Listening to God – Toward Healing and Reconciliation

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

The first duty of love is to listen.
–Paul Tillich

fedwaThere is a narration on the Prophet’s cousin, Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, who was fighting an enemy with his sword ready to deal the final blow, then the enemy spit in his face. Ali refused to continue the battle as the fight became personally motivated.

We learn from this incident – that whether in battle or in discussion, when conflicts or a fight becomes poisoned with personal angst – the wisest thing to do is to ground oneself and remove the personal angst. Until the personal angst is removed, then the discussion can continue.

There are many roads in the valley of impotence in the face of adversity, and many lead to loss and perpetual suffering. At times, we find ourselves at a junction where many voices are giving us advice, however, all these voices lead us astray. There is the road of guidance which is a steep road, but first we must acknowledge that we do not know and seek guidance.

At times, voices that validate our pain and suffering seek to manipulate one in their most vulnerable state when a person is hurting and unaware. Whereas voices of guidance seek to center and ground you so you can see the roads ahead and choose the road to travel with wisdom and reflection. It is for this reason that God guides us to show patience in times of adversity, so we can reflect and follow the road of guidance and not one of the seductive roads of validation or conformity.

I like to emphasize listening, but not to validate the one speaking but if our aim is to guide another or receive guidance, then we must find where we are emotionally, mentally, spiritually on the map before we can guide each other appropriately. Giving people advice based on conjecture, false assumptions or projections of our own internal issues can lead to many misunderstandings and name-calling.

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Clarifying Misconceptions on Islam

By Owais Bayunus, Engage Minnesota

owais_bayunusIslam is a universal call to mankind, not an “Arab” or an “Eastern” religion as many depict it. Although it addresses all people, including Jews and Christians, they are not categorized as enemies or “infidels.” The term “infidel” is of European origin, used at the time of the Crusades to describe Muslims.

Goodness is acknowledged by Islam wherever it resides. The following points will elaborate the pluralistic society in which Muslims have lived and how close Muslims consider Jews and Christians are to them:

1- Christians and Jews are considered People of the Book in Islam because they share the same source from which the Qur’an has been revealed, and a Muslim must believe in all the Prophets of God including each and every one of the Israelite Prophets (Isaac, Jacob to Jesus), and the books revealed to them. Muslims believe in the same God as the Jews and the Christians, and “to kill an innocent man is like killing the whole mankind and saving a life is saving humanity.” Muslims believe in the birth of Jesus to Virgin Mary, and in the second coming of Jesus. The names Jesus (Isa) and Moses (Musa) are very common among Muslims.

2- Muslim men are allowed to marry Christian or Jewish women with good character. A wife is the closest person to a man. She can be the mother of his children, the guardian, the teacher, the lover and protector of his children, and the one who builds their character. How can Islam, on the one hand tell you to consider them as “infidels” and on the other hand let them be the closest person to you and your children?

It should also be remembered that once a Muslim man marries a Christian or Jewish woman, it becomes obligatory upon him not only to let her practice the obligations of her own religion freely, but to help her in carrying them out, such as taking her to church or synagogue, and whatever is necessary for her to remain a devout religious person of her own faith.

A Muslim man does not have any contradiction with the Christian or Jewish wife as far as the belief in all the Prophets is concerned as he reveres them equally, if not more, as she does.

Muslims are permitted by Islam to eat the food offered to them by the People of the Book (unless specifically prohibited such as alcohol or pork) and to reciprocate by offering their food to them. “The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and your food is lawful unto them”. Qur’an (5:5)

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St. Cloud immigrants get global news in unusual ways

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400When Mohamed Jama Mohamud dashed through a busy parking lot on a recent afternoon at a small African business hub in north St. Cloud, some shoppers stopped him to ask, “When can you install my box?”

Towering over each person he interacted with, Mohamud gave a soft smile and carefully chose his words as he explained his busy schedule.

Then Mohamud, a bilingual communication support specialist at North Junior High, promised that he would call them over the weekend to install ethnic channels that connect the immigrant communities to their native countries.

For nearly a year and a half now, Mohamud has been involved in providing international television service, which installs foreign-language channels for the swelling St. Cloud immigrant population, many of them from Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Mohamud explained how the process works: “I install the channels on Roku or Android TV streaming boxes, but mostly Roku. When installations are done, I take the boxes to whoever needs the service. And then, I connect it on their TV.”

With customers in St. Cloud, Fargo and Willmar, Mohamud said he charges people about $250 per box, which has as many as 500 channels that carry entertainment programs, movies, sports and news.

“People don’t have to pay a fee every month or every year,” he said. “They just buy the box one time.”

Generally, immigrants maintain strong family ties with their homeland and are eager to learn about the day-to-day politics that affect their loved ones back home.

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

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Karen man’s journey takes him from a Burmese jungle to a life in Minnesota

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

IbrahimHirsiIllo400One thing Saw Poe Thay Doh experienced at age 7 still remains fresh in his mind: seeking refuge in the jungle as the Burmese army burned his village to the ground.

“I was very afraid of them,” he said of the regime, which continues to target and persecute people of his Karen ethnicity, a group that’s been fighting for separation since Burma, also known as Myanmar, gained independence from Britain in 1948.“They [would have] killed us all if they saw us.”

When Doh emerged from hiding, he entered a Thai refugee camp and lived with his grandfather, Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, a prominent opposition leader.

Even though life in the camp didn’t provide Doh all the basic needs, he said it was better than living in the jungle. “There was no place to sleep,” he added. “No food or clean water.”

Rainy seasons were particularly dreadful, he added.

In the camp, however, there was at least a place to call home. Plus, he was able to visit a nearby United Nations food station twice a month and collected free rice, beans, oil and salt, among other things.

But in 2008, his grandfather Phan, who spent decades fighting on behalf of Karen state and its people, was assassinated.

Continue reading at MinnPost

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University of St. Thomas to screen documentary on sexual abuse among immigrant women

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

IbrahimHirsiIllo400

Filmmaker Katie O’Rourke longed to create a documentary film that has a direct impact on communities whose stories have been overlooked.

So she joined forces with other filmmakers who wanted to accentuate the trials and hardships of the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. But O’Rourke and her team didn’t have the means to produce the story they wanted to tell.

Despite that grim financial reality, however, they found a way to create “Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie),” a documentary film about Angy Rivera, an unauthorized immigrant activist who endured an ordeal too common to the plight of her immigrant community: sexual abuse.

The documentary film, directed by Mikaela Shwer, is scheduled to screen Thursday, from 7-9:30 p.m., at the University of St. Thomas.

Some Twin Cities residents helped fund the film, which records the personal story of 24-year-old Rivera from the days she lived in Colombia as a child to her current life as a rising immigration leader in New York City.

“We did sort of a crowd-funding campaign,” said O’Rourke, a St. Paul native who now lives in New York. “So many people in the Twin Cities came out. They were so generous with their support.”

The filmmakers raised about $26,000 to produce the documentary, which has been screened so far in San Francisco and New York City. “We always knew that as soon as we finished the film,” O’Rourke said, “we were going to bring it to Minnesota and have it here for the community.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

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Flying while Muslim at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

By Lori Saroya, Star Tribune

Saroya_Lori_circleMugThe 4-year-old boy stood as still as he could. His knees were shaking. His arms were raised up high; “hands up, don’t shoot”-style. His eyes were shut tight. The lady with the purple gloves patted his head. Then she moved her hands down to his neck and shoulders. She patted his tummy and worked her way down. She touched him everywhere. There was a momentary pause when the little boy’s father threatened a lawsuit (he later told me that he knew there wasn’t a case). A fourth police officer was called. They were officially a scene. They were the Minnesota Muslim family traveling to Washington, D.C., to visit the Lincoln Memorial and the Natural History Museum.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is a hotbed for religious profiling. Some Minnesota Muslims would rather drive 7 hours and fly out of Chicago than endure the profiling, humiliation and degradation they are often subjected to at MSP. I can relate.

From January to April 2015, I took five domestic trips and one international trip. My visibly Muslim family and I were “randomly selected” for extra screenings every single time we flew out of MSP. It’s not random.

Sometimes the TSA agents are ignorant and rude. Like the agent who started patting my hijab after I was cleared by the full-body scanner. She had to “make sure there aren’t any explosives” inside it, she said.

Or the agent who wouldn’t let me pass security unless I removed both layers of my hijab and showed her my hair.

We all want to be safe while traveling. I fly frequently. I use carefully crafted language with my family before every trip, making a special point of saying how much I love them. I’m scared just like everyone else.

But profiling people based on their religious dress and religious names does not make us any safer. While TSA agents are fixated on hijabs, beards and Arabic names, they overlook concerning behavior that requires scrutiny.

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.

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Somalis are resilient Americans, not terrorists

By Abdirashid Ahmed, Pioneer Press

As part of my daily routine, I read the local daily news clips every morning. I often find more than one article about the Somali community in Minnesota. Though some articles are positive, many frame the community negatively.

For example, on Monday, July 13, 2015, there were two articles about the community: one, titled “Minnesota’s Somali-Americans urge new treatment for would-be terrorists,” appeared in the Pioneer Press, and “Study: African immigrants’ economic impact untapped in Minnesota” appeared on ABC Eyewitness News Channel 5.

Surprisingly, the article with the term “terrorist” attracted the attention of many fellow Minnesotans, many of whom chose to post negative, un-American, unpatriotic, and clearly racist comments. One commenter asserted, “The only way to deradicalize (Somalis) is to not let them in here.” Another commenter stated, “Send them all back to the craphole from which they originated in Africa. These people are completely alien to Western Society and don’t belong here. They are a violent threat shoved into our midst by those whom (sic) would destroy us all.” And another commenter wrote, “Somalis have learned how to game the system and take advantage of the lefty dim wits in Minneapolis. These guys are no different than any street gang members. Do the crime, do the time.” Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any reasonable comments in response to this article. I have been reading, reviewing, and tracking these negative posts for some time and feel it’s my moral obligation to intervene positively.

Continue reading at TwinCities.com

Abdirashid S. Ahmed of Maplewood currently works for the City of Minneapolis as its East African community specialist. A public policy analyst, he has previously worked with public assistance programs in Ramsey, Hennepin and Dakota Counties. He has also worked with Metropolitan Council and Lutheran Social Services. He has a master’s degree in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree in human services administration from Metropolitan State University.

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Meet the attorneys representing Somali-American terror suspects

By Jamal Abdulahi, Star Tribune

Abdulahi_Jamal_colCircleTrials for the seven Somali teens arrested for attempting to join ISIS are scheduled to begin in September. The suspects could spend years in prison if convicted. Defense attorneys have said little outside of court, but one thing is certain: The deck is stacked in favor of the prosecutor.

When Reverend Al Sharpton eulogized the late defense attorney Jonnie Cochran, he told mourners: “With all due respect to you, Brother Simpson, when we heard about the acquittal, we weren’t clapping for O.J., we were clapping for Johnnie. We were clapping because for decades our brothers, our cousins, our uncles had to stand in the well with no one to stand up for them. And finally a black man came and said, ‘If it don’t fit you must acquit,’”

Sharpton went on. “Johnnie Cochran was to this era what Thurgood Marshall was to the era before.”

Sharpton was making a broader point about the American judicial system. The difference between walking free and serving lengthy prison sentences depends largely on the rigor of the defense.

And of course, quality of defense is often tied to wealth or lack thereof.  O.J. Simpson was enormously wealthy.

The seven Somali-American teenagers are standing in a deep well alone. The current political atmosphere in America makes it nearly impossible to defend charges of conspiracy to provide “material support” to a designated terrorist organization. The defendants’ identities only deepen the well.  The combination of being black, Muslim and immigrant amounts to three strikes and you’re out in post-September 11 America.

These teenagers and their immigrant families are not wealthy. In addition to the most serious charge of conspiracy, two of the defendants are charged with financial fraud by resorting to withdrawals from their college financial aid funds to allegedly finance their travel plans. This underscores the point: The defendants can’t afford a Cochran-style defense.

When defendants are not able to afford attorneys, the government provides a public defender. The problem is, the federal public defender system is plagued by chronic budget shortfalls, including a $52 million in 2013.

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 http://www.minnesotacivic.com.

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A place for Hamza

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400On Saturday, Abdilahi Hassan did the hardest thing a parent can do: He buried his son.

Hamza Elmi, the 6-year-old whose body was found last week near the Mississippi River, was buried in a Muslim-only section of the North Star Cemetery in St. Cloud.

“Hamza left us all,” said an emotional Hassan, whose reddened eyes attested to almost three sleepless and tearful days. “That’s all I can say for now.”

Almost 300 men huddled around Hamza’s grave to mourn and bury the autistic and nonverbal Madison Elementary School student, whose pink scooter led him to his tragic demise after he slipped away from home last Thursday night.

An overnight search by community members and police ended Friday when Hamza was found dead just 10 to 15 feet off the west bank of the river.

Although Muslims traditionally bury their deceased within 24 hours, the post-mortem examination, also known as autopsy, delayed the process: He was found Friday morning and was laid to rest Saturday afternoon.

“It’s encouraged to bury the body as soon as possible,” said Mohamed Nuh Dahir, an imam with the Islamic Center of St. Cloud. “But it’s fine if the body isn’t buried right away because of medical examination.”

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

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McKnight/Concordia study fills in data gaps on African immigrants’ impact in Minnesota

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

IbrahimHirsiIllo400On a recent warm evening, Eritrean-born Afeworki Bein got busy serving beer, coffee and food as a long line of customers snaked insight Snelling Café, which he’s owned and operated since 2003.

When Bein, who immigrated to the United States 28 years ago, first opened his business in St. Paul, he only served coffee and soft drinks. But once he noted the increasing immigrant population in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood 10 years ago, he expanded the space and added new items to the menu.

“There were not these many people here,” said Bein, comparing the current African immigrant population in the Twin Cities to that in the ‘80s and ‘90s. “There were a few … and I knew them all.”

The neighborhood has now blossomed into a business hub for African immigrants in the Twin Cities, a home to thousands of immigrants and refugees, may of them from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria and Somalia.

Bruce Corrie, an economics professor at Concordia University in St. Paul, has been studying the economic growth of these communities for years.

In his latest “The Economic Potential of African Immigrants in Minnesota” report, Corrie unveiled the growing entrepreneurship and economic boom of African immigrants in Minnesota as well as the obstacles they’re facing in their pursuit of entrepreneurial success.

The community generates an estimated $1.6 billion in income purchasing power each year, according to the report. In the Twin Cities metro area alone, African immigrants spend an annual $800 million purchasing groceries, electronics, furniture and healthcare, among other things.

Funded by the McKnight Foundation, the report pulls information from more than 600 customer and business surveys, which Corrie and his team conducted in the Twin Cities, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.

“The consumer and business surveys indicate that there is a sizeable market for ethic products,” stated the report, which was published in May. “For example, African immigrants in Minnesota spend an estimated $90 million in groceries at ethnic stores.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

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With social media, moms aim to end racism in St. Cloud

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400Natalie Ringsmuth and Kelly Meyer have an ambitious plan for St. Cloud: to create a united community, despite longstanding racial and religious tensions between black and white residents here.

The idea struck the pair following the Tech High School incident in March, when more than 100 students — many of them Somalis — walked out of their classes to protest alleged discrimination and mistreatment.

As tensions grew at Tech, the flood of messages on the St. Cloud Times comment section left Ringsmuth and Meyer bewildered.

“It wasn’t until I read the comments that I really understood that this was highlighting a larger problem in our community,” said Ringsmuth, a Waite Park mother of three.

“When you come to this country and you’re told to go back to where you came from,” she continued with tears clouding her eyes, “how would you feel?”

Like Ringsmuth, Meyer said she was astounded how people reacted to the Tech incident and the misconceptions many had about Somalis.

“I feel like if you’re not speaking up and doing something to better it, you’re part of the problem,” said Meyer, a St. Cloud mother of two. “I didn’t want to be part of the problem.”

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

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Chattanooga Killings: Motive Unknown

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

But they have no knowledge therein.
They follow nothing but conjecture;
and conjecture avails nothing against Truth.

(Quran 53:28)

fedwaOn July 16, 2015, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez killed five U.S. service members in a shooting rampage in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The 24-year-old gunman, joked that he was just an “Arabian redneck,” was smoking marijuana with friends and struggled to stay devout to Islamic teachings.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, immediately condemned the deadly attack in Tennessee.

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

“We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible. Such inexcusable acts of violence must be repudiated by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. The American Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens in offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured and in rejecting anyone who would harm our nation’s safety and security. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy.”

Likewise, the Minnesota chapter of CAIR responded immediately as well.  Executive Board Member Sakinah Mujahid who is a 13 year veteran of the US Army said:

“We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible. Such inexcusable acts of violence must be repudiated by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. The American Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens in offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured and in rejecting anyone who would harm our nation’s safety and security. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy.”

Initial theories on the possible motive behind the Chattanooga killings appear to be just pure conjecture or guesswork.

In an effort to fill in the gaps while reinforcing the stereotypes that inform our world view, people espouse these speculative theories to create a sense of control or to separate themselves from the horrible crime as far as possible.

Some non-Muslims indicate normal Islamic teachings as a possible motive for the crime, while some Muslims are pointing to some of his unIslamic behavior.

Islamic teachings did not radicalize him.  Many Muslims believe in the teachings that the world is a prison, meaning – be patient as when one is in a physical prison – you accept it and seek God’s help to be patient.  Deal with life’s hardships and don’t expect utopia.  Not all Muslims who believe that go shooting people.  I believe that.  It teaches one to expect hardships in life.  i discussed this Islamic teaching in a blog on Lessons on Power and Oppression from Moses.  From the blog, here is a clarification of what life is a prison means:

He[Moses] had completely nothing with him, and fully exhausted himself – to the very depth of his body and soul in pursuit of survival.  It is not an easy experience – but in that state – what does he do?

Some would commit suicide, others go on shooting rampage, and others on drugs to numb their feelings or escape from the pain, fear and a whole new reality.  He just experienced and accepted the event.  He surrendered to the new reality he was in as this is where God brought him to.  Then, in a state of dire need and exhaustion, he saw two women who had a need.  Instead, of being absorbed with his need and his near starvation and exhaustion, he got up and approached them, asked a clarifying question, then addressed their need.  He asked them for nothing in return.  He made no assumptions or ugly accusations about their standing with their flock instead of a male relative.  Afterwards, he turned to God and put forth his prayer asking for “whatever good that You bestow on me.”

Life is a prison is about surrendering to God’s will and facing hardships with faith.

Likewise, I know many Muslims who engage in unIslamic behaviors, like drugs, drinking and even go to strip joints, etc.,  That doesn’t mean they are going to shoot people as well.  Some of them would go out of their way to help people.  They are human beings struggling with human problems in their lives like most humans do in various parts of their lives.  Some of them turned their lives around.  We read such stories all the time.  Here is a recent story on StoryCorps here.

There is no clear predictor for what turns a person to engage in violence.   A 2008 UK study showed no identifiable pattern to “radicalization.”  In the document, Rethinking Radicalization from the Brennan Center for Justice:

An in-depth empirical study by the UK’s security service MI5 found that “there is no single pathway to extremism,” and that all those studied “had taken strikingly different journeys to violent extremist activity.”

The point is – we are just conjecturing and sensationalizing a feel good story.

Simply put, the motive for the Chattanooga killings is unknown.

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She is the chair for the Interfaith Relations at Islamic Center of Minnesota.  She has completed training in restorative justice at the University’s Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking.  She was a 2008-2009 policy fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.  She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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Blessed Festival of Fast Breaking

Blessed Festival of Fast Breaking

Eid Al-Fitr, or Festival of Fast Breaking comes right after a pillar of Islam called the Sawm in the Holy month of Ramadan.  The day begins with a special congregational prayer followed by a short sermon.  People are dressed in their best clothing, and children traditionally receive new clothing as well as other gifts.  Food, holiday congratulations, and festivities such as rides, balloons, and other fun activities for children follow the prayers.  The holiday lasts for three days during which people usually visit or invite each other.

Eid Mubarak or Blessed Return!  May God, Mighty and Majestic accept all of our good deeds and efforts during the month of Ramadan.  May God grant us His enabling grace to take the lessons and reflections with us throughout our lives so that we may benefit and receive benefit.  May God increase us to be more conscious of Him and grateful for all the blessings that are too numerous to count.

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A Powerful Interfaith Night

By Hanadi Chehab, American Diversity Report

Two events taking place in one venue occurred in the community of Plymouth, MN on Friday, July 10, 2015. As Muslims are witnessing the last few days of the fasting month of Ramadan, an “Interfaith Iftar”, or fast-breaking meal, and a “Night of Power” event joined forces to host 300 people, a mix of different faiths, ages and backgrounds, in the heart of the local mosque, North West Islamic Community Center (NWICC).

The objective was to familiarize people with the lives of Muslims and give them a chance to witness them worshiping in the most sacred month of the year. In Ramadan, the 9th lunar month, also called the month of the Quran, Muslim adults fast from before the break of dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, water and any intimate physical activity. In North America, the fast can range from 15 to 18 hours. In the “Night of Power” event, a group of Muslim families invited their neighbors, friends and colleagues to witness a fast-breaking meal together. “In a way, it was intimidating to ask people to join. We did it because we want to share our faith. Islam is a beautiful religion and people will witness that for themselves in the heart of our place of worship,” said Mona who invited her colleague.

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Continue reading at American Diversity Report

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Hanadi Chehab is a writer and blogger currently living in Minnesota, with her family of three children. Previously published on MinnPost and http://www.asamuslima.com. 
Before coming to the US Hanadi was a communication specialist working across different media platforms. She was a creative editor, previous TV presenter and program manager, jury member for various award shows in the Middle East, and reporter of the Cannes Advertising Festival. At the beginning of her career as a copywriter, Hanadi was awarded the Gold award for Cannes Young Lions on behalf of United Arab Emirates.

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Muslim community opens 4th Islamic center in St. Cloud

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400In 2013, the Islamic Center of St. Cloud proposed a plan to build a mosque in a residential area near Clearwater Road, only to withdraw its application after strong public resistance to the proposal.

Last Friday, however, Islamic Center of St. Cloud President Mohayadin Mohamed explained how the lost battle became a blessing in disguise: The Islamic center recently purchased a church in the city that embodies nearly everything the center sought in the failed plan — and at a lower price.

In April, the former Good News Assembly of God church at 712-17th Ave. S was converted into a mosque and classrooms for the growing Muslim population in the city. The building is the former Garfield Elementary School. The site is St. Cloud’s fourth mosque; others are located on Fifth Avenue South, Fourth Avenue South and Third Street North.

Randy Adams, former pastor of Good News Assembly of God, congratulated the leaders of the Islamic center for the purchase.

“They were easy to work with,” Adams said. “They were good people. We wish them the best.”

The 46,640-square-foot facility — which consists of 20 classrooms, seven offices, a cafeteria and a space that can hold up to 400 parishioners — cost the center $850,000.

“After the city rejected the plan to build a mosque, we were looking for another option,” Mohamed said. “But we found this place … a better place than the one rejected.”

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

‘We want to show our identity as Somali Muslim women — but also, we want to look good’

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

IbrahimHirsiIllo400Sofia Hersi broke out into a smile.

A pair of customers entered her small clothing store in the Karmel Square mall in Minneapolis last week, and Hersi rose from her stool to walk up to the two young Muslim women, who were shopping for the weekend Eid al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hersi welcomed the shoppers as they caught glimpses of an abaya — a loose, robe-like dress — hanging from the wall without a price tag.

“Where did you buy this from,” one customer asked, “and how much is it?”

“Abu Dhabi,” Hersi replied, “and that one is $70.”

Hersi, 27, opened her shop, Modern Closet, in partnership with her friend Istar Mohamed in April. Their aim was to cater to young Muslim women who had a taste for the traditional  — and for stylish clothing.

The store sells various items, including traditional dresses, scarves, handbags, clutches, sunglasses, rings and necklaces — some of them imported from the Middle East and others from New York and Los Angeles.

Older women have tended to dominate the female clothing market in the Twin Cities Somali community, Hersi explained. But in recent years, the industry has seen an increase in a new generation of entrepreneurs, who have joined the field to bring new, more stylish design ideas to young Muslim women.

Prior to opening Modern Closet, Hersi was a regular customer at Karmel Square. But she often came and went without buying anything, unsatisfied with what was around. “When I tried to find clothes in these stores, it was tough because most businesses were owned by older women like your mom and grandma,” she explained. “They were having a hard time finding what young women wanted.”

“Modern Closet is here to fill that void,” she said. “We want to be fashionable, we want to represent our culture and we want to show our identity as Somali Muslim women — but also, we want to look good.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Kenyan refugee camp friendship rekindled in St. Cloud

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400The recent stream of Somali immigrants and refugees who are making their mark in St. Cloud is partly the reason Hussein Mohamud and Feisal Ali decided to live in the city.

The childhood friends who grew up in the dusty and arid Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya also picked St. Cloud to be closer to their families here — and to Minneapolis, which has a vibrant Somali-American presence and serves as the capital city for Somalis in North America.

“It’s a small place,” Ali said of St. Cloud. “Anywhere you want to go in the city is just about 10 minutes away. People really like that.”

Mohamud added: “St. Cloud is really a nice city. It’s promising for young Somalis … many kids are graduating from colleges and high schools.”

Before their arrival in St. Cloud, Mohamud and Ali spent more than two decades in Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world.

Both escaped the civil war in Somalia — which erupted in 1991 — and sought refuge in the camp, which has more than 400,000 people. They initially thought the war would end sooner and planned to return home in a matter of months.

That wasn’t the case, however.

The civil war in Somalia stretched into decades. For Ali and Mohamud, this meant living more than 20 years in dire conditions in the camp.

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Ramadan and Your Health

By Rwoof Reshi, Engage Minnesota

scopeRamadan tests a Muslim’s physical, mental and spiritual being. This is great news for Minnesota winters as days are short and physically it is not taxing. However, the story is different when it comes to long hard days of Minnesota summer and it gets even further complicated when you have a medical condition to deal with.

There are certainly major medical benefits to fasting. Spiritual and religious reasons aside, one of the major benefits of fasting being able to control eating. This is one of the many reasons for obesity in western world and it disproportionately affects immigrants. Obesity in turn causes high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

Let me address some of the common medical conditions that might need special attention during fasting in the month of Ramadan.

Read more »

Global Impact Day and Charity

By Memoona Ghani, Engage Minnesota

Memona

July 4th came and gone.

July 5th came and gone.

But the memories, experiences and the friends of Al Maghrib Impact Muslim volunteers gained in these 2 days will stay with us forever. As part of the Global Impact Day, the Al Maghrib Impact volunteers of Minnesota served food at 2 different homeless shelters and the level of compassion of these volunteers coming out of these shelters was more than it was going in. Hearing about something and then “seeing” that something adds a different level of understanding about that certain situation. Likewise, hearing about homelessness from news or the Internet and then serving the homeless people while listening to their stories and struggles was entirely a different experience.

These experiences brought humility to the volunteers’ experience. We realized the blessings we have been given and increased in understanding the Islamic teachings: “there is a share for the poor and needy in your income.”

In our discussions we expressed that the fact that God has put some of us in this trial of homelessness and poverty is not because one group of people is somehow better than the other, rather it is that God has put the share of the needy in the income of those who are in a better situation. This is so some of us in a better financial situation will help people in need. This in the end will bring our hearts closer to each other, hence building a better brotherhood and sisterhood. It is just so amazing to see that the solution to most of our problems lies in simple acts and gestures done on a continuous basis.

On July 4th, the Impact volunteers served food at St. Anne’s Shelter in Minneapolis. Since this is a Women and Children only shelter, we wanted to do much more for this day but as per Shelter’s request they only delivered the food with some Independence Day decorations to go along with. Volunteers took the prepared food to the location around 4 pm and the shelter coordinator was kind enough to let the volunteers set the food and some decorations before serving.

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Global Impact Day and Ramadan

By Memoona Ghani, Engage Minnesota

Follow the hashtag #GID and #GlobalImpactDay

MemonaLove for Ramadan is something that is introduced to kids by parents and with time they learn the significance of this beautiful month as their faith and love increases for this month even more. In 2015, Ramadan started on June 18th and we are now past the middle of the month.

Ramadan is the month when practicing Muslims observe daily fasts for a whole month. Everyday during this month, Muslims stop eating and drinking after sunrise and break their fast at sunset. This sequence might seem boring and tiring but in fact it is not. Also eating and drinking is not the only highlight of this beautiful month.  Acts of worship increase during this month, such as worship by praying late at night and other extra worship in any way possible during daytime.  These acts of worship – fast breaking, praying at night in a group or congregation makes it even more beautiful and rewarding.

Along with many extra acts of worship done during this month, 2 are always common:

  • Giving Charity to the people and places that need it regardless of their faith.
  • Sharing a meal with others regardless of their faith

Muslims try to collect as much money possible at an individual or at a group level and donate it to various areas such as social service organizations, orphanages, areas hit by calamities, refugees, non-profit schools or civil service organizations etc.,

Read more »

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