Thursday, January 21, 2010

Obama, One Year On!

In his recently published book "The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory," Obama's campaign manager David Ploufe describes the unshakeable belief Candidate Obama held as he sought the nation's highest office:

"The country needed deep, fundamental change; Washington wasn't thinking long-term... The special interests and lobbyists had too much power, and the American people needed to once again trust and engage in their democracy."

One year has passed since candidate Obama was sworn in as our 44th President, and many of the serious problems that plagued Washington prior to his inauguration continue to hold the nation hostage. The scope and scale of domestic and foreign policy challenges President Obama inherited from the previous administration require far more than 365 days to remedy. However, the one year mark is an opportunity to assess the administration's progress, and to redouble the same conviction and spirit which brought hope to people worldwide during the election season.

Our country has been mired in a diabolical debate on the issue of healthcare and much of Obama's political capital has been spent on shoring up enough support to pass any bill. Our economy is slowly beginning to rebound following the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Our military forces are still deeply entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no end in sight, and now there is talk of a new front in Yemen. And our nation's citizens -- particularly Muslim, South Asian and Arab Americans -- have experienced repeated erosions of their civil liberties in our nation's airports, and in their houses of worship through intrusive and questionable law enforcement techniques.

These and many other challenges continue to plague our national discourse and our communities. The hope that millions of people felt, domestically and internationally, after the election gave way to the stark realities of the Oval Office. Change has never been easy and will continue to challenge President Obama, yet the belief in a fundamental change to our system which he held as a candidate, should stay at the forefront of this agenda as President.

As communities who have been deeply touched by some of the policy missteps taken by our government, we must also realize that change will only come when we are prepared to seriously engage with our elected officials and hold them accountable for the promises made and the policies enacted.

Our deep engagement must reflect the sense of urgency that hovers over the future of our communities and our country. Many people who voted for change in 2008 must now work to make their votes count by preventing the voices of cynics, naysayers and bigots to influence the policies which directly affect all of us. Real change will only come when we demand that it does.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reflections on the Inauguration, I never published, Until now!!

Reflections on the Inauguration

We at MPAC spent the last three months of the 2008 elections on a whirlwind of events across the nation. From New York to Virginia, Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, Ohio to California and many states in between. MPAC organized over 40 election forums in various communities with one glaring goal in mind; Muslim American Empowerment and Engagement in 08. This historic election cycle awakened a sense of urgency that was rooted in the understanding that the Muslim American community must engage at all levels of civic and political life to fully realize the idea of positive integration and to retake the discourse regarding our community into our own hands.

So as I stood in the freezing cold on January 20th in the midst of over a million people in Washington DC, I couldn’t help but remember each community center, Mosque, and house that we visited. The inaugural week was a historic week for the Muslim American community. Starting with the first ever Muslim American Gala, which brought together Muslim American leaders, community organizers, elected officials and various public officials to celebrate the participation of the community in choosing a new direction for our country.

As I attended each event including the Gala, opening ceremonies, the swearing-in , Western Ball and the prayer breakfast a sense of urgency repeatedly rippled through each handshake, introduction and conversation. Each experience reminded me that this moment that we individually and collectively live in is a glaring opportunity, an opportunity that will only translate into “real change” if our collective experiences and voices are heard as a community. An opportunity that requires a sustained and conscious effort by women and men, young and old, indigenous and immigrant. An opportunity that will have to be rooted in the Quranic and constitutional values of Freedom, Justice, Mercy and Equality, an opportunity that will require civic engagement, coalition building and reaching out to millions of our fellow citizens.

While President Obama was delivering his acceptance speech I stood next an elderly African American gentlemen. I couldn’t help but noticing first the tears that continuously rolled down his cheeks then the sudden sobbing that overtook him. As I started to comfort him the President’s timely words reverberated in my head “Our country is made up of Christian, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and non-believers” a reference that only reinforced the idea that an opportunity has come upon us and our destiny surely lies after God, in our hands.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Fathers Day Reflection

My Father’s Day Reflection

Haris Tarin

There is no question that the discourse on parenting in Muslim texts and tradition has centered on the status and role of the mother. The very real sacrifices which include emotional and physical care at all levels is highlighted by both the Quran and traditions of the Prophet (s), including a very vivid hadith stating the status preference of the mother three times prior to that of the father. The required insistence on the centrality of motherhood has been needed because of the patriarchal hierarchy that has plagued many societies including Muslim majority ones, where women are only seen through constructed social function (i.e. Mother, sister, wife, daughter etc.) and not as autonomous figures.

The above insistence should in no way diminish the discourse around the centrality of fatherhood and its importance in building a cohesive family unit and in turn a healthy pool of young people who can contribute to the larger society. Our fathers are key in engendering qualities, in both daughters and sons, that allow for a comprehensive and refined personality to take shape as we mature and become older. Studies have shown that fathers who are present in the lives of their children help build qualities such as affection, responsibility, moral compass, hard work commitment and so on.

In the past few days as I reflected on the Quranic and Prophetic outlook on fatherhood, I could not help but think of my personal experience with my father and father figures in my life. I lost my father at a tender age, before I reached my teen years; the sudden loss of my father at that age still has a most hovering effect on me. There had always been the thoughts of “what if” and how would my life have been different? But what inspires me today is the father figures I had in my life after the death of my father. My blood-brothers with their constant care, my brother-mentors in faith who I was able to take a moral journey with; and the countless number of other individuals who played a role in my development. I consider myself blessed because of the people I had around me, yet there are millions of children who do not have that network after their fathers are no longer present.

My recent reflections of fatherhood based on the Quranic and Prophetic model has illustrated three qualities that strikingly stand out. Qualities which if fathers are able to struggle with and help bring to the lives of their children would have a major developmental impact. The three qualities highlighted by the Quran and vivid life experiences of the Prophet are Loving-Affection, Presence and Guiding Hand.

The Quran so beautifully brings to life the many conversations that serve as a model between a number of fathers and their children. The current forum will not suffice all of the examples but one conversation that takes place in the 31st Surah will serve as a model. The conversation between Luqman and his son is advertently and inadvertently laced with references to the above three qualities. A father whose loving-affectionate language by the use of the term “boonaiy” referencing love, respect, humility and friendship to his son. A father who had worked and built the trust of his son, so when he needed to be a guiding hand in his life, the relationship was built on solid ground where his son would listen and take the guidance and moral compass to heart. A father who exemplifies his presence in the life of his son by understanding when and what type of friendship and advice is needed and provided it at that time. A deeper study of these “Ayaat”* will demonstrate a relationship that every father needs to reflect upon.

One challenge that I speak to young people about is how they personalize their relationship to the life of the man whom God used to send his revelation through. There are various factors as to why many people cannot connect to the Prophet (s) at a personal level, one being that many of the biographies written about him follow a very basic chronological order based on events that can at times diminish the very real person he was on a day to day basis.

When I sat recently to reflect “the father” aspects of his life I could not help but understand a little better the Ayat* where God refers to him as a “beautiful model”. I focused mainly on his relationship to his daughter Fatima, whose stature and love in the sight of her father was well known. The above three qualities are highlighted in this relationship. One common practice that the Prophet engaged in until he passed, was his insistence on standing and affectionately greeting Fatima anytime she entered the room. Accounts are told of so many times where he would be sitting and she entered the room, he would stand, greet her, kiss her and bring her next time to be seated.

This relationship that was build through the years, where Fatima saw her father go through the trying times of Makkah and the sweet times of Madina, helped solidify a solid bond. This bond was so unyielding that even after she was married and now had established her own family, she went to him and he came to her for things such as marital advice, securing a maid, dealing with foes, raising children etc.

There does not exist an ideal parent or father. Yet it is the struggle of constantly attempting to improve ones relationship that is seen and appreciated by children. Perfection is not a human trait, yet modeling and struggle is what makes us the best humans.

Happy Fathers Day to All!!!!

*In reference to a verse from the Quran I purposely use the Arabic terminology, as I do not believe the translation verse does justice to what an Ayat of the Quran means. An Ayat is not only a verse, rather a sign, a revealing of sorts, a discovery. The term verse does not do it justice. For a detailed discussion refer to Tariq Ramadan’s “In The Footsteps of the Prophet”

Friday, September 7, 2007

Government Engagement !

In September 2005, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes made the following remarks at the Islamic Society of North America's (ISNA) annual convention, "We need to foster a sense of common interest and common values among Americans and people of different faiths and different cultures. Frankly, who better to do that than many of our American Muslims themselves, who have friends and families and roots in countries across the world."

This past Labor Day weekend in Chicago, Illinois, over 30,000 Muslim Americans heard the same message echoed from a host of government agencies and officials who attended the largest Muslim American convention. Representatives from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, State, Treasury, the FBI, members of Congress, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and local officials all continued to send a resounding message to the Muslim American community: America needs your involvement to make it a safer and more prosperous society for all.

This convention comes on the heels of a recent unprecedented step taken by some individuals within the Department of Justice to label over 307 individuals and organizations as unindicted co-conspirators in a case involving the Holy Land Foundation. "Unindicted co-conspirator" refers to any person or organization that has been alleged to conspire to break the law but whose actions will not result in their being charged with an offense or being tried or sentenced for their conduct. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and others named as such in this case have felt the negative barrage of publicity led by those who seek to disengage the Muslim American community and prevent it from establishing a positive partnership with government and law enforcement.

In a recent leak to the Washington Times, certain officials within the Department of Justice objected to affiliating with the convention and sponsoring a booth which the Department does annually to educate Muslim Americans on issues pertaining to civil liberties.

It is clear that there exist certain elements within our government and policy making arena which seek to marginalize the very community that is seen as the greatest asset in keeping America safe and respected internationally. Whether it is politically motivated actions against mainstream Muslim organizations or the countless number of blogs that spew hatred on a daily basis, those who understand the importance and urgency of dialogue and real partnership between government and communities must not allow the voices of marginalization to drown out the voices of reason.

The young Muslim Americans at this year's convention heard the message of integration and involvement loud and clear. Many of them are ready to become involved at all levels of society to ensure that the future of their country and community will be bright and prosperous. Already, young Muslim Americans have positioned themselves to be more proactive in shaping the national discourse regarding Islam. To encourage this effort, this summer the Muslim Public Affairs Council held its first National Muslim American Youth Summit in Washington, DC, attended by young leaders selected to discuss pressing policy issues with high-level officials in the federal government and Congress. All those involved - from the attendees themselves to the guest speakers - left their meetings with a renewed sense of urgency about reaching out to young Muslim Americans and to thoughtfully consider their concerns. Let us hope that the opportunity for engagement at all levels will exist for them as they partake in this journey.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

I Always Think about Thinking!

It is very interesting as to why the Quran is continuously asking humans to engage in the process of thinking. I don't mean just thinking, I mean really engaging in the process that allows for reflecting and pondering. I at times tend to feel that we have stopped thinking as a community and a world! So when I came across this quote, thanks to Edina, I thought, maybe its not that we have stopped thinking rather that we are not thinking correctly.

Read it and reflect on it and let me know what you THINK! :)

"The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them." - Albert Einstein

Monday, March 5, 2007

I Love this Hadith

I recently came across this hadith and could not stop thinking about it! This hadith I believe describes the character of our beloved Prophet. It describes the attribute of a complete, intelligent and sophisticated human being.

Reported (e.g. in al-Tabaqat al-Kubra by ibn Sa’d) that Zaid ibn Thabit was once asked to describe the character of the prophet, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him. He said, “What can I say? I was his neighbor. When a piece of revelation would come to him he would call me and I would write it down. At the same time, he was with us - when we talk about dunya (life affairs) he would talk about it right along with us, when we talk about food he would talk about it right along with us. You want me to tell you everything such as that regarding him?”

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Edina Lekovic Rocks!

Check This Out! Edina you got skills!