Blog Archives

What’s Troubling About Charter School Debate: The Hate

By Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Education has issued a report clearing Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy of the major allegations leveled against it and requesting that the school address smaller areas of concern.

The May 19 report states that the school’s core business—curriculum—is nonreligious, in full compliance with all Minnesota statutes. The Department of Education’s areas of concern related to how the school structures its voluntary Friday prayers as well as the timing of after-school busing. In a statement, Tarek school officials said that they take these concerns “very seriously” and will be getting together with parents and Department of Education officials to quickly rectify any possible or perceived infractions.

But the small concerns detailed in the report are not what should worry us most.

What should worry us most is the atmosphere of hate that surrounds them. Read the rest of this entry

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

My Time in a Madrassa

By Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota

Marcia Lynx QualeySeveral years ago, I would have told you confidently—if haltingly—that I worked in a madrassa. Ana bashtaghal fi madrassa, I would’ve said. I worked there as a mudarissa, a teacher.

Madrassa and mudarissa were two of the first words to drop into my growing Arabic vocabulary. After all, I’d traveled all the way to Cairo, Egypt to take a job teaching pre-K at an international school. The words were useful.

For me, the word madrassa was almost empty of connotations, like escuela or école. When I first learned them, the words had no layers: They were attached to no stories, no sayings. All the word madrassa meant to me was a collection of beige buildings in the desert where I wrangled four-year-olds all day. Read the rest of this entry

Students Deserve Equal Religious Rights Under the Law

By Fedwa Wazwaz and Marcia Lynx Qualey, Engage Minnesota

Marcia Lynx Qualey

On April 9, we read Katherine Kersten’s column in the Star Tribune, and the e-mail exchange between Kersten and Asad Zaman, executive director of Tariq ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), and were compelled to respond.

I (Fedwa) have an eight-year-old daughter. I visited TIZA and decided not to enroll my daughter, choosing instead Al Amal School in Fridley. The primary reason is that I was convinced TIZA is not an Islamic School and does not teach Islamic Education to kids. I pay from my own pocket to put my daughter in Al Amal, the only Islamic school in the Twin Cities.

I (Marcia) have a four-year-old son, enrolled in a private Montessori school in St. Paul. While the school is housed adjacent to a Jewish temple—as TIZA is housed adjacent to a mosque—my son has learned nothing about Judaism by mere contact with the building. The school’s vacations are, as you might imagine, focused around Christian holidays.

Both of us work at the University of Minnesota, a public institution that receives taxpayer money. This school also closes on Christian holidays. Tests and school breaks are planned around Christian holidays to allow Christians time to celebrate. The floating holiday this year was on the Christian Good Friday, right before Christian Easter. There are “holiday parties” around Christmas Day—not, for instance, Ramadan.

However, the University of Minnesota presents itself as a secular university. 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.”
Read the rest of this entry