Community News (V9-I6)

Interfaith group picks up momentum in Massachusetts

ATTLEBORO, MA–Interfaith activity is picking up momentum in Attleboro with leaders from various religions holding a meeting last week at the LaSalette Shrine. The 17 leaders who attended the event agreed to hold meetings every month to know one another and to better understand each other’s traditions and beliefs.

That agreement came after the Rev. John Sullivan of LaSalette Shrine, who moderated the meeting, suggested that the group, which met for the first time two months ago, plan a prayer pilgrimage for peace in late May.

The event would start at Al-Noor Academy, a Muslim school in Mansfield, and participants would walk 10 miles to the shrine in Attleboro, where an interfaith program would be held.

Steve Fullerton, a parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Church in Attleboro who initiated the first interfaith gathering in November, said the intent of forming an interfaith group is to celebrate the differences among religions, and to discover the similarities.

Raleigh Muslims donate meat to food bank

RALEIGH, NC–The local chapter of the Muslim American Society donated 300 pounds of beef to the N.C. Food Bank as part of Eid al-Adha, the Star News reported. “We need to be partners in this society,” said Iyad Hindi, the director of outreach for the society’s Raleigh chapter. “This is one way we share with others. We’re extending a hand outside the Muslim community.”

These days the meat is purchased from a local butcher or slaughterhouse and given to charitable organizations. Society chapters in Dallas, Kansas City and other cities raised enough money to purchase 26 head of cattle.

Members in Raleigh donated $150 each, and society leaders hope the donation becomes an annual tradition.

“This is a divine responsibility toward our neighbors,” said Ahmed Elkhaldy, director of the society’s service corps.

Illegal Pakistani Immigrants urged to get back home

Secretary General of the US based ‘Pakistan Day Parade Organization’ (PDPO) Munir Lodhi has urged illegal Pakistani immigrants to return honourably and voluntarily as working environment for illegal immigrants has drastically changed in USA after 9/11, the Pakistan Times newspaper reported

“Job opportunities have been reduced, high paying jobs are not available and both public and private sectors do not risk to hire illegal immigrants due to security issue,” Munir Lodhi said while addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Sunday.

Describing the myth behind the Pakistan Day Parade in New York, Lodhi said that prior to Pakistan only Indians held their national day parade and we started it in 1985, and now Pakistan was the only Muslim country to celebrate its national day parade there.

“The then President of Pakistan General Zia-ul-Haq extended generous support to us in organizing Pakistan day parade and since then every government of Pakistan has been following that tradition,” he added.

He said that PDPO was a non-political organization and it did not have any interest in whichever party ruled in Pakistan. He said that now the organization had 38 trustees and charged some $1,000 per person as membership fee annually. He said that some $10,000 were the expenditures of organizing the parade once.

He said that now the parade had become the meeting juncture for the Pakistani families as people participate in the parade with full preparations.

“Pakistan Day parade presents a demonstration of mini-Pakistan as Pakistanis participate in it with fervour and enthusiasm in their regional and national attires.

Most Pakistanis prefer to come in the parade wearing green and white colours’ dressings. It has now become national celebration of the USA as the Mayor of New York participates in it” he added.

He said that the performance of the military band sent by President General Pervez Musharraf for the parade in 2000, pleased and fascinated the mayor of the New York the most.

He urged President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to attend the parade to send a clear picture of a moderate Pakistan to the world.

He criticised the celebrities for demanding huge sums of money for performing in the parade. “All the film actors, actresses and singers demand very high payments for their performances and then they do not perform live as they only do lip-singing,” he added.

Responding to a query he spoke against the corruption on the part of airport staff from the overseas Pakistanis coming back to homeland.

“Overseas Pakistanis do want to invest in Pakistan with a sense of making it economically strong, but they have to face a lot of difficulties and problems in this regard which mars their sentiments of patriotism,” Lodhi added.

Shi’a in San Jose commemorate Muharram

SAN JOSE, CA–Shia Muslim in San Jose commemorated Muharram by marching in downtown chanting prayers and beating their chests. According to the local press the march was the first ever public demonstration of the Shia faith in the South Bay.

Those gathered in San Jose deplored the violence in Iraq as anti-Muslim, saying that the message of Husayn was one of peaceful resistance to injustice. Husayn, the grandson of Muhammad, would have wanted people to understand those of other faiths, they said.

“When you don’t know ‘the other,’ you think he’s your enemy,” said Imam Seyed Hejazi, one of the day’s speakers and spiritual leader of the Islamic Institute of New York, a mosque and cultural center in Queens. “But if you know him, you’ll tolerate him.

“What’s going on in Iraq is ignorance,” Hejazi said. “Out of this ignorance, terrorism will rise and enmity will rise.”

The marchers held signs promoting interfaith understanding, including a banner with Christian, Muslim and Jewish symbols. Another banner quoted the late Hindu leader Mohandas Gandhi, who said that “the progress of Islam does not depend on the use of the sword by its believers, but the result of the supreme sacrifice of Husayn, the great saint.”

Imam Tahir Anwar leads the South Bay Islamic Association, probably the largest Sunni mosque in the Bay Area. Speaking to the crowd, he said that Muslims too frequently think narrowly about the ummah, a term used to describe Muslims around the world. He said the ummah needs to be thought of as all people — including non-Muslims — and that integration with broader American society should be embraced.

“Many times we live in denial that we are here,” said Anwar, who grew up in San Jose.

While staying true to Islamic principles, he said, Muslims “will only be successful if we learn to integrate into the community we live in.”

Beaverton mosque gets human rights award

BEAVERTON, OR–Beaverton’s Bilal Mosque Association was awarded with the city Mayor’s Diversity Award for promoting understanding, tolerance, and cultural appreciation in the community, the Beaverton Valley Times reported.

Since 2001, the Bilal Mosque Association in Beaverton has served as a community leader and partner in an interfaith effort to embrace the city’s growing diversity and encourage efforts to support mutual understanding among diverse groups and faith communities.

The Bilal Mosque has led and participated in 320 events, fostering a dialogue to help clear public misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.

“The Bilal Mosque is unfaltering in the community effort,” said Mayor Rob Drake.

Emily Gottfried, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, agreed.

“They’ve been a power house in promoting understanding,” Gottfried said.

“They have been willing to share their story and hear other people’s stories.

“They are tirelessly working to make this a better a community.”

Being recognized meant a great deal to the Bilal Mosque Association.

“This is a wonderful way of all of you telling us that we are home,” said Shahriar Ahmed, during a reception following the presentation. “We are very proud and very thankful.”

Mosque to rise in Folsom

FOLSOM, CA–The town of Folsom will see the rise of a new mosque this year. The Islamic Society of Fulsom is all set to break ground for the mosque this year. The mosque to be called Masjid Bilal will be ready to occupy in 2008.

The society serves residents of Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Rancho Cordova, Orangevale, Roseville and various foothills communities. It currently rents a 4,000-square-foot office building on Folsom Boulevard.

City approval of the two-story, 31,688-square-foot mosque planned at Sibley Street and Levy Road sparked controversy in 2005. Some nearby residents complained that the city didn’t do enough to publicize hearings on the project.

In an effort to alleviate concerns members of the society have increased their outreach, particularly to Folsom’s religious community.

Anti-Muslim fliers distributed in Florida

Pinellas, Florida–A married couple in Pinellas County is raising concerns about an anti-Muslim flier that was left on their front door.

And now the FBI is being asked to investigate.

The flier was left at Joel and Cheri Harper’s home on 76th Avenue North in unincorporated Pinellas County. The leaflet accuses Muslims of stockpiling anthrax in America for years and smuggling suitcase-sized nuclear bombs into the country.

The anonymous flier also encourages readers to find salvation by believing in Jesus.

Joel Harper who found the flier said: “I don’t know what this person’s up to, but it sounds mostly like it’s hate, and hate against Muslims. And there’s already enough of that, because of the world situation and the way things are going. We don’t need any more.”

The Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is asking religious leaders to repudiate the door-to-door distribution of anti-Muslim hate fliers.

CAIR is also commending the Harpers for raising concerns about the leaflet.