Archive for the ‘Guest’ Category

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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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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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.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

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. Continue reading

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

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? Continue reading

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.

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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 info@mn.cair.com 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.

SEE: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/CAIR-MN-Launches-New-Community-Safety-Training-for-Mosques.html?soid=1102549438939&aid=he-LYf4tMt8

Ramadan: Honoring Religious Accommodations

By CAIR-MN

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:

Employers

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.

Schools

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 info@mn.cair.com or submit your request online at http://www.cairmn.com

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