Community News (V9-I19)

Farooq Kathwari, MJ Khan get national award

Ethan Allen CEO Farooq Kathwari and Houston Councilman MJ Khan received the “Outstanding Americans by Choice” award from the U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice honored the receipeients at a glittering ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The award is given to naturalized citizens for their “outstanding achievements” as Americans.
Kathwari grew up in the Indian section of Kashmir. He moved to the United States in 1965, at the age of 20, to study international marketing at New York University.

He held a bookkeeping job during the day and worked toward his master’s degree at night. Within a few years, he knew he wanted to stay in the United States.

“I was born in an area of war and conflict,” Kathwari said. “In America, it gave me an opportunity for a life of dignity,” he said.

In 1976, Kathwari became a U.S. citizen.

At Monday’s ceremony, Kathwari talked about the importance of America’s immigrants.

“I am particularly privileged to receive this award in these difficult times for our nation and the world, where the principal message should be that America respects its immigrants and its citizens irrespective of race, religion and ethnic origin,” Kathwari said at the ceremony.

“America was founded on principles of law and justice and we must preserve those, as they are the fundamental American values and our strength as a nation.”

Kathwari has been CEO of Ethan Allen, an international home furnishings company, since 1988. He is also involved with several national groups, including serving as chairman of the National Retail Federation, chairman of Refugees International, chairman of the Kashmir Study Group, and director of the American Home Furnishings Alliance.

M.J. Khan is a native of Pakistan, and was elected to City Council in 2003. He represents District F, which includes Sharpstown, Gulfton, and Alief – a very politically active and diverse constituency. He came to the United States from Pakistan in 1976 as a graduate student eager to be part of a country that provides oppurtunities to people who work hard and play by the rules, he said. He dedicated his award to the nation of Pakistan. Khan also served as president of Islamic Society of Greater Houston and of the Pakistan American Association of Greater Houston. ” I am a living example that handsome bald people from Pakistan can get ahead in America,” he joked.

Ryan Harris drafted by Broncos

The Bronco’s football team has drafted Ryan Harris of Notre Dame in the third round. Harris a practicing Muslim and once appeared on the MTV relaity show “True Life.” At Notre Dame he was enrolled in the College of Arts and Letters, majoring in Political Science and Economics. He earned 3.6 GPA during the 2006 Spring semeseter and boasts of a 3.091 cumulative average.

Harris is widely acclaimed to be among the best offensive tackles in college football. He was rated as the number six offensive tackle in college football by The Sporting News.

Academy sponsors a forum on the Muslim Woman

MANCHESTER, NH–The Phillips Exeter Academy sponsored a forum on the Muslim Woman last week. A large number of women from the Academy community and beyond gathered in Phillips Chapel to exchange views.

Zainab Qari, Muslim student adviser at the school, organized the forum. She works with the nine Muslim students currently enrolled at the academy. “We’re recruiting for more,” she said with a smile.

“The media can be misleading,” Qari said in her introduction. “We’re here to clarify some of the misconceptions, the differences between culture and religion.”

One stereotype: Muslim women aren’t allowed an education. Two of the panelists have graduate degrees. Ronda Kasimek, born in Kuwait, is a research assistant at Harvard Medical School. She’s a scientist by vocation and an artist by avocation, working in a 500-year-old mosaic style. Her detailed panels show flowers and leaves, bits of Arabic poetry, or quotations from the Koran, but no humans. “It’s forbidden to draw figures of humans, so we put our creativity into the plants and leaves,” she said.

Kasimek, who wears traditional dress, believes that Allah wants her to use all her talents. “The thing that pushes me is a quote by Mohammed, ‘The most beloved people to God are the most beneficial to others.’ My dream is to one day be part of a chain that leads to a cure for cancer.”

Dr. Shahinaz Badir, raised in Sudan, gave a brief overview of women’s education in her country. Education for women in Sudan is approaching its 100th year, she said, and the perecentage of women in Sudanese medical schools has risen from 37 percent, when she was in school, to 60 percent women, 40 percent male.

Football discrimination lawsuit against NMSU

LAS CRUCES — A decision could come soon as to whether a religious discrimination suit against New Mexico State University and its head football coach will go to trial at the end of June, reports the Sun-News.

The suit — brought in August 2006 by former Aggies football player Mu’Ammar Ali, brothers Anthony and Vincent Thompson, and later joined by Jacob Wallace — alleges that the players were subjected to a hostile environment because they are Muslims and not because of their performance, charges that the university and Mumme deny.

Larry White, the Las Cruces attorney representing NMSU, and coach Hal Mumme, recently filed a motion for summary judgment in U.S. District Court, asking a judge to rule on the evidence presented in pretrial discovery.

In essence, U.S. Magistrate William Lynch is being asked to rule in NMSU’s favor and dismiss the lawsuit before it goes to trial on June 25. A memorandum in support of the motion was filed Monday by NMSU attorneys.

Attorneys Joleen Youngers of Las Cruces and American Civil Liberties Union attorney George Bach represent the former football players and have filed a motion of their own opposing a summary judgment.

The complaint alleges that Mumme became aware the players were Muslim when he had players recite the Lord’s Prayer starting in the spring prior to the 2005 season. When the Muslim players recited their own prayer off to the side, that’s when Mumme’s attitude toward them allegedly began to change.

Muslims fear government and press scrutiny

NEW YORK, NY–Many New Yorker Muslims are scared of the government and intense press scrutiny, said panelists at a discussion organized in Brooklyn by the Kings County Courts Community Outreach Program and the Interfaith Center of New York. Because of this fear they fail to report domestic abuse and hate crimes the panelists said.

“This is a serious issue based on a lack of trust and fear that exists in the community,” a Yemen-born public schools educator, Debbie Almontaser, told several dozen judges who attended the discussion.

Ms. Almontaser, who has been named principal of the city ‘s planned English-Arabic secondary school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, said she participated in the panel as a Muslim American, not as a representative of the Department of Education.

Also on the panel was the director of the United Muslim Movement Against Homelessness and the Muslim Women’s Help Network, Abuds-Salaam Musa, an African-American Muslim; and the founder and executive director of the Council of Peoples Organization, Mohammad Razvi, whose organization teaches immigrants from Pakistan and elsewhere about the American legal system and their rights within it.

Islamic Awareness at Rutgers

The Muslim Students Association at Rutgers held its annual Islamic Awareness Week at Rutgers last week. Like previous years there was an outddor tent with information about Islam. The tent was larger and was more creative and informative. Visitors were given free gifts and refreshments throughout the week. All were invited to the tent with an open mind to leand about the beautiful religion of Islam.

DHS funds for nonprofit organizations to stregthen security

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that nonprofit organizations in the 46 designated UASI areas are eligible to apply for funds as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2007 Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). This grant program will provide more than $24 million to eligible 501(c)(3) organizations who are deemed high-risk for a potential international terrorist attack.

Grants will be awarded to nonprofit organizations through their eligible State Administrative Agency (SAA) according to criteria that includes:

Prior identified and substantiated threats or attacks toward the nonprofit or closely-related organization, either within or outside the U.S., by a terrorist organization; Symbolic value of a site as a highly recognized national or historical institution that renders it a possible terrorist target; Organization’s role in responding to or recovering from terrorist attacks; and Organization’s credible threat or vulnerability, as well as the potential consequences of an attack, as determined by a previously conducted risk assessment.

The federal grant funds must be used for target-hardening activities, which can be accomplished through training or the purchase or installation of security equipment on real property owned or leased by the nonprofit organization. Allowable equipment is limited to physical security enhancements (e.g. alarm systems, bulletproof doors or windows) or inspection and screening systems (e.g. walk-through magnetometers and conveyor-belt x-ray systems used to screen personnel and packages for hazardous materials or devices).

Additionally, nonprofit organization security personnel may use NSGP funds to attend security-related training courses and programs. Allowable training-related costs under NSGP are limited to attendance fees for the training, and related expenses, such as materials, supplies, or equipment. Allowable training topics are limited to the protection of Critical Infrastructure/ Key Resources, including physical and cyber security, target-hardening, and terrorism awareness/employee preparedness. Not all eligible nonprofit organizations and UASI communities are guaranteed to receive funding under the FY 2007 NSGP. Allocation decisions will be made based on risk and how well applicants address program requirements through their investment justifications.

Nonprofit organizations must submit applications through their SAA to be considered eligible for an award of up to $100,000. Nonprofit organizations must agree to match 25 percent of federal grant funds in cash or through equivalent, related training. In the case of training projects, awardees must meet the matching requirement through cash. For example, the costs of training security guards on new screening equipment purchased under the grant would meet the match requirement.

In FY 2005, DHS awarded $25 million to 18 high-risk urban areas to support security improvements for nonprofit organizations in their jurisdictions. Together with the FY 2007 grants, DHS direct support to safeguard nonprofit organizations now totals over $49 million.
SAAs must submit applications for the FY 2007 UASI NSGP online at by 11:59 p.m. EDT on June 22, 2007.

Scholar Explores History of China’s Xinjiang Region

Georgetown University Associate Professor James Millward presents the first comprehensive history of Xinjiang, the vast central Eurasian region bordering India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Mongolia, in his new book Eurasian Crossroads (Columbia University Press, 2007).

“I hope to provide an overview to the history of a region that has played an important role in world history, but for which there is no good introduction in English,” writes Millward in the book’s preface.

Forming one-sixth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Xinjiang stands at the crossroads between China, India, the Mediterranean, and Russia and has played a pivotal role in the social, cultural, and political development of Asia and the world. Xinjiang was once the hub of the Silk Road and the conduit through which Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam entered China. It was also the point at which the Chinese, Turkic, Tibetan, and Mongolian empires communicated and struggled with one another.

Xinjiang’s population comprises Kazakhs, Kirghiz, and Uighurs, all Turkic Muslim peoples, as well as Han Chinese, and competing Chinese and Turkic nationalist visions continue to threaten the region’s political and economic stability. Besides separatist concerns, Xinjiang’s energy resources, strategic position, and rapid development have gained it international attention in recent decades.

Drawing on primary sources in several Asian and European languages, Millward presents a thorough study of Xinjiang’s history and people from antiquity to the present and takes a balanced look at the position of Turkic Muslims within China today. The book uncovers fresh material and perspectives, and surveys Xinjiang’s rich environmental, cultural, and ethno-political heritage.

“Eurasian Crossroads is a highly readable history of this vast and crucial region, where China’s high-speed development drive collides with the aspirations of Muslim communities for national identity and cultural preservation,” Rob Gifford, former China correspondent for National Public Radio.

James Millward is associate professor of intersocietal history at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. He specializes in the modern history of China and Inner Asia, including Mongolia and Tibet, as well as Xinjiang. His previous books include New Qing Imperial History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde (Routledge, 2004) and Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity and Empire in Qing Xinjiang, 1759-1864 (Stanford University Press, 1998) and he is the author of numerous scholarly articles and reviews. At Georgetown, Millward teaches courses on world history, China and Central Eurasia.