Articles of Interest, January 3rd, 2008

A handbook for Muslim teens

Growing up in today’s culture can be exciting, confusing, and chock-full of challenges.

For young American Muslims, navigating adolescence has proven especially daunting since the events of Sept. 11, 2001. They must sort out not only who they are individually but also how they fit into a society that knows little about them but holds a host of impressions.

“I went to bed on Sept. 10th an American, and on Sept. 11th, I became a Muslim in people’s minds,” says Imran Hafiz, a high school sophomore in Phoenix. And not just any Muslim.

He was only in fourth grade back then, but that shift in perceptions affected Imran directly. A few days later, all of a sudden his pals at school told him, “You can’t play soccer with us anymore.” When he asked them why not, they responded, “Because you’re a Taliban.”

The youngster was shocked and scared, but his family helped him see that his friends’ reaction “came from ignorance, not from hate,” he says.

Since then, Imran, his older sister Yasmine, and their mother, Dilara, have been hard at work on a dual project: to write a book that could dispel that ignorance and at the same time help Muslim youths deal with the many issues that confront them. The family discussed their five-year project in a recent phone interview from their home in Paradise Valley.

“I wanted to dispel negative stereotypes and show we are normal Americans like anyone else,” says Yasmine, a high school senior who will enter Yale University next year.

“The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook,” published in August, is the first book of its kind, directed at filling a void Yasmine noticed as she searched the Youth/Teens section in a local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Sprinkled with humor, the lively paperback describes the essential beliefs and practices of Islam and includes questions and comments from Muslim teens across the United States.

“In addition to doing research of our own, we sent out a survey to 44 Islamic schools,” explains Dilara, who teaches at a weekend Islamic school in the Phoenix area.

They received approximately 150 responses to their questionnaire, which revealed that even teens attending Islamic schools vary greatly in attitudes and faith practices, from why they are Muslim to how often they pray to whether or not they wear the hijab, the head scarf worn by many devout Muslim women. Their viewpoints appear in quotes and quizzes interspersed throughout the book’s 15 chapters.

Along with “Islam 101,” there’s a guide to prayer and the hajj, tips on reading the Koran, and thoughtful discussion of controversial issues. One chapter deals with “the 4 ‘D’s” – dating, dancing, drinking, and drugs.

So far, the response to the handbook has been largely positive, and even comes from beyond the US and the Muslim community.

Cynthia Berg, a Jewish mother in Phoenix who met Mr. and Mrs. Hafiz during an outreach program at her temple, likes the handbook so much she’s sent copies to relatives in other cities.

“The book shows moderation in the Muslim religion and answers a lot of my questions. I thought it was ingenious,” she says. “My sister-in-law in San Diego showed it to her rabbi, and they are thinking about using it in their studies.”

An Episcopal school in nearby Scottsdale has adopted it as part of its curriculum. Librarians and educators from various locales have said they like the easy-to-understand, nonproselytizing explanation of the religion. 

  • All praise belong to God and may He grant peace and success among His wonderful servants who wrote this book.  I’m surely going to promote the effort and encourage Muslims to purchase this book.  God-willing I will have the authors on my show soon to discuss this wonderful work and answer questions.


Pippen wants to coach Bulls

Former Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen says he’s serious about coaching, and if there is an opening with the Chicago Bulls, he believes he’s perfect.

What’s my disadvantage?” Pippen asked. “No NBA coaching experience? [Scott] Skiles’ record with the Bulls wasn’t that great. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do what you’ve done your whole life. I’ve played basketball, run teams and won.

“They didn’t put me at point guard because I could dribble good. They put me there because I could run a team. I wasn’t the best dribbler, the best shooter. I wasn’t a point guard. But I knew how to run a team.”

  • That should be interesting, but I would prefer Michael Jordan if you ask me.  But I have to admit I’m biased toward his “airness”, but don’t think that means I don’t like Pippen as I’m an old school Bulls fan well at least in my youth mid 80’s to 90’s.

Vatican Confirms Plan for Historic Meeting With Muslim Leaders

This Year

A top Vatican official says a high-level delegation of Muslim clerics and scholars will travel to Rome in coming months to open a Christian-Muslim dialogue.Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, confirmed the plans in an Italian Catholic weekly news report this week. Planning sessions with three visiting Muslim scholars in February or March will precede the larger meeting.

No date has been set for the larger session, but another cardinal, Jean-Louis Tauran, said it could take place by mid-June.

Cardinal Tauran was the Vatican’s foreign affairs chief in the early 1990s who later became a vocal opponent of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Pope Benedict moved to facilitate the historic meeting after receiving an open letter in October from 138 Muslim scholars urging dialogue among Christians and Muslims on their common belief in one God.

The pontiff triggered controversy in 2006, when, while speaking in Germany, he cited a 14th century Christian emperor who called some of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings “evil and inhuman.”

  • This is a great step in the right direction.  Dialog is always a good step in the process of understanding and peace.  It is nice to know that leaders are actually trying it for a change.

Supreme Court Justice Bill Clinton?

WASHINGTON (CNN) — It is a title that would be sure to bring either fear or cheer to many Americans, depending on your political leanings: Supreme Court Justice Bill Clinton.

That provocative possibility has long been whispered in legal and political circles ever since Sen. Hillary Clinton became a viable candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Now a respected conservative law professor has openly predicted a future President Clinton would name her husband to the high court if a vacancy occurred.

Pepperdine Law School’s Douglas Kmiec said, “The former president would be intrigued by court service and many would cheer him on.”

Kmiec worked in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses as a top lawyer, but said he has no personal or political “disdain” for Bill Clinton.

CNN talked with several political and legal analysts of both ideological stripes, and while several laughed at the possibility, none would rule it out completely. And all those who spoke did so on background only.

  • Is there anything I could really add? 🙂 Slick Willy Supreme Court Justice?  Oh the irony! 🙂

Obama grabs Iowa lead from Edwards

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – Democrat Barack Obama surged to a four-point lead over John Edwards in Iowa, with Hillary Clinton fading to third just hours before the first presidential nominating contest, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Thursday.

Obama and Edwards gained ground overnight in the tracking poll, and Clinton fell four points to third place — a finish that, if it held, would deal a dramatic setback to the one-time Democratic front-runner.

Obama was at 31 percent among likely Democratic caucus-goers, Edwards at 27 percent and Clinton 24 percent. No other Democrat was in double digits.

  • Gotta love that picture!  Seriously all polls aside, tonight is the night.  I believe Obama will win in Iowa for the Democrats and Huckabee for the Republicans.

DNA clears man in prison for 26 years

DALLAS, Texas (AP) — — Charles Chatman said throughout his 26 years in prison that he never raped the woman who lived five houses down from him.

Now 47, Chatman is expected to win his freedom Thursday on the basis of new DNA testing that lawyers say proves his innocence and adds to Dallas County’s nationally unmatched number of wrongfully convicted inmates.

“I’m bitter. I’m angry,” Chatman told The Associated Press during what was expected to be his last night in jail Wednesday. “But I’m not angry or bitter to the point where I want to hurt anyone or get revenge.”

If released on bond at a Thursday court hearing as expected, Chatman will become the 15th inmate from Dallas County since 2001 to be freed by DNA testing. That is more than any other county nationwide, said Natalie Roetzel of the Innocence Project of Texas, an organization of volunteers who investigate claims of wrongful conviction.

Texas leads the country in prisoners freed by DNA testing. Including Chatman, the state will have released at least 30 wrongfully convicted inmates since 2001, according to the Innocence Project.

Mike Ware, who heads the Conviction Integrity Unit in the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, said he expects that number to increase.

One of the biggest reasons for the large number of exonerations in Texas is the crime lab used by Dallas County, which accounts for about half the state’s DNA cases. Unlike many jurisdictions, the lab used by police and prosecutors retains biological evidence, meaning DNA testing is a viable option for decades-old crimes.

  • It must truly suck (that’s an understatement) to proclaim innocence for 26 years only to be proven true after the fact.  My question is what should governments have to do when this happens?  Should those wrongly convicted be compensated in someway?  How do you compensate the loss of your youth and almost three decades lost behind bars on a “technicallity”?

What Palestinians will do with $7.4 billion

When donors met in Paris last month and awarded $7.4 billion in aid to the Palestinians, a larger-than-expected package to be distributed over the next three years, many in the international community showed a new readiness to support the new Israeli-Palestinian peace push and provide a safety net for it in the form of economic stability.

Now Palestinian and foreign observers alike are keen to see how and where the money is spent, putting senior officials on the spot with questions of how they intend to avoid the corruption and mismanagement that characterized the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the past.

But unlike international relief in the past, this aid package – the biggest since the establishment of PA in 1994 – comes with meticulous oversight mechanisms that make it much more difficult for money to be siphoned off or embezzled, a senior Palestinian official says.

Moreover, various unions representing public employees have gained muscle and stature and are determined to see an appropriate portion of the money go to civil servants, some of whom have gone unpaid for months at a time in the past two years.

Cairo Arafat, the director general of Aid Management and Coordination in the Palestinian Ministry of Planning, says that it’s no longer useful to speak of corruption as a blanket term.

“With any kind of program, you get the normal type of corruption. But there’s so much competition now and so much talk of corruption that people are more aware of it and more likely to speak out about it than they were before,” says Ms. Arafat, who is not a relative of the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

“There have been few programs in Palestine that have not been exposed to internal and external audits. We had some projects that were being audited three times, audited, and reaudited,” she says, to such an extent that the parties most profiting from the aid were Palestinian auditing firms.

Still, the battle for a fair slice of the pie is on. Several sectors – including teachers and medical workers – have recently been on strike against low pay and long hours. Union leaders say hundreds of other workers face being laid off or forced into early retirement, which some here argue would thin out inflated payrolls.

The PA remains the largest employer in the Palestinian territories, with at least 165,000 workers; some officials say that the PA could probably function with a third of that.

  • Very good question indeed.  If I had a say….which I don’t, that money would go toward infrastructure:  Education, Medical, Economic, and Security.  We will see.  Let us pray for peace in the region.

Christian extremism raises alarm

A hate-crime trial reconvenes Friday in a case that’s dividing Sacramento and drawing attention from organizations that monitor extremists.

Alex Shevchenko has been arraigned for a hate crime tied to the assault and eventual death of Satender Singh in July. According to prosecutors, Mr. Shevchenko and Andrey Vusik taunted Mr. Singh in a park because they thought he was gay. Mr. Vusik eventually threw a punch that toppled Singh, dashing his head, they charge.

Gay leaders in Sacramento say the incident followed several years of escalating tensions with some Slavic immigrants.

“The gut feeling of the [gay] community is that preaching among the local Russian evangelical community is breeding hate and that something would happen. And Satender was the something that happened,” says Ed Bennett, a gay Democratic activist.

While Slavic leaders say their community is being unfairly scapegoated for legitimate political protests and deeply held religious beliefs, some monitors warn that an emerging group called the Watchmen on the Walls may be fomenting a dangerous atmosphere within the ranks of Slavic immigrants here.

“This group has engaged in extremely vicious antigay propaganda, and oftentimes it is that kind of propaganda that is taken by hate criminals as permission to go ahead and attack,” says Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Intelligence Report,” which tracks hate crimes nationwide.

The international Watchman on the Walls emerged within the past couple of years, forged by two longtime antigay activists – Scott Lively and Kenneth Hutcherson of the US – and two newer Slavic leaders, one in Sacramento and one in the Baltic nation of Latvia.

Mr. Lively has a following among some Slavic protesters here with his controversial book, “The Pink Swastika,” which argues that homosexuals played a formative role in Nazism.

The Watchmen is a Christian movement that doesn’t teach hate or seek out violent followers, says Mr. Hutcherson, who is a pastor in Washington State. “God’s word does not allow us to hate. It tells us to stand up for righteousness and call a sin a sin,” he says. He rejects, however, the idea of loving the sinner while hating the sin. “The Bible says when a sinner will not separate himself from a sin then he is condemned with it. The one thing I’m trying to do is get heterosexuals out of the closet. We are the majority,” he says.

  • I’m glad the Christian Science Monitor is calling a spade a spade.  Extremism of a religious nature is not unique to Muslims and it has always been disgusting the religion who’s adherents make it the king of extremism is never identified as such when it’s adherents act out in extremism.



  1. Check out this new study on how American’s view Muslims.

    What a Difference a Shawl Makes

    – Perceptions Differ of Woman With and Without a Shawl on her Head –

    FLEMINGTON, N.J., Jan. 4 /PRNewswire/ — A new national study of more
    than 600 Americans revealed that a woman wearing a shawl or hijab,
    typically worn by Muslim women, is viewed significantly different than the
    same woman without the traditional headwear.

    (Logo: )

    The study was conducted by HCD Research, using its web
    site during January 2-3, to determine whether Americans possess different
    views of a woman based on whether or not she wears traditional Muslim

    Participants were divided into two randomly assigned groups. Members of
    each group were asked to view one of two separate photos of an attractive
    young woman. Neither photo was identified in any way. Each sample was then
    asked identical questions about the woman, her age, perceived personality,
    activities, and how acceptable she might be as a neighbor.

    One-third of participants indicated that they would rather have the
    woman with the traditional headwear live in another place, another city,
    and maybe out of the U.S., as opposed to living in their neighborhood.
    However, a clear majority of participants (89%) reported that the woman
    without the shawl would be welcome in their neighborhood.

    The woman with the shawl on her head was perceived as somewhat older,
    and somewhat better off financially than the woman without the shawl. While
    the woman with the shawl was more likely to be a stay at home mother, the
    woman without the shawl might be a working married woman.

    The woman with the shawl on her head was also viewed as much more
    traditional than the woman without the shawl. Participants also indicated
    that the woman with the shawl was strict and rigid, a good wife and devoted
    mother. She was also perceived as keeping to herself or a tight circle of
    people. Conversely, the woman without the shawl was perceived to be lively,
    friendly, and humorous. She was also viewed as a person who “always looks
    at the bright side” and might even be the life of the party.

    Overwhelmingly, both photos of the woman were viewed as being
    attractive. However, more people thought the woman with the shawl was
    beautiful, and both women were seen as trustworthy.

    At the end of the questionnaire, the participants specifically
    identified the woman with the shawl on her head as Middle-Eastern in origin
    and a Muslim; the woman without the shawl was perceived as an American and
    a Catholic (maybe Protestant or Jewish).

    For detailed information on this study, please go to The Media Curves web site provides the media and
    general public with a venue to view Americans’ perceptions of popular and
    controversial media events and advertisements.

    Headquartered in Flemington, NJ, the company’s services include
    traditional and web-based communications research. For additional
    information on HCD Research, access the company’s web site at
    or call HCD Research at 908-788-9393.


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