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Our Community - Our History - Our Now

By:  Magda Elkadi Saleh

Having lived in this community for over 25 years, I have seen many people come and go. I have bid farewell to people who have moved to different cities, states or countries, and I have bid farewell to people who have departed from this world into the next.  Each person who has departed has left his or her mark on the community and on our hearts.  In this past week, we lost two very dear members of our community, one to illness and the other to an accident; one was older, the other was a young man, rahmatullahi alayhim.  Such has been the case almost every week of every month over the past years. 

At the same time, I have witnessed just as many weddings, births and graduations.  The sadness of loss is always offset by the pure joy of blessed events and successes.  Such is the cycle of life.

Having lived in this country for almost 50 years, I have been witness to the many changes that the Muslim community has gone through over the span of almost half a century.  As new immigrants to this country, we were often the only practicing Muslim family in the small towns where we lived.  As we became teenagers, we were definitely the only hijabis in our schools.  We reveled in the successes of Mohammed Ali in the early 70's and were thrilled that he had brought the name Mohammed into common conversations; after him, rahmatullahi alayhi, other prominent Muslim athletes helped make our names - Ahmad, Ismail, etc. - common names in the Western world.  We lived through the Iran Hostage Crisis, when we were harassed and told to go back to our country, even though we were not from Iran.  And, of course, we lived through 9/11, one of the most tragic events to touch the US, after which no one would feel the safety and security that we had felt growing up in this great country.

We began to see the growth of Inter-Faith Dialogues and Hijabis in both the White House and in Target commercials; we had gone from being on the fringe to being mainstream.  Mainstream, however, is not where some members of this society want to see us.  No matter how mainstream we become, no matter how positive our impacts are on the society, there are some who make it their goal to paint us as "radicals" and "anti-American."

We ARE American.   We do not understand or accept the oppression and tyranny that exists in the countries whence our parents came.  We ARE Muslim.  We have been raised with our Islamic values without the cultural baggage that can very easily wear Muslims down and put a distance between them and their deen.

Masha'Allah, our community is a vibrant, loving and productive community, a community that we must cherish and grow.

We must know, with every fiber of our bodies, that, no matter how much negative media attention we get, we are way ahead of where we were 40 years ago.  Subhan'Allah, after the tragic killings in Orlando, there was much discussion on Facebook about Muslims and the Qur'an.  I was amazed by the number of Christians defending Islam and making it clear to the detractors that neither Islam nor the Qur'an condone the mass killing that took place. 

We have made progress.  We must continue to make progress.  We must continue to get to know our neighbors and be good neighbors.  At the same time, we must be vigilant, and we must keep in mind that, though they are the minority, there are those that would like to hurt us.  At our masajid, we must support the efforts of our community-members to provide enhanced security, and we must be grateful to them and stand by them.    

This is our community.  This is our country.  This is our history.  This is our now.  

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Pathways to Understanding Islam

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Pathways to Understanding Islam

By: Firoz Uddin

On Sunday, January 17, 2016, the Tampa Bay Times included with its newspaper an insert titled “Pathways to Understanding”, an informative mini publication about Islam and Muslims. It is a treasure of unbiased and factual information on most facets of Islam and a Muslim’s life.

Growing Islamophobia and general false publicity about Islam in the United States and Europe has been creating dangerous intolerance and unfounded hostility against Muslims and Islam. This can lead to discrimination against Muslims in all phases of their life – employment, housing, education, social interactions, etc.

Alarmed by this, and a desire to create more tolerant, humane and progressive society, Sue Bedry of Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education program conceptualized “Pathways to Understanding”. The objective was to counter the misinformation and to replace it with accurate and unbiased facts. This, she hoped, would promote a better understanding of Islam and Muslims and would create greater harmony between all members of the society. The vehicle to achieve this objective was to publish an educational Newspaper insert, to be published in the Newspaper and distributed in most local schools.

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges program agreed to fund this project. Community Tampa Bay, whose vision is to end all forms of discrimination by cultivating inclusive leadership through dialogue and cross-culture interactions, joined hands with The Tampa Bay Times to assist in the project.

Sue Bedry conducted most of the research and writing for ‘Pathways to Understanding’.   She did an excellent job – her commitment to choosing the most pertinent subjects, conducting accurate and thorough research and her ability to present them in the most compelling and delightful manner deserve tremendous praise.

An advisory committee also guided the ‘Pathways to Understanding’ publication.   The Advisory Committee members included Jennifer Russell, Sarh Ogdie and Kaukeb Malik  fromCommunity Tampa Bay as well as a number of community brothers and sisters  includingImam Jihad Brown and Hassan Shibly of CAIR.

The “Pathways to Understanding” publication has a wealth of information about Islam and Muslims. I encourage everyone to read it, and, if you like it, send a message of appreciation to the following organizations who made it possible:

This insert can also serve as a tool of Dawah. You can obtain additional, free copies of ‘Pathways to Understanding’ and distribute them to your neighbors, co-workers and friends. Click here to download a pdf version of the insert. 

To obtain additional print copies, email:

sbedry@tampabay.com or ordernie@tapabay.com  

or call 800-333-7505 ext.  8138.

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Same God

By:  Shakiel Humayun

Professor Hawkins, a tenured political science professor at Wheaton College, was suspended due to a Facebook post.

The professor’s post stated, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

Her critics would like to insist that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God because their beliefs about God are different. Their claim is that the Christians assert a trinity while the Muslims do not.

However, the Jews do not believe in a trinity either. To add to that, the Muslims believe that Jesus is the Messiah, like the Christians, while the Jews do not.  Will the critics in the same breath say that the God of the Jews and Christians is not the same God?

The Quran, over 1400 years ago, has been promoting coexistence with the Christians by clearly professing that our God is one and the same despite the different theological interpretations of His attributes. The Quran states:

“And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are those who submit to Him.” [Quran 29:46]

After negating the worship of idols, the Quran describes whom it is that is to be worshipped:

“Say, [O Muhammad], “O people, if you are in doubt as to my religion – then I do not worship those which you worship besides Allah; but I worship Allah, who takes your soul. And I have been commanded to be of the believers.” [Quran 10:104]

Our Creator, who takes our souls upon death, is the one who is to be worshipped. It is evident that both Christians and Muslims worship the One who takes our souls at death.

Differing on the attributes of a being does not mean that two different beings are spoken about. Some may consider a President to be wise while others may call him foolish. One may believe that he was born in America while others may believe he was not. Despite the different attributes and beliefs, we are talking about the same being- President Obama.

“Eloh” is found in the old testament while “Elah” is found in the new testament, both referring to God while having great similarity to the word “Allah”. “Allah” is also the term used in the Arabic bible. Thus, Genesis 1:1 in the Arabic bible as shown below reads: “In the beginning Allah created the heavens and the earth.”

Instead of insisting on the idea that the God of the Muslims and Christians is different, a more productive discussion where we all share our convictions would promote understanding. This important communication should be possible even though our interpretations may be different.

- See more at: http://www.shakielhumayun.com/same-god/#sthash.y54RvMCn.dpuf

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Frequently Asked Questions - with Answers - When Terrorism Strikes

By:  Shakiel Humayun

FAQs.jpg

Here are some questions you may encounter when there is a terrorist-related incident. I have added answers that I usually use as a response.

 

1. Why don’t you call the attacks “Islamic Terrorism”?

Simply because terrorism is un-Islamic. Many Islamic texts clearly forbid terrorism, violence, and ordain the sanctity of life.

The terrorists would like people to see their actions as “Islamic” in order to recruit people from the Muslim world. Calling it “Islamic Terrorism” would be aiding the terrorists in their marketing and recruiting efforts.

2. The attackers did it in the name of Allah and Islam, so why shouldn’t we call them “Islamists” or “Islamic Terrorists”?

Muslims do almost everything in Allah’s name and invoke His name for blessings. Muslims invoke the name of Allah before and after eating, traveling, sleeping, entering a home, embarking on endeavors, opening businesses, purchasing and selling houses, etc. This devotion is mentioned in the Quran: “Say: Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.” [Quran 6:162]

Misguided people will also do their incorrect actions in the name of Allah. This does not mean their actions are actually condoned by Allah or Islam even if they seemingly perform some of the rites of Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad informed us that there will be people who will display great devotion in prayers and fasting that will surpass that of his own companions, but these people will have nothing to do with Islam:

“They will read the Quran but it will not go beyond their necks, they will leave the religion…they are the worse of people and character…they will call to the Book of Allah, but they will have nothing to do with it.” [Sahih al-Jami]

Muslims open businesses in the name of Allah. Have we heard anyone labeling them “Islamic businesses”? The Syrians and Kurds are fighting ISIS at the frontline in the name of Allah. Why don’t we call them “Islamic Freedom Fighters”? Being selective with the term “Islamic” for violence or a super minority amongst the 1.6 billion Muslims only seems to be an effort to tarnish the image of Islam in favor of the terrorists.

3. What about the term “Islamic Radicalism” or “Islamic Extremism”?

The terms suggest that radicalism or extremism emanate, or come, from Islam where in reality Islam clearly forbids them. The Prophet Muhammad stated, “O Mankind! Beware of extremism in religion. It surely has destroyed those before you- the extremism in religion.” [Ibn Majah].

4. Are these attackers extremists?

Yes, they are extremists. They have left the teachings of Islam to become extremists. Calling them “Islamic extremists” would be an oxymoron, a term that contradicts itself.

5. Why are there so many Muslims as terrorists?

It may seem that way since the media coverage of a Muslim terrorist is much greater and in-depth than the coverage of Christian, Jewish, Atheist, etc. terrorists. The terrorists who are Muslims are only a fraction of the 1.6 billion Muslims.

Data clearly shows that most of the terrorist acts committed on American and European soils are done by Christians, Jews, and others, not by Muslims. Furthermore, 95% of the victims of ISIS terrorist actions are Muslims.

6. This is a fight for the soul of Islam.  Why don’t Muslims fix this problem once and for all?

Muslims have been dealing with the concept of extremism for decades. However, this is not just a fight for the soul of Islam. It is also a responsibility of those who have contributed to the creation of these terrorists through misguided foreign policies. Ideologies alone do not create terrorists. Terrorists need the right socio-political environment to sprout. Misguided foreign policies have provided such environments.

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A Local Hero - Ameena Khan

By:  Kanwal Malik Saba

 

As I gazed at the art work of the various artists that were present at the Wiregrass Art Show, I had to do a double take. Did I just see a hijabi artist displaying her work? I squinted and looked again and sure enough there was a beautiful hijabi talking animatedly to a group of people about her work. Subhan Allah!! I picked up my pace, and my son and I started walking towards her. As I said Salam and hugged her, I felt I had met a kindred spirit!  My forgotten journey towards the world of color felt light years away as I started talking to Ameena Khan. It turned out that Ameena Khan was a local artist and was pursuing her love for art by displaying her work.

I have taken the opportunity to interview Ameena Khan so the local community can take advantage of her talents and learn more about this significant artist who is highlighting the struggles of Muslim women through her work. Khan’s work was recently showcased by the USF Department of Women and Gender Studies and artist-led organization Art2Action.  Her work was displayed in the on-campus gallery “Dialogue in Color” (The Oracle, 2015). Khan is also currently holding an exhibition at HCC called “Loud Print”.

BIO:

Ameena Khan was born and raised in Gainesville, FL. She has a Bachelors, Masters, and PhD in Environmental Engineering, specializing in water chemistry. Also, she worked as a consultant with Jones Edmunds and Association for two years, designing water treatment plants and chemical delivery systems. Khan is married and became a proud mom of a daughter in 2008 and a son in 2010. During these years, she took a break.

Eventually she went back to work part time as the Associate Director of research and development for a company inventing new technologies for water and air purification in the power industry. She worked there for two years. Subsequently, her family moved to Tampa in 2012, so the kids could take advantage of the Islamic curriculum at UAF.

At that time, she decided not to work in engineering anymore and, instead, concentrate on her passion for art. This was a very difficult decision for her, but she believed it was the right one! After a year in Tampa, she had an offer to teach art at AYA, so she began there in 2014, teaching Elementary Art.

Khan has highlighted issues regarding hijab and other struggles faced by Muslim women. An excerpt of her interview from The Oracle states “One piece in particular, “No Need for Rescue,” depicts a fierce Muslim woman glaring at the viewer from the frame. Her lips pursed and eyes fixed, her face and clothes left unpainted on an indigo backdrop, the piece demands attention.

“With that piece in particular, it is addressing the idea of the Muslim woman being a victim of her religion, of the male figures in her family, because that’s a common perspective – that the men are controlling the women,” Khan said (The Oracle, 2015). As a response to such emotions, Khan started doing a series of sketches called “No Need to Rescue”. This depicted her beliefs that the Muslim culture is often misunderstood. Khan is mostly interested in displaying her work at universities, because it can give her a platform to deliver the message that Muslim women are powerful, liberated beings who choose their own voice and are not victims. This is a great opportunity to start a dialogue that can eradicate many questions people have about Muslim women being oppressed.

Do you have a theme or goal behind your work?

I believe art is an important means of communication. Sometimes people may feel shy to ask questions, or uncomfortable with certain topics. With art, you can address difficult or touchy subjects in an indirect way. More specifically, a non-Muslim may be uncomfortable or nervous to talk to a Muslim, so communicating through art is a great opportunity to reach across those communication gaps and connect.

Can you explain the "Beyond the Veil" project on display at HCC?

When I was invited to show at HCC, I knew my primary audience would be non-Muslims. I decided it would be an opportunity to share thoughts and feelings of Muslim women with them.

I had been considering the idea for "Just a peek, please?" for over two years, but finally had the opportunity to create the series for a show. It displays different hijabs and a statement of the Muslim woman who donated the hijab. The statements exude the women’s feelings about being a Muslim woman in today’s world.

It has generated a lot of questions and discussions, so the gallery has organized a panel discussion to answer relevant questions. It is being hosted by HCC’s Gallery 221 and FOCUS International. Two representatives from CAIR and I will speak on Nov 19th 2015 at HCC Dale Mabry from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Learning Resource Center.

What is your message to the local young artists of our community?

Everyone is an artist! You may not be a painter or someone who likes to draw, but maybe you are an amazing writer, or perhaps you build incredible inventions! Whatever it is that you like to do, never stop being creative. Keep trying new things and learning new skills. Making art is not easy, but the world needs creative thinkers and I can't wait to see what you make!"

Source:

The Oracle website (2015). Local artist shows strength of Muslim women.

Retrieved from: http://www.usforacle.com/news/view.php/867596/Local-artist-shows-strength-of-Muslim-women

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