This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3557
August 2, 2008
Barack Obama's New Muslim Advisor Cements Campaign's Ties To Terror Friendly Organizations
By BEILA RABINOWITZ and WILLIAM MAYER
August 1, 2008 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - In a desperate attempt to win Muslim votes and to overcome a recent PR debacle - a June 16 Barack Obama rally in Detroit during which the campaign moved two women who were wearing hijab so they would not appear in images featuring the candidate - his campaign has announced the appointment of a "liaison" to the Arab and Muslim community, Mazen Asbahi.
Asbahi's Islamist credentials are reflected by the enthusiasm with which the news was greeted by American Islamists, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council [MPAC] which stated:
"Mr. Asbahi will further the Obama campaigns outreach efforts and participation of the Muslim American community MPAC is confident that Mr. Asbahi will encourage Muslim Americans to be civically engaged." [source, http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=673]
Understanding MPAC's MO, "Civically engaged" should be interpreted as a euphemism for implementing shari'a; the organization's goals having been characterized by Dr. Daniel Pipes as:
"Impeding counterterrorism efforts and forwarding an Islamist vision of America..." [source, http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2004/07/the-difference-between-cair-and-mpac.html]
In testimony delivered before the House Foreign Relations Committee just yesterday, noted terror authority Steven Emerson observed about MPAC:
"Marayati has repeatedly justified the actions of Hizbollah before the Department of State invited him as a speaker. In November 1999, on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Marayati responded to accusations that he supports Hizbollah, "If the Lebanese people are resisting Israeli intransigence on Lebanese soil, then that is the right of resistance and they have the right to target Israeli soldiers in this conflict. That is not terrorism. That is a legitimate resistance." [source, Steven Emerson Testimony, U.S. House Committe On Foreign Affairs, pg. 4]
The constellation of organizations to which Mr. Asbahi is linked should give pause for concern.
For example, Asbahi, a Chicago lawyer, is on the speakers list of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA] [see, http://www.isna.net/Programs/pages/Speakers-Services.aspx#17].
ISNA is widely understood to be linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, the terrorist Egyptian group that created Hamas. ISNA was named last summer as an unindicted co-conspirator in the nation's largest terror prosecution, U.S. vs Holy Land Foundation and is the largest Saudi funded da'wa enterprise in North America. [source, http://www.nysun.com/article/55778?access=284047]
Asbahi's ISNA biography reveals that he is involved in numerous Islamist organizations including the Nawawi Foundation [a da'wa organization run by a convert to Islam which presents all of history from an Islamist perspective] as well as the National Association of Muslim Lawyers [NAML] which has close ties to the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR], which has been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas as well as having been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the ongoing Holy Land prosecution.
According to his ISNA bio, Asbahi also, "serves as a member of the board of directors of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding," [ISPU].
The ISPU's Islamist roots run deep.
Muktedar Khan, a prominent Islamist and fellow at ISPU, testified before Congress [see, http://www.ispu.org/policy_briefs/articledetailpb-8.html] absurdly claiming that Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, "is struggling for independence," and that Hezbollah is only, "motivated by geopolitics," and does not share, "political goals with Al Qaeda."
The National Association of Muslim Lawyers often serves as the legal mouthpiece for terror friendly groups such as CAIR and ISNA and recently petitioned the Attorney General to remove, both CAIR and ISNA from their designation as co-conspirators in the Holy Land case.
The appointment of Mazen Asbahi to be Obama's liason to Arab and Muslims is another indication of Obama's worrying associations. With Islamist Asbahi at the helm of the campaign's outreach effort to Muslims it is clear that an Obama presidency would give groups like MPAC and ISNA intimate access to key government decision makers and bring the "United States of Allah," one step closer to reality .
MIM: Mazen Asbahi's message to Obama supporters.
Assalamu-Aleikum. My name is Mazen Asbahi and I've been blessed and privileged to be serving the Obama for America Campaign as the National Coordinator for Muslim American Affairs. I'm also coordinating Arab American matters. I'm treating the two roles separately as these are two separate constituencies, though of course there is some overlap.
In order to get Senator Obama elected, the Campaign needs all of you to continue your support and if possible to take it to another level. It's a race for every vote in the key battleground states, such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio. We need Muslim Americans to get excited about the Campaign, and there's a lot to get excited about!
Sure, there have been mis-steps. And of course there are added sensitivities with our faith given the "smear" campaign trying to paint the Senator as too exotic and too un-American to be President.
If you have not plugged into the Campaign, please do. The Campaign makes it very easy to do. Visit your local Obama offices and register voters, raise money, get the word out, and pull in your friends and family to also participate.
Please feel free to contact me with ideas, critiques and suggestions for improvements on our outreach strategies. (Please keep in mind that I've just signed on :)).
Mazen Asbahi | National Coordinator for Muslim American Affairs | Obama for America | firstname.lastname@example.org | 312.933.5423 cell
MIM: Mazen Asbahi's speakers biography on the ISNA website.
Mazen Asbahi is a senior associate at the law firm of Schiff Hardin LLP in its corporate & securities and intellectual property groups. Mr. Asbahi serves as general counsel to a number of nonprofit entities and is active with a variety of civic, educational and charitable groups. Mr. Asbahi serves as a member of the board of directors of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), as director of publications for the Nawawi Foundation and as a member of the Auxiliary Board of the Chicago Legal Clinic. He is a 2007 Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and has previously served as president of the Muslim Bar Association of Chicago. He also serves on the Charities Advisory Committee of Muslim Advocates, the charitable sister organization to the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML).
Mr. Asbahi received his undergraduate degree in political science and Islamic studies, with highest honors, from the University of Michigan in 1996. He attended the Northwestern University School of Law, where he received his law degree, cum laude, in 2000.
MIM: The forum which Mazen Ashabi moderated at the 44th ISNA convention is highlighted. Among the panelists was the radical Imam Zaid Shakir who has made a CD to clarify the difference between Jihad and the concept of terrorism, which according to him does not exist in Islam.
"The enemies of Islam have linked [Jihad and Terrorism] together as far as we Muslims are concerned, by trying to make one synonymous with the other. They say that Jihad is irresponsible, random, senseless, violence, and terrorism is Jihad... The two are not synonymous; they can't be synonymous." -- Imam Zaid Shakir
Among the topics on the CD are:
-If the enemies of Islam attack Muslim civilians, can we attack non-Muslim civilians?
-What is the role of Muslims living amongst non-Muslims in the West?
-Jihad and terrorism, objective or subjective?
-What is the meaning of the word Jihad?
-Are we obliged to stay in the West?
-Who sanctions Jihad?
-World Trade Center Bombing!
-Should we vote?
-Hijra or Jihad?
44th Annual ISNA Convention Webcast
Please click on the session title to view the main session webcast.
Friday Main session webcast:
3:00 4:30 PM Inaugural Session Hall A
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Ingrid Mattson
Muslim Students Association (MSA) Asma Mirza
Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) Zaki Barzinji
Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE) Khurshid A. Qureshi
Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA) Nadeem Kazi
Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) Ashraf Sufi
Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA) Safaa Zarzour
Convention Program Azhar Azeez
Convention Abdul Wahab
Steering Committee Abdul Malik Mujahid
Moderator: Azhar Azeez
5:00 6:30 PM Session 1A: In the Footsteps of the Beloved: From Emulation to Internalization Hall A
While undoubtedly loving the Prophet Muhammad (s) is a universal claim among Muslims, there is often a disproportionate correlation between this professed love and the actual implementation of his spiritual and moral example in our daily lives. Indeed he is the model of perfection to be followed in all aspects of life. However, this emulation should entail more than a rote mimicking his actions. True love means internalizing not only his Sunnah, but truly embodying his very character. It involves an emotional connection with him that should serve as the motivational factor in inculcating and nurturing faith in our daily life. This session will both explain the importance of loving the beloved Prophet (s) and illuminate ways in which we can truly exemplify this love in our daily life.
Speakers: Muhammad Nur Abdullah, Mokhtar Maghraoui, Zaid Shakir
Moderator: Mazen Asbahi
8:30 - 10:15 PM Session 2A: Righting the Wrongs: Faith and Social Justice Hall A
While one of the most basic teachings of Islam is the obligation of working for social justice in society, we are often too involved in our personal lives or too removed from the reality of injustices, to devote attention to this essential part of our faith. Professing faith alone and ignoring the broader social concerns through a notion of insulated protection, is not only impractical, but insincere to our Divine obligation. This session will elucidate Islamic principles relating to social justice, with the aim of awakening our social consciousness through a deepening of our faith. Speakers will identify commonalities with American concepts of justice and address some particular areas needing our focus, such as, racial and gender justice, civil liberties, and economic justice and equity.
Speakers: David Cole, Siraj Wahhaj, Ebrahim Moosa
Moderator: Syed Imtiaz Ahmad
Saturday Main session webcast:
9:00 10:30 a.m. Session 3A: The Family Fortune: From Theory to Practice Hall A
Strong and harmonious families form the foundation of a healthy society. However, reality is often far from this ideal as families struggle to balance the needs between husbands and wives, and youth and elders, while trying to cope with the challenges of the contemporary world. Although Islam places important emphasis on kindness to and the rights of all family members, and while it clearly advocates the principle "the best of you is best to their family", there is sometimes a disconnect between upholding faith and people's behavior in their private family life. This session will highlight Islamic principles as well as offer concrete suggestions for addressing some of the major challenges confronting families today, including generation gap, general family discord, and the often hidden topic of domestic violence.
Speakers: Aisha Al-Adawiyya, Altaf Husain, Safaa Zarzour
Moderator: Ghulam Bakali
10:45 a.m. 12:00 p.m Session 4A: Serving the Community: From Theory to Practice Hall A
As annunciated by this year's theme "Upholding Faith, Serving Community", there is a clear connection between faith and service to others. While indeed one's faith is a personal endeavor, an extension of that faith is one's actions towards others, as elucidated by numerous verses and prophetic traditions. While many Muslims uphold this theory in principle, there is often a gap between theory and practice. This session will examine some of the Islamic precepts that emphasize the importance of community service, while also providing actual models and examples of such principles in action on the local, national, and global level. Emphasis will be placed on the methodology used to identify and effectively serve the needs of different communities.
Speakers: Sherman Abd al-Hakim Jackson, Muneer Fareed, Rami Nashishibi, Anwar Khan
Moderator: Parvez Ahmed
2:45- 4:00 p.m. Session 5A: Faith in Practice: Understanding Basic Principles of Fiqh Hall A
It is not the first time Muslims have existed as a minority in a non-Muslim polity. Our predecessors who found themselves a religious minority navigated the social, political, cultural, and legal constructs of their hosts to engender a communal reality that was at once coherent with their own reality and sincere to their faith. These communities engaged the basic principles of fiqh as they proceeded to organically create their indigenous identity. This session will examine some of these basic principles that should equip us to make some of the decisions we are faced with daily on our own, while addressing some of the unique aspects of the Fiqh of Minorities, with an emphasis on Muslims in America.
Speakers: Yusuf Kavakci, Zainab Alwani, Muzammil Siddiqi
Moderator: Iqbal Unus
4:30 6:00 p.m Session 6A: From the Margins to the Mainstream: Effective Outreach Hall A
Misrepresentations and bias about Islam and Muslims has never been more pervasive, today with Islamophobia on the rise across the world. Both detractors of Islam, and Muslims misappropriating the religion create false impressions daily. There has never been a greater need for understanding and dialogue than today, but there are major and serious challenges from both sides. The opportunities for creating this understanding are numerous, whether through interfaith, education, dialogue, personal relations, or the media, but the urgency of this obligation requires the participation of more than a few groups or individuals. This session emphasizes the need for this critical work, the importance of understanding and addressing one's audience, and practical steps and that can be taken by each one of us.
Speakers: Ibrahim Hooper, Sayyid M. Syeed, Kareem Irfan, Salam Al-Marayati
Moderator: Wafa Unus
8:15 10:30 p.m. Session 7A: Upholding Faith, Serving Humanity Hall A
This session aims to address the main theme of the convention. Our duty as Muslims is to represent the true meaning of Islam while. By reaching out to the broader community we serve not only the underprivileged and underrepresented but also revitalize our souls through action. As tensions continue to increase throughout the world, we as North American Muslims have a unique opportunity rarely found elsewhere to serve our community with assurances of security and freedom. Using the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) as our shining example, this session aims through diverse, informed, and unique speakers - to motivate, inspire, and move us beyond mere words and rhetoric, to truly living a way of life dedicated to serving God by serving humanity.
Speakers: Ingrid Mattson, Siraj Wahhaj, Zaid Shakir, Hamza Yusuf, Keith Ellison , Abdalla Idris Ali, Asma Mirza, Zaki Barzinji
Moderator: Altaf Husain
Sunday Main session webcast:
9:00 10:30 a.m. Session 8A: Connecting to God: Finding Our Spiritual Compass Hall A
One of the greatest challenges for people of faith today is finding the time and means to nourish their faith, while cultivating their relationship with God in the face of numerous diversions and distractions that preoccupy an increasing part of our lives. Additionally challenging is the trend towards limiting the influence of religion in the public square and navigating the often conflicting aspects of our lives. As Muslims who attempt to find balance between the terrestrial and the celestial, these realities can not be ignored. At the core of our collective concern is how to keep God front and center in both public and private, intra- and inter-communal, and personal and professional realities. This session will aim to understand what Muslims believe about God as well as how that belief relates to some of the mundane, philosophical, and epistemological concerns of our times.
Speakers: Umar F. Abd-Allah, Abdullah Adhami, Maha Hamoui
Moderator: Ghulam Nabi Mir
11:00 a.m. 12:30 p.m. Session 9A: Finding Unity within Our Diversity Hall A
Diversity of opinion has been the cornerstone of our rich intellectual discourse in Islam. However, divergent opinions have sometimes resulted in major divisions within the community. Achieving unity beyond mere rhetoric requires open and honest conversations on the reasons behind the division. Moreover, this discussion must focus on similarities from which an understanding of the other can be achieved. Although this discussion is vital to have between specific groups such as the Shi'a and Sunni communities in America, this is an important conversation that can benefit various diverse groups in the Muslim American community.
Speakers: Ihsan Bagby, Hamid Mavani, Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, Abdul Malik Mujahid (CIOGC Presentation)
Moderator: Louay Safi
4:30-6:00 p.m. Session 11A: Stewards Over the Earth: Faith and the Environment Hall A
Today the earth is faced with one of the most catastrophic threats in its history: global warming. This phenomenon has the potential to wreak havoc on every aspect of our lives if steps are not taken to curb greenhouse gases. Added to this are numerous other devastating affects of unchecked modernity, such as water and air pollution, deforestation, diminishing resources, extinction of species, and a plethora of other environmental problems. The Qur'an contains hundreds of references to nature and creation as signs of God and a bounty for humankind and humans' role as stewards over this earth. This session will examine numerous environmental principals illustrated in Islam, explain the concepts of stewardship and ecology, and identify concrete steps we can take collectively to address this serious crisis.
Speakers: Ameena Jandali, Jamal Badawi, Hakim Archuletta
Moderator: Sami Catovic
MIM: In 2006 Asbahi spoke at the ISNA Leadership Development Center Washington Conference.
For more on ISNA see: "CAIR and ISNA named as part of criminal conspiracy in Hamas funding case -link to U.S. government indictment" http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2951
Leadership Track at ISNA Washignton Conference
The ISNA Leadership Development Center (ILDC) successfully delivered its Leadership Track during the 2006 ISNA East Zone conference on May 27 29, 2006 in Washington DC. The track consisted of four sessions conducted over the two day period.
Dr. Rafik Beekun, Professor of Management and Strategy and former chair of the Managerial Sciences Department at the University of Nevada, presented on Team Building in Islamic Organizations highlighting the importance of team spirit and demonstrating how Islamic organizations can develop effective teams. His lecture was followed by Dr. Louay Safi, Executive Director of ILDC, session titled Compassionate Leadership and Community Empowerment which focused on the role of community leaders in setting the tone for an open atmosphere that invites cooperation and involvement among community leaders. The last two sessions were continued on Sunday with joint presentations by Dr. Rafik Beekun and Mazen Asbahi, senior associate at the law firm of Goldberg Kohn in its corporate and intellectual property groups. Both Dr. Beekun and Mr. Asbahi presented on Enhancing Your Islamic Organization's Board of Directors and Improving Transparency and Accountability in Muslim Non-Profits. Both of these interactive sessions focused on discussing duties of the boards and providing a number of important business and legal tools that can be used to enhance ones board of directors.
These four sessions were attended by nearly 35 participants including community leaders, social activist, teachers and directors of mosque boards. Resources shared in the presentations were made available for the participants. The program was designed to provide an integrated exposure to leadership and management skills, challenges and issues facing the growing Muslim community, and well as share knowledge of Islamic principles in their application in North America.
This was the first time the Leadership Track was implemented in an ISNA conference. Due to the success of the initiative and the positive feedback, the Leadership Track will be continued in the other ISNA regional and zonal conferences. http://www.ildc.net/ildc-news/2006/6/7/leadership-track-at-isna-washignton-conference.html
MIM: Asbahi also chairs the "Charities Advisory Committee of Muslim Advocates which is the sister organisation of NAML the National Association of Muslim Lawyers a group which seeks to Islamise the American legal system.
MIM: About NAML
The National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML) is the national representative of the Muslim legal profession. NAML serves Muslims, the public and the legal profession by promoting justice for all peoples and improvements in American laws and the American justice system.
NAML believes that sustained involvement in the executive, legislative and judicial decision-making processes is essential to the long-term well-being and successful integration of Muslims into American society. The Muslim community's interests are best protected by those with an understanding of and respect for the law, legal process, and the role of the legal profession in developing, enforcing and changing the law. NAML intends to promote meaningful access to legal representation for Muslims, and in turn to promote full, fair and equal participation by Muslims in American society overall. http://www.namlnet.org/missionstatement.php
MIM: The mission statement of Muslim Advocates.
After several years of volunteer operation, the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML) is extremely pleased to announce the expansion of its advocacy and educational operations to serve the needs of the Muslim American community and, in turn, to defend our nation's founding principles. Beginning this summer of 2005, NAML appointed its first full-time executive director and launched a new charitable sister organization, Muslim Advocates.
Muslim Advocates envisions a world in which equality, liberty, and justice are guaranteed for all, regardless of faith, and in which the Muslim American legal community is vital to promoting and protecting these values. In pursuit of this vision, Muslim Advocates' mission is to promote equality, liberty, and justice for all by providing leadership through legal advocacy, policy engagement, and civic education, and by serving as a legal resource to promote the full and meaningful participation of Muslims in American public life.
The events of September 11, 2001, and their aftermath presented an overwhelming challenge to the Muslim American community. In this new environment, sophisticated and well-orchestrated advocacy and educational campaigns by Muslim Americans are essential to ensure that we remain entitled to the same rights and protections guaranteed to every American.
Muslim American lawyers, who understand U.S. legal, legislative, and political systems, bring a much-needed perspective and vital skill sets to the table. Lending such knowledge and expertise, we seek to partner with both lawyers and non-lawyers in the Muslim community, as well as all Americans, regardless of faith background, who share our commitment to liberty, justice and equality for all.
Muslim Advocates is a public, tax-exempt charity under Section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
We invite your support and participation in this exciting new phase of our growth and development. http://www.muslimadvocates.org/about/main.html
MIM: The mission statement of the Nawawi Foundation where Mazen Asbahi is director of publications. Ingrid Mattson, the president of the Islamic Society of North America sits on the board of directors.http://www.nawawi.org/aboutus/board.html
The Nawawi Foundation supports the work of the noted American Muslim scholar Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah and his vision of building a successful American Muslim cultural identity.
This vision is based on Dr. Abd-Allah's extensive knowledge and expertise in the fields of Islamic studies and the history of Islam in America.
The Foundation increases American Islamic cultural and religious literacy by publishing literature and creating life experiences through traveling abroad. The Foundation's writings are respected by academics, accepted in traditional circles, and easily accessed and understood by the public.
Our organized international cultural-immersion trips provide fun-with-learning opportunities for American Muslims to recognize and appreciate their role in the American and global Muslim communities.
MIM: A Facebook post by Asbahi to Obama supporters.Post #1 Mazen wroteon Aug 1, 2008 at 4:35 PM All -
Please visit the new Arab Americans page at www.barackobama.com, and join the email listserve "National Arab Americans for Obama."
Arab Americans all around the country are working within their communities to get everyone excited about an Obama presidency and registered to vote.
Folks: There's a lot to get excited about!
National Coordinator for Arab American Affairs
Obama for America
MIM: The home page of Arab Americans for Obama
We are a community of Arab Americans who are working nationwide to elect Senator Barack Obama the next President of our nation. We believe in Senator Obama's message of hope, action and change. We believe that Senator Obama has the judgment to lead and the courage to renew America's promise.
Senator Obama is committed to the issues that our community cares deeply about: civil rights, profiling, a just peace to the Arab-Israeli conflict, a wise withdrawal from Iraq, closing Guantanamo, immigration reform and promoting human and civil rights in the Arab World.
We also care deeply about building an America where the American Dream is open to all - immigrant and non-immigrant alike. We recognize the urgent need to be a part of the movement to bring positive change to Washington and to the nation.
Barack believes that if we can put an end to partisan politics, bring people together, and recognize that what unites us is greater than what divides us - then we can make fundamental change possible in our country.
Whether it is ending the Iraq war, providing universal health care, making college tuition more affordable, placing a quality teacher in every classroom, providing meaningful support for small business or making "equal justice under the law" a reality for every citizen, we believe that you can have confidence in the courage, sound judgment, and leadership of Senator Barack Obama.
Many Arab Americans across the country are working hard to get Barack elected. Let's join together and with others and build a better America for our children and their children. http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/aahome
MIM: The Muslim Public Affairs Council announcement welcoming the appointment of Mazen Asbahi.
Obama Appoints National Coordinator for Muslim American Affairs
July 28, 2008
The Muslim Public Affairs Council welcomes the appointment of Mazen Asbahi as the National Coordinator for Muslim American Affairs for the Obama 08 Presidential Campaign. Mr. Asbahi will further the Obama campaigns outreach efforts and participation in the Muslim American community. He will be based in Chicago at the campaigns headquarters.
Additionally, he will serve as the National Coordinator of Arab American Affairs. MPAC looks forward to working with Muslim and Arab American organizations to develop a united effort to maximize our representation in the electoral process.
Asbahi is a senior associate at the law firm of Schiff Hardin LLP in its corporate and securities group in Chicago, IL. Additionally he serves as general counsel to a number of nonprofit entities and is active in a variety of civic, educational and charitable groups. He graduated cum laude from the Northwestern University School of Law in 2000.
The inclusion of a Muslim American voice in the presidental campaign reinforces the principle of pluralism in the electoral process. MPAC is confident that Mr. Asbahi will encourage Muslim Americans to be civically engaged. MPAC encourages the presemptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, to form a similar Muslim outreach program or appoint a liaison to the Muslim American community. http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=673
MIM: Mazen Asbahi emceed a dinner for the Council of Islamic Organisations of Greater Chicago.
For more on the CIOGC and it's former president Kareem Irfan see:
"Chicago Islamist leader Kareem Irfan of the CIOGC excuses beheadings as "a primordial sense of retaliation and revenge"http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/177
"Abdul Malik Mujahid: CIOGC chairman publishes "Commanders of the Muslim Army" Jihad book -Council of Islamic Organisations of Greater Chicago gets funding to help Muslims become American citizens" http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/414
Review of Council's 12th Annual Dinner.
12th Annual CIOGC Dinner
A diverse gathering of nearly 500 Muslims from the Chicago area met Sunday, Dec. 12, for the 12th Annual Dinner of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. The Council is an umbrella group representing mosques, social service groups and other Muslim-based organizations.
Held at the Marriott Hotel in Burr Ridge, the dinner was emceed by Mazen Asbahi, president of the Muslim Bar Association. Keynote speaker John Esposito, a scholar of Islam at Georgetown University, was unable to attend due to fierce winds at O'Hare Airport, which cancelled his flight from Washington. Esposito delivered his address via speakerphone, commending the Council for its high-profile advocacy on behalf of Chicago-area Muslims.
"The 21st century may well be the century of Islam and of Muslims in America," Esposito said. He characterized this as a challenging, threatening yet promising time for the U.S. Muslim community. "Solidarity is key", he said, as is a recognition that "theologies of hate" must be fought within and outside of Islam. He emphasized the Muslims' concerns about secularism, materialism, and individualism are not out of step with American culture, and said American Muslim youth are a critical factor.
Outgoing Council president, Kareem Irfan, whose four-year term concludes in January, delivered an urgent plea for support, citing the many ways the Council has raised the profile of the Muslim community in the media, locally and abroad, and worked on behalf of interfaith outreach, civil rights and social causes in the Chicago area. He asked for prayer, financial support, and most importantly, personal involvement. "The need of the hour is solidarity," Irfan said, "We know that there is no clash of civilizations. We believe that. The key is what are we prepared to do?"
A centerpiece of the evening was an awards ceremony, the first of its kind for the 12-year-old Council. Dr. Hesham Hassaballa hosted the awards ceremony, which honored individuals in the area of Islam, law enforcement outreach, media and interfaith relations. The law enforcement award went to Thomas Kneir, retired FBI agent. Kneir said his relationship with Irfan and the Council "helped pave the way" for better relations and procedures between law enforcement and Muslims throughout the United States.
Geneive Abdo, former Chicago Tribune religion reporter and now Middle East correspondent for USA Today, was honored for her coverage of the Muslim community. Abdo urged Muslims to organize and speak up against what she believes is a strong anti-Muslim bias in the mainstream media.
Iman W. D. Mohammad was honored for his work on behalf of Muslims in Chicago.
The Rev. Paul Rutgers, executive director of the Council of Religious Leaders of Chicago, was honored for his interfaith work with the Muslim community. He said people frequently ask him where are the voices of moderate Muslims. People frequently ask him why they are not hearing the voices of moderate Muslims. He responded, "I hear them all around. Why aren't you hearing them?"
Rami Nashashibi, director and a founder of IMAN, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, gave the closing address. He praised the work of the Muslim Journal newspaper and urged greater cooperation between immigrant Muslims and their descendants and the largely urban African American Muslim community. A doctoral student in sociology at the University of Chicago, Nashashibi said the Chicago Muslim community stands at a unique place in history.Unlike Muslims in Europe, he said, in the United States we have an unquestionable historical connection to a legacy.He said the U.S. Muslim community may be one of the most important minorities in history.
MIM: In 2006 Asbahi participated in a conference on Islamic Education in America.
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This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3557