Who Will Tell Your Story?

By TMO Stringer


Joe Grimm presents an award to Yusuf Halabi. (Photo by Furqan Khan)

Novi–September 23–The TMO Foundation, which strives to tell your story and to support the development of Muslim institutional capacity by supporting fledgling writers and journalists, held its third annual banquet honoring students of journalism and communications who received top score in a national essay writing completion. The event was held on Sunday, Sept 23 at the Sheraton Detroit in Novi, a suburb of Detroit.

About 300 guests attended the event. Many prominent Muslims from Southeast Michigan and central Michigan graced the occasion. They came from as far as Lansing, Jackson, Flint, the Downriver area and other far away places.

The Chief Guest and the keynote speaker was one of the former editors of the Detroit Free Press, Joe Grimm, now visiting editor in residence at MSU.

The evening began with recitation of Qur`an by Imam Achmet Salie, program developer in Islamic studies at the University of Detroit.

Imam El-Turk welcoming the guests spoke on the vital role of TMO in providing a Muslim newspaper not based on a racial or ethnic subset but designed to appeal to all Muslims.

El-Turk argued that TMO is “vocal on local, national, even international issues,” and exposes the media bias.  He said that he was able to make arguments in favor of Islam based on the profiles of accomplished Muslims-contributing so much to the society- that appear on the cover of the paper every week.

El-Turk also noted that TMO encourages young people to go into journalism, saying that while it is good for people to become doctors, engineers and dentists, “we need more kids in journalism,” saying TMO could serve the role of training them before they go on to work at CNN, Fox, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

Professor Sadaf Ali of Eastern Michigan University introduced the new TMO webcast, whose announcer is Laura Fawaz and for which video editing is done by Yusuf Begg.  Professor Ali pointed out that the webcast performs the vital function of connecting Muslims–and she explained that this connecting of Muslims, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, was what made the Arab Spring possible.

A TMO webcast was displayed, showing visits by TMO to four area mosques, IAGD, ICA, AICC, and Bloomfield’s MUC, by Laura Fawaz.

Almas Akhtar, one of TMO’s writers, spoke briefly of her journey into journalism and her thankfulness to TMO for supporting her in that progression.

Dr. Nakadar and Joe Grimm then presented awards to many of the scholarship recipients from this year–scholarships of thousands of dollars were granted to the students, and scholarships were also given to many of the runners up.

The winner was Fatimah Waseem (Maryland). She sent a video message. The second winner was Sonia Kassam (Chicago) from Illinois University, Champaign and third place wimner was Fuad Shalhout (Detroit), Wayne State University.

The runners up were Noor Salem (Dearborn); Dana Afana (Novi); Zaineb Al-Kalby (Ann Arbor); Jumanah Abusalah (Canton).

Two school students received appreciation awards for writing in The Muslim Observer (TMO) Mr Ahmad Al Hilali from ICA, Deraborn-MI  a sixth grader, and Yusuf Halabi from the Crescent School in Canton, Michigan.

Joe Grimm started his speech by a question: “Who will Tell Your Story”? He spoke at length on the importance of Muslims being present in the media newsrooms, first to make non-Muslims shy to present misguided caricatures of Islam instead of truthful representations, and also to allay the prejudices of non-Muslims.  He cited the experiences of many Muslim employees who had worked for him in the past, including their own painful brushes with disdain for Muslims and Islam in Grimm’s own newsroom.

He spoke of the recent Newsweek cover highlighting “Muslim  Rage,” arguing that no such cover would have been produced had there been a Muslim in the editorial staff helping to make decisions about what would go on the cover.

“Some people are willfully telling the story of Islam inaccurately,” argued Mr. Grimm, and he argued his central point, “I wanted to come with one question–who will tell your story–today we are seeing the story of Islam told by non-Muslims, people who hate Islam.”

Dr. Nakadar echoed Joe Grimms central theme of “who is going to tell your story”? He appreciated and recognized many of those in the audience who had supported the TMO Foundation fundraiser, and argued that the building of media institutions is vital in developing a vibrant community.  “Those communities with media rule the world today,” he said.

Dr. Nakadar also focused on the recent examples of hate speech directed at Muslims, and argued that such hate speech has become socially acceptable, whereas in Europe it has been made illegal to even deny the holocaust.  Dr. Nakadar echoed the sentiments of many in the Muslim world that there should be some more control to stem the spread of virulent incitement by hate speech against Muslims.

He also chided the politicians who demonize Muslims and Islam for their political expediency. He said it is important to recognize that each community in America represents the nuts and bolts that provide the support to a structure called society. And it is this structure on which the edifice of the US stands. By demonizing any community, Christains, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or any others, one is attacking at the roots of the US edifice and its constitution that stands for justice, peace, equality and religious freedom.

Dr. Ramzi performed the fundraising and activists Faiz Khan gave a vote of thanks.


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