Community News Week Ending 6/20/06

Muslim Matters

Community News Week Ending 6/20/06

Imam Nur Abdullah steps down as leader of Islamic Foundation

ST. LOUIS, MO—Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah has stepped down as imam of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St.Louis. He has been leading the community for the past 16 years. The well-known imam plans to devote his time to writing books on Islamic topics.

He had asked for a sabbatical from the Islamic Foundation’s governing board as it could not afford to pay for it and did not want to leave the community without a religious leader.

Imam Nur Abdullah, who is originally from Sudan, told the St. Louis Dispatch, “ “I’m not leaving the community. This community is a part of me … I am part of every brick in this mosque.”

Imam Nur Abdullah serves in several national positions including as member of the Fiqh Council of North America and as the president of the Islamic Society of North America. He is an alumni of the Islamic University in Madina and the Umm Al Qura University in Makkah.

Interfaith leaders of St. Louis praised him for his outreach efforts.
Howard Nelson, who represents the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St.. Louis board, told the St. Louis Tribune, Imam Abdullah was the first Muslim he had ever met when their paths crossed at a seminar about dismantling racism. Within a day, the two were good friends, he said. “He’s one of the good guys of the world,” Nelson said.

“If the imam asks me to do something, and it was humanly possible to do it, I’d do it,” he added.

Construction begins for $2 million mosque
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA—Construction began last Friday with a ceremony at the site of a mosque being built by the Islamic Center of Inland Empire. The growing Muslim community currently prays in a small home located on the same property.

The 12,900 square foot facility, costing an estimated $2 million, is expected to be completed within a year. It will feature a dome, cathedral ceilings, library, multipurpose rooms, patios and a main prayer hall.

Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Anaheim-based Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, said the center should be a place where positive relationships among all faith groups are fostered, the Daily Bulletin reported.

‘‘This house of God must embrace all people; it must also be a sanctuary to all people,’’ he said.

The Rev. Patrick Kirsch of St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church in Rancho Cucamonga, said Christian and Muslim communities, as well as other faiths, can live in harmony with one another.

‘‘Our presence (at the reception) speaks to the need to come together,’’ he said.

Volunteers to build New Hampshire’s first mosque

MANCHESTER, NH—The Islamic Society of Greater Manchester intends to build a mosque on volunteer support. And it is not just Muslims who are volunteering to chip in for the noble job. The Greater Manchester Interfaith Council is rallying people of all faiths to help build New Hampshire’s first mosque. The state is home to about 5,000 Muslims, most of whom are refugees.

“There are a lot of folks out there in the interfaith community that can give, that can share, that can give time to help out,” says Geroge Reed, treasurer of the interfaith council “There might be people out there with chainsaws and bulldozers who might be willing to help out on the weekends.”

The project certainly fits with the Christian creed, Reed said: “If the need is known, the need is supplied.”

Nermin Cejvan runs his own company, Stone Castle Construction in Deerfield. A Bosnian refugee who came to New Hampshire 12 years ago, Cejvan recently volunteered to serve as the site manager for the mosque construction.

He’s spent every spare moment since then on the site, supervising hundreds of volunteers who want to help.

“There are probably 10 different languages being spoken,” Cejvan said.

Mehboobul Hassan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Manchester, told the Union Leader that he envisions a world in which religion helps to unite people and not divide them. If the Interfaith Council’s service project catches on, that would be a good start here in Manchester, he said.

“It is not by accident that I chose a Jewish firm to be the architect, a Christian firm to do the engineering, and Muslims to design the mosque,” Hassan said. “I believe in those things.”

Muslim youth camp construction to begin in July

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA— Construction will finally begin on 114 acres of federal land near North Liberty for the a youth camp run by Muslims. The project had been delayed after local residents expressed apprehensions about Muslims. With all fears set to rest, the construction and inauguration is eagerly anticipated.

The Muslim Youth Camps of America, based in Cedar Rapids, will be using the land for a recreational youth camp in summers, while allowing non-profit groups to use the space during the off-season. Building the new camp is expected to take five years, with the camp’s largest buildings to be built in the last three years, said Man-zoor Ali, president of Muslim Youth Camps of America to the Press Enterprise newspaper.

The building schedule is part of MYCA’s lease with the Corps of Engineers.

“We are following the schedule according to them,” Ali said. “We hope to start the first construction phase in July and we’ll see how we progress.”

Under the agreement, the camp will host up to 60 campers, about half as many as first proposed. MYCA programs will be open to all youth, not just those who are Muslim, between the ages of 10 and 17.

Saudi Arabian Super-Achiever delivers UCLA Student Commencement Address
A hard-charging political science major from Saudi Arabia delivered the student address at the June 16 commencement exercises for UCLA’s College of Letters and Science.

Manal Quota, an honor student with a distinguished record of political involvement and community service, share the dais with, among other dignitaries, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,.

“Manal brought to UCLA an enormous spirit, and her accomplishments are extraordinary,” said Marc Mayerson, assistant dean of social sciences and head of the speaker selection committee. “She is truly an international citizen and scholar. In her we see the best of our common cause and humanity.”

Quota, 20, expressed surprise at her selection.

“I came out of the audition and called my friend saying, ‘There was no way I got it,’” she said. “It was such a shock to be selected, and I’m just so honored.”

“Americans tend to be much more interested in domestic affairs and not so aware of the issues going on in the rest of world,” she said. “In the places I have been to, I have found that there people are interested in the world around them, while also paying a close eye to domestic affairs.”

The youngest child of an accounting professor and housewife who still live in Saudi Arabia, Quota transferred to UCLA as a junior from Santa Monica College, a community college where she studied political science and was active in extracurricular activities.

But it was at UCLA where Quota, who has been living with two older siblings in the Palms neighborhood of West Los Angeles, really hit her stride. She tutored a second-grader in Watts and worked with underprivileged children in Burbank. She joined another student activist in putting together a two-day exploration of human trafficking for 50 undergraduate-level students from universities across California. She interned with Amnesty International and volunteered with UNICEF. She also participated in Bruin Leaders Project, a student-run leadership training group on campus.

“UCLA is a great campus where so many students are willing to get involved and really give their time to great causes,” she said. “Students at UCLA are really looking for a way to help and make a difference, and I have found that more here than anywhere else I have been.”

Last month, Quota’s efforts netted her a Chancellor’s Service Award, a distinction given for exemplary community service. Recipients wear special regalia during graduation. She also received a certificate of special recognition from Rep. Brad Sherman, D-San Fernando Valley, a UCLA alumnus.

Quota, who hopes to attend graduate school after taking a year off to work, didn’t let her service activities get in the way of making strides as a scholar and researcher. The political science major with a passion for African studies served for two quarters as a research assistant. One of the professors she helped even acknowledged her services in his recently published book. She served as a member of the editorial staff of Aleph, the campus journal for undergraduate research and wrote a scholarly article that appeared in an online undergraduate journal in the field of international relations. Last month, these efforts netted her the Vice Provost’s Recognition Award for Undergraduate Research Participation.

During the summer and last fall, Quota served as a correspondent for the Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English-language daily. Quota was even part of the initial class of students and teachers who launched UCLA’s Undergraduate Student Initiated Education Program. As part of the program, which prepares undergraduates to teach a one-unit course on a subject of their own selection, Quota taught eight UCLA undergraduates — several of them fellow seniors — a quarter-long course on the Rwandan genocide.

All the while, Quota never lost sight of her studies. Having participated in UCLA’s Honors Collegium program, a more demanding educational track designed for especially ambitious undergraduates, she is graduating with honors.

Ultimately, the graduating senior whose name translates in Arabic as “striving for something and then getting it,” hopes to study international development or international affairs at the graduate level with the ultimate goal of landing a position in a nongovernmental organization.

Lutheran School of Theology Establishes Christian-Muslim Center

The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago will inaugurate a Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice in the fall, according to a press release.

On Sept. 21, Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths will have the opportunity to build relationships with one another. The Center is an outgrowth of LSTC building relationships with the Muslim community in Chicago for over two decades.

“The Center allows LSTC to move with strength in this area – both in the classroom and beyond,” said LSTC president James Kenneth Echols. “It will be a resource for the whole people of God.”

The Center’s first conference, “Christians and Muslims Together: Owning Our Pasts-Visioning the Future,” will be held at LSTC and the Chicago Cultural Center Sept. 21-23. Periodically the Center will host guest speakers, conferences and workshops where members of both faith communities can meet one another in an atmosphere of mutual respect to address issues of concern.

“This is a critically important issue in ministry today,” said Mark Van Scharrel, vice president for advancement. “Even in small Midwestern towns we interact daily with people of various faiths. Those doing ministry need to have a place to gain respect, understanding and appreciation of other faiths. This Center at LSTC has very practical applications.”

LSTC and the Center will work with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to create a consultative panel similar to the ELCA’s panel on Jewish-Lutheran relations.

“Our goal is to move beyond just crisis-to-crisis intervention,” said Harold S.Vogelaar Chair of Christian-Muslim Studies and Interfaith Relations. “There is no substitute for sustained face-to-face learning. Knowledge gained ‘from’ rather than ‘about’ others can often help to ease or even erase those barriers that so often divide us.”


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