Pictured above: children frolic amidst the bounce houses at the Flint Islamic Center’s carnival on ‘Eid day.
Bloomfield Fundraiser for Keith Ellison
Bloomfield Hills–October 22–On the Sunday that ushered out the holy month of Ramadan, prominent Detroit-area Muslim community members attended a beautiful banquet to raise funds for and meet with Minnesota congressional candidate Keith Ellison in Bloomfield Hills on Square Lake road.
This fundraiser was primarily a chance for prominent Muslims in the SE Michigan area to meet Mr. Ellison and become acquainted with him personally and with his views. Local leaders who know Ellison spoke out, including Imam El-Amin of the Detroit Muslim Unity Center, who expressed sincere and warm affection for the young candidate, whom El-Amin knew from the time of his introduction to Islam, and Mitchell Shamsuddin, also of the Unity Center, who administered Ellisonâ€™s shahada.
About 70 people were present, which was organized as a part of Ellisonâ€™s nation-wide fundraising tour targeting the support of the Muslim community, and which has garnered significant support in Florida, Chicago, Texas, and California, in the range of about $100,000.
Mr. Ellison is a Democratic candidate for the 5th District of Minnesota seat in the House of Representatives. Although he has a Republican opponent who has baited Mr. Ellison on issues of religion, the district in which he is running is 70% Democratic, without a single Republican state congressman (out of twenty). John Kerry won his district in the â€˜04 election with 70% of the vote. Therefore it appears extremely likely that Mr. Ellison will win his congressional bid.
The difficult race for him was the primary, in which he faced off in a hard-fought tooth-and-nail battle against 12 other people, among them established Democratic politicians with a lot of experience in the Minnesota political system.
Mr. Ellisonâ€™s political wisdom and ecumenical appeal is evidenced by his acquired endorsements from leading politicians and organizations in Minnesota and Washington, and by his support by Muslim, Christian, and Jewish organizations and individuals.
He explains his close friendship with prominent Democrats including Nancy Pelosi, and speaks of his recent contact with DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
His message to fellow Muslims was that our efforts make a difference, although sometimes it may seem like we have to risk our own selves in support of our beliefs and sometimes we cannot see the positive end-results of our work–he cited prominent civil rights workers, abolitionists, and womenâ€™s suffrage heroines who had sacrificed much in the pursuit of goodness, some of whom had not seen the fruits of their work in their lifetimes, but whose efforts had had vast benefits for later generations.
Ellison explained his progressive views on social issues which are sensitive for Muslims, advocating an end to sexism and advocating very mainstream views on most issues. The issue he focuses on is Iraq, where he cites the figures of an estimated 600,000 dead Iraqis, and almost 3,000 dead American soldiers as clear support for his position that we need to get out of Iraq immediately.
Other issues close to his heart include health care–he advocates a solution to the fact of 47 million Americans being without insurance, and the huge amount the US pays for health-care (3 times more than Canada) despite our failing to have universal health care.
Ellison has overcome much in the way of false allegations and hostility through his perseverance, his refusal to bow to cynicism, and his belief in the goodness of people. At one point in July of this year he was called a â€œdead man walkingâ€ by an extreme-right radio talkshow host in reaction to very strong but false allegations by his opponents, and yet he has endured to this point through an election which showed that his faith in goodness is reciprocated by the faith of Minnesota constituents in him; it is now, politically, a matter of course for him to reach the House of Representatives seat of the 5th District of Minnesota.
â€œInsha`Allah,â€ he says.
â€˜Eid prayers at the Flint Islamic Center–a whole day of festivities
Flint–October 23–Monday saw the hosting of a powerful â€˜Eid prayer service at the Flint Islamic Center, which fed thousands, spread to an ice skating rink and then devolved into a fun carnival for hundreds of children, complete with bounce houses, juice, and activities.
The Flint Islamic Center on Corunna is the oldest and best established mosque in the Flint area, with a school (the Genesee Academy) and a powerful base of congregants.
Demographically the community is largely extremely well-educated and is composed largely of doctors and engineers. A new mosque has arisen nearby, the Grand Blanc Islamic Center on Baldwin (about 25 minutes away), and the two mosques have an unparalleled level of cooperation between them despite early speculation that the community might split–parents living close to GBIC send their children to the Genesee Academy at the other mosque, and Flint Islamic Center congregants visit the GBIC during fundraisers in order to support that burgeoning Muslim community with money.
Monday, congregants of both mosques attended â€˜Eid prayers at the Flint Islamic Center, filling the parking lot beyond capacity with perhaps 1,000 attendees.
The mosque was packed to capacity, with very little standing room despite congregant usage of the mosque prayer area as well as both new and old gymnasiums.
Dr. Jondy, a prominent figure in the Flint Muslim community gave the â€˜Eid Khutba, emphasizing that Muslims should continue their good deeds now that Ramadan has ended; relying on hadith and Qur`an, he exhorted the community to continue fasting and being together like during Ramadan iftar times.
â€˜Eid prayers lasted from 8:30 to 9:30, and were followed by snacks and coffee at 11:30.
Afterwards, at about 12 pm, about 70 children from the community went to an ice-skating rink and indoor soccer stadium run by Gazwan Shukairy, one congregant, to skate together.
Following this, from 3 pm until 10 pm, there was a wonderful carnival (free-of-charge) attended by several hundred children in the new gymnasium at the mosque, complete with two regular bounce houses, a â€œjump-off-the-cliffâ€ bounce house, and a crawl-through caterpillar that twisted through about 100 feet of the gym.
Mohammed Hammoud, the Vice President of the Management Committee for the FIC, explained that the Ramadan festivities cost about $1600, with $1200 for bounce-house rentals and staff to monitor them, and about $300 or $400 for food–the â€˜Eid festivities are paid for by separate donations from generous mosque congregants which Mr. Hammoud raises immediately before â€˜Eid, and are not paid for from the operating budget of the mosque.
Ramadan was very successful and well-attended at the FIC, according to Jumana Jondy, daughter of Dr. Jondy and acting principal of the Genesee Academy, (Dr. Jones, the former principal, accepted a teaching position in Saudi Arabia)–she explains that iftars were attended by about 600 people on weekends.
The Flint â€˜Eid celebrations were a model of Muslim cooperation, skillful organization, and a beautiful expression of the faith of the congregants in the wake of the difficult Ramadan fast.