Community News, Vol. 8 Iss. 47

Adnan Durrani calls for minimum wage increase

Business leaders joined national Let Justice Roll campaign leaders and minimum wage ballot organizers from Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Ohio to analyze the historic minimum wage election victories and look ahead to future state campaigns and congressional legislation to raise the $5.15-an-hour federal minimum wage.

Adnan Durrani, president of Condor Ventures, Stamford, CT; venture partner, Blue Chip Venture Capital, Cincinnati, is among the supporters for an increase.

“From the point of view of a venture capitalist, especially in Ohio. [where] we’ve invested in over 120 companies, the economic case for minimum wage is closed and shut. It is a sound business decision to increase the minimum wage. We’ve had way too low wages for way too long. The facts are very clear versus the misinformation that’s been spread over the years. Ninety percent of each one-dollar increase in the minimum wage directly impacts the economy. At the top income levels, only 2 percent trickles down into the economy. There’s a direct lever in the minimum wage increase. It increases employment. It increases retail sales. It increases the distribution of income. It uplifts all social and economic factors both locally and nationally,” he said while participating in a tele-conference to discuss the issue.

Durrani has over 24 years of experience in the investment industry. In the 1980s, hewas a Senior Vice President with Lehman Brothers and a Senior Vice President with Oppenheimer & Co. Furthermore, he is also an entrepreneur, having been founder of Vermont Pure Holdings, Ltd. (VPS, Amex) as well as a partner in Stonyfield Farms, Inc. (a leading yogurt brand).

New faces on Westwood Interfaith Council

WESTWOOD, MA–The Westwood Interfaith Council is continuing to grow stronger after 24 years of interfaith interactions on the community. In the past year several members left the council through retirement or move to new congregations and new members have joined. Dr.Usama Hamdan is the new representative from the Muslim community. An Otolaryngologist, Dr.Hamadan is active in several community organizations. He is also the President of Medical Missions for Children. The organization provides free surgical/dental care to underprivileged children all over the world.

Interfaith roundtable in Queens

QUEENS, NY– The United Sikhs organization organized an interfaith roundtable at the Royal Indian Palace to discuss issues including hate crimes. Leaders and activists from several religious communities attended the event.

Anti Defamation League’s Jennifer Rapoport, focused on steps that could be taken to further interfaith dialogue. She explained the measures taken by her organization to bridge the gap between Jews and Muslims.

“Our organization tries to unite with the other faith communities when a hate crime occurs, especially in reference to the recent hate crime against Shahid Amber,” she said, referring to a Brooklyn Muslim who was attacked by five Orthodox Jewish teenagers. “In this case, we tried to go beyond just the nature of the hate crime and tried to work together with identifying the problem and building an understanding of one another so these types of incidents do not happen again,” she added.

Rapoport pointed out that Brooklyn hate crimes are rare and that she hopes that her organization can increase cultural understanding in the predominantly South Asian and Jewish areas there.

Meditation room welcomed at Virginia Commonwealth University

RICHMOND, VA–Student groups welcomed the Virginia Commowealth University to open a meditation room open to all faiths on campus. Arslaan Khan, a senior political science major and member of the Muslim Student Association, knew the move was an opportunity to help Muslim students struggling to find places to pray.

Khan and student body President Ali Faruk created a proposal to turn a former computer room into a room for prayer.

With the help of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and other religious groups on campus, the plans for the room started to fall into place.

“When the school saw the room was for more than one religion, they thought, ‘This is a good thing to do,’ “ he said. “And they gave the room to us.”

Muslim students, who pray five times a day, are thankful for the Interfaith Meditation Room. Khan said it was difficult enough when you had class, but having nowhere to pray only complicated everything.

“Before the room, we would have to book places to pray, and sometimes we didn’t have anywhere,” he said. “We would either have to go back home or just go outside and do it. Before the interfaith room, you really struggled.”

Khan said now he leaves class for about five minutes to come to the interfaith room five times a day.

He said some professors question where he is going but not as often now.

“When they found out how many Muslims are in VCU, they started letting us go,” he said. “They (professors) have definitely made their exceptions on us.”

For that, Khan said, he is grateful.

Muslims gift garden to Chicago

CHICAGO, IL–A new garden should help brighten Chicago’s lakefront. The ribbon was cut Monday for the new Mosque Foundation Garden at Northerly Island. It’s located just south of Adler Planetarium.

Muslim leaders approached Mayor Daley with the idea of a garden two years ago. Members of the Mosque Foundation got behind the plan and made it possible.

“By the grace of God the project is complete. Two years after the initial meeting with the mayor and suggestion that our community wanted to contribute to his plan for beautifying the parks and the lakefront,” said Talat Othman, Grove Financial.

The mayor thanked the Mosque Foundation for their gift, saying it makes Chicago a better city.

Resource center for Muslim women opens in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG,CANADA– The Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute was inaugurated last Sunday in the Canadian city of Winnipeg. It is designed to meet the diverse needs of new Canadians as well as Muslim women who have been in the country for many years.

That’s our dream, that’s our goal and our aim is healthy families, both spiritually, physically, and emotionally,” explains Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, the sponsoring organization for the new institute, in an interview to the Winnipeg Free Press.

Run by an eight-woman board from a wide range of backgrounds and careers and funded by the United Way and the Winnipeg Foundation, the institute will begin modestly with a small downtown office and two full-time staff people.

“There are needs of Muslim women that are not being met — spiritual, gender concerns, cultural sensitivity,” says Siddiqui.

“I think CMWI wants to be that bridge, especially with the refugee population,” adds Nadia Kidwai, project co-ordinator for the institute.

Hartford Seminary Receives $2 Million Gift From Turkish Religious Leader

HARTFORD, CT–Hartford Seminary has announced a gift of $2 million from Dr. Ali Bayram, a Turkish scholar and community representative, to fund a faculty chair devoted to contemporary Islamic studies. This is the largest gift from the Muslim community in the history of Hartford Seminary.

The holder of the endowed chair will have the title “Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies.”

Hartford Seminary houses the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, the oldest such center in the country and an unparalleled resource for the understanding of Islam in the modern world. This chair will be housed in the Macdonald Center and enhance its program.

Heidi Hadsell, president of Hartford Seminary, said, “Hartford Seminary is truly honoured to be the recipient of this generous gift, which shows the commitment of Dr. Bayram to both education, interfaith understanding and peace. The study of Islam is especially important in these difficult times, and this gift will allow us to offer precedent-setting research and teaching on contemporary Islam as it is lived out in the world today.”

“Our Board joins me in appreciation for the commitment that Dr. Bayram is making to Hartford Seminary,” Hadsell said.

Dr. Bayram is one of the leading figures of a Muslim community made up of followers of Turkish theologian and religious leader Fethullah Gülen. He said that he is making the gift because, “For many unfortunate reasons, Islam has been greatly misunderstood. There are not many credible sources of information about Islam, especially its contemporary issues. Neutral scholarly knowledge on Islam is missing from the discussion and not highlighted and we hope this chair will respond to this great need in the United States and globally.”

“I also hope this will not be seen as an ordinary business deal,” Dr. Bayram said. “Through this chair we will prove to our contemporaries that members of different faith communities succeed only by working together in partnership, jointly serving the universal values of humanity.”

One key aspect of the gift is that the $2 million will be invested in accordance with Islamic principles. For example, the gift will not be invested in companies or funds that are based on the sale or promotion of alcohol, gambling or tobacco.

Hartford Seminary’s Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, through co-director Ibrahim Abu-Rabi’, has worked with the Gülen community since 1999 and participated in the discussions leading to the $2-million gift. “I am appreciative of Ibrahim’s support and the Seminary owes him thanks for his effort,” Hadsell said.

The academic and personal contacts of the Macdonald Center with the Gülen community resulted in a meeting of the Board of Trustees in Istanbul, Turkey, in May 2005, at the invitation of the community.

The Gülen community is committed to Christian-Muslim dialogue and interreligious dialogue with other faith communities in general. Commonly known as ‘Hojafendi,’ the community has several students studying at Hartford Seminary, and has had scholars come to the Seminary for sabbatical work.

Abdullah Antepli, a member of the community, is studying for his Doctor of Ministry at Hartford Seminary and also is associate director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program. “I cannot imagine any better institution than Hartford Seminary to study Christian-Muslim relations because the Seminary has a very long and impressive history and great achievements in teaching in this area,” Antepli said.

Fethullah Gülen is well respected for his activities in the interreligious realm, his standing on the reconcilability of Islam and democracy, his public condemnation of violence in the name of Islam, and his stance on the significance of education in Islam.

The backbone of the Gülen fellowship is its highly regarded elementary and high schools — more than 1,000 concentrated in Turkey and ethnically linked parts of Central Asia. It also has schools in Africa, North America, South America and Australia. The Gülen community runs six universities.

The Gülen community has a strategic spectrum of media voices: a national television channel, more than a half dozen radio stations, the Cihan news agency and one of Turkey’s largest daily newspapers, Zaman, and several weekly and monthly magazines.

The followers of Fethullah Gülen favor modernism, tolerance, dialogue and democracy without sacrificing religious precepts.

The Macdonald Center embodies Hartford Seminary’s long-term commitment to the study of Islam and Christianity and the complex relationship between the two religions throughout history and in the modern world. It challenges scholars, students, the media and the general public to move beyond stereotypes and develop an accurate awareness and appreciation of Islamic religion, law and culture.

Through teaching, scholarly research, publication and community outreach, the center is committed to the premise that through intensive study and academically guided dialogue, mutual respect and cooperation between Muslims and Christians can and must develop.

A major activity of the Macdonald Center is Christian-Muslim relations, with particular emphasis on interfaith dialogue. All Center faculty and personnel are committed to the importance of better understanding between and among faiths, and to supporting efforts toward building relationships based on mutual respect and trust.

The professor holding the chair, besides teaching students in contemporary Islamic studies and interfaith relations, will:

a. Research and publish treatises;

b. Recruit visiting scholars and students to study at the Seminary;

c. Promote an active community outreach program, including conferences and symposia and overseas study seminars;

d. Assist the Seminary’s programs to promote peace and understanding of all Abrahamic faiths.


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