Proposed medical office would accommodate Muslim-American patients

May 7, 2013

By Ashley Rueff,

 

Orland Park could become home to what’s described as a “first-of-its-kind” outpatient surgical center with a mission of accommodating the religious and cultural beliefs of Muslim patients.

Dr. Naser Rustom has applied for state approval to open an ambulatory surgical treatment center at 10 Orland Square Drive, the site of the former Plunkett Furniture store, according to a state permit application for the project. The medical office, Preferred SurgiCenter LLC, would welcome patients of all faiths and beliefs, but it would employ staff who are familiar with and facilities designed to accommodate the needs of patients who follow Islamic Divine Law.

“We’re going to service every race, every nationality. We’re not going to discriminate against anyone,” said Manager Robyn Fina. “However, in the Orland Park and the southwestern suburbs, there is a huge concentration of Arab-Americans. I think there is a lack of facilities for them to receive the care that they need while taking into consideration their special religious and ethnic background.”

In its permit application, the project is described as a facility “that appeals to the general population as a whole; but, to the trained eye, the ASTC will also be the first-ever surgery center that is designed and operated in a manner that is fully compliant with the Shari ‘a Law.”

The proposed 11,000-square-foot space would offer pain management, gastroenterology and general surgery, according to the project application. The total cost is estimated at about $5.5 million with an anticipated completion date of July 2014, but that will depend on approval from the state.

According to its application documents, the facility would be staffed with employees who understand Muslim-Americans’ needs when approaching health care. The facility would include a prayer room and additional washing facilities to more easily accommodate the prayer schedule and rituals followed by some patients.

As much as possible, she said the facility will also accommodate patients who would prefer to be seen by staff of their own gender and will attempt to offer increased privacy.

Fina said such a facility is expected to improve health behaviors of Muslim-Americans who may have had negative experiences when attempting to follow their religious beliefs while seeking health care in the past.

“There are individuals who feel uncomfortable going into facilities because the staff don’t recognize their special needs,” Fina said. “What we are attempting to do is to address as many of those needs as we can within the confines of state and national laws and health care.”

Imam Nazir Chahin of the Prayer Center of Orland Park said he is unfamiliar with the details of the proposed medical office, but he thinks the concept would be welcomed by the Muslim community of the southwest suburbs.

 

Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-05-07/news/ct-tl-0509-proposed-muslim-accomodating-medical-ce-20130508_1_health-care-patients-application

Interfaith movement struggles to adapt to changing religious landscape

The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington is known as one of the country’s early multi-faith groups, and its executive director’s nickname is the “dean of American interfaith.” Yet as it approaches its 35th anniversary in November, the group is fighting for survival, down to two full-time staff members and facing more than $100,000 in debt.

 

The conference, which has a major fundraiser planned this fall and aims to restructure the organization and sharpen its mission, is hardly alone. Some of the oldest and best-known names in interfaith, including the National Council of Churches and the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of the World Religions, have slashed staff as their revenue shriveled.

Since the Interfaith Conference was founded in 1978, religious minorities have grown significantly in size and stature, and Americans now interact more easily with people of other faiths in their schools, offices, neighborhoods and even immediate families. Younger interfaith types today are more interested in activism and often focus on particular policy issues. For example, some of the newer, small groups in Washington are Interfaith Youth for Climate Justice and Shoulder to Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims.

When these new, more activist groups are taken into account, the interfaith movement as a whole appears to be thriving. The Rev. Bud Heckman, who has been a leader of several key interfaith groups, said his research shows there are twice as many interfaith groups nationally as there were a decade ago. A recent Hartford Institute survey showed congregations are twice as likely to engage in interfaith worship today as they were 10 years ago.

 

Interfaith Conference leaders say they believe there is still a need for the group’s unique strength — it connects local leaders from 11 different faiths, including Mormons, Catholics, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims.

First Skokie mosque proposed at old Holocaust Museum site

Vacant for the last five years, the former home of the Holocaust Museum on Main Street in Skokie (a suburb of Chicago) could become the new home to the first mosque in the village.

The Skokie Plan Commission on Aug. 1 unanimously recommended a special use permit to the Kaleemiah Foundation, which would use the building at 4255 Main St. as a mosque – a Muslim place of worship – and not as a community center.

 

The Skokie Village Board has final say at a future meeting.

According to the foundation’s mission statement, its primary goal is “to provide a nurturing place of worship.”

 

Under the Foundation’s proposal, the building will be open every day for prayer. Most sessions will last 10 or 15 minutes with one 45-minute session on Friday.

 

“This building has been vacant since 2008,” said David Hartmann. “A vacant building adds nothing to a neighborhood and, in fact, detracts from a neighborhood. The longer it is vacant, the longer there is wear and tear on the building.”

 

Temple Judea Mizpah Rabbi Amy Memis-Foler, a member of the Niles Township Clergy Association, and later Asaf Bar-Tura, representing the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, also spoke in support of the mosque and its positive impact on diversity in Skokie.

 

The Chicago area has 32 mosques including 11 in Chicago, two in Evanston, one in Morton Grove, one in Des Plaines and one in Northbrook.

 

“The mission of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is to teach universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice, indifference and intolerance to help put an end to genocide around the world, ensuring that ‘never again’ becomes a reality for all people,” Hirschhaut said.

“As such, the museum is committed to operating in a manner that reflects that teaching and honors the right of all people to practice their faith.”

Muslim college carves niche in USA

Until Zaytuna opened its doors three years ago, American Muslims who wanted to study and grow in their faith mostly had to look overseas for a college education. That left students unprepared to engage with the U.S. culture to which they would return, say Zaytuna’s founders, well-known Islam scholars Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir and Hatem Bazian.

The college grew out of the non-profit Zaytuna Institute, founded in 1996 as a local community organization.

Courses include Islamic theology and law, and they also cover the classic liberal arts, such as logic, rhetoric and astronomy. Students learn Arabic and study the Koran. And they read Western authors such as Aristotle, Einstein and Robert Frost.

The school, which raised $7 million last year, is funded by individual Muslim donors and tuition revenue. Tuition last year was $11,000, slightly less than the $12,192 UC campuses charged California-resident undergraduates.

Zaytuna is “trying to participate in this bigger story, this bigger historical narrative of religious minorities having a place here,” says Scott Korb, a New York-based religious studies and writing professor and author of Light Without Fire: The Making of America’s First Muslim College, which chronicles the school’s first years.

Zaytuna is not America’s first Muslim college. The Chicago-based American Islamic College was established in 1981 as a private, not-for-profit, four-year school but stopped offering classes more than a decade ago. A few years ago, it began offering non-credit courses and hopes to again offer bachelor’s degrees, says spokeswoman Hind Makki.

CAIR-Chicago Wins Judgment for Muslim Center’s Freedom of Religion

The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today welcomed the decision by District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer granting summary judgment to the civil rights organization’s client, Irshad Learning Center, an Islamic religious institution primarily serving the Iranian community.

Irshad Learning Center (ILC) applied for a zoning permit to use a former school in unincorporated DuPage County as a mosque and Islamic school. The DuPage County Board denied the permit without explanation in January 2010.

While the Zoning Board of Appeals (the first governmental entity to consider the petition) repeatedly recommended denying the permit, the County Development Committee supported ILC’s petition with various conditions.

CAIR-Chicago filed a lawsuit against the county and members of the board on behalf of ILC on April 8, 2010.

ILC’s complaint alleged violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as state constitutional and zoning law.

Using Billboards to Stake Claim Over ‘Jihad’

CHICAGO — There is an advertising war being fought here — not over soda or car brands but over the true meaning of the word “jihad.”

Backing a continuing effort that has featured billboards on the sides of Chicago buses, the local chapter of a national Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has been promoting a nonviolent meaning of the word — “to struggle” — that applies to everyday life.

Supporters say jihad is a spiritual concept that has been misused by extremists and inaccurately linked to terrorism, and they are determined to reclaim that definition with the ad campaign, called My Jihad.

But last month another set of ads, with a far different message, started appearing on buses here.

Mimicking the My Jihad ads, they feature photos and quotations from figures like Osama bin Laden and Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010. “Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah,” says one ad, attributing the quotation to a Hamas television station. They end with the statement: “That’s his jihad. What’s yours?”

The leader of the second ad campaign, Pamela Geller, executive director of the pro-Israel group American Freedom Defense Initiative, has criticized the original My Jihad ads as a “whitewashed version” of an idea that has been used to justify violent attacks around the world.

 

Nation of Islam leader Farrakhan says blacks should curb spending, pool resources, buy land

Nation Of Islam.JPEGCHICAGO — Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan on Sunday called on blacks nationwide to curb economic disparities by cutting back on excessive spending, pooling resources and investing in land — an action plan he laid out during a three-hour speech at the movement’s annual Saviours’ Day convention.

The 79-year-old leader has often used the annual keynote address — part sermon, part lecture — to discuss current events and politics on a national platform, particularly after the election of the nation’s first black president. But Farrakhan focused most of his new message on the Nation of Islam followers in the audience.

“Even though one of our own has reached the highest pinnacle of the American political system, his presence has not, cannot and will not solve our problems,” Farrakhan told the crowd of men wearing navy uniforms and women dressed in white shirt suits and matching hijabs.

Roughly 10,000 people attended the convention at the University of Illinois at Chicago, an event that drew followers from around the globe and capped off three days of workshops.

The Nation of Islam has more than 1,500 acres of farmland in Georgia. Ishmael Muhammad, the religion’s national assistant minister, told The Associated Press that the group is looking to buy thousands more acres in the Midwest.

SIDEBAR: Muslims embracing unbelief often face a lonely journey

NEW YORK — There was a time in his life when Ibrahim Abdallah thought he was the only Muslim-turned-atheist in the world. Then, at a party, he met a fellow Egyptian and former Muslim, and while the other guests danced, they sat and talked.

And talked and talked.

“I was so happy, and so shocked,” Abdallah, 33, said. “We both felt,’I am not the only one.’ It was huge.”  Now, several years later, Abdallah is on a mission to create the kind of safe space for questioning Islam and all matters of faith that he wishes he could have had.

Last May, he founded “Muslim-ish,” a support group for questioning and former Muslims that meets under the auspices of Manhattan’s Center For Inquiry, a humanist organization. The group has about 50 members, both cradle Muslims and converts, and meets twice a month in a secret location.

It’s support they very much need, Abdallah said, because Muslims who abandon their faith face challenges not faced by those who leave other religions. Divorce and disowning are common, as is the threat of physical violence. Some more conservative Muslims believe Islam sanctions the killing of apostates (those who abandon the faith) and blasphemers (those who belittle Islam, the Prophet Muhammad or other Muslims).

Muslim-ish is growing beyond its New York birthplace. A new group was recently established in Dearborn, Mich. — home to the largest population of Muslims in the U.S. — and other groups are forming in Chicago and Washington, D.C. An online version now meets via Google+ and is drawing people from Alabama, Florida and overseas.

Chicago is ground zero in U.S. Muslim renaissance

CHICAGO — Religious affiliation may be on the wane in America, a recent Pew study asserts, but you wouldn’t know it walking into the storefront near the corner of West 63rd Street and South Fairfield Avenue.

 

Inside a former bank in a neighborhood afflicted with gang violence, failed businesses and empty lots, a team of volunteers drawn by their religious faith is working to make life better for Chicago’s poorest residents.

 

The free medical clinic has expanded its hours; 20-something college graduates are clamoring to get into its internship program; rap stars swing by its alcohol-free poetry slams; and the budget has increased tenfold in the past decade.

 

The storefront belongs to Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and it is part of a wave of new Muslim institutions emerging at an unprecedented pace. More than a quarter of the nation’s 2,106 mosques were founded in the last decade, according to a recent University of Kentucky study, and new social service organizations, many of them run by 20- and 30-something American-born Muslims, are thriving as never before.

 

This surge in new Muslim institutions, led by a nationwide network of young activists, “is the most important story in Islam in America right now,” said Eboo Patel, founder of the college campus-based Interfaith Youth Core.

 

Young Muslims “are going about the process of institution building in concretely American ways,” said Kambiz GhaneaBassiri of Reed College, author of “A History of Islam in America,” adding that the 9/11 terrorist attacks shaped a generation of young Muslim activists.

 

Chicago man convicted of supporting terrorist group that attacked India sentenced to 14 years

CHICAGO — A Chicago businessman was sentenced to 14 years in prison Thursday for providing material support to overseas terrorism, including a Pakistani group whose 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, left more than 160 people dead.

Tahawwur Rana did not address the court before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber imposed the sentence and did not react afterward. But his defense attorneys said the judge was right to reject prosecutors’ arguments that Rana deserved a stiffer sentence because the charges were related to terrorism.

Jurors in 2011 convicted Rana of providing support for the Pakistani group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and for supporting a never-carried-out plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. The cartoons angered many Muslims because pictures of the prophet are prohibited in Islam.

But jurors cleared Rana of the third and most serious charge of involvement in the three-day rampage in Mumbai, India’s largest city, which has often been called India’s 9/11.

The judge also rejected the government’s argument that the plot against the Danish newspaper was meant as a broader attack against the Danish government, amounting to an act of terrorism that should mean a harsher sentence. Leinenweber said it seemed clear the plot was solely targeting an independent newspaper on private property, and was likely intended to intimidate other media outlets that might defame Islam or its prophet.

The defense attorney, Blegen, also noted that there was no shortage of government targets in Copenhagen if they had wanted to strike at Denmark’s leaders.

He argued for a more lenient sentence for the 52-year-old Rana that would take into account his poor health and the emotional impact of his separation from his wife and children. He said the Pakistani-born Canadian citizen had suffered a heart attack while in the federal lockup. He also argued that Rana did not present a future risk.