Sunday, July 11, 2010

Group Makes Push For Muslim School Holidays

Taken from here.

By: Rebecca Spitz

NEW YORK CITY – A group of Muslim parents and their supporters gathered Wednesday on the steps of City Hall where they called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to recognize Islamic holidays on the school calendar.

The coalition of religious, immigrant and labor groups is asking the mayor to honor a City Council resolution calling for two Muslim holy days -- Eid-ul Adha and Eid-ul Fitr -- to be added to the school calendar.

The resolution passed last year, however Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein say there is not room for more time off during the academic year.

The group says the fact they were considering pushing back the first day of school to accommodate Rosh Hashanah indicates that there is flexibility in the system. They also say having no Islamic holidays discriminates against the city's 100,000 Muslim school children.

"Twelve percent of the New York City's 1.1 million school children are Muslim. And our children deserve to have their holiday like everyone else," said City Councilman Robert Jackson.

"We want to make our holiday like other people. We want to be equal like other people. It's not fair. We want to get our rights just like other people get their rights," said one student.

Mayor Bloomberg says he is supportive of the Muslim community and the rights of all religious groups. However, he says New York City children need more time in the classroom, not less.

The teachers' union says it supports including the holidays, but did not offer any specific suggestions on how to make up the days.

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

My wife said something really interesting... we were praying Maghrib on July 4th when we started to hear the fireworks go off. She said that when we hear bangs outside, we look out to see the show. When Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine hear bangs outside, they duck for their lives.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jews and Palestinians Used to Live in Peace

I'm sure you've seen this video before, and at the risk of having way too many Israel/Palestine blogs, but I saw this video again and it was just too good.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Take: New York's schools should observe Muslim holidays

taken from here.

Editor's note: Imam Khalid Latif is a chaplain for New York University and Executive Director of the school's Islamic Center.

By Khalid Latif, Special to CNN

I was recently eating dinner at a restaurant with a friend near Times Square when it became time for me to pray. Muslims pray five times a day and this particular prayer, called Maghrib, is performed at sunset.

Having lived in New York City for decades, I’ve become comfortable praying pretty much anywhere. It also doesn’t hurt that there are stranger things happening on the streets here than a young guy bowing and kneeling for a few minutes.

After I started to pray, a tour bus parked in front of me and a large group of people proceeded to spill out.

While I continued, a woman from the group came closer to where I was praying. She removed a scarf from her neck, placed it on the ground so that I would be praying on something clean, then walked away before I finished.

A truly amazing woman whose name I don’t even know. But if I had not felt comfortable being myself and praying on the street, I would never have had the opportunity to learn from her.

A child at a recent rally for Muslim holidays to be observed by New York city schools.

It’s not easy fitting in. Whether you’re 15 years old or 55, most of us have to compartmentalize our identity in order to feel accepted. We let go of things that we hold dear in hopes that we can just belong and in doing so we assume the worst of the people around us. We think that they wouldn’t be able to understand and accept us for who we are.

A year ago this week, more than 80 faith-based, civil rights, community and labor organizations came together under the title Coalition for Muslim School Holidays. Our purpose was to encourage New York City to give permanent recognition to its Muslim community by adding two holidays observed by Muslims to the public school calendar: Eid ul-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, the sacred month of fasting and Eid Ul-Adha, which celebrates the end of the Hajj, the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca.

New York’s City Council convened to vote on the issue and almost unanimously passed resolution 1281, calling for the Department of Education to recognize the holidays. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that the holidays won’t be added to the public school calendar

Yesterday, the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays held a late morning rally on the steps of New York’s City Hall. Hundreds of people attended and even more stood at the gates waiting to get in—a 300 person limit had been placed on the gathering—as politicians, city officials, interfaith leaders and activists spoke from the steps telling Mayor Bloomberg why he should change his mind.

The expectation that people have of Muslims these days is pretty confusing. On one hand, Muslims are explicitly told they need to integrate Islam more effectively into mainstream society. On the other hand, Muslims are implicitly shown that can’t really happen. The construction of our mosques is protested, our communities are profiled, and our children have to go to school on their holidays.

“One in every eight school kids in the City of New York observes the Muslim faith,” New York City Comptroller John Liu said in a statement issued yesterday by the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays. “Yet these students are forced to choose between their education and their faith, and it’s a situation that needs to be rectified.”

In addition all the presidents of New York’s five boroughs have sent letters of support to our coalition, while Public Advocate Bill de Blasio support the City Council resolution recognizing Muslim holidays.

“About 12 percent of New York City students are Muslim,” says de Blasio, “and consequently thousands of students miss exams and important activities because they are scheduled on Muslim holidays. The Department of Education should treat these students equally and include the two main Islamic holidays in the school calendar, just as it does with other major religions.”

It was a beautiful thing to stand amongst a diverse group of people yesterday in support of a cause that really goes beyond a holiday. I’m looking forward to the day that it’s celebration—not contention—that brings us together. Who knows? Maybe it’ll even be on Eid.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khalid Latif. Author photo courtesy Bryan Derballa.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ohio 6-Year-Old Turns Up on Terror Watch List

Others on the no-fly list include, but are not limited to: The late Senator Ted Kennedy, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), and Nelson Mandella. So... how many actual terrorists are on this list? I'm not a world renowned politician, an international pop star, and certainly no terrorist... so if my name appears on the list, how do I get it off?

This article was taken from here.

(June 26) – The father of a 6-year-old Ohio girl who turned up on the U.S. government's terror watch list says the worst thing his daughter has ever done is probably been mean to her sister.

But Santhosh Thomas, a doctor from Westlake, Ohio, says he's sure that's not enough to land his 6-year-old Alyssa on the no-fly list of suspected terrorists. "She may have threatened her sister, but I don't think that constitutes Homeland Security triggers," he told CNN.

An airline ticket agent informed the family of their predicament when they embarked on recent trip from Cleveland to Minneapolis. "They said, 'Well, she's on the list.' We're like, okay, what's the story? What do we have to do to get off the list? This isn't exactly the list we want to be on," Thomas said.

The Thomases were allowed to fly that day, but authorities told them to contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to clear up the matter. Now they've received a letter from the government addressed to 6-year-old Alyssa, telling her that nothing in her file will be changed.

Federal authorities have acknowledged that such a no-fly list exists, but as a matter of national security, they won't comment on whose names are on it nor why. "The watch lists are an important layer of security to prevent individuals with known or suspected ties to terrorism from flying," an unnamed spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration told Fox News.

"She's been flying since she was two-months old, so that has not been an issue," Alyssa's dad said. "In fact, we had traveled to Mexico in February and there were no issues at that time."

That's likely because of a recent change by the Transportation Security Administration, which used to check only international passengers' names against the no-fly list, but since earlier this month has been checking domestic passengers as well.

The Thomases told CNN they plan on appealing Alyssa's status to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security again, and will be sure to leave plenty of extra time for check-in the next time they fly.

Michael Jackson Would Have Been Saved by Islam, Brother Says

Taken from here.

In an interview marking the first anniversary of Michael Jackson's death, one of his older brothers, Jermaine Jackson, said the pop icon would still be alive if he had converted to Islam, as Jermaine had long urged him to do.

"I felt that if Michael would have embraced Islam he would still be here today and I say that for many reasons," Jermaine Jackson, who is a Muslim, told BBC World Service radio.

"Why? Because when you are 100 percent clear in your mind as to who you are, and what you are, and why you are and everybody around you, then things change in a way that's better for you. It's just having that strength."

The elder Jackson added that some of that strength came from the Muslim security staff around MJ, chosen by the singer because of their faith:

"All of his security became Muslims because he trusted Islam, because these are people who would lay their lives down and also who were trying to be the best kind of human beings they could possibly be not for Michael Jackson, for Allah," Jermaine said. "So having those people around, you knew that you would be protected because it is protection from God," he added.

All of the Jacksons' were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses, and as they became famous and wealthy they also became generous supporters of the denomination, which is popular among African Americans. Yet as Michael Jackson's woes and weirdness increased, there were reports that he was "disfellowshipped," or effectively excommunicated.

Jackson was interested in many religions and practices; one of his close friends was the Orthodox rabbi and well-known personality, Shmuley Boteach. And Jackson had been photographed wearing a traditional Arab women's veil.

But in recent years, Jermaine Jackson and others apparently pressed Michael to convert to Islam; the elder Jackson said again in his BBC interview that he brought Michael books on Islam from Saudi Arabia and was the one who convinced him, near the end of his life, to move to Bahrain "because I wanted him to get out of America because it was having a cherry-picking time on my brother."

There was at least one report, in 2008, that he had done so and changed his name to "Mikaeel." But according to Jermaine Jackson, that may not have been a thorough conversion.

For a fuller sense of Michael Jackson's spiritual outlook, read a 2000 column that he penned for Beliefnet at the behest of his friend, Rabbi Boteach, titled "My Childhood, My Sabbath, My Freedom."
"More than anything, I wished to be a normal little boy. I wanted to build tree houses and go to roller-skating parties. But very early on, this became impossible. I had to accept that my childhood would be different than most others. But that's what always made me wonder what an ordinary childhood would be like."

"There was one day a week, however, that I was able to escape the stages of Hollywood and the crowds of the concert hall. That day was the Sabbath..."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Comment on Comments

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for visiting the site and please be sure to come back and comment on what you read and what you'd like to read. I have been receiving many comments in asian languages and, unfortunately, I am not able to post them because I cannot ensure that they are not saying something derogatory or are just an advertisement.