Community News (V11-I4)

Arizona Muslims stage protest

PHOENIX, AZ– The Muslim community in Arizona staged a protest last week at the city week against the continuing Israeli atrocities in Gaza. More than 150 people participated in the protest.

“We believe Israel has been using excessive force against innocent civilians,” said Mohammad Riyad, a spokesman for the Coalition of Arabs and Muslims in America, the group who organized the protest, in an interview to the Arizona Republic.

Fired Pittsburg school employee files lawsuit

PITTSBURGH– A former Muslim employee of the Pittsburg Public Schools says he was fired because of his religion and because he complained of irregularities in how the district spent money to renovate buildings.

Omar Nabas, 57, was fired by the board for allegedly abusing sick days leave and a drunken driving charge.

Nabas was the district’s facilities chief and says he was really fired for telling the school board that other officials bypassed the competitive bidding process by assigning renovation work to companies with existing maintenance contracts.

South Florida Muslims, Jews condemn violence

NORTH MIAMI BEACH, FL– As violence continues unabated in Gaza Muslims and Jews in South Florida gathered las week to condemn the violence that has claimed hundreds of lives.

“We should be able to express our differences in a peaceful manner,” Jack Lieberman of the Jewish American Dialogue Association said.

Sofian Zakkout of the American-Muslim Association agreed.

“We should not tolerate any hate or any hate promotion between us and the Jewish communities,” Zakkout said.

Chicago Urban Planner Contributes to Safe Hajj


A multilevel pedestrian bridge system designed in part by a University of Illinois at Chicago urban planner allowed 3 million Muslims to complete the 2008 Hajj without the deadly stampedes of recent years.

Kheir Al-Kodmany, associate professor of urban planning and policy, was the only American invited by the Saudi government to join a team of 25 urban planners and engineers that planned crowd control during the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that ended in December.

The risk of overcrowding has risen with the growth of the Muslim population and affordable travel, Al-Kodmany said. Fifty percent more pilgrims performed the Hajj in 2008 than in 2007.

The bridge expands the capacity of the site of a symbolic “stoning of the devil.” In past years, pilgrims gathered on a single-level bridge crossing a valley to throw stones at three pillars that represented the devil. Crowding at the bridge entrance caused stampedes that resulted in the deaths of about 250 pilgrims in 2004 and 363 in 2006.

Planners replaced the pillars with three walls, each about 30 yards long. They replaced a one-level bridge with five levels, including a ground level, and 12 entrances and 12 exits. Pilgrims can throw pebbles from any level and still reach all three targets.

“Religious scholars granted permission to reshape each target from a post to an extended wall with the condition that each pebble must reach the original spot where it was believed that the Prophet Abraham stoned the devil,” Al-Kodmany said. “A funnel design enables pebbles from the upper levels to reach the spot.”

In addition to the upper levels, the project added a ground-level crossing, underground infrastructure and tunnels.

A sixth level is expected to be built in 2009, and six more levels could be added eventually. The Saudi government plans to reconvene the team to plan traffic control for pedestrians and vehicles along the entire 12-mile Hajj route, according to plan documents.

Al-Kodmany said around the world crowd mismanagement causes about 2,000 deaths each year.

“The Hajj project advanced crowd management science,” he said. “There are useful safety design and planning lessons that are transferable to other large gathering events.”

Al-Kodmany presented his design to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley at UIC’s annual Richard J. Daley Urban Forum last April to suggest crowd control measures for a Chicago Olympics and other events.


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