Blog Archives

An inspiration of hajj for mainstream America

By Omar Alansari-Kreger

Hajj is recognition of our shared mortality which reminds us of what we cannot refute, our humanity.

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How does one establish a sense of meaning in a fast-paced world driven by material results? In America, people seem like they are married to their jobs which makes it difficult to acquire a true sense of life or identity for that matter. It becomes quite difficult to stand out when society demands conformity through standardized assimilation. As America continues to wrestle with its deep polarities, it becomes challenging to explore an escape from the madness. This describes something much greater than a two-week vacation. Unbeknownst to many Americans, the Hajj pilgrimage takes place each year. For all able-bodied and financially capable Muslims, it stands as a mandatory religious obligation beckoning fulfillment. It represents a great coming together of the races each year best described as an epic festival of nations. For Hajj, people arrive by the millions far and wide by air, sea, and land.

Any Non-Muslim cannot help but to wonder: why do people leave their careers, families, and other details of life behind across a two-three week period as an act of high faith?

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Intellectual Immersion of Children

By Omar Alansari-Kreger

The truth is that people want to be heard without listening to each other.

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What is the best way to arouse permanent intellectual curiosities? There is no simple remedy. Ideas that support concepts are embraced through an individually driven learning style. We can practically assume that people learn on their own terms, but how do we provoke that great intellectual awakening? It ultimately begins in childhood. Our earliest memories are indeed the most impressionable to us. Children surrounded with books, globes, and maps of the world have a greater chance of early intellectual immersion. A world of total convenience has turned us into creatures of vanity. When something is easy and accessible, there is this underlying reticence to absorb its knowledge.

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A case for light rail

By Omar Alansari-Kreger

Who wants to waste away idling in traffic after waiting through three traffic light cycles at a highway intersection?

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Out on the roads, Minnesota nice turns to Minnesota ice. Year after year, more people take to the roads in cars that consume finite resources leaving behind nothing but non-renewable waste. Little is done to investigate and expand alternatives to the car culture. In the Twin Cities, outside the core inner city area, it becomes quite the challenge to have life without the car. The suburbs are a case in point. They were made and inspired by and for the car culture. It should be no surprise why to most Americans, convenience is measured in miles as opposed to blocks. We are generally inclined to accept the car culture as an unavoidable fact of life. Car ownership is best defined as costly arriving at a great economic burden to the average American. This is especially true to those of us living strictly on borrowed credit or from paycheck-to-paycheck.

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A personal story of surviving war in Somalia

By Saciido Shaie, Engage Minnesota

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As a young girl full of hope, I lost that hope the day I left my country of birth, Somalia. I want to share how I came to the US and left Somalia without my choice.

I remember leaving my home not looking back, not knowing what was going on. The only thing I knew was that something awful was happening and that people were dying, yet I didn’t know why. I was very scared, confused and did not know what to do.

As my family and I left with my aunt’s car, my eyes were glued to the window.  I watched the people on the street.  I saw injured people crying for help on the sidewalk, yet no one was helping, everyone was running. But one thing that I can’t ever forget was, as I was watching people on the sidewalk, running, carrying backpacks, and carrying their babies on their back, walking without shoes, there was a child maybe one-year-old sucking his dead mother’s breast. This made me cry for many days. I remember looking at the baby, and telling my mother to stop the car so that I can help the baby. I remember how devastated and shocked I felt. I still remember the red shirt he was wearing.

You see, it is not easy to forget such incident, how can I when I still see the sand and the dust all over his little face and the tears and the horror on his face. How can I forget the cry and the scene as if I am rewinding an old horror movie? But make no mistake, as it was, and still is a reality of my past that hunts me down up until now. I wish someone heard me when I called my mother asking her to stop the car and didn’t.

“Mom, please stop the car,” I keep repeating the same cry, and I thought maybe my mother didn’t hear me at all. Then again, I said, “mom, the baby, please let’s help him.”

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Experiencing my first caucus

By Nausheena Hussain, Engage Minnesota
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The last time you heard from me, I was going on and on about why we need to caucus and “Calling All Muslims – CAUCUS #SUPERTUESDAY!”
 
Well the Muslim community showed up! Last night, was quite an incredible experience. Many of us were confused. What’s our precinct? What room should I go to? What is this line for?
 
It was chaos! From parking to resolutions, everything was new to me. I literally parked at the opposite party’s parking lot and walked across the street to my Senate District caucus. (I wasn’t the only one).
 
I found my precinct room, was amazed by the number of people who showed up, and realized this is where it starts. Tonight, we’re influencing the party’s nomination. We’re also going to consider resolutions that will influence the party’s platform. Never before did I feel more civically engaged as I did on #supertuesday.
 
I casted my ballot for my choice for presidential candidate, was nominated and elected Vice Chair of my precinct and stepped up to be a delegate.  Throughout the evening, state senators, representatives, city officials, and candidates running for various positions came in and spoke to us.
For once, I felt like I was seen and heard.

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Governor Dayton discusses Syrian Refugees in MN

By Noor Qureishy, The Rubicon
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A flood of faces, a symphony of voices, weary but desperate to flee the insanity of their former lives, to run from the terrorism that has overrun their country. CNN reports that the United States has responded to the refugee crisis by allowing the admittance of 1,500 refugees (out of over four million that have fled Syria) since the civil war started in 2011, and has now committed to bringing in 10,000 more in 2016.

Although 31 governors have publicly announced their stance against the admittance of any more refugees into their respective states, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton will welcome refugees here. “To single out one group of people from one country who are fleeing terrorism themselves is just I think an extreme overreaction,” Governor Mark Dayton said. “To say that we’re going to prevent people from coming here, families and others who’ve been vetted carefully to me is really ill-advised. It’s not going to make Minnesota safer.”

Dayton believes that every necessary precaution should be taken when resettling refugees, and that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is doing just that with their vetting procedures.

The security process for refugees has been known to be extremely selective and rigorous; refugees are subjected to the highest possible level of security checks of any traveler in the U.S. They are also reviewed by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense according to Dayton.

Dayton believes that the statements made by governors in an attempt to keep refugees out of their states are at best, showmanship. “As a practical matter, unless you stop every car that’s driving across the interstate, you’re not going to be preventing people from moving from one place to another. It’s really just a lot of showmanship and pandering to the worst fears of people,” he said.

Continue reading at The Rubicon

Noor Qureishy is a third-year writer and 2015-16 In Depth editor for The Rubicon, the St. Paul Academy school newspaper.

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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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Minnesota advocate looks forward to serving on federal human trafficking council

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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Bukola Oriola, a longtime advocate for victims of trafficking and domestic abuse in Minnesota, is looking forward to serving on the newly formed U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

“It’s unbelievable that I could get such a platform,” she said. “I see it as the highest platform I could have to really lend my voice to help victims and survivors of human trafficking.”

Oriola was among 11 council members that President Obama picked last month from states across the country to identify issues and make recommendations to the federal government on policies addressing human trafficking in the United States.

“I am honored that these talented individuals have decided to serve our country,” President Obama said in a statement. “They bring their years of experience to this administration, and I look forward to working with them.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Ibrahim Hirsi can be reached at ihirsi@minnpost.com.  Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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New radio station aimed at Somali-Americans

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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Minnesota’s youngest radio station, KALY 101.7-FM, aired its first news segment this week for thousands of Somali-speaking audience members in the Minneapolis area.

The low-power FM station — which is operated by the nonprofit Somali American Community — opened its doors in September, making KALY the first Somali-American station licensed by the Federal Communication Commission.

“Media is a powerful tool … and we need to be part of that power,” said KALY Executive Director Mahamed Cali. “You’ll be respected when you’re able to tell your own stories.”

Cali and his team of volunteers operate from a tiny south Minneapolis studio, but their service is making a mark on local community programming: The station broadcasts a daily mix of Somali music, Islamic lectures and Somali language talk programming throughout the day.

KALY’s mission, Cali explained, is to provide Somali-Americans with information about weather, important announcements, new laws that affect them and discussions about social issues.

Prometheus Radio Project, a Philadelphia-based media justice advocate group, helped set up KALY station, which rebroadcasts the daytime programing at night.

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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Experts on refugee process dispel misconceptions about prospective Syrian immigrants

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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Suzan Boulad has recently noted a new depiction of the Syrian refugees: America’s new enemy.

“Syrian refugees are painted as sort of this new threat,” said Boulad, a Syrian-American and a University of Minnesota School of Law student.

The debate on refugees escaping the deadly conflict in Syria began to unfold two weeks ago, after it came to light that one of the suicide bombers who carried out the attacks on Paris may have sneaked into Europe on a Syrian passport.

This claim led some state and federal officials to call for more scrutiny of Syrian refugees. Until a tougher resettlement process is in place, the officials have proposed a pause in the plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States in the coming months.

“I think the presidential and other elections coming up have a lot to do with that,” said Boulad, whose aunt and cousins still remain in Syria. “There’s always a convenient scapegoat in society. It’s unfortunate that those political elements have a very real impact on people’s lives.”

Petition against Syrian refugees

Thousands of Minnesotans have also responded to the issue as they took to the Internet to sign a petition that accentuated their demand to keep Syrian refugees out of the state.

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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Minnesotans maintaining travel plans to Paris despite attacks

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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The terrorist attacks that shook Paris Nov. 13 week aren’t stopping Minnesotans from traveling to the City of Light, according to local travel experts.

Sandy Lovick, owner of several Travel Leaders locations throughout the Twin Cities, noted Wednesday that her own associate was on her way to Paris, which has been nursing its wounds since the Nov. 13 attacks that claimed the lives of at least 130 people.

“They certainly had problems in Paris, but not necessarily in the very midst of the most popular tourist spots,” said Lovick, speaking of the reason travelers are still packing for France.

She added: “But certainly, there are people who are going to think about going, and we would tell them to be most vigilant to their surroundings.”

Agency sees no cancelations

Lovick, who has nine travel-agency offices in Minneapolis and St. Paul, sent messages to her employees after the attacks, checking to see if clients wanted to change their flight dates. So far, the agencies have not heard a word from people wanting to cancel or delay their plans.

“While there are people who probably hesitated [to travel to Paris], we — at our own offices — have not had any changes from any of our clients,” she said.

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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More young Somali-Americans are choosing careers in education

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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In recent years, Said Garaad has seen an increasing number of Somali-Americans in Minnesota who are choosing careers in education.

Most of those joining the field are young people who grew up in Minnesota and received their first taste of education in urban classrooms filled with immigrants and refugees learning the English language, said Garaad, School Success Program Assistant at Minneapolis Public Schools.

“These educators know what it means to learn in urban schools,” noted Garaad, who has been working with Minneapolis Public Schools for more than 10 years. “They’re now coming back to work in the same school system they left some years ago.”

Teachers, counselors, social workers

Many are getting their licenses in teaching, while others are becoming school counselors and social workers, explained Garaad, who is currently pursuing his master’s degree in school counseling at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He said that he’s also aware of other Somali-Americans who are attending education programs in universities throughout Minnesota, training to join the 69,529 licensed staff in the state’s education system.

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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Community Voices: Nelson should apologize for actions

By Jamal Abdulahi, Rosemount Town Pages

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In September, the Rosemount City Council voted 4-1 to rezone property on 154000 South Robert Trail so members of the Muslim community could establish a mosque.

Councilman Shaun Nelson not only voted against the project, he mobilized. In an unprecedented move, he requested the issue to be revisited in October meeting.

The council refused to put the item back on the agenda but did allow individuals with similar views as councilman Nelson to speak. Among them was a woman from Eagan who accused Rosemount Muslims of a terror connection. This vile comment is a direct result of councilman Nelson’s actions.

Rosemount is a vibrant and growing community. Money Magazine recently named it one of the best places in America to live and raise a family. The good public schools are something everyone cherishes in Rosemount. In fact, it’s one of the major reasons people want to move in. Thousands of boys and girls participate in sports through Rosemount Area Athletic Association, a non-profit dedicated to developing youth character through sports. This extraordinary work by volunteer parents complements the public school system.

My faith in these community values was cemented when I ran for Rosemount City Council last year. I knocked on over 2,500 doors and met many residents. The vast of majority of them were polite and courteous.

There was also a general fear of the unknown. Some of the voters who did not know me called my neighbors and friends to confirm what I told them. That type of citizen engagement humbled me and made me more hopeful about the future of Rosemount.

Continue reading at Rosemount Town Pages

Jamal Abdulahi is an independent analyst. He writes about politics, economy and Minnesota’s Somali-American community. He also blogs at http://www.minnesotacivic.com and the Minnesota Star Tribune.

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St. Cloud man’s hope renewed after visit to Somalia

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

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For more than two decades, Ahmed Abdi has observed what seems like a race between major news organizations to tell a single narrative of his native Somalia: The story of death and destruction.

Abdi, who has lived in St. Cloud since 2003, returned this summer to the East African nation he escaped in 1991 after the brutal civil war that left his homeland in anarchy and chaos for more than 20 years.

The images Abdi saw during a two-month visit to various regions in Somalia weren’t those of terrorism, piracy or drought — stories that at times have blanketed America’s major newspapers and TV news segments.

Instead, he saw Somalia rising from the ashes of a prolonged civil war.

“There are new buildings erected everywhere in Somalia,” said Abdi, who returned to St. Cloud in August. “Some of the new buildings are worth $2 million.”

Abdi also met with hundreds of Somalis returning from Europe, Canada and the United States. Some came to visit; others to help rebuild their country, Abdi added.

Some of those he met included entrepreneurs from Minnesota, doctors from Europe as well as educators and developers from Canada and other parts of the world — all of them wanting to help rebuild Somalia, which suffered in the hands of warlords and extremist groups for many years.

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

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Assumed dead, St. Paul woman surprises family after fatal Hajj stampede

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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After the special morning prayers of Eid al-Adha last Thursday, one St. Paul group abandoned its much-anticipated festive activities during the Islamic holiday commemorating the end of the annual Islamic pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Instead, the group of family, friends and neighbors filled a small mosque in south St. Paul, praying in silence and mourning the death of 62-year-old Dahabo Farah Ebar, whom they thought was killed in a fatal stampede on the outskirts of the Muslims’ holy city of Mecca.

“She was popular in the neighborhood and was loved by everyone,” said Feisal Adan. “We canceled the Eid. The entire neighborhood gathered at her house. It was a sad moment for all of us.”

Two mosques in St. Paul also held special prayers for Ebar, who left St. Paul just two weeks ago to fulfill her Hajj duties. Congregations were told that Ebar was one of more than 700 pilgrims who lost their lives on Thursday in the stampede in Mina as they carried out a symbolic stoning of the devil, one of the final Hajj rituals.

But what happened later in the day astonished all: Ebar called her son, Farhan Sheikhdon, and told him that she had been lost in the crowd and her phone had died.

Sheikhdon then turned to the mourners, telling them that Ebar was in fact alive and well. “People didn’t believe she was alive,” he added. “They were talking to her until midnight.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

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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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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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St. Cloud immigrants get global news in unusual ways

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400When Mohamed Jama Mohamud dashed through a busy parking lot on a recent afternoon at a small African business hub in north St. Cloud, some shoppers stopped him to ask, “When can you install my box?”

Towering over each person he interacted with, Mohamud gave a soft smile and carefully chose his words as he explained his busy schedule.

Then Mohamud, a bilingual communication support specialist at North Junior High, promised that he would call them over the weekend to install ethnic channels that connect the immigrant communities to their native countries.

For nearly a year and a half now, Mohamud has been involved in providing international television service, which installs foreign-language channels for the swelling St. Cloud immigrant population, many of them from Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Mohamud explained how the process works: “I install the channels on Roku or Android TV streaming boxes, but mostly Roku. When installations are done, I take the boxes to whoever needs the service. And then, I connect it on their TV.”

With customers in St. Cloud, Fargo and Willmar, Mohamud said he charges people about $250 per box, which has as many as 500 channels that carry entertainment programs, movies, sports and news.

“People don’t have to pay a fee every month or every year,” he said. “They just buy the box one time.”

Generally, immigrants maintain strong family ties with their homeland and are eager to learn about the day-to-day politics that affect their loved ones back home.

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

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Karen man’s journey takes him from a Burmese jungle to a life in Minnesota

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

IbrahimHirsiIllo400One thing Saw Poe Thay Doh experienced at age 7 still remains fresh in his mind: seeking refuge in the jungle as the Burmese army burned his village to the ground.

“I was very afraid of them,” he said of the regime, which continues to target and persecute people of his Karen ethnicity, a group that’s been fighting for separation since Burma, also known as Myanmar, gained independence from Britain in 1948.“They [would have] killed us all if they saw us.”

When Doh emerged from hiding, he entered a Thai refugee camp and lived with his grandfather, Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, a prominent opposition leader.

Even though life in the camp didn’t provide Doh all the basic needs, he said it was better than living in the jungle. “There was no place to sleep,” he added. “No food or clean water.”

Rainy seasons were particularly dreadful, he added.

In the camp, however, there was at least a place to call home. Plus, he was able to visit a nearby United Nations food station twice a month and collected free rice, beans, oil and salt, among other things.

But in 2008, his grandfather Phan, who spent decades fighting on behalf of Karen state and its people, was assassinated.

Continue reading at MinnPost

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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Flying while Muslim at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

By Lori Saroya, Star Tribune

Saroya_Lori_circleMugThe 4-year-old boy stood as still as he could. His knees were shaking. His arms were raised up high; “hands up, don’t shoot”-style. His eyes were shut tight. The lady with the purple gloves patted his head. Then she moved her hands down to his neck and shoulders. She patted his tummy and worked her way down. She touched him everywhere. There was a momentary pause when the little boy’s father threatened a lawsuit (he later told me that he knew there wasn’t a case). A fourth police officer was called. They were officially a scene. They were the Minnesota Muslim family traveling to Washington, D.C., to visit the Lincoln Memorial and the Natural History Museum.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is a hotbed for religious profiling. Some Minnesota Muslims would rather drive 7 hours and fly out of Chicago than endure the profiling, humiliation and degradation they are often subjected to at MSP. I can relate.

From January to April 2015, I took five domestic trips and one international trip. My visibly Muslim family and I were “randomly selected” for extra screenings every single time we flew out of MSP. It’s not random.

Sometimes the TSA agents are ignorant and rude. Like the agent who started patting my hijab after I was cleared by the full-body scanner. She had to “make sure there aren’t any explosives” inside it, she said.

Or the agent who wouldn’t let me pass security unless I removed both layers of my hijab and showed her my hair.

We all want to be safe while traveling. I fly frequently. I use carefully crafted language with my family before every trip, making a special point of saying how much I love them. I’m scared just like everyone else.

But profiling people based on their religious dress and religious names does not make us any safer. While TSA agents are fixated on hijabs, beards and Arabic names, they overlook concerning behavior that requires scrutiny.

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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