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Community News (V10-I18)

FBI meets with Rio Grande Valley Muslims

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TX– Local FBI officials met with the Rio Grande Valley’s Islamic community Saturday night to assuage their fears about the agency’s investigations into the community and to discuss how the two groups can better work together, the Monitor reported.

While an FBI official explained the agency’s work and how it changed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, local Muslims asked questions about its investigation of Muslims’ donations to charities, wiretapping and agents’ treatment of Muslim women.

John Johnson, the FBI special agent in charge of the Valley, addressed the crowd of more than 100 at al-Ridwan mosque, 910 Elsham Ave. The meeting followed other informal talks with members of the mosque starting last fall during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

“After 9/11, things changed in the U.S., especially for Muslims,” said Amin Ibrahim, a member of the mosque’s board. “Everybody here in the Valley, we reaffirm our condemnation of such an attack.”

During Johnson’s nearly 20-minute speech, the FBI agent urged the Islamic community to have better communication with his agency and said the FBI is committed to protecting all Americans from threats to life and civil liberties.

His speech was followed by Maghrib prayers. Afterward, worshipers submitted anonymous questions on index cards, which a moderator then read aloud.

“What does the FBI expect from us?” one card read.

Johnson responded by repeating his call for good communication. He said the agency has to investigate all potential terrorist leads, even those that turn out to be unfounded. Recalling an actual situation, he said the FBI must even follow up on “ridiculous” charges lobbed by someone with a petty grudge against a Muslim man.

“The vast majority don’t really have any basis,” he said. “All we want is some kind of dialogue.”

Arkansas students organize lecture on Islam and Democracy

The Al-Islam Students Association and the University of Arkansas’ Multicultural Center sponsored a seminar on democracy and Islam Friday in the Arkansas Union, the Traveler reported.

Najib Ghadbian, associate professor of political science and Middle East studies, and Mubasher Ahmad, imam of baitul Jami’a Mosque in Chicago, spoke about the pursuit of democracy in Middle Eastern nations.

“The question of democracy is one of the most debated topics in Muslim countries, but what is important to realize is that Muslims want democracy to be embedded in their own values and religion,” Ghadbian said. “Most Muslims do not see the two as contradictory.”

“The general perception of Islam in the West at this point is negative,” he said. “It is a common misconception.”

It is important to place the issues of democracy into a socioeconomic context, Ghadbian said.

“We want to correct the misunderstandings about Islam, and we feel like the universities are a good place to start talking about these topics,” Ahmad said.

Both speakers stressed the compatibility of Islamic culture and democratic forms of government.

“In Islamic countries, the political system of democracy is not yet established,” Ahmed said. “There is a question of whether a European form of democracy should be implemented or if a new form should be used.

“Islam is not against democracy. Islam and democracy are compatible, but democracy has many different forms,” he said.

Ghadbian hopes people “will understand the complexity of the issue and how Muslims look at the issues, he said. Most Muslims want what most of us want. They want a good life.”

Canadian Royal Mounted Police Ordered to Pay Muslim Cadet

TORONTO– The Royal Canadian Mounted Police must retrain a Toronto-area Muslim man who was kicked out as a cadet nine years ago and pay him $650,000 in lost wages.

A Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled Iranian-born Ali Tahmourpour, 35, was discriminated against in 1999 when he was discharged from training because he refused to remove a religious pendant, the Toronto Sun reported Thursday.

He was in his 14th week of training, which lasts 22 weeks in Regina, Saskatchewan, when the incident occurred, the report said. The RCMP also said at the time Tahmourpour had failed to clean his rifle properly, the tribunal heard.

The tribunal’s 65-page ruling ordered the RCMP to offer a spot to Tahmourpour in the next cadet training program, along with the lost wages and other compensation, the Sun said.

“This is a feeling of vindication for me,” Tahmoupour said. “I have always said I can become a Mountie if I was given a fair chance.”

UT partners with Aga Khan university, expands Muslim Histories Programs

AUSTIN, TX–The University of Texas has established a five-year exchange agreement with Aga Khan University in Pakistan.

The agreement will expand UTeach-Liberal Arts’ Muslim Histories and Cultures Program, a training program for Texas high school teachers. The program offers seminars and workshops on Muslim history and cultures. More than 80 secondary school teachers from school districts in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston have participated in the program.

Under the agreement with AKU, the program will train additional Texas teachers from an expanded number of districts during the next three years.

“The agreement formalizes many relationships that are already in place between our two universities,” says Richard Flores, senior associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Our hope is that the collaborations will help to dispel many of the myths and stereotypes about Islam that persist, and foster greater understanding between Texas and the Muslim world.”

AKU has 11 campuses in eight countries, including Afghanistan, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Syria, Egypt and the United Kingdom.

PBS documentary examines Muslim American comedians, premieres May 11

Since April 2007, PBS has been airing its documentary series, America at a Crossroads, which examines the effects of 9/11 on the world. On May 11, Stand Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age premieres at 10 pm EST as a continuing part of the series.

Stand Up features the stories of five Muslim American comics: Ahmed Ahmed was born in Egypt and raised in California; Tissa Hami, who was born in Iran and grew up outside Boston Dean Obeidallah who is New Jersey-raised and is of Palestinian descent; Azhar Usman, who is of Indian descent from Chicago and Maysoon Zayid, a Jersey-born Palestinian.

The film deftly captures each comic’s unique take on the problems post 9/11, onstage and off. Zayid, for instance, who has cerebral palsy, founded an organization in 2001 to help disabled Palestinian children. Check out the video below.

College panel discusses American perceptions of Islam

RIPON, WI — A panel comprised of Muslims and Ripon College students will aim to separate fact from myth about the Islamic faith during a discussion scheduled this week Theatre at Ripon College.

Topics will include the common religious beliefs that Christians and Muslims share, the truth about Muslims perceived support of violence, common cultural and political values Muslims around the world share with Americans, and Islam’s compatibility with democracy, according to a college press release.

Five students in Brian Smith’s course titled Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective will make presentations. In addition, two Muslim students will give responses to the presentations, along with Nihal Shahbandar, a Muslim woman from the Fox Valley Islamic Society in Neenah.

Smith said he finds that many Americans do not understand the Islamic faith, including some on the Ripon College campus.

“There will be no peace in the world,” he said, “if there is poor understanding and a lack of respect among religions.”


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