US Muslim organizations speak out against Fort Hood incident

Officials from the Islamic Society of North America, the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council and Imam Mohamed Magid of the large Northern Virginia mosque ADAMS (All Dulles Area Muslim Society) among others held a news conference Friday, urging Americans to view the Fort Hood shooter as a criminal individual, not a representative of Islam.

“As with Timothy McVeigh, the sniper, we focused on the person, not their religion. You wouldn’t take a Christian or a Jewish soldier who did something like this and look at other Christians and Jews and say, ‘Can we trust them?’ ” said Qaseem Uqdah, a Marine and executive director of the Muslim veterans council. “It’s ludicrous.”

Muslim organizations have received hate mail regarding the incident.

CAIR condemns Fort Hood violence

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has publicly condemned the acts of Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood in Texas. Hasan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at the Texas base, killing 13 and wounding 30, including himself.

CAIR stated Thursday November 5 that they “condemn this cowardly attack in the strongest terms possible and ask that the perpetrators be punished to the full extent of the law.”

Muslim leaders who also condemn the attack were invited to speak at a news conference held at CAIR headquarters in Washington DC Thursday night.

Why the burka is part of Britain: France and Britain compared

Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech before the Senate, in which he announced the ban of the burka in France, has stirred some emotion and discussion in Britain, where such law is far from being thought of. In her article Cassandra Jardine compares the two countries, pointing to the right to individual and religious expression in Britain.

Ahmed Versi, editor of the Muslim News, believes the way forward is through tolerance and understanding, not legislation — and is glad he lives in Britain for that reason. “Britain is the best country in Europe for Muslims. We complain, but we are freer here, and we have more dialogue with government. In France, Muslim organisations are not representative; here they are independent. In France, Muslims live in ghettos and have double the unemployment rate of the rest of the population. Many French women come to university in the UK because they want to study and wear the headscarf which in France they cannot.”

The article also quotes those who would welcome the burka-ban, not least some members of the Muslim community. “The French president should be applauded for initiating this debate,” Dr Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford said. Dr Hargey describes the growing belief that Muslim women should cover their head, face and hands as “doctrinaire brain-washing”. Dr Usama Hasan, a reformist London Imam, also has “some sympathy” with Sarkozy: he too does not think it is necessary for women to wear the burka.

Birmingham’s multi-faith business challenge

With Birmingham set to become the UK’s first ethnic majority city in just two years, a debate will take place on how businesses are adapting to the rise of a new multi-faith workforce. On January 31, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry will debate the issue along with a number of panellists. The event, chaired by The Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves, will discuss whether there is a place for faith in business. One of the four members of the panel Mohammed Hasan put forward his views on the subject. Hasan, managing consultant, Catalyst Consulting Associates, reportedly described himself as a “fundamentalist Muslim” who, although born a Brummie, but raised in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Australia, New York “and a couple of other places in the US”. He was reported to have said: “I am what you would call a fundamentalist Muslim. I am a passionate believer in British values, I am committed to democracy, I have zero tolerance for violence and all of that happens because of my religion. I grew up in a mono-cultural environment in Saudi Arabia and was raised religiously in the _Wahhabi’ establishment. I have stayed away from the diversity issue because I never understood why it was a problem. I arrived back in the UK ten years ago and had to plough my own way. I called and met people I read about in The Birmingham Post and some of them are now friends, advisers or contacts.”

‘We want to offer sharia law to Britain’

Islamic courts meet every week in the UK to rule on divorces and financial disputes. Clare Dwyer Hogg and Jonathan Wynne-Jones report on demands by senior Muslims that sharia be given legal authority. Amnah is a modern British Muslim. She is dressed in a denim skirt and her head is covered in a hijab. Poised and self-assured, she has come to meet Dr Suhaib Hasan, a silver-bearded sheikh who sits behind his desk, surrounded by religious books. But why would I have to observe the waiting period?” she asks him. “What are the reasons?” There is an urgency to her questions. Clare Dwyer Hogg and Jonathan Wynne-Jones report.

Muslim Youth Find A Bridge In A U.S. Tradition: Scouting

By Tara Bahrampour Washington Post Staff Writer Standing before 100 or so girls in green, brown and blue Girl Scouts vests, Sarah Hasan, the leader of Brownie Troop No. 503, explained the Islamic Ramadan fast. “We’re not allowed to eat or drink anything from dawn to dusk for a whole month,” she said, noticing that some girls looked shocked. “It’s a month to be grateful for all the things that you have.” Ramadan, which fell this year in October and November, ends with a big feast called Eid al-Fitr. Last week, five Girl Scout troops from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling hosted an Eid party for five Herndon area troops, their mothers and troop leaders, to share a meal and help demystify Muslim cultural and religious traditions. The annual event, in its fifth year, was one of the activities many Muslim families — especially those with one or more immigrant parents — say are important to help integrate their sons and daughters into the rituals of American childhood. For many Muslim children, living in the United States means constantly balancing between being an observant Muslim and an American kid — identities that aren’t always in sync. “Unlike where we grew up [in Muslim countries], when they walk out the door, they’re seeing something different from what we teach them,” Hasan said. “So you can’t say, ‘That’s just the way it is.’ It’s always like, ‘But why? But how?’ ” Many Muslim immigrants have sought to bridge their old and new worlds since they began coming to the United States in large numbers during the 1960s. But since Sept. 11, 2001, as they have faced increasing hostility and scrutiny, parents and community leaders say, cultural integration is more vital than ever. “How do we deal with harassment, post-9/11? That’s part of our education program: letting people know who Muslims are,” said Rizwan Jaka, president of the Muslim society and a Cub Scout den leader. Like anyone else, he said, Muslims “want to be sure [our children] grow up with good character and good citizenship,” and they seek out activities accordingly. In the Washington area, home to about 250,000 Muslims from several countries, those activities include scouting, basketball, football, cricket and table tennis. The Muslim society’s center, which attracts Muslims from across Virginia, the District and Maryland, has hosted Muslim comedians and Muslim concerts and held interfaith exchanges with churches and an Eid festival with a moonbounce. “This is part of the normal progression of our community,” Jaka said. “They’re wholesome community activities that are compatible with who we are, which is wholesome Americans.” Many on the Muslim society’s board are, like Jaka, younger than 35 and born in the United States to immigrant parents. “We’ve gone through the system here, so we have a better idea of what our young people are facing,” he said. “As other mosques progress and more young people take over, you’ll see more transformation toward that.” U.S. Muslim scout troops have been increasing in the past two decades, said Donald York, director of the relationship division of the Boy Scouts of America: 112 troops with 1,948 members are chartered through an Islamic school or mosque. “What’s happening now in the Islamic community is very similar to what was happening in the 1920s and ’30s in Boy Scouts . . . with the Jewish community,” York said. “They used scouting to assimilate their young people into America.” York said scouting values — which include an adherence to faith — mesh well with Muslim ones. “Islamic families and clergies want the same thing for young people,” he said. “They want them to grow up in their faith and learn their histories and cultures,” he said. “Things like trustworthy, obedient, clean and helpful” — elements of Scout Law — “these are predominant Muslim ideas. They’re very attractive to an Islamic family.” A spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the United States of America said the organization does not ask scouts’ religious affiliation but does encourage spirituality. Troops often meet in churches, synagogues, and, increasingly, mosques. “It’s a pretty common thing,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “In fact, we did an ad campaign trying to show Muslims as regular people, and that was one of the things we showed: a Muslim Girl Scout troop in California.” Most Muslim children attend public schools and absorb American culture there, Hooper said. But people whose children attend Islamic school or are home-schooled also say connections with non-Muslims are important. “In this society, everybody has to learn to live together,” said Zohra Sharief, a Pakistani living in Woodbridge who home-schools her five children and co-leads Troop No. 503. “If I isolate myself from the society, it’s my loss.” It helps to have non-Muslim peers who understand the traditions, Hasan said. Still, she said, as immigrants arrive from Muslim countries and start families here, they must differentiate between what is religious and what is cultural and decide which American cultural practices to embrace and incorporate. Many note, for example, that dress is a cultural choice. Some immigrants arrive accustomed to wearing Western attire; some hew to the sartorial traditions of their home countries; some make compromises, such as forgoing headscarves but forbidding miniskirts. Hasan, 34, who is of Indian descent and was raised in Kuwait, said she and her three daughters do not wear head coverings except during prayers. “I tell them, ‘We’re in America; you can wear pants.’ ” But she has a blanket rule against another American ritual: sleepovers. “It’s not religious,” she said of her reasoning, “but I remember my mom said it’s not decent for young ladies to be sleeping in a house other than their own.” At the center last week, in a large room that serves as a prayer hall, party room and indoor gym, girls in headbands and jeans sat beside girls in headscarves and shalwar kameez — tunics and trousers — to make crepe-paper Eid necklaces. Hasan told the girls about Eid rituals, such as putting henna on their hands; taught them to say ” Salaam -u- aleikum ,” Arabic for “Peace be upon you”; and read a story about a family celebrating Eid. Afterward, Mona Magid, 6, a Brownie in a magenta headscarf who is the daughter of the society’s imam, explained more about fasting. “Like if you weren’t eating for the entire day, the way your throat would get dry is how the poor feel,” she said. “So Muslims want to try to help the poor.” Ashley d’Hedouville, 7, a second-grader at Clearview Elementary School in Herndon, said she learned that “Ramadan is when you eat at night.” Her sister Ann Marie, 8, said she knew about fasting from a classmate. “My friend does that. She goes to the library” during lunch. Once she and her classmates learned the reason, “we wouldn’t talk about food in front of her, or drinks.” While the Girl Scouts munched on halal, or religiously sanctioned, hot dogs, the center’s Muslim Boy Scout troops met downstairs for pizza, and the adults had their own cultural exchange. The Muslim mothers brought dishes from their home countries (chicken curry, rice, lamb and samosas) and from the United States (pasta casserole) and a large cake wishing a happy Eid. Gina Gallagher, a Herndon resident attending the dinner for the second consecutive year, said getting to know the Muslim mothers had been a revelation. “A lot of people look at the women with the head scarves, and they can’t relate,” she said. “You look at a woman like that and you’re like, ‘I don’t have anything in common with her.’ And then you sit down, you eat, you realize you all have the same problems.”

Youths Return To Islam Group Wages War On Stereotyping

By Lisa Fernandez Huda Shreim used to be a bad girl: Cutting class, fighting, lying, scrawling graffiti. Today, the 19-year-old Jordanian immigrant prays five times a day and covers herself from head to toe, following the Islamic mandate to dress modestly. She’s easy to spot in a full-length tie-dyed pink abaya robe and matching head covering as she stops in at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble in Fremont, where she lives. Shreim is a member of a new wave of Muslim youth in Silicon Valley, and elsewhere, who are breaking with their secular upbringing and becoming more devout. In many ways, the phenomenon is nothing new or unique to being a Muslim. But this group is special in that their desire to become more observant intensified after Sept. 11. Their motivation? To show the world that they can be religious Muslims, dress traditionally and not be terrorists. Surprisingly, these young people say that putting on austere-looking garb from Saudi Arabia is a very American thing to do. “These kids are saying, `I was born in America, and the Constitution says that I can practice my religion, and my religion says I must dress this way,’ ” said Yvone Haddad, a Georgetown University professor who studies Muslims in the West. “Though one option is to just go into hiding and `be like us,’ these kids are saying, `No.’ ” Shreim and other newfound Islamic enthusiasts know their highly distinctive clothing is an invitation for others to ask about their backgrounds — and they welcome the challenge. They also realize their appearance can be a magnet for verbal abuse and violence. Haddad likens the post-Sept. 11 trend to the Black Power movement, when young African-Americans embraced their cultural identity most visibly, by sporting large Afros. “Islam is beautiful,” Haddad said, playing off “Black is beautiful,” the civil rights era slogan. “Women who have never put on the veil are now putting it on. They are taking on the burden of showing the world that Islam is not terrorism.” There’s no way to document how many young Muslims are becoming more observant, but scholars and Islamic leaders say a significant number are closely studying the Koran for answers. Nadia Roumani, a researcher for the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, has found that Sept. 11 caused a number of Muslims, who previously didn’t know much about their own background or faith, to “redefine their religion and rearticulate it.” In some cases, she said, that meant “exercising their faith in a more outward manner.” Many previously non-practicing Muslims re-energize their interest by taking classes. In 2003, the AlMaghrib Institute (of Islamic Studies) started teaching 81 students in three cities. Today, the program has 2,800 students in 14 cities, including those in classes at San Jose State University and Fremont’s Ohlone College. About one-third of these students, discovering new depth in their faith later in life, are loosely considered reborn fundamentalists, said the institute’s manager, Irtiza Hasan. “There was an increased desire for Muslims to learn more about their own religion after 9/11,” Hasan said. “They didn’t know a lot of the deeper stuff, and they want to be able to answer others.” Shreim’s new religious insights and her garb — which includes a colorful assortment of full-length robes to cover her jeans and flip-flops — caused some initial grief for her family. Now, her parents are proud and have become more observant themselves. “You might find this surprising,” said her father, Jalal Shreim. “But you can be more Muslim in the United States than in so-called Islamic countries. There is more freedom here.” Parental concern about possible abuse for their Muslim children turning super religious is common. Omair Ali, 28, of San Jose said his parents have stopped “freaking out” about his spiritual journey, but they are far from being completely supportive. Before Sept. 11, the man known as Disco Omair, and DJ Iceberg described himself as a “party animal” with orange-frosted spiked hair. But after the terrorist attacks, he wanted do to something to defend his faith against false stereotypes. “First and foremost,” he said. “I knew that I would have to reform and purify myself before telling the world about Islam.” On his radio show at San Jose State University, Ali discussed the richness of Islamic art, rules of marriage, roles of women — anything he could to expand the outside world’s limited knowledge of a faith associated with suicide bombers. Now, he hosts a weekly Islamic-topic show called “MeccaOne” on KSJS-FM (90.5) and runs a Web site for Zaytuna Institute, an internationally renowned Muslim academy in Hayward. But he said his parents — immigrants from India and Pakistan — saw him growing a long beard and donning a kufi cap, and feared he’d become a “lazy bum, praying all day,” or worse, head off to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban and get captured by the FBI. “They wanted me to work in the corporate world,” he said. “That was their American dream.” But for Ali and Shreim, their American vision involves expressing themselves in a free society as God-conscious Muslims. Their choice is not without struggle. Four years ago, exactly on Sept. 11, just hours after the attacks, Shreim ventured out of the house wearing a dramatic black abaya and veil from Saudi Arabia for the first time. That day, she got her share of hateful looks and taunting. And even now, she gets an odd stare, or someone will plead with her to convert to Christianity. “But this doesn’t make me feel weaker, only stronger,” Shreim said. “One woman came up to me and said, `This is America. You don’t have to do this.’ I said, `I do this because I want to.’ ”