Community News (V9-I44)

Al Hamra Academy becomes first Islamic school in New England to gain accredition

SHEWSBURY, MA–Al Hamra Academy in Shrewsbury has become the forst Islamic school in New England to gain accredition from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, INC. (NEASC), an achievement that is widely being hailed as a milestone for the region’s Muslim community.The accredition is a voluntary evaluation process and it 2 1/2 years for Al Hamra to successfully obtain it.

Accreditation is a process of voluntary self-regulation that is monitored by the NEASC. To be accredited, a school must conduct and document a full internal review of every aspect of its operations. The school is then evaluated by an independent group of educators during a three-day visit. This visiting team ultimately recommends accreditation based on both the quality of the schools’ self-review and the visiting team’s assessment of the schools adherence to its own mission, and its preparedness for long-term service to its constituency. Al-Hamra’s accreditation process began in 2005 and culminated with a visit by seven educators from the NEASC in May, 2007. The final decision approving Al-Hamra’s institutional membership and granting it accreditation was made on September 25th at a meeting of the NEASC Board of Trustees.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with this development,” said Haroon Hashmi, Chairman of Al-Hamra’s Board of Directors. “We continuously strive for excellence in education and accreditation was a way to prove the merits of this institution by opening it up for external review. We are confident that the decision of NEASC shows Al-Hamra to be a leading educational institution in Massachusetts, and look forward to its continued service to the community.”

Accreditation ensures that students from the academy will not have difficulty transferring to high schools.

Founded in 1994 in Northboro, Massachusetts, Al-Hamra Academy serves over 150 students from Pre-K to 8th Grade. In addition to the standard curriculum mandated by the state, Al-Hamra offers classes in Arabic and Religion in keeping with its Islamic values. Throughout its history, the Academy has consistently proven its commitment to excellence. Its students have regularly submitted prize-winning entries to local and state science fairs and other academic competitions, and have scored above average on standardized achievement tests.

‘Understanding Islam’ Course Creates Awareness and Improved Relations

DENVER, CO — Online knowledge provider Jones Knowledge Group(R) (JKG(R)) introduced a new course, Understanding Islam: An Introduction, which addresses the misperceptions, apprehension and lack of knowledge about the Islamic faith.

The course is designed for corporations, school districts, governmental organizations, including law enforcement agencies, and other learners who would benefit from understanding the historical context of Islam, the complexities of the culture, and gain the tools necessary to improve their relations with Muslims worldwide. Understanding Islam is the first in the Jones Cultural Diversity Series of online courses designed to bring enlightenment, respect and tolerance for a variety of world cultures.

Developed by an esteemed group of Islamic scholars, led by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the course creates a foundation for understanding, mutual respect and constructive engagement, and teaches students new skills to affect more positive interactions, whether they are conducting business in an Islamic country, teaching Islamic students or working with Islamic people. The content in Understanding Islam is appropriate for the education, corporate and diplomatic sectors.

Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington D.C. and, according to the BBC, he is considered “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam.” The former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, Ahmed has advised Prince Charles and met with President George W. Bush on Islam. Ahmed, who has written several books, is regularly interviewed on CNN, CBC, the BBC, ARY TV and has appeared several times on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Nightline. In 2006, he won the Purpose Prize Award with Dr. Judea Pearl for their work on interfaith dialogue.

“As more Muslims begin to see the West as their enemy, more Westerners in turn see Muslims as their enemy, perpetuating a cycle of mistrust, ignorance and violence,” said Ambassador Ahmed. “Now more than ever, it is imperative for the West and the Muslim world to talk to and understand each other. The only way forward is to forge a path of dialogue, understanding and mutual respect.”

With economic globalization and Islam being the fastest-growing religion in the world, the need for strong relations between Westerners and Muslims is more important than ever, especially in our post-9/11 world, according to Terry Erdle, President of Jones Knowledge.

“Understanding Islam: An Introduction can bridge that gap of ignorance and fear by giving learners knowledge, context and real-world skills in which to affect positive change around the world,” Erdle said.

The course is comprised of six modules, with topics including history, faith/beliefs, women in Islam, and terrorism. Delivered in an engaging, completely online format, Understanding Islam also provides real-life scenarios in which learners may choose appropriate courses of action to improve mutual communication and interaction. Organizations also have the option of purchasing scenarios that are customized to their specific work environment and corporate regulations.

Ahmed, who this year published Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (Brookings Institution Press, 2007) praised Jones Knowledge’s effort.

“I offer my sincerest congratulations and gratitude for the initiative the Jones Knowledge has taken in creating this course,” Ahmed said. “This is a much-need project and will greatly improve the level of understanding between the West and the Muslim world at a critical time in history.”

Understanding Islam course was launched nationally at a Jones Knowledge-sponsored event at the National Press Club today in Washington D.C. featuring Ambassador Ahmed and well-known industrialist and community activist Arif Zaffar Mansuri.

An Na’im, Dalai Lama, Gandhi speak at Emory University

ATLANTA, GA–Prof. Abdullah An Na’im, Dalai Lama and Rajmaohan Gandhi spoke about to a crowd of over 3,000 at Emory University about how religion has contributed toward violence and their hopes for change, reported the Emory Wheel.

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, the C.H. Candler professor of law at the School of Law, said he felt a powerful charge of peace when he and the Dalai Lama embraced before the summit began. An-Na’im was the first person from Sudan that His Holiness had met.

An-Na’im said, “For me as a Muslim, religion is about that inner peacefulness which makes peace possible.”

An-Na’im quoted Mohandas Gandhi saying, “Be the change you want to make.” He called for everyone to take an individual responsibility.

“If we don’t take it personally, nothing is going to happen,” he said. Religions are not the actors, he added — the practitioners are.

Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Gandhi, told a story about Hindus destroying a 16th century mosque in 1992 in the city of Ramkot in Uttar Pradesh. In the process, they also brought down an adjoining hall that was sacred to Hindus.

“When you set out to destroy what you don’t like, you also destroy what you like,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi made reference to his grandfather, who said that he preferred the phrase “Truth is God” rather than “God is Truth” because not so many had been killed in the name of truth as in God’s name.

If Gandhi were alive today, according to Rajmohan Gandhi, he would ask that individuals throw a searchlight on the deeds of their own side.

“Let us not fall into the temptation that one faith is uniquely flawed or dangerous,” he said. “Ask yourselves whether the hate and greed around you are going up or down.”

Ali Sarsour to lead Chico Interfaith

Long-time Chico resident Ali Sarsour became the first Muslim to head the Interfaith Council of the Chico Area, when the group elected him president on Oct. 10. Sarsour, who came to Chico as a student in 1970, is of Palestinian origin.

A Chico State grad, he was active in student government. He later served on the city’s Affirmative Action Committee and Parking Place Commission. He is now vice-chairman of the Human Resources Commission.

Following 9/11, Sarsour was extremely involved in fostering good relations between local Muslims and others. The Chico Peace and Justice Center gave him its Peace Endeavor award in 2002, and that same year the Chico News & Review selected him as one of its five “local heroes.”

His recipe for solving problems: “Have a potluck together!”

RBG sponsors its sixth annual scholarship program.

Royal Buying Group Inc. (RBG) has revealed its sixth annual scholarship program is now open for applications.

The RBG Scholarship Program is available to eligible candidates that are high school seniors or graduates who are planning to or are enrolled at an accredited two- or four-year College or university in the U.S. that will lead to an academic degree. Eligible candidates include RBG members and/or their children. All RBG affiliations are eligible, including STARZ Buying Club, Sinclair Rebate Program, LukOil Buying Club, Getty Buying Club, KwikFarms Buying Club, Gulf Advantage, TETCO Advantage, Connect-2-One, and NATSO participating locations.

To date, RBG has given out 10 scholarships to children of its membership. This year’s winners include; Christopher Butler, who is a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Christopher’s father, Bruce Butler, owns Bridgeport Ave Shell in Shelton, Conn. The second recipient, Shayan Khan, is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Shayan’s father, Rasheed Khan, owns River Shell in McHenry, Ill.

RBG members can look in October’s issue of The Competitive Edge for additional details regarding the scholarship program.

CAIR seeks nominations for community service awards

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is seeking nominations for its annual Muslim Community Service Awards.

Award categories include journalism, youth activism, community service, courage, and political activism.

Honorees will receive their awards at CAIR’s annual dinner in Arlington, Va., on November 17.

The deadline for award nomination is October 31, 2007. To obtain a nomination form, e-mail:


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