Archive for the ‘Guest’ Category

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. Continue reading

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.

CAIR-MN Launches New Community Safety Training for Mosques

By A. Lori Saroya

CAIR-MN has launched a new community safety training initiative for mosques and other institutions serving minorities.

The interactive training discusses security steps to take and how to assess an institution’s vulnerability to attack. It includes safety preparation and planning, details on security equipment, how to deal with an armed intruder, procedures for handling bomb threats or suspicious packages, and links to security resources available from private and government sources.

CAIR-MN is also setting up on-site safety checks to provide site visits by community safety officers.

The new training is offered following the publication of CAIR’s new “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety.” The booklet was distributed to more than 50 mosques and organizations in Minnesota this week.

Drafted by a leading security consultant, it seeks to better equip the community with the knowledge necessary to protect against racial and religious bigotry or attacks. The booklet was produced in response to recent bias attacks targeting American Muslim institutions.

In addition to an increase in discrimination against Muslims in areas of employment, public accommodation and law enforcement profiling, CAIR-MN has seen an increase in hate crimes. At a time when a very vocal minority is shaping national sentiment on Islam and Muslims, safety training is urgently needed.

CAIR-MN handled more than 180 cases of hate, harassment and discrimination involving Minnesota Muslims and other racial and religious minorities last year.

Institutions serving minority communities can contact CAIR-MN at 612-206-3360 or to request the “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety” booklet, arrange a Community Safety Training or set up an On-Site Safety Check.

This training is made possible by a grant from the Elmer L. and Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation.


Ramadan: Honoring Religious Accommodations


How to effectively interact with your Muslim employees, students, colleagues and clients

Fasting: Every year in the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from the break of dawn until sunset, abstaining from food and drink. The fast is considered an act of self-purification which brings one closer to God.

This year, Ramadan began on July 8, 2013. It will end approximately on August 7, 2013. The fasts are almost 17 1/2 hours long each day.

Each year, CAIR-MN sees a rise in religious accommodation cases during Ramadan. Below are some ways you can accommodate your employee, co-worker, student, or client during Ramadan:

  • If a Muslim employee’s work shift occurs during the time of the pre-dawn mean or at the time of breaking the fast (after sunset), provide them a break at this time. Adjust regularly scheduled meal breaks to correspond to the necessary times.
  • Some Muslim women may start wearing the hijab (headcover) in Ramadan. Muslim men may wear a kufi (head cap). In most cases, the religious dress must be allowed.
  • Some Muslims may find it difficult to participate in lunch meetings; be mindful of this.
  • Fasting students should be allowed to go to the school library instead of the cafeteria during lunch.
  • Fasting students should be excused from strenuous physical activity as they will not be able to drink water.
  • Eid ul Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, will fall around August 7. Anticipate time off requests.

Take the time to also wish your Muslim friends, “Happy Ramadan.”

Please note: The above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Should you have any questions about the material herein or about a specific case, please consult with your attorney.

Request a Diversity Training

Increasing the understanding of Islam, Muslims and religious accommodations helps to ensure that Muslims’ rights, like those of other Americans, are upheld in the workplace, at school and in other public areas. These interactive trainings offer a safe space for questions about Islam and Muslims. CAIR-MN has developed a variety of trainings and tailors each to fit the needs of the client. Some of trainings we offer are listed below:


Our interactive trainings, “Positive Interactions,” provide managers, human resource personnel, and associates with information they need to understand the practices, beliefs, and cultural nuances of their Muslim employees and colleagues._ In addition, we discuss the laws pertaining to religious accommodation in the workplace, highlighting the legal obligations of employers while generating creative industry-specific options. We have trained almost every major corporation in Minnesota.


Our school training educates school officials, administrators, teachers and support staff on the beliefs and practices of their Muslim students and colleagues. We discuss laws pertaining to accommodating religious practices and provide information to understand cultural differences.

Media Professionals

CAIR-MN holds an annual Media Breakfast and also meets with individual news outlets. Journalists are provided with information on American Muslims and areas of consideration when reporting on Muslims.

Public Service Agencies/Government

Our public service trainings reach out to professionals providing services to the Muslim community, educating service providers on Islamic beliefs and culture as it relates to their industry needs.

In addition to these trainings CAIR also produces guides for various professions, which include:

- Employer’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices

- Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices

- Health Care Professional’s Guide to Islamic Practices

- Know Your Rights Pocket Guide

- Journalist’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims

- Law Enforcement Officer’s Guide to Muslim Community

- Correctional Institution’s Guide to Islamic Practices

Request a Training or Guide

If you would like to schedule a training or request a guide, please: call our office at (612) 206-3360, send an email to or submit your request online at

Pope Francis Opens a New Chapter in Catholic-Muslim Relations

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

My relationship with the Catholic community goes back to the time when I was 3 years old. My parents sent me to a Catholic school, a 150 year old institution in Hyderabad, India. I studied there from preschool to high school. This was an experience that would shape my view of Catholics and Christians at-large. I cherish the time I spent at the Catholic school and remember vividly the positive interactions I had with the Catholic Brothers, teachers, and fellow students. During the moral science class at the school, even though I was a Muslim, I was very much on a common ground due to the many similarities that Islam and Christianity share. This provided me with an enriching experience that would spur me on to pursue interfaith relations as a priority.

Read the rest of Zafar’s article here.

Points to consider before being suspicious of the next random Muslim you meet

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

You’ve probably seen a Muslim in a public place at some point in time. Given the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the US, you probably went through the brief discomfort associated with the questions: “Is it wrong to feel suspicious about this guy?” and “How do I know he/she isn’t plotting something?”

Right wing pundits wish to make you believe that you’re being forced under the pressure of illogical “political correctness” to treat Muslims with equality. I’m here to tell you that you can put all notions of political correctness aside and simply look at the facts:

Continue reading

Bacteria-fighting viruses may offer critical help against infection

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

One of my high school friends grew up to become an orthopedic surgeon. He works in a busy hospital in which he sees all kinds of cases — from trauma to congenital malformations to tumors. When I asked him what he considers the most difficult cases to treat, he said that the one thing that raises the hair on the back of his neck is not seeing a tumor on a radiograph; it’s being able to see bone through the skin.

Read the rest of Hani’s piece here.

African American Muslims – An Integral Part of U.S. History

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

African American Muslims make up a large part of the American Muslim community, constituting at least 30% of the population. You may be familiar with African-American Muslims of the twentieth century, but Muslims were here long before that–nearly as long as Europeans. Black History month gives us a great opportunity to look back at the rich history of the Muslim African American presence in our country.

Read the rest of Zafar’s piece here

The NRA is MIA where liberty is truly at stake

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

Arms and liberty. There is an accepted connection between the two, a connection perpetually repeated by pro-gun pundits. Soon after the Sandy Hook tragedy, pro-gun activists took to the airwaves and the internet in a frenetic frenzy, warning the populace that their freedom is at stake and that they should stock up on all kinds of weapons before it’s too late, especially borderline-illegal heavy duty artillery that is just waiting to be outlawed by nature.

The frenzy worked.

Continue reading

Reflecting on King’s Challenge to America

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

On December 14, 2012, late in the afternoon – I became aware of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It was painful to read the stories, emails and newsfeed as they poured over the tragedy. In times of crisis and pain like this, as a Muslim I immediately turn to prayer to gain strength and to reflect on the situation. In the evening, I joined an online prayer service on SeekersHub in Toronto.

The Toronto team was able to gather a large crowd at the Hub and online for our prayer for the victims and families of the murder in Connecticut. “The believer is pained by the pain of another,” said Shaykh Faraz Rabbani while leading the prayers for the affected families of Connecticut.

Read the rest of Fedwa’s article here.

Mary, the mother of Jesus in Islam

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

Come Christmas time, invariably Christians and Muslims are both faced with probing questions about Jesus (peace be upon him) and Mary (peace be upon her). 
Popular magazines put up Jesus’ photo on their cover with questions such as “Who was Jesus?” and “The Truth about Jesus”. Much has already been written about Jesus’s exalted position in Islam. At this time, I would like to focus on how Mary (peace be upon her) is viewed in Islam.
Mary is mentioned in the Qur’an in several chapters, including chapter 19 that is named after her. Mary is revered by Muslims on account of her chastity and devotion to God. The Qur’an makes clear the exalted status of Mary as follows:
Read the rest of Zafar’s Star Tribune blog here.

My dream candidate

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

Like everything else in life, another election has come and passed. It’s funny how, on Wednesday morning after it was all done, a sense of calm enveloped everything. I love my neighborhood for the fact that I hardly see any yard signs at all no matter how heated the elections get, which means that my neighbors are either that apathetic or that intelligent – I will choose the latter. But even the passion of the most passionate advocates on both sides seemed to wither away in the cool winds of the Minnesota fall.

Although I didn’t vote for Obama, I do have a slight sense of relief. A relief not because he won, but because Romney didn’t. Unfortunately, that’s how it goes in most elections these days:  many are forced out to the voting booths not out of love, not out of enthusiasm or hope or a dream of a better future, but out of fear of the opposite side. When politics becomes so polarizing with every party smearing the other with caustic labels like “socialist” and “racist”, people vote because of fear. Continue reading

Unrest in Jordan has its roots in an economic divide

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

The civil unrest in the country of Jordan is the result of complicated local and international circumstances. Blame gets thrown in all directions among the public, the royal family, successive governments, business tycoons and influential tribes. In my limited view, no one is free of guilt except perhaps the impoverished working class. One reason for the unrest would be familiar to Americans in this election season: specifically, the debate about how much government regulation is necessary to ensure fair worker wages and benefits.

Read the rest of Hani’s piece here.

Response to anti-Islam Film

by Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

In various parts of the Muslim world, protests erupted over an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.  In addition, protests turned deadly at U.S. Embassies in areas struggling with revolutions and political unrest. 


Violence Condemned

Various leaders and activists from the Twin Cities Muslim community came forth to condemn the violence.

Star Tribune front page article:

Twin Cities Muslim leaders condemn overseas violence

And here is the joint statement from MN Muslim leaders/activists:

MN Muslim Leaders Condemn Killings of American Diplomats

Zafar Siddiqui, Islamic Resource Group Outreach and Interfaith Director wrote the following blog on the Star Tribune.

Minnesota Muslims Condemn Violence in Libya


Hate Speech vs. Free Speech

“Every time that there is an offensive piece written to target Muslim sensitivities, there is the temptation to cast it as an issue of ‘freedom of speech’, held to be absolute, vs. the religious sensitivity of Muslims. That framework is either unhelpful or at best only partially helpful,” said Omid Safi, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in an article for the Religion News.  He added: “The so-called film are best classified as ‘hate speech’, as they seem to be of the same genre as anti-Semitic films of the 1930’s or Birth of the Nation KKK movies.”

Sheila Musaji has done an investigative piece on the film here.  On the site, The American Muslim, Musaji has well written pieces on the Islamophobia industry and their desire to psychologically terrorize Muslims.  Here is an excerpt from one of her pieces, Islamophobia Manifesto Clearly Lays Out Plot Against Muslims:

“The Muslims themselves have shown us their most vulnerable spot, which is the questionable (though unquestioned) character of the ‘Prophet’ himself. We need to satirise and ridicule baby-bonking Mo until the Muslims fly into uncontrollable tantrums, then ridicule them even more for their tantrums, and repeat the process until they froth at the mouth and steam comes out of their ears.”

Prophetic Response to anti-Islam film

Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings taught Muslims how to respond in such situations.  Muslims need to remind themselves of his life and how he dealt with such situations and follow his footsteps.  These psychological games are clearly designed to manipulate and harm.  But the spirit and our faith in God is more powerful than any psychological terrorism.

See the following video as a reminder on how the Prophet responded to insults:

Prophetic Response

 People Are in a State of Agitation and Insecurity

When They Insult Our Prophet

Education is key.  You cannot give something that you do not have.  If you do not know his life, then the answer is not to yell or shout but to first educate yourself on his life.  Seek out scholars and knowledgeable people that can educate you on his entire life.  Then share that knowledge with others beginning with your family.

Use media available to you to tell his life story using whatever skill you have, while keeping in mind that no film or anyone can eradicate Islam or change Prophet Muhammad’s life story.  The strategy used now has been tried in the past many times, and it has failed and will fail again.  See the following examples:

Spoken Word Response

Lupe Fiasco counters anti-Islam video

Poem on Character of Prophet Muhammad

Twitter Gives Muslims A Voice, A (Seriously) Funny Voice #MuslimRage

13 Powerful Images of #MuslimRage


Educational Presentations Available

For speakers or presentations on the life of Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, contact the Islamic Resource Group, an educational outreach organization in the Twin Cities.

Minnesota Muslims Condemn Violence in Libya

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota.

The horrendous attack against the US consulate in Libya and the killing of our ambassador needs to be condemned in strongest possible terms. There can be no excuse for such cowardly acts of violence. Muslims around the world must take heed from the American Muslim community that rightly ignored the movie and the vile attempts to promote it. Minnesota based Islamic Resource Group issued the following statement in response to this tragedy.

Read the rest of Zafar’s piece here.

Free Health Care

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

While the health care debate rages in the nation, Al-Shifa clinic has been quietly providing free health care to Minnesotans of all hues, religions, and backgrounds for the past 15 years. Al-Shifa, which means “to heal” in Arabic, is a program of the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley.  Founded in 1996, the Al-Shifa clinic has been providing a lifeline to many a Minnesotans who cannot afford health care or are not covered by health insurance.

Read the rest of Zafar’s piece here.


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