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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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Give in charity

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“God is in the aide of His servant as long as His servant is in the aide of others…”  Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings.

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We can fall in despair at the news reaching us that people are hurting all over the world, or we can figure out how we can help.

I recall reading some words of wisdom by Dr. Ingrid Mattson regarding trials and tribulations:

“As Muslims we believe that human suffering is not always explainable or understandable. We do know that innocent people suffer all the time, from sickness and natural disaster, and that in such cases, we are required to do two things: First, pray and remember, as the Qur’an says that “to God we belong and to Him we return.” Second, we must help those who are suffering.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, reported in a Sacred Hadith [Prophetic Saying] that if we want to be close to God, we should visit the sick and feed the needy. On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will say, “O son of Adam, I fell ill and you did not visit me.” The person will say, “O Lord, how could I visit you when You are the Lord of the worlds?” He will say, “Did you not know that So-and-so fell ill and you did not visit him? If you had visited him, you would have found Me with him [the hadith continues.”

 

Likewise, the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said: “Allah is in the aide of His servant as long as His servant is in the aide of others…”

 

Instead of listing organizations or how you can give, I would prefer to leave it to you to research the best way you can give and motivate you to do so.

Start by asking questions and find out who has more rights upon you when giving.

Who else is impacted with your charity?  You don’t want to place yourself in debt when giving or leave people under your trust – without aid and support as well.

What organizations do you trust that you can reach out to?

What else could you do?

What else occurs to you?

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

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© Copyright 2005-2017.  Fedwa Wazwaz, All rights reserved.

Security is a human right for all

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Security is a two-way street. None of us can be secure at the expense of another’s insecurity.

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What is security and how do we find it?

A sense of security—in our families, our homes, and our communities—is a basic human need and a human right. None of us is ever completely safe from the unpredictable dangers of our world. At any moment, a storm might blow up, or another driver might lose control of their car. But we do need to feel reasonably protected in our relationships with others, both near and far. We need to feel that the other drivers of this world are staying in their lanes.

What is reasonable protection? Does our security mean building an enormous Humvee, or blocking other drivers from using the road? The concept of “security” can easily become distorted, driving us into an aggressive “security” that makes us progressively less secure.

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

By Hanadi ChehabeddineMinnPost

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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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Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan)

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

 

“O who believe, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; perchance you will guard yourselves.”

“The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down, a guidance for the people, and clear verses of guidance and criterion.” (Quran: Chapter 2, 183)

The fourth pillar of Islam is Sawm or Fasting in the month of Ramadan. Fasting is also practiced in many other religions and is mentioned in the Torah and Bible as well as in Hindu scriptures. Observant Christians fast during Lent by giving up a particular food. Hindus fast on certain days of the week or on holidays, and for Jews, the most important day of fasting is on Yom Kippur, which lasts a little over a day.

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Calendar. Because Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, it rotates through the seasons, moving back around eleven days each year. Last year, Ramadan started on June 6th and this year, Ramadan will begin on May 27.

Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food and drink during this time. The aim of the fast is to weaken the physical desire or self and allow for the purification of the soul. It’s a process of spiritual purification and strengthening of willpower to carry us through the year. Muslims break their fast with dates and water followed by the evening prayer and dinner.

Those who are sick or unable to fast, such as elderly, pregnant or nursing women, travelers, and of course children, are exempt from fasting. However, they do participate in the spiritual part of Ramadan, rejuvenating their faith and growing closer to God through extra worship, feeding the poor, charity and other good deeds.

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Experiencing my first caucus

By Nausheena Hussain, Engage Minnesota
Nausheena 3
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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Lessons on power and oppression from Moses 5

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage MN

God! There is no deity but He! To Him belong the most Beautiful Names. Has the story of Moses reached thee? (Qur’an 20:8-9)

fedwa
Oppression works in many ways. One way is by convincing people that they’re bad: that they’re thugs, savages, or terrorists. A people can be controlled psychologically when an oppressor makes them feel as though they can’t overcome a mistake that they’ve made or defines them by their worst moment. This is also true if an oppressor defines the “other” by the worst actions of the fringe amongst them.

An oppressor thus doesn’t allow people to grow. To oppress another, you have to dehumanize them in your eyes first and then, later, in the eyes of others, then in their own eyes.  An oppressor takes the worst act and the worst moment and keeps people hostage to that act or moment.

Sometimes, we react to this by trying to show only our best moments. This creates a cycle of showing good Muslim, bad Muslim, good Muslim, bad Muslim, and doesn’t advance the discussion.  A case in point is 9/11 or the Paris attacks, where many in the Muslim community reacted to being demonized by working to prove that Muslims are model citizens.  

Even though it doesn’t seem so, it’s counter-productive for Muslim-Americans to present everything that Muslims do as good. It feeds into the psychological construct of oppression by not allowing Muslims to admit error and grow. We cannot “prove” that Muslims are perfect, because there are also bad and ugly aspects of Muslim communities like everywhere else. Our argument should be, we are human and then turn the mirror around and say, like you.

Craig Hicks, who assassinated three young people in Chapel Hill, counted himself an atheist, but this hardly proves all atheists would act in this way. But it does tell Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins, two atheists who are also prominent bigots, that you and your group are human, too.

But we can’t just condemn Dawkins and others. We also need to give opportunities for growth and repentance, because God is a perpetual forgiver.   

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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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Honoring Veterans Through Actions, Not Mere Words

By Nihad Awad, ISLAM-OPED

cairPresident John F. Kennedy once said: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Another president, Abraham Lincoln, wrote, “Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”

We can best honor our nation’s veterans through deeds, not mere words.

There are more than 20 million American veterans, many of whom are suffering or in need of assistance.

Veterans make up a troubling share of the nation’s homeless population. A significant portion of homeless veterans suffer from substance abuse or mental health issues, or both.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) afflicts almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, more than 10 percent of Gulf War veterans and 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

A recent NPR report indicated that veterans in prison have high rates of PTSD, which may have resulted in the life difficulties that led to incarceration.

Veterans from recent conflicts also have a higher unemployment rate than veterans of any other era.

Other issues negatively impacting the lives of veterans include traumatic brain injuries received in combat and high suicide rates resulting from the unresolved issues brought on by military service.

Many veterans face family disruptions or financial difficulties because of long deployments or because of the many issues listed above.

It is clear that actions, not just words, are necessary to meet the needs of today’s veterans. And that means all veterans, whether they fought in wars – like World War II – that received widespread national support, or wars like Vietnam, which faced opposition by millions of Americans.

We should support veterans as people, regardless of the policies that sent them to war.

That support could include contacting elected officials to urge that sufficient funding be provided for veterans’ health care, contributing to programs for homeless veterans and volunteering at the nearest VA hospital or at any organization assisting veterans.

Our nation’s armed forces draw from all communities, regardless of race or religion.

Since our nation’s founding, Muslims fought in every American war, from the Revolution to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have included thousands of Muslim military personnel who served honorably.

While the figures are infrequently reported, since 2006, more than 200 American Muslims have been awarded Combat Action Ribbons.

We thank all those who have served in our nation’s military, but we must move beyond thanks to concrete demonstrations of support for veterans in their often challenging return to civilian life.

Nihad Awad is national executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. He may be contacted at nawad@cair.com

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

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

IbrahimHirsiIllo400

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.

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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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.)

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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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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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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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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Somalis are resilient Americans, not terrorists

By Abdirashid Ahmed, Pioneer Press

As part of my daily routine, I read the local daily news clips every morning. I often find more than one article about the Somali community in Minnesota. Though some articles are positive, many frame the community negatively.

For example, on Monday, July 13, 2015, there were two articles about the community: one, titled “Minnesota’s Somali-Americans urge new treatment for would-be terrorists,” appeared in the Pioneer Press, and “Study: African immigrants’ economic impact untapped in Minnesota” appeared on ABC Eyewitness News Channel 5.

Surprisingly, the article with the term “terrorist” attracted the attention of many fellow Minnesotans, many of whom chose to post negative, un-American, unpatriotic, and clearly racist comments. One commenter asserted, “The only way to deradicalize (Somalis) is to not let them in here.” Another commenter stated, “Send them all back to the craphole from which they originated in Africa. These people are completely alien to Western Society and don’t belong here. They are a violent threat shoved into our midst by those whom (sic) would destroy us all.” And another commenter wrote, “Somalis have learned how to game the system and take advantage of the lefty dim wits in Minneapolis. These guys are no different than any street gang members. Do the crime, do the time.” Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any reasonable comments in response to this article. I have been reading, reviewing, and tracking these negative posts for some time and feel it’s my moral obligation to intervene positively.

Continue reading at TwinCities.com

Abdirashid S. Ahmed of Maplewood currently works for the City of Minneapolis as its East African community specialist. A public policy analyst, he has previously worked with public assistance programs in Ramsey, Hennepin and Dakota Counties. He has also worked with Metropolitan Council and Lutheran Social Services. He has a master’s degree in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree in human services administration from Metropolitan State University.

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Meet the attorneys representing Somali-American terror suspects

By Jamal Abdulahi, Star Tribune

Abdulahi_Jamal_colCircleTrials for the seven Somali teens arrested for attempting to join ISIS are scheduled to begin in September. The suspects could spend years in prison if convicted. Defense attorneys have said little outside of court, but one thing is certain: The deck is stacked in favor of the prosecutor.

When Reverend Al Sharpton eulogized the late defense attorney Jonnie Cochran, he told mourners: “With all due respect to you, Brother Simpson, when we heard about the acquittal, we weren’t clapping for O.J., we were clapping for Johnnie. We were clapping because for decades our brothers, our cousins, our uncles had to stand in the well with no one to stand up for them. And finally a black man came and said, ‘If it don’t fit you must acquit,’”

Sharpton went on. “Johnnie Cochran was to this era what Thurgood Marshall was to the era before.”

Sharpton was making a broader point about the American judicial system. The difference between walking free and serving lengthy prison sentences depends largely on the rigor of the defense.

And of course, quality of defense is often tied to wealth or lack thereof.  O.J. Simpson was enormously wealthy.

The seven Somali-American teenagers are standing in a deep well alone. The current political atmosphere in America makes it nearly impossible to defend charges of conspiracy to provide “material support” to a designated terrorist organization. The defendants’ identities only deepen the well.  The combination of being black, Muslim and immigrant amounts to three strikes and you’re out in post-September 11 America.

These teenagers and their immigrant families are not wealthy. In addition to the most serious charge of conspiracy, two of the defendants are charged with financial fraud by resorting to withdrawals from their college financial aid funds to allegedly finance their travel plans. This underscores the point: The defendants can’t afford a Cochran-style defense.

When defendants are not able to afford attorneys, the government provides a public defender. The problem is, the federal public defender system is plagued by chronic budget shortfalls, including a $52 million in 2013.

Continue reading at Star Tribune

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.

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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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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

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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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