Grassroots Muslim Volunteer Effort Delivers Food to Metro Detroiters Doorsteps

The Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service sprung up to deliver meals and groceries to individuals at-risk or affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

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cb5b11dafd6c0f5b1010Samuel Albaugh just picked up two boxes of chicken sandwiches and snacks from a meal pick-up site, to deliver it to a family with five children.

Albaugh has never met the family. He’s helping them out because he signed up to be a volunteer for the Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service, a grassroots project started by Riyah Basha and Sumaiya Ahmed Sheikh.

I just started a new job and we’re not able to work. A lot of good things were happening and then it kind of just stopped with the virus.” — Amy Stewart, resident

Sheikh says when COVID-19 hit she was worried about how high-risk people would be able to safely get their groceries.

And I honestly started with just posting a Facebook status to see what was going on in the community,” Sheikh says. “Very quickly, Riyah reached out and said, ‘Hey, I think it would be really great to start something locally in the Troy and Rochester area at our local mosque.’”

While the project is called the Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service, the volunteers and community members served come from a variety of faith, beliefs and backgrounds. Sheikh says in just their first week and a half of operation more than 300 volunteers signed up to be a part of the project and 40 people have received food.


Click on the player above to listen to a local volunteer deliver groceries to a family in metro Detroit.


The women partnered with the Amity Foundation and quickly expanded into a well-oiled machine serving anyone in need of getting food on their doorstep in more than 12 cities across Southeast Michigan. The current list includes Ann Arbor, Canton, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Detroit, Flint, Grand Blanc, Northville, Rochester, Saginaw, Sterling Heights, Troy and Warren.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WDET RADIO WEBSITE (NPR)

New Jersey (US) Muslims on presidential candidate Bloomberg: ‘He doesn’t know the hurt he caused’

AP_111118040935-1581904744Even before he arrived at his job at Fort Dix one recent morning, Army Sgt. Syed Farhaj Hassan had already been bombarded by a Michael Bloomberg ad about gun control on television, and a radio piece about Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor of New York City.

Bloomberg seems to be everywhere, as he invests heavily in advertising during his campaign for president. But for Hassan and other Muslim Americans, the former New York mayor’s political resurgence is a painful reminder of a sweeping, yearslong surveillance program that Bloomberg supported and defended as mayor.

“Do I think Michael Bloomberg should apologize for causing terror for a group of people up and down the Northeast? Yes, I do,” said Hassan, a resident of Helmetta, in Middlesex County, and the lead plaintiff in a settled lawsuit against the New York City police over the secret surveillance program.

“His actions are still causing issues between Muslim communities and law enforcement,” Hassan said in an interview with NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey. “The chilling effect exists, and it exists because of Michael Bloomberg’s actions to go ahead and surveil peaceful Muslims in New Jersey and New York.”

During Bloomberg’s administration, the New York Police Department secretly mapped ethnic communities, placed informants at mosques and infiltrated schools, businesses and restaurants in New York and New Jersey in the name of counterterrorism. While Bloomberg has apologized for controversial stop-and-frisk policies targeting black and Hispanic New Yorkers, he has not done the same for the Muslim surveillance program that critics say was also rooted in profiling a minority group.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NORTHJERSEY.COM

What U.S. Religious Liberty Means — Especially When It Comes To Islam

RTX3Z4ML-e1572281662504NPR’s Audie Cornish speaks with Asma Uddin about the state of religious liberty in the United States. Uddin is author of When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.

 

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Trump administration has made religious liberty a central theme of this presidency. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now has a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. The president has championed judges who have ruled in favor of people seeking religious exemptions to laws. And just last month, the White House strengthened protections for kids who want to pray at school. Asma Uddin is part – Asma Uddin is part of the Inclusive America Project at the Aspen Institute. She is also the author of a book on religious liberty called “When Islam Is Not A Religion.” She told me that President Trump’s focus marks a change from previous administrations.

ASMA UDDIN: There has been just a more pronounced public affirmation of the positive role of religion in American society, the need to protect it. Often, we hear from various government officials – whether it be Mike Pompeo or President Trump or U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr or even Jeff Sessions when he announced a religious liberty task force of the Department of Justice – is this constant refrain about religion is under threat by secularization, threatening forces on the left. So the protection of religion and the protection of our religious freedom – that has become a constant refrain.

CORNISH: What communities have benefited from the administration’s attention to the issue? Are there religious communities that have, essentially, been left out?

UDDIN: Yeah. So, you know, then-candidate Ted Cruz said that it was – he called it the religious liberty election, and he said that it was ultimately about, like, the person who would be able to defend religious liberty the best. And President Trump and Ben Carson and Rick Santorum all got on that bandwagon and said absolutely, this is about religious liberty, and we’re going to protect religious liberty if we’re elected president. But at the same time as they were making these statements, they were also competing with each other to determine who could be the most discriminatory against Muslims, whether it be President Trump’s suggestions about creating a Muslim registry or about banning Muslims from the U.S. – which, as we know, he has moved forward with that as well – or it be Ted Cruz’s suggestion that we surveil Muslim neighborhoods in the aftermath – he brought that up in the aftermath of a terrorist incident – or Rick Santorum saying that Islam absolutely was different from Christianity. He said that it’s not as protected under the First Amendment as Christianity is. And so there was, like, this obvious hypocrisy.

FULL ARTICLE (AND AUDIO CLIP) FROM NPR

Muslims to gather Wednesday at Kentucky (USA) Capitol

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Muslims from across the state will gather in Frankfort on Wednesday for the inaugural Muslim Day at the state Capitol.

People of the Islamic faith will tour the Capitol building, meet and speak with legislators who represent them, receive training on how to advocate for issues affecting the Muslim community, listen to guest speakers, including state legislators and national representatives of the Council on American Islamic Relations, and have a silent prayer in the Capitol rotunda.

The free event starts at 9 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. It’s sponsored by the Kentucky Chapter of CAIR and multiple city partners in respective Muslim communities. Lunch will be provided by the Islamic Center of Frankfort.

Ashiq Zaman, president of the Islamic Center of Frankfort, says he’s “very excited about the first statewide Muslim gathering in our capital city.”

“Muslim communities have organized locally in almost all corners of Kentucky for a while,” he said. “We find Muslim-owned businesses and restaurants serving halal (permissible) food pretty common.

“Muslim communities run Islamic centers, charitable organizations and even Islamic schools are becoming common in major cities in our state. However, I am not aware of any attempt to organize Muslims statewide.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM STATE JOURNAL (KENTUCKY) 

How to survive Christmas as a Muslim

L5N5LEVFKQPB7GE4L55NNWOEAII grew up trying to avoid the American Christmas celebrations all around me.

Celebrating Christmas wasn’t allowed in my house. My family is Muslim, the kind that thought saying “Merry Christmas” meant accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. So when we got together as a family during those precious days off from school and work, finding things to do that didn’t involve that fat burglar with the beard was the mission.

My parents had both immigrated from Egypt in the 1970s, where, I should note, Christmas is very much a thing, except Egyptians celebrate it on Jan. 7, as Eastern Orthodox Christians do, with the big trees and everything. But in raising their American kids, they were deathly afraid that they would fail to pass down their own Muslim traditions. They went all out. They enrolled us in an Islamic school where we had days off for the Islamic holidays, too. They enrolled me in Islamic karate classes. And when Christmas time rolled around, they taught me to make the most of my days off by doing absolutely anything except celebrate the reason for them.

It turned into a kind of game. When we watched TV, we’d strategically change channels to avoid Christmas commercials. When we strung lights in the house, back when Ramadan and Eid were around Christmastime, we avoided the green and red combo. When Christmas carolers would show up to our front door … just kidding, there were never carolers in my tough Newark, N.J., neighborhood. But had there been, we’d have shut off the lights and pretended no one was home.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DALLAS NEWS

 

US growth of Islam creates need for religious scholars

RTX3Z4ML-e1572281662504DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) — “Brothers and sisters,” the seminary instructor tells his class, don’t believe in God because of your parents’ beliefs but because “you know why God exists.”

The challenge spurs a discussion about beliefs. But more than Imam Mohammad Qazwini’s interesting delivery, deep understanding of Islam and his formal training at a seminary in the holy city of Qom, Iran, have drawn them to this suburban Detroit classroom just off the large prayer room of a mosque.

He speaks their language — literally.

An increasing number of U.S. Muslims want guidance from religious instructors who they can understand linguistically and culturally. The Quran, Islam’s holy book, is written in classical Arabic, but many of the students aren’t well-versed in the language. Qazwini navigates the intricacies of Arabic effortlessly — in the everyday English they use, opening a door for many of the students and meeting an increasing need.

Traditional imams and scholars who once came from the Middle East or were educated in schools there are having more difficulty entering the United States. The Trump administration imposed a travel ban in January 2017 on people from several Muslim majority countries, and the government has made it harder to enter the U.S. entirely, with more rigorous interviews and background checks.

“In many other states there are mosques with no … functional imam, who can assume the responsibilities of the religious leader or even speak,” said Islamic Institute of America leader Imam Hassan Qazwini, who started the seminary with his son. “I thought maybe a long-term solution for facing this shortage is to have our own Shiite Islamic seminary in the U.S., instead of waiting for imams to come.”

Al-Hujjah is the newest of several seminaries focused on the Shiite branch of Islam in the United States and Canada working to address a shortage of leaders.

The seminary started in fall 2017 with about 35 registered students. Now it has nearly 400, with some attending in-person, others watching live and still more watching recorded videos online. In addition to the Qazwinis, there are four other instructors.

Although there are students in 25 countries the emphasis is on North America because of the desire to deepen the bench of U.S.-trained imams, scholars and speakers, according to the elder Qazwini, a native of Iraq.

In a class on a recent evening, the younger Qazwini led an intense session on faith, proposing case studies, playing devil’s advocate and prompting a philosophical back-and-forth with his students. His execution is informal but authoritative. The students understand him.

“I need to make sure he speaks the language, he’s knowledgeable, he’s respectful, he’s truly caring and he’s trying to adapt to the country we live in,” said Alia Bazzi, 32, a graphic designer and seminary student. “Why would my imam speak Arabic if we live in America and the main language we speak is English? … I want to know he’s up to date, he knows what’s going on.”

About an hour’s drive south, in Toledo, Ohio, the Ahlul Bayt Center mosque has been running for about four years without a full-time imam. Imam Mohammad Qazwini and other clerics travel there for services and special events.

Dr. Ali Nawras, a board member of the Toledo mosque, said the arrangement works for day-to-day needs because of its proximity to the Detroit area — a longtime hub for Islam in America. But the center seeks a permanent imam to meet its broader, long-term objectives: Having a strong understanding of challenges within their own community, particularly among youth, and forging stronger bonds between the Muslim and non-Muslim populations.

“On one hand, you can find an imam who is very knowledgeable, very strong background in theology, but that person might not speak English or might have lived most of his life outside the country,” Nawras said. “On the other hand, you might find someone who is born here and educated here, but they don’t have a good or strong theology background.”

“To have a combination of both, that is where the challenge comes,” he added.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS 

What ‘Hala’ gets right and wrong about growing up Muslim in America

c5709340-98b6-4391-ac0c-d04c21af442e-Hala_Unit_Photo_06Disclaimer: I don’t speak for all Muslim-Americans, but I can say that at least a good amount of us are tired of seeing the stereotypical Muslim girl portrayed over and over again.

And that’s exactly what “Hala” does.

Minhal Baig’s new film (in theaters Friday in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Columbus, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky; streaming Dec. 6 on Apple TV+) focuses on a first-generation, 17-year-old Pakistani-American girl of the same name (played by Geraldine Viswanathan) whose conservative parents expect her to marry a nice Muslim boy. Her parents had an arranged marriage, don’t want her hanging out with boys because reputation, her mom practically forces her to pray, but Hala is a “rebel.” She falls for the white boy in her class, goes out at all hours of the night with him and eats non-halal meat (halal meat is prepared according to Islamic law, kind of like kosher).

Surprise.

FULL ARTICLE FROM USA TODAY