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Blessed Festival of Sacrifice

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

fedwaFriday, September 1, 2017, Muslims will mark Eid ul-Adha or Festival of Sacrifice.  Eid ul-Adha is one of the major Muslim holidays. It comes right after the fifth 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 has the physical and financial ability is required to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, home of the Ka’bah, which Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, upon them be peace.

The Hajj pilgrimage is an extremely communal event as over two million Muslims, men and women of varied ethnicities 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 son, Ishmael, who Muslims believe was miraculously replaced by a lamb, similar to the Biblical story.

However, on the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the pilgrims will continue and return to Mina. The Hajj is not complete as there are three days in devotion and prayer left.  Ramy al-Jamarat, throwing stones at stone pillars, a re-enactment of Prophet Abraham who threw stones at Satan when he was ordered by God to sacrifice his son and Satan tempted him to disobey God. The slaughter of a sheep after he was prepared to sacrifice his son in obedience to God’s command.  Finally, the pilgrims return to Mecca for a farewell circling of the Kabah or tawaf and re-enactment of Hajar running between two hills to find water for Ishmael or sa’i.

Jeewan Chanicka explained Abraham’s sacrifice in his Hajj reminders with the following words:

But it wasn’t his son that was slaughtered. It was his attachment. It was his attachment to anything that could compete with his love for God. And the beauty of such a sacrifice is this: Once you let go of your attachment, what you love is given back to you– in a purer, better form. So let us ask ourselves during these beautiful days of sacrifice, which attachments do we need to slaughter?

People share the meat of the 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.

In conclusion, I want to share Rumi’s Eid al-Adha Poem.

BISMILLAH! (In the name of God!)

It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?

Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.

Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God.

You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.

You need more help than you know.
You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.

Say Bismillah, In the name God,
As the priest does with knife when he offers an animal.

Bismillah your old self
to find your real name.
– Jalaluddin Rumi

I wish everyone in all places at all times a blessed Eid Mubarak. May God accept your good deeds and all your efforts during the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah (the name of the month in the Muslim lunar calendar).

Check the following calendar for prayer services and Eid Activities today and the coming days.

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 lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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Conversation with Sidra on Islam and Chilin

By Memoona Ghani, Engage Minnesota

Memona
It is a general sentiment among people (Muslims and Non-Muslims) that Islam has no room for having fun. It is not true. Islam does allow having Halal (permissible) fun, but within some boundaries. There is no free pass to all things. And taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture shows that it all leads to good morals and ethics which leads us to become better people. Why do we worry about having fun anyways? The fact is we need a way to keep our minds and bodies healthy, a way to come alleviate the stress and a way to improve relationships.

The topic of Chilin is very important to kids, teenagers and young adults. I always wonder how does this particular category fit within the boundaries of religion or does such a boundary exist?

I recently attended a seminar on the rulings of having fun in Islam held by AlMaghrib institute. I know the name of the seminar might sound kind of heavy but yes there are rulings of Chilin in Islam, that some practicing Muslims adhere to. Instead of sharing my thoughts, I decided to chat with a teenager and listen to her thoughts after the lecture.

sidra

 

 

Sidra Islam attended different seminars offered by AlMaghrib, despite being in school and having studies and many activities. Here is her experience from the class, Fiqh of Chilin.  The term Fiqh means Islamic judisprudence or rulings.

 

 

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A Successful Interfaith Gathering at Brooklyn Park

By Engage Minnesota

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On January 28th, Brooklyn Park Mayor Lunde and community faith leaders came together at the Community Engagement Gathering.

More than 100 community members and staff attended this first time event. There was a panel of speakers representing all three mosques in the Brooklyns as well as a Christian church and a Christian counseling center. Next, youth from Ja’afari Islamic Center presented on “Islam 101”. Finally, attendees participated in conversations at their table around the question, “What can we do as a community to make sure all community members feel safe and welcome?”

The overarching theme was the following: We have more similarities than differences; by acknowledging the uniqueness of our individual faiths and cultural communities, being open to learn from one another, engaging in honest dialogue, building positive relationships in our neighborhoods, and celebrating our rich diversity, we create a welcoming and safe environment for people of all faiths.

The efforts will continue at the individual, family, organizational and community-wide levels.  This month’s Community Engagement Gathering will include a presentation by Oromo community members on their unique culture. Thursday, February 25, 5:45 – 7:30 p.m.

Please RSVP to Josie Shardlow, Community Engagement Coordinator, 763-493-8388

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Paris: An American Muslim Speaks Out

By Hanadi ChehabHuffington Post

2fa6e8272adb40f5a760010a1dfaca38-32cfbac964244421809fa3c83df2dde5-24I was struck by the words of one of the Paris-attack survivors. As she was on the ground, under the body of another victim, covered with blood, she thought to herself “just play dead.” How easy it is to say these words and how horrific it is to live through those moments.

How alive she must have been to consciously play dead and how dead were the hearts that, with all consciousness, intended to kill that day as many civilians as possible.

“Allahu Akbar” cried the attackers before reloading their machine guns and sending another set of souls home. “Allahu Akbar,” an expression so dear to a Muslim, vandalized by a group of inhumane beings that have mistaken their own desires for a divine plan.

“Allahu Akbar” indeed, God is greater as justice shall be served and heinous acts like these will never go unpunished. God is greater indeed as these killers got what they deserved. God is greater indeed as the world is uniting against evil. God is greater indeed as Muslims will have to rise from dormancy to speak about their religion. God is greater indeed because the countries that helped create ISIS are suffering from it. God is greater because He is, irrespective of whether we admit it or not.

Continue reading at Huffington Post

Hanadi Chehab is a writer and blogger currently living in Minnesota, with her family of three children. Previously published on MinnPost and http://www.asamuslima.com. 
Before coming to the US Hanadi was a communication specialist working across different media platforms. She was a creative editor, previous TV presenter and program manager, jury member for various award shows in the Middle East, and reporter of the Cannes Advertising Festival. At the beginning of her career as a copywriter, Hanadi was awarded the Gold award for Cannes Young Lions on behalf of United Arab Emirates.

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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.)

A holiday letter from Muslim leaders in Minnesota

By Multiple authors, Star Tribune

Two faiths, one hope — for peace

To our Christian brothers and sisters:

Out of our shared love for the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, Peace Be Upon Him, we greet you with peace and joy during your celebration of his life.

The Bible refers to him as the Messiah and describes the annunciation, his miraculous birth and his numerous miracles.

The Qur’an refers to him as the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. It teaches about his miraculous birth and how his mother Mary was honored above all the worlds. Muslims are instructed to invoke peace upon him whenever his name is mentioned.

The Qur’an narrates the story of the angel who visited Mary, saying “O Mary, indeed God has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of all the worlds.” (Qur’an 3:42)

The angel said, “O Mary, indeed God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. He will be honored in this world and the Hereafter and he will be among those closest to God. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and he will be of the righteous.” (Qur’an 3:44-45)

Continue reading at Star Tribune…

 

This article was submitted by Imam Asad Zaman, Muslim American Society of Minnesota; Dr. Odeh Muhawesh, Imam Hussain Islamic Center; ShaykhaTamara Gray, Rabata/Daybreak Bookstore; Dr. Tamim Saidi, Masjid Al Kareem; Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota; Dr. Shah Khan, Islamic Center of Minnesota; Dr. Onder Uluyol, Islamic Resource Group; Zafar Siddiqui, Al Amal School; Imam Sharif Mohamed, Islamic Civic Society of America — Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah, and Owais Bayunus, Islamic Center of Minnesota.

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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.)

 

Blessed Festival of Sacrifice

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

fedwaI am rewriting a blog I wrote for Eid ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice.  September 24, 2015 is a special day for Muslims all around the world. Eid ul-Adha is one of the major Muslim holidays. It comes right after the fifth 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 has the physical and financial ability is required to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, home of the Ka’bah, which Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, upon them be peace.

I made the trip last year and this year, my brother Kennedy is experiencing the special event.

The Hajj pilgrimage is an extremely communal event as over two million Muslims, men and women of varied ethnicities 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 son, Ishmael, who Muslims believe was miraculously replaced by a lamb, similar to the Biblical story.

Jeewan Chanicka explained Abraham’s sacrifice in his Hajj reminders with the following words:

But it wasn’t his son that was slaughtered. It was his attachment. It was his attachment to anything that could compete with his love for God. And the beauty of such a sacrifice is this: Once you let go of your attachment, what you love is given back to you– in a purer, better form. So let us ask ourselves during these beautiful days of sacrifice, which attachments do we need to slaughter?

People share the meat of the 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.

In conclusion, I want to share Rumi’s Eid al-Adha Poem.

BISMILLAH! (In the name of God!)

It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?

Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.

Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God.

You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.

You need more help than you know.
You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.

Say Bismillah, In the name God,
As the priest does with knife when he offers an animal.

Bismillah your old self
to find your real name.
– Jalaluddin Rumi

I wish everyone in all places at all times a blessed Eid Mubarak. May God accept your good deeds and all your efforts during the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah (the name of the month in the Muslim lunar calendar).

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She is 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 lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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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.)

Clarifying Misconceptions on Islam

By Owais Bayunus, Engage Minnesota

owais_bayunusIslam is a universal call to mankind, not an “Arab” or an “Eastern” religion as many depict it. Although it addresses all people, including Jews and Christians, they are not categorized as enemies or “infidels.” The term “infidel” is of European origin, used at the time of the Crusades to describe Muslims.

Goodness is acknowledged by Islam wherever it resides. The following points will elaborate the pluralistic society in which Muslims have lived and how close Muslims consider Jews and Christians are to them:

1- Christians and Jews are considered People of the Book in Islam because they share the same source from which the Qur’an has been revealed, and a Muslim must believe in all the Prophets of God including each and every one of the Israelite Prophets (Isaac, Jacob to Jesus), and the books revealed to them. Muslims believe in the same God as the Jews and the Christians, and “to kill an innocent man is like killing the whole mankind and saving a life is saving humanity.” Muslims believe in the birth of Jesus to Virgin Mary, and in the second coming of Jesus. The names Jesus (Isa) and Moses (Musa) are very common among Muslims.

2- Muslim men are allowed to marry Christian or Jewish women with good character. A wife is the closest person to a man. She can be the mother of his children, the guardian, the teacher, the lover and protector of his children, and the one who builds their character. How can Islam, on the one hand tell you to consider them as “infidels” and on the other hand let them be the closest person to you and your children?

It should also be remembered that once a Muslim man marries a Christian or Jewish woman, it becomes obligatory upon him not only to let her practice the obligations of her own religion freely, but to help her in carrying them out, such as taking her to church or synagogue, and whatever is necessary for her to remain a devout religious person of her own faith.

A Muslim man does not have any contradiction with the Christian or Jewish wife as far as the belief in all the Prophets is concerned as he reveres them equally, if not more, as she does.

Muslims are permitted by Islam to eat the food offered to them by the People of the Book (unless specifically prohibited such as alcohol or pork) and to reciprocate by offering their food to them. “The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and your food is lawful unto them”. Qur’an (5:5)

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Chattanooga Killings: Motive Unknown

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

But they have no knowledge therein.
They follow nothing but conjecture;
and conjecture avails nothing against Truth.

(Quran 53:28)

fedwaOn July 16, 2015, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez killed five U.S. service members in a shooting rampage in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The 24-year-old gunman, joked that he was just an “Arabian redneck,” was smoking marijuana with friends and struggled to stay devout to Islamic teachings.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, immediately condemned the deadly attack in Tennessee.

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

“We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible. Such inexcusable acts of violence must be repudiated by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. The American Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens in offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured and in rejecting anyone who would harm our nation’s safety and security. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy.”

Likewise, the Minnesota chapter of CAIR responded immediately as well.  Executive Board Member Sakinah Mujahid who is a 13 year veteran of the US Army said:

“We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible. Such inexcusable acts of violence must be repudiated by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. The American Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens in offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured and in rejecting anyone who would harm our nation’s safety and security. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy.”

Initial theories on the possible motive behind the Chattanooga killings appear to be just pure conjecture or guesswork.

In an effort to fill in the gaps while reinforcing the stereotypes that inform our world view, people espouse these speculative theories to create a sense of control or to separate themselves from the horrible crime as far as possible.

Some non-Muslims indicate normal Islamic teachings as a possible motive for the crime, while some Muslims are pointing to some of his unIslamic behavior.

Islamic teachings did not radicalize him.  Many Muslims believe in the teachings that the world is a prison, meaning – be patient as when one is in a physical prison – you accept it and seek God’s help to be patient.  Deal with life’s hardships and don’t expect utopia.  Not all Muslims who believe that go shooting people.  I believe that.  It teaches one to expect hardships in life.  i discussed this Islamic teaching in a blog on Lessons on Power and Oppression from Moses.  From the blog, here is a clarification of what life is a prison means:

He[Moses] had completely nothing with him, and fully exhausted himself – to the very depth of his body and soul in pursuit of survival.  It is not an easy experience – but in that state – what does he do?

Some would commit suicide, others go on shooting rampage, and others on drugs to numb their feelings or escape from the pain, fear and a whole new reality.  He just experienced and accepted the event.  He surrendered to the new reality he was in as this is where God brought him to.  Then, in a state of dire need and exhaustion, he saw two women who had a need.  Instead, of being absorbed with his need and his near starvation and exhaustion, he got up and approached them, asked a clarifying question, then addressed their need.  He asked them for nothing in return.  He made no assumptions or ugly accusations about their standing with their flock instead of a male relative.  Afterwards, he turned to God and put forth his prayer asking for “whatever good that You bestow on me.”

Life is a prison is about surrendering to God’s will and facing hardships with faith.

Likewise, I know many Muslims who engage in unIslamic behaviors, like drugs, drinking and even go to strip joints, etc.,  That doesn’t mean they are going to shoot people as well.  Some of them would go out of their way to help people.  They are human beings struggling with human problems in their lives like most humans do in various parts of their lives.  Some of them turned their lives around.  We read such stories all the time.  Here is a recent story on StoryCorps here.

There is no clear predictor for what turns a person to engage in violence.   A 2008 UK study showed no identifiable pattern to “radicalization.”  In the document, Rethinking Radicalization from the Brennan Center for Justice:

An in-depth empirical study by the UK’s security service MI5 found that “there is no single pathway to extremism,” and that all those studied “had taken strikingly different journeys to violent extremist activity.”

The point is – we are just conjecturing and sensationalizing a feel good story.

Simply put, the motive for the Chattanooga killings is unknown.

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She is 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 lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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Blessed Festival of Fast Breaking

Blessed Festival of Fast Breaking

Eid Al-Fitr, or Festival of Fast Breaking comes right after a pillar of Islam called the Sawm in the Holy month of Ramadan.  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 three days during which people usually visit or invite each other.

Eid Mubarak or Blessed Return!  May God, Mighty and Majestic accept all of our good deeds and efforts during the month of Ramadan.  May God grant us His enabling grace to take the lessons and reflections with us throughout our lives so that we may benefit and receive benefit.  May God increase us to be more conscious of Him and grateful for all the blessings that are too numerous to count.

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A Powerful Interfaith Night

By Hanadi Chehab, American Diversity Report

Two events taking place in one venue occurred in the community of Plymouth, MN on Friday, July 10, 2015. As Muslims are witnessing the last few days of the fasting month of Ramadan, an “Interfaith Iftar”, or fast-breaking meal, and a “Night of Power” event joined forces to host 300 people, a mix of different faiths, ages and backgrounds, in the heart of the local mosque, North West Islamic Community Center (NWICC).

The objective was to familiarize people with the lives of Muslims and give them a chance to witness them worshiping in the most sacred month of the year. In Ramadan, the 9th lunar month, also called the month of the Quran, Muslim adults fast from before the break of dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, water and any intimate physical activity. In North America, the fast can range from 15 to 18 hours. In the “Night of Power” event, a group of Muslim families invited their neighbors, friends and colleagues to witness a fast-breaking meal together. “In a way, it was intimidating to ask people to join. We did it because we want to share our faith. Islam is a beautiful religion and people will witness that for themselves in the heart of our place of worship,” said Mona who invited her colleague.

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Continue reading at American Diversity Report

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Hanadi Chehab is a writer and blogger currently living in Minnesota, with her family of three children. Previously published on MinnPost and http://www.asamuslima.com. 
Before coming to the US Hanadi was a communication specialist working across different media platforms. She was a creative editor, previous TV presenter and program manager, jury member for various award shows in the Middle East, and reporter of the Cannes Advertising Festival. At the beginning of her career as a copywriter, Hanadi was awarded the Gold award for Cannes Young Lions on behalf of United Arab Emirates.

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.)

Muslim community opens 4th Islamic center in St. Cloud

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400In 2013, the Islamic Center of St. Cloud proposed a plan to build a mosque in a residential area near Clearwater Road, only to withdraw its application after strong public resistance to the proposal.

Last Friday, however, Islamic Center of St. Cloud President Mohayadin Mohamed explained how the lost battle became a blessing in disguise: The Islamic center recently purchased a church in the city that embodies nearly everything the center sought in the failed plan — and at a lower price.

In April, the former Good News Assembly of God church at 712-17th Ave. S was converted into a mosque and classrooms for the growing Muslim population in the city. The building is the former Garfield Elementary School. The site is St. Cloud’s fourth mosque; others are located on Fifth Avenue South, Fourth Avenue South and Third Street North.

Randy Adams, former pastor of Good News Assembly of God, congratulated the leaders of the Islamic center for the purchase.

“They were easy to work with,” Adams said. “They were good people. We wish them the best.”

The 46,640-square-foot facility — which consists of 20 classrooms, seven offices, a cafeteria and a space that can hold up to 400 parishioners — cost the center $850,000.

“After the city rejected the plan to build a mosque, we were looking for another option,” Mohamed said. “But we found this place … a better place than the one rejected.”

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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Ramadan and Your Health

By Rwoof Reshi, Engage Minnesota

scopeRamadan tests a Muslim’s physical, mental and spiritual being. This is great news for Minnesota winters as days are short and physically it is not taxing. However, the story is different when it comes to long hard days of Minnesota summer and it gets even further complicated when you have a medical condition to deal with.

There are certainly major medical benefits to fasting. Spiritual and religious reasons aside, one of the major benefits of fasting being able to control eating. This is one of the many reasons for obesity in western world and it disproportionately affects immigrants. Obesity in turn causes high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

Let me address some of the common medical conditions that might need special attention during fasting in the month of Ramadan.

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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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Global Impact Day and Ramadan

By Memoona Ghani, Engage Minnesota

Follow the hashtag #GID and #GlobalImpactDay

MemonaLove for Ramadan is something that is introduced to kids by parents and with time they learn the significance of this beautiful month as their faith and love increases for this month even more. In 2015, Ramadan started on June 18th and we are now past the middle of the month.

Ramadan is the month when practicing Muslims observe daily fasts for a whole month. Everyday during this month, Muslims stop eating and drinking after sunrise and break their fast at sunset. This sequence might seem boring and tiring but in fact it is not. Also eating and drinking is not the only highlight of this beautiful month.  Acts of worship increase during this month, such as worship by praying late at night and other extra worship in any way possible during daytime.  These acts of worship – fast breaking, praying at night in a group or congregation makes it even more beautiful and rewarding.

Along with many extra acts of worship done during this month, 2 are always common:

  • Giving Charity to the people and places that need it regardless of their faith.
  • Sharing a meal with others regardless of their faith

Muslims try to collect as much money possible at an individual or at a group level and donate it to various areas such as social service organizations, orphanages, areas hit by calamities, refugees, non-profit schools or civil service organizations etc.,

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Ramadan – An Exercise in Self restraint

By Sarah Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

Ramadan is a sacred month for the Muslims.  Muslims believe that this is the month in which the first revelation of the Quran, Muslims’ holy book, came down to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In Ramadan, Muslims are required to fast from dawn to sunset.  Fasting is not just refraining from eating and drinking, but also staying away from acts such as cursing, backbiting, and so on. It’s the time of the year when Muslims try to become closer to God and try to humble themselves.

I think Muslims are the only people who actually look forward to a month where they can’t eat or drink, sunrise to sunset. But, there are many reasons as to why Muslims look forward to this month of fasting.  Fasting in Ramadan helps them become more patient, and allows them to learn self-restraint.  Food is everywhere. Literally! So, it requires a huge amount of restraint in order to not be tempted to break their fast. Also, people around them, like at work or school, would eat in front of them, which also aids in strengthening their resistance to give in. As said earlier, fasting for Muslims does not only mean no drinking and eating, it also means no bad habits like backbiting, cursing, or fighting. So, Muslims use this month to get rid of their bad habits. For example, if someone has a really bad habit of cursing and a situation in which they would usually curse comes up, he/she would restrain him/herself from cursing. This way, their resistance towards the bad habit will build up and, by the end of the month that habit will be gone. This is one of the biggest reasons why Muslims look forward to the month of Ramadan: to get rid of bad habits.

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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.

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.

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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