Dearborn–November 5–AAI held a â€œYalla Vote Rallyâ€ on Sunday afternoon; a forum to implore Arabs to vote in the elections taking place as of this writing–the forum also provided an opportunity for many of the candidates at the national, state and local levels to introduce themselves and their platforms.
The purpose of the rally was to give AAI a chance to address important issues of voting in this yearâ€™s election and to introduce the various national, state, and local level candidates.
About 100 people were present at the rally, which had been coordinated by the Arab American Institute (AAI) of Jim Zogby in association with the major local Arab political organizations including ACCESS. The forum provided a chance for Mr. Zogby to address an audience on the issues he deems vital, the most important of which he said was that Arabs should continue to build after the election is past–just as for example Jewish organizations, mobilized and energized by traumatic historic events, have built an effective political machine in this country, Arabs must respond to the traumatic assaults on their civil liberties in the US by building and organizing for political action not just in this (now-past) election but also going forward until the next presidential elections.
Several political candidates and their representatives spoke in their run-up to the Tuesday elections, including Jennifer Granholm, Dick Devos, Mike Bouchard, and Debbie Stabenow. John Dingell addressed the audience, and implored that they vote for his wife in her election, which they apparently did, electing her to the Wayne State Board of Governors.
AAIâ€™s Michigan Field Director, Kenwah Dabaja, a rising star at AAI who organized the rally and who has made close contacts and a favorable impression with Mr. Zogby and with Rep. John Dingell by her work, spoke out to encourage the Arab community to learn about the internal workings of politics in the same way that she has, by working from the inside. Ms. Dabaja functioned as the MC of the event as well, graciously and ably introducing all of the political candidates, smoothing over the somewhat divisive nature of the mutual antagonisms between the candidates in this yearâ€™s highly negative campaigns and negotiating her way past the somewhat pointed remarks of those candidates who spoke.
Khalid Beydoun, a lawyer representing the ACLU, spoke out against the â€œCivil Rights Initiativeâ€ Proposal 2, an impassioned plea that described the damage Prop. 2 would do to Arabs and women. His pleas addressed a vital issue which was narrowly decided at the polls against his wishes–in favor of Prop. 2.
The results of the election show that the American community is in line with the strong feelings of the Arab political base–anti-Republican and anti-incumbent; yet a few votes (like Michiganâ€™s Proposal 2) went against the wishes of this sector of the electorate.
Valerie Smith, Director of Community Relations of AAI, who showed in the wake of the election an encyclopedic knowledge of the results of races involving Arab candidates, was somewhat disappointed in the turnout for the event but said that according to her contacts in the local community the turnout was fairly good for a Sunday afternoon.
Ms. Dabaja said of the turnout, â€œquality is more important than quantity.â€
The turnout was somewhat better on Tuesday.
Dearborn–November 5–The Islamic Institute of Knowledge held its largest-ever fundraiser this past Sunday in the late afternoon at IIK.
Approximately 750 people attended the event, filling their banquet facilities to capacity.
Interfaith Meeting at Methodist Church
Beverly Hills–November 1–Sabah Berry, wife of Imam Baqir Berry of the Islamic Institute of Knowledge, held a surprisingly collegial and friendly introduction of Islam to a Christian group of women at the Methodist church on 7 Mile Road this past Wednesday in Beverly Hills.
The event was arranged by one member of the Methodist community who knew one member of the congregation of IIK–that member of the congregation then helped to arrange for Ms. Berry to speak at the church.
About 25 women were in attendance at the event. Ms. Berry said that she gave the Methodist ladies an introduction to Islam, discussing especially the similarities between Islam and Christianity. She emphasized to them the work of self-purification by means of spiritual acts, of good deeds, of following the example of our prophets, and discussed the means of raising children in the right way, and the importance in Islam of seeking knowledge â€œfrom the cradle to the grave.â€
She discussed differences also, talking about why hijab is necessary, and explaining that hijab is not a means of enforcing inequality, but rather one recognition of innate differences between men and women–men being responsible for supporting women.
Ms. Berry explained that one very interesting aspect of the meeting was the question and answer session that followed her brief introduction to Islam.
She explained that in fact the Christian women had similar concerns to her own, asking questions about her children and how she was reacting to an unsafe environment, how she was nourishing her children with Islamic knowledge, how she dealt with peer pressure, television, in fact the same problems that they confronted. She explained that in fact their concerns were similar to her own.
They also asked her about whether women were allowed to drive, which was somewhat amusing to her.
Another concern the Christian women had was how she had met her husband and whether the marriage had been forcibly arranged. (In fact Imam Baqir Berry met Sabah Berry in high school). She explained to them the process by which their marriage had gone under supervision from the point of mutual interest to actual marriage.
She explained to them about prayers, and the difference between obligatory scripted prayers and duâ€™a (which can be to ask for relief on specific problems or to ask for specific things).
The meeting ended very well, with the Christian and Muslim ladies extending invitations to each othersâ€™ places of worship and homes.