Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan)

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan)

“O who believe, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; perchance you will guard yourselves.”

“The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down, a guidance for the people, and clear verses of guidance and criterion.” (Quran: Chapter 2, 183)

The fourth pillar of Islam is Sawm, or fasting in the month of Ramadan. Fasting is also practiced in many other religions and is mentioned in the Torah and Bible as well as in Hindu scriptures. Observant Christians fast during Lent by giving up a particular food. Hindus fast on certain days of the week or on holidays, and for Jews, the most important day of fasting is on Yom Kippur, which lasts a little over a day.

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Calendar. Because Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, it rotates through the seasons, moving back around eleven days each year. Last year, Ramadan started on August 1st and this year, the Islamic Society of North America, declared Ramadan to begin on June 18th, 2015.

Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food and drink during this time. The aim of the fast is to weaken the physical desire or self and allow for the purification of the soul. It’s a process of spiritual purification and strengthening of willpower to carry us through the year. Muslims break their fast with dates and water followed by the evening prayer and dinner.

It is customary for families to attend the local mosque after breaking fast for special nightly prayers called taraweeh. The entire Qur’an, 114 chapters or 6,000 verses are recited by the end of Ramadan in a melodious recitation, called tajweed.

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My Image, Honor, and Reputation

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“When you are hurt by people not showing you favor, or by them directing their criticism towards you, then return to Allah’s knowledge of you. If His knowledge does not satisfy you, then your misfortune through your dis-satisfaction with Allah’s knowledge is worse than your misfortune through the presence of their harm.”
— Ibn Ata’Allah al-Iskandari

fedwaWhat is image?  Image is our perception either of ourselves or of others.  It lacks understanding, depth, and breadth – it’s just a snapshot, if you will.  Carl Jung said perception is projection.  What does this mean?  We all have a shadow self, a hidden personality that we do not like. When we are listening and engaging others in a reflective mode, we are aware of that personality and don’t disown it.  We work on it continuously and repetitively — that’s what Ramadan invites us to do and take with us the rest of the year.

However, when we disown parts of our personality, we project them onto other people, in a scapegoating way, in order to feel better about ourselves and to avoid any spiritual growth.

When we obsess or become fixated on a particular group or individual, and use that image to engage them, that is projection.  We must stop and ask ourselves the following six questions:

  1. Do I know them beyond that perception?
  2. How much effort have I made to know them as human beings?
  3. How much of my time is spent psychoanalyzing the other’s flaws?
  4. How often do I find myself pointing out their flaws to fix them?
  5. Do I find myself feeling good after fixing their flaws?
  6. How well do I receive advice from this “other?”

Now pause and reflect: How are the flaws that characterize this “other” representative of you? How much of the bad that you see in this little-known other, if you were to be really honest with yourself, exists in you?

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Ramadan – An Exercise in Self restraint

By Sarah Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

Ramadan is a sacred month for the Muslims.  Muslims believe that this is the month in which the first revelation of the Quran, Muslims’ holy book, came down to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In Ramadan, Muslims are required to fast from dawn to sunset.  Fasting is not just refraining from eating and drinking, but also staying away from acts such as cursing, backbiting, and so on. It’s the time of the year when Muslims try to become closer to God and try to humble themselves.

I think Muslims are the only people who actually look forward to a month where they can’t eat or drink, sunrise to sunset. But, there are many reasons as to why Muslims look forward to this month of fasting.  Fasting in Ramadan helps them become more patient, and allows them to learn self-restraint.  Food is everywhere. Literally! So, it requires a huge amount of restraint in order to not be tempted to break their fast. Also, people around them, like at work or school, would eat in front of them, which also aids in strengthening their resistance to give in. As said earlier, fasting for Muslims does not only mean no drinking and eating, it also means no bad habits like backbiting, cursing, or fighting. So, Muslims use this month to get rid of their bad habits. For example, if someone has a really bad habit of cursing and a situation in which they would usually curse comes up, he/she would restrain him/herself from cursing. This way, their resistance towards the bad habit will build up and, by the end of the month that habit will be gone. This is one of the biggest reasons why Muslims look forward to the month of Ramadan: to get rid of bad habits.

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As Ramadan begins, Minneapolis makes life a little easier for Muslim businesses

By Ibrahim Hirsi


One spoon at a time, Abdirahman Mukhtar finished his plate of rice and chicken Wednesday afternoon at the Geeljire Grill in the Palestinian-owned Karmel Square mall in south Minneapolis.

“This will be my last daytime meal for the next 30 days,” Mukhtar said with a big smile. “No food or water for long hours.”

Thursday marks the beginning of Ramadan, a month of fasting from dawn to dusk with deep reflection and intense prayers for Muslims throughout the world.

In Minnesota, Mukhtar and more than 150,000 Muslims will have to endure summer’s longer hours and hot temperatures, which could make observing Ramadan more challenging.

And it might bear specific challenges for Muslim athletes, like the youth soccer team that Mukhtar coaches every Tuesday and Thursday at Currier Park in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

“It could be hard on these kids,” he explained. “It’s going to be difficult for anybody to be very active while fasting.”

Difficult or not, Mukhtar was quick to say that it’s an exciting time for Muslims everywhere to see this month. “It’s a blessing to be able to live this month,” he said. “It’s a month of forgiveness, humility, humbleness, charity and reflection.”

Continue reading at MinnPost…

Ibrahim Hirsi

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Volunteering Is My Lifestyle

By Memoona Ghani, Engage Minnesota

MemonaOften times Muslims are thought of as citizens who are far away from volunteering or activism in the community, which is actually not true. On the contrast there are several Muslim groups that have been working on several projects to benefit the local communities but most of the time these efforts are hidden.  In fact, serving the humanity is an inherent characteristic for practicing Muslims.

It is just amazing that nowadays the “volunteering” has to be called out. While the fact is helping the needy with food, money, moral and spiritual support, cleaning the places of living, preventing wastage of resources, providing education, mentoring young adults, voicing the rights of the weak etc. was presented and taught as a lifestyle for Muslims by God and the Prophets of God.

For example, to keep our surroundings clean and to prevent the wastage of resources, God has continuously brought attention to the beautiful world He has created and then He mentions that human beings are His vicegerents on earth. What does a vicegerent do? A vicegerent takes care of everything that has been given to him i.e. the earth and its resources, the living beings that exist on this earth.

Of many local Muslims groups in Minnesota, Al Maghrib Impact volunteers have also been busy with different projects to benefit the community. They have taken up collecting and preparing for a few food shelves in a joint effort with yet another amazing group Building Blocks of Islam. These volunteers are there to help from month to month regardless of their ethnicity, gender and age.

The Qur’an states, “ (The righteous are those) who give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive, [Saying], ‘We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude.

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Let’s Talk About Islam – With Honesty

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

fedwaI advocate for a holistic approach toward life. By holistic, I mean that when we talk about everything from medicine to education, we include a view of all aspects of ourselves as people, including our spiritual selves. If we engage only one layer and neglect or encourage people to divorce other parts of who they are – we don’t allow for people to fully express themselves, which leads to all kinds of social ills and hardships in our communities.

Honest discussions on faith allow us to holistically challenge the voices of extremism that flourish in the internet. This is also an important step if we are going to build a strong foundation for coexistence.

If faith remains a topic that can be shut down and treated superficially without understanding nuances and without being engaged with respectfully, then accusations against it cannot be countered in a meaningful way. I grew by the many mistakes I made online and in person communicating what I truly felt. Through this dialog, I was challenged many, many times to search aspects of my faith, that had had it remained unchallenged in a meaningful way, I would have never come to a greater understanding of some, and shed other views that I now feel were very much in error.

Quite a few accuse Muslims and Islam of trying to take over America….that Muslims say one thing but secretly are planning another. People who have a hatred and fear of Islam (such as Dutch MP Geert Wilders) are asked to brief our elected representatives in Congress in closed hearings and forums. Muslims cannot engage in a debate that is framed in a way that limits their ability to respond and their ability to engage in meaningful dialogue beyond polemics.

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Wearing the hijab: Minnesota Muslim women share their experiences

By Lori Saroya

Saroya_Lori_circleMugThe first person I told about my decision to start wearing the hijab, the Islamic religious headscarf, was a Lutheran. She was my best friend since middle school and the slightest hesitation, discouragement, or worry from her would have made me reconsider. She paused, clearly caught off guard by my announcement. “Do they make Mickey Mouse headscarves?” she joked. Then she told me: “Whatever you want to do, I will support it.”

Growing up in a small town in southern Iowa, diversity consisted of my Muslim family and the local Amish community. The Amish women covered their hair, despite the stares and negative comments they were subjected to by others. I admired their grace and composure. I envied their strong faith and confidence.

As my religious study and practice increased, I knew that the hijab was a part of my Muslim faith. I respected Mary, mother of Jesus, and the piety and strength that she embodied. I wanted to emulate her. The decision to start wearing the hijab felt right to me, yet I struggled with it. As much as I tried to justify reasons for not wearing it, I realized my real fear: how others would perceive me.

“Someone who looks like me walks past you in the street. Do you think they’re a mother, a refugee or a victim of oppression? Or do you think they’re a cardiologist, a barrister or maybe your local politician? Do you look me up and down, wondering how hot I must get or if my husband has forced me to wear this outfit? What if I wore my scarf like this? I can walk down the street in the exact same outfit and what the world expects of me and the way I’m treated depends on the arrangement of this piece of cloth. But this isn’t going to be another monologue about the hijab because Lord knows, Muslim women are so much more than the piece of cloth they choose, or not, to wrap their head in. This is about looking beyond your bias.”

TedTalk: What does my headscarf mean to you?

While other countries are banning the hijab and dictating women’s dress, our Supreme Court just voted 8-1 to defend religious freedom. The recent landmark decision in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. increases protections against religious bias in employment. It reaffirms our nation’s values and upholds a Muslim woman’s right to wear the hijab in the workplace.

Other recent headlines highlight wins for the hijab and feature trailblazers. AMuslim lawyer in New York refused to choose between her career and hijab. Girls in Minneapolis worked with the university to design their own hijab-friendly basketball uniforms. The St. Paul Police Department hired its firstMuslim woman police officer — and created a hijab to go with her uniform. There’s even a hijabi contestant on America’s Masterchef for the first time.

I know there will come a day when Americans will see beyond the stereotypes. The hijab — as well as the yarmulke, turban, kufi and other religious headwear — will become a part of America’s diverse culture. The hijabi trailblazers are going to make that happen.

Continue reading at Star Tribune…

Lori Saroya is a civil rights activist, nonprofit leader, writer and mother. She has received several awards and recognitions for her community work including a Congressional Tribute, the Governor’s Distinguished Service Award, and the Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans. She is writing her first memoir, a reflective piece on her identity as an American Muslim woman and the civil rights challenges facing her community.

Arrests trigger flood of emotions in Minnesota’s Somali community

By Jamal Abdulahi

The recent arrest of six Somali-American young men, suspected of trying to join an overseas terror organization, has triggered a flood of emotions in Minnesota’s Somali community. Fittingly, community leaders are floating proposals to help everyone cope with these emotions.

The sorrow of heart-broken mothers touched many in in Minnesota’s Somali community. A mother of two suspects wept while trying to answer a question from a reporter. Her excruciating pain percolated to two daughters, who also wept as they accompanied their mother to court.

A suspect’s brother unleashed loads of disgust and frustration upon the informant who helped authorities. “I’m mad,” he told a flock of reporters covering court proceedings. A seventh man was arrested after posting a series of menacing messages on social media.

Friends and family who packed the courtroom during the detention hearing were dismayed to learn that the suspects were being held in solitary confinement, with ankles and wrists shackled, invoking images of Guantanamo Bay. About 200 supporters of grief-stricken families showed up at a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol and questioned the utility of shackling.

Continue reading at Star Tribune…

Jamal Abdulahi is an independent analyst. He writes about politics, economy and Minnesota’s Somali-American community. He also blogs at www.minnesotacivic.com.

The ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ program institutionalizes injustice against Somalis

By Kadra Abdi, Ayantu Ayana, Ramla Bile, Mohamed H. Mohamed, Julia Nekessa Opoti

Norm Coleman’s “In the Land of 10,000 Terrorists” Op-Ed that appeared in the Star Tribune on April 24, 2015, has offended many progressives and members of the Somali community alike. However, something even more egregious is receiving blind support from Minnesota’s progressive community. Under the leadership of U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, the Department of Justice has launched a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program in Minneapolis.

Like Coleman’s Op-Ed, the CVE program promotes seriously flawed theories of terrorist radicalization, as well as unjustified fear toward Somalis. Terrorism is not defined by a single cultural group or a faith system – yet the Department of Justice’s program exclusively targets Muslim Americans, and, in Minnesota, it specifically targets Somalis, cashing in on the tired and racist cliché that Islam and Muslims are inherently violent. The reality? According to the FBI, six percent of all acts of domestic terrorism are attributed to Muslims, which means that the CVE program will ignore the source of 94 percent of threats to homeland security.

While progressives have come out strong against Coleman’s Op-Ed, progressive leaders continue to throw their support behind the CVE, which enjoys bipartisan support.

Continue reading at MinnPost…

The authors are Somali and East African community activists who reside in the Twin Cities.


If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at salbright@minnpost.com.)

We also welcome your commentary at Engage Minnesota.

The Essence of Beauty

By Malak Sabbah, Engage Minnesota

I’m sure you all have heard the simple, yet profound saying of Confucius: “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” This galvanizing quote has for centuries transformed the spiritual lives of people, creating an aura of creativity and imagination in the way we perceive our world today. It is a shift in our understanding of life, encouraging us to seek beauty through our own distinct lens.

Society  has long programmed our perceptions and outlooks, whether it’s about our physical features, inner beauty, or our world and everything in between, to the point where conforming is the only gateway to happiness, so they say. But this quote or better yet, state of mind, can really uplift the spirit, guiding us towards finding beauty in nearly everything.

This quote teaches us that a deformed rose stem is beautiful if only we learn how to shift our focus on the enriching red color of the pedals above. It teaches us that when you peel open a grapefruit, don’t quickly rush to devour it; rather notice the fine tuning of how it’s split perfectly, and notice the natural order of its structure and vibrant color. Or it teaches us to look at the flock of birds flying harmoniously together in groups, where each bird dares to fly out of the line, to learn about teamwork and standing together amongst the rigid winds.

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Righting the Misconceptions – Not all Terrorists Are Muslim

By Sarah Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

Same hate, different target. Almost every minority in the United States has faced discrimination. The same hate has been transferred over and over again, to different targets. (CAIR-MN). A few decades ago, and somewhat still persistent, it was the African Americans, and now it’s the Muslim-Americans. CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) conducted a poll asking the public, “On a scale of 1-10, with one being an America free of Islamophobia and 10 being the worst possible situation for Muslims in America, how would you rate the state of Islamophobia in America today?” The average answer turned out to be 6.4 out of 10. People blindly believe in erroneous views about Muslims being projected by some media outlets.  In my opinion, the biggest misconception about Muslims is that all terrorists are Muslim.

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Texas congresswoman Molly White needs to reaffirm her allegiance to the US and apologize to all Americans

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

Yesterday’s fiasco by Texas congresswoman Molly White is diagnostic of her deep bitterness toward American Muslims as well as, perhaps, her own temperament challenges. However, not all anger is unjustified. In fact, sometimes anger is required. But in the case at hand, White should get ready to contend with Americans being rightfully angry at her. Read more »

Anti-racism does not conflict with the freedom of speech

By Boraan Abdulkarim, Engage Minnesota

There are more than two perspectives on the recent happenings in France. If you want to wave two flags, do so undauntedly, even if one is raised higher.

One of the latest headline and conversation-dominating topics is the recent shooting in Paris. Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published another addition to a long line of cartoons that make a joke out of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, and this prompted gunmen, who claimed to be avenging the Prophet, to kill 12 Charlie Hebdo staff members.  Both bitter racism on behalf of Charlie Hebdo  and an infringement on Freedom of Speech on behalf of the gunmen were committed. In order to take a stance on the issue, individuals must ask themselves which of these wrongs is more immediate.

That’s where things get messy.

Pullquote Photo

— Chief Visual Editor, The Rubicon, Boraan Abdulkarim

It’s slowly evolved to become a fight to mark the good guys and the bad guys, and make the bad guys pay.”

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If you think the world is going crazy, you need to understand wartime media


By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

The CEO of the company I work for likes to send e-mail commentaries about world events every now and then. His last mass e-mail was in regards to the recent terror attacks in Paris. In addition to lamenting (rightfully) on how horrifying the attacks were, our CEO kept repeating his bewilderedness at the mindsets of the attackers. How could they be so cruel? So devoid of humanity? What’s going on in the world? Why is this happening to us? Read more »

What Does Our Faith Say About Power and Oppression?

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

In 2013, the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota began a dialogue series called “Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!”

Over several dialogues we brought in speakers who helped us to explore and share with each other their faith tradition and perspectives on Abraham, the Angels, Adam and Eve, Jesus, Moses, David, and Prophet Muhammad, upon them peace and blessings.  For Muslims, all prophets are spiritual brothers, with Prophet Muhammad being the last and final messenger of God in this long chain of prophets.  The discussions were quite interesting and the series helped to throw a pebble, creating a tiny ripple of understanding between the faith traditions.

This Sunday, December 21st, we are moving past this series to a new dialogue:  Faithful Response:  What does our faith say about how we respond to issues of power and oppression?

I will share my perspective with another speaker, Dr. Cameron B. R. Howard, assistant professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Continue reading here…

Blaming mosques for ISIS recruiting misses the issue

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

Mosques inside the United Stated, including Minnesota mosques, are receiving extra news coverage as of late in connection with a few Muslims deciding to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian Baathist regime of Bashar Al Assad. The news coverage includes what’s being done by Muslims and their law enforcement partners in curbing recruiting, charges being brought, details about recruits and their journeys, and sometimes negative connotations about mosques themselves, such as Fox 9’s recurring disingenuous depiction of mosques as being places for terror incitement.

Something, however, is being completely overlooked here, and it’s not exactly a subtle thing. In fact, it’s the single most important piece of the story: Bashar Al Assad’s regime’s continuing atrocities against Syrian Muslims.

Read more »

An Increasingly Diverse Religious Landscape

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

The religious landscape in the U.S. is changing. Our country is getting more religiously diverse. This change calls for a fundamental change in the way we approach interreligious understanding and outreach. In my very first blog entry, I had outlined the tremendous efforts that are happening in Minnesota. Since then, these efforts have definitely increased by many orders of magnitude.

Read the rest of Zafar’s article here.

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

“… the angels said, “O Mary, indeed God gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to God].”

Read the rest of Zafar’s Star Tribune piece here.

Rep. Ellison and Rep. McCollum Take a Stand Against Human Rights Abusers

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

India is facing a stern test for its much vaunted democratic values as it prepares for general elections to be held in April 2014. Should we as Americans be concerned about the impact of these developments in the world’s largest democracy? The answer is an emphatic yes.

read the rest of Zafar’s Star Tribune piece here.

St. Cloud Times on the proposed Islamic center

Come 6 p.m. Tuesday, all St. Cloud residents will learn more about a proposed zoning change to property on Clearwater Road that has many folks already fuming.

Read the rest of the St. Cloud Times editorial here.


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