Community News North America Vol. 9 Iss. 3

Muslim inmates sue Florida over halal meals

JACKSONVILLE,FL– Muslim inmates at New River Correctional Facility in Raiford and other prisons in Florida have sued the state for not being provided with halal meals. “They are alleging that in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, they are entitled to receive the tenets of their faith and receive the halal meal. Other inmates receive their dietary meal and they (Muslims) do not,” said Randall Berg of the Florida Justice Institute in an interview published in the First Coast News.

Berg, who is the attorney for the inmates, said five Muslim inmates made several requests for a halal or kosher diet and the requests were denied.

The Department of Corrections tells First Coast News there are two meal plans available for Muslims.

The vegan, which excludes animal products, is one. The other is the alternate entree, made up of peanut butter or cooked dried beans.

But the Muslim inmates want something else.

“The Department of Corrections allows for Jewish inmates to receive kosher food. They are not allowing Muslim inmates to receive their halal meal,” said Berg.

According to the Florida Justice Institute there are about 3,200 Muslim inmates in Florida.

Muslims in Florida provide hot meals and hope

MIAMI, FL–Muslim students at University of Miami have initiated an exemplary voluntary program providing help for the homeless. The Project Downtown members provide food to a group of about 100 homeless people after Friday prayers. The project was started by six students and now has a membership of around fifty, reports the Miami Herald.

The sandwiches are provided by a member of a local mosque who owns a subway outlet. The group also distributes used clothing which has been unclaimed from a dry cleaning shop.

Wajiha Akhtar, an engineering student and founding member of the project, said she was inspired to start the group after meeting a homeless man for the first time. Although she grew up in Miami, she said she has lived a sheltered life because of her religion.

Akhtar’s mother had expressed apprehensions about her daughter’s work.

“I’ve been worried about her when she told me what she was doing,” Zeenat Ahktar said. “After 9/11, many people don’t understand Muslims. I kept telling her, ‘Don’t do this. You’re going to get arrested. And if you do, I don’t have the money to get you out of jail.’”

But Friday evening, after seeing the work her daughter and her friends do, she changed her mind.

Family to discuss hajj experience

SPRINGFIELD, OH–The Global Education and Peace Network will present the program “Pilgrimage to Mecca: The Hajj” at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 11 and invites area residents to attend.

Dr. Akber Mohammed, his wife, Parveen, and their family will present the program to educate about the spiritual tradition of Islam.

The presentation will be in the Gaier Room of the Clark County Public Library, 201 S. Fountain Ave., and is free to the public.

Akber and Parveen Mohammed have made the pilgrimage in the past, but on Dec. 30 and 31, they celebrated the hajj with their three children for the first time.

They have just returned from the journey and will have many stories to tell.

Akber Mohammed is a local cardiologist and Parveen Mohammed works in computer programming.

They were founding members of the Global Education and Peace Network and remain supportive of the program, which seeks to educate about our diverse community.

The program is designed to appeal to all ages.

For more information, call Nancy Flinchbaugh at the City of Springfield Department of Human Relations, Housing and Neighborhood Services at 324-7696 or the Clark County Public Library at 328-6903.

New Jersey Muslims rejoice over Muslim Congressman

PASSAIC COUNTY, NJ– New Jersey Muslims gathered for ‘Eid prayers at the Islamic Center of Passaic County expressed their joy over the election of the country’s first Muslim congressman.

“This shows us that we can go out there and get an education and have our voices heard,” Ramadan, 40, of Clifton, said in an interview to the Herald. “If one can do it, many can do it.”

Muslims and other guests at the prayers also rejected the Islamophobic claims of Rep.Virgil Goode Jr., who have claimed that the election of a Muslim Congressman poses a threat to traditional American values. Goode’s comments were condemned by Rep.Bill Pascrell Jr., (D-Paterson) who said such statements are symptomatic of a broader and disturbing political trend.

“There’s a dangerous element in this country that wants to establish a theocracy,” said Pascrell, who is Catholic. “I’m very suspicious of people who want to bring religion into government and politics.”

Pascrell, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, also argued that Goode’s sentiments stem from fear and ignorance, and that if Muslims in his Paterson district were plotting against the U.S., he would know about it.

“This community is clean,” Pascrell said. “If there’s anyone in this community who wishes the country harm, they will be exposed.”

Virginia interfaith groups lobby against payday loans

Virginia’s biggest faith-based lobbying groups have mostly separate agendas for the 2007 General Assembly, with priorities that vary from tightening the state’s divorce laws to promoting renewable energy.

However, the goals of the Virginia Catholic Conference, The Family Foundation of Virginia and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy line up when it comes to opposing payday lending, reports the Virginian Pilot.

“We believe this is a terribly addictive and harmful practice that has been destroying families,” said Victoria Cobb, executive director of The Family Foundation, whose constituents include many evangelical Christians.

A state law lets licensed payday lenders charge interest that can reach an annual rate of 391 percent for a two-week loan. Most short-term consumer loans in Virginia are capped at a 36 percent annual rate.

The three faith-based lobbies want legislators to repeal the law so that interest on payday loans would be comparable to other consumer loans.

“We want to make sure families aren’t trapped in a cycle of debt,” said Jeff Caruso of the Virginia Catholic Conference. The conference is the public policy advocacy arm of Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses.

“We have yet to find very many people who think that Virginians should pay more than 36 percent APR interest,” said the Rev. C. Douglas Smith of the Interfaith Center. The organization represents several mainline Protestant denominations as well as Jewish, Muslim and Catholic groups.


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