Blog Archives

Film Challenges Perception of Palestinians

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Palestine: Why the Caged Dove Sings
Thursday, July 13th at 7 pm
Film Society of Minneapolis
St. Paul’s Screen #3 at St. Anthony Main Theatre

filmOfficially, the narrative around Palestinians is they want to destroy Israel and hate Jews, and if one searches hard enough, one finds some voices expressing such views.

However, the situation is not about feelings or views of people, but about boundaries and a justice denied.

Palestine: Why the Caged Dove Sings is set for a premiere screening today.  The film allows people on the ground to speak about their pains and everyday struggles.

Sabry Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American activist, who created the film in his travels back to Palestine in 2014.  He interviewed and documented the reality of Israeli occupation in candid easy going conversations with people on the ground.

Wazwaz was inspired by documentaries like Five Broken Cameras. He wanted US citizens to see what is really going on in Palestine and felt that he could use his camera as a way to expand understanding. The film includes powerful interviews and demonstrates how Zionism is not Judaism.

Wazwaz explains, “I wanted to show people, mainly the American people, the difference between Zionism and Judaism. Zionism is the blueprint behind Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinian Arab Christian and Muslim populations. It is no different than apartheid in South Africa and segregation here in the U.S. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. No people should be living under different laws based on their religion, race, gender, etc. All people should be living under same laws and have equal rights.”

Admission is $10. Proceeds will support the Anti-War Committee.

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

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Educating Muslim Students in Minnesota: The Skill and the Will

By Martha Bigelow, Meeting Minnesota’s Muslims

Multicultural education seeks to include a range of perspectives often suppressed by the majority culture as well as include students from diverse backgrounds in the process of learning.  What is sometimes lost in efforts to create inclusive educational experiences is serious thought to how to welcome students of minority religions.  In the case of Muslim students, the barriers typically include lack of knowledge of Islam and strategies to accommodate Islamic religious practices in school settings.  In the same way it is essential to have classrooms that make students of different ethnicities, genders or family income levels feel invested in learning, it is equally essential to make Muslim students feel that they belong to the learning community. Like all students, we need to keep Muslim kids engaged in school because of the importance of high school diploma for so many post-secondary options students wish to explore.

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Oct. 8 Event in Minneapolis: Lebanon’s Tragedy

Wednesday, Oct. 8th, 6:30 p.m.: Cathy Sultan speaks about her new book Tragedy in South Lebanon at Amazon/True Colors Bookstore, 4755 Chicago Ave. South, Minneapolis

The war in Iraq has taken our attention away from other troubled areas of the Middle East. Cathy Sultan draws us back to Lebanon and Israel in Tragedy in South Lebanon, which was released in April. Through history, research, and personal interviews, she chronicles life in southern Lebanon and northern Israel during the brutal summer 2006 war. As in her other critically acclaimed books, Sultan focuses on ordinary people, who are overlooked by politicians and military leaders and become victims of poor decisions made by the governments of Israel, Lebanon, and the United States.

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Eid Mubarak (Blessed Eid)

By Fedwa Wazwaz



Eid ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice is one of the major Muslim holidays.  It comes right after a pillar of Islam called the Hajj or pilgrimage.  The Hajj commemorates the life and trials of Prophet Abraham’s family, upon them peace and blessings.  Once in a lifetime, every adult Muslim who ahs the physical and financial ability is required to make a pilgrimage to teh holy city of Makkah, home of the Ka’bah, which Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael.
The Hajj pilgrimage is an extremely communal event as over two million Muslims, men and women of varied ethniticies and nationalities, dressed in simple white clothing symbolizing the equality of all people, perform identical rituals.


Eid ul-Adha celebrations are similar to Eid ul-Fitr with the addition of sacrificing a lamb, goat or cow to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his sone, Ishmael, who Muslims believe was miraculously replaced by a lamb, similar to the Biblical story.  People share the meat of the sacrified animal with the poor and needy, relatives and friends.
The day begins with a special congregational prayer followed by a short sermon.  People are dressed in their best clothing, and children traditionally receive new clothing as well as other gifts.  Food, holiday congratulations, and festivities such as rides, balloons, and other fun activities for children follow the prayers.  The holiday lasts for four days during which people usually visit or invite each other.
We wish everyone in all places at all times a blessed Eid Mubarak. May Allah accept your good deeds and all your efforts during the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah. 

Inside Look at Ramadan/CAIR Annual Ramadan Dinner

Kashif Saroya, board member of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) was on Fox9 this early Saturday morning discussing Ramadan. To view the Fox9 program click here.

Later tonight is their 2nd Annual Ramadan Dinner. The program this year is titled, “American Muslims: Partners for Peace and Justice.” Speakers include: Mohamed Dini, Ibrahim Hooper, and Congressman Keith Ellison.

The program will include a tribute to the late Imam W.D. Mohammed. John L. Esposito, professor of religion, international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University said of Muhammad: “W.D. Mohammed became a prominent figure in inter-religious affairs. He was the first Muslim to give an invocation in the U.S. Senate and in 1993, he offered the prayer during the first Inaugural Interfaith Prayer Service of President Bill Clinton. On September 11, as Americans commemorate the attacks and tragedy of 9/11, Warith Deen Mohammed will be buried. His passing and the memory of his accomplishments are a witness and fittingly a reminder of the heart of Islam and the vast majority of its followers.” Click here for the whole article.
Banquet Hall, New Brighton Community Center
400 10th Street NW, New Brighton, 55112

Tickets are $10/person.

All are welcome to attend. On-site babysitting will be available for young children and basketball and other games available for older children.

March In Solidarity with the People of Palestine.

Coalition for Palestinian Rights, Engage Minnesota

On September 1, the Republican Party will be in St. Paul, Minnesota for the Republican National Convention (RNC). More than 45,000 people, including 15,000 media employees, are expected to attend the 2008 convention.

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Taking Heart: Visit a Mosque, Share a Meal

By Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota

From a Taking Heart picnic,
summer 2007.

Gail Anderson isn’t asking you to make a new best friend.

“I think if next Wednesday night, we get a number of Christians to walk into a mosque—
that’ve never been in a mosque before—then I think we’ve done something,” said Anderson, unity and relationships organizer with the Minnesota Council of Churches.

Anderson helps head up the interfaith project “Taking Heart,” which brings Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors together over good meals and good conversation.

The next event, set for May 14 at Masjid Ummat Muhammad, was designed for South Minneapolis residents. The program is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. with two presentations: There will be a brief talk about Muslim prayer, and Anderson will discuss the Christian prayer tradition. Afterwards, free Middle Eastern food will be served, and people will be encouraged to mingle and talk.

But what if people self-segregate, and Christians sit together with Christians, and Muslims with Muslims?

“We don’t let ’em,” Anderson said, and laughed. Read the rest of this entry

Interfaith Panelists Recognize and Accept Differences

Five University Groups Discuss How They Can Work Together to Improve Humanity’s Future

By Heba Abdel-Karim and Lolla Mohammed Nur, Engage Minnesota

“Imagine a world where people from different religious backgrounds come together to create understanding and respect by serving their communities.” – Interfaith Youth Core (

Lolla Mohammed Nur Heba Abdel Karim

On April 9, the Hillel Jewish Center, in union with the University of Minnesota’s Muslim Student Association, hosted and organized an interfaith discussion that brought together people of different faiths. The topic of the event was “humanity’s future,” and representatives of a number of different faiths spoke about how they see humanity progressing, and how our differences, as well as similarities, can better the community.

A little over a hundred people entered the room, determined to try something different: to go beyond their normal routine, talk to others of various faiths, and get to know them. Unsurprisingly, that’s what made the event—believed to be the first of its kind at the U—such a success. Attendees left politics aside and peacefully interacted with one another. In the end, they saw how similar, yet diverse and unique, we all were.

“I think that what group representatives, members, and the audience all liked the most was the atmosphere: nobody was on the defensive, nobody was being hostile, no group was being labeled with negative stereotypes,” comments EngageMN writer Lolla Mohammed Nur, pictured above to the left of Heba Abdel-Karim.

“The positive atmosphere was almost contagious!” says Mohammed Nur. “Some asked very insightful and sincere questions, and it was obvious that all audience members were there to genuinely learn about different faiths and beliefs. Everybody was there to help promote the message of religious tolerance and awareness.” Read the rest of this entry

Blaine hate crime sparks town meeting focused on unity, answers

By Emily Bright, Engage Minnesota

On the night of January 27, three men entered Mohammad Ismail’s Blaine Dairy store as he was closing shop and threw flaming glass bottles at the walls, destroying everything in the store. Ismail escaped through the smoke-filled store with minor cuts and burns. A strong expletive directed at the word “Arab” was founded spray painted on the side door that same night. The FBI is investigating the possibility of a hate crime.

Exactly two months later, on March 27, roughly 75 community leaders and concerned citizens gathered at Anoka Technical School to talk about what they were going to do about hate crime in their community. The crowd looked small in the auditorium, but the conversation was constructive, with many speakers stressing the need to forgive those who cause harm, educate the public, and get to know one’s neighbors. As an example of the meeting’s overall goals of unity, the event was cosponsored by the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Lake Harriet United Methodist Church, the Anoka Technical Student College Senate, and the NAACP.
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Islamic Awareness Week: Creating Da’wah

By Lolla Mohammed Nur, Engage Minnesota

n511868635_450695_4233.jpgThere is little doubt that many Minnesotans misunderstand Islam and the Muslim community. Misconceptions of Islam, however, did not arise out of empty air; the actions of a radical few have led people to see Islam as a barbaric religion. Although the frustration of “radicals” may be understood, there certainly are more peaceful ways of expressing one’s Islamic beliefs to the non-Muslim community, namely through spreading knowledge (da’wah).

Islamic Awareness Week is an example of such peaceful expression. The week includes a range of activities, from a simulation of “flying while Muslim” to a lecture on “Science in Islam.” The 2008 event is set to take place March 31 through April 4, and is sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Muslim Student Association and Al-Madinah Cultural Center. Read the rest of this entry

Basimah Hasan: Changing Images Every Friday at 4

Talk-Show Host Aims to Correct Distorted Picture of Muslims and Islam

By Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota

bh3_.jpgIt was 1998 when Basimah Hasan left her hometown of Chicago for Minneapolis.

In the Twin Cities, she attended nursing school and began her career at North Memorial Hospital. She says that there is a “big difference” between the Minneapolis and Chicago Muslim communities.

TV Show:
“Islamic View”
4 p.m. Fridays
Time-Warner cable Ch. 16

“[There are] more Muslims in Chicago, and they’re more active. Here, everyone seems to be in their own ethnic groups. You don’t see a lot of activities going on, versus in Chicago.”

But, if there’s not enough activity, Hasan (pictured above) is not one to sit back and wait for someone else to start it up. The nurse, talk-show host, screenwriter, community activist, and producer is stirring up all sorts of action.

Through her nonprofit Hasan Publications Dawah Center, Hasan launched the “Islamic View.” The talk show aims not just to reach the Muslim community, but, more importantly, to reach non-Muslims with positive stories about Islam.

Why television?

“It’s images,” she says. “This is where we get our information from.”
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Learn the Process, Join ‘Muslim Day at the Capitol’

By Thasneem Ahmed and Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota

muslimday2_2.jpgMany, perhaps most, of us want to make our voices heard. We want to affect the political process, but may not know how or where to begin. Is it enough to phone in our opinions? To send an email? What is the best way to communicate with our legislators? Many Minnesotans, perhaps, could use a “beginner’s guide” to political advocacy.

The fourth annual Muslim Day at the Capitol, scheduled for Tuesday, March 18 at the Capitol Building in St. Paul, provides just such a guide.

Thasneem Ahmed was able to attend last year’s Day at the Capitol (pictured above), and says: “It was wonderful to hear our representatives speak to the Muslim community, and to realize that we are all working on the same side—the side of making Minnesota a better place for all of its citizens.”

Any Minnesotan—Muslim or non-Muslim, beginner or seasoned advocate—is welcome to show up at the Capitol on Tuesday at 9 a.m., to participate and to learn. Read the rest of this entry

‘Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbors’

Face-to-face Meetings Provide First Step

Many Minnesotans—perhaps you, if you’re reading this post—want to better understand their Muslim neighbors.

Of course, most of us have busy schedules, and it’s difficult to approach strangers, even if they do live in your neighborhood. It might seem easiest to read about Muslims. Dozens of books offering to “explain” Muslims have appeared in the last few years; you might order one off or pick one up at your local bookstore. You could turn on the television and find Muslims depicted and described on CNN and Fox News; you can find Muslims talked about in newspapers and magazines. Muslims are discussed in academic forums, think tanks, and seemingly endless blogs.

Safiya and Kemal BaliogluYou might inform—or misinform—yourself in any of these ways. But perhaps the best way to get to know a Muslim is to…get to know a Muslim.

That’s the aim of the speaker series, hosted by St. Frances Cabrini Church, titled “Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbor.” The first discussion is scheduled for Sunday, March 9 at 7 p.m.
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Ertijal (Improvisation): A Film Where Small Victories are Possible

The Trio JoubranReviewer Deborah Young calls Ertijal, a documentary about three Palestinian oud-playing brothers, “uncontroversial.”

Ertijal (Improvisation)
7:30 p.m. Fri., Feb 22
Oak Street Cinema
309 Oak Street S.E.
Minneapolis 55414

While an “uncontroversial” film set in Palestine and Israel might sound like code for “ignorant” or “milquetoast,” this film is neither. And while Ertijal, directed by Raed Andoni and appearing at Minneapolis’ Oak Street Cinema on Feb. 22, doesn’t explicitly engage in polemics, it does achieve the unusual in portraying Palestinians as full-spectrum human beings. They are not only interested in politics, as eldest brother Samir Joubran remarks in an interview with the International Herald-Tribune. They also love.
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Prominent Muslim Scholar to Speak in MN: ‘Is Coexistence Feasible?’

Dr. Jamal Badawi Scheduled to Appear Feb. 20 at University of St. Thomas

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Dr. Jamal Badawi:
“Is Coexistence Feasible? An Islamic Response.”
7 p.m. Weds., Feb. 20
O’Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium
University of St. Thomas,
2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul, MN

Although Muslims in the United States and around the world have repeatedly condemned terrorism and extremism, Muslims stand falsely accused by nationally known commentators and influential religious leaders of remaining silent.

The Islamic Resource Group (IRG), an educational outreach organization, has done more than 1,900 presentations reaching more than 65,000 Minnesotans in face-to-face interaction. The number one question people want IRG speakers to answer is: What does Islam say about terrorism? Sadly, we are forced to prove that we condemned terrorism. This is a situation no other faith community faces where it is held responsible for the actions of a few over what we have neither control nor influence.

Photo of Dr. Jamal Badawi from St. Mary's University, Halifax

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, prominent Muslim scholar Dr. Jamal Badawi (pictured at right) is scheduled to discuss coexistence in Islam. The alleged failure to condemn terrorism will be one among several subjects addressed in his speech. Dr. Badawi, in town by invitation of the IRG and University of St. Thomas, will give a presentation titled “Is Coexistence Feasible? An Islamic Response.”

The constant repetition of the alleged failure to condemn terrorism has pushed our voices behind an intellectual apartheid wall; hence, nothing we say is heard.

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Group to Raise Funds for Muslim Youth

mym1.jpgThis Saturday Feb. 9 at 6 p.m., the Muslim Youth of Minnesota (MYM) is set to host its 10th anniversary fundraising dinner. The dinner is scheduled to take place at the Islamic Center of Minnesota, and tickets are $10 a person or $30 a family.

Habeeb Quadri, principal of the MCC Full Time School in Morton Grove, Ill., will speak at the event.
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Film Challenges Convention on Muslims, Africans, Slave-Era America

By Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota

TV program:
Prince Among Slaves
7 p.m. Tues., Feb 5 on TPT Ch. 17
11 p.m. Sun., Feb. 10, TPT Ch. 2

Marcia Lynx QualeyOfficially, the first mosque in the U.S. was erected in 1929. This building was constructed by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants in Ross, North Dakota, and has since been demolished. But those Midwestern immigrants were hardly the first observant Muslims in the Americas. Others had worshiped on U.S. soil hundreds of years before.

It is difficult to say how many African Muslims were brought to North America as slaves. Scholars have placed the number in the thousands or tens of thousands. There is little possibility of an accurate count at this time, but historians such as Michael Gomez argue that, whatever their number, the influence of Muslim slaves on the larger African-American community was considerable.

Prince Among Slaves, set to air locally on Twin Cities Public Television on Monday, Feb. 4, tells the story of one of these influential Muslim slaves, Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori. The film is based on the widely praised biography of the same name by Dr. Terry Alford.

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