CA: Guided by Faith, Muslims Going Green

Every morning, Wasi Ahmed Yousaf, 37, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., puts on his sneakers and helmet and commutes to work on his bicycle.

Yousaf ditched his car two months ago in favor of a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.

Across the nation, Americans are replacing their gas-guzzling SUVs for fuel-efficient hybrids, recycling, conserving water, saving energy and making other lifestyle changes to help the environment.

Going green can improve your health and standard of living, save you money and ensure that you are helping reverse rather than contribute to environmental decline," said Zoë Chafe of the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization that provides information on how to build a sustainable society..

Environmentally-sustainable living, more popularly known as "going green," means being a conscious consumer in all aspects of daily life, including transportation, energy, food and shelter.

Yousaf, a practicing Muslim, embraced the green lifestyle after watching several solutions-focused messages during the Live Earth series of worldwide concerts on July 7. Live Earth started a multi-year campaign to fight climate change and promote environmentally-sustainable living.

"I realized that global warming, pollution and other environmental issues are something that everyone has to pitch in [and do something about], and it’s a serious issue, but we can still resolve it," Yousaf said.

His choice to ride a bike to work not only serves as his daily exercise, but also cuts gasoline and potential parking bills, and contributes to reducing smog and exhaust fumes in his city.

He now only fills up gas once a month and, as a result, saves $50-60 a month.

Yousaf has also made many other changes in his life.

This includes no longer using those little, white, seemingly harmless Styrofoam cups to drink coffee or water at work.

"Styrofoam is one of those materials that doesn’t get decomposed even if you leave it in the ground for 50 years," Yousaf said. "It is a non-biodegradable product.

So, why are we simply wasting it? I stopped wasting it and took a ceramic cup from home."

He’s also stopped drinking bottled water. Bottled water wastes fossil fuels and water in production and transport, and when bottled water is used, its disposal becomes a major source of waste, according to Food and Water Watch.

The group said it requires more than 47 million gallons of oil to produce plastic water bottles for Americans each year.

Instead, Yousaf has switched to Nalgene bottles, and even his kids are using them. Nalgene bottles are inexpensive and can be used over and over, and are recyclable. Yousaf has also switched to energy-efficient light bulbs and is more energy conscious in general. For example, he won’t do half loads of laundry or run a half-filled dishwasher. And standing by the faucet as the water runs in the sink or taking long showers is a no-no in the Yousaf household. (MORE)


NY Times Ethicist on Anti-Muslims Prejudice

A patient came to the E.R. where I work, and a nurse gave him a preliminary evaluation. When the patient saw my name, he refused to be examined by a Muslim doctor. I couldn’t reach his primary physician, and the other physician on call was also Muslim. A physician assistant offered to complete the evaluation, but as the patient was in no immediate danger, I did not allow this. Instead I discharged the patient without a full evaluation. Was I right? — Ali Mohamed Osman, M.D., Houston

You were right not to capitulate to religious bigotry, but you might have handled this a little differently. When the patient refused to be seen by a Muslim doctor, you should have told him that your hospital does not assign doctors based on religion — that would be both unethical and illegal — and then reiterated your willingness to examine him. If he remained obdurate, the decision to refuse treatment would have been his, not yours, a choice he has the right to make even if he does so for mutton-headed reasons.

Although the physician assistant was willing to step in, you did well to forbid it. To allow such an accommodation — Can I show you something in a nice Reform Jew? Perhaps something more Presbyterian? — is to abet religious discrimination.

Still, I am uneasy with your discharging this fellow without a full evaluation.

As you no doubt know, there are legal requirements for examining and releasing an E.R. patient. While he may have been in no danger at that time, he could have laid subsequent problems at your door.

To your credit, you showed admirable restraint by not pushing the patient’s gurney down a flight of steps as a less temperate person (me) might have — raising the question of why an intemperate person with no medical training (me) was working in the E.R.


Magazines Put Muslim Culture on Display

They critique foreign policy, discuss teen fashion and deal with women's empowerment, just like so many other magazines fanned across the shelves of American newsstands.

These, however, have names like Islamica, Muslim Girl and Azizah. High-quality, with glossy covers, modern layouts and polished writing, the publications represent the rising voices of American Muslims eager to participate in Western society's media dialogue.

Observers say these new Muslim-American publications, both online and print, point to a maturity in the community and a desire to address what it views as imperfect representation in the mainstream media.

"There is a tendency on the part of non-Muslims to view Muslims as a monolithic 'other,' and the need to exhibit the many dimensions of Muslims was very important to me," said M. Salahuddin Khan, the Chicago area-based publisher of Islamica. "In so doing, we are communicating the essential humanity of Muslims."

The publications and Web sites, which also include Muslim Family and Islamic Horizons, are trying to discuss Muslim culture in the intellectual and social contexts of the West.

"I think there is a whole wave of new publications that are arriving from the second generation with a great urge to express themselves," said Ihsan Bagby, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky. "They're trying to lay out a viewpoint that corresponds to that second-generation mentality: more moderate, more engaged in society."

A recent issue of Islamica, which is produced internationally and is available at Barnes and Noble and Borders, looks at the impact of Al Jazeera, the Middle Eastern TV news station, on the global media market. In the style of Atlantic Monthly, the quarterly magazine was launched as an academic journal at the London School of Economics before it was reinvented as a more mainstream publication in 2004.

"The goal is to take a multidimensional view of Muslims and Muslim culture and present it in a format that is appealing, to kind of broaden the way people think about issues related to Muslim culture, religion and thought," deputy editor Firas Ahmad said. "We are trying to do it in a holistic way ... and we try and balance the content of each issue with things like travel writing and pictorial essays." (MORE)


AK: Scholars Dig into Muslim Culture

A new Alaska Pacific University project is giving Alaskans an opportunity to study and discuss Muslim culture.

"Engaging Muslims: Religion, Cultures, Politics" is the work of Regina Boisclair, Cardinal Newman Chair of Catholic Theology at APU -- along with UAA, Wayland Baptist University, the Islamic Community Center of Anchorage Alaska and others.

The Newman Chair received a $300,000 grant from Larry and Wilma Carr to develop a program on religion and public life.

To decide how to spend the money, Boisclair and others met with members of the Anchorage religious community to select a topic. The project kicked off in August with a series of standing-room-only lectures by John Borelli, an expert in interreligious dialogue from Georgetown University.

"We wanted to get the community to start thinking about how to work this into their yearlong programming," project director Mary-Margaret Stein said of the fall lectures. "There was almost a sigh of relief that someone is ready to start talking about this."

Recently, Boisclair talked about the project in her office in Grant Hall on the APU campus. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Q. What spurred you to develop this project?

A. We're at war in two Muslim countries, we have a growing Muslim population in the United States. Islam, if it isn't already, is close to being the second-largest religion in the United States. We have a large community of Muslims in Anchorage, and we have no Muslim scholars or scholars of Islam in this state. It seemed appropriate to use this money on ... something we don't have the resources to put together ourselves locally on a topic that is never going to go away.

Q. Why is it important for the general public to understand Islam?

A. So that they don't go around thinking Muslims worship another god, so they don't go around thinking these people are evil, so they come to recognize that the Muslim world condemns terrorism.

Westerners have a long history of prejudice, suspicion and fear of Islam going back thousands of years. But Islam is part of the of the family tradition -- it's one of the three Middle Eastern monotheisms, of which Judaism and Christianity are the others. They all have one god, anointed humans, sacred texts, community who observe prayer, fasting and alms-giving and go on pilgrimage. What we have is difficulties in the family. (MORE)


WI: Author Calls Israel-Palestine Conflict ‘Apartheid’

Israeli human rights activist and author Jeff Halper argues that in the Israel-Palestine conflict the two-state solution is dead and that apartheid has taken over.

Jimmy Carter let the genie out of the bottle with his recent book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," but Halper has been using the same language for years.

"We use apartheid in a very precise way. We don't use it as a slogan. We have been very careful about it. Apartheid is a system that can't be exported," Halper told a group of about 40 people during a talk Sunday at Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg.

An apartheid system is one of separation in which one population separates itself from the others, Halper said. "And that's what Israel calls its policy."

The other element of apartheid is domination, he said. "One population separates itself from the others and then dominate them. Permanently and institutionally."

Israel's offer to withdraw from 95 percent of the West Bank will create not peace, but rather a Palestinian prison state, said Halper, who has been called "a Jewish anti-Semite."

Halper is a Minnesota native who has lived in Israel for 35 years. Formerly an anthropology professor at Haifa and Ben-Gurion Universities, he co-founded the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions to challenge and resist the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian homes. The organization was founded in 1997 after Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister on a right wing, security-heavy platform.

Israelis have been moving into the occupied Palestinian territories -- which includes the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem -- through settlement construction and land confiscation. At the same time, Palestinian population growth has been confined to small "islands" within those territories. (MORE)


Neocons Converge Around Giuliani Campaign

Neocons can't help but slink around Washington, D.C. The Iraq War has given the neoconservatives—who favor the assertive use of American power abroad to spread American values—something of a bad name, and several of the Republican candidates seem less than eager to hire them as advisers. But Rudy Giuliani apparently never got that memo. One of the top foreign-policy consultants to the leading GOP candidate is Norman Podhoretz, a founding father of the neocon movement.

Podhoretz is in favor of bombing Iran because of the country's unwillingness to suspend its uranium-enrichment program. He also believes America is engaged in a "world war" with "Islamofascism" and that Giuliani is the only man who can win it. "I decided to join Giuliani's team because his view of the war—what I call World War IV—is very close to my own," Podhoretz tells NEWSWEEK. (World War III, in his view, was the cold war.) "And also because he has the qualities of a wartime leader, including a fighting spirit and a determination to win."

Giuliani clearly hopes this image, born of his heroic performance on 9/11, can carry him to the GOP nomination and to the White House. But is he really the candidate who will "keep Americans safer" if his primary tactic is to go "on offense" in the "long war," as he often puts it in his campaign stump speech? Critics will say that the neocons already tried that—in Iraq. Still, what's left of the neocon movement does seem to be converging around the Giuliani campaign, to some degree, because he embraces their common themes: a willingness to use military power, a tendency to group all radical Islamist groups together as a common enemy, strong support for Israel and an aggressive posture toward Iran. "He's positioning himself as the neo-neocon," jokes Richard Holbrooke, a top foreign-policy adviser to Hillary Clinton.

Among the core consultants surrounding Giuliani: Martin Kramer, who has led an attack on U.S. Middle Eastern scholars since 9/11 for being soft on terrorism; Stephen Rosen, a hawkish professor at Harvard who advocates major new spending on defense and is close to prominent neoconservative Bill Kristol; former Wisconsin senator Bob Kasten, who often sided with the neocons during the Reagan era and was an untiring supporter of aid to Israel, and Daniel Pipes, who has advocated for the racial profiling of Muslim Americans. (He's argued that the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was not the moral offense it's been portrayed as, though he doesn't say Muslims should suffer the same.) (MORE)


CAIR-NJ: More Districts Closing on Muslim Holidays

In Paterson, there has been no school on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur for years. But now the schools are also closed on the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr (the end of the month of fasting for Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha (the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca).
Prospect Park schools generally close for the first and last days of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha. Atlantic City added two Muslim holidays to its school calendar in the last three years. And this year, for the first time, Cliffside Park will close Thursday to observe the end of Ramadan.
With significant demographic changes taking place in many communities, school officials struggle annually with the school calendar. The movement toward Muslim holidays is small but growing in New Jersey.
The shift to Muslim holidays is not widespread in the region, despite sizable Muslim populations in some cities. The school board associations on Long Island and in Connecticut and Westchester said they knew of no districts that closed for Muslim holidays.
But New Jersey, with a Muslim population estimated at 400,000, has been different. Districts like Paterson probably have thousands of Muslim students, said Hani Y. Awadallah, a chemistry professor at Montclair State University and president of the 10-year-old Arab American Civic Organization.
“This is really a trend that is taking off,” Dr. Awadallah said of the school holidays. “I think you will see this across the country.”
Twenty years ago it was not unusual for many districts to have only the Christian holidays on their calendars, and districts with high Jewish populations also took off on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, said Barry Ersek, interim executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.
While the state and education associations do not track holiday calendars in schools, educators agree that many more districts have added Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in the last 10 years and about a dozen districts have added Muslim holidays.
“It's based on community needs, and every community is different,” Dr. Ersek said. “You have to be sensitive to your community and their needs. The calendar can be controversial.” . . .
Districts like Cliffside Park that added a Muslim holiday “have come a long way,” said Afsheen Shamsi, community relations director for the New Jersey office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“We are hoping that more school districts will take off the Muslim holidays,” she said. “America is a country where we bring together people of diverse faiths. New Jersey is a great state and attracts people of diverse backgrounds.” (MORE)


CAIR-MI: Jews, Muslims Meet to Discuss Their Faiths

Sometimes it takes a coincidence to spark a good idea.
That's why a group of Jews and Muslims gathered Friday evening at the Ann Arbor home of Aaron and Aura Ahuvia to pray, break bread and learn about what their faiths have in common.
The coincidence was the starting dates this year of one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah (or the Jewish New Year), and Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting and spiritual reflection. Ramadan started on Sept. 13. The celebration of Rosh Hashanah started on Sept. 12, followed by Yom Kippur Sept. 22.
"We wanted to jointly have something together since it's the peak spiritual season for both our faiths,” said Dawud Walid of Detroit, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, who attended the gathering.
A similar gathering took place last year, he said.
Both groups offered prayers Friday, and Muslims at the gathering broke the fast they had been keeping since before sunrise.
"I think I want to be where people are making a bridge between different communities,” said Odile Hugonot-Haber of Ann Arbor, another participant at the gathering. “We have more in common than we have apart.''
Tammam Alwan, a Michigan State University student who grew up in West Bloomfield, said getting together to discuss the similarities between the two religions would "further understanding between two very important faiths in (America).”
While political conflict between Jews and Muslims in the Mideast may be a backdrop to Jewish-Muslim relations in this country, the focus Friday was on the spiritual commonalties. In particular, the group planned to focus on the story of Moses and the Jewish captivity in Egypt, Walid said.
"Moses is the most mentioned prophet in the Koran,” he said. (MORE)


IL: Muslim Moms Join Forces, Open Law Firm

When asked what kind of attorney she is, Janaan Hashim has a sharp reply.

"A good one," Hashim said with a laugh.

She is one of six attorneys in a new, all-female, all-Muslim, all-working-mother law firm in Palos Heights. The women named their venture Amal Law Group.

"Amal," which is Arabic for "hope," is what these attorneys hope to bring to their clients.

Ranging in age from 27 to 40, the women practice a variety of specialties. Their law firm will offer general litigation, family law, immigration and civil rights law and more.

Family law and real estate attorney Maryam Khan said the firm's makeup will seem a little unusual to some clients.

"I think we're breaking quite a few stereotypes," Khan said.

Despite the characteristics they share as Muslim American women, the lawyers have many differences - beginning with appearance.

Rima Kapitan, an employment and estate planning attorney, and Majdel Musa, a business and real estate lawyer, do not wear the traditional hijab that adorns the heads of some Muslim women. They also don't look like what many might expect.

Kapitan - who has short, strawberry-blond hair and freckles -is a bi-racial Palestinian-American. Musa, who has a Belgian mother and Palestinian father, also doesn't have what many might consider typical features. Musa believes that's why she hasn't experienced much prejudice.

"I haven't experienced a lot of discrimination because I don't necessarily look Arab," Musa said.

Hashim said she has been pleasantly surprised to find many people have a positive reaction to her as a Muslim attorney.

Nikia Bilal, who practices general litigation and family law, said not every experience is negative and, at times, individuals try to overcompensate.

"There is that instantaneous 'who are you, and what's your purpose here?'" Bilal said. "(Sometimes) people try to prove how open-minded they are."

Heena Musabji, who practices immigration law, hasn't encountered much discrimination because of her faith. More often, Musabji said, it's because of her gender.

At her former job, she said, clients expected her to work twice as hard as male counterparts to prove herself - particularly with male clients.

Many reacted as if they were thinking, "Oh, you're the women taking my case," Musabji said.

Khan, who wears a hijab, said some clients judge her based on appearance.

"The only difference between me and the next attorney is the cloth on my head," she said. "Which makes everyone else think that my IQ is lower, which it is not." (MORE)


TX: Islamophobe to Protest Muslim Family Day

A Florida-based group called Americans Against Hate plans to protest a Muslim Family Day at Six Flags Over Texas later this month because it says the Islamic organization sponsoring the event supports terrorism.

Local Muslims called the accusation a lie.

"They have an agenda and they have a focus, and that is to absolutely tear down any Muslim organization that has any level of promise in America," said Khalil Meek of Plano, president of the Muslim Legal Fund of America. "I'm not surprised they're doing it, and I don't even want to talk about them because the more hype they get, the more voice they get. I'd rather just ignore them and pray they grow up and learn how to become responsible people."

The demonstration may be easy to ignore – and miss. Fewer than 50 people have turned out for other protests, according to the group's chairman, Joe Kaufman.

He said education, not turnout, is what's important.

"We believe this organization is a threat to the city and a threat to the United States because of its ties to overseas terrorism, because of their financing of overseas terrorism," he said.

Mr. Kaufman says the Islamic Circle of North America was founded three decades ago as an American arm of the terrorist group Muslim Brotherhood of Pakistan and funnels money to Hamas.

Mohammad Barney, president of the Dallas chapter of ICNA, said the accusations are troubling and untrue. According to its Web site, ICNA supports Islamic culture and education while promoting justice and understanding.

"It's disturbing that they are writing false statements like that," said Mr. Barney. "People have the right to say whatever they want, but that doesn't make it true."

The Anti-Defamation League – a pro-Jewish group – seems to agree. ICNA is not listed as a threat on its Web site.

"We don't involve ourselves in that kind of activity," said Mark Briskman, regional director of the league, who said his group would not participate in the protest. "He made a lot of claims ... without clear documentation of those claims. His statements are problematic."

A spokesman for the Dallas FBI office would not comment, but the former director of the local office said agents weigh accusations carefully.

"Anybody in today's world can make any kind of allegation; they can throw anything out there and hope it sticks," said Danny Defenbaugh, who led the Dallas office from 1998 to 2002. "But if somebody makes allegations and can't provide any substantive evidence, the FBI is not going to waste its time. Why should they?" (MORE)