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A picture of diversity

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“Our differences can bring us together to know one another.”

fedwa wazwaz

A few years back, I was working on a major project at the University of Minnesota.  At the same time, we had a new manager, Matt Nuttall, that started at our department.  Our first encounter was not the best, although he did go out of his way to help me get approval to go to Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.  At the time, vacations were denied due to the project.  I mention this because later on we resolved our differences and I have to say we learned about each other more, and I learned I made some wrong judgments and decisions.  Now, our relationship is one of mutual respect. He is also a male ally for the women in technology at the University of Minnesota.  We are both in the partnership and collaboration committee.

As we transitioned from the major project, our team grew in various ways and he was responsible for the hiring of new employees.  I was quite impressed how committed he was to diversity, not just in gender but also ability and ethnicity, etc.,

We had a discussion on diversity during our meetings and we had a discussion over the book, Weapons of Math Destruction, How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy.

He read the book and learned ways to improve diversity in hiring practices. In partnership with HR, he worked to push standards that promote diversity, not just in representation but also in inclusion.  The office of Information Technology HR is incredibly progressive and actively working with the whole department on diversity and inclusion.

Last week, we had a team lunch and a few of us went together to Wally’s in Dinkytown. It is a Middle Eastern restaurant and my favorite place to go around campus.  The team agreed.  We had a new employee at the time from Zimbabwe, how cool is that?  I can now say I know someone from Zimbabwe.  Although, there is another employee in another department from Zimbabwe, so actually, I now know two people from Zimbabwe.  How many people can say the same thing?

Below is a picture of our team.  I asked our team if I could share it and refer to it as a picture of diversity. While our differences have been used to tear us apart in the media, and at times we may face challenging moments, we can overcome those challenges and learn to mutually respect one another.  In this picture, one can see that our differences brought us together for lunch and work.  And we can come together to solve all sorts of problems.

diversity

The person taking the picture is Eduardo Chavez Herrera who is from Mexico.  I caught him counting with his fingers once, and keep reminding him in a joking manner that I caught you.  Occasionally, we fight on which food is better Mexican or Middle Eastern. He was kind enough to agree to go to Wally’s, but then again, I gave everyone an ultimatum:  Wally’s or don’t talk to me until Judgment Day.  They realized talking to me was essential to get the work done and agreed to have lunch at Wally’s.

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She was the chair of 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 is a public speaker and writer and lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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Capturing the Minnesota Muslim Experience Through Oral Histories

By Onder Uluyol, Engage Minnesota

“Really?” was the first question Kathy Wurzer of the Almanac asked me when she featured the Muslim Experience in Minnesota oral history project on her popular TV show on TPT. Does the Muslim experience in Minnesota really go back to 1880s?

I think there are two main misconceptions about Muslims in Minnesota: one is that Muslims are new and alien to this land, and two is that they are monolithic. The oral history project that was carried out by the Islamic Resource Group demonstrates that neither are true.

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Jesus (pbuh) is also a revered prophet of Islam

By Fedwa Wazwaz

Jesus, son of Mary, peace and blessings upon them, is a revered religious figure and the bedrock of Christianity. He also is a venerated figure in Islam, the faith of some 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, said: “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary, peace and blessings upon him. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”

Like Christians, Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, upon him be peace, and in his miracles. Jesus’ life and mission are mentioned in eleven chapters of the Qur’an. A few of the chapters are titled: Maryam (Mary the mother of Jesus); Imran (noble family of Jesus), and Ma’ida (the Last Supper). Jesus, upon him be peace, is glorified in the Qur’an and is referred to as “the Messiah,” “a Word of God,” and “a Sign of God.”
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Local Human Rights Award Recognizes Interfaith Work

By Autif Sayyed, American Muslim Community Center

Eden Prairie Human Rights Award
Representatives from the three churches
and Saleem Adam of American Muslim Community
Center, second from left.

On May 20, the City of Eden Prairie honored American Muslim Community Center (AMCC) and three churches–Eden Prairie United Methodist Church, Pax Christi Catholic Community and Prairie Lutheran Church–with its annual Human Rights Award. The award was in recognition of our participation in planning and executing the Interfaith Worship Service Program in 2006 and 2007. These events brought together hundreds of people of different faiths to celebrate the commonalities held by all and to promote peace, tolerance, and awareness.

The AMCC strives to create an inclusive community spirit through its activities and programs. We have achieved this by embracing diversity as a strength rather than a weakness. The reasoning behind this approach is very simple. Read the rest of this entry

For engaging the U.S. public, Congressman Ellison is a role model for Muslims

By Dr. Ghulam M. Haniff

Last spring King Abdullah II of Jordan concluded his speech to the joint session of the U.S. Congress with the familiar salutation, “Assalamu-alaikum!” Immediately, in response a booming voice rang out from the center of the chamber with a loud “Walaikum-assalam.” Everyone present was stunned.

For a long moment there was a hushed silence. No doubt, some wondered whether this was an exchange of some secret message right in their midst. By then many heads had turned around and recognized the new face. It was none other than the first-term Congressman Keith Ellison, (D-Minn.), the newly elected representative from the fifth district of Minnesota.
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Bridging the gap between Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors

By Heba Abdel-Karim

Heba Abdel-KarimImagine this scenario: You live in the same area with your Minnesotan Muslim neighbor. This person, his actions, beliefs, and practices seem a bit peculiar to you, as you have not encountered many Muslims. All you know about Muslims is what you hear others say, from the media and the like, but they are otherwise unfamiliar.

You wish to get in contact with him or her—even with a simple “hi”—but you may subconsciously have second thoughts because of how Muslims are negatively labeled by others. This, along with some other reasons, makes it seem like the gap between you and your Muslim neighbor is too large to even give it a try.
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Don’t define Muslim societies by their flaws

Fair criticism means looking beyond the faults and failings

By Fedwa Wazwaz

On October 22, The Minnesota Daily published my commentary “Islamo-Fascism a very racist concept.” On October 23 and 24, a couple of letters to the editor responded to my artcle. A common thread in the letters was the right to criticize Islam. Do people have a right to criticize Islam?

Let me begin by quoting a couple of lines of Islamic poetry:

“The eye of Love to every flaw is blind,

While the eye of hatred reveals all flaws.”

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Hijab and the city

By Corey Habbas

“Look at any advertisement. Is a woman being used to sell the product? How old is she? How attractive is she? What is she wearing? More often than not, that woman will be…taller, slimmer and more attractive than average, dressed in skimpy clothing. Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated like this?” So asks a Muslim teen, Sultana Yusufali, in an article she wrote for Toronto Star Young People’s Press.

Her indignation is not unlike that which Muslims living here in the Twin Cities and elsewhere feel when they see women treated like commodities.
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Religion vs. culture through the eyes of a newborn

By Heba Abdel-Karim

Heba Abdel-KarimHave you ever wondered why a newborn cries when he first sets eyes on our world?
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The real beauty of Ramadan

Conquering the beasts of time and desire

By Rawan Hamade

Rawan HamadeMany non-Muslims are interested in knowing why we fast during Ramadan and how it helps us try to improve ourselves. Unfortunately, many receive shallow answers that may not reach the underlying point. Some non-Muslims are hurriedly told that we fast merely to sympathize with the poor, which is absolutely true, but that does not define the limit of this month’s beauty. Ramadan is a blessed time for Muslims in which they should carry out one of the most important functions of a human: learning.

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