended both, but she knows how easy it is to get lost. She admitted she made some mistakes because she didn’t know better. She doesn’t want her son to fall in the same trap. Yusuf ’s father wants to enroll him in public school starting in seventh grade. He feels like his son should mix with others so that he knows how to communicate and
relate to others. Ali, however, thinks Yusuf is not ready. “If anything, I might consider entering him in the seventh grade on a trial basis,” Yusuf ’s father said. She says the hardest part of homeschooling is the lack of social interaction. She knows Yusuf is missing out and she does involve him in classes, soccer and Tae Kwon do, but she sees him getting frustrated. “I loved going to school mainly for my friends when I was his age and when I was older. I do feel like I’m robbing Yusuf of friends although he does have many friends from soccer and Tae Kwon do, it’s still different,” she says. With seven children and three of them homeschooled, Nina Saleh of Anaheim, Calif. agrees that the biggest drawback is that they miss out socially. “They don’t need hours a day of social interaction. Nowadays we have social networks, my older kids have Facebook and they go on with my parental controls, and that’s enough in my book,” Saleh says. She also takes her children to the mosque to attend Islamic classes, where they are part of the youth group. Saleh’s three oldest children are in the 11th, 9th, and 8th grades. She has three other children who are school-age and attend elementary school. She made the decision to homeschool when her oldest son was not benefiting nor was he happy in his first year in middle school. She said she searched for an alternative and found homeschooling programs. Saleh decided that her children would be homeschooled after they complete 6th grade. For her, Islam did not factor in her decision. “I am not a very religious person. I consider myself moderate. Islam wasn’t my concern. I enrolled my kids in an Islamic school
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
and the issues were worse than those of a public school,” Saleh says. Homeschooling, Saleh says, “has helped my kids significantly, with grades and confidence. They don’t have to deal with the peer pressure of middle school and high school.” Before opting for homeschooling, Saleh researched the program extensively. She made sure to enroll them in an accredited program and that the high school diploma they earn will be accepted by colleges. She advises parents to make sure “the program you choose is accredited and has college approved courses or courses that will get you into college.” Her son will start college this summer. He passed his proficiency exam to receive his high school diploma halfway through his senior year. She has decided to let him finish off the semester before entering college. Saleh’s daughter also jumped from 7th grade to 8th grade in half a school-year. “She found the material was easy and went through it without all the interruption of a typical classroom,” Saleh says. Homeschooling does not work for all children—some children need an instructor. Saleh advises parents to pay attention to their child’s needs before enrolling into homeschool. Saleh added that although homeschooling may be difficult for children, it is even harder for parents. “Kids adjust and take to things quickly. We adults have to juggle the house and school,” she says. Saleh admits that it is overwhelming at times and sometimes questions if homeschooling is right for her and her kids, but in the end, she says, “It’s all worth it.”
Sana Hamed is a freelance writer living in the U.S. Virgin Islands and is editor of “Muslims Do That Too!”
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Off the Beaten Path Can Muslim Americans brave the challenges to live their dreams? By Amber Majid
octor, lawyer, engineer: these are the few choices that immigrant parents give their children to pursue as careers. Mostly all immigrants envision the U.S. as the promised land of opportunity, endless possibilities for financial stability, and worldclass education for their children. Expected to follow certain paths, for many Muslim Americans, the pressure to please parents is enormous, and often interwoven into the multitudes of cultures in the Muslim world. Desiring the best for their children, many Muslim parents pressure them into choosing more renown and stable careers, but does a stable or more honorable career guarantee happiness or success? Do parents know what is best for us simply with the intention of wanting what is best for us? As times change, so do the career paths that Muslim Americans choose for themselves. Libyan American Noor Tagouri, 19, has become quite the Internet celebrity of late. Her YouTube video has amassed more than 53,000 views and her Facebook default picture sitting at the ABC news desk has gone viral, reaching more 25,000 likes. She is well on her way to achieving her dreams of becoming the first hijab-wearing anchorwoman. The Washington D.C. area resident and a University of Maryland unior, is studying broadcast journalism and international development conflict management. She wanted to become an anchorwoman since she was eight years old, watching Oprah with her mother after school. Upon opting for the hijab a few years ago, she knew
it would be harder on her aspirations but realized that, “[Hijab] is going to help me, not hinder me.” She hopes to negate the social stigmas of Muslim women in the media by showing what they are capable of achieving and becoming with their drive and diligence. A true inspiration, Tagouri has met and spent time with some of the biggest names in journalism, including Ted Koppel, Lisa Ling, and Wolf Blitzer. There is also a video of her speaking with Anderson Cooper on YouTube, discussing her ambitions with infectious zeal. The nation and the world have taken notice of her wholehearted passion, wanting to give her nothing but their endless support; she receives thousands of messages each day. The Twitter hashtag #LetNoorShine has sparked the attention of many as well, and she has used it as a way to get the attention of journalists to land herself shadowing and internship opportunities. As she says, “If you want something bad enough, the universe will conspire to give it to you.” Tagouri’s parents have been incredibly supportive, but she has also worked hard and been persistent, showing them her determination each day. Tagouri advises first-generation Muslims to pursue careers they’re passionate about only, and work hard each day to accomplish their goals. “When you’re passionate about something, you will do better than if you were to choose something normally stable that you’re not as passionate about. And if your family disagrees with your career choices, prove to them that you’ll be successful by being persistent. Lose sleep, don’t eat, but never give up. Show your dedication,” Tagouri says. Jahanzeb Khan, 30, a New York graphic
designer, whose Pakistani immigrant parents were not too keen on his straying from the typical career path. Like Tagouri, Khan understands the determination and price needed to pursue dreams. In pursuit of his goals, during a two year span, he started off working without regular pay, and for a while the compensation was a metro card, and then lunch money, until eventually, they offered him a regular salary. Though he started off doing the “typical Desi—the term casually used for South Asian immigrants—kid thing,” he quickly lost interest. While trying to fit in a computer science world, he did not give up his Photoshop hobby. Finally, without informing his parents, he switched from his undergraduate computer science program at the New York Institute of Technology to the School of Visual Arts in New York. His grades jumped. Even though he “lost” a full year, he finds comfort in pursuing something he loved, rather than something chosen by his parents only for financial stability. His older brother and many of his friends are in successful careers involving medicine and law, but only a few are completely satisfied with their careers. “Most of your life will be spent in your work,” Khan says. “You have to be passionate about what you’re doing.” Khan is grateful that he gets paid to do some of the most exciting endeavors, working now at Worth Global Style Network, WGSN, a fashion trend and forecast company. He loves the fluidity of the creative industry. Twenty-nine-year-old Julia Salameh’s parents made it clear that she was choosing the wrong career path when she told them of her aspiring art career.
If your family disagrees with your career choices, prove to them that you’ll be successful by being persistent. Lose sleep, don’t eat, but never give up. Show your dedication.” —Noor Tagouri 30
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
“You’re not going to find a job in the art field,” they told her. She says this is ironic because, “When I graduated, engineers couldn’t find work either because of the economy.” She was almost done with her undergraduate engineering degree when she decided it wasn’t for her, switching soon after to the Illinois Art Institute for Graphic Design and Visual Design. While it disappointed her parents, she does not regret her decision and is satisfied with the work she does now as a User Experience Strategist. Living in Chicago, she helps to create the thought process behind applications and websites, to make them more userfriendly and reachable for thousands with smart phones. A college degree no longer guarantees a job. Khan knows someone who has a master’s degree in graphic design and is currently working as a Starbucks barista. “You must put in the hard work,” Khan says. Can there be a way to manage both, however? Something you’re passionate about and something that your parents and community will regard as stable and honorable? Augusta, Ga. resident Zamena Momin, 29, who has a degree in biology from the University of Georgia, manages to play along those exact lines. She runs Hijab-ista, a successful online hijab fashion company, while working once a week as a technologist at a systocompatibility lab that supports organ transplantation. When she put on the hijab at 21 in a post 9/11 America, there were no fashionable options. “There were only those plain cotton triangles, so it was hard to feel confident in my hijab during professional settings,” Momin says.
She launched Hijab-ista a year ago, with her sister-in-law, to offer modest but trendy clothes to young girls to help them feel confident and beautiful, while still being affordable. Their most expensive hijabs are only $12, but they also sell tunics, pants, shirts, under scarves and various accessories. Luckily, Momin’s Indian immigrant parents were incredibly supportive of her eclectic career choices. Her father, a photographer who studied at the Chicago Institute of Art, had to give up his passion to support his family as a business owner and entrepreneur. Her parents actually advised her not to go to medical school, considering how difficult it was for her older sister. Then she went and decided to major in biology! She laughs, “Isn’t it typical to do the exact opposite of what our parents tell us to do?” That’s something that Ramah Kudaimi, 26, has experienced firsthand as well. The D.C.-based activist currently works for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Her parents are Syrian immigrants and doctors who expected and wanted her to follow in their paths, but she always knew she wanted to do something else. “Parents tend to raise us a certain way and we end up becoming the people they raised us to be,” Kudaimi says. They taught her to care about people, and the world, and she chose to do activism. “When they were upset about my career choices, I told them, ‘you shouldn’t be surprised that I care about social justice issues when you taught me to care about people!’”
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
After earning her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in journalism and international relations, she took a year off to live in Syria. Following her father’s suggestion, she joined AmeriCorps, which changed everything for her. A year with the NGO, fueled her passion for the grassroots movement. She moved from one activism project to the next. “There’s no stability in what I do. My job is to get it done, for it to be over as soon as possible,” Kudaimi says. She worked on drones activism for a while, then anti-racism, and now she dedicates her time to ending the Israeli Occupation through grassroots activism. Kudaimi works in a field where she hears the laments of many Muslim Americans and immigrants, upset at the government and foreign policies, but she says with assertion that doctors and engineers can’t change these things. Everything begins at the foundation with grassroots activism, she says, adding that Muslim Americans must rise up and change things from the bottom up, change must come from within. “You need to speak truth to power,” Kudaimi says. Kudaimi counts her blessings she is able to experience a broad range of social justice work and muses that the need for stability in our parent’s generation is not as necessary anymore. Times are changing, as is the economy.
Amber Majid is a recent graduate of Florida State University interested in writing, religion and philanthropy.
How to find scholarships:
Scholarships for Muslim Kids While national tuition rates are on the rise, there are still options to find an affordable path to higher education. By Ruth Nasrullah
icture this: you’re graduating from a great Islamic school. Your teachers and other school staff have paved the way for you to embark on a fulfilling post-high school career. Alhamdulillah! The only thing standing between you and a meaningful college career is that daunting tuition bill. Student loans are available but may not be the answer, particularly for students or parents who are trying to avoid paying interest, or simply avoid debt in general. Don’t let finances get in the way of your education or career. Look into scholarships, which may be the best means of funding college. For Muslim students, some of the biggest scholarships support specific career fields, especially those in which Muslims are underrepresented, such as social work, journalism or public affairs. Many Islamic organizations reserve financial support for students who wish to pursue careers in those areas.
work in government, whether as an elected official or in public administration. Training in public affairs also gives you skills in running social service organizations or other nonprofit organizations. Whether you hope to work on behalf of the Muslim community or bring your Islamic values to the public arena, studying public affairs will enable you to begin a career in those fields.
Journalism Journalism is another field under-represented by Muslims. Although journalists must maintain objectivity in reporting and thus can’t use a newspaper or studio as a soapbox, being trained in journalism can prepare a Muslim student for a career track in public relations or marketing. Another consideration in this academic
Social work Social work is one field in which increased Muslim presence would be beneficial. Issues such as foster care for Muslim children or sensitivity training to the special needs and concerns of Muslim patients can best be addressed by Muslim social workers. Social work encompasses a variety of responsibilities, from case management for hospital patients or the needy, to family counseling. Both in the hospital setting and in outpatient treatment, having Muslims in the field will help ensure that special concerns are recognized, acknowledged and addressed. Do you love working with people, giving time and energy to those who need assistance in managing or improving their lives? Consider social work and look into scholarships that would support your study.
Politics and public service At this time there are only two Muslims in Congress and a sadly small number in political office at any level. Studying public policy or public affairs prepares a student for 32
field is changes in modern media. As the newsroom becomes a thing of the past and multi-platform independent reporters – and bloggers – are more present on the scene, editorial choices about what topics to cover are increasingly up to the reporter himself. Also consider freelance writing. Freelancers can pitch Muslim- or Islam-related stories to editors and help shape the exposure Muslim life gets on air and in print. If you love to write, talk with people and research information, journalism may be the path for you.
Scholarships in these fields If you are interested in one of these subject areas, there are several scholarships available. Here are a few to evaluate. The Islamic Scholarship Fund provides academic financial support for Muslims in many of the fields mentioned above. See
1 Just ask around! A good academic funding source might be in your own backyard. There are some scholarships associated with a particular mosque or local/regional community organization for which you might be eligible. 2 A great website listing various scholarships available to Muslim students is here: http://muslimscholarships.blogspot.com/. 3 Scholarships.com is a comprehensive search site that includes a list of Muslim-specific funding options here: http://scholarships.com/financial-aid/collegescholarships/scholarships-by-type/religiousscholarships/muslim-scholarships/. 4 Don’t forget to include generalized sites in your search. Here are some: • FastWeb at http://www.fastweb.com/ • Peterson’s at http://www.petersons.com/ college-search/how-to-pay-for-college.aspx • Student Scholarship Search at http://www.studentscholarshipsearch.com/. 5 Don’t forget your school’s guidance counselor, your teachers and your principal.
their website at http://www.islamicscholarshipfund.org/. Support for journalism majors is offered through the Aziz Jamaluddin Scholarship in Journalism (administered by ISNA). See their website at http://www.isna.net/articles/ News/ISNA-Unveils-Aziz-JamaluddinScholarship-in-Journalism.aspx. The Jack Shaheen Mass Communication Scholarships, administered by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, support students in journalism and similar fields. See their website at http://www.adc. org/education/jack-g-shaheen-mass-communications-scholarship/. Sisters in Solidarity to Educate, Respond and Serve offers scholarships to Muslimah students with a demonstrated background in community service work. See their website at http://sistersinsolidarity.com/. ISNA also offers the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal ISNA Fellowship Program intended to support Muslim Americans pursuing graduate studies in the management and governance of nonprofit organizations in the U.S. There is more information at their website at http://www.isna. net/events/Special-Announcement/HRHPrince-Alwaleed-Bin-Talal-ISNA-Fellowship-Program.aspx. If you want to be part of politics or organizational management, look for scholarships that will support you as a Muslim citizen in political or organizational endeavors. A key organization is the Dollar-a-Day fund. See their website: http://muslimscholarship.org/ scholar.htm.
Ruth Nasrullah is a freelance writer living in Houston.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Education Forum Focus
Building Learning Skills Designs that help facilitate thinking and memory By Susan Labadi
n a challenging world, the abilities to utilize expert thinking and complex communication are vital. Expert thinking is about identifying patterns, relationships and problem solving; while complex communication concerns listening, analyzing, evaluating and conveying communication via various means and modalities. These skill-based tools need to be incorporated in the classroom amid competing noise. Note the typical teenager, who is “working” on a homework assignment while on Facebook and Twitter, playing music in the background, while watching a favorite TV show and texting in persistent, relentless, interrupting circuits. Adults probably cannot maintain as many tasks, but several of us drive while listening to the radio, and either talk or communicate via texting simultaneously. Insurers as well as brain researchers verify that this does not work very well. The brain does not multitask, so tell the kids to “turn off ” while studying because the brain can only focus on one thing at a time. It may seem that we can juggle from task to task, but in reality the brain is such a miracle that it can shift rapidly. Yet, each shift takes time and creates a need to reorient to the task at hand. Predigested and condensed TV and the Internet content voids the need to think. Criticisms abound that we are dumbing down, so how do we ramp up and engage our precious time in this life toward love of learning and creative solutions?
To Focus and Think Bored or stressed brains don’t learn, but the experience of stress is relative. Some are psychologically resilient, while others very sensitive to lessor stressors. Students can experience stress from their social circles, from home, school, and health issues. Their brains develop the ability to think abstractly if exercised, especially during adolescence. That is why some are capable while others are struggling in the amazingly volatile years of middle school. The adage “use it or lose it” effectively describes the brain, and the economical brain builds or prunes accord34
ing to usage. Exercise deeper thinking in our youth in order for them to be capable of understanding complex issues in their future. We respect the functions of the brain and our ability as teachers and parents to relate and manipulate our youth’s experiences in order to enhance learning results. “[A]bout 10 percent of students do not have brains sufficiently wired to read at the age at which we expect them to read,” said John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University. The door to learning opens if the stimulus is novel, elicits an emotion, or connects to another strong memory. If class is boring, the brain will filter it out, so lessons need to “rate” to have a chance at staying in memory. Students are doomed if overloaded, and feel that they lack control over the outcome of their efforts. They don’t relate a link between effort and positive results if they feel hopeless. Differentiation has to encourage achievement rates across all levels, and greater depth may be the focus of the accelerated learners. Effective teachers evoke this type of intelligence; they are acutely aware, metacognitive, verifying through feedback that they are understood.
Supercharge and Prime the Brain Besides providing novelty and reducing stress, a neuron growth substance Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BNDF) has been correlated with decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s, depression, bipolar disorder and several other debilitating conditions. Exercise seems to play a vital role in producing BNDF and increasing neural growth, memory and learning. This is a mandate for daily gym classes, active recess times, or at least some class-bound exercise. Most studies done on running to measure BNDF, and a very motivated PE instructor in Naperville, Ill. took the initiative to compare high school students who were enrolled in first period Learning Readiness PE versus taking the standard PE course.
John Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, finds that students enrolled in “zero hour” running before school that had Literacy class in the first period outperformed those who had Literacy in eighth period. Furthermore, those in the early running class improved 17 percent by the end of the semester compared with a 10.7 percent improvement for all other students who took standard PE. Guidance counselors started suggesting that students take their hardest subjects directly after PE. Of further interest, Math scores went up 20 percent for the exercised group versus 2 percent for those who did not attend the early running class. “The exercise itself doesn’t make you smarter, but it puts the brain of learners in the optimal position for them to learn,” Ratey says. He calls BNDF a sort of “Miracle-Gro for the brain.” Medina quotes UCLA physician-scientist Dr. Antronette Yancey, herself an athlete,“Kids pay better attention to their subjects when they’ve been active. Kids are less likely to be disruptive in terms of classroom behavior when they’re active. Kids feel better about themselves, have higher self-esteem, less depression, less anxiety. All of those things can impair academic performance and attentiveness.” Substantial evidence is pouring in and teachers are even having their students learn multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks. Teachers who work with ADHD specialized classes have found that 20 minutes of treadmill or weightlifting time results in two hours of focused learning. It has well been worth the investment. Everyone can benefit—parents, students,
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
and teachers—from physical activity in the course of each day.
Connecting Learning to Foster Deep Thought How do you improve the climate for a productive learning environment? Information and technological overload and a myriad of other factors can exacerbate stress to the point of inhibiting learning. We can minimize the threat to the child if we: create a connected, participatory, egalitarian community; provide a nurturing environment with consistent patterns; organize intermediate goals and deadlines for frequent feedback; and offer redo opportunities and reward effort while minimizing risk. Design the learning experience to follow some physical activity which refreshes the learner whenever possible; use emotion to facilitate attention and readiness through telling a story, connect to previous knowledge, present an opportunity to initiate a thought-provoking question, and let the student know, “why does this matter.” Instructors should be giving students an outline for the day’s session, and help keep them focused by indicating milestones as the
lesson progresses. This acknowledges pacing as well as reduces stress when students feel supported. Attention can be focused for a recap about 10 minutes before the brain downshifts briefly—perhaps to digest. Wise instructors use the downshift time to transition to an activity, or have students use the content in a manner which internalizes it into memory. Combining modalities of input and then actually having the students do something with the material puts it into long-term memory. Medina emphasizes memories must have relevance to the students’ minds, experiences, or interest; and must be repeated so it resides deeply; ideally have an emotional content; and be delivered in an organized, hierarchical, or patterned manner. Practical applications of evoking deeper processing include: Think-Pair-Share, Partner discussions; Compare Similarities and Differences; Games, Debates, Skits, Demonstrations; Creating Graphic Organizers, Graphs, Pictures; Use Humor, Novelty, Change Seats, Lighting, Scents; and Freshen Bulletin Boards. While we connect within each academic discipline, teachers and parents should also
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
network to connect with other subjects. Science Fair time can combine English with science; math can combine with computer class for graphs and using Excel; Islamic studies can work with social studies and science for the prolific scholars of the Golden Age; Arabic can work with art in calligraphy; and other foreign languages with story translation and punctuation. The permutations across disciplines are vast, and they bring more enrichment to the students’ experiences. The brain seeks to organize; intuitively looks for patterns, and young learners can anchor to the content if teachers pinpoint them. Adults must explain, connect, and verify for comprehension. With abundance of resources in this field, adults need to continue their own learning to meet the future for our students’ sake. Our students must become wise, and only the best teachers and savvy parents can cultivate stellar students who can lead and prosper with their executive skills.
Susan Labadi, member of the ISNA Education Forum Planning Committee, a registered professional development provider (www.geniusschoolonline.com); serves on the accreditation teams for AdvancEd; and is also project coordinator for the American Halal Association.
Education Forum Papers
Treasury of Muslim Literature Muslim Americans develop an integrated curriculum that nurtures an Islamic worldview. By Freda Shamma
he absence of literature that could help nurture an Islamic worldview in students proves to be a major challenge for Muslim educators. There are absolutely no books that include God’s role in one’s life. Ismail al-Faruqi, the late Muslim scholar, once said, “The greatest calamity of the Muslim world is the existence of so many teachers without any Islamic vision.” Muslim teachers, though well meaning, for the most part have been raised with a secular worldview. They are unconsciously basing their teachings on this worldview, even while trying to attach an Islamic perspective to the secular books they are teaching from.
they did significant work on history, language arts and Islamic studies. One product of this project is the Treasury of Muslim Literature – The Golden Age: 750-1250 CE (130-650 AH). A school’s curriculum includes the school environment, teachers, administration, the list of what is to be taught, and textbooks. Hiring and/or training teachers with an Islamic worldview is the most important change to be made, but also the most labor intensive, expensive change. To at least begin to move beyond talk, one textbook has recently been published. “Treasury of Muslim Literature, an anthology of writings by Muslims with an
long, with a beginning and ending address in which he praises God and asks for His help; and at the end, he thanks God and asks him for help against plagiarizers. Even in “1,001 Nights,” every creature, human or otherwise, attests to God’s superiority, and many of the stories are moral tales. Without the teacher saying a single word, the Muslim student infers that the literature is based on an Islamic view of the world. The selections in the anthology represent many famous Muslim writers, featuring topics of interest and importance to modern Muslim youth, which should lead to a more positive self-concept and the beginning of the idea that knowledge and writing should be used for the betterment of humankind. In terms of integrating subjects, the anthology contains biographies and selections from Imam Abu Hanifa to al-Ghazali. It contains history from al-Tabari and alMas’udi, geography from al-Biruni, Ibn Fadlan and al-Bakri; government from Nizam al-Mulk and al-Mawardi. Of course it also includes what is more commonly found
The greatest calamity of the Muslim world is the existence of so many teachers without any Islamic vision.” —Dr. Ismail al-Faruqi What happens to the students who graduate from schools with this dual secularreligious education? Al-Faruqi explains that students arrive at college with “an emotional, as opposed to a correct intellectual or ideological [understanding of] Islam. These sentiments and emotions are shipwrecked when [he is] confronted with the ideas, facts, and the objective judgments of science in modern disciplines.” An Islamic worldview logically leads to the concept of a fully-integrated curriculum where the unity of God’s creation dictates learning across subject lines. During 199598, a group of subject scholars and educators worked on an integrated curriculum at the International Islamic University (IIU) in Malaysia. It was a daunting task which they were not able to complete. However, 36
Islamic worldview, focuses on the literature of the Abbasid Period which is the focus of study in the history class according to the IIU developed curriculum. It contains a brief biography of more than 35 Muslim authors who lived during the years 750-1250 CE (130650 AH) plus a selection of their writings. The selections offers more than 17 genres of writing from a time when education was based on an Islamic worldview. Most of them started their studies with Quran and Islamic sciences before going on to study mathematics, history, medicine, grammar, etc. Thus, they started with an Islamic worldview, which shows in their writing. Al-Hariri wrote a book to demonstrate his mastery of the Arabic language—and the majority of the book is eloquent discourses on religious subjects. Al-Mas’udi wrote a massive history, more than 30 volumes
in the literature class: epics, autobiographies, biographies, moral tales, belle-lettres (or high literature), memoirs, folk stories, jokes, essays and poetry. How does the writing of Western-educated Muslims differ from Muslim authors’ works from the Golden Age? First, these early Muslims’ writings had a purpose—God instructs us to learn about what happened to the people who preceded us, to write about moral values in an interesting way in order to inculcate those values into every Muslim’s mind, to learn Arabic grammar in order to understand the Quran better, to study the sky for determining the beginning of Ramadan, to study mathematics as a way of understanding the infinity of God better, to write biographies of people who are models worth emulating. Second, they acknowledged their debt to
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Position: IMAM/EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Islamic Center of Maryland (ICM) seeks to hire a highly qualified, energetic, and dynamic Imam/Executive Director for the Center.
Teaching from two opposing worldviews in Islamic schools is both false and damaging to students. God, that their intellect is a gift from Him, that their success or safety or arrival at a certain destination is dependent upon Him. Third, their “short stories” or “novels” were written for a religious purpose. (These genres are in quotation marks because they didn’t exist as such in the Muslim world.) “The Envied and the Envier” is a short, story from “1,001 Nights.” The central characters are not given personal names, like the characters in a modern short story. Instead they stand for certain characteristics. The Envier makes many problems for the good man he envies, but the Envied one is a good person who overlooks much and forgives all. The purpose of the story is to educate while entertaining, while the purpose of the modern short story is simply to entertain, or for the satisfaction of the author. The Treasury’s selections integrate Islam and literature and often history and geography. Every entry can be read for the purposes of secular language arts instruction (vocabulary development, spelling, beginning to advanced reading skills, listening, speaking, writing skills, common core standards), while at the same time every entry could be used in the religion class to teach Islamic values. Some of the selections can also be used in other classes, like history, geography, or science. There is a good case to be made for teaching Western classics in our Islamic school classes, but blind following of the usual reading texts will not lead to this objective. Instead Islamic schools could carefully consider which classics are important for North American Muslim students to be acquainted with.
Freda Shamma, Ph.D., is the founder of the Foundation on for Advancement and Development of Education and Learning.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Organization: ICM is located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. ICM community consists of members from Asia (particularly from the sub-continent — India/Pakistan/Bangladesh), Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Americas. The Center serves anywhere between five to ten thousand Muslims in the upper Montgomery County area of the state of Maryland. ICM has two governing bodies: A seven member Board of Trustees and an Executive Committee headed by the Executive Director. Members of the Board are elected by the voting members (General Body), whereas members of the Executive Committee including the Executive Director are appointed by the Board. Imam / Executive Director is an invited member to the Board of Trustees. Responsibilities: ➧ You will design and execute plans and programs to help address the community’s educational and spiritual needs, particularly of the Muslim youth. You are expected to take initiative in enlightening and uniting the community through intellectually stimulating Islamic and social programs. These programs include courses in fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), Quran hifz (memorization) programs, social programs/ workshops/seminars that address contemporary social, cultural, and religious problems including family issues and domestic violence, and establishment of a full-time Islamic school as a goal. ➧ Establish daily prayers and regular weekly programs as well as special programs during the month of Ramadan and Dhul-Hijjah. ➧ Help with formulating topics and themes for Jummah Khutba (Friday Sermon) at ICM and its satellite locations. Train khateeb (prayer leaders) in Jummah Khutba. ➧ Firm up Zakah and social services programs. ➧ Help establish creative fund raising programs to address the Center’s growing needs. ➧ Establish programs that will build bridges with people of other faiths and improve outreach to the community at large. This is particularly important given the prevailing environment and the need to reach out to others to address religious defamation. ➧ Help establish a library and make it the best source of Islamic literature for Muslims and people of other faiths in the Washington metropolitan area. ➧ Represent ICM at the conventions and meetings of national organizations. These include both Muslim and non-Muslim organizations. Requirements: ➧ A degree in Islamic sciences or equivalent. ➧ Must be well versed in the field of Tafseer with sound knowledge of Hadith. ➧ Must have a broad-based understanding of the science of fiqh andtheability to understand and accommodate different but established fiqhi positions. ➧ Eligibility to reside and work in the United States of America. ➧ Leadership qualities desired include: • Personable with excellent communication skills. • Ability to manage day to day operations of an Islamic center. • Ability to understand and analyze the needs and issues of Muslims in America, particularly of the youth (to work with the youth and to befriend them). ➧ Ability to work with Muslim women and to help them realize their full potential as mothers, daughters, sisters, etc. Compensation Package: ➧ Salary will be commensurate with education and experience. ➧ Benefits include health insurance and housing allowance. ➧ Depending on the need, a motor vehicle can be provided. Please apply in confidence by sending your resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org Islamic Center of Maryland 19411 Woodfield Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20879 • 301-840-9440 | www.icomd.org
Education Forum Papers
Where the Pencil Meets the Page Any Islamic school can establish writing centers and best tutoring practices. By Kate Balogh
he Ibrahim Müteferrika Literacy Center (IMLC) at the Villa Park, Ill.-based Islamic Foundation School, celebrated its 100th session mid-October last year. The center’s name honors Müteferrika (1674-1745), the first Muslim to run a printing press with movable Arabic type. The tutors set up the room, hiding balloons and a congratulatory message behind a mobile whiteboard. The classes were ushered to IMLC under the ruse of a “special workshop.” When Omar, the unsuspecting junior who had scheduled this appointment a week in advance, walked to the back of the room to meet with his tutor, he was greeted by his classmates’ cheers, confetti poppers, streamers and the grand prize of an IMLC mug filled with candy and a bright orange flash drive. Classes returned to their assigned rooms, confetti lay strewn across the tables and chairs, and Omar and his tutor settled into their session to revise a paper. The IMLC seeks to address serious concerns about the state of writing, reading and general literacy in the school. These concerns were supported by declining grades and test scores. And students seemed to have little interest in writing and did not write unless forced to and did not value the act of writing as a social, recursive process. This attitude was evident in all forms of writing throughout the school. Students turned in papers copied entirely from Internet sources with careless detachment. There was no outlet for creative writing, and little interest in creating one. As a department, we had recently made significant curriculum changes, but still saw little improvement in attitudes about writing and actual writing. This was not just a passing concern; it was a serious problem with serious repercussions. Quite simply, students saw no value in the process or product of writing. While it is too early to determine its effect on test scores, IMLC has seen incredible success. There are noticeable changes in the students’ daily lives—changes that can happen in any school, even those without the resources to create a stand-alone space.
Attitude goes a long way If you want writing, reading and literacy to change in your school, attitudes about these 38
things need to change first. Writing cannot be a means to an end. Reading cannot be just books for class. Students, parents, and the school community need to find importance in the process of writing, the value of reading, and critical thinking about both in order to truly make progress. Our school’s IMLC has made it a priority to establish this attitude. We acknowledge that writing is difficult. We let students see us, as writers, struggle in the process. But we also let them see us succeed, and find joy, and engage in the craft of writing and the
personal experience of reading. Literacy is a school-wide endeavor. We take it outside of the classroom confines and display it in hallways, on bulletin boards, and over the intercom.
Invest in the writing culture you want
If you want writing, reading and literacy to change in your school, attitudes about these things need to change first.
Attitudes about writing won’t change overnight, but IMLC has proved that the only way to get others to invest in the idea is to first invest in it ourselves. Some of the most successful high school and universities literacy centers began with the commitment of a small group of like-minded teachers with the support of parents, administration and literacy leaders in the community. We wear our orange IMLC sweatshirts as often as our students do. We discuss our tutoring sessions with colleagues every chance we can. We brainstorm and implement ways to Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
writers about “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, the role of education in contemporary society, and the permissibility of praying the Fajr sunnah once the obligatory Fajr prayer has begun. Learning has been a shared experience, and it only took the time and space required to have a conversation.
Think in circles
start traditions and continuity. We advocate IMLC and its goals, and as students see our commitment, they advocate for it, too. A shared purpose and vision was the IMLC’s true origin, conceived in a cramped office during a routine planning meeting.
We won’t address grammar and mechanics unless the paper is a true final draft. We are not teachers. We are fellow writers, sympathetic readers, and general audiences. And we are here to talk about writing. Conversations with
The physical space needed to have writing and reading conversations is worth addressing. Some schools may be unable to designate a classroom or office or resources for the Literacy Center. But if there are still writers willing to talk, they can make do with what they have. In designing the IMLC, two things were important: it had to be different than other school spaces, and it had to have round tables. It had to be different so students could immediately recognize the attitude was different. And the tables had to be round because desks aren’t. Such conversations during tutoring sessions don’t happen staring at the back of a teacher’s computer. In some schools, it may be a hallway or cafeteria or a quiet corner of a classroom. Wherever conversations happen, if they place students as writers and readers on a level playing field with tutors as fellow writers and readers, they have, in essence, created a literacy center. Any teacher, any school, can do this. They do not need an orange wall or wireless computers or comfortable chairs to change writing in their school. Certainly these things help, but they are not necessary. If there are students, there are writers. And if there is a school community of teachers, administrators, and parents that believes in the potential of those writers, then there is a literacy center.
Kate Balogh is the Literacy Center Coordinator at Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park, Ill.
Pull up a chair and listen Tutoring is essentially a conversation between writers. It may look like a meeting about grades, a grammar fix-it shop, or an expert telling a novice everything that has been done wrong. It may look like those things, and it may even be those things in some schools. But meaningful collaborative learning is beautifully simple. It is a conversation. Writing is changing in our school because we have made physical and intellectual space for these conversations. Each session begins by reminding students that IMLC is not about grades or rubrics. Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Muslims in Action
MYNA Raps Turn
The mix tapes that inspired a generation of Muslim American artists. By Samana Siddiqui
is name was Cheez Coney, and the basement of his Cincinnati, Ohio home was a makeshift studio with a few instruments. But for the small group of young American Muslims from across the U.S. making history on that sweltering long weekend in 1992, it didn’t matter.
“I was just excited to be there. I remember asking him if he was Muslim, and he said, ‘Aren’t we all?’” recalls Yaseen Alkhattab, one of the performers on MYNA Raps 1. This was the first tape of Islamically-inspired rap songs, poems, and skits under the aegis of the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA). “We used spoons, stomping, and anything else we could find to make sound effects,” says Zubaid Kazmi, the DJ featured on MYNA Raps 1. “The entire script of the tape had not really been defined prior to this weekend—which was unfortunate
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
because some of the skits seem pretty ridiculous—although we were having fun making them.” “It was very funny as we had to wait for motorcycles to pass by, and try many takes. But other than that, I think it was all high points, especially when we finished it. Everyone was very excited to have music that was a product of our own,” says Joshua Salaam. Salaam, now famous as one of the three performers of the Muslim music group Native Deen, never guessed what this tape would lead him to in 20 years—a career that has him touring the globe and performing Islamic songs at venues as diverse as a dirt stage in Mali to the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London. MYNA Raps 1 may have been recorded on soon-to-be obsolete cassette technology. But its influence, and the role it continues to play, resonates with artists, performers, and most importantly, Muslim youth. It pioneered the soundtrack of young American Muslims’ lives, and provided a much-needed platform for expression in an age before the internet introduced YouTube, blogs and other DIY productions. “[They] were expressing themselves creatively while talking about life and death issues, loving God, things that were stressing us out, dreams for our future and so many other things that we cared about. By ‘we’ I mean Muslim teenagers,” says Jawaad Abdul Rahman, the MYNA advisor who oversaw the production of MYNA Raps 1. “We had never heard anything like it.”
The fusion of MYNA and raps In the early 1990s, rap had become mainstream. African-American artists’ songs of the genre had been sharing the story of their struggles as a community since the 1970s. But now, it gained the airplay needed to give it popular appeal, particularly among youth. “It was the voice of young people, especially in the black community,” says Naeem Muhammad, who joined MYNA Raps after being inspired by the first tape. “Growing up in an urban setting, it was the music all around me,” Salaam says. “Everyone I knew was into rap. Maybe if I grew up in Memphis, I would be singing country.” But it wasn’t just African-American youth who adopted the genre. The Muslim, American-born children of immigrants, also embraced rap en masse. “Rap was the viable medium for our
expression of the time,” says Faisal Khatri, who also performed on MYNA Raps 1. “This was the age of Public Enemy, KRS-1, X-Clan, and positive rap. Rap was urban, grassroots, revolutionary, and distinctly antiestablishment and anti-injustice. It was the natural medium.” A number of young American Muslims were already rapping on their own, infusing their beloved genre with words reflective of their experiences. “The first song I ever wrote fully was a rap with me and my friends. I was in fifth grade and it was for my Islamic studies class,” Muhammad recalls. “The teacher knew we were all into rap, and challenged us to write a rap about Ramadan.” Mainstream rap was also no stranger to his religion. “Hip hop has always had a relationship with Islam,” Muhammad says. “More and more rappers were making Islamic references in their music. But there was a need for an authentic Muslim voice and music that was intrinsically and overtly Islamic, and intrinsically and overtly American.” The Muslim Youth of North America had been established in 1985 under the umbrella of the Islamic Society of North America. Its primary activity was organizing camps and conferences. This was where young Muslims from across the continent would converge to not only learn more about their faith and socialize with each other, but to entertain and be entertained. “Entertainment was the highlight of the camps,” says Abdul Rahman. “Some of the songs, raps, skits, etc. were so moving, so funny, so inspirational, made everyone feel good, like a community of people who care about each other. When camp participants would see each other later they would start by talking about the entertainment night during the camp. As youth, we all wanted the songs recorded but didn’t really know where to begin. I think eventually the feeling was—let’s just decide we are going to do it and figure it out as we go along. “I think also, as the first groups of MYNA youth were graduating and moving on to college, not coming anymore to camps, there was a sense that we needed to save some of those wonderful memories before we lost our chance.” Moreover, the organization was experiencing significant participation and interest, with hundreds of youth attending its events and getting involved in its projects.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
“The 1990s were the most successful and most active MYNA years,” says Nancy Hanaan Seraj, the 1993-94 MYNA president, who also led the committee that worked on the first MYNA Raps tape. “We were booming, growing, creating, and developing. These artists were around and active in the 90s and because of them we had MYNA Raps!” “We really felt the need to mass distribute the music being written and performed during these events. Youth loved what they were hearing and wanted to be able to hear it all the time,” Seraj says. But taking it to the stage of recording required a team effort. The coalescing of active and enthusiastic MYNA youth, the popularity of rap as a medium, as well as the need to respond to the kind of music young Muslims were listening to gave rise to it. “There was an overwhelming concern, mainly by parents and people at the conservative end of the spectrum, that music was a bad influence and an Islamically inspired alternative was required,” Kazmi says. “It was probably the perfect storm of advisers who were willing to entertain the idea (and) youth who were receptive to it and willing to put in the effort to make it a reality.”
Walking the tightrope between a rap and an Islamic place Developing an alternative that was Islamic while being an authentic voice of the American Muslim youth experience proved challenging. Varying scholarly opinions on the permissibility of music, singing and entertainment needed to be hashed out. “The controversy then was the controversy now. Should sisters be allowed to rap or sing as well? Should musical instruments be allowed? If so, which ones?” Salaam asks. “That entire debate hasn’t moved much. People are either for it or against it. Not much in between.” It was agreed that drums and percussion instruments were to be used only. “At the camps themselves, various scholars who were there at the camps were consulted and that’s the position they took regarding the entertainment programs themselves,” says Abdul Rahman. “So MYNA Raps became an extension of that approach.” Rap was an ideal medium for a drumsonly production since “rock ‘n roll was based on string instruments. Rap was 41
Muslims in Action based on the words and the instruments were mainly drums to highlight the words,” says Khatri. The issue of including female vocalists also posed a challenge. “Sisters wanted to be part of the project, but our advisors would not allow girls to rap or sing solo,” says Seraj. “No groups were around and no sisters were actively writing or performing. Girls were happy to join in on spoken word performances.” Although the first MYNA Raps did not include young women’s vocals, all subsequent productions did. “It took a little bit of time to convince the parents and elders that we were providing a Muslim alternative for kids who thirsted for Muslim popular personalities and entertainers with messages that inspire instead of destroy, and encourage strength and selfcontrol instead of living for immediate gratification,” Khatri says. “It was well accepted after the initial period of uneasiness.”
Distribution & Reception in the pre-internet age After assembling the team, getting the approval from advisors, and recording and making copies of the tape, the next stage was distribution—before the time of a Facebook page or a website to generate a buzz. “In an era before Facebook, the Internet, and cellphones, these tapes were able to be sold internationally almost entirely through the efforts of high-school aged kids,” notes Kazmi. In 1992, that meant selling MYNA Raps 1 at conferences, camps, and the ISNA convention, through advertisements in New Dawn, MYNA’s official magazine, and word of mouth. As basic as this was, it was surprising how these methods popularized the tape. “The ISNA Convention was a huge deal,” Salaam says. “Thousands of Muslim from around America and Canada, they would take back bits and pieces of the convention to share with their friends and family back home. Teachers started using MYNA Raps in their classes.” It was also taken overseas. “People came from all over the world came to the ISNA convention and would take all these different products back with them to their home countries,” says Muhammad. “So much so that when we played our first show in Manchester, England 10 years ago, people were singing the choruses and knew the songs (of MYNA Raps).” Once available, MYNA Raps 1 allayed 42
parents’ fears about the Islamicity of the production. “We really played by the ‘rules’, nothing controversial, and we really adhered to our advisors’ guidelines,” said Seraj. “I actually remember parents and the community being really welcoming. They much preferred the youth listening to something produced with Islamic lyrics and values.” MYNA Raps 1 also “eventually landed in the hands of the future: Abdul-Malik Ahmad and Naeem Muhammad,” says Salaam. Both wrote and produced on every subsequent MYNA Raps production, and are currently the other two members of Native Deen. “They heard it, listened to it, wanted to take it to the ‘next level’—and they did.” “It was the first time I had ever experienced Islamic music that as an American Muslim I could relate to,” Ahmad says. “The other (Islamic) music was from overseas, Arabic or Yusuf Islam’s song ‘A is for Allah.’ This was the first thing I could relate to.” “The first MYNA Raps tape was what pushed me to do MYNA Raps 2, 3, 4, and 5 because it was so revolutionary,” he says. “I had memorized all of the songs and I still know them.” It was exactly the effect the team wanted. “MYNA Raps and the MYNA experience in general helped Muslim youth realize that they didn’t have to look at Islam and America as an either/or proposition,” says Abdul Rahman. “The songs and raps from MYNA Raps were uniquely American but spoke of a believer’s perspective, hopes, and dreams.”
Setback: Poets of Islam a.k.a. MYNA Raps 2 With the success of MYNA Raps 1, more youth became interested in producing another set of songs. Nabeel Kaukab, MYNA’s vice president and treasurer at the time, spearheaded the effort, becoming the executive producer for the MYNA Raps 2 CD entitled “Poets of Islam,” which was made during the summer of 1993. “I felt like it was my duty to put together this effort, as I really wanted to make a product that people would legitimately listen to and could compete with the music teenagers listen to. All too often, people assume that if you put a Muslim label on something it will sell or be interesting to their kids. Reality is that beyond the one-time novelty, Muslims are just consumers, too. They were not putting away their Dr. Dre or Public Enemy CDs
From left, Naeem Muhammad, Joshua Salaam and Abdul-Malik Ahmad form the Islamic hip-hop group Native Deen.
unless the alternative was of a comparable quality and worth listening to.” “When we created it, we went above and beyond what anyone expected, as we were able to get professional musicians, CD printing, sampling (a staple of hip-hop at the time as well as now), even radio airplay. “Despite incredible hype and interest, the CD was ‘banned’ during its release at ISNA in 1993 because of some internal concerns that were primarily surrounding the use of non-percussion instruments on some of the tracks,” says Kaukab. “It seemed to me that we kept on trying to see how far we could take things before the community started to object,” Seraj says. “I just don’t think the community was ready for mainstream soundtracks to be used. This was a new arena and the community just wasn’t ready for it.” “I cannot say it was unjustified,” Khatri says of the CD being banned. “I believe they (parents and community elders) were under the initial impression that it would be similar to MYNA Raps 1 in that it would focus on drums and percussion, and human voices.” Muhammad, who also performed on “Poets of Islam,” says in hindsight, it was also less involvement from advisors that may have led to the ban. “We didn’t have as much adult supervision involved as in the first one,” he says. “We were left to our own devices in a studio which was both awesome and reckless.” He says concerns about copyright issues also came to the surface after the team sampled songs from
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
with vocals of young Muslim women reading verses of the Quran or performing spoken word poetry. “The production quality and level of musicianship just wasn’t there,” says Muhammad. “That wasn’t something most people were investing in. And not everyone was interested in giving this a chance. It was bad in the beginning but as the productions progressed and you could hear it and see it. That’s why by the third edition we called it ‘The Next level’ because though we were still rough, we were finding our voice, and finding our way through it all.” “The hardest part was getting people to contribute,” says Ahmad. “Naeem and myself are most featured on MYNA raps 2 to 4.”
Moving on to Native Deen and the MYNA Raps legacy two popular music bands and one singer. Despite this discouraging setback, Kaukab said ultimately, the controversy resulted in opening up the discussion of issues surrounding music in Islam. “Like most things in life, change only comes when people push the envelope and fight for it,” he says. “I would argue that because of the debate that we initiated and mainstreamed, musicians, community advisors, and even some scholars chose to revisit their opinions and reconsider their stances on music.”
On to MYNA Raps and beyond With the fallout of MYNA Raps 2, interest in making another tape dwindled. But Ahmad decided to persist. “After the Poets of Islam wasn’t produced, it was a big disappointment because a lot of money was spent and it was a kind of letdown,” he says. “For a good year or two there was nothing.” He finally decided to send a proposal to produce a third tape to his MYNA advisor, Mahmood Kazmi, asking for funding. After agreement from others in the organization, Ahmad was given “$1,000 to go to a studio and get stuff recorded. My reaction was ‘we got it, we can do it.’” MYNA Raps 3, like its first predecessor, was a small-scale production. Ahmad found a small studio near his home in Maryland. It was here that he and Muhammad recorded the raps they wrote and produced, coupled
After producing MYNA Raps 5, the group decided to disband in 1999. In 2000, Ahmad, Muhammad, and Salaam formed Native Deen, which continues to garner international success since the release of the group’s first album Deen You Know. “I think we kind of felt MYNA was for the youth and it was time for youth to take over that project,” Salaam says. “We were all well into our 20s by 1999. So we moved on to form our own group called Native Deen. And for the first five years, all we did was travel the world singing songs from MYNA Raps. The first Native Deen album did not come out until 2005.” “Without MYNA Raps there is no Native Deen,” Muhammad says. This is clear when considering the format of the group’s productions. This includes beginning with a chant, reading of or reminders of verses of the Quran, as well as interludes of conversation, often DJ-style, all hallmarks of the MYNA Raps tapes. While MYNA Raps never completely replaced the contemporary music youth were listening to, they did offer a muchneeded alternative. “It was our own little sub-culture within the music/rap world,” says Salaam. “We had our own thing. We had our own stars. It was new, cool, and different.” “People were and still are looking for Islamic alternatives to what’s mainstream so that they can preserve their Islamic identity,” says Alkhattab. Seraj echoes Alkhattab’s thought. “Youth today are being bombarded with Top 40, mainstream, over-sexualized pop
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
and rap music. It would be great to see this continue. The need still exists,” Seraj says. MYNA Raps is also playing a role in parenting the next generation of Muslims. “When I’m explaining certain life concepts to my eight-year-old son, I find myself sometimes inadvertently mentioning the beautifully stated, clever MYNA raps lyrics, like ‘Are my intentions alright/Am I doing it for Allah/When I’m looking deep, deep down inside/Do I have the right niyyah,’” Abdul Rahman says. “You could have this same conversation with hundreds of parents who were once MYNA youth and they will tell you the same thing. That’s an amazing legacy. Imagine the Sadaqa Jariya, the reward of continuous charity, for the artists.” Ultimately, Muhammad hopes that, “people can see how far a little inspiration and help from friends, family, and advisors can create something beautiful and that despite the lack of proper training, proper studios, and musicians, something happened on those recordings that people swear changed their lives.”
Samana Siddiqui, content manager of Sound Vision Foundation’s website (www.soundvision.com), is also writer for the “Chicago Crescent.”
Orange Crescent School is currently seeking a principal. Candidates should meet the following minimum qualifications: ♦ A Master’s Degree in Educational Administration or equivalent. ♦ Administrative or leadership experience. ♦ An understanding of an Islamic Perspective in Education. ♦ Teaching experience at the Elementary and/or Middle School level. ♦ Knowledge of California Standards, Common Core Standards, Socio-cultural Learning Theory & techniques. ♦ Excellent oral and written communication skills, outstanding leadership abilities, personnel and budget management skills, and effective multitasking abilities. Please provide the following documents along with your submission: ✔ Resume/CV ✔ Administrative Credential Copy — Tier 1 or higher (A copy of a valid credential as it relates to the position in which you are applying) ✔ Letter of Introduction ✔ Letter(s) of Recommendation Interested candidates please apply immediately at: email@example.com
Muslims in Action
Having a Ball Off the Ice
The Montreal Muslim Ball Hockey Tournament completes 20 years and the tradition continues. By Shujaat Wasty
ith just three seconds left in the game, Stallions’ defens eman Ammar Zaheer scored the winning goal, securing the Montreal Muslim Ball Hockey (MBBH) championship win over defending champions, Wipers, 3-2. “The feeling is indescribable, knowing you just scored the tournament winner,” said Zaheer. “Our guys worked so hard all day, they deserved a championship and I felt on Cloud Nine because I was able to get it for them.” Teammate Sheryar Qadoos was as enthusiastic in talking about winning his first championship. “I’ve been playing in these amazing tournaments for quite a while now and I never thought I would be able to win a championship because of the strong competition Muslims all over Quebec, Ontario and elsewhere bring to this excellent event,” Qadoos said. “It feels incredible to win and be crowned champion of this amazing charity tournament!” This was the culmination of the 35th MMBH Tournament (http://mmbh.ca) held in Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue on Dec. 1, 2012, which also marked the league’s 20th year. The tournament featured many exciting and surprising moments, notably the shocking elimination of the top team. Award winners include Ali Noroozi (tournament MVP and best forward); Zubair Wahid (best defenseman); Shoaib Hasan Shaikh (best goaltender); Yousuf Rashid (playoff MVP); Umair Qadir and Fahd Hussain (sportsmanship); Khurrum Ullah (unsung hero).
The mainly biannual, volunteer-driven, nonprofit tournament, a longstanding tradition for the Montreal Muslim community, started with in 1992 with five teams. It has continued to grow since, now regularly attracting up to 20 teams and around 200 Muslim youth and adults, typically aged 15 to 45, from different parts of Quebec, Ontario, as well as other parts of Canada and the U.S., and occasionally overseas participants. It remains not only Canada’s but the world’s oldest and longest-running Muslim ball hockey tournament. Ball hockey, a team sport patterned after and closely related to ice hockey, the sport replaces a puck with a comparatively sized ball and is played on a dry floor instead of ice. The game’s official governing body, the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF), operates out of the Czech Republic and Canada. The federation consists of 39 countries and recognizes hundreds of thousands of players playing in organized leagues worldwide. The MMBH Tournament, based in Montreal in its rightful place as the Mecca of hockey, is an effective mechanism to showcase the successful integration of Muslim Canadians, a large, vibrant and diverse community whose contributions to Canadian society date back to before Confederation. The tournament also allows new Muslim immigrants to partake in a variation of Canada’s national sport. While the tournament is typical in many ways to any other in Canada in terms of intensity, competitiveness and quality of play, what sets it apart is the atmosphere
Ball hockey, a team sport patterned after and closely related to ice hockey, the sport replaces a puck with a comparatively sized ball and is played on a dry floor instead of ice. 44
of sportsmanship it offers for participants. There is zero tolerance for overly aggressive behavior and standard hockey rules have a unique addition of no swearing or vulgar talk being permitted (violating this rule can incur a hefty penalty). Also, there are universal breaks for prayers in congregation, and often motivational guest speakers. It also serves as platform for social and business interaction, with Muslim participants coming from diverse backgrounds: Anglophone, Francophone and allophone, ranging between first and second generation Canadians from over two dozen countries around the world to those whose ancestors have been in Canada since the earliest European settlers. Participants are equally diverse in their professional responsibilities; all are able to connect and network with each other. It is not uncommon to see friendships develop and business relationships establish and thrive through exchanges at the tournament. Corporate sponsorship packages provide for business visibility and marketing opportunities to a niche market. Sponsors tend to be as diverse as the participants, from eateries to lost and found experts. The MMBH Tournament also serves as a humanitarian tool for charitable work. This past 35th edition of the tournament collected and delivered close to 350 nonperishable food items to Sun Youth that serves youths, seniors, and individuals with low income or families with special needs. In the past three
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Elevating Muslim Americans Through the Arts By Eman Shurbaji
M years alone, the MMBH Tournament has provided approximately 2,215 nonperishable food items to various local Muslim and mainstream charitable initiatives. Ijaz Mohmand of Cornwall (Ont.) not only enjoys the event for “great hockey, and most importantly it’s for such a good cause.” Australia-born Montreal Canadiens fan Imran Lakhani, who now calls Ottawa home, says, “It’s pretty amazing to see that the tournaments have been successful through all these years. For me, the best thing about it all is that everyone can get together to play the sport they love and yet benefit those in need at the same time.” For Arssal Shahabuddin, a long-time participant ranks third in tournament history with nine championships. “The tournament is fun but aside from the entertainment and athletic aspects, I consider it a stepping stone to bring people together for the truly important community work,” Shahabuddin said. “Events like these serve as platforms to engender affection between each other so when we gather together to serve our community, and by extension our Creator, we will able to do so without problems.” Riaz Lasania, a tournament director, said, “I help organize these tournaments to get people together, come out and have fun in a Muslim environment and for a good cause.”
Shujaat Wasty is chief organizer and commissioner of the MMBH Tournament.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
uslim Americans are We must citizens who have a unique engender culture, and are thus just as inclined to represent the a Musim burgeoning Muslim American culture American culture through the arts, say Sarah Mostafa and that gives us the Ali El-Ashram, co-founders of Elevate Culture. Art is a means of expression crufreedom to be cial to society, and artists interpret and ourselves.” help shape our world. Angelique Monae is a hip, Islamically—Dr. Umar Faruq oriented young lady, with a knack for Abd-Allah leather craftsmanship. So when she was contacted by Elevate Culture’s marketing director El-Ashram via Twitter, she was naturally intrigued. “We need organizations like Elevate Culture to provide mentoring so that in turn we can mentor, and therefore create lifelong goods that are practical and stay out of the waste cycle in our community,” Monae says. Indeed, this is one of the organization’s guiding principles: to help Muslim American artists confidently present their work and to build a portfolio that gives them a voice. Mostafa knew there was a niche for Muslim artists, but these artists must not only find outlets, but a support and mentoring network. “We came together with a common vision: to represent Muslim American culture, and we began to work to make it happen,” Mostafa says. Mostafa, a 2011 University of Maryland, College Park graduate, envisioned an organization that addressed Muslims’ need to be culturally relevant within Islamic parameters. Elevate Culture holds that Islamic values are not a means to quell but to refine cultural values. Muslims with artistic inclinations should have the ability to express their visions and projects with confidence. Muslims should be able to be part of mainstream artist movements, and contribute to American culture as a whole, according to the group’s philosophy.
A Resource for Artists “Something we emphasize is fair trade, because arts should have a higher purpose,” Mostafa says. “We give grants so artists can have funding to continue their work.” Indeed, Elevate Culture, though established in August last year, is already looking to create a sustainable business model and host events and talent shows. They are allowing artists to put up pages on the website that will give them exposure, and allow interested patrons to donate monetarily. In addition, artists may request mentoring or be mentors themselves. 45
Muslims in Action “We are giving $1,000 grants right now,” Mostafa says. As a nonprofit, the organization is currently working to secure funding through grants and donors. Eventually, they would like to start a for-profit business to fund the organization. The longterm vision is to operate donor-free. “We rely on the generosity of activists, and it’s really pure networking,” Mostafa says. This networking is especially important for artists who work in film. “Walls of Leila” is a feature film written by Amirah Tajdin, and produced by Sara Gama and Wafa Tajdin. The film tells of a South African Cape Malay woman who falls in love with an African American man who is interested in Islam. The team of producers comes from the U.S, Kenya and Saudi Arabia; their perspective gives insight into some of the problems plaguing our communities.
and a merchant are still relevant in today’s industrialized world,” she says. Monae wants to explore areas such as halal farming, and later create workshops based off needs of an individual or community. The hide used to create the leather was once on an animal which was likely butchered; every part of the respective animal can be put to good use. “Our goals are far-reaching and we’re really excited,” Mostafa says. “Right now our blog is spotlighting artists’ work, and we just want to be a platform.” This very platform is what Savera Iftikhar needs to further her project—one that will showcase Muslim Americans as ordinary citizens. “Smiling really is a charity, there’s such a profound wisdom in that statement,” says Iftikhar. “In this day and age, smiling at a stranger is strange.”
“We hope the film shows that our community faces challenges, but these challenges are humanistic,” Gama says. Verily, by giving the creators a platform, Elevate Culture helps instill a sense of belonging and acceptance for all artists and their messages. “Artists need to feel empowered, not disconnected, so they can do something for the Muslim community and world,” Mostafa says.
Strangers No More is Iftikhar’s attempt to share her experiences with the individuals she meets and exchanged smiles with. She will travel with a photo booth and invite strangers to take pictures with her that will then be shared to the public through a photo blog. “I want to create friendships, and by traveling with one booth, it just makes it more special and more personal,” says Iftikhar. “I
Art Creates Understanding For Monae, selling custom-made moccasins isn’t just about using fine leather or being featured in Italian Vogue. Nor is it just about making beautiful designs, wherein no one pair is alike. Rather, the goal is to establish herself in her work with 23Tribes, and as an extension, doing other projects within the Muslim community. “I want to use my God-given talents to spread a consciousness that being a maker 46
want to tell people, this is the booth and I’m on this journey.” Iftikhar is trying to get the project rolling in metropolitan areas in five major cities, and is relying on Elevate Culture for support and grants.
Expanding and Getting out the Word Elevate Culture’s core team is located nationwide. Though many of the artists are on the East Coast, the goal is to spread the word across the country through communications, marketing, and their blog. Nadia Babaa works to ensure that people know about Elevate Culture and where they can turn for help. “We want to see artists create a Muslim culture that lives up to its full potential,” says Babaa. “A lot of people are on the East Coast, but we are connecting with people on the West Coast, as well.” Mostafa says expanding to different cities is on the agenda. “Our goal is to be a service and safe place, right now in Atlanta and [Washington] D.C, and next in Chicago and Dallas,” says Mostafa. “We have ideas for programs to take it to the next level.” An artist retreat is in the works for 2013, and the team is working on creating a database of artists in various fields. For Monae in the Bay Area, Calif, this is through her work with shoes; for Iftikhar, it’s creating an essence of understanding through photos; for Gama and her team, it’s telling a story through motion picture. Elevate Culture represents Muslim Americans ushering in an era of creativity and hope through the arts.
Eman Shurbaji is a freelance feature writer from Bakersfield, Calif.
Electronic Funds Transfer — A good deed done regularly! You can make a significant impact on the quality of ISNA’s services by contributing through EFT. As little as $10 per month will help ISNA to serve the Muslim American community through effective leadership and state of the art training seminars for imams, Muslim chaplains and community leaders.
Sign up today to donate through EFT. www.isna.net/donate Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Muslims in Action
Say Hello to the First Latina American Hafitha And she’s still in her teens. By Meha Ahmad
t just four, when other kids were still learning how to break the graham crackers on the line in preschool, Karimah Hernandez started memorizing the Quran. While many young Muslim children may start quite early to learn basic surahs from Juz 30, it was the beginning for Karimah—the beginning of a 12-year study that would lead her to be the one and only Latina American hafitha of the Quran. Fluent in Spanish, English and now Arabic, Karimah—who is half Guatemalan, half Costa Rican—is currently helping her 14-year-old brother also memorize the Quran. The young Dallas native talked about her commitment to becoming a young hafitha, how it impacted her faith, and what it took to memorize one of the most famous books in history—all in a language she didn’t know.
moved to Saudi Arabia, where I continued my studies of Quran and went to evening Quran school to focus on memorization. At six, I put it aside to focus on school. I did it here and there in school, but not as intensely as I was doing it before. By the time I left Saudi, at 13, I had about 10 juz’a memorized. I came back to the U.S. and my mom and dad really encouraged me to keep going and memorize it. And I was done at about 16.
IH: Tell me about how you started memorizing the Quran. KH: I started at about four years old. I basically started learning Quran with my father every day, a little bit at a time. Then we
IH: What helped you commit to memorizing? KH: Determination, for one. Just trying to being determined, actually wanting to do it. Because if you don’t really want to
memorize it, it won’t be an easy task. It was something I thought I’d like to do. And I received encouragement from both sides of my family; even my non-Muslim family was very supportive. IH: Tell me about your parents and how they helped you. KH: My mom is Costa Rican, and my dad is Guatemalan. They’re the ones who really encouraged me and tried to get me to do it even when I didn’t see it as a big deal. They showed me and tried to help me finish. My dad would make sure I was on top of things. Every time he came home from work, he would ask me how far I was. He made sure I wouldn’t slip. My mom was also tough—she did encourage me. Each parent did something different than the other but both were encouraging at the same time. IH: How much could you memorize a day? KH: When I first started, it was a page and a half a day. My mom would hear me and make sure I read it correctly with no mistakes. Then the next day, we would review it and then memorize another page and a half. The last three months of my memorization, I was up to three to five pages a day.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
KH: They way I memorized… I looked at it as a big story. Every page I took was just a story to me. I memorized not just the words themselves, but the meaning behind the words. Every time I read the Quran, it’s a big story. That’s how I personally memorized it. IH: Do you have a “favorite” surah? KH: At the Quran Memorization party that I had, I read Surah Luqman—which I really like because the page I read was all about the parents, because they really helped me through this whole thing. My other favorites would be Surah Yusuf and Surah Nisaa.
IH: Was it challenging, with Arabic not being your “mother tongue?” KH: No, nobody speaks it in the house; Arabic was new to all of us. I don’t think it was something that was very hard for me, I felt like it was very easy. It just came to me. My mom would say, “you just have to want it.” I would pick it up however I could. I was forced to pick it up in Saudi Arabia, because it was the only way to communicate. It took me about a year to learn Arabic in Saudi Arabia. My Arabic now is excellent; I can speak to Arabs from all walks of life. I help with an afterschool program to tutor Iraqi refugee kids, teaching them English. IH: How do you feel memorizing the Quran has impacted your faith? KH: It made me want to learn more about my religion and study it. It made me more conscious of what I do, things that don’t want to fall into—stuff that’s not right. When you memorize the Quran, you have to carry yourself that way as well. You try to be a better Muslim to be better in everything you do. It made me want to further my studies in Islam. It made me open my eyes. IH: Did you have any memorization tricks?
IH: What did your friends think about your accomplishment? KH: Most are very supportive of me and are very happy. Others didn’t know how I did it in America. I felt like they thought I couldn’t do anything Islamic in America. I didn’t know how to answer them, because I did most of my memorizing in America. If you’re determined you can do anything.
of what accomplishing something is and I have mine. IH: What have you learned from this and what advice would you give to others? KH: It’s a good accomplishment, its something for yourself to know that you did, something you know you put your time into and you just do it with the best of intentions. I didn’t do it to please anybody. In the beginning, I did it because my dad wanted me to, but as I grew older, I understood what it actually meant, and I did it then for myself. You just hope Allah accepts your effort. The biggest challenge isn’t memorizing it—that’s the easy part—it’s keeping up with it. You just have to make sure to review it and don’t let it leave you. My advice to other would be: if you’re determined to do it, you’re going to do it. You have to want it. There has to be drive in order to do something as big as that. And try to implement it in your daily life, or help somebody else with it.
Meha Ahmad is the copy editor of Islamic Horizons, and an associate producer for Al Jazeera Arabic in Washington D.C.
IH: You left traditional school to be home schooled and focus on memorizing. How did people around you (friends and so forth) react to that? KH: The stereotype for home-schooled kids is that they’re not really as smart as other kids. People look at me differently, because being Spanish, and home-schooled and speaking Arabic doesn’t fit one of their categories. I guess I’m not in any category. Doing certain things school-wise, I look at kids my age and they are sometimes able to pick up things—like math equations—that will take me awhile to learn. I don’t have any regrets really though because my dad says, “Don’t undermine the fact that you did memorize the Quran. It’s not like you wasted 15-16 yrs of your life.” I left the regular curriculum for two years to intensely focus on the Quran. Some people don’t agree with that, but I try to brush it off as much as I can. I’m not going to say at times it doesn’t get to me, but its not something I think about as much. Because they have their own idea
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Muslims in Action
Hope for the Homeless
Muslims in any American city can follow existing models in taking help to the doorsteps of the needy. By Sayem Huq
uring my high school days, I used to hear about my uncle working with the homeless communities of downtown Ft. Lauderdale. When I finally got to participate, gathering food and distributing it in front of common areas where the homeless reside, I quickly adopted his love for helping these communities. His group called it “Project Downtown.” It was a symbol of hope for these people. We would give them food and supplies, befriend them, and talk to them as they attempted to get their lives back together. After moving to Texas and enrolling at the University of Texas at Arlington, I decided to start “Project Downtown: Arlington,” and spread it across Dallas and Metroplex. The more I worked with aiding the homeless, the more I realized how widespread it was and how much more help was needed. If downtown Dallas, Arlington, Miami, and
Ft. Lauderdale had such an abundance of the needy, then plenty of cities around the nation need help as well. You just have to look around. Societies often turn a blind eye toward the homeless, and sometimes just a little effort can aid them and encourage them to get back onto their feet. In Arlington, I wanted to ensure the organization made a definitive impact, as
well as stood for a symbol of hope for all needy communities of the Metroplex. We wanted to always improve, always find new sources, and always search for new communities to expand to. After recruiting some group leaders and members, we launched the organization in the Summer of 2012 and held what we called “volunteer sessions” for members. After several of these sessions, the cities of Arlington and Dallas began to recognize us. We had gathered food and supplies from multiple sponsors and loaded them in a truck, which we drove to needy neighborhoods and distributed. We even carried the food and essentials to their homes, to make sure they didn’t have to carry a heavy load. We visited shelters during Thanksgiving time and concentrated on the children in the shelter: read books, played outside, and even painted with them. We showed them that we cared. We made sure community centers and various college campuses knew our resources and services were available to them, to always keep busy and help. We didn’t just help, we marketed our ability and perseverance to help to present that we weren’t just another organization who talked about the potential difference we could make; we actually attempted to make a physical difference and will continue to do so. Project Downtown isn’t just an organization, it’s a movement involving people who don’t want to just sit back and complain about a rise of poverty in society. We are inspirers of hope; if you won’t attempt to aid others, no one will. Project Downtown launched its first chapter in Miami in 2007. Since then, the organization had reportedly started 40 chapters around the nation. But today, only 17 chapters are active. However, that’s not enough to efficiently aid communities around the nation: many homeless communities are left out and possibly need help.
If you believe this can make a difference in your community, then don’t hold back. Don’t set starting this off another day, or another month. Many of those in need do not have that long to wait. Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Muslims need to start a Project Downtown (http://projectdowntown.org/) in their area. Imagine if society backed you into a corner and your very life is trapped in a downward spiral. Wouldn’t you wish for a little encouragement and help toward a new chance at life? Starting may seem like a challenge, should you choose to accept it, so here’s a simple guideline to help you launch a Project Downtown in your area, based on actual steps taken to start “Project Downtown: Arlington.”
Starting a Project Downtown in Your Area Gather Officers
You may have the ambition and influence to start it on your own, but you must remember that you are nothing without your officers. Gather trustworthy members who are passionate about starting this chapter with you. Their ambition to help society will show and it will keep this organization lively and strong.
Contact Outreach Programs
Before you can enroll members, it’s best to know what you have to work with. To initiate the activities, contact multiple-area outreach programs who have years of experience in helping and aiding homeless communities and ask for your organization to work with them. This way, your organization can learn how to properly support communities and distribute supplies. It really keeps everyone busy and excited about helping with a diversity of activities. Project Downtown Arlington started with Mission Arlington, a local outreach program, to work with many activities distributing clothes and food to communities.
Now that you have a wide range of activities to present, start marketing the organization. If you are a student, it’s best to register Project Downtown as a campus organization, which will help you gather students and support from professors. If not, try to find affiliation with a community center or mosque. It’s always great to have the support of an established community a resource for helpful members and sponsors. Project Downtown Arlington started as a campus organization at UT Arlington, and in the first week of launching the program and marketing, 154 active members had joined.
approval is gained, your organization will gain more publicity and attract even more members and activities to participate in.
Now, we are attempting to become the fastest growing organization on campus. Many professors not only endorsed the idea but even persuaded students to participate, offering our volunteer sessions as extra credit. Once you get the word out there, many people will want to help. It’s the humanity in all of us that makes an opportunity like Project Downtown appealing.
Get the Ball Rolling
After gathering a number of members, hold a general body meeting and lay out an agenda of activities. Start off in a pace most members can conveniently handle, with a volunteer session once or twice a month. In Arlington, we took a survey of what days would work for the majority and voted what activities to do in what order. We always take new ideas from the members. Remember, it’s the members’ ambition which make this organization great, so always work for their convenience. Continue to market your organization, asking your members to spread the word. Among our members in Arlington, we had news reporters who requested to write about us and increase awareness.
Gather More Sponsors: Start Hosting Individual Events
After many months of aiding homeless communities, start to market the activities and the success of your Project Downtown to gather sponsors. Talk to store owners and community members to see if they would be willing to supply a volunteer session to aid homeless communities. At Project Downtown Arlington, we once had Pizza Hut donate personal pan pizzas and breadsticks.
Appeal to City Council
It’s always helpful to gain your city approval. Request to appeal to your city council during a scheduled public hearing and ask for their approval and support. Hopefully, once
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
If you are at this point, your organization is making quite an impact on society. You’ve become a vital symbol of hope to many. But it doesn’t stop there. Your ambition will want you to spread Project Downtown further and expand. How you do this is up to you. Project Downtown Arlington is also looking to expand to Houston, Austin, and many Texas college campuses. If you believe this can make a difference in your community, then don’t hold back. Don’t set starting this off another day, or another month. Many of those in need do not have that long to wait. With your ambition ablaze, change your society. If you need any help or have any questions on starting or participating with Project Downtown, contac Sayem Huq at Sayem. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Principal Position in Maryland The Al-Rahmah School, an accredited K-12 School located in Maryland, seeks an experienced and motivated Principal to lead our school commencing next academic year. The candidate should possess the following qualifications: ➢ Master’s or higher degree in education or related field required from an accredited U.S. institution ➢ Teaching and administration experience of at least five years in U.S., preferably in an Islamic school setting but experience from other private school is also welcomed ➢ Strong leadership and strong communication skills ➢ Strong supervisory and administrative qualities in a culturally diverse environment ➢ Experience in curriculum development and instruction ➢ Experience in professional development and teacher training ➢ Experience in public relations, marketing, and information technology A competitive package based on experience and education is available for the right candidate. Interested candidates should complete the job application online at www.alrahmah.org/principal. Please email email@example.com for any questions.
Politics and Society
Guidelines for Coexistence Educators and school communities are challenging Islamophobia through education By Aruba Mahmud
document), particularly where Muslims are often perceived as “enemies” or the “other.” These attitudes include verbal attacks and remarks, physical violence and aggression, threats, vandalism, exclusion, name-calling, and bullying. Challenging such discrimination is not an option, but rather integral to international human rights standards. The right to free speech, including the right to criticize religion in schools, however, does not justify attacks on Islam and/or Muslims (or others). Discriminatory attitudes and beliefs toward Muslims and Islam, fueled in part by the media, and the lack of fair, balanced, and accurate knowledge, leads to harmful stereotypes and discriminatory beliefs and actions. Muslims not only face religious discrimination, but also biases based on ethnicity, economic situation, gender, citizenship, etc. The measures suggested by the guidelines, if implemented in schools worldwide, can challenge and overcome such stereotyping, and promote tolerance and universal human rights.
The Role of Educators
slamophobia, though never out of the picture, has heightened since 9/11—not only in the U.S., but also in Canada and many European nations. However, the impact of these growing anti-Muslim sentiments on education, and even the manifestation of these attitudes in educational settings lacks mention, at least in the mainstream, although incidents of discrimination against Muslim students in North American schools are well documented and have increased in recent years. Muslim students may face barriers in being accommodated (religious holidays for example, or being allowed to pray at school), or they may be bullied or marginalized by fellow students and even teachers and administrators. One initiative however, aims to change this by considering how prejudice and discrimination against Muslims and Islam can be challenged through education. One key result of this OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Council of Europe, and UNESCO initiative are the “Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims: Addressing Islamophobia through Education.” This follows other similar reports that address
anti-Semitism and other specific and targeted forms of discrimination.
The Aim of the Guidelines The guidelines aim supporting “educators in countering intolerance and discrimination against Muslims” (as it says in the
Schools and educators can be pivotal in both overcoming intolerance, discrimination, and prejudice; and in promoting tolerance, mutual understanding, and respect. “While teachers,” the report states, “cannot be expected to resolve the political and social tensions among communities, they can have a central role in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of young people.” The document acknowledges that, for Muslim students, besides peer discrimination, “there are sometimes also instances of intolerance or discrimination by teachers or school administrators.” They are “often placed in lower academic streams or encouraged to avoid academic subjects,” regardless of their academic ability or strengths. Or, they may be excluded from classes such as gym due to uniforms conflicting with their religious requirements.
Schools and educators can be pivotal in both overcoming intolerance, discrimination and prejudice; and in promoting tolerance, mutual understanding, and respect. Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Female students are often subject to particular scrutiny, with educators assuming that they face oppression from male family members and that women in Islam are subjugated and considered inferior. However, Seema Imam (in “Muslim Voices in School,” 2009) shares some of the most startling examples of prejudice against Muslims from educators. One teacher informed her “students in class that their God, whom they call Allah, is not God.” Another teacher retorted “There is no such thing” when a student said to her that she is Muslim. Still, another teacher recommended that a Muslim male student start dating in order to avoid becoming violent like the Muslim men she was hearing about on TV. What can be done? The document suggests how educators can promote “mutual understanding and respect in general,” and also “confront antiMuslim sentiments” in the school setting. They propose five approaches to promote understanding: a Rights-Based Approach, a Participatory Approach, Opening Space for Discussion, Ongoing Assessment of the Situation, and Teaching About Religions and Cultures. The most interesting and most effective seem to be the promotion of participatory approaches and opening space for discussion. The participatory approach advocates for “learners experiencing and experimenting,” rather than simply being asked to be more tolerant and accepting of religious and other minorities. For example, students can participate in community events and activities and in the development of codes of conduct. However including religious minorities in the development of curriculum is particularly important, since this “ensures accuracy and sensitivity in the materials, as well as providing a sense of ownership by Muslims if they are in a minority situation.” The discussion approach encourages teachers to initiate dialogue about stereotypes in the classroom, and the document even outlines six common stereotypes of Muslims and Islam. It encourages that teachers consider images in the media, and specific issues, such as the role of Muslim women. While discussing stereotypes and discrimination, the document provides excellent suggestions and cautions, the need for educators to exercise caution is also stressed.
A Unified Effort
This would require careful supervision and it may work better in a classroom where students have already laid the groundwork for respect and mutual rights. Additionally, it may work well in an Islamic school classroom, facilitating students to express their feelings about the stereotypes which exist about them and their faith, and may provide an opportunity to brainstorm possible solutions and action. One of the document’s greatest strengths is that it provides extensive resources and links for educators. These include an extensive chapter listing organizations, as well as materials such as those developed by Muslim Educational Network, Training, and Outreach Service (MENTORS) and material from Show Racism the Red Card, a British anti-racism education nonprofit. There are also examples of specific talking points, guidelines developed across Europe and the U.S., and proven educational strategies.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
The Guidelines are an excellent resource which can be implemented through educators and teacher training programs throughout North America and Europe. All of the recommendations require cooperation between parents, school administration and the entire school community, other schools, and so on. Due to the climate of fear, distrust, and prejudice surrounding Muslims and Islam, some educators may be hesitant to address these issues in schools, either because there is no evident problem, or because they are simply unsure of how to do so. The document correctly notes, fear and prejudice against Muslims and all other groups must be addressed in all schools, regardless the size of their Muslim population. Muslim parents, community members, and students should reach out to school administrators, for example, and share the OSCE document with the school principal, recommending some of the guidelines according to the school’s needs. Community members can also hold open houses for classes from schools. The Guidelines is only one resource, yet if it is implemented along with other measures and with school and community support, it is one which has the potential to create real and lasting change.
Aruba Mahmud, a PhD candidate at Western University, focuses on how education can challenge biased media coverage of Islam and Muslims, as well as Islamophobia in general.
Politics and Society
College Students, Religious Identity and Alcohol Study finds abstinence from alcohol is associated with increased religiosity. By Jonathan Hayden
espite the millions of dollars universities have spent trying to educate college students on the dangers of binge drinking, alcohol use and abuse is prevalent on American college campuses. A 2011 survey showed that nearly 40 percent of college students binged on alcohol in the previous month. While that number indicates a slight drop from a 2003 study, The National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism reports that about 4 out of 5 college students drink alcohol and thousands die each year from “alcohol-related unintentional injuries.” College-age Muslim students are more integrated into the larger culture than their parents’ generation, with most attending majority non-Muslim universities. Today’s Muslim university students may find it dif-
Despite an awareness of a college culture heavily influenced by drinking, participating Muslim students were able to negotiate the culture of “alcohol-rich outlets and messages.” While it is difficult to build a profile of a student susceptible to using alcohol, some patterns emerged from the data. Students in the study who reported use of alcohol perceived a much higher rate of use among all students—Muslims included—than statistics suggest.
Coming from a home where parents drink alcohol resulted in students more likely to experiment. ficult to avoid the temptation of indulging in alcohol, despite the religion’s prohibition on alcohol use. However, a new study on alcohol use among Muslim college students points to a largely ascetic group. The report, published and funded by The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, found that nearly 92 percent of Muslim college students had never used alcohol and only 2.6 percent had used in the past 30 days. Cynthia L. Arfken, Sameera Ahmed, and Wahiba Abu-Ras conducted the study as a pilot to determine the role of family, religion and social networks in the decision to use or abstain from alcohol and to assess the prevalence of alcohol use among Muslim college students. 54
Abstainers, on the other hand, perceived a lower rate of use among college students. Further, students who reported drinking came from neighborhoods and high schools with more non-Muslims, indicating that behaviors were learned outside of the community. Conversely, those who abstained reported living in areas with other Muslims, perceived more Muslims at their university, and attended high school with more Muslims. There were few demographic differences between students who had ever used alcohol and those who were lifetime abstainers. Among drinkers, one of the potential motivations may be social (high prevalence of drinking among other students and friends, and easy access to alcohol) rather than conformity or peer pressure. Additional
motivations to abstain from alcohol may come from family and personal belief in and connection to Islam. The authors note that the findings show family behavior as an important element of whether or not one used alcohol. Coming from a home where parents drink alcohol resulted in students more likely to experiment. However, an individual’s personal connection to their religion was more likely to influence their decision to drink than observed religious behavior. Among the strongest indicators for abstinence among the students were higher personal connection and stronger personal beliefs that Islam prohibits alcohol use. This study’s date echoes data found in similar studies of Christian college students; drinking is “significantly associated with less proscriptive personal religious belief, lower private religiosity, and lower proscriptive social influences.” These findings seem to support what has been found in previous studies across several different religious affiliations. Abstinence from alcohol is associated with increased religiosity. In a recent national survey of adults, people of all faiths who believed drinking was discouraged by their religion were less likely to drink. College students encounter myriad challenges during their transition from childhood to adulthood. For many, this age is the age when a pattern of drinking begins. The different environment, new freedoms and widespread acceptance of heavy alcohol consumption brings challenges that many Muslim students have not previously faced. While Muslims have differing norms on the permissiveness of alcohol use, those who worry about their college-age sons and daughters using alcohol can learn a lot from this study. From mimicking parental behavior to understanding and connection to Islam, parental and family behavior unquestionably has significant influence on children and young adults. The authors say they hope that this study will help prepare parents of college students or upcoming college students to face these challenges. While it may be impossible to completely inoculate college-age students from the temptations of drinking, the data gleaned from the study, the authors note, can be used to help prevent alcohol use and related problems in this high-risk age group.
Jonathan Hayden is communications manager for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
Around the World
Seeds of Peace Can Indian occupation authorities in Kashmir allow sowing of seeds of peace? By Bashir G. Ahmed
ndian Occupied Kashmir, under occupation after the invasion since 1948, has seen high level of violence for more than 22 years. It has resulted in the sacrifice of more than 100,000 Kashmiris, rape of thousands of women, disappearance of more than 6,000 people, and countless displaced persons. The latest tragic news was the government’s State Human Rights Commission’s discovery of mass graves containing the remains of 2,700 ‘disappeared’ Kashmiris in summer of 2010. And a new deposition submitted by awardwinning human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz’s field workers covering two more districts, Rajoori and Poonch, mapped nearly 4,000 more unmarked and mass graves, taking the total number to more than 6,000. There are still another 16 districts yet to be surveyed. In 2005, when Imroz was prevented from personally receiving the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, first given to Nelson Mandela, as India refused to issue him a passport. In 2010, more than 110 college going students were killed during what is called in Kashmiri: “Kani Jung” (stone war). Kashmiris are historically peace-loving people. This violence was imposed on them. In 1987, when Kashmiris decided to participate in Indian-imposed elections through their Muslim United Front, led by Syed Salahuddin (who is presently the chairman of UJC (United Jihad Council) based in Azad (free) Kashmir, the Indian rigged the elections. They felt they were cheated and had no choice but to resort to the gun. George Fernandez, the then Indian Minister of Kashmir Affairs, addressing a Harvard forum, admitted that the Kashmiri movement was indigenous. He said that it was the struggle of the same young men and youth who were manning polling booths in the 1987 elections, who felt cheated, and had crossed over to Azad Kashmir through the ceasefire line and taken up arms. However, the militancy was premature and misguided. The results are
history. It is believed that India occupies the valley with nearly 1 million troops and paramilitary personnel. The oppression, torture, death and destruction continue. In July of last year, The Guardian described Kashmir thusly: “Strung with razor wire and anti-missile netting, the state had been transformed into one of the most militarised places on earth, with one Indian paramilitary or soldier stationed for every 17 residents.” The years 2011 and 2012 have been relatively quite. In 2001, I formed the Peace Network, “Planting Seeds of Peace in Kashmir,” in 2011, a nonprofit, non-political, neutral organization advocating a peaceful resolution to the conflict. It is a daunting task, considering that almost every family in Kashmir is touched by the violence. The challenge was to help people change their mindset from pursuing violent methods to nonviolence. It is universally accepted that violence begets violence. The premise was to start at the grassroots, the high school students, colleges and universities. During that year, I spoke at more than a dozen educational institutions, high schools as well as colleges. I then invited these institutions
Islamic Horizons March/April 2013
We want the world to know that Kashmiris are peace-loving and not terrorists as Indian authorities would like to portray them.
to join us in the celebration of UN Peace One Day: International Day of Peace at the storied Samad’s Island of Peace—a hotel that itself has suffered due to occupation, war, and violence—in the Nageen area of Srinagar, on Sept. 21, 2011. Six institutions participated. There were more than 250 people including teachers and parents. A select group of students from each institution made presentations on: What Peace Means to Me, What Peace Means to Kashmir, What Peace Means to the World and What can I do to Contribute to Peace? It was a very successful event. A similar event was held last year. In addition to the educational institutions visited earlier, I spoke at more high schools, colleges, and at Kashmir University and the Islamic University, Awantipora. More than 10 institutions and 350 people participated in the event held at the same venue. A small peace march was also held in the city of Baramulla. Peace programs were also held in the towns of Uri and Pattan. Perhaps the Indian occupation forces may not attack a peace rally. We await the city of Srinagar administration’s permit for the rally this year that will bring together 10,000 students who will march along the foreshore road around the famous Dal Lake. We propose to have only two banners: Peace in Kashmir, and Peace & Justice. We want the world to know that Kashmiris are peace-loving and not terrorists as Indian authorities would like to portray them. Their only “weapon” is “Kangri”( a clay-pot to keep them warm during the winter).
Bashir G. Ahmed, a Kashmiri-American peacemaker, is board member and head of operations at the Dayton International Peace Museum, Dayton, Oh.
Around the World
Andalucía: Paradise Still Lost? Muslims in Spain retrieve some of their past status through better outreach. By Misbahuddin Mirza
he incessant rain had soaked everything to its core. The brief pause in the rain allowed stepping out of the Nasirid palaces and walking up to the top of Torre de la Polvora, one of Alcazaba fortress’ towers. The treetops from Alhambra palace’s Generalife gardens blended in with the lush greenery surrounding the river Dario’s valley. I leaned forward, my elbows resting on the tower’s parapet wall. The vast expanse of land stretching all the way to the Sierra Nevada Mountains was so pretty that it may well have been the source of inspiration to many a fairy tale writers. For 1,300 or so years after Muslims made this gorgeous peninsula their habitat, converting a decaying land into the world’s most vibrant center of learning and living, I stood here on this stone and mortar building, wondering at not just the spectacular contributions of the Muslims to this land, but, at why they were so ignominiously expelled from their homes and hearths. For 800 years, they had treated the Jews and Christians with so much respect and dignity, that it had ushered the Golden Age for the Jews, and had impressed the native Iberians to such an extent, that the majority of these Visigothic people had accepted Islam, creating marvels such as indigenous Islamic architecture using the Visigothic horseshoe-arch. Why then the expulsions, the hatred, and the Inquisition, after the reconquista? The majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains stared back at me in stoic silence, their heads veiled by milky white clouds—as if they had no answers to my questions. Earlier, at the entrance to the Cordoba Mosque, the largest and most beautiful mosque in the west, the security guard was welcoming early morning visitors to the “Mezquita”—Spanish for “mosque”—with a pleasant “Ola.” The entrance fee is waived for the first 90 minutes, to encourage attendance at the Mass held inside the cathedral, which has been built in the middle of the massive and elegant mosque. The security guard looked at me and then said, “Only Visit. Only Photo. No Pray.” You enter through the massive iron gates at the base of the mosque’s minaret – now converted into a bell tower for the cathedral. You are now standing in the mosque’s courtyard with its neat rows of orange trees planted
in perfectly straight lines. The trees brimmed with the most beautiful oranges that I have seen. The ablution fountain in the courtyard is gently overflowing, as if murmuring to itself,“Why don’t the Muslims come here anymore?” I visualized the courtyard abuzz with 15,000 Muslims performing wudu/ ablutions as they prepared for the prayers. The mosque’s main entrance is quite imposing. You step inside, and are transported into a dazzlingly different world. A world with row after row of slender columns made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite—a staggering 856 columns in total. The native Iberian Muslims had used their traditional horseshoe arch, using the famous red and white voussoirs, to create the unique and pleasing effect, which was later replicated in several parts of the Muslim world. Two sets of arches were used to increase the ceiling height. The incredible “Soul of Cordoba,” light and sound show offered at night should not be missed.
In 2006, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said that Spain was indebted to Islam for its great historical contributions.
A hall in an Islamic palace
In the insanity following the Spanish reconquista, thousands of mosques and Muslim buildings were destroyed to eliminate all traces of Muslim contributions to Spanish society, and were replaced with cathedrals. Local Muslims have been unsuccessfully lobbying both the local Catholic authorities, and the Vatican to allow Muslims to resume offering of daily prayers. Other monuments such as the Baths of the Caliphas are in walking distance of the Cordoba Masjid. Archeologists have uncovered about 10 percent of the city of Madinatuz Zahra—a planned palatine city founded by ‘Abd al-Rahman III in 936. The Spanish Inquisition Museum “Museo de la Inquisicion,” located one block from the Cordoba Mosque displays bone chilling instruments of torture. Across the Guadalquivir River is the Museo Vivo De Al-Andalus museum recommended by Rick Steves. This is an oasis of truth in a world of smoke and mirrors. The Roger Garaudy Foundation has painstakingly created each exhibit showcasing the immense and great contributions Muslims made to this great land. The hourly movie presentation, “Epopee of the Universal Culture by Roger Garaudy,” should not be missed. The kingdom of Granada held onto southern Spain for 200 years after the northern and central areas had fallen. The Nasirid rulers who founded the dynasty were battle hardened veterans who had fought in the northern areas. Their defensive tactics are
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I spent substantial time appreciating the beauty of the palaces. However, what fascinated me most was the endless, repeated use of the Nasirid dynasty’s motto: “Wala Ghalibu IllaAllah”—meaning “the only victor is Allah”—on virtually every palace wall. It appeared to take up every square inch of the palaces walls. One of the large paintings in Charles V palace’s Alhambra museum shows Boadbdil, the last defeated Muslim king of Granada leaving his palace, while his heartbroken mother looks on wearing a robe with the inscription “Wala Ghalibu IllaAllah,” inscribed along the hem of her dress—probably meant as satire.
on display in the construction of Alhambra’s Alcazaba fortress. But, as with northern/central Spain’s Taifa kingdoms, the disunity and infighting among the Muslims proved to be more lethal of an enemy than the advancing Christian armies. The sheer beauty of the Nasirid Palaces, was immortalized by the poet Francisco Alarcón in the following words: “Give him alms woman, as there is nothing worse than being blind in Granada.” In the courtyard of the Myrtles, the white marble floor is sloped to allow the water in the pool to reach right up to the plinths of the columns, making it appear that the entire Comares Palace and the tower is floating on water. This principle was used in the Taj Mahal, three centuries later.
Standing on Alcazaba’s Torre de la Polvora tower, staring at the huge Sierra Nevada mountain range, I tried to make sense of the present complex relationship between the Iberians and Islam. For five hundred years the people were taught the Catholic version of history – that Muslims had invaded a Christian country destroying its unity, and that these foreigners had been expelled during the reconquista. Most people are not aware of the magnitude of atrocities that Muslims in Spain had to endure. However, after General Franco’s death, Islam has found increased understanding and sympathy among native Iberians. It is now being pointed out that most of the Muslims expelled from Spain as a result of the reconquista, were actually Visigoths by
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race. The hitherto incorrect version of history is now reportedly being corrected in Spain’s textbooks. In 2006 Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said that Spain was indebted to Islam for its great historical contributions. The beautiful Great Mosque of Granada completed in 2003 after substantial opposition, is the first mosque to be built after a 500-year hiatus. It is right next to San Nicolas viewpoint, the most scenic spot frequented by visitors for its breathtaking view of the Alhambra. The mosque provides literature about Islam, and provides printed material that correct unsubstantiated views regarding Islam, Islamic history, and Islamic terminology (example: a harem is just the interior section of a Muslim house or palace where the ladies—mothers, sisters, wives, daughters live for privacy). The taxi navigated the narrow, steep streets of Albaicin, the Moorish area, complete not only with Islamic architecture, but also dotted with Halal butcher shops, and Muslim restaurants. A 19-year-old Iberian man asked if I could teach him how to make the Wudu/ ablution. Absolutely, I said. He is studying English and Chinese to become a translator, and had become interested in Islam from his discussions with Muslim friends. After the Friday prayers, Ahmed Bermejo, the mosque director, gave the sermon in Spanish, and invited me to join the local Muslims for a delicious KhusKhus lunch. Imam Bermejo is a second-generation Iberian Muslim, born to a first-generation Iberian Muslim father, and a first-generation Muslim American mother, informed that Granada’s Muslims constitute about 8 percent of the town’s population. He realizes the tremendous responsibility and challenges that he and his fellow Spanish Muslims shoulder, to reach out to the rest of the Spanish population regarding Islam. Watching Bermejo deliver the Jumah sermon in Spanish, took me back to the Nasirid motto inscribed repeatedly on the Alhambra walls—it’s now the re-influx into Islam of beautiful Spanish people like Bermejo who are the hope to making the motto ‘Wala Ghalibu IllaAllah,’ come true.
Misbahuddin Mirza, a professional licensed engineer, is a senior engineer and regional quality control engineer with the New York State Department of Transportation. He traveled in Spain from Nov 8-12, 2012.
Muslim Political Activist 1939 – 2012
nayatullah Ibrahim Lalani, a Fort Worth, Tex. physician, who had dedicated himself to carving a Muslim political voice, died Dec. 11, 2012. He suffered a heart attack while attending a fundraising reception for Ibrahimi Mosque in Ft. Worth. A medical graduate from Gujarat University in India, and born and raised in Junagadh, India, he migrated to the U.S. in early 1970s. Dr. Lalani was founder chairman of Muslim Democratic Caucus (MDC) within the national Democratic Party, and attended the 2004 Democratic Convention for the first time as a Muslim delegate. He served as steering committee chair when the coalition of Muslim organizations hosted the Ballot Box Barbecue at Texas Stadium June 12, 2002. This event brought together more than 15,000 North Texas Muslims, where Democratic and Republican leaders spoke, standing in front of a large banner that read: “I am Muslim. I am American. I vote.” Dr. Lalani, whose political involvement heightened after 9/11, is remembered as a visionary and founding chairman of Muslim Democratic Caucus. Aslam Khan, past chair, Islamic Association of Tarrant County board of trustees (Ft. Worth, Tex.) and past president of its MajlisAsh-Shura, said, “Dr. Lalani has created a platform for Muslims within Democratic Party. He is a known as Muslim activist with a lot of vision, selflessness, and a skilled and dedicated leader of Muslims in America.” In 2003, Dr. Lalani organized the Civil Rights Conference for Muslims in collaboration with the national human rights organizations. In 2006, he established the Muslim Task Force to develop a political strategy for Muslim Americans. The MDC supported Barack Obama in 2008. And in the 2012 presidential election, he again played a strong role in establishing a Muslim voters list and contacting them through different communication channels. His efforts contributed to the presence of a large number of Muslim delegates at the Democratic Convention and becoming part of the American election process. “Dr. Lalani was one of the few true leaders of the Muslim community who had the intellect and courage to stand tall during the most challenging period for Muslim Americans,” said Raja Zahid A Khanzada, correspondent for Pakistan’s Geo TV network. “It was because of his visionary leadership and love for his community that Muslims are now recognized as socially and politically active community in Texas. Through the politically conscious leadership that he trained and prepared for future challenges, his legacy continues in Dallas.” Tarrant County chief medical examiner Nizam Peerwani said that Dr. Lalani opposed injustice, inequality, and well as religious intolerance. He was a champion of women’s cause. He wanted the Muslims and Arabs to have the same rights as we in America have
Linda “Jamilah” Kolocotronis Jitmoud Educator and Author 1956 – 2013
inda “Jamilah” Kolocotronis Jitmoud, a Muslim American writer and former educator in Thai and American Islamic schools, passed away Jan. 12 after a struggle cancer (Leukemia) and MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity). Of Greek origin, she entered Islam at 23, after reading the Quran as part of her master’s degree program in philosophy and religion, “looking for mistakes and inconsistencies.” She found none and converted to Islam in July 1980 (Ramadan 19, 1400), changing her name to Jamilah. She was raised as a Lutheran. Over the next year she completed her master’s degree and joined Ball State University’s Ph.D. program for social science education. She published her books under her maiden name, Kolocotronis. Her first book, “Islamic Jihad: An Historical Perspective,” is her only non-fiction title. She is also featured in the seminal book about female American converts to Islam, “Daughters of Another Path.” Her first Islamic fiction novel, “Innocent People,” written after 9/11, counters the proliferation of misinformation about Muslims in America. Her subsequent novels explore other challenges routinely faced by Muslims in America, especially converts to Islam. Her Echoes Series is the second series of Islamic fiction novels to be written in English. She is survived by her husband, AbdulMun’im S. Jitmoud, principal of Lexington Universal Academy, six sons and three grandchildren.
to fulfill the vision of the Monroe Doctrine. He was always involved, be it the opposition to the Bush war on Iraq, the holocaust in Bosnia or Palestine, Rohingya Muslims in Burma and Chechens in Russia. And as late as 2011, though tired, he organized a conference at the Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens to express the plight of Palestinians under the occupation. After his retirement, he dedicated himself to community service. The last community event he organized was the screening of the famous documentary “Valentino’s Ghost,” which is a historical analysis of Hollywood’s stereotyping of Muslims in movies. Deeply concerned about global warming, he wrote and published: Al-Battani Shield Counteracting Global Warming: A New Approach” (iUniverse; 2009). He was also an Egyptology hobbyist. Early in his professional career, he practiced surgery and later switched to general practice. He is survived by his wife, Salma, son Quraish and daughter Dr. Fatimah Lalani.
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Reviews An Aid to Better Understanding
Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 2012. Pp. 272. HB $74, PB $23. Evelyn Alsultany New York University Press, New York
Adventures of the Salamander Micheal Klaus Schimdt 2012.. Vols 1-3, each 57-61 pages. PB. $15 ea. Michael Klaus Schmidt (self published) Author-illustrator Michael Klaus Schmidt weaves an adventurous story with colorfully detailed illustrations to create his book “The Adventures of the Salamander” series. This series shares a story about a salamander, Slippy who attempts to save his village from the demanding lizards. The lizards randomly invade and force every salamander in the village to bake what they are known best for, their pastries. Slippy manages to escape and attempts to get help from his neighbors. He encounters and forms friendships with different animals while creating a huge alliance to defeat the lizard invaders. Schmidt’s target audience are young children, intermediate readers, established readers and advanced readers. Through his illustrations, captions, main text, footnotes and appendices in each book help captures the targeted audiences. Schmidt also does a great job incorporating biology, classical myths, and encyclopedia references in his footnotes to not only share a capturing story of Slippy, but to also teach the readers content that they would be typically taught at school. While not addressing Islam directly, he hopes “that they will help to impart of the values which Muslims hold dear” (Ayesha T. Qazi)
ost-9/11, there was an increase in both the incidence of hate crimes and government policies that targeted Arabs and Muslims and the proliferation of sympathetic portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. media. Alsultany examines this paradox and investigates the increase of sympathetic images of “the enemy” during the War on Terror. It should interest those who seek to eradicate injurious stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs. The new standard in racial and cultural representations, she says that emerged out of the 1990s multicultural movement involves balancing negative with positive representations, which means if the TV drama or movie storyline represents a Muslim or Arab as terrorist, then such a storyline also includes their “positive” representation. However, such an approach, she explains does not solve the problem of stereotyping and even seemingly positive images can justify exclusion and inequality.
Mired in the Colonial Past Islamicate Societies: A Case Study of Egypt and Muslim India Modernization, Colonial Rule, and the Aftermath Husain Kassim 2012. Pp. 176. HB. $60.00 Lexington Books, The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
assim, in this comparative study, argues that, in the cases of Egypt and Muslim India, the impact of colonialism has not been examined in depth. Finding that colonialism has ushered in a transformation of Islamic social thought through the introduction of Western ideas and modern institutions, and this change produced a crisis of identity in these cultures. Today, we see the effects playing out in all Muslim countries where this crisis extends to every institution: social and political to legal, cultural, and religious. Thus, he adds that both modernizing trends that reject the colonial past and attempts to return to pre-colonial forms of Islamic identity are unlikely to succeed.
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The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel/Palestine Ariella Azoulay & Adi Ophir (trans. Tal Hanan) 2012. Pp. 328. PB. $24.95 Stanford University Press Describing the current face of Israel as “Neither democratic nor Jewish,” how Azoulay and Ophir — both citizen — in their analytical study speak about the increasing fusion of state formation and colonial occupation. The book offers a unique source on the Zionist regime’s colonial presence: Israel’s structural, conceptual and bureaucratic regimes of settler, civilian and military authorities over the Palestinians. Jerusalem: Arab Social Life, Traditions and Everyday Pleasures Subhi S. Ghosheh 2012. Pp. 186. (Abridged edition) PB. $20.00 Olive Branch Press, Northampton, Mass. Ghosheh, a founding member of the Jerusalem Deportees Committee and a member of the Palestinian National Council, describing Jerusalem as “a city of unique grief,” states that the city has managed to maintain its Arabic culture and traditions—Islamic, Christian, and Jewish—and has emerged victorious time and time again. However, the over-awing Israeli occupation works to obliterate the city’s traditional Arab culture. Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics Ann Elizabeth Mayer 2012. Pp. 320. PB. $34.15. Fifth Edition Westview Press Mayer relates how regimes and institutions exploit Islam for political ends in order to justify policies inimical to human rights. The fifth edition provides an updates the consideration of government policies on Islam and human rights activism and how they are affecting developments in several Middle Eastern countries. And features a new chapter on the resistance of human rights for what she calls “sexual minorities” by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Muslim states. Sharing Eden: Green Teachings from Jews, Christians and Muslims Natan Levy, Harfiyah Haleem and David Shreeve Kube Publishing Ltd., and The Conservation Foundation, UK 2013. Pp. 106. PB. $8.99 The authors remind that respect for the environment is at the heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They state that today’s concerns have their roots in the holy books and Prophetic actions. Levy is environmental liaison for the Chief Rabbi’s Office and the Rabbinical Expert for the London School of Jewish Studies’ Responsibility Unit, UK. Haleem is a trustee of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), UK; and Shreeve is director of The Conservation Foundation, and environmental advisor to the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.
Food for the Spirit
God’s Law of Gratitude By Imam Mohamed Magid and Samuel Ross Wisdom No. 64: “Whoever is not thankful for blessings runs the risk of losing them, and whoever is thankful secures them with their own cords.”
ow do we go about increasing these blessings in our lives? Bookstores and library shelves are full of books with ideas for increasing them: lists of principles, healthy habits, and best practices, with inspiring stories to get us motivated. While there is often great value in their suggestions, no discussion of the good things in life can be complete unless it includes the Bestower of all good—God, the Most-Merciful—His plan for creation, and His manner of interacting with it. After all, Who better to know the workings of the world and of our own hearts and minds than the One who created them? God in His mercy, made the universe a resplendent manifestation of His perfection and generosity, in order that our hearts might fall in love and worship Him. He filled it with signs of His beauty: glorious sunsets and breaking waves, starry skies and water falls. He filled it with signs of His majesty: the mind-boggling complexity of living things and the perfect balance of nature. The scientist who falls in love with his subject, the hiker who loves being outdoors—all of them are ultimately in love with God, in love with glimpses of His perfection reflected in the mirror of His creation. In our lives too, God has given us unfathomable and innumerable gifts to elicit our
gratitude and love, so great in number that He says, “If you count the favors of God, you will not be able to number them” (Quran 16:18). In the Quran, He draws our attention to many of them, from the material world: food, water, friendship, and family; to the immaterial: knowledge, love, guidance, and even existence itself, with the possibility it entails of eternal bliss in the divine presence. In the wisdom above, Ibn Ata’ Allah points out that if we respond to God with gratitude, we tie down our blessings, for they are serving the end for which we and they were created. Why should He remove that which is helping us to connect with Him? Indeed, we open the floodgates to still more. God says in the Quran, “If you give thanks, I shall surely increase you” (Quran 14:7). Gratitude not only preserves our blessings; it brings spiritual benefits as well. By focusing on what we have instead of what we don’t have it frees our hearts from envy. It heals strained relationships by enabling us to focus on the positive qualities of others and previous kindness they have shown us. It helps us to emulate the optimism of our Prophet, peace be upon him, by seeing the myriad ways in which God works good in the world. But what if we fail to respond? As Ibn Ata Allah points out, in His mercy, He wakes us up. He begins to remove His blessings from our lives, which we have turned into
distractions, reminding us that they are not themselves the point of our existence, and that we have been taking Him for granted. He may place trials and tribulations in our lives in order that we may again seek Him out, because deep down inside we know that none but Him can help us to get through them. What then is the form of gratitude that God, the most High, seeks from us? How can we tie down our blessings? First, we can begin by simply striving to develop a greater awareness of all His favors in our lives. In our free moments, we can make a point of thanking Him for the innumerable gifts we enjoy. The life of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is a beautiful example of a life steeped in gratitude. He thanked God for everything, even for the simple gift of consciousness after a night’s rest. By using his prayers, collected in books of dua, we can increase our daily gratitude to God. In so doing, we should be careful not to limit our gratitude to the material world. The greatest blessings of all are immaterial: knowledge, guidance, love, and—greatest of all—faith. Indeed, viewed from the perspective of eternity, our material blessings are inconsequential. What matters most is our relationship with God, which by definition is eternal. One challenge we can all face is remaining grateful in times of pain. Difficulty has a way of consuming the mind. In counseling, people sometimes say things like, “I’ve lost everything.” Of course, they haven’t. There is still so much to be grateful for in their lives,
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but in the midst of intense pain we can easily forget that. It’s sort of like someone who stubs their finger. Their other nine fingers are fine, but all they can think about is the one they’ve hurt. In times of hardship, we have to work extra hard to keep things in perspective. Moreover, we should remember that hardship is frequently a gift in disguise. How often has a trial brought out the best in us and reconnected us with God after we have strayed away? As Ibn Ata’ Allah said in a different wisdom, “Sometimes He gives to you by depriving you, and sometimes He deprives you by giving to you.” Another trap we can fall into is limiting our gratitude to our tongues. Thanking God verbally is of course valuable and part of the example set by our Prophet, but gratitude also includes using His favors in the manner that He requested and for the purposes for which they were given. Imagine if we gave a beautiful handwoven prayer rug to someone as a gift. How would we feel if upon visiting them we discovered that they were using it as a doormat? We would feel let down, saddened
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 that they had not appreciated the gift’s value and purpose. The same holds true for all of the blessings in our lives. Our minds, bodies, and wealth were given to us for a purpose. Their purpose has been defined for us in the Quran and the beautiful example of the Prophet. Our minds have been given to know God, to appreciate Him, and to learn His will for our lives. Our bodies have been given to worship Him, to help others, and to stand up for truth and justice. Our wealth has been given to free our lives for worship and to share with those who are less fortunate. Our spouses and children have been
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given to us so that we can build a sanctuary of love, trust, and growth. If we fail to use such blessings for these purposes, we have not shown true gratitude toward God and risk of losing them. Finally, we should strive to remember that to thank God for blessings in hopes of acquiring more is praiseworthy and we have been urged to do so. But to limit ourselves to only seeking more blessings is to miss the point. He puts blessings into our lives to help us connect with Him. We shouldn’t cheapen our relationship with Him to connecting only for the purpose of acquiring blessings, like a friend who calls only to ask for money. If we reach this spiritual station, when what we really care about is simply being close and beloved to Him, then we have reached the highest station of gratitude. God states in the Quran that is the greatest triumph (9:72). May God help us all to reach it. Ameen.
Translations of the Hikam adapted from Ibn Ata’ Allah, The Book of Wisdoms, trans. Victor Danner (New York: Paulist Press, 1978).
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