This is a second in our continuing series on profiles of young Muslim American achievers who are recipients of 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.
Shah R. Ali came to the USA from Pakistan at the age of 10. He quickly adapted to life in New Jersey and excelled in math and science: he spent two summers doing research in chemistry at New York University. He graduated summa cum laude in three years from the Honors College at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, where he spent additional years on a nanotechnology project to detect dopamine for potential diagnosis of Parkinsonâ€™s disease. His work led to several first- and second-author publications in Journal of the American Chemical Society and Analytical Chemistry, among others.
Now 25, and a second-year medical student at Stanford University, Shah is working in the lab of Irving Weissman, where he is studying cardiogenesis using embryonic stem cells. He has recently become interested in neglected tropical diseases: in addition to helping organize a conference at Stanford Law School on access and drug development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), he is leading the Stanford chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and a related lecture series. He has also interned at the Institute for OneWorld Health. He hopes to dedicate his career to drug development for NTDs.
St. Cloud rally in support of Muslim students
ST.CLOUD,MN–A rally was held on Monday in support of Muslim students who attend St.Cloud schools. About thirty people showed up.
The St. Cloud Times reported on Monday that the group claimed that school staff members are not doing enough to keep Muslim students from being harassed and sometimes contribute to it.
The rally crowd Monday was mostly adults. They chanted and held signs that said â€œDiscrimination is intolerableâ€ or â€œSt. Cloud school district must integrateâ€ among other things.
Superintendent Steve Jordahl says the staff responds appropriately to each complaint and denies that staff members arenâ€™t doing enough to stop harassment of Muslim students.
A Muslim civil rights group in Minnesota has called for a federal probe of harassment complaints at two St. Cloud schools.
Kamran Pasha speaks at Islam Awareness Week
BOSTON, MA–Boston Universityâ€™s Islam Society celebrated the second day of Islam Awareness Week Hollywood- style.
Screenwriter, director and writer Kamran Pasha detailed his experiences and challenges as one of the first Muslim-Americans in the film and publishing industries at the Islam Societyâ€™s â€œLights, Camera, Islam! The Story of a Muslim in Hollywood,â€ the Daily Free Press reported.
He encouraged the audience to pursue diverse careers which can be fulfilling.
College of Arts and Sciences junior and Islamic Society President Hassan Awaisi said he really appreciated that Pasha encouraged members of the Muslim community to pursue fields that are viewed by Muslim society as â€œunconventionalâ€ and insecure.
â€œHe encouraged everyone to see they can be a devout and practicing Muslim by using their talents to serve God through arts, film and music,â€ he said. â€œBy sharing personal stories, Pasha allowed people to identify with him and revealed issues many Muslims are dealing with such as inferiority and modernization.â€
New mosque opens in Highland
HIGHLAND, IN–The Illiana Islamic Association opened a new 24,000 square foot facility in Highland. The Muslim community now comprises of around 150 families. They earlier used to rent places for worship.
Iman Mongy Elquesny, of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center in Merrilville, reminded the congregation that with the new facility also comes responsibility.
â€œDonâ€™t think youâ€™re done now,â€ he said, smiling. â€œToday is the beginning because today, you have exposed yourself. Youâ€™ll be asked to visit places and have people visit you.â€
The leadership of the mosque thanked the township for their cooperation in securing the facility.
Muslim Students Bring Food, Conversation to Florida Homeless
By Imran Siddiqui, Voice of America
In the southern U.S. state of Florida, a group of American Muslim students is running a non-profit organization called Project Downtown. The projectâ€™s goal is to help the poor, poor people of all backgrounds and cultures. Our correspondent went down to the city of Tampa, Florida to learn more about Project Downtown and the Muslim students who belong to it.
Like just about any major city in the United States, the city of Tampa has its share of homeless people. But it also has people who are reaching out to help Tampaâ€™s homeless.
â€œWe are here because, in Islam, we are supposed to feed the hungry,â€ said one of the students. â€œSo thatâ€™s our purpose here. Thatâ€™s all.â€
The students belong to Project Downtown, an organization that started about two years ago in Miami and now has branches other U.S. cities. The Tampa members of Project Downtown say what motivated them was seeing people in need.
â€œProject Downtown was started by a couple of groups and a couple of university students back in Miami, and people have been gathering money after seeing a problem in the community, went out and bought sandwiches,â€ said another student. â€œThey went to the local city hall and started feeding.â€
The city of Tampa has almost 350,000 people. It is estimated that about 11,000 of these are homeless. Thatâ€™s about three percent of the population. For the students of Project Downtown, the religion of the people they are helping does not matter. What matters is that they are in need. Jill Moreida is a member of Project Downturn.
â€œWe come up to them,â€ said Jill Moreida. â€œWe donâ€™t just give them food and walk away. We donâ€™t feed them like theyâ€™re at the zoo. We make friends with them; we talk with them. We interact with them. Week after week after week. And we know stories about their family. We know when theyâ€™re sick. We get to develop relationships with them.â€
â€œOh, we wait for them! We wait! You see, we waited in the rain,â€ said a homeless man. â€œWe got caught in the rain! We feel beautiful with them coming.â€
As the relationships develop, Jill says, the homeless gain a new understanding of Islam.
â€œThey say they cannot believe how amazing the Muslims are,â€ said Moreida. â€œAnd itâ€™s acts like that, that not only are we serving…we do it for the sake of Allah, when weâ€™re feeding them. But thereâ€™s a bigger message being brought, and itâ€™s exposing a whole new realm of people to Islam. Teaching them to not be afraid of us, to not have that stereotype that weâ€™re going to hurt them or anything.â€
Project Downtown is one of several outreach efforts sponsored by the Muslim community of Florida. Its funding comes from other Muslim groups in the state, including the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance. Dr. Hussein Nagamiya, a cardiologist, is head of the alliance.
â€œOur main idea is to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to address their needs, because these are homeless people, and they donâ€™t have anywhere to go,â€ said Hussein Nagamiya. â€œSo, we give them conveyances such as bicycles that were given away. We conduct their [medical] tests. Some of them may never have a test in the entire year. We detect diseases for them and send them on to free clinics, etc.â€
In addition to helping the poor and teaching people about Islam, organizations like Project Downtown and the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance hope to achieve another goal: Showing their fellow Americans that, in the words of Dr. Nagamiya, the vast majority of American Muslims are good citizens who make positive contributions to the United States. (Courtesy: Voice of America)