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A Maryland state police trooper stands guard in Baltimore, April 28. Eric Thaye / Reuters.

There are more Baltimores: America’s legacy of hollowed-out cities

A Maryland state police trooper stands guard in Baltimore, April 28. Eric Thaye / Reuters.

A Maryland state police trooper stands guard in Baltimore, April 28. Eric Thaye / Reuters.

By John Rennie Short

Now that the dust has settled and the media have moved onto the next crisis, we can ponder what the Baltimore riots tell us about broader and deeper issues in the US.

Using a stress testing approach I developed for other major social events helps reveal the many forces at play. Among them are decades of biased economic policies, class differences as well as racism, structural problems in metropolitan America, the consequences of aggressive policing and the geography of multiple deprivations.

Long time coming

The fundamental problems faced by Baltimore and other industrial cities are a result of decades of economic change stemming from policies that promoted deindustrializationand job losses for the semi-skilled and unskilled.

In 1950, Baltimore had a population of 950,000 and, like may cities in the US, a vibrant manufacturing base providing jobs and economic security. The magnet of jobs attracted black migrants from the South. Since the mid-1970s, though, there has been a steady loss of manufacturing jobs due to offshoring, relocation to suburbs in non-union areas of the US and increased productivity.

This is a trend across the US and across the world but in Baltimore, as in so many industrial cities in the US, there were few employment alternatives or attempts at retraining. The result is pockets of poverty in neighborhoods across the country where there are concentrations of the unskilled and limited opportunities for retraining older workers or education for younger people.

It is ironic that at the same time that President Obama was sympathizing with the plight of Baltimore, he was also promoting a free trade agenda. Even more ironic, he made the announcement at the headquarters of Nike, a company that last made a pair of shoes in the US in 1984 and makes all of its apparel in the cheap labor areas of East and Southeast Asia.

There are benefits to free trade, but we need a honest assessment of their redistributional consequences and a much greater commitment to job training and help for those displaced when manufacturing jobs are lost.

And while the Baltimore riots focus attention on race, we also need to consider the issue of class. It is so much easier to talk about race in the US than class, and so the the debate is easily racialized while the wider issue of restricted opportunities for the semi- and unskilled, black as well as white and brown, is ignored.

There is a squeeze on the semi- and unskilled, with the squeeze all that much tighter on the minority groups. The events in Baltimore, often seen through only the prism of race, are also freighted with concerns of class. The sociologist William Julius Wilson showed that the disappearance of work is the central cause of social disorganization in the inner city.

Geo-economic disconnect

There is also the balkanization of metropolitan America by which declining central cities are cut off from the economic benefits of suburban growth.

Baltimore’s population declined from almost a million in 1950 to just over 622,000 in 2013. The wider Baltimore metropolitan area, which includes Baltimore and surrounding suburban counties, has grown from 1.1 to 2.7 million in 2010, with the fourth largest median income in the US. I examined this hollowing out of central city cores in my book, Alabaster Cities, and a series of recent papers.

County governments, not the city, reap all the benefits of this increased property and income taxes. There is a fiscal disparity between central city and suburbs, with the city pressed hard to meet the mounting social needs of an increasingly impoverished population with a diminishing tax base.

This fiscal squeeze promotes, in Baltimore as in other similar cities, an emphasis on flagship downtown developments such as football stadia, ballparks, race car events and convention centers. These benefit downtown business interests but fail to do much for the stubborn poverty in the inner city.

Cities concentrate on attracting middle- and upper-income groups because they provide revenue. And across urban America, we sees pockets of gentrification and gleaming downtown towers beside these persistent pockets of poverty. Yet hamstrung by job loss, declining revenue and population loss, many cities across the US still have the heavy lift of making up for decades of federal neglect and lack of a coherent and well-funded urban policy program.

Policing in America

The policing of the cities in the US is dominated by what amounts to a war against low-income minority neighborhoods. In 1980, the US had a prison population of 500,000, but by 2013 this increased to 2.5 million as more young men, especially young men of color, were caught up in an expanding web of criminal incarceration as minor infractions became felonies. The narratives of tough on crime, broken windows theory, war on drugs and militarization have all escalated into an aggressive policing and a fractured trust between residents and police.

To compound problems, these neighborhoods also suffer from multiple deprivations that include abandoned dwellings that are sites of fires, disease, criminal activity and unhealthy environments. Elevated lead levels in inner city Baltimore make it difficult for children to learn and concentrate. So it is not just limited employment and educational opportunities but also a complex web of multiple deprivation that effectively traps people.

There are many Baltimores. Within the city boundaries, there are old established elite areas such as Roland Park and more recently gentrified areas such as Federal Hill. The Baltimore of the riots was only part of the city, a swath of inner city neighborhoods impacted by job loss, poor education and aggressive policing.

But there are other Baltimores outside of Maryland. They include Akron, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Toledo. It is not just an inner city problem. Along with Bernadette Hanlon and Tom Vicino, I have documented the problems of inner ring of suburbs.

There are also the bleak areas in the cracks of the metropolis: the trailer parks and suburban rental units that house those pushed out of the city by gentrification and redevelopment. Baltimores of economic neglect, massive job loss, aggressive policing and multiple deprivations are found throughout metropolitan regions across the country. They are the places of despair that house the voiceless of the US political system, the marginalized of the US economy and those left behind in the commodification of US society.

The remarks of Martin Luther King Jr made in 1966 still have resonance: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on TheConversation.com and is reprinted here with permission. All views expressed here are solely those of the author.

Bricks thrown by protests lie on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore April 27, 2015. Sait Serkan Gurbuz / Reuters

Baltimore riots: the fire this time and the fire last time and the time between

By Chad Posick, Kate Drabinski & Michael Sierra-Arevalo
The Conversation

Bricks thrown by protests lie on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore April 27, 2015. Sait Serkan Gurbuz / Reuters

Bricks thrown by protests lie on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore April 27, 2015. Sait Serkan Gurbuz / Reuters

Re-Development and the uprisings

Kate Drabinski, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Today, the news media will look over the aftermath of yesterday’s uprising in Baltimore and take stock of the burned remains of cars and storefronts. Reporters will also see the shells of 46,000 empty lots and vacant homes lining the neighborhoods that were riven by unrest.

However, the media and its audience must be careful not to think that the burned-out look of so much of the city is the result of this recent unrest, or even of the uprisings of 1968, which followed the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

The 1968 riots in Baltimore

Baltimore’s blight is the result of decades of disinvestment, from the blockbusting and white flight of the 1950s, the urban renewal policies of the 1960s, and the evacuation of the largely poor and black neighborhoods of East Baltimore to make way for the expansion of Johns Hopkins University taking place today. Development has long been uneven in Baltimore, and black folks and their neighborhoods have consistently been left out of that development.

What we are seeing today could only have occurred against this backdrop of planned uneven development. One of the dangers of seeing the riot as an event is precisely this danger of losing historical perspective about the ways the neighborhoods burning on television are the very ones that have been cut off from the growth of the city’s downtown core.

When asking what can be done, it is important to get to the root, to ask and see how these neighborhoods have been constituted as the ones that will burn, figuratively and literally.

Going beyond the burning

Michael Sierra-Arevalo, Yale University

When the sun rose Tuesday, the toll of Monday’s riots in response to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody were laid bare: 20 Baltimore police officers injured, the charred skeletons of cars and looted businesses, and over 200 arrests.

However, the cost of the Freddie Gray riots cannot be measured in dollars and lives alone. For communities and police alike, the death of Freddie Gray and the violence that swept through the streets of Baltimore cut deeper than burned businesses or hurled cinder blocks.

For minority residents, the death of Freddie Gray is proof par excellence that the protests after the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice, and too many more have been futile. It’s proof that the battles of the Baltimore riots of 1968 are still being waged, and that police and the powers that be still see and treat protests and protestors as problems to be controlled.

For police, Monday’s violence is angering. They see people willfully destroying their communities and attacking police officers. What they do not see is powerless, unheard victims of centuries of racism, segregation, and inequality.

For both sides, the last few days in Baltimore are only the most recent in a long and tumultuous history of mutual distrust and fear between police and communities of color. To make matters worse, when the smoke clears and the glass has been swept up, neither side is likely to have changed their mind about the other.

The road to reconciliation must begin in the same streets now marred by violent unrest. Just as distrust and fear have been born out of decades of interactions between police and citizens, it is through one interaction at a time that we can begin to heal the wounds that scar the public and police.

Recent developments like the federally funded National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justiceharness the power of procedural justice and racial reconciliationto build trust and establish the legitimacy of law.

In lieu of the truncheon, these strategies leverage respect and honesty to built trust that canenhance the safety of citizens and police alike.

It is not an easy road, and much work remains to be done, but the fires and blood in Baltimore make it all too clear that the time to dedicate ourselves to building trust between the police and the public is now.

Us vs them needs to be us with them

Chad Posick, Georgia Southern University

Just a cursory glance at some of the popular commentary in media about the riots in Baltimore shows a great divide in the public on opinions regarding the reasons for and outcomes of the recent riots.

Some point fingers and blame protestors for being violent criminals who are destroying their own neighborhoods while others point the blame at overzealous racist cops who use force to get what they want. Some have called for an increase in riotous action to defeat the police while others call for more national guardsmen and police officers to quell protestors. In essence, this all leads to macro-scale violence escalation and a widening of the us vs. them mindset.

We need to transform this into an “us with them” mindset in order to de-escalate violence. There are already examples of this. In Ferguson, police took off riot gear and joined peaceful protestors.
In New York, police are already expected to get more training in de-escalation techniques as recent incidents have illuminated the need for more training. Our research shows that empathy by police increases trust and perceptions of effectiveness.

Moreover, programs like Project TIPS (Trust, Information, Programs, and Services) in Rochester, NY highlight how communities can voice their concerns and work with police to improve communities while a related project brings police and teens together so that the community can understand viewpoints of law enforcement.

The spark that flamed the Baltimore riots is the same one kindling many potential riots across the United States. We need to do away with pointless finger-pointing and come together to profitably understand one another and improve community safety.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on TheConversation.com and is reprinted here with permission. All views expressed here are solely those of the author.

17-18

Baltimore Muslims fight for holidays

OnIslam & News Agencies

BALTIMORE – Muslims in Maryland’s largest city of Baltimore have been campaigning to get their holy days recognized in school holidays, a few months after their request in Montgomery County in the eastern state was rejected.

“I’m not asking for much, just asking for maybe equality,” Farah Ibrahim, one of the Muslims who attended Baltimore County Public Schools’ policy review committee hearing Monday, told ABC 2 on Tuesday, March 17.

Ibrahim’s demand was similar to the one made several times over the past decade by Muslim leaders in Baltimore.

For Muslim students, they had been facing a bitter choice between missing school or missing their two holidays.

The right was granted to Christians and Jews who both get holidays off.

“I hear from my community members and the children that they have felt very out rightly discriminated,” Muhammad Jameel from the Islamic Society of Baltimore said.

Monday’s meeting for the Board’s Policy Committee discussed the issue which has been on its agenda for months.

Yet, it was the first meeting to allow public hearing, taking testimonies from the folks who wanted to share their thoughts and concerns.

The panel will take the testimony, along with their research, and make recommendations about the school calendar to the County Board of Education.

“I believe our committee is comprised of good listeners and we will make what I am hopeful will be meaningful recommendations,” said Policy Review Committee Chair Romaine Williams.

Ruling out other public hearings on the issue, it’s not clear when the committee will make their calendar recommendations to the Board.

Officials believe such amendment would not be possible before 2016-2017 school year.

Muslims celebrate two feasts each year.

`Eid Al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice”, is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together with `Eid Al-Fitr.

Elsewhere across the United States, home to a Muslim minority between 6-8 million, recognizing Muslim religious holidays is gaining ground.

In Boston, leading schools Cambridge Public School District issued a decision in 2010 to recognize `Eid Al-Fitr and `Eid Al-Adha, which marks the end of hajj.

Several cities in New Jersey close schools on Muslim holidays.

Dearborn, Michigan, where nearly half of the 18,000 students are Muslims, is believed to be the first city to close school on Muslim festivals.

In September 2010, public schools in Burlington city, Vermont, also closed on `Eid al-Fitr for the first time.

 

What Do Fat Cells Do

clip_image002 HEALTHY FAT CELLS BENEFICIAL

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When you lose weight, you not only feel better, but your fat cells are much healthier.

So says endocrinologist Andrew Greenberg, director of the Obesity Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston.

Your body needs fat cells to be healthy, but in obese individuals when fat cells get very big, those cells are at risk of dying, he says.

"A fat cell is 95% fat. If it dies, it leaves behind insoluble fat, and the body views it as a foreign body, much like it would splinter," Greenberg says.

That excess fat is scooped up by macrophages, scavenger cells that are part of the immune system. During this process, some of the fat and other inflammatory proteins get released into the blood stream, which can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes, he says.

However, there is evidence that if you lose weight, you have fewer dying fat cells and significantly fewer fat-engorged macrophages, Greenberg says.

Think fat just hangs around and does nothing? It doesn’t

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By Lisa Nipp for USA TODAY

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Susan Fried, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, sits in front of slides showing fat cells from an obese person. If a person overeats "long enough and hard enough," the number of fat cells can increase, she says.

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By Susan Fried

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The difference between normal weight and obese people is more than skin-deep. Obesity has a dramatic effect on the number and function of fat cells. LEFT, LEAN: A person at a healthy weight might have 10 billion to 20 billion fat cells, one-tenth that of an obese person. RIGHT, OBESE: As people gain weight, their fat cells become bigger and can hold up to 10 times more fat in each cell.

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By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

PHOENIX — Most people think of fat as an inert blob, but fat cells release powerful chemicals.

In obese people, the fat tissue often produces too many bad hormones and too few good ones, says Susan Fried, director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit of Maryland at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

BETTER LIFE: The skinny on losing weight

Fried and other scientists discussed the latest research on fat cells here at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society. Fried talks about the relationship between obesity and fat cells.

Q: Do people have different numbers of fat cells?
A: A person at a healthy weight might have 10 billion to 20 billion, and an obese person can have up to 100 billion. Babies are born with about 10 billion. You naturally increase the number of fat cells, like other kinds of cells, as you grow.

Q: Is everybody born with the same number of fat cells?
A: No. There is a genetic component to how many you have, but I would say less than 5% of obese people have a genetic tendency to have a greatly excess number. It appears in animal experiments that animals that are overnourished in the womb and shortly thereafter tend to have more fat cells.

The number can increase at any time if you overeat long enough and hard enough. When your fat cells get to a maximum size, they send a signal to (fat-precursor) cells to become full-fledged fat cells. It may be that having too many hungry fat cells somehow makes us eat more.

But overweight people (those who are not obese but are one to 30 pounds over a healthy weight) don’t generally have an excess number. You can gain 30 pounds easily by increasing the size of current fat cells and not adding new ones.

Q: What do white fat cells do?
A: White fat cells store energy and produce hormones that are secreted into the blood. In theory, if we overeat, our fat cells will produce a little more of the hormone leptin, which will go to our brain and tell us we have plenty of energy down here; not to eat any more. If it worked perfectly, no one would get fat, but it doesn’t work perfectly, so many of us do get fat.

When fat cells are small, they produce high amounts of some hormones such as adiponectin. It is a good guy because it keeps the liver and muscles very sensitive to insulin and fights diabetes, heart disease and other diseases. But in obese people, fat cells tend to shut down the production of adiponectin, and that has bad effects on health, and it’s one reason people develop diabetes and heart disease.

Q: Does losing weight shrink the size of your fat cells?
A: If you are eating less energy than you require, your cells release fat for fuel and then shrink. If you are obese and have 100 billion fat cells and you lose a lot of weight, your fat cells may go down to a normal size, but you still have 100 billion. So you may still be overly fat, but you will be healthier since small fat cells produce more of the good fat hormones like adiponectin.

Q: Can you explain the new discoveries about brown fat?
A: While a white fat cell stores energy, a brown fat cell’s job is basically to generate heat. We always thought brown fat was only in human babies and helped keep them warm. Now there is more evidence that there are more brown fat cells in adults than we originally thought. Brown and white are not really related because they don’t come from the same precursor cell or stem cell.

Brown fat cell comes from the same kind of precursor cell as a muscle cell. Even though there are very few brown fat cells in adult humans, it looks like there is a lot of variability between people. There is increasing evidence that some humans, particularly lean ones, tend to have brown fat cells mixed in with their white fat cells in some regions of their body. So if we can figure out how to persuade the body to make more brown fat cells, we may be able to fight the tendency to gain excess weight.

Houstonian Corner (V11-I38)

Qari Sharafat Ali & Hafiz Amjad Saeed Featured At Pakistan Center

Picture M Houston, Texas (Pakistan Chronicle Report): The First Annual Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers were organized this past weekend by Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD) at Pakistan Center located along Bissonnet at South Dairy Ashford.

For this program, famous Qari Sharaft from Baltimore and Hafiz Amjad Saeed from Atlanta came and made motivational presentations. Qari Sharafat Ali presented heartwarming recitation of Quran and during the Taraweeh Prayers, he moved people with recitation of Surah Ar Rahman. He also presented a couple of Nasheeds.

Program started with Quranic recitation by students of Hafiz Tauqer Shah of Houston. Program was open to public and around 150 people attended.

In his Motivational Presentation, Hafiz Amjad Saeed informed everyone about Helping Hand’s project, especially the $1/Day; or $365/Year; or $30/Month-For-12-Months Orphan Sponsorship Program, where Helping hand and its aligned organizations take care of the educational, health and food needs of an orphan for one year in one of the fifteen countries. About $10,000 were raised during this program, while almost $22,000 were already raised before the program through the efforts of volunteers of HHRD.

For more information about the programs of HHRD, one can visit www.HHRD.Org or 832-275-0786 / 1-214-707-8159.

Houston Police Department Seeks Outstanding High School Youth

Houston police are looking for several outstanding high school youth to take part in the department’s Youth Police Advisory Council (YPAC).
The students, 9th through 12th graders at Houston area schools, will take part in the yearlong program which emphasizes leadership, respect, education, community service and an exposure to life outside the inner city.

The high school students will serve on an advisory council to HPD Chief Harold Hurtt that will address such issues as peer-pressure, dating violence, gangs, drugs, as well as career goals and higher education.

The goal of the YPAC program, begun more than a decade ago, is to develop leadership skills among high school students. It stresses the need for participants to serve as leaders among their peers, act as liaisons between students and the City of Houston, and to take what they’ve learned and share it with their fellow students.

Students interested in participating in this year’s program should fill out and submit the attached application by October 02.  Anyone with questions about the program should contact Rhonda Conner, YPAC Director, at 713-308-3292 or E-Mail: RhondaR.Conner@CityOfHouston.Net

11-38

Community News (V9-I16)

Nabil Khan gets Fulbright

Nabil Khan, a senior at Swarthmore College, has been named a Fulbright Grantee for 2007. The son of Shafqat and Khalil Khan and brother of Mehreen and Hasan Khan, he is a 2003 graduate of the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., and also attended the International School of Choueifat in Abu Dhabi. Khan is one of three Swarthmore seniors to have won the Fulbright Grant this year.

Khan plans to use his Fulbright Grant to explore and elucidate contemporary understandings of mental “illness” in urban Morocco and of the cultural import of the psychiatric field in a place where it is governmentally sanctioned and is growing. “I am interested in understanding what mental health services and the worldviews they represent, so rooted in Western diagnostic and therapeutic traditions, mean to those from a country historically considered a frontier of the Islamic world,” said Khan. “Given the country’s eclectic background and demographic, I am interested in the political, religious and social dimensions of psychological understanding and how cultural currents inform daily mental healthcare practice.”

Khan is a psychology major with minors in biology and English literature. He is a Thomas B. McCabe scholar, selected as an entering student based on leadership, ability, character, personality, and service to school and community, and has been active in Swarthmore for Immigrants’ Rights, the Muslim Student group, Deshi (South Asian Students organization), and Forum for Free Speech and is co-editor of Remappings (the Asian/Asian-Diaspora literary publication). He was also a biology Writing Associate (peer tutor) and a member of the steering committee of the 2006 “Beyond the Box” conference on critical multiculturalism.

Administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards full research grants to graduating seniors and young alumni after an extensive application process. Recipients receive a stipend to cover housing and living expenses.

Four Muslims named Truman scholars

Four Muslim students have been selected for the much coveted Truman Scholarships. Sixty-five students from 56 US colleges and universities have been selected as 2007 Truman Scholars. They were elected by eighteen independent selection panels on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability, and likelihood of ‘making a difference.’

Each Scholarship provides $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Recipients must be US citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class, and be committed to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector.

Salmah Y. Rizvi, of John Hopkins University, who is from Laurel, Md., is a double-major in Anthropology and International Relations at the Johns Hopkins University, founded Vision XChange, a nonprofit organization which serves as a mechanism to create entertaining, opportunistic events while spreading awareness of important issues. She has traveled extensively as a student ambassador promoting peace and stability and teaching International Humanitarian Law. She is also an executive board member for the Johns Hopkins University Muslim Student Association and the Foreign Affairs Symposium. Currently, Salmah is a Department of Defence employee and hopes to continue her career in government.

As an active member of the Muslim-American community, Rizvi has also interned for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, published a number of papers regarding Islamic politics and volunteered with various Muslim organizations. She teaches Islamic history every Sunday at her local mosque, Idara-E-Jaferia Center in Burtonsville, Md.

Umair Iqbal was born in Pakistan and immigrated to America when he was nine. He is a junior pre-med student with a major in Biological Sciences and a minor in Political Science at the University of Anchorage Alaska. He conducts research at the Alaska Science Center on the Alaska Avian Influenza Project. After five years of avid participation in the Model United Nations of Alaska, he is Secretary-General of the 2007 conference, which focuses on the Emerging Global Pandemic. He also serves as president of the Pre-Med Club. After college he plans to study for an MPH and an MD in rural health, with the goal of working to reduce poverty and to improve access to health care for the poorest people in the world.

Asma Jaber is a junior anthropology and international studies major at the University of South Carolina. Her passions for helping immigrants and refugees continue to grow as she volunteers at advocacy centers for immigrants and with local Somali refugees. She also helps facilitate refugees’ health care access. Asma plans to pursue a law degree and attain a M.P.H. in Health Policy in order to take on public interest work in the health field and improve the lives of immigrants and refugees.

Nazir is the founder and president of the Muslim Student Association at Seattle University. In 2005-2006 he lived in Cairo and studied classical Arabic. Currently Nazir is researching code-switching among Arabs in Seattle. Nazir enjoys traveling, reading, writing, and learning languages in his spare time. He speaks Spanish and Arabic and teaches Arabic twice a week in addition to organizing many cultural and educational events on campus.

Muslim radiologist sues hospital

BALTIMORE, MD–A radiologist who was kicked out of the University of Maryland Medical Center after he performed a Muslim ritual has filed a $30 million lawsuit against the hospital.

The suit says Doctor Mohammed Hussain was at the hospital last month to undergo surgery. He was washing his hands and feet in a sink in a lobby bathroom when a security guard came in and ordered him to get out “immediately or else.”

Hussain’s lawyer, David Ellin, says the guard made references to Hussain as if he were a terrorist and hurled racial epithets at him. He says Hussain was pushed down a hallway and into the custody of another security guard, who escorted him outside.

The hospital released a statement saying medical personnel reached out to Hussain after the incident. The statement says the hospital is “disappointed” that Hussain filed a lawsuit.

Evanston’s first mosque to open soon

EVANSTON, IL–Evanston, Chicago’s suburb and homes to the Northwestern University, will soon have its first mosque. The Bangladesh Islamic Community Center are converting a former Church and have already received approval from the city council council. The building will feature prayer area, offices, a kitchen and multi-purpose meeting rooms.

The construction expected to last from eight months to a year, according to center officials.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), who represents the ward in which the mosque will be located, said the center’s presence would enhance the area’s religious diversity.

“There’s a variety of churches and different denominations,” Holmes said. “This would just be a mosque. There are churches and temples, so why not a mosque?”

Arizona Muslims celebrate Prophet’s birthday (s)

CHANDLER, AZ–Around 200 Muslims gathered at the Chandler Community Center to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The event, organized by the Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education, was open to all interested and a number of non-Muslims also attended. Sheik Sayyed Muhammed, a religious scholar from Atlanta, was the featured speaker at the Chandler event.

Paul Eppinger, executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement, praised the Islamic group’s efforts to build respect among people of all faiths living in the Valley.

“I am for interfaith dialogue so that people can begin to understand one another,” said Eppinger, 74, a former American Baptist minister for 35 years.

Slain convenience store owner remembered

EAST WINDSOR, CT–Neighbours and community members paid moving tributes to convenience store owner Javed Akhtar,32, who was gunned down on Feb.28. More than 50 people gathered at the prayer vigil held in the parking lot outside the One Stop grocery where he was slain. He leaved behind his wife Rafia and twin children Humair and Hirra. His killers have not been identified yet, the Journal Inquirer reported.

Holding candles and gathering in a circle around Rafia and her children, members of the assembly spoke in turn, describing Javed as a gentle, caring man who they clearly missed.

“When we came and moved here, I needed to have a cup of coffee in the morning, and I came here just a few times, and Rafia and Jay were just so kind,” said Bobbie Taravella, who has since moved away. “I have a coffeemaker, but I never used it because they were always so nice and made me a friend rather than a patron.”

Robert Nicholas, who lives half a mile up the road, said he was in the store buying cottage cheese 45 minutes before Javed was shot. “I used to come down here just to talk, and when nothing was going on we’d play with the kids out in the parking lot – they made me part of the family,” Nicholas added.

“He was definitely an asset to this community and well-loved,” said Officer Bruce Everitt, community resource officer for Mill Pond Village.

As for solving the case, “it’s progressing very well and progress is being made,” Everitt said. “We’re just making sure we cross all our T’s and dot all the I’s.”

Akhtar was Muslim and a Pakistani-American. His death brought outrage to the community at large, with many groups calling for justice and a $5,000 reward posted for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the killer.

Canadian Muslims give $1m to hospital

TORONTO, CANADA–Muslim community of Toronto has provided a huge boost to the William Osler Health Centre Foundation by pledging $1 million to build Brampton’s new hospital. The Muslim Friends of William Osler Health Centre, a group of community leaders,physicians and members of the public, announced their plans last week.

“This pledge represents a promise from the large and active Muslim community to ensure the best possible health care for all people who rely on William Osler to provide quality medical facilities and compassionate care,” said Dr. Farooque Dawood, Muslim Friends of WOHC chair and president of Dafina Holdings Ltd. “The spirit behind (our organization) is to gather support from various Muslim communities in pursuit of excellence in local health care for now and for the future.”

About 50 people gathered for the afternoon reception, held in an auditorium at Peel Memorial Hospital.

9-16

Community News, North America (US & Canada)

Curtain controversy in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL— The board of the Muslim Community Centre in Chicago has voted to let the organization’s president to work on a compromise on whether to replace a curtain hung to separate the men and women’s areas of the mosque.
The curtain was removed during renovations and since then has not been replaced. In an earlier meeting the board had voted 13-2 in favour of the “Not To Raise Curtain” resolution with two members abstaining.
Despite the vote Dr.Abdul Sattar, president of the MCC, said that a majority of the community wants the curtain divider and called for last Sunday’s meeting.
The new resolution calls on the president to take into consideration how women felt and to try to please everyone.

Minister praised for interfaith work

AUSTIN,TX—The Rev.Jim Mayfield, pastor of Tarrytown United Methodist Church, who retired recently was praised for his years of interfaith work. Imam Safdar Razi of the Islamic Ahlul Bayt Association said Rev. Mayfield played an important role in supporting the local Muslim community in the wake of Sept.11 attacks.
Under Mayfield’s leadership, the organization gathered clerics from different religions to pray on the steps of the Texas Capitol and “helped the Muslim communities a lot by letting people understand that Muslims also condemn the acts of terror and terrorism,” Razi told the Statesman.

Muslims join immigrant rights rally

DES PLAINES,IL— Muslims joined hundreds others in a rally calling for immigration rights and reform in the Des Plaines suburb of Chicago.
“We come here to work. We don’t come here to do anything bad or — we come here to have a better future,” said Lizeth Rios to ABC News.
What they’re doing right now is shameful and they’re trying to take away people’s hope. But there are good people who are doing things like that. We re trying do things in a peaceful matter. God did not create any borders,” said Rita Gonzales, Latin Americans United.
The rally ended with a prayer for those who had died trying to cross the border.

Nazir Baig passes away

BALTIMORE, MD—Nazir Baig, prominent Baltimore area Muslim community leader, passed away this week. He was a board member of the Muslim Community Center of Maryland. He also served as the organization’s trustee and chairman for 5 years and as president for 10 years. His tenure saw tremendous growth in the organization. He actively took part in various community building activities. He worked as a town planner for the Montgomery County.

New mosque in San Luis Obispo

SAN LUIS OBISPO,CA—- The Islamic Center of the Central Coast is seeking a building permit to build a new mosque and community center on Walnut Street in San Luis Obispo. The new mosque will be bigger than the centre’s present one.
Architect Heidi Gibson said the mosque’s new location makes it a good fit among San Luis Obsipo’s cultural and spiritual centers.
“We have the mission downtown. We have the other downtown churches,” Gibson told the Tribune. “Now weíll have a mosque.”
The mosque has already received approval from the city’s commissions and it can take three months to a year before permits are granted and construction begins.

Eid ul Fitr poem wins Ray Bradbury award

CHICAGO, IL—Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem Eid-ul-Fitr, 1946 won the coveted Ray Bradbury Poetry Writing Contest surpassing 118 entries received from across the world. Mohyuddin, 27, teaches English teacher at Highland Park High School.
The poem is described as a wrenching, fictional ode to a little boy lost amid the prayers and politics of Pakistan.”
“[The poem] is about impending loss, a lot of violence, pain and suffering,” Mohyuddin told the Chicago Tribune.
Mohyuddin’s other entry, The Sadness, also attained a honourable mention in the contest.

Saudi culture shared at Valparaiso

VALPARAISO, IN— Saudi students at the Valparaiso University held a special program to inform the community about the Saudi culture including music, food, religion and life. Around hundred people attended the event sponsored by the International Studies Office of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Student advisor of the Saudi Culture Mission Dr.Faleh Al Hogbani told the student newspaper: “In the Saudi culture we encourage this kind of event and encourage students to spread the culture to the real people of America, not just in D.C.”
The attendees were treated to a multimedia presentation, demonstration of Azan and prayers and lectures. Dr.Nelly Van Doorn-Harder, Patheja professor of world religions and ethics at the university, discussed the history and significance of Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world.
“Saudi Arabia is a country that despite everything, upholds the true concept of Islam,” said Van Doorn-Harder, who has traveled all over the world to study religion.
There are 80 students from Saudi Arabia currently studying at Valparaiso University.

Egyptian student shares perspectives

MADISON, WI— Ahmed Ayad is computer science student working on his Phd at UW-Madison. He is one of of about 60 students from countries around the world who volunteer to share their experiences and perspectives with audiences on and off campus as part of the university’s International Reach program.
Ayad,31, says he wants to present a more realistic picture of Egyptian culture while speaking to a group of eighth graders at Waunakee Middle School. “I want them to come away with a closer-to-reality idea of what a place like Egypt looks like,” he told the State Journal.
The International Reach program was started in the 1990s by Lise Skofronick, a member of Madison Friends of International Students, and was later adopted by the university, said Merilee Sushoreba, student services coordinator, who coordinates the program’s on-campus component.
But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, International Reach was put on hiatus because of staff constraints and the need to focus on implementing new federal policies for students from other countries, said Stephanie Cowan, international student advisor, who coordinates the program’s off-campus component.
The program began making a comeback in 2004, and is now going strong after receiving a $5,000 grant from the university’s Kemper K. Knapp Bequest, which has paid for a student assistant this year to help with scheduling and other costs, such as materials and transportation.
Ayad, who came to UW-Madison in 2000, said people have a lot of misconceptions about the Middle East. “The most troubling to me is the misconception about religion,” he said.
While the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the current war in Iraq “have not helped,” Ayad said they also have sparked interest in the Muslim faith.
Though he keeps his presentations “as neutral as possible,” sticking to subjects such as history and culture, Ayad told his audience of eighth- graders, “You guys can ask me any question you want.”

Muslims Among Highest-Achieving American Women

Muslims Among Highest-Achieving American Women
Courtesy Donna Gehrke-White, Miami Herald
April 17, 2006
She should be one of those red-white-and-blue success stories: An immigrant, she worked her way through med school and now directs the laboratories of two Florida hospitals. She passed her career drive on to her daughters: One just graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing; the other is an investigator for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
This feminist vision of a successful family, though, has a flaw: Shahida Shakir and her daughters, Sadia and Sofia, are Muslim.
They’re supposed to be downtrodden. Or so that’s what most Americans think.
In a Washington Post/ABC poll last month, nearly half of Americans admitted that they have a negative view of Islam. In a poll conducted for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, most people also said that they would feel better about the religion if they thought Islam treated women better.
The evidence is in our own back yard: While researching my book, “The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America,” I found Muslims are among the most achieving women in the United States. They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, social workers and artists.
Indeed, we should be exporting the success story to the rest of the world.
I found Muslim women achieving from coast to coast. They are leading worldwide humanitarian groups in Washington, presiding over juvenile court in Baltimore, delivering babies in Los Angeles, teaching in Miami and helping the homeless in Las Vegas.
Just like other American women, the Muslimah — or Muslim women—have made startling progress in the workplace in the last 30 years. In fact, except for the recent refugees, Muslim women are among the most educated in the United States. Most of the 50 women profiled in the book have at least college degrees. And they are far from the stereotype of the secluded Muslim woman. One ran for county office in northern Virginia while a University of Louisville professor crusades against “honor killings” of Third World women suspected of adultery or premarital sex.
Another risked her life to help women under the thumb of Afghanistan’s oppressive Taliban.
These women should reassure many Americans in these anxious times. They are intensely achieving — as well as patriotic. After all, they have as much to lose as any other Americans if our economic and political systems come under attack.
Since 1990, the United States has welcomed more than 300,000 Muslim refugees fleeing war and persecution. They have come from 77 nations.
Unlike the poor North Africans who went to Europe for a better life, our Muslim poor have been given more opportunities to better themselves, and have become part of the American fabric. The Arizona Community Refugee Center in a Phoenix suburb, for example, teaches many women to read and write for the first time. The center also provides programs for their children.
The great majority of these new refugees insist that their children study hard. Batool Shamil is an Iraqi Shiite single mom working two jobs in Phoenix. She demands A-studded report cards from her teenage son and daughter.
“I am working so hard,” she told me. “My dream is for my children to go to college.”
In Erie, Pa., Senada Alihodzic, a refugee from the Bosnian violence, is just as determined that her two sons and daughter will go to college.
“They can have a better life here,” she said.
Meanwhile, more American mosques are making an effort to ensure women are treated equally. In northern Virginia, Cathy Drake, an
American-born, home-schooling mom, told me that she would not have converted to Islam had she not felt comfortable.
Does more work need to be done? Yes, judging from several Muslim women who have come up to me while on a recent book tour to complain about their own mosque’s inadequacies. But Ingrid Mattson, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, promises that change is coming.
“I believe,” she said, “the struggle is now out in the open and that it will get better soon.” –
Donna Gehrke-White is a features writer for the Miami Heral and the author of “The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America” (Citadel). Write to her in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit 48226 or oped@freepress.com.