Meet Reza Alizadeh

By Tea Rozman-Clark, Green Card Voices

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The Iranian Revolution brought about many social and political changes within the country. When Reza Alizadeh saw the revolutionaries’ many promises go unfulfilled, he saw no other option but to find refuge someplace else.

Prior to the revolution, Mr. Alizadeh enjoyed a happy and carefree life with his parents and siblings. At the age of thirteen, he witnessed the collapse of his government and, eventually, his society. He made plans to immigrate to the United States just as his brother had done years earlier.

Mr. Alizadeh’s journey out of Iran included enduring a rough bus ride, navigating security checkpoints, hiding in a swamp for several days, traversing down a rugged mountain path on horseback, and dodging heavy crossfire. To his relief, he arrived in Turkey unharmed and began the process of starting his new life. After a brief time in Italy, Reza was granted political asylum in the United States and rejoined his brother.

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Trump’s attack on Somalis illustrates the harm he could do

By Jamal Abdulahi, Star Tribune

And Minnesota’s GOP leaders have a moral duty to speak out.

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Donald Trump, who plans to visit the Twin Cities on Friday, recently unleashed a hateful attack on Minnesota’s Somali community in a speech delivered to a large crowd in Portland, Maine. It was beyond the pale.

Trump’s attack inspired more attacks. A hateful message left on the Somali Museum of Minnesota’s voice mail is the latest example.

Unfortunately, state Republican Party leaders such as Chairman Keith Downey, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, and U.S. Reps Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer not only remain silent but continue to support Trump for president.

The unabated support by the top state GOP brass is a moral scandal. To preach of outreach and a possible partnership with the community while tolerating Trump’s outrageous attack is tantamount to moral turpitude and could lead to catastrophe.

Partisan politics is far from pure. Party leaders often accommodate fringe elements in the spirit of building a big political tent. But Trump is not a fringe figure in a large political party. He is an unhinged and dangerous nominee who hijacked a major American political institution and uses the power and the prestige that came with it to attack vulnerable groups.

Continue reading at Star Tribune

Jamal Abdulahi of Rosemount, is a community organizer, blogger and essayist.

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Does Our Opinion Matter?

By Omar Alansari-Kreger, Engage Minnesota

Renewing the Freedom of Speech against an Unforgiving Status Quo

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We live in a nation that prides itself on the freedom of speech. Yet, we pay nothing but lip service to the first amendment. That fact of the matter is that if you are outside of the elite establishment, no one really cares about your opinion or what you have to say for the matter. The Plutocratic States of America is the giant elephant no one wants to recognize. Citizens are free to have opinions, but if they are unredeemable, what good are there? We might as well have no opinion whatsoever. Arguably, that can explain why apathy is the new cultural norm. Information surrounds us everywhere we look. In the “free world,” accessibility to information is no longer an issue. It has actually transformed into an open source of vanity. We hold naïve expectations about humanity which teases us with perfectionism.

There is this presumption that more information means more intelligence.

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Meet Majra Mucic

By Tea Rozman-Clark, Green Card Voices

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Majra Mucić never thought her childhood was out of the ordinary. Later, she realized not every child grew up waiting in line for food rations and hiding from air raids.

Ms. Mucić was born in Zenica, Bosnia in 1988—four years prior to the start of the Bosnian War. After the war, her family decided to immigrate and escape the economic and political tensions that remained. After an arduous screening process in a refugee camp, her family was paired with a host family in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Upon her arrival in 2001, Majra had a difficult time adjusting to the nuances of her new home. From the bus system to the grocery store, everything seemed so different. Life at school was just as tough; few children were willing to reach out to Majra. She eventually made friends over a mutual passion—sports.

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Trumped into silence

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“Silence is the best way to answer a fool.”

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After the Democratic National Convention (DNC, Donald Trump said the reason Ghazala Khan didn’t speak at the DNC is because she wasn’t allowed to. He played on stereotypes of Muslim women as oppressed and voiceless.

Some women will respond through a twitter campaign to demonstrate that we don’t need anyone’s permission to speak.

Today, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (EDT), Monday, August 1, using the hashtag‪ #‎CanYouHearUsNow‬, some Muslim women will share a bit about who they are and how they speak out.

I respect these women’s right to express their outrage in this manner.  However, I disagree with this approach.  Why?  As a direct speaker, I have faced harsh criticism for my not speaking in a way that adheres to a stereotypical view of a Muslim woman by Muslims and non-Muslims, both men and women alike.  Hence, boxing women to speak in one way to appease a bigot or a group of bigots plays right into their game.  A show of false bravado is not necessary.  Rather, what is needed is an educational lesson on silence.

As someone who is a direct speaker, I heard a woman, Ghazala Khan’s message on stage very loud and clear.  A wise woman who stood dignified and respectfully – expressed her pain and suffering at Trump with her silence.  She was not silenced by her husband, but, too stunned by Trump’s stupidity to even respond.  She was genuine, open and authentic.  She was being herself, not putting on an act of false bravado like Trump has been doing since the Presidential campaign.

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What Merits the Value of an Opinion?

By Omar Alansari-Kreger, Engage Minnesota

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Philosophy began as an opinion. In a free society, we are taught that our ideas matter. A person is given every reason to have an opinion without actually understanding what it means to have one. History is taken from the irony of the human experience. We constantly find ourselves at a crossroads. What can bring good brings bad. It is in our nature to justify our shortcomings through pitfalls of circumstance. A question of intentionality prosecutes the reason for action. As humans, it is in our nature to pursue avenues of recognition. A life deprived of meaning is an alibi to depression.

Wherever we look, there is information. It is not possible to avoid it anymore. For that reason, ignorance is increasingly becoming a matter of choice. Time again, we choose ignorance over intelligence without asking ourselves why. A margin of human error implies that perfection is illusory. We foolishly look for philosophies of perfection. The slightest form of error is enough to destroy hope in a better tomorrow. It can therefore be argued that ideas are as fragile as they are frugal. We sparingly attribute faith to an idea in anticipation of inevitable disappointment. That is indicative of man’s selfish inner narrative.

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Expressing our gratitude to the elderly

By Memoona Ghani, Engage Minnesota

MemonaJune 18th, 2016, Saturday was the Global Impact Day initiated by AlMaghrib Institute. Last year, in 2015, Global Impact Day provided an opportunity to Muslim volunteers to pay attention to the homeless fellows in the community, and that lead many volunteers doing projects for homeless on a regular basis. This year, 2016, Global Impact day (GID) was somewhat triggered by stories similar to these.

Bob was sitting by the window in his room, looking outside without any expression on his face. The window had a view of the street, and one could see people walking, running, cars going by, that roller skating and skateboarding kids and then the gardening experts tending to their plants and flowers. He would often go into this state where he would usually sit quietly and think about the past. Upon asking what he was thinking about, he didn’t answer at first but then started speaking in short sentences with pauses while still looking outside He said:

“Once I used to run.”

“In the morning and evening.”

“My wife would do gardening.”

“We would go for vacation to places.”

“Hiking for hours and hours.”

“I would drive to my friends.”

“I had a very nice car. I bought it after many years of working at my job.”

“I loved my work. I was very smart. People would ask my advice.”

“I used to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. I was good at building houses. People would love it.”

“Now I can’t make anyone happy.”

“When I stand, my feet feel like as if the flesh inside my feet is being ripped or some bone in my foot is stabbing the flesh in the foot.”

“My knees feel like as if trying to carry the whole body. My knees get heavy when I stand.”

“I had surgery for both eyes. Why can’t I see clearly?”

“Nobody needs my advice. They think I don’t know anything.”

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Race relations and protest: Do something of impact with your white privilege

By Omar Alansari-KregerStar Tribune

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In this day and age, the idea of white privilege is many things. As far as Blacks Lives Matter is concerned, if you are white, you are guilty. Make no mistake about it: The U.S. is a nation of deep contradictions. We have a hard time wrestling with the legacy of the past. Despite the deinstitutionalization of state-sponsored racism, people of color — African-Americans in particular — remain marginalized. Needless to say, the people of white privilege have not been silent about this sordid state of affairs. It seems that some of the most vocal supporters of Black Lives Matter are whites burdened with white privilege.

Something needs to be done about this sorry state of reality. However, the problem begins with the same group of whites that proclaim to care so much about black lives. It is all too ironic. The people of white privilege arrive to protest in areas that are far removed from the places where the actual hardships are. There is nothing more hypocritical than white people emerging from newly gentrified areas by way of the car culture. How is that not associable as a double whammy of white privilege rolled into one hypocritical thing? What does the average person of white privilege have in common with African-Americans, in addition to all other people of color?

Continue reading at Star Tribune.

Omar Alansari-Kreger, of Minneapolis, is a Muslim-American, a writer and a social activist.

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A specially designed Eid (blessed holiday)

By Nemeh Sarraj, Engage Minnesota

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On Wednesday, June 29th Disability Awareness Project held it’s first ever fun day event for Muslim kids with disabilities and the Muslim community with a Minion theme.

The event went really well Alhamdullilah (Thanks to God). We expected only three kids to come up as Muslim families who have a loved one with a disability generally don’t like going out to events due to stigma reasons.

We had five kids with disabilities show up and fifteen “typical” kids. It was a blast.

Per parents request, some children were not included in the photo.

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One mom who has two kids with autism stated that this was her kids Eid outing because it’s almost impossible for her kids to do anything on Eid because either there’s too many people or because other families “forget” to ask her to come. The organization has received requests to do more events and activities.

Nemeh Al-Sarraj is a graduate of Metropolitan State University. She completed an undergraduate degree in Bachelors of Human Services in Disability Studies. As someone who has lived with many different disabilities throughout her life, Nemeh has both academic and personal knowledge and understanding of what it means to have a disability and has spent the past nine years raising awareness about different disabilities like autism, throughout the community.  A strong champion of rights for Muslims with disabilities, her goals include educating the community about different disability topics and issues and helping Muslims with disabilities in the community feel welcomed and included.  In 2014, The Arc Greater Twin Cities has honored Nemeh Sarraj of Spring Lake Park with its “Changing Attitudes” Changemaker Award.

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.)

In the footsteps of Muhammad Ali

By Amaiya Zafar, Engage Minnesota

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Hey! My name is Amaiya Zafar, I am 16 years old, and I am an amateur boxer. I have been training for over two years, and I have a love for boxing that overpowers any hardships that come with the various sport.  My hero is Muhammad Ali and I hope to follow in his footsteps.

There is a rule for amateur boxers that states we must wear the boxing trunks/jersey uniform and nothing more; as a Muslimah, I cover my body to show self-respect and my faith in God. So this, and the fact that there are few girls my age and weight for me to fight is the main reasons I have yet to compete.

In the 2+ years, I’ve pursued boxing; I have faced a lot of adversity. While most support me on this journey, some have opinions that they are eager to share, telling me I should take up baking or sewing rather than taking on a “men’s sport.” Even after being told that I will not be allowed to compete in my Capsters sports hijab and under armor underneath my uniform, I have kept up my training. I train as if I have a fight every day. I work to keep myself at my very best and to keep God first. When the time comes, I will be ready to fight my hardest! I have the support from my coaches, teammates, and my family to keep me going.

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Support a platform for Minnesotan Muslims

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“When we view ourselves as the protagonist of a story in which we are always right, we collect grievances about other people by noticing everything we do and noting the ‘injustices’ that are done to us.  All of this builds resentment within us and instigates conflict.”  –Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah 

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A Somali MPR reporter is stopped at the courthouse where he’s been going every day.

A 6th grade Muslim schoolgirl in New York is called “ISIS,” put in headlock, and punched as middle-school boys tried to pull off her headscarf.

A fourteen-year-old boy who wants to show his clock to a teacher is treated as a terrorist.

My daughter is called a “terrorist” in school.

These are not isolated incidents, but part of an increasingly powerful narrative about Muslims. I get up early to read the news. When I do, I find Muslims all over the world, mainly in a negative light, often framed as a stereotype of violence and hatred.

In the last year, the voices of ISIS and their supporters have been saturating the internet—both because of their shocking acts and because of how well they fit with stereotypes of the “eternally violent” Muslim. One would think they are the majority of Muslims rather than a fringe minority.

All around the world, Muslims are working as journalists, attending school, inventing things—but extremists get the coverage and the mic. The picture is overwhelmed by them, and they seem like the majority.

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Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan)

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

 

“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 June 18th and this year, the Islamic Society of North America, declared Ramadan to begin on June 6th, 2016.

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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Doctrine of Discovery: Understanding Native Historic Trauma

By Kim Olstad, Engage Minnesota

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In collaboration with 38 plus 2 Productions and the Saint Paul Interfaith Network, Church of the Epiphany hosted a showing of the documentary, “Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” on Sunday, April 24 from 5:00-7:30pm. A discussion with director and co-producer Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Indian Community followed.

View Sheldon Wolfchild in a previous event on this topic

At the community-wide event, 78 participants heard from Wolfchild, viewed the film and also had the opportunity to engage in dialogue about what they encountered in the documentary.

Because the film recounts difficult historical facts about the devastating effect caused by religious influences, the conversation was particularly important.  Said Kim Olstad, Epiphany member and SPIN program coordinator, “While it is important to learn about events that are often not mentioned in our history classes, it is also vital that we understand that the ramifications of these events still affect us all today.”

Also available for viewing was SPIN’s Traveling Art Exhibit that includes the controversial images of current art in the Minnesota State Capitol and samples of K-12 student artwork offering an alternative vision.

For more information about how your faith community can host this film or Exhibit/display, visit St. Paul Interfaith Network’s site:

Learn more at Public Art Project.pdf, or see our blog on Capitol Art. Read our Petition seeking changes to art at the Capitol, and sign the online petition.

SPIN’s site or their monthly e-newsletter are the best way to stay informed about future events.

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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.)

It’s time to call out modern political parties for what they are

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

hanihamdanAlthough it does not happen frequently, the internet is rife with stories of people switching from one religion to another or to a different sect within a religion. I’m sure most people know at least one person who’s done so. But how many of us personally know people on the political left switching to the right or right to left? Read the rest of this entry

Inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich?

By Fedwa WazwazEngage Minnesota

The camel sees all of the other camel’s humps but never his own.
–Bedouin Proverb

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Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, taught Muslims that a society should not “inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich.” This is not just an Islamic teaching–it has also been a teaching of those noble Americans who have nurtured our country to a higher understanding of human dignity and value.

Yet, with ISIS, we seem again to be forgiving the rich and focusing the brunt of our punishments on the poor.

In a newly aired PBS “Frontline” documentary, titled “The Secret History of ISIS,” produced by Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser, and Jim Gilmore examines how ISIS or Daesh came to be.  The documentary discusses how the US contributed to the rise of ISIS through many mistakes, as well as lies, told to create a link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein so that we could make a case for Iraq.

Experts, including CIA officials, discussed how mistakes, lies and exaggerations were told along the path to a U.S. war on Iraq, which in turn gave rise to ISIS, also known as ISIL or Daesh.

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Reflections on Healing

By Fedwa WazwazEngage Minnesota

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
–Carl Jung.

 

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There are health nuts and healing nuts.  I guess you could say I am a healing nut as I was addicted to programs, workshops, courses, and books that have to do with healing and reconciliation.

Tuesday, May 17th, there is an event titled, Acknowledging our Brokenness – Reflections on the Impact of Trauma from the Individual to the Community.

The event will be held at the
Amherst H. Wilder Foundation

451 Lexington Pkwy N,
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104

7 PM to 8:45 PM

The event is free and open to the public.

Being that this is mental health month, I would like to encourage people to attend the event.  When we do an activity in a group or support it as a community, it makes it easier for people afraid to seek help to reach finally out and ask for help.

The suffering that is a result of trauma – if not addressed can spill over and affect family members as well as the community and society as a whole.

While I advocate for people to seek programs that help them deal with past trauma, I want to emphasize at times we face a major dead end in the process.  I learned over the years an essential wisdom behind an Islamic phrase, which I used to recite without reflection.  It is an Arabic phrase, so be forewarned, and do not fear.

lahawla

Reading it from right to left, it is pronounced like this:

lā hawla wa lā quwwata illā bi Allāh.

It is often translated as there is no power or strength except through Allāh.

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A personal story of surviving war in Somalia

By Saciido Shaie, Engage Minnesota

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As a young girl full of hope, I lost that hope the day I left my country of birth, Somalia. I want to share how I came to the US and left Somalia without my choice.

I remember leaving my home not looking back, not knowing what was going on. The only thing I knew was that something awful was happening and that people were dying, yet I didn’t know why. I was very scared, confused and did not know what to do.

As my family and I left with my aunt’s car, my eyes were glued to the window.  I watched the people on the street.  I saw injured people crying for help on the sidewalk, yet no one was helping, everyone was running. But one thing that I can’t ever forget was, as I was watching people on the sidewalk, running, carrying backpacks, and carrying their babies on their back, walking without shoes, there was a child maybe one-year-old sucking his dead mother’s breast. This made me cry for many days. I remember looking at the baby, and telling my mother to stop the car so that I can help the baby. I remember how devastated and shocked I felt. I still remember the red shirt he was wearing.

You see, it is not easy to forget such incident, how can I when I still see the sand and the dust all over his little face and the tears and the horror on his face. How can I forget the cry and the scene as if I am rewinding an old horror movie? But make no mistake, as it was, and still is a reality of my past that hunts me down up until now. I wish someone heard me when I called my mother asking her to stop the car and didn’t.

“Mom, please stop the car,” I keep repeating the same cry, and I thought maybe my mother didn’t hear me at all. Then again, I said, “mom, the baby, please let’s help him.”

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Countering Islamophobia

By Karen Schraufnagel, Engage Minnesota

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On Tuesday, May 3rd activists from across the Twin Cities will gather at Cedar Commons to figure out how to work together to challenge Islamophobia – irrational fear and hatred of Muslims – and programs that are institutionalizing Islamophobia in our community. East African immigrants, mainly young Somalis, are being targeted and labeled “terrorists” for demonstrating any sort of connection to their religion, concern for fellow Muslims, or interest in US policies towards the region of the world their families come from. This is unacceptable!

Minnesotans Against Islamophobia formed several months ago in response to a national call to challenge the violent rhetoric spewing from political candidates during this election cycle and the broader threat beneath the surface of this rhetoric. We have held a very successful protest and a few town hall meetings. This is a good start! But the time is now to broaden the movement, so we are calling together representatives of religious, social justice and social service organizations (as well as unaffiliated committed individuals) to create a strategy for responding to these ongoing threats over the long haul.

To find more details, and RSVP (required!), please check out the Facebook event page.

An injury to one is an injury to all! Stop Islamophobia! Defend the Muslim Community!
Karen Schraufnagel is a local activist for social, environmental and economic justice, who helped to create Minnesotans Against Islamophobia in January (2016). Karen is a Jewish, anti-Zionist who has been active in Palestine solidarity work for more than a decade. She is the organizer for the Twin Cities branch of Socialist Action and a part-time Pilates trainer. Karen lives in Minneapolis with her husband, dog, and cat.

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.)

Syria: We Stand By You

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

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There are crimes against humanity taking place in Syria. Some blame the Syrian regime. Others blame the “anti-Assad propaganda.”

The conversation begins: who started it or who’s the lesser evil and in the chaos of blame and destruction, many innocents are killed, many drowned fleeing for refuge and many have become refugees.  Others are trapped in Syria watching like spectators the country fall apart.

What is our role in this bloodbath and what can we do to end the war?

As a Muslim, we begin resolving every matter with prayers of repentance and seeking guidance and help from God.

Please take the following with a grain of salt, definitely not a scholarly or political expert analysis.

  1. Given the length of the war and the human cost – I appeal for us to call for a Hudna or cessation of violence.
  2. Bring awareness to the situation.
  3. Elect a leader for the rebellion that represents the people of Syria.  Not a charismatic figure, but someone with wisdom and understanding, who is interested in the people of Syria, than in bringing Assad down.
  4. Submit a request for the Syrian opposition to join the International Criminal Court.  Violations and crimes against humanity need to be called out on all sides.
  5. End the mocking, ridicule and anything that adds fuel to the fire. As much as you can – do your part to promote calm to assist the refugees and those impacted by war.  In listening to lessons from the Qur’an by Imam Al Sharaawy – he explained that cursing an evil person only empowers him to do more evil.  Is this what we want?  Remember the man who killed 99 people and how the intelligent scholar helped him end his killing spree.
  6. We need to come up with a face-saving solution for Assad and his regime to step down.  If you send a message of no hope to Assad, he will have every reason to fight to the very end.

May Day Parade:

Join the SYRIA PEACE, JUSTICE, AND REFUGEE WELCOMING CONTINGENT at the Minneapolis May Day Parade

Please come to an event for Syrians to express solidarity.

When:  Sunday, May 1, at 11:30 AM.
Location: Cedar Field, 25th Street East and 18th Avenue South (Get a map.)

50,000 people along the parade route will see your signs!

Our themes: “SOLIDARITY WITH SYRIA”, “STOP ASSAD’S WAR ON THE SYRIAN PEOPLE”, and “WELCOME SYRIAN REFUGEES”.

More on the event at the following sites:

FaceBook Event
CISPOS: Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria
MayDay Parade

Send a message of solidarity to the people of Syria – a message that we are with you. We can hold a worldwide global prayer movement. Another way – that is gaining steam is by changing your profile picture to red as a symbol of solidarity, outrage, and shame.

#‎AleppoIsBurning‬‪#‎SaveSyria‬

“Try not to cry little one. You’re not alone. I’ll stand by you.”


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.)

For years, a state program has successfully helped employers upgrade worker skills. Could it do more to help minority businesses?

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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In March, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) awarded more than $2.8 million in grants to fund projects aimed at retaining and upgrading the skills of thousands of private companies’ employees across the state.

The project is part of the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership (MJSP), a decades-old program administered by DEED that provides Minnesota-based businesses and partnering educational institutions year-round grants three to four times a year.

In the most recent round, the program gave money to more than a dozen projects that will provide professional development to nearly 3,000 employees, including Wilson Tool International and Anoka-Ramsey College; Kraus-Anderson Construction and Anoka-Ramsey Community College; Imagine! Print Solutions and Hennepin Technical College; and Ebenezer Management Services and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical.

“The goal is that the business has a trained workforce … as their technology develops or as they bring new workers into their workplace,” explained DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben, who left the agency last week and was replaced by Shawntera Hardy.

And yet, though the program has awarded tens of millions in grants over the last 33 years, some business leaders of color say the state’s efforts around MJSP are also typical when it comes to the state’s efforts — or lack thereof — when it comes to making sure eligible minority-owned businesses are taking advantage of such opportunities.

“It’s a great program,” said Ravi Norman, CEO of the Minneapolis-based Thor Construction, one of the largest African American-owned businesses in the nation, but “I think there needs to be probably some enhanced intentionality on the marketing.” 

Continue reading at MinnPost

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.

Ibrahim Hirsi can be reached at ihirsi@minnpost.com.  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.)

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