Fraternity Life, Islamic Style

February 9, 2014

 

SHORTLY BEFORE SUNUP, a dozen or so students at the University of California, San Diego, stumbled dutifully out of bed. They ironed their collared shirts, knotted their ties and piled into their cars. Their destination was the Islamic Center of San Diego, where they were to be initiated into the country’s first Muslim fraternity, Alpha Lambda Mu, named for three letters that start several chapters of the Quran: Alif Laam Meem.

Alpha Lambda Mu was founded just a year ago by Ali Mahmoud, a junior biology and sociology major at the University of Texas, Dallas, as a national fraternity for Muslim college students. Mr. Mahmoud, who is seeking university recognition and a house for his chapter, hosted the first formal rush this fall: 40 students showed up, and half were offered bids. A total of 24 members now make up the Texas chapter.

The directive is for spiritual students to have more fun, and convivial ones to incorporate more spirituality in their lives. Mr. Mahmoud’s guidebook stipulates that chapters organize events every semester. Some are to be purely social, others to teach life skills, encourage volunteer work and enrich members with Islamic culture.

Sometimes referred to as the post-9/11 generation, Muslim-American college students say they have long struggled with the prejudices and suspicions that have come with the West’s unsettled relationship with the Arab world. This has led them to explore more thoroughly their dual identity, and to strive to show the world who they are and how they want to be perceived, said Lori Peek, the author of “Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11.” “The formation of a fraternity represents a really thoughtful reflection on their part,” Dr. Peek said. “It moves these students out of the private sphere and into a more public space where they are effectively spanning two cultures.”

Two reports by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies indicate that an evolution has indeed occurred. In 2009, 40 percent of Muslim Americans ages 18 to 29 said they were thriving, the lowest percentage in that age group. By 2011, 10 years after the terrorist attacks, that number had risen to 65 percent.

Only 1.4 percent of American college freshmen are Muslim, according to a Higher Education Research Institute survey in 2012, up from 0.9 percent in 2005. But with growing interest in Islam, more campuses are providing prayer spaces and cultural centers. In 1999, Georgetown became the first university to hire a full-time imam. In recent years, Yale, Princeton and Northwestern have brought in Muslim chaplains.

The Muslim Student Association, founded in 1963, is the voice of this movement and now has more than 200 affiliated chapters in the United States. It has pushed for greater awareness about Islamic culture and helps members procure scholarships and internships. The group has generated controversy as well. The chapter at the University of California, Irvine, was suspended for the 2010 fall semester after members protested a campus speech by the ambassador to Israel. And in 2012 the organization made headlines, and elicited sympathy, amid reports that the New York City Police Department had surreptitiously monitored chapters at Yale, Columbia and other East Coast campuses.

 

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/education/edlife/greek-life-islamic-style.html?_r=0

America’s first Muslim fraternity gets ready for rush week

ALMThe Alpha Lambda Mu fraternity, known in Arabic as Alif Laam Meem, is preparing to welcome new students at the University of Texas, Dallas. The group encourages members to abstain from drinking and excessive partying. It is opening brand new chapters at four other college campuses this fall.

On college campuses across America, incoming freshman are crossing their fingers and pulling on their social networks to get noticed by their favorite fraternity or sorority.

This year, young, devout Muslim men can be frat boys too.

Alpha Lambdu Mu (ALM) is America’s first Muslim fraternity. It was founded in February by an inaugural group of 17 college students from the University of Texas, Dallas. The idea has gained some momentum and this fall, new chapters are opening up at Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California-San Diego, and the University of Central Florida.

 

Some critics are asking—is this halal? It may not seem like these two concepts can mix. Islam challenges its followers to stay away from some of the things fraternities are known for—drinking, excessive partying, one night stands after late-night clubbing. But there are also many positive benefits that come from being involved in Greek life on campus, like a sense of belonging and career connections after graduation.

 

ALM founder Ali Mahmoud wanted to bridge that gap. When a childhood friend of his expressed interest in checking out the UT Dallas Greek scene purely for its social and postgraduate business connections, Mahmoud said he couldn’t blame him.

 

F.B.I. Arrests Second Suspect in Bomb Plot Against Bank

The Bangladeshi man who was arrested Wednesday on charges that he plotted to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had an accomplice in San Diego, who was arrested later on unrelated child-pornography charges, a law enforcement official said on Thursday.

The man described as the accomplice, Howard Willie Carter II, was arrested after an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation found 1,000 images and three video files containing child pornography on a laptop and hard drive in the trash near Mr. Carter’s apartment, according to a government document. Officials used material stored on the computer to trace it back to Mr. Carter.

The computer also contained e-mails addressed to “Yaqeen,” a name that Brooklyn prosecutors said Mr. Carter had used in the plot to bomb the Federal Reserve building.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged the Bangladeshi man, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and with providing material support to Al Qaeda. They said he had tried to detonate what he believed was a 1,000-pound bomb hidden in a van parked near the Federal Reserve building, on Liberty Street, in the financial district.

CAIR: San Diego Muslim Placed on No-Fly List, Stuck in Costa Rica

The 27-year-old American-born Muslim has been studying in Costa Rica and was denied the right to board a June 5 flight to return to the United States after graduation. He was interviewed by the FBI about his political and religious affiliations and past travel, but was not given clear reasons for being placed on the no-fly list.

(NOTE: The man will attempt to board another flight to the United States on Thursday morning.)

Earlier this year, CAIR called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate acts of “coercion and intimidation” allegedly used by the FBI to pressure Muslim citizens into giving up their constitutional rights if they wished to return to the United States from overseas.

Last year, CAIR filed a lawsuit against the DOJ and the FBI seeking a court order to allow a Virginia Muslim teenager who had been detained in Kuwait and placed on a U.S. government no-fly list to return to the United States.

Killing of Iraqi Woman in San Diego Draws Global Condemnation Online

The death of an Iraqi immigrant in San Diego on Saturday, an apparent victim of a hate crime, provoked a wave of outraged comments from bloggers who compared the killing to the shooting of an unarmed Florida teenager last month. The woman, Shaima Alawadi, died three days after her daughter discovered her body in a pool of blood inside their home alongside a note that said, “go back to your country, you terrorist.”

On Twitter, where her death became the most-discussed topic worldwide within hours, bloggers and journalists traced a connection between the headscarf the pious mother of five wore and the hooded sweatshirt 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was wearing when he was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fl.

A police spokesman told The Union-Tribune that the family told investigators a similar note was found outside the house earlier this month, but Ms. Alawadi had dismissed it as a prank and did not report it to the authorities.
The spokesman, Lt. Mark Coit, said: “A hate crime is one of the possibilities and we will be looking at that. We don’t want to focus on one issue and miss something else.”

Controversial Muslim cleric is arrested while sneaking into the U.S.

Reporting from San Diego — U.S. border authorities have arrested a controversial Muslim cleric who was deported from Canada to Tunisia three years ago and was caught earlier this month trying to sneak into California in the trunk of a BMW, according to court documents.

Said Jaziri, the former imam of a Muslim congregation in Montreal, was hidden in a car driven by a San Diego-area man who was pulled over by U.S. Border Patrol agents near an Indian casino east of San Diego on Jan. 11. Jaziri had allegedly paid a Tijuana-based smuggling group $5,000 to get him across the border near Tecate, saying he wanted to be taken to a “safe place anywhere in the U.S.”

Imam deported in Canada found near Mexican border

National Post – January 27, 2011

A controversial imam who was deported to Tunisia from Canada in 2007 is in U.S. custody after being discovered in the trunk of a BMW shortly after crossing over from Mexico. Said Jaziri, 43, was one of two illegal aliens apprehended on Jan. 11 just east of San Diego, said Steven Pitts, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman.

Canada revoked refugee status and deported the Muslim cleric, who encouraged demonstrations in Montreal against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, after discovering that he had concealed the fact he had served jail time in France for assault.

German Converts to Islam Are an Asset, Not a Threat

By Esra _zy_rek In a guest editorial, anthropologist Esra _zy_rek from the University of California, San Diego argues that German converts to Islam are not the threat they are claimed to be, and explains how converts make a valuable contribution to German society. Recently the German press has been filled with stories about how German Muslims are a hidden threat to German society. As an anthropologist who has conducted a year-long ethnographic research project among German Muslims, I observed a very different picture. Rather than being a theat, ethnic German converts to Islam are in fact a very valuable asset to Germany. They serve as a bridge between immigrant Muslims and non-Muslim Germany, and by doing so they help to create a well-integrated German society.

Afghans again seek permission for center; Fliers labeled them terrorists

A local Afghan group will be back before a San Diego community planning committee tomorrow seeking approval for a religious and cultural center — and hoping this time not to be branded as terrorists. That’s what happened in June, when the Afghani Community Islamic Center first proposed moving into a former bank building in Serra Mesa. A near-record crowd of more than 100 turned out for an informational hearing, many alarmed by anonymous fliers they had found on lampposts and in their mailboxes exclaiming, “No Terrorists in Our Community!” Planning group leaders say the fliers were circulated by a small handful of opponents, at least one of whom apologized afterward. “We’re Americans. We’re not terrorists,” said Akbar Sadat, a board member for the center. “We live here. Our kids grow up here.” The county is home to about 10,000 Afghans, Sadat said. Many live in San Diego, but just as many are in outlying cities such as El Cajon and Vista. The majority have been in the United States at least 10 to 20 years and are U.S. citizens, he said. Sadat, 48, a microchip design engineer who has lived in San Diego for 26 years, said the Afghan center was chartered in 1994. It has operated out of a series of leased spaces in Kearny Mesa and Miramar, offering prayer services and cultural programs to its 400 to 500 members. The center bought the 7,300-square-foot bank building on Sandrock Road near Gramercy Drive for $1.5 million in January 2006 because of its central location. Members donated and raised the $500,000 down payment, abandoning their Miramar lease to pay the $10,000 mortgage in Serra Mesa, Sadat said. But the proposed relocation has been delayed months by building and code upgrades insisted upon by city officials. Serra Mesa Community Planning Group chairman Doug Wescott said projects like this go through two steps with his group — an informational presentation at one monthly meeting, then a vote of the 14-member board at another. Sadat said it has taken until now to be ready to ask the planning group for an up-or-down vote. It’s on the agenda for tomorrow’s 7 p.m. meeting at the Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa Library, 9005 Aero Drive. Sadat said the center would be used mostly for Islamic prayer services on Friday afternoons and for small, informal gatherings on other days of the week. He said it would have a library and other resources to help researchers and the public learn about Afghan culture and Islam. Part of its goal will be to reassure neighbors that local Afghans do not support the Taliban, Sadat said. “Everybody in Afghanistan hates these people,” he said. “Al-Qaeda and (the) Taliban, they’re destroying Afghanistan. They’re destroying my relatives.”