Archive for the ‘ Islam ’ Category

Lebanese Immigrant Becomes First Muslim Woman to be Crowned Miss U.S.A.

By Derrick Henry for The New York Times


Pageant organizers on Sunday night crowned a 24-year-old Lebanese immigrant from Michigan as Miss USA 2010.

Rima Fakih was born in Lebanon, moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in New York City, where she attended a Catholic school. She told pageant organizers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths. Her family moved to Michigan in 2003, where she later became Miss Michigan USA.

Pageant officials told The Associated Press that pageant records were not detailed enough to show whether Ms. Fakih was the first Arab-American, Muslim or immigrant to win the Miss USA title. The pageant started in 1952 as a local swimsuit competition in Long Beach, Calif.

Ms. Fakih is from Dearborn and is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she earned her bachelors degree in economics with a minor in business administration, the pageant said in a release. She said she planned to attend law school after completing her term as Miss USA.

Fans in her state celebrated after learning that she had been crowned at the event held in Las Vegas.

“This is unbelievable,” Rami Haddad, 26, of Livonia told The Detroit Free Press on Sunday night. Mr. Haddad said he was one of Ms. Fakih’s biggest supporters. “It’s a dream come true. I can’t express my feelings.”

During the pageant, Ms. Fakih nearly fell in her evening gown because of the length of its train, but she recovered. During the interview portion she was asked whether she thought birth control should be paid for by health insurance. She said she believed it should because it is expensive.

“I believe that birth control is just like every other medication even though it’s a controlled substance,” Ms. Fakih said.

Miss Oklahoma USA, Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, was first runner-up. She was asked about Arizona’s new immigration law, and said she supported the law, which would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. She also said she was against illegal immigration but against racial profiling.

Donald Trump owns the pageant with NBC, which aired the event live

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Amir Khan the Ambassador

By Lem Satterfield for Boxing Fanhouse

NEW YORK — WBA junior welterweight (140 pounds) champion Amir Khan had just scored Saturday night’s 11th-round knockout over Brooklyn’s Paulie Malignaggi in the biggest victory of his career.

In doing so, the 23-year-old, 2004 Olympic silver medalist not only out-boxed a pure boxer, but he mixed in an assortment of power shots — namely crisp, counter and over hand rights behind double- and triple-jabs — with a compliment of damaging left hooks and uppercuts.

When the fight was over, the English-born titlist had won the approval of the roaring crowd of more than 4,412 that filled Madison Square Garden’s 5,000 capacity WaMu Theater, and left the trash-talking Malignaggi beaten, battered and bloodied in his own hometown.

Khan had Malignaggi pinned on the ropes and was nailing him with several unanswered blows when referee Steve Smoger came to the rescue, calling a halt to the bout at 1:25 of the round.

“I was nervous, this being my first time in America. And I was walking into the theater, I could hear a lot of boos. But at the end of the fight, they started cheering for Amir Khan because I won them over with my style. I want to make all of my fights like this one,” said Khan, who rose to 23-1, with his 17th knockout and his fourth, consecutive victory.

“It’s my style. I’m explosive. I’m entertaining to watch. I’ve got speed, and I think I made a statement. I think that now there are a lot of American people who are interested in Amir Khan,” said Khan, who was coming off of a December’s first-round knockout of another Brooklyn resident, Dmitry Salita (30-1-1, 16 KOs).

“I’d love to fight some more over here. I want to save some big fights for the United Kingdom,” said Khan. “But I’ve had my American debut, and it’s the best feeling fighting in America. It’s a dream come true. I’d love to go to Las Vegas and have a big fight over there too.”

But as admirable as Khan’s in-the-ring efforts had been against Malignaggi, it is the maturity, poise and grace with which he handled the out-of-the ring distractions that may yet make Khan even more of a cross-cultural, crossover icon.

There was an irony surrounding Khan’s visa issues, which overlapped with the recent actions of alleged Times Square bombing attempt suspect Faisal Shahzad. Together, the two situations caused concern heading into Khan-Malignaggi.

Khan is a practicing Muslim who was born in England, but who is of Pakistani descent, while Shahzad is a native of Pakistan who became a U.S. citizen a year ago.

In early March, long before Shahzad’s actions on May 1, which resulted in a failed attack after he left an SUV rigged with a homemade bombing device in Times Square, Khan and his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, became aware of the fighter’s issues concerning the obtaining of a work visa.

David Itskowitch, chief operating officer of Golden Boy Promotions, said that Khan entered America under the country’s visa waivers program “which, for all intents and purposes,” allows its holder, “a tourist visa, which is good for ‘X’-amount of days.”

“Khan’s status while he was here training was one of a tourist while not earning money,” said Itskowitch. “In order to change your status to someone who is working, you have to leave the country, get a visa, and, then, come back.”

Khan had been holding workouts at Wild Card Boxing Club, in Hollywood, Calif., owned by his trainer, Freddie Roach, a three-time Trainer Of The Year.

But Khan was forced to leave the United States, and has been preparing for his American debut against Malignaggi (27-4, five KOs), while training under Roach in Vancouver, Canada.

“I was in training camp. Then I had to go to Vancouver to get my visa. And my visa took a long time. We had to move the whole training camp there. My head was all over the place, so I had to stay mentally strong,” said Khan, who was not granted the work visa until nine days prior to the fight.

“When I finally got my visa, I had to go back to Los Angeles again, and the, fly to New York. So I was flying a lot. I was traveling all over country, and I got a visa for 23 days that it took me three weeks to get. That could have gotten to me, but I had to work very hard not to let it bother me,” said Khan.

“I have to thank Freddie for flying all over with me,” said Khan. “One thing about Freddie, he looks at his fighters like they’re his kids. He was standing beside me all of the way through, so I have to thank him for that.”

Although Khan laments the notion that suspicion may have been heightened due to the comparisons between himself and Shahzad, he also embraces the opportunity to perhaps be an ambassador.

Khan wants to use his boxing skills to influence American opinion.

“What I want to do in this game is that, you know, I know that a lot of the Pakistani people and the Muslims are getting a bad name in the United States with the bombings and the terrorism and stuff, but not all of us are like that. Look at Amir Khan. I’m an English boxer. I’m one of the faces of boxing,” said Khan.

“And I want to do the same thing that I’ve done in the United Kingdom. I want to put a new face into boxing. I want to bring the Muslim community into boxing. Whenever you’re at an Amir Khan fight, if you come to the United Kingdom and watch me fight, you look into the crowd, and you see all different colors,” said Khan.

“You see the Asian, Chinese, Pakistanis, Muslims — you see everyone. I want to do the same in the United States,” said Khan. “As more people get to know Amir Khan, you’ll see more of that. Hopefully the Americans will love my style and I can do the same here. I want to fill out the stadiums and the arenas like I do in the United Kingdom.”

Muslim-Americans: Bracing For A Backlash

By Christopher Alessi for The Huffington Post

Adil Najam, a Pakistani-American professor at Boston University, took his 12-year-old son aside before sending him off to school last Wednesday. He told him to hold his head high, even if the other kids make fun of him and call him a terrorist.

In the days following this month’s attempted car bombing in Times Square by Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, Pakistanis and other Muslim groups in the U.S. have been taking precautions to prevent a public backlash similar to the one Muslim-Americans faced following 9/11–but they are still preparing for the worst.

“We are so grateful, thank God, that the bomb did not blow up, but the real damage here is to the Pakistani community,” Najam said. “Everyone [Pakistani-Americans] now gets ready for the office – or school – knowing he will be looked at differently.”

As a result, community leaders, such as Dr. Saud Anwar, the director of Connecticut’s branch of the Pakistani-American Public Affairs Committee, are counseling fellow Pakistanis to jump on the offensive. “We’re hoping we’re not going to be marginalized and we’re trying not to be scared, so we’re mobilizing the community to condemn the incident,” he said.

After 9/11, Anwar made a choice to be more “politically active and to build bridges with the law enforcement community.” He now works closely with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to help identify suspected terrorists. He has also encouraged his fellow Pakistanis in Connecticut to become more engaged with the police, in part to counter the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorist-sympathizers.

If Muslim-Americans don’t take an active approach, Anwar believes, they will only be further marginalized, which in turn will lead to increased “identity crises” and subsequent radicalization in the greater Muslim community–an arguably vicious and deadly cycle.

Najam also contends that Muslims are being “more vigilant against crackpots within their own communities,” by reporting them to the authorities. “We are trying to deal with incidents involving black sheep much better,” he said, referring to fellow Muslims that are suspected of harboring radical and violent agendas.

Both Najam and Anwar are trying to preemptively thwart the onslaught they say their communities faced after 9/11. Back then, both men argue, many Muslim-Americans felt they were put under a microscope by the mainstream American media and society at large. “There was a very high level of apprehension immediately after 9/11,” Najam said. “‘American-Americans’ – whatever that is – were apprehensive about Muslims, and we were internally apprehensive about how we were being viewed.”

Prof. Sinan Antoon of New York University believes that U.S. government policy and rhetoric following 9/11 only compounded the situation for Muslims. “The war on terror discourse and the manichaean view of a world populated by those who are with us and those others who are against us spelled danger and disaster for Arab and Muslim citizens or immigrants,” Antoon said. “After 9/11,” he added, “Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans were all guilty by association.”

Indeed, for many ‘ordinary’ Americans – non-Muslims, or “American-Americans,” as Najam put it – ‘Muslim’ became the codeword for ‘terrorist.’ As a result, many Muslims felt forced to take responsibility for the acts of religious (and political) fanatics who happened to share the same faith.

Antoon further argues that Muslims were easily linked with terrorists after 9/11 because “terrorism was explained in cultural and civilizational terms, not in material history and politics.” “The result,” he explained, “was for the U.S. government to absolve itself of its own responsibility in supporting foreign jihadists in the 1980s…and skirt the blame to the cultural sphere and simplify phenomena and events as simply a class of cultures.”

But Najam is optimistic that things could be different this time. He believes that mainstream American society has evolved since the time period following 9/11. “Society is more adept at handling these [terrorism incidents] as acts of criminality,” he said. Most Americans, Najam argues, no longer see the actions of individuals such as Shahzad as representative of an entire cultural or religious group.

Anwar, too, is trying to remain positive. “There are over 1 million people of Pakistani heritage in the U.S., and there was one idiot that couldn’t think straight,” he said.

“I think America is better than that–blaming the whole community.”

Media Ignore The Fact That Man Who Alerted Police To Failed Times Square Bombing Is A Muslim Immigrant

By Zaid Jilani for ThinkProgress.org

The chief suspect in the case of the failed Times Square car bombing is Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, who has confessed to the plot. Much of the media has latched onto Shahzad’s Muslim faith and his Pakistani identity, making inflammatory remarks and suggestions about Muslims and Pakistanis:

– CNN contributor and Redstate.com blogger Erick Erickson complained that the words “muslim” and “Islam” are “not mentioned” enough in stories about Shahzad. He wrote, “It really is pathetic that you’re more likely to see the words “racist” and “Republican” together in the newspaper these days than “terrorism” and “Islam.” [5/4/2010]

– Hate radio host Neal Boortz tweeted, “OMG! The Times Square Bomber is a Muslim! Shocker! Who would have believed it?” [5/4/2010]

– The cover of today’s Washington Post-published Express features a black-and-white photo of Shahzad with the sensationalist headline “MADE IN PAKISTAN” [5/5/2010]

Yet one fact being ignored in the American media’s sensationalist narrative about the failed bombing is that the man who was responsible for police finding the bomb was Muslim. The UK’s Times Online reports that Aliou Niasse, a Senagalese Muslim immigrant who works as a photograph vendor on Times Square, was the first to bring the smoking car to the police’s attention:

Aliou Niasse, a street vendor selling framed photographs of New York, said that he was the first to spot the car containing the bomb, which pulled up right in front of his cart on the corner of 45th street and Broadway next to the Marriott hotel.

“I didn’t see the car pull up or notice the driver because I was busy with customers. But when I looked up I saw that smoke appeared to be coming from the car. This would have been around 6.30pm.”

“I thought I should call 911, but my English is not very good and I had no credit left on my phone, so I walked over to Lance, who has the T-shirt stall next to mine, and told him. He said we shouldn’t call 911. Immediately he alerted a police officer near by,” said Mr Niasse, who is originally from Senegal and who has been a vendor in Times Square for about eight years.

As the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights notes, “South Asian, and Muslim communities may yield useful information to those fighting terrorism. Arabs and Arab Americans also offer the government an important source of Arabic speakers and translators. The singling out of Arabs, South Asians, Muslims, and Sikhs for investigation regardless of whether any credible evidence links them to terrorism will simply alienate these individuals and compromise the anti-terrorism effort.”

Reflecting on Niasse’s good samaritanism Muslim-American author Sumbul Ali-Karamali writes, “It’s somewhat consoling to know that the man who first noticed the smoking Nissan Pathfinder and sought help is also Muslim, a Senegalese immigrant. … I grew up Muslim in this country, with Muslim friends and non-Muslim friends, and there was very little difference between the two groups. We were all American.”

Pakistan and India- The Love-Hate Relationship of Two Brothers

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Since the bitter partition that resulted in the creation of Pakistan and India in 1947, and three subsequent wars with each other, not to mention countless near incidents, the two neighbors have not had an easy relationship, to say the least.

However, mixed in with fear and hatred towards each other is a fascination and affinity to the arch rival on the other side of the Line of Control. In fact, one could say that the two have a love-hate relationship with each other. The recent wedding of Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik to Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza is an indication to the amount of interest and hype given to the couple in media from both sides of the border, making them instantly one of the hottest and most talked about young couples in this Bollywood and glamour obsessed culture.

In Pakistani schools, children are taught very little if anything at all about Pakistan’s pre-Islamic history. Instead the children are told of the glories of the Muslim Caliphate from the time of the prophet Mohammed and then the grand rule of the Moguls of India with the construction of immortal buildings like the Taj Mahal in Agra, or the Badshahi Masjid and the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, all three built on the Islamic style of architecture. Not very much emphasis is given to the great contributions that the people of present day Pakistan made as Hindus for centuries prior to the arrival of Islam in the subcontinent.

Criticisms abound by Muslims that in India, Muslim contributions to modern India are down played or not explored in the manner they are deserved. However, In Pakistan it is well documented those Pakistani textbooks not only do not teach about Hindu history and achievements, they actually teach hatred against India and Hindus. There is an underlying culture of hate and inequality based on religious grounds that permeates in the society despite Islam teaching respect for all religions and faiths. It’s as if thinking of someone as a polytheist makes them less equal as a human.

The mindset becomes that these non believers are infidels and this somehow makes it easy to dehumanize them or in some way think them to be inferior to you as a human being. Even the current terrorism situation in Pakistan has its roots in this culture of hate and to some level a dehumanization of people of other faiths, especially non-Abrahamic like Hinduism or Buddhism. To not recognize that ancient Indian/Hindu history is also the history of Pakistan does a great injustice to the shared history of one of the most ancient of cultures.

The natural history of this region shows that the origins of the Indian/Pakistani civilization go back to the end of the last Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago, making this one of the oldest civilizations of the ancient world. This area of the world is a place which gave the world not only Hinduism, but also Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and other religions and has been a source of spiritual inspiration since the earliest of times. But maybe even more important than the contributions in the field of religion are the ancient civilization’s gifts to science and medicine.

Albert Einstein once said “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.” Indeed, Indian civilization is credited with the creation of the decimal number system, the binary numbering system, negative number, the origins of algebra, and even the all important concept mathematically of zero came from ancient Indian mathematicians.

Archaeologically, India has the most extensive and continuous record of all ancient civilizations, much more than Egypt, Sumeria or Mesopotamia of the same time periods. The ruins in Mohenjo-Daro and Taxila in modern day Pakistan point to the fact that there was a very advanced civilization present here and even the beginnings of one of the early urban settlements of the ancient world as they were remarkably constructed, considering its antiquity. Taxila is also the site of what is believed to be the first university or school of higher learning in the ancient world.

Also the ancient Vedic literature is the largest in the ancient world and contains thousands upon thousands of pages dwarfing what little has been successfully preserved by the rest of the world. This literature contains profound spiritual concepts, skills in mathematics, astronomy and medicine. Sanskrit is the mother of all European languages and Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to man.

Indian culture not only gave the world the game of chess, but was also was a place where some of the earliest innovations in the fields of surgery and advanced dentistry were developed as there is evidence of complex dental procedures being performed in the Indus valley some 8,000 years ago!

The celebrated American author Mark Twain once famously said of India that “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most constructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” And not so long ago, in a statement made by China’s former ambassador to the US, Hu Shih stated that “India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border.” This is further validated by the fact that the Indian civilization is considered unique in that it never invaded any country in the last 10,000 years of its history!

By denying its centuries old Hindu/Indian ancestry and history, modern day Pakistan is willfully abandoning its participation and hand in some of the greatest contributions made by one civilization to mankind. Not teaching children the importance of the pre-Islamic history and beginnings of what is now Pakistan is actually a disservice to its people. Also, since the ancestors of all Pakistanis were at some point or another Indian Hindus, disrespecting Hinduism and pre-Islamic Indian culture in essence disrespects one’s own ancestors!

Pakistan can learn a great deal from its ancient brother in the fields of democracy, constitutional freedoms, economic empowerment and technological advancements. A culture of hate has only bred more hate that has now begun to consume internally a nation that has for too long wearily looked outside to its larger neighbor as its chief enemy, instead of as a brother.

Fear and Mistrust of Muslims and Islam is Widespread

(Yes, this is Singer Bono from U2 in case you were wondering)

Dear Group,

Below is a response that I wrote after receiving a message from a Christian minister I thought I knew after sending  him an email to join Pakistanis for Peace on Facebook.  I don’t have his original message but he stated that Muslims are instructed by the Quran to “kill the infidels”, called Mohammad (pbuh) a “blood warrior”, said the Islam was a violent religion and Jesus is the one true Lord.

It was nice to see an email from you but I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the message.  This group is not a “Muslim” group.  Yes it is for Pakistan and yes the majority of Pakistanis are Muslim, however, the focus of this group is to promote peace in a region of the world where there is little.  These people simply want their home to be peaceful so they can send their children to school or go to the market without being blown to pieces!!  I would support a group that was promoting this in any region of the world regardless of the religion of its people or the politics of their government.  I would join Japanese for Peace, Finns for Peace, Mexicans for Peace, etc.  When the message is for peace, why would anyone NOT support the cause?

I too have read parts of the Quran along with commentary regarding it.  I own more than one copy in order to get more than one perspective.  I’ve also read material on the Sunna and the Hadiths (most people outside of Islam don’t even know what those are).  I’ve been to more than one mosque in the Orlando area and have been to countless lectures regarding Islam and the Middle East.  (I graduated with minors in Religion AND the Middle Eastern studies.)  The reason I selected those topics was because I want to educate myself in order to educate others about the misconceptions of the Middle East and of the Muslims worldwide.  You are not the first person to say these things and I’m sure you will not be the last. 

Yes there are things in the Quran that are violent but there are peaceful things as well.  The Muslim mission is not to kill all of the infidels.  All of the suicide bombers we hear about are all going to hell according to the laws of their own religion!!  Suicide in Islam is haram, or sinful.  The acts of these extremists are killing innocent people AND other Muslims so they will punished on the Day of Judgment (yes Islam has this too).  Also, Muslims are required to respect Jews and Christians because they are people of the book.  Did you know that Jesus is mentioned in the Quran more than their own prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)?  Most people don’t know that that.  Most people don’t even know that Jesus is part of Islam. 

As far as Mohammed (pbuh) is concerned, yes he fought but he did for his religion….wouldn’t you?  Would you not kill or be killed for your lord and your God?  Yes there are extremists within Islam but you can find extremist in EVERY religion….even in Christianity.  The Crusades were for the sake of God.  Convert or be killed and many were killed.  Many people don’t know that in the Ottoman Empire, which was Islamic, some leaders were not concerned with people converting to Islam.  Why?  If the people were not Muslim, they would pay a higher tax.  The Empire receives more money and the citizen worship however the please.  Does that not seem like a much more reasonable solution rather then murdering those who don’t worship as you do?  Let’s not forget, Hitler was a Christian.  Some KKK groups are Christians too and if you’re a Jew, black, Latino, Arab, gay, etc, they want you dead.  That’s not very Christian like but I would never condemn all Christians based on the behavior of a few extremists. 

The issue these days a simple lack of knowledge.  We listen to what we hear on the News and take it as gospel.  This is very dangerous.  Watch this video and you’ll understand were I’m coming from.

This should have NEVER happened! I have no underlining motive here do to the fact I do not practice Christianity OR Islam.  I just have a message of peace.  I encourage you to take another look at the religion with more of an open mind.  If you would like, I can give you the name and number of an Imam in the area that can answer questions for you and give you an endless amount of material and resources to investigate on your own.   Also, seeing that you are a religious leader within your own community, I ask that you support and promote peace as much as possible.  Peace should not be a luxury, enjoyed by only a few.  Everyone has the right to live peaceful regardless of where they live, what they look like, what language they speak or who (or what) they worship. 

Written by Pakistanis for Peace Facebook group member Alicia for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Alicia Koutsoulieris

President of Amnesty International at the University of Central Florida

Akoutsoulieris@aol.com

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