Muslims Try to Balance Traditions, U.S. Culture on Path to Marriage

A recent article in the Washington Post discusses the balancing and adjusting of marital issues among Muslim communities in the United States. For example, the imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, Virginia made premarital counseling a requirement for people who marry at the mosque. In addition, his wife recently launched a singles program with an emphasis on honoring modesty and discussing stories, problems, and lists of important characteristics for a Muslim wife or husband in the US. Opening up dialogue about inter-faith marriage, and women marring outside the faith, are stirring debate, as there is often a surplus of single Muslim women, as Islam permits men to marry outside the faith, but not women.

Islamic Academy in Virginia on Defensive

The Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax county has long been subject to scrutiny, especially after 9/11 and a few years later when one of the school’s class victorian’s admitted to having joined al-Qaida. The school, which has approximately 900 students, has been dubbed “Terror High by its most virulent critics and twelve US senators and a federal commission want it closed. Matthew Barakat reports.

Why I Resigned; The Ugliness of Intolerance in Virginia

The controversy that erupted around my appointment by Gov. Tim Kaine to the Virginia Commission on Immigration highlights the very issues we need to address in America [“Va. Muslim Activist Denies Urging Violence,” Metro, Sept. 29]. I still believe that I am highly qualified to serve on the commission. I am an immigrant, as well as an accomplished surgeon, a community leader, a person of faith, a passionate activist and a good representative of America’s growing community of Muslims. I am disappointed that I was unable to defeat propaganda and partisan politics…

American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion

Vivid, dramatic portraits of Muslims in America in the years after 9/11, as they define themselves in a religious subculture torn between moderation and extremism

There are as many as six million Muslims in the United States today. Islam (together with Christianity and Judaism) is now an American faith, and the challenges Muslims face as they reconcile their intense and demanding faith with our chaotic and permissive society are recognizable to all of us.

From West Virginia to northern Idaho, American Islam takes readers into Muslim homes, mosques, and private gatherings to introduce a population of striking variety. The central characters range from a charismatic black imam schooled in the militancy of the Nation of Islam to the daughter of an Indian immigrant family whose feminist views divided her father’s mosque in West Virginia. Here are lives in conflict, reflecting in different ways the turmoil affecting the religion worldwide. An intricate mixture of ideologies and cultures, American Muslims include immigrants and native born, black and white converts, those who are well integrated into the larger society and those who are alienated and extreme in their political views. Even as many American Muslims succeed in material terms and enrich our society, Islam is enmeshed in controversy in the United States, as thousands of American Muslims have been investigated and interrogated in the wake of 9/11.

American Islam is an intimate and vivid group portrait of American Muslims in a time of turmoil and promise.

Thanks to American Muslims. The importance of the immigrant Muslim vote in Virginia

It was like being a kid again, I was waiting for the bending of time and space so Tuesday would come instantly. All day at work I kept looking at the clock waiting and waiting for the seconds to become minutes and the minutes to become hours, all in anticipation of Tuesday’s election results. I did not care if the Republicans lost the House. I did not care if the Republicans lost the Senate. My only concern, desire and hope was for God to intervene in the course of history and produce a victory for James Webb and a defeat for George “I made up the word Maccaca” Allen. More on the historic Webb win later. I had the chance to attend the last debate between Allen and Webb (incidentally I was one of the only attendees not affiliated with either campaign.) Webb’s demeanor was not congruent with that of a former Marine and Vietnam veteran. He was soft spoken and gentle but had a commanding presence and booming voice. Contrast that with a former football jock, Allen, who passed himself off as a Virginia bred, cowboy boot wearing Southerner. Since the tightening of the race Allen let go of his attachment to the Confederate flag and the noose (the noose that he had hanging in his law office next to his Confederate flag for years.) Allen reminded me of the all those pompous, jack ass white boy athletes with whom I went to school. In my case the great equalizer was that I could lay them out on the football field so the left me alone. Allen’s true background is of a Jewish ancestry and roots in California. Webb’s narrow victory is historic not only in sending a message that Virginia is no longer the lackey of the Conservative Right, it is historic in that it signifies the importance of the Muslim vote in Virginia — by Muslim I am referring to immigrant Muslim, indigenous Muslims and second/third Generation Muslims. For those of you that are repelled by the word Muslim, it also includes Iranians (secular or not). Unfortunately, because the immigrant Muslim community (including Iranians) are highly educated and professionals they have historically voted Republican, not to mention that the thought of sitting next to a heshe at a Democratic event does not sit well with our socially conservative norms. The only reason that a minority should vote for a Republican is if he or she belongs in the Republican tax bracket and can benefit from the tax cuts that the rich so often are afforded. To such fools I say keep voting Republican to save on your taxes; however, no amount of money can save you from being charged as an enemy combatant or help you from getting out of Gitmo. The other historic message that it sends is to the spineless Democrats that had been paralyzed for five years into grabbing their ankles by the word “terrorism.” Had they stood up from the beginning then perhaps the Constitution would not have been shredder. One could put forth a convincing argument that the last five years were merely part of the Democrats agenda; let the situation get so bad that the populous has no choice but to elect them into power. At least now the Bush Administration won’t continue to receive a blank check all under the fa_ade of the war on terror. At least one would hope this to be the case. If it is not, then what choice do we have left? Nader’s Green Party? Two other defeats of magnanimous importance (in lieu of the Iranian nuclear issue) are that of the former Senator Rick Santorum and former Representative Curt Weldon. Apparently regurgitating a story about WMDs in Iraq, that was nearly three years old, was not enough to secure a victory for Santorum. Weldon, you may remember, wrote a book about the impending danger that Iran posed and that the FBI and CIA were sitting on information that Iran and/or Muslim terrorists were going to attack the US with some type of radio active material or an attack on a nuclear facility or _________ (just fill in the blank.) Weldon’s source was former Iran-Contra figure Manuchehr Ghorbanifar and his buddy “Ali” who is a Shah Loyalist currently residing in Paris. Santorum and Weldon were relying heavily on “Iranian Exiles” when they passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2005. Given the power shift in Congress the “Iranian Exiles” need to start puckering up and kissing some new American koon in their hopes of restoring the Monarchy.

US Muslims fight halal meat scam. Some stores sell meat that is falsely labelled as Halal

Of the many ways Musa Abdus Salaam could break the tenets of his Muslim faith, eating a cheeseburger might seem the least threatening. But one year ago, not long after he and his family dined on beef he purchased from a shop in Norfolk, Virginia, Abdus-Salaam learned they had unwittingly violated the Quran: His investigation revealed the store’s meat was not halal. “It is a major sin in our religion,” Abdus-Salaam said. Halal is the Muslim equivalent of kosher, a method of slaughtering, blessing and preparing food to purify it. Believers are willing to pay a premium for halal, and across the US, states and localities are targeting unscrupulous dealers who prey on their dietary devotion. The state of Virginia, home to 350,000 Muslims, is weighing three proposals. One would make selling halal knockoffs a misdemeanour punishable by up to $500 in fines. “In my research, I realised that Virginia does not have a programme to certify kosher or other religious foods,” said Kenneth Alexander, a state legislator who sponsored the bill at his constituents’ request. Fines or jail Other legislation would force vendors to offer certification information and a toll-free number or website for confirmation of halal and kosher foods. Violators could face up to six months in jail and $1000 in fines. The bills are pending in legislative committees. Last summer, New York enacted a law requiring halal food distributors to register with the state. Pending legislation would fine vendors caught possessing mislabelled halal items. Similar codes are on the books in a handful of states, including California, Illinois and Michigan, despite the misgivings of some who maintain that state governments should not be policing religious laws. In Virginia, growing communities are bringing Muslim needs to the forefront, said Imad Damaj, president of the Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs. Growing numbers He pointed to a 1994 survey that found 11 mosques between Richmond and northern Virginia. “Now there’s no less than 45,” he said, adding that the 9-11 attacks highlighted the American Muslim presence. “Now the community is more higher profile and more under the microscope, too.” Halal foods are vital for the expanding group. Halal means lawful and applies to anything from lunch meat to potato chips, depending on things such as additives and what something’s cooked in. Seafood is automatically halal while pork automatically is not. Other meats undergo a complex procedure. The Muslim population in the US is increasing Generally, the butcher must invoke the name of Allah while cutting the live animal’s neck; once the blood has drained and the animal’s heart stops, Abdus Salaam said, it is halal. Years ago, he was among many residents who travelled as far as Philadelphia to find properly prepared cuisine. Now halal foods – and their lookalikes – are popping up in grocery store meat cases, on carryout menus and in fast food drive-throughs. Difficult to decipher Scams have become common. Some vendors will blend regular meat with a little halal meat to justify Muslim-friendly labels and higher prices. Others simply lie, preying on Muslims’ trust and devotion, said Habib Ghanim Sr, president of the USA Halal Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not like Third World countries, where you can just slaughter a lamb in your back yard and feed the family,” he said, pointing out that halal meat has no special smell or appearance. “You wouldn’t know the difference.” His group is one of several sniffing out fakers. They ask questions such as which supplier one uses – guaranteed to trip up vendors unfamiliar with the tight-knit community of halal butchers and slaughterhouses. Sometimes it pays off. In 1997, authorities fined Springfield’s Washington Lamb Inc $10,000 after they found that the company was falsely claiming its products were halal. Federal agriculture officials can pursue litigation against a company for misbranding a product, considered a violation of the federal meat inspection act. Tricky laws “It’s not like Third World countries, where you can just slaughter a lamb in your back yard and feed the family. You wouldn’t know the difference” Habib Ghanim Sr President, USA Halal Chamber of Commerce But creating laws could put state governments in the touchy position of interpreting religious rules, said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He argued that it is up to community members to confront vendors. “That seems to me vastly more powerful an instrument than going and expecting some young district attorney to understand the complexities of this,” he said. Yet, without legal repercussions, proponents argue, it is impossible to ensure phony vendors would not resume business. That troubles Abdus-Salaam. His faith mandates that he ask forgiveness for eating non-halal food and promise never to do it again – a tough proposition with shady vendors pushing phony foods. The regional administrator with the Islamic Political Party of America is promoting Alexander’s law. “In our religion, if we see a wrong, we have to right that wrong,” he said. “We can’t just stand around and wish for it to go away.”