Blog Archives

Guilt, remorse, and getting beyond the self-help placebo

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“O God! Grant us enough fear (of displeasing Thee) that it may serve as a barrier between us and our sins. . .and grant us enough faith that it may help us to face the misfortunes of this world easily.”
–Prayer of Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings.

fedwa wazwaz
It’s important to distinguish between two very different emotional processes: guilt and remorse.

We sometimes think of the two as interchangeable, but in truth they are very different. Guilt is connected with control, obligation, and fear. When you’re feeling guilty, you’re being shamed and disempowered. At times, this shame can be personal, part of a private controlling force. But often, guilt is part of a broad societal shaming.

For instance, Muslims have been pressured, for the past sixteen years, to feel guilty for the horrific events of September 11, 2001, as well as other violent attacks. We’ve been put on the guilt-track, where we need to constantly excuse, explain, apologize, and apologize for a crime that took us by surprise as it did everybody else.

Indeed, this guilt denied American Muslims the space to grieve. We, too, needed to share with the rest of the community the process of loss. We, too, needed to work through our sorrow and fear.

Instead, we were roped by a feeling of guilt and shame, and a burden to prove that we were not guilty. But in this case, there is nothing we can do to prove we’re not guilty. Still, the president’s executive order evokes September 11 when suddenly revoking permanent residents’ access to their homes, jobs, and lives.

Read the rest of this entry

The African-American Women Behind the Heroes

By Jimmy Jones, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Yet neither of these men could have soared to the heights that they did without the passionate, persistent, consistent, and competent help of women who just happened to be African-American.


For African-Americans, the annual time period between Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on January 15th and the end of February is bittersweet. This is because we hear quite a bit about Dr. King’s legacy and the importance of Black History for about six weeks, only to be shunted aside again on March 1st of every year.

Nevertheless, we rightly remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a genuine American hero. So was recently departed astronaut and senator John Glenn, the first American in space.

Yet neither of these men could have soared to the heights that they did without the passionate, persistent, consistent, and competent help of women who just happened to be African-American.

In John Glenn’s case, the full story of these women was finally told in the book “Hidden Figures,” written by Margot Lee Shetterly and released as a Hollywood film with the same title.


Meet Ruhel Islam

By Tea Rozman-Clark, Green Card Voices

The best way to respond to extreme vetting, a term presidential candidate Donald Trump refers to in the debates is to amplify the voices of Muslim immigrants in their own words.

Upon the request of his sister, who was moving to the U.S. with her American-businessman husband, and due to the hostile political climate of his home country, Mr. Islam left Bangladesh for the U.S. in 1996.

The fourth of seven children, he moved from his rural, childhood village of Sylhet to a larger urban area in pursuit of a college degree in commerce and accounting. Upon the completion of his degree and while still in Bangladesh, he started a farm – growing it from just two chickens to over two thousand.

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Ban the burkini ban: How the same decision that claims to liberate women actually oppresses them

By Hanadi ChehabeddineMinnPost

In 2004 I was in France reporting on the Cannes Advertising Festival on behalf of ArabAd Magazine, not only as an Arab, but also as a Muslim woman and a veiled one. For a whole week I was following up on the Arab delegation, arranging interviews with winners and even scoring with the festival’s highest rank and advertising celebrities. I was very proud of myself and thought I deserved a day off before traveling back to Lebanon.

Nice, as the closest town to Cannes, was my leisure destination and I enjoyed wandering aimlessly at its charming Sunday market. The craft kiosks lining up next to farmers’ colorful produce and eclectic bags fascinated me. I looked forward to having breakfast at one of the local cafés. As I was entering the establishment, a long skinny waitress blocked my way and said in a snooty French accent: “Where are you going?” I said naively, “I want to have breakfast.” She said, “The restaurant is booked.” I looked around and saw people coming in and out freely. Clearly the restaurant was not booked. The waitress turned to me and huffed, “People like you have no place in this restaurant.”

Back in my hotel room, I cried my eyes out. I vowed that night never to be quieted again.

The animosity toward Muslims in France dates to long before recent terrorists attacks. The ban on “conspicuous religious symbols,” including headscarves in 2004 and the full-face covering in 2011, was the start. Its latest iteration bans the burkini, a swimwear designed to cover most of the body worn primarily by Muslim women. The religious obligation for women to cover their bodies stems from the concept of modesty that Muslim women believe in — in simple terms, converging the attention on women’s thoughts rather than their bodies and bodily assets. Objecting to the ban on the burkini should be the quest of every woman.


Continue reading at MinnPost

Hanadi Chehabeddine is an award-winning public speaker and writer. She recently received the Eden Prairie Human Rights award 2016 for her efforts to dismantle misconceptions about Islam and build bridges of unity. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in International leadership at the University of St. Thomas. Before coming to the U.S., she was an award-winning creative and communication specialist working across different media.


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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.


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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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 

fedwa wazwaz
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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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.


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Community Leaders to Address Rising Islamophobia in Minnesota

(MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 4/4/16) – On Tuesday, April 5, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) will join interfaith, social justice and community organizations and leaders at a news conference in St. Paul., Minn., to address the challenges facing Minnesota Muslims because of the rise of Islamophobia in that state and nationwide.
WHAT: Community Leaders Press Conference to address Islamophobia in Minnesota.
WHEN: Tuesday, April 5, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
WHERE: MN Senate Office Building, Room 181, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN, 55155-1232
CONTACT: CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein, 612-406-0070, E-mail:
CAIR-Minnesota is a chapter of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper,


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We are One MN: Standing United in Celebrating Community

By Multiple AuthorsCommunity Leaders

Over the years, Minnesota has been at the forefront of welcoming refugees and other immigrants from around the world. In fact, most Minnesotans are themselves descendants of immigrants, including refugees who escaped war, persecution, or natural disasters in the lands from which they emigrated. This is part of the rich heritage of Minnesota we have long celebrated.

However, today Minnesotans are deeply concerned when we hear reports of Islamophobia, racism, and other forms of intolerance around our nation, abroad, and even in Minnesota. Anti-Muslim attitudes, acts of anti-Semitism, and growing fear of refugees from Syria and other troubled countries are increasingly finding expression in hateful speech, prejudice and even acts of violence in our state and beyond. Now is the time to reaffirm our solidarity with and support of all who live and work in our community, particularly for the newest Minnesotans among us. Our goal is to send a clear message that all are welcome in Minnesota and that we stand united against the intolerance and hostility that too many refugees and migrants have reportedly encountered in our state.  As a community graced with a rich diversity of people, let us join together to celebrate We are One MN: Standing United in Celebrating Community.

We are One MN event details

When:           Sunday, April 24, 2016, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Where:          Saint Paul RiverCenter, 175 W Kellogg Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 55102
What:            Speakers, food, music, and spoken-word performances from many countries and cultures.  Greetings from local, state, and national elected officials. The exhibit “Tents of Witness:  Genocide and Conflict.” Ethnic handicrafts, art, and books available for purchase. Art project. Videos of personal journeys of new and settled refugees in Minnesota.

The program is sponsored and supported by a number of state and local leaders from public and private sectors, including government agencies, faith communities, educational institutions, service clubs and immigrant support groups.

Your support is critical. Consider adding your name and that of your organization to our list of event sponsors. Then share the event widely with your memberships, constituencies, colleagues, friends, and family. Most importantly, join us in this important celebration and stand with us to celebrate community on April 24th.

Thank you,

Jessi Kingston, Director, Saint Paul Department of Human Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity
Ellen Kennedy, Executive Director, World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law

To add your name and that of your organization to our list of event sponsors contact:

Jef Yang
Section 3 Coordinator
CERT Certification Specialist
Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity
15 West Kellogg Blvd Suite 280
Saint Paul, MN 55102
P: 651-266-8968
F: 651-266-8919

A Night of Surprises (Good and Bad) at Champlin Parks High School

By Memoona Ghani, Engage Minnesota

As an Islamic Resource Group (IRG) volunteer, I recently had a chance to speak at Champlin Parks High School. The school is located just across from Jackson Middle School, and I was surprised at its ample parking space, spacious structure, beautiful open cafeteria, and a well-established auditorium.

But my surprise for this particular presentation did not start on the day of presentation. It started long before.

Usually for an IRG presentation, an organization contacts the IRG administrator and requests a speaker for a certain topic related to Islam. The speakers prepare and present to the audience in an effort to build bridges with fellow citizens. This particular presentation request was for the school’s “Islam Awareness Week,” an annual event held at different schools and colleges, particularly those that have active Muslim Student Associations (MSA).

My first surprise came when I learned that the event was being held by the high school’s MSA (Muslims Student Association). Usually, MSA requests come from colleges and universities. My interest was piqued: What would these high-school students bring to the table?

My second surprise was when one of the school’s MSA members, Arshia Hussain, contacted me to check on the details for the upcoming presentation. It was then that I discovered that this particular effort for Islam Awareness Week was being led by teenage female MSA members. Arshia stayed in touch with me until the day of presentation. She kept me informed on any changes or details of the event.


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Al Shabab recruitment video with Trump

By Engage Minnesota

A new video was released by the extremist group Al Shabab.  The video uses excerpts from Donald Trump’s political rhetoric against Muslims as well as cases of discrimination against blacks.

It attempts to incite and lure young Somalis by playing on their pain and feelings of being discriminated against.

Hatem Bazian, a lecturer at the University of California responded to the recruitment video in the following interview.

Donald Trump does not speak for all Americans, nor represent the American people.  Many Americans have spoken up against his anti-Muslim rhetoric.

US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a coalition of leading national and local Muslim organizations, are implementing major initiatives to address growing Islamophobia in America and to enhance national security.

‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ and Muslim ARC are dealing with racism against blacks within the US including within the Muslim community.

Somali or Muslim Youth should participate in these organizations and movements and get involved in fighting discrimination. Stay away from extremists.

Don’t be manipulated.



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Pushing Back Vicious Political Attacks

By Jamal Abdulahi, Minnesota Civic


Abdulahi_Jamal_colCircleWhile the political views expressed in Scott Johnson’s essay “Islam and Minnesota: Can we hear some straight talk for a change?” are wrong and extreme in nature, the ability of Somalis to pushback forcefully and effecively is hindered by the author’s unstated premise.

The author’s premise is that Somalis are disloyal to America and politically more loyal to Somalia. This view has support in mainstream Minnesota and Somalis re-enforce it with more passion for Somalia politics.

Trying to explain attacks in the essay as part of the broader hostilities towards American Muslims is insufficient. Nor is it sufficient to cast them as general stereotypes held about immigrants.

Minnesota’s Somali political situation is unique and must be treated as such. There are set of nuances which sets a part.

Continue reading at Minnesota Civic…

Jamal Abdulahi is long time community organizer and an independent analyst based in the Twin Cities. He can be reached by via email or on Twitter @fuguni.


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Zaman, Eilberg, Duke: A call to condemn Donald Trump’s proposals on Muslims

By Asad Zaman, Amy Eilberg and Tom Duke, Pioneer Press

On behalf of a hundred Minnesota clergy and faith leaders, we write today with a sense of urgency about the unraveling of the fabric of American society. We ask all Minnesota political leaders to condemn the Islamophobic statements of Mr. Donald Trump.

On Dec. 7, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Earlier he called for a database to track Muslims in America and for many mosques to be shut down.

Such discriminatory, bigoted statements by the presidential frontrunner of a major political party make it appear that bigotry is the perceived stance of that party and that it thrives in the politics of our nation. As such, condemnation by all Minnesota political leaders is urgently needed on this issue.

Continue reading at Pioneer Press…

Imam Asad Zaman is executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. Amy Eilberg is a rabbi who teaches at United Theological Seminary. Lutheran pastor Tom Duke (ELCA-retired) is coordinator of Saint Paul Interfaith Network.



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Community Safety Alert

By CAIR Minnesota
You may have heard of the media reports and monitoring of anti-Muslim hate sites indicating that a small group of anti-Muslim extremists with a history of violent rhetoric are attempting to organize hate rallies outside of mosques and Islamic institutions across the nation on Friday and Saturday October 9th-10th. Organizers of the hate rallies have indicated that participants in states with open carrying laws may be armed and that provocations such as the use of live pigs and Quran desecrations may occur.
Many of these planned rallies may not take place, or they may consist of only a handful of people shouting slurs at worshipers. But given the recent endorsement of Islamophobia by national public figures, it would only be prudent for mosque and community leaders to prepare for any eventuality.
So far, we have been only able to identity one Facebook group in Anoka MN to be planning for similar protests. There is a chance that many of these groups are not making their plans known publicly. Therefore, we need to plan for these protests. Below we have provided you with basic safety tips. Also, we will be hold a conference call on Thursday evening to review and plan for any more or additional planned protests.
Safety Reminders for This Friday & Saturday:
  1. Alert local law enforcement authorities to the possibility of a hate rally outside the mosque and request advice about the best way to protect worshipers against possibly armed protesters.
  2. Request a stepped up police presence on October 9 (Jummah) and on October 10, the day of the nationwide hate rallies. (For a fee, many local police departments will provide officers to be present at a facility during services.)
  3. Assign staff/volunteers to monitor outside and inside activities. Look for any kind of  suspicious behavior
  4. If there are protestors:
    1. Immediately call your local police station and report the active protestors.
    • Direct your staff and volunteers to avoid any contact or issues between your congregation and the protestors.
    • Make announcements after prayers to not engage the protestors/agitators.
    1. You can build a wall between the protestors and your congregation to avoid conflict.
  5. Inform community members about the issue and urge them not to be provoked by any hate rhetoric or actions. (Do not engage in a debate or become angry; you do not want to escalate the situation.)
  6. Take video of the entire hate protest. Anyone taking video of the hate rally should not get too close to or interact with the participants.
  7. Immediately report any threatening or potentially-violent actions by the hate rally participants to police.
  8. Report any bias incidents to police and to CAIR-MN Civil Rights Department at 612-206-3360 or 612-406-0070,
  9. Consider scheduling a town hall meeting to discuss the issue of growing Islamophobia and the need for community peace building. Go to to learn more.
Community leaders are also being asked to implement long-term safety measures outlined in CAIR’s booklet, “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety,” which was published in response to previous attacks on American mosques.
A free copy of the booklet may be requested by going to:
Join Community Leaders Safety Conference Call 
Thursday October 8th from 7:30pm-8:30pm
Dial-in Number:(712) 775-7031
Meeting ID:522-799-109
General Safety Reminders :
  • Install security cameras, and/or a burglar alarm system. Provide ample exterior lighting; such as floodlights
  • Make duplicates of mosque documents; and store in a separate area. Remove potential fire hazards. Consider creating a security committee.
  • Request additional police patrols. Participate in neighborhood watch programs.
  • Report suspicious packages to police.
  • Build good relations with neighbors & local law enforcement.
  • Make an appointment with the community relations officer of your local police department to tour your center and make suggestions on improving mosque security.

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Islamophobia vs. the clamor of the good people

By Lori Saroya, Star Tribune

Saroya_Lori_circleMugMohammad Zafar was walking down the street minding his own business when he heard it. An angry, fierce voice yelled something he had heard many times before: “Go back to your country!” He instinctively looked around, wondering who they were talking to. Surely, he would come to that person’s defense and offer any help he could. But there was no one else. They were talking to Mohammad.

The comment is nonsensical because most American Muslims don’t have a country to “go back to.” This is their country. Despite that, American Muslims are regularly subjected to hateful comments — especially Muslim women in hijab or Muslim men, like Mohammad Zafar, that have a long beard.

It’s disturbing that a young man walking down the street in Minnesota would be regularly subjected to hate for no reason. It’s even more disturbing that he was targeted solely based on his race and religion. However, what makes Mohammad’s case so egregious is that he is a former United States Marine.

Not only is this Mohammad’s country, but he proudly and honorably served it. He risked his life for it.

Mohammad is a recipient of the prestigious Minnesota Veterans Voices Award, presented to veterans who have made “exceptional contributions to the community.” His full-time job involves working with returning veterans, assisting them with the Minnesota GI bill at a local university. Earlier this month, he was featured by Twin Cities Public Television for promoting fitness in his neighborhood.

I wasn’t the only one outraged by the stranger’s comments. The outpouring of support on Mohammad’s Facebook post, where he shared the incident, was overwhelming. He jokingly responded, “Which home? Eaganistan? Saint Paulistan? or Bunrsvilistan? After a while I just stop saying things. If my kids were with me, then I would talk to them so they don’t feel afraid.”

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.

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My 9/11 experience

By Rihab Naheel

I rarely think of 9/11. I know that almost every one has been affected by this day in one way or another. It was 10 years ago and yet it feels like yesterday. I had to remember that day against my will the other day, long before the actual date came, while teaching a grammar lesson. Yes, this day creeps up in unexpected places, unexpected times.   Read the rest of this entry

Countering Islamophobia on the Tenth Anniversary of September 11 Attacks

By Asma Adam

If asked whether Muslim-Americans should be treated fairly, most Americans would answer “yes.” However, America has had its struggles with racism, bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination in its history and it seems that Muslim-Americans are now on the receiving end of these hateful reactions. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 by Al-Qaeda terrorists, Muslim-Americans have had to deal with mistrust, fear, discrimination, and greater scrutiny. For instance, Muslim-Americans experience traveling restrictions, extra airport searches, denial of immigration cases, and deportations. Just because some Muslims commit horrific atrocities in the name of Islam does not mean that all Muslims are responsible for such actions. There needs to be a more fair way of viewing current issues. There must be a balance between security concerns and protecting civil rights. Read the rest of this entry

Islamophobes’ authoritarian contemptuous attitude toward the American public

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

Much of the industry of Islamophobia these days seems to operate based on a perceived existential threat to the American identity – the threat that somehow Americans may become “Islamicized” en masse and be brainwashed by Muslims either into converting to Islam or adopting Islamic viewpoints. The rhetoric of bigots like Robert Spencer and David Horowitz warns America from being nobbled into somehow becoming a Muslim nation.

Regardless of the hilarity of such a claim, there is something else about it that should be deeply insulting to Americans: It presumes that Americans are stupid. Read the rest of this entry

American pundits’ anti-Muslim hate speech predictably ends up costing lives

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

This is not to say that Islamophobia has not already cost a barrage of human lives. In addition to direct hate crimes committed against Muslims and Muslim-looking individuals in the US and Europe, hate speech against Muslims or at least the broad criticism of Muslims’ way of life is to blame, in my opinion, for the general public’s inaction toward the thousands of lost lives deemed “collateral damage” during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Islamophobia Driven by Guroor, not Fear of Terrorism

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

I love to follow the teachings of Habib Ali, a phenomenal teacher on Islamic spirituality.  In a beautiful lesson, he once said that the more guroor a person has, the more harm comes out of this person.
What is guroor?
While reading my Facebook news feed, I ran across a blog by a Facebook friend, Sincere teacher transform hearts.
Read the rest of Fedwa’s Star Tribune post here.
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