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Editor’s note Egyptian immigrants hold US flags at a naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

A warmer embrace of Muslims could stop homegrown terrorism

Editor’s note Egyptian immigrants hold US flags at a naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Editor’s note Egyptian immigrants hold US flags at a naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

 

Sarah Lyons-Padilla and Michele Gelfand
The Conversation

The discovery that several of the Paris attackers were European nationals has fueled concern about Muslim immigrants becoming radicalized in the West.

Some politicians have expressed views that the best way to avoid homegrown terrorists is to shut the door.

The refugee migration debate turned even more contentious after authorities found a Syrian passport at the scene of the attack. Poland is now turning back refugees, more than half of American governors have vowed to refuse Middle Easterners seeking a new beginning, and US House Speaker Ryan has asked for a “pause” on the federal Syrian refugee program.

Fearful reactions to terrorist violence are nothing new. Incidents of extremist activity are often followed by anti-Islam protests or hate crimes. Reports of ISIS luring Western Muslims abroad are followed by a tightening of homeland security policy. Just after the attacks in Paris, presidential hopeful Donald Trump said that he would be willing to close mosques in the US.

Such displays of intolerance can make Muslims feel like they don’t belong in Europe or the United States.

Our research, forthcoming in Behavioral Science and Policy, shows that making Muslims feel this way can fuel support for radical movements. In other words, many Western policies that aim to prevent terrorism may actually be causing it.

Preventing radicalization

In our research, we asked hundreds of Muslims in Germany and the US to tell us about their experiences as religious and cultural minorities, including their feelings of being excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion. We also asked how they balance their heritage identities with their American or German identities. We wanted to know if these kinds of experiences were related to their feelings toward radical groups and causes.

There are a lot of practical and ethical barriers to studying what makes someone become a terrorist.

We normally don’t know who terrorists are until after they’ve committed an attack. By then, we can only rely on after-the-fact explanations as to what motivated them. We can’t perform a controlled laboratory study to see who would participate in an act of terrorism. In surveys, we can’t ask someone straightforwardly how much they would like to join a radical movement, because most people who are becoming radicalized would not answer honestly.

Instead, we measured a couple of indicators of support for radicalism. We asked people how willing they would be to sacrifice themselves for an important cause. We also measured the extent to which participants held a radical interpretation of Islam. For example, we asked whether it’s acceptable to engage in violent jihad. Finally, we asked people to read a description of a hypothetical radical group and tell us how much they liked the group and how much they would want to support it. This hypothetical group consisted of Muslims in the US (or Germany, in the German study) who were upset about how Muslims were treated by society and would stop at nothing to protect Islam.

Overall, support for these indicators of extremism was very low, which is a reminder that the vast majority of Muslims do not hold radical views.

But the responses of some people showed they felt marginalized and identified with neither the culture of their heritage nor the culture of their adopted country.

We described people as “culturally homeless” when they didn’t practice the same customs or share the same values as others in their adopted culture, but also felt different from other people of their heritage.

We found that people who said they were torn between cultures also reported feeling ashamed, meaningless and hopeless. They expressed an overall lack of significance in their lives or a feeling that they don’t really matter. The more people’s sense of self worth was threatened, the more they expressed support for radicalism.

Our findings are consistent with a theory in psychology that terrorists are looking for a way to find meaning in their lives. When people experience a loss to their sense of personal significance – for example, through being humiliated or disrespected – they seek out other outlets for creating meaning.

Extremists know and exploit these vulnerabilities, targeting Muslims whose sense of significance is low or threatened. Radical religious groups give these culturally homeless Muslims a sense of certainty, purpose and structure.

For people who already feel culturally homeless, discrimination by the adopted society can make matters worse. In our data, people who said they had been excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion experienced a threat to their self-esteem. The negative effects of discrimination were the most damaging for people who already felt culturally homeless.

Our results suggest that cultivating anti-immigrant or anti-Islamic sentiment is deeply counterproductive. Anti-immigrant discourse is likely to fuel support for extremism, rather than squelch it.

Integration the goal

To decrease the risk of homegrown radicalization, we should work to improve integration of Muslim immigrants, not further isolate them. This means welcoming Syrian refugees, not excluding them. It means redefining what it means to be American or German in a way that is inclusive and doesn’t represent only the majority culture. It means showing interest in and appreciation for other cultural and religious traditions, not fearing them.

According to our data, most Muslims in the United States and in Germany want to blend their two cultures. But it is difficult to do this if either side pressures them to choose.

We should not confuse integration with assimilation.

Integration means encouraging immigrants to call themselves American, German or French and to take pride in their own cultural and religious heritage.

Our data suggest that policies that pressure immigrants to conform to their adopted culture, like France’s ban on religious symbols in public institutions or the “burqa ban,” are likely to backfire, because such policies are disrespectful of their heritage.

In the United States, the pressure to conform comes in the implicit meaning of the “melting pot” metaphor that underlies our cultural ethos. This idea encourages newcomers to shed their cultural uniqueness in the interest of forging a homogeneous national identity. In comparison, the “mixed salad” or “cultural mosaic” metaphors often used in Canada communicate appreciation for cultural differences.

In Germany, immigrants without sufficient German language skills are required to complete an integration course, which is essentially a tutorial on how to be German. Interestingly, we found that the more German Muslim participants perceived that Germans wanted them to assimilate, the less desire they had to do so. We also see these identity struggles in Muslim communities in France, where “being French” and “being Muslim” are thought to be mutually exclusive.

Our findings point to a strategy for reducing homegrown radicalization: encouraging immigrants to participate in both of their cultures plus curbing discrimination against Muslims. This strategy is better for both immigrants’ well-being and adopted cultures’ political stability.

For an example of how this can be done successfully, look to a jihadist rehabilitation program in Aarhus, Denmark, where the police work with the Muslim community to help reintegrate foreign fighters and find ways for them to participate in Danish society without compromising their religious values.

Communities can make it harder for terrorists to recruit by helping the culturally homeless feel more at home.

Editor’s note: Sarah Lyons-Padilla is a Research Scientist at Stanford SPARQ, Stanford University. Michele Gelfand is a Professor and Distinguished University Scholar Teacher, University of Maryland. Their views are their own. This article originally appeared in The Conversation.

17-49

Analyzing media portrayal of US Muslims

By Carissa D. Lamkahouan
OnIslam US Correspondent

HOUSTON – “You don’t speak Arabic? What kind of terrorist are you?”

This line was delivered during a popular, prime-time US television show about a family of cops working in New York City.

One of the main characters was interrogating a Muslim suspect following a failed bombing attempt. This line was heard by, presumably, millions of Americans.

It’s clear what the character said, but what does the message behind the words mean?

Anyone can make that determination for themselves, but it’s worthwhile to look at the research behind media messages about Muslims, particularly those since 9/11.

A joint study published by the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan analyzed more than 1,000 press releases sent out from more than 100 organizations both Muslim and non-Muslim.

The overriding finding of this research was that press releases regarding Muslims and Islam written in such a way as to incite fear of Muslims and anger toward their religion were the ones journalists and news organizations were most likely to notice and, subsequently, devote stories to.

The result was heightened influence for and strengthening of the causes supported by these groups, exacerbating anti-Muslim sentiment across media outlets and in the minds of Americans exposed to such reports.

Regardless of the fact that most of the harvested press releases came from organizations representing a fringe or outlying group that was the least likely to represent mainstream Islam and the actions of moderate Muslims.

Unfortunately, fear sells; and the noted quote from that popular TV program demonstrates it perfectly. Stereotypes are prevalent, as well.

Media Smart, Canada’s center for digital and media literacy, pointed out television characters like that of Sayid Jarrah on Lost, a wildly popular show that was broadcast a few years ago on the ABC network. Jarrah was the only Muslim portrayed on the program and, as a former member of the Iraqi Republican Guard, he was shown as naturally violent and someone who used torture in his former work.

Media: New Religion

Lindsey Bnadad, a native Texan residing in North Carolina, has strong words for the media, or what she calls “the new religion.”

“I absolutely think the media has a responsibility to show people in ways that don’t unnecessarily stereotype entire populations. Sadly, that’s not something that interests the media at-large because it isn’t polarizing enough, and we all know that the mundane isn’t what makes the news,” Bnadad told OnIslam.net.

“But it isn’t just our news in the US, this happens on BBC, Al-Jazeera and all the other media outlets, too.”

She continued: “In my opinion media is the new religion. Forget what you think is right; just listen to what the news wants you to believe. When they say things loudly enough and often enough, for long enough, people believe what they’re told and behave accordingly. The media is the best way to control the masses.”

Bnadad said she enjoys Tyrant, a program depicting the story of a Muslim doctor living and working in the United States who is compelled to return to his Middle-Eastern home where his father is dictator.

“I think it’s good that people see the various characters and different archetypes that are present,” she said.

“Even if they are caricatures, it shows there are different types of people who belong to [Islam] and gives [other people] an opportunity to empathize with someone from a different culture or religion and maybe even view them as a hero.”

Katy Rosenbaum of North Carolina agreed the media has a responsibility to “show the diversity that exists within Islam.”

She said such a move could have a big impact.

“Currently, the dominant narrative is that Islam perpetrates violence and intolerance,” said Rosenbaum. “There is a need for positive stories, more nuanced stories and a reminder that there are good and bad people of every race, ethnicity and religious group.”

Some television and movie producers may be coming around to Rosenbaum’s way of thinking.

Little Mosque on the Prairie was a TV comedy set in Canada which ran from 2007-2012. Critics roundly praised the show not only for its positive characterization of Muslims, but also for its influence in dispelling negative stereotypes of those who follow Islam.

Muslims also had a win against damaging media messages when a Twitter campaign led by Arab-Americans was instrumental in the cancellation of Alice in Arabia on the ABC Family network.
Subsequently, the pilot never aired. The story, based in Saudi Arabia, centered on a girl kidnapped by relatives and forced to survive a life of apparent horror. Protesters argued the show’s narrative would perpetuate negative and damaging stereotypes about American Muslims.

Ibrahim Younas, an Egyptian-American living in California, said he realizes the likelihood of American news outlets and American entertainment media suddenly becoming a place of “roses and sunshine” for Muslims and Islam is pretty low. However, he said a balanced approach and well-organized advocacy by Muslims and Islamic organizations can be helpful.

“We are here in America and many people think that because of that we’re at a disadvantage,” Younas told OnIslam.net.

“That may be true, but if we, as Muslims, are involved in the public narrative and take charge of our own images, then we [would] have a better chance of changing heart and minds. It’s difficult, but it can be done. And with all the bad stuff that’s going on about Muslims, we really need to do it now.”

17-38

Islamic Awareness at Binghampton U.

BINGHAMPTON, NY–The Muslim Students Association at Binghampton University held a very successful Islamic Awareness Week. The events included lectures, fast-a-thon, and a basketball tournament to held Syrian refugees, the BU Pipe Dream student newspaper reported.

At a well attended talk Imam Anas Shaikh from the Islamic Organization of Southern Tier, discussed the role of Moses and Jesus in Islam.

More than twenty non-Muslim students participated in the fast-a-thon.

17-18

Photo credit:  Photodune

A fork in the road-shaping the collective Muslim presence

By Rashed Hasan
Alt Muslimah

Photo credit:  Photodune

Photo credit: Photodune

We used to want to go to mosques and community centers.  As early immigrants, some 30 odd years ago, those structures served as a place where you found people like you.  It’s where you met friends and availed the opportunity to give your children a piece of the culture you grew up with.  I distinctly remember being a proud father of children who attended and even taught at Sunday school, encouraging them to speak their mind and ask questions.  However, somewhere along the way our community centers began to change and our pre-occupation with rituals quelling the room for open discussion that allowed our children to learn.

I don’t know the precise moment when the disappointment took hold.  Perhaps it was at Friday prayers when I saw that women had been given a sliver of space to pray, and were expected to keep a watchful eye on their children while praying.  It could have been during a lecture where the reigning cleric chose to pursue commentary on “The West vs. Us” or the need for women to cover themselves.  I thought about how my wife and daughter may feel about these sorts of topics and whether it was the reason that they preferred not to be heavily involved in the community building activities I so valued.  Is this why my son chose to be peripherally involved in the mosque? After all, if I, as a grown man, felt judged by the clerics in these moments, it was not hard to imagine how my children must feel.

Editor’s note: A longer version of this article appeared on Alt Muslimah here. Rashed Hasan is a serial entrepreneur, management consultant and business executive.  His recent book: Removing The Middleman, Volume 1: Deciphering Faith Without Ritual, is now available on Amazon (https://www.createspace.com/5075120). Book website: www.rashedhasan.com. His views are his own.

17-18

 

Humble Muslim Prayer

Musallah app finds Muslims prayer spaces

By Mahvish Irfan

Humble Muslim PrayerLong gone will be the days that Muslims offer their daily prayers under dark staircases, cramped hallways and dangerous parking lots because they can’t find proper prayer areas throughout their work day. Musallah, a free iOS and Android app currently in the making, maps out nearby prayer areas to one’s location. It harnesses the help of users to scout out available mosques, churches, shops and an unlimited list of other places that don’t mind offering their spaces to Muslims on the go. The app aims to go global and is starting off with covering Manhattan, New York.

Founder Rashid Dar, a grad student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), is no foreigner when it comes to knowing the trouble of offering prayer in awkward places having prayed in cars, libraries and fitting rooms. “It starts to feel less like a blessing and more of a burden,” he tells Muslim Observer. “At times I’ve prayed in the dressing rooms of H.M. with music blasting everywhere and a mirror directly in front of me and I can’t tell you my heart is entirely into that prayer. Essentially what I’m doing is discharging an obligation and not getting as much out of it.”

Routinely experiencing these kinds of uncomfortable scenarios and tired of not giving prayer its due importance helped give birth to the idea of Musallah. “A thought hit me: we all have smartphones these days, so why couldn’t we use them to crowd-source musallahs for Muslims everywhere?”

With his wife Nushmia Khan, a video producer at Inc. magazine in New York City, the two set up a Kickstarter campaign aiming to earn $14,000 to fund Musallah. Dar says part of the reason he decided to crowdfund was to see if people would be interested in this invention in the first place. But, he was ready for it to fail.

Far from failing, however, Musallah’s organic growth exploded. On March 21, 2015, Musallah was 106% funded on Kickstarter, raising $14,861. “We received an incredible amount of support from all over the world,” he shares. People everywhere resonated with the struggle of finding suitable prayer areas nearby where they do not have to worry about inviting unwanted attention and could actually concentrate on their worship.

“Apps don’t really make all that much money when you crowdfund,” Dar adds. “$14,000 was actually quite a lot of money to make. None of our donations are larger than $500 and we only had a couple of that. It was really hundreds of people everywhere who were donating as little as $1 to make this happen. For us this was a huge validation that this [finding prayer areas] was a problem.”
Though Musallah is still early in the developmental process, the husband and wife duo have compiled a large database of 6000+ names and addresses of various places to pray across the country. From restaurants, to museums, to hospitals, “There are places to worship all around us. We want to give the prayer to everyone. It’s a communal obligation for this to be established. Allah tells us in the Quran to establish the prayer,” Dar explains his motivation behind creating this app.

The team hopes to release “a beta version for a selected team of NYCers by the end of this month” Dar states. They also aim to have the prayer areas that are added to the app have a minimum standard “just so the experience is great” by sharing a “best practice guide” to those places that have opened their doors.

Factors such as if there is an ablution area close by, separate area for women, and enough space in general will help users rate their experience in a given area. “If enough people get on this application and support it, we might eventually be able to start changing the culture of what it means to create a great musallah, a place that people love to go to,” Dar expresses.

The team also plans on handing out decals of their logo to place on doors and windows of available musallah areas so that those passing by know there is a prayer space inside open to the public.
“This is something we’re really excited about. We’re touching up our logo with our graphic designer. Once that’s done we can go around to these different musallahs that we’ve located in Manhattan …and give out these stickers as much as we can so that when people are walking around the city, they might find a musallah they didn’t even know about.”

To support Musallah’s incredible initiative, follow them on facebook.com/musallahapp and twitter @musallahapp

17-16

Mosque prayer carpet

Muslims, Muggles, and Musallahs

By Rashid Dar

Mosque prayer carpetIt was always dark by the time I finished the journey there from an hour away. But I didn’t mind?—?the smooth, nighttime drive was always a sort of therapy that I came to look forward to.

Like many in my generation, I had graduated college and held a few cool temp jobs here and there, but I would eventually find myself back at home with my parents, and with few friends around. I was one of those brave (or maybe stupid?) few Muslim kids that majored in the social sciences (international relations, specifically). At the time, I was working a petty hourly job at a local outlet mall for pocket money. I had just taken the GREs and was waiting for the fall to start, when I would begin graduate school. But a few nights a week, I’d get a chance to venture out of the home and my pajamas. I’d freshen up, put on a cool hat, grab my tasbih, and throw on some sort of loose clothing?—?sometimes shalwar kameez, other times I opted for the overpriced hooded galabayya I had bought at ISNA that one year?—?and if I was feeling especially giddy, I’d put on some ‘itr. Coming from a relatively small town in Wisconsin and having been very active in MSA in my undergrad, I was just happy to see other Muslims my age.

This might seem egregious or ostentatious to many of you, but I truly was excited. There was an Islamic learning institute an hour or so away, and I would make that journey several nights a week to just to sit in a class with a shaykh and a few other students and learn fiqh, adab, and minute points of Arabic grammar for 3 hours. The building was not too fancy, the only priceless things around being the books on the shelves. But I enjoyed every minute of it, alhamdulillah. Nowadays, amid my nonstop grad school workload, I remember fondly those slower days, with the rejuvenating suhbaof classmates, the words of great mashayikh of the past on the pages, the teacher demanding we recite to him the ahadith we were to memorize for that week (even though I’d always manage to mess them up). I even miss that annoying florescent light that hung over us.

One of the many lessons I took from that year was one line the shaykh said one night, almost in passing. We were going through Tu’fatul Mul?k (“A Gift for Kings”), an old Hanafi fiqh text which covers the basics of Islam in a very condensed form, one that even extremely busy people could understand and begin to apply (such as the rulers for whom it was written). The book, like most in the genre, begins with purification, moving on to salah and the other pillars of the deen. We were on the section that talks about the daily prayers, when the shaykh suddenly paused, looked up at us, and said something along the lines of,
“One thing you will notice about all the ark?n (pillars) is that they are meant to be publicly displayed or otherwise known among the believers. The shahada must be witnessed; the fard salah ought to be performed in congregation if possible; zakatmust be collected from all those of whom it is required and given to those to who are eligible for it; Ramadan is a month where the believers abstain from food while going about their lives as they otherwise would in front of everyone; the hajj is done very publicly with millions of others at the same time. In essence, the collective performance of the pillars of Islam is what gives shape to the Muslim community. It is what truly marks the establishment of Islam in a given area amongst a certain population of Muslims.”

I remember that hitting me like a ton of bricks, but I didn’t truly understand why at the time.

***

Fast forward a year or so later, and I’m now in grad school. I’m walking out of a late class, when I realize maghrib had come in and that I had to pray now, or else I won’t have a chance to later.

I repeated a ritual familiar to many. Did I have wudu’? Yeah, I had wudu’. I then quickly scanned my surroundings for a suitable location. I saw an entrance to empty stairwell on the same floor I was on, one that was hardly used as the elevator was right there. I closed my eyes, and pushed the door open to my temporary Platform 9 3/4.

How I feel every time I find a good place to pray.

Having done the deed, I began walking home. Like my nightly drives to class a year earlier, these walks were beloved to me, especially nowadays when the only sound was the crunching of boots against the silence that only a snowy winter night can bring. I thought about the prayer I just performed. It was, above all, like any prayer done in near-public, very rushed. I was always paranoid that someone might come in and wonder what in the hell I was doing.

A friend once told me a story about a tabi’i, ‘Urwah bin al-Zubair, and how he was told by doctors that gangrene had spread in his leg, and that it had to be amputated. He stoically accepted his fate, but had one request: that before the amputation take place, he be allowed to enter intosalah. The doctors acquiesced to this curious request, and proceeded to amputate the limb without so much as a peep or quiver from ‘Urwah. He was so engrossed in his prayer that the outside world had effectively ceased to exist for him, ma sha’ Allah.

I am not nearly that cool.

Just the other day, I was praying maghrib in a hallway, and someone stopped, watched, and waited until I was done. Excruciating does not even begin to describe it. He looked at me with the utmost concern, and then asked, “Are you ok?” Now, I could act super macho and tell you that I was totally unbothered by the incident, that my khushu’ was not affected in the slightest. But I’d be lying through my teeth. It was difficult for me to focus on Allah when I knew someone was staring at me in the same way one might stare upon noticing a zebra had taken up residence in his or her building.

I like praying. I like the required five minute timeout five times a day to reconnect with what matters. But it starts to feel like less of a blessing and more of a burden when you’re forced to pray in stairwells or dressing rooms or parking lots.

I remembered the shaykh’s advice from a year earlier, how the prayer is fundamental to the establishment of authentic Muslim life. I thought to myself: wouldn’t it be so great if there were prayer rooms, or musallahs, conveniently located everywhere? A place where salah was not just understood, but encouraged? It’s hard and expensive to build masjids everywhere, I get that. But why couldn’t we work together to ensure thatmusallahs were there for Muslims when they needed it?

I didn’t need Platform 9 3/4, I needed Mr. Potter’s Room of Requirement.
Definitely not a coincidence that the Room of Requirement looks like a masjid.
Then, on that walk home, a thought hit me: we all have smartphones these days, so why couldn’t we use them to crowdsource musallahs for Muslims everywhere? Muslims own businesses and property all over the place, and even where they don’t, I am sure that there are many places with non-Muslim landlords, such as churches and synagogues or museums or high schools, would be nice enough to put out a rug or two for any Muslims who might be passing by. Heck, it might even bring in more foot traffic then there otherwise might have been.

That was last year, and the idea has been stuck in my head the whole time. It just wouldn’t leave me. I began to work on the idea in my spare time, as a side project. I started taking courses, researching the tech industry, and frequenting startup circles here in New York City.

At the beginning of this month, with the help of my incredible wife, we began raising initial funds for the initial version of the app, called Musallah, on Kickstarter. You can view more details as well as a fun video we made explaining what the app does at that page.

We’ve been raising funds since March 1st, and the response has been nothing short of incredible. We have had Muslims from all over the world reaching out to us offering their programming skills, their labor, their donations, their du’a. It’s confirmed to us that Muslims want to give more importance to their prayers, but with our increasingly busy lives, it just gets difficult. We need a better solution, and Musallah will be that, God willing.

Here’s an excerpt from a message we received the other day:
As-salamu alaykum brother Rashid and sister Nushmia,
I have been living in NYC for about 12 years and always found it difficult to perform daily prayers in regularly due to many circumstances. But Alhamdulillah I live in a Muslim neighborhood and been blessed with easy access to mosque nearby. I work in the city Fridays and Sundays and it is always very difficult for me to find a place to pray. Most of the time I pray in my car.
His is not the only story like this we heard.

I, like many of us, want to live and succeed professionally in this life as well as the next, but that gets hard to manage unless we can truly devote ourself to the salah when it comes in. Car prayers just won’t cut it. I want a world where I can give my prayers their full right. Musallah is our attempt to make inroads towards that.

If you like the idea, consider supporting us in any way you can, whether that means donating, tweeting, liking us on Facebook, or sharing the Kickstarter page with your networks. At the very least, keep us in your prayers, and may Allah accept all of our efforts to grow closer to Him.

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on Ummah Wide. The author’s views are his own.

Photo credit:  Clipart.com

A new normal for American Muslims

Photo credit:  Clipart.com

Photo credit: Clipart.com

By Arzu Kaya-Uranli

Alt Muslimah Logo “Honey, don’t get me wrong, but maybe it’s better if you remove these Arabic words from above your door for a while,” my 70-year-old neighbor softly advised me as she was leaving my house. I must have given her a puzzled look because she explained, “Crazy things are happening in the world, and people who don’t know you might get the wrong idea about you.” I grimaced and responded, “I’ll take my “besmele” down when you take your mezuzah down.”  She gave me a dry smile and continued trying to convince me that it would be safer for me if kept my religious beliefs under wraps in today’s political climate.

Editor’s note: A longer version of this article appeared on Alt Muslimah here. Arzu Kaya-Uranli has been working as a broadcaster in New York, USA since 1998. She writes weekly editorial articles for Huffington Post and Today’s Zaman on human rights, education, gender equality, environmental issues and Turkey. Kaya-Uranli, also is an award winning Turkish Literature & Language teacher and she has been teaching Turkish for more than 20 years at institutions and universities. Her Twitter address is @akuranli. Her views are her own.

17-12

Manipulations in Masajid

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah

In Southern California, during the last 15 years, in a radius of 3 miles four masajid have sprung at a cost of at least $5 million.  Most of them remain empty most of the time and when they are frequented by Muslims in large numbers it is for either the Friday prayers or education of their children, or funeral get together or dinner in memory of some one. Sometimes lectures are offered, but the number of those attending can be counted in fingers. Masajid have yet to offer dynamic to galvanize the community and attract people to its programs and functions.

There are several reasons for the lack of involvement of people. One of the reasons is the way the Masajid are run by organizers. We have different type of models of mosque ownership.  Even though all the masajid are built with donation from people but the pattern of ownership reveals their inherent weakness to attract people in general.

1. Mosques donated by people but run by an individual or a family.

2. Mosques donated by people but run by a religious party or group

3. Mosques donated by people but run by an ethnic group

4. Mosques donated by outside religious entities and run by the followers of that entity.

5. Mosques built and run by an individual or a family

There are no standards by laws for the mosque. No one has ever attempted to draw by laws that demonstrated the spirit and dynamism of Islam, Most of the by laws are designed to ensure that the power stays in the hands of those who are controlling the management. The by laws are amended to suit the interests of those controlling power. If it suits them to cancel election, they do so, if it suits them to have election they do so.

By and large, there are not many Masajid and Islamic centers that can claim that their rule and by-laws are not designed to help a particular group of people to lose their grip.

Ironically, this kind of mechanism is played with an institution that is established in the name of the Creator, God, the source of all guidance. The very fact that most of these religious institutions are irrelevant to the needs of the people speak volumes of the divine relations with them.

In other words, most masajid serve the interest of particular group. They are like shops and businesses and their attitude is not different than usual shopkeepers. This is our shop and if you want to come here play our rules, otherwise get out.

Islam offers a different style and functionality than what is being offered. First of all, it builds any institution on the concept of God consciousness. Without being accountable to people in running affairs meant for them, one cannot be accountable to God in real honesty. Wen people manipulated behind doors and use all sorts of means to deceive ordinary people they are not honest to God or people. This is one of the most important problems that our mosque managements face. Most are not honest with people. They manipulated events. Hundreds of examples can be given to substantiate this.

Interestingly, the people involved in manipulation often claim that if they leave the board, the future of Islam will be in jeopardy. They defy the Quran in logic here. The Quran addressing the Prophet (s), the Messenger who delivered the divine message to people, said: even if you leave this world or killed, the Divine guidance would continue. Some of these people think that Islam and God depends upon them for their survival in that masjid. It is a very arrogant claim and obviously, if everyone start thinking this way, there would be no place for any change.

The cruz of the matter is that what is happening in most of our masajid is not demonstrative of Islam. It needs to be changed to serve Allah and His creation better.

How?

The only way is to develop a model based on the values of the Qurn and the life of the Prophet (s) as substantiated by the Quran. Without that it is almost impossible to think of any other ways of bringing about effective chanages.

13-45

Take Time for Internal Reflection

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, TMO

It is not the quantity, but the quality of time spent attempting to follow the guidance of ALLAH that ensures success.  ALLAH says in Qur’an that “everything is a sign – for those who reflect.”  Each day, if we just take 10 minutes of quiet, quality time in carefully selected thought procedures, we can improve our life by achieving a greater measure of happiness, increased efficiency, and a feeling of spiritual, mental, and physical well-being.

So many things whiz by us each day that it is virtually impossible to reflect while you are on the go.  You will possibly see these “signs of ALLAH”, but not will reflect on them to get the full benefit.  So many miraculous things occur during the course of our going about our daily activities.  They are happening whether you realize it or not.  The key is to first know that ALLAH is in the blessing business and then key in on your blessings by being one of those who “reflect” on the signs of ALLAH.

This 10 minute formula I am sharing with you has been proven scientifically over time and it is right in sync with the ALLAH’S word to “reflect.”  The plan is to spend the 10 minutes every day in quiet submission.  It must be regular.  To do it for a day or two and then skip a day or two will lessen the impact on the results.

ALLAH is real, and He will guide you as you submit your mind to His.  Don’t go into this process with the idea “I want to do this—or do that.  Instead, wait on an answer to enter your mind.  You have now made your mind susceptible to Divine wisdom.

This is in the same vein as the Istikara prayer Muslims say in the early reaches of the night.  The difference is, in the istakara prayer, we ask ALLAH to examine our particular situation.  It may be a particular relationship or maybe a career move or something similar.  We make two rakah and ask ALLAH to make it easy and possible to attain— if it is right for us.  If it is not right for us, we ask Him to remove it from us.  Istakara is a powerful tool of connection and help from ALLAH.

This time of reflection is also special because we stop what we are doing, go to a quiet place with no distractions and wait for thoughts to enter your mind.  They might not be what you expect or even what you want.  They may be far from what we are accustomed to thinking.  But if you are a believer and have submitted yourself to be an instrument of ALLAH, you will be on a higher wavelength of righteousness in which there is no error. The time can vary.  It may be before salat or after salat—or an hour or so after salat. It doesn’t matter.  The main thing is quietness, relaxation, and submission of your mind to ALLAH.

There are many tools and avenues to connect spiritually to our Creator.  This is only one.  Sometimes while offering salat, solutions and answers come to our minds.  I take it as ALLAH choosing a time to communicate with me.  Some people think they are sinning if your mind wanders during salat.  But it is not necessarily so.  It depends on what your mind is wandering to.

This human mind we have is special and it has a special way of communicating with its Maker.  Reflect on the “Signs” of ALLAH.  You will be richer for it.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

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Statement by President on the Occasion of Ramadan

White House Press Release

Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009.

(Photo by Pete Souza)

As Ramadan begins, Michelle and I would like to send our best wishes to Muslim communities in the US and around the world.  Ramadan is a festive time that is anticipated for months by Muslims everywhere.  Families and communities share the happiness of gathering together for iftar and prayers. Bazaars light up the night in many cities from Rabat to Jakarta.  And here in the US, Muslim Americans share Ramadan traditions with their neighbors, fellow students, and co-workers. 

For so many Muslims around the world, Ramadan is also a time of deep reflection and sacrifice. As in other faiths, fasting is used to increase spirituality, discipline, and consciousness of God’s mercy.  It is also a reminder of the importance of reaching out to those less fortunate.  The heartbreaking accounts of lost lives and the images of families and children in Somalia and the Horn of Africa struggling to survive remind us of our common humanity and compel us to act.  Now is the time for nations and peoples to come together to avert an even worse catastrophe by offering support and assistance to on-going relief.

Times like this remind us of the lesson of all great faiths, including Islam–that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  In that spirit, I wish Muslims around the world a blessed month, and I look forward to again hosting an iftar dinner here at the White House.  Ramadan Kareem.

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Revocable Living Trust – A Beneficial Product, But Is It Right for You?

By Adil Daudi, Esq.

Recently I was given the opportunity to speak at The Islamic Center of Greater Lansing on “Simplifying your Shariah Estate Plan.” My primary focus for the presentation was two-fold: (a) to provide a greater understanding for the community on the differences between a Revocable Living Trust and a Last Will and Testament; and (b) to inform the community on the importance of a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney.

As the presentation ended and the question and answer period began, I realized that the focus of the questions was on the differences of a Trust and a Will, and which would be more suitable for them individually. Seeing how my article “To Will or Not to Will” has drawn attention from many in our community, I wanted to take the opportunity to write on the other product, the Revocable Living Trust, and hopefully shed some light on the benefits of obtaining such a product.

If you are at the stage where you are prepared to create an estate plan, you may be well-aware of the requirements that are placed on us Muslims: Narrated by Ibn Umar, Prophet Muhammad (s) once said: “It is not right for any Muslim person who has something to bequeath to stay for two nights without having his last will and testament written and kept ready with him.”

The following is a concise list of facts about Revocable Living Trusts that many may or not be taking into consideration when deciding on their estate plan. I would strongly advise for you to consult with an Attorney about these issues and to get a better, clearer, understanding of how a trust actually operates versus a Will.

1. Avoid Probate: One of the primary advantages of establishing a Trust is that you avoid the probate process; therefore, you avoid having the courts involved in your estate. This is extremely beneficial for multiple reasons: (a) allows you to distribute your assets almost immediately; (b) helps reduce the cost that your estate would otherwise pay; (c) allows you to avoid having lawyers involved; and (d) ensures a much smoother process for handling the estate’s affairs.

2. Costs: One of the biggest drawbacks of establishing a Trust is the upfront cost that is typically associated with it. From my experience, this is what usually deters clients away from creating a trust; however, more often than not, this is because they do not fully understand the benefits and the possible savings a Trust can actually provide. The average cost of going through the probate process is approximately 3-5% of your entire estate. Now, depending on the value of your estate, this cost can be excessive. However, in contrast, once you create a Trust, the only fee you will be required to pay is the actual cost of the Trust. 

If you are currently speaking to an Attorney about a Trust, be sure to ask whether there are any hidden costs, e.g. extra charges for making changes or costs for speaking to the Attorney about the Trust after it is created. Although I can only speak on behalf of my firm, we ensure that a client who purchases a Trust with us is given no additional fees, and has essentially retained us for the duration of their life (for their estate planning needs). Please make sure you understand your Attorney’s fee structure before signing up for any estate planning documents.

3. Private Information: Another important advantage with a Trust is that you do not open yourself up to the public. In other words, under a Trust, your information is kept private between you, your spouse and your immediate family (or whomever you choose). Unlike a Will, where once it is filed with the court, it is open for the public to see; with a Trust there is no requirement of having it filed with the court. For many, this is a very serious issue, as not many Muslims are keen on the idea of having their assets openly disclosed to the public. However, these are also issues that you need to address when creating your own personal estate plan.

It has become far too common for clients to focus too much on the type of estate plan they should create (trust vs. will), and less focused on the requirements that have been placed upon us. If you have yet to establish an estate plan, and if you are stalling the process because you confused on which product is more suitable for you, I highly advise for you to at least satisfy the bare-minimum requirement that Allah s.w.t. has made mandatory on us, and draft a Will; at least until you have informed yourself of the advantages to a Trust, and decided whether or not a Trust is in fact, the better product.

In addition, it is always important to discuss and understand these issues with your Attorney. Make sure you speak to an attorney who will not charge for the initial consultation and is knowledgeable in the area; especially in relation to Shariah law. With Ramadan approaching in less than two-weeks, there may be no better time than now to take advantage of completing a deed and satisfying your requirements; as well as ensuring you have protected your assets and have them distributed pursuant to Shariah law, and not Michigan law.

Adil Daudi is an Attorney at Joseph, Kroll & Yagalla, P.C., focusing primarily on Asset Protection for Physicians, Physician Contracts, Estate Planning, Business Litigation, Corporate Formations, and Family Law. He can be contacted for any questions related to this article or other areas of law at adil@josephlaw.net or (517) 381-2663.

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Islam, Muslims, and Cancer

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Something pretty important has come to my attention that probably should be discussed among Muslims. The sun. Admittedly, the sun is pretty central in our existence in this world. It has been found that most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, which is obtained in its natural form from sunshine. Medical science has found that people who are deficient in Vitamin D are more likely to become ill – in the long run, with cancer. In a way, humans are like plants. We will wilt, wither away, and eventually die without attention to certain physical things like adequate sunshine, water, exercise and of course nutrition.

The Muslim community has been very strict and frowning upon those who drink alcohol or smoke. But many public functions feature soda in  place of water. After low levels of sunshine, a high level of sugar in the blood is the second top cause of cancer. Soda in fact actually dehydrates you as it contains salt (sodium). Drinking soda is like drinking sea water in terms of how it replenishes you. It does not.

But getting back to the sunshine issue, how can Muslim women who wear hijab prevent themselves from wilting away from lack of Vitamin D? Fair women need to apply sunscreen to their faces to prevent redness, moles and brown blotches. Some husbands are so “sensitive,” they won’t even let their wives go out wearing sandals. It may be necessary for Islamic scholars to convene to discuss this issue that is causing widespread death in our community, which is the lack of sunshine, whether it’s because of too much computer use or because of women having nowhere to go outside in privacy.

In the medieval times, wealthy Muslims used to build a tall wall around their home so that the womenfolk could go outside in the garden uncovered without strangers passing by. But what about today? What about those of us that don’t have that kind of money? How do we get our Vitamin D? Surely a vitamin that is given off by the sun is a blessing from Allah that it would be a sin to deny. From personal experience I know that staying “in purdah” too long results in such Vitamin D deficiency. The immediate effects include erratic heartbeat, aching in the bones, and the vague panicky feeling that one is about to die, without knowing why. Even ten minutes a day inside a car will improve these types of symptoms, but surely Allah wants us to thrive, not just survive.

A scientific study in India showed that women who rarely leave their homes are deficient in Vitamin D, despite the fact that India is a very sunny country.

A shaykh I know used to tell women who felt a strong urge to go to the beach and swim, that they should travel to someplace where nobody knows them, wear a bathing suit just like everybody else, and therefore attract less attention to themselves.

For those of us not ready for this level of liberalism, perhaps it would be a good time to travel somewhere away from the city, where there are not a lot of people, take a walk on some nature path, and remove the hijab and long sleeves. In America’s vast and beautiful National Forests you can find secluded rivers in which to bathe unwatched, where you can commune with nature.

Now that the American Muslim community has come to terms with the importance of protecting reproductive health through modesty, we are hopefully also ready to come to terms with the fact that a woman cannot live her life never knowing the feeling of wind blowing through her hair. This is a human right, not just a desire. Science has proved it. If we don’t spend some regular time outdoors uncovered, we will die. This is the top cause of cancer, not drinking or smoking.

Another strong factor in the escalating cancer rate in America is use of cell phones. All cell phones emit radiation, as do the wireless phones inside the home. In fact, anything emitting electricity causes cancer. I know it’s hard, but we have to look at these factors. Maybe we should use cell phones for auto emergencies only and keep them turned off most of the time if possible. At the very least, we should keep them away from children, even when they are not in use. Within five feet of a cell phone is the most dangerous zone. We have to be aware of the dangers of cell phone use by children, because brain cancer is now the top cause of death in children, second only after accidents.

We have to be aware of so many things. Even worse than cell phones, pesticides cause cancer in humans. We must give up spraying the grass now! And try to avoid eating food that has been contaminated with pesticides, especially when it comes to dairy and meat products, because the cows collect all that poison within. Since the halal meat system is separate from the regular grocery store supply system, this could easily be accomplished – once the Muslims decide this is important.

Avoiding the immorality of television lifestyles is key to personal dignity. Yet, Muslims have a long way to go when it comes to demonstrating that our lifestyle is the most healthy lifestyle.

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Unlike Most Muslim Scientists, God Speaks Same Truth in and out of Mosques

By T.O. Shanavas. MD
Author of “Islamic Theory of evolution of Evolution The Missing Link Between Darwin and The Origin of Species.”  Co-author of the book with Prof. Howard Van Till and Rabbi David Kay, “And God Said, “Let There Be Evolution!”: Reconciling The Book Of Genesis, The Qur’an, And The Theory Of Evolution.” Edited by Prof. Charles M. Wynn and Prof. Arthur W. Wiggins
Science been defined as, “a continuing effort to discover new knowledge through disciplined research. Using controlled methods, scientists collect observable evidence of natural or social phenomena, record measurable data relating to the observations, and analyze this information to construct theoretical explanations of how things work.” 
Based upon this definition, physicians and all other professionals who utilize the scientific method are called scientists. Unfortunately, in their professional life Muslim scientists are true believers in science, but, when it comes to their religious lives, they reject many well-established scientific theories such as the theories of evolution and astronomy and its application. They have a truth tell in the mosques and another for their external professional lives. The old Latin expressions, “contra evidential credo (I believe despite the evidence)” and credo quia evidentia (I believe because of evidence),” most accurately differentiate their dual lives.
What physicians, engineers, chemists, biologists, and other scientists learned during formal education is but a basis onto which new knowledge is added as they progress though their professional lives. Once, more advanced remedies and methodologies are discovered, one does not apply the same remedies and solutions learned during formal education. Yet unfortunately, Muslim scientists generally overlook new knowledge that sometimes challenges their faith.
In order to reconcile this between their religious and professional life, many Muslim scientists (oxymoronic term in this context) cite the evolving nature of scientific theories. Off course, “science has truth with proof but without certainty.” On the contrary, the science-rejecting Muslims know that “religious truth heard around the mosques has certainty without proof.” They argue human intellect is unreliable and religious truth is absolute.
Their rationalization is internally incoherent. They forget that humans must utilize their intellect to determine whether the Hindu Geetha, or Jewish Torah or Christian Gospel, or Muslim Qur’an or all of them are to be acknowledged as holy books from God. If intellect is an unreliable human faculty for decision-making, then why should anyone accept their point of view in matters relating to any human affairs or their certainty about any specific holy book? Candidly speaking, these Muslim scientists must accept argument that Muslim faith is blind and they reject the following verse (8:22):
“The worst animals before God are the deaf, the dumb, and those who do not use their reason.”
Babies have only instincts and reflexes. They show their need by crying and attaching to those who feed them and comfort them. Mothers became the center of their universe. Gradually this restricted view evolves by adding family, friends, community, and the natural world.  A world-picture is an echo of the underlining system of thought by which we process and harmonize our recurring experiences that we label as “facts.” The more closely any particular fact is linked to the core of one’s world-picture, the greater its subjective meaning and importance to us.
In other words, everything that is in harmony with our appears to us as truth. This interconnection between world-picture and truth can create profound positive as well as negative impact in any community, particularly in religious communities. The significances and outcome of the interconnection between world-picture and truth are illustrated by the history of Muslims. The arrival of religion of Islam transformed ordinary Arab life of 14th century into one of the most advanced civilization in less than two hundred years. George Sarton, previously the professor of History of Science at Harvard University, most elegantly describes this miracle of transformation
“The creation of a new [Muslim} civilization of international and encyclopaedic magnitude within less than two centuries is something that we describe, but cannot explain… It is easy to imagine their doctors speaking of western barbarians almost in the same spirit as ours do of the ‘Orientals.’ …At that time Muslim pride would have been more… On the contrary only a few Christians were then aware of their inferiority;” [Ref: George Sarton: “The History of Science and The New Humanism.” Page 87-90].
The story of Muslims that Professor Sarton described happened at a time, al-Biruni wrote “We must clear our minds . . . from all causes that blind people to the truth–old custom, party, spirit, personal rivalry or passion, the desire for influence.” It was the time when Muslims and the religion of Islam celebrated and practiced science and scientific method proudly. That was the world-picture and the truth then. What was the result? In The Making of Humanity, British Robert Briffault gives the answer: While Europe wallowed in ignorance and barbarism, Muslim cities constituted “centers of civilization and intellectual activity.”
On the other hand, current Muslims have a different the world-picture and the truth. We reject science and scientific method in mosques by Muslims trained in science. Our traditional scholars parrot uncritically what they heard from their schools with almost no academic freedom for dissensions.   So, the “truth or tafsir” reverberating all across Muslim world from the Muslim scholars and Imams whose world-picture is stuck in the past and who have very limited knowledge of science of natural world, the other Divine book, distort the meaning of the Qur’an when the Qur’an is meant to be timeless and ever-relevant.
I do not have to describe the negative impact of interconnection between world picture and truth on the contemporary Muslims world including in US. Currently, there is not much creative and critical thinking among Muslims. Experimental science is almost non-existent among them.  A large segment of Muslim population lives in poverty. Muslims blow up all kinds of places of worships everyday. Totalitarian rulers are scared of their own people and seek outside help constantly to preserve and protect their reign over the people. Muslim extremists run amok blowing up themselves taking with them the innocent bystanders.  Like Christians in the Middle Ages, Muslims are not even aware of their state of inferiority over Christians others.
We, Muslims, have to ask, what do we expect from the future generation of Muslims, when they hear about the unreliability of science in the mosques and from their parents trained in science? The answer is clearly written in the following true story. The most recent list of the semifinalists of “2011 Intel Science Talent Search” in USA is a reflection of the Muslim community’s attitude towards science. There are 56 Indians and many more Chinese, with conspicuous absence of Muslims, in the august group of future scientific leaders. Similarly, we meet many Indian and Chinese scholars as guest lecturers in national scientific meetings, but Muslim scientists are conspicuously absent except a rare one here and there among scholars. Why?
Human progress occurs in places where there is an unrestricted welcoming conduit for new ideas. Unfortunately, Muslim leaders and scholars across America feel intimidated by science so that they avoid any honest discussion of science or new ideas in the community as well as in their mosques. Productive scientists who invent new technology or discover new laws or propose new theories are all critical thinkers. They question the soundness widely accepted concepts, theories, and facts. Most Islamic centers, Imams, and Muslim scholars, even 99.9 % Muslims at large discourage critical thinking making mosques as impervious fortresses against any fresh ideas including new approach to the interpretations of the Qur’an. 
I have listed here the major characteristics of critical thinkers in in bold letters and what happens in Islamic center and homes in pink within brackets. Critical thinkers are skeptical [discourage skeptical enquiries], open-minded [not open-minded], respect evidence [no respect for scientific or other evidences unless approved by Imams] and reasoning [reasoning is rejected if not in agreement with Imams], and will change positions when reason leads them to do so [never permit to change position when reason leads to do so].
When Muslim children grow up in an environment where critical thinking is not appreciated and generally discouraged, they grow up with a fear to think critically and become non-productive in scientific research.
How then do science-oriented Muslims best respond to science-rejecting Muslims? Should one reject the Qur’an if further scientific discoveries replace the present paradigm with a new one? Definitely not! If the Qur’an is the divine book in human vernacular, “the universe is a “written scroll” (Qur’an 21:104) in the material medium of the natural world.
The Qur’anic verses are called ayath. The phenomena of the material world, Allah similarly refers to as ayath:
“And in the earth are signs [ayath] for those who have firm faith, and in your own selves. Do you not discern?” (Qur’an 51:20-21).
So, the Qur’an and the universe are twin manifestation of the Divine Self-revelation. These two books come from the same source and so one cannot contradict the other. In other words, God, unlike most Muslims, speaks same truth in and out of mosques. According to the Qur’an, God provides humans with ample evidence in the universe to serve as proof of His existence.  If God told humans one thing in the Qur’an and gave the evidence for another in His book of Universe, this would do the opposite of proving His existence. So, an occasional contradiction has nothing to do with these two divine books but all to do with the meaning extracted from the two books. As this meaning can be distorted by our subjective world-view, it is vitally important that Muslims must always seek the most objective meaning that is relevant to any particular point in human history. The meaning from both books must be mutually complimentary.
As such, when we encounter contradictions between the two divine books, the meaning and the world-picture, that we have artificially created, are at fault for the conflict between the two divine books. Therefore, Muslims must go back and re-read the two books in order to reconcile the contradictory meanings and their world-picture arising from their previous reading of the books. Such repeated experimentation, until the resolution of the conflict, is demanded by the Qur’an:
“He created seven heavens in layers. You do not see any discordance in the creation of the All-beneficent. Look again! Do you see any flaw? Look again, once more. Your look, return to you, humbled and weary.” (67:3-4).
Therefore, the Qur’an and the science demand repeated experimentation. When the meaning of the two divine books comes together without conflict, the genuine truth emerges.
Finally, we, Muslims, talk today about `Qur’anic truth’ as the truest kind of truth, the kind we swear by, the kind we feel in our bones to be true, the last truth of all that we are not willing to give up. It is that kind of truth which has to be unraveled and restated harmoniously from both divine books. We shall not be afraid to tell the truth as it appears to us. Indeed, if we truly believe in God, we should recognize that Allah gave us the brains to conduct scientific research. Not to do so — not to use the marvelous gift of intelligence with which He has blessed us — would not only be impolite, it would express a heinous ingratitude to God.
If Muslims want to participate and contribute in the ongoing scientific advancement a change in their mindset is necessary. They have to transform mosques into centers of intellectual discourse.  Muslims have to take fear out of their mind in confronting opposing point of views and ideas, and re-define their world-picture integrating scientific method. Muslims need to re-read the divine books, the Qur’an and the Universe, so that there is no conflict between the meanings of the verses from the two books. Mosques must be lead by open-minded Imams.
Whatever may be the field or job that a person is in, all Muslims must find out what research is going on in their field of study and try to find out the most advanced research going in that the field. They must persevere to reach next higher level of truth in every branch of basic sciences, humanities, and spirituality.
Every Muslim must try to with most revered thinkers in their field of interest. Steven Chu was trained as young man at Bell Laboratories. While he was working there, he was assigned to a team 20 elite physicists for a project. Out of these 20 young physicists, their association with brilliant minds led 7 of them to receive Nobel Prize. This is a beautiful example of spectacular rise due to the association with brilliant passionate truth seekers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-7gWsoXtUw 
So, from Kinder Garden to University and also in their professional life, Muslims must try to surround themselves with the people who have a passion for the truth in the material and spiritual world in order to succeed in this world and the Hereafter. Finally, Muslims must always bear in mind that “. . . Verily Allah never will change the condition of people unless they change it themselves,”  (Quran 13:11) and so prayers without human action are worthless.  

MYNA Association Meets at Bloomfield’s Muslim Unity Center

By Adil James, MMNS

Bloomfield Hills-November 30-Speak to people on the level they understand. This seems to have been the theme that underlay an engaging speech given by Michigan State University sophomore Tammam Alwani to a packed room of about 50 students and parents at the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center this past Friday evening.

Mr. Alwan covered several points very well, emphasizing that speaking about Islam with non-Muslims is a necessity–”We must speak to them to survive.”

He challenged points which are essential, namely that in speaking with others we should not take an absolutist position, instead respecting the necessary differences of outlook that exist even within the Muslim community. He explained that Muslims should not use Qur`an as proof in speaking with non-Muslims, since those non-Muslims obviously do not accept Qur`an so will not believe arguments based on it. He emphasized the importance of neither fearing exposure to non-Muslims nor completely abandoning our way in favor of their way–instead we should engage with non-Muslims with wisdom.

The young people started out very engaged in his speech, speaking frankly with him and listening closely. After the early part of the meeting, adults peppered Mr. Alwan with questions and reactions and the children faded to silence.

Speaking of the reason for the meeting, Dr. Muhammad Kashlan, the President of the Unity Center, explained that “We want to develop youth leadership in the center–we want to prepare good leaders” to take over for us after we are gone.

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