My favorite 2011 Good News Stories About Muslims
by Sheila Musaji
If you type “Muslims” or “Islam” into any google search, most of what comes up will be something negative. If any Muslim, anywhere, does something criminal, or just stupid, that story will be written about and reposted so that hundreds of articles will come up on that negative story.
These are a few of my favorite stories about Muslims during the past year of 2011 that did not receive nearly as much coverage, but were more important, and also more representative of the Muslim community.
In January, Muslims in Cairo, Egypt attended Coptic Christian Mass at various churches, serving as “human shields” against any extremist attacks ***
In January, Tariq Khanzada of Fremont, California was killed while trying to help a stranger whose car had crashed on the freeway. He parked his car in the shoulder lane and ran across the highway towards the center divide. The driver of the car was attempting to get out of the car when he realized another car was heading straight towards them. So he did what few others would do: Instead of fleeing to safety, he stood there to instruct the injured driver to remain in his vehicle. Within fractions of a second, two cars crashed into him, violently ending his life. But his noble actions that night saved the life of a man whose name he didn’t even know. ***
In January, in an interview with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., television personality and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University Dr. Mehmet Oz spoke about his Islamic heritage, the varied religious practices of his Turkish parents, and how Sufi Islam informs his life. ***
In January, the Shoulder to Shoulder movement became an official organization with a website. Shoulder-to-Shoulder is an interfaith organization dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment by strengthening the voice of freedom and peace. Founded in November 2010 by over 20 national religious groups, Shoulder-to-Shoulder works not only on a national level, but offers strategies and support to local and regional efforts to address anti-Muslim sentiment and seeks to spread the word abroad. ***
In January, The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an active Steering Committee member of the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), a diverse, nonpartisan coalition of religious and religiously affiliated organizations whose core spiritual values affirm the rights and dignity of people with disabilities called on the American Muslim community to speak out and take action on disability policy issues with Congress, the President and Administration, and society at large. ***
In February, Military Veterans and Muslim students at a California college joined
together to organize a blood drive
In February, a group of American Muslim Imams and community leaders issued a strong statement condemning anti-Semitism and holocaust denial ***
In February, Bilal Mallick, a Muslim teen from Chicago who was diagnosed with leukemia *** died because a bone marrow donor could not be found. His congregation at the Islamic Foundation of Villa Park began a project that has spawned a movement in mosques across suburban Chicago and the nation. Hundreds of Chicago area Muslims who came to participate in weekly congregational prayers also had the opportunity to swab their cheeks and add their names to the roster of bone marrow donors ready to step up if their DNA is a match. Organizers hope for at least 20,000 participants to register nationwide. A group of students from the MSA organized a bone-marrow registry drive at the ISNA convention ***
In February, Zubiru Jalloh, a Muslim cab driver in New York returned $100,000 worth of cash and jewelry that a passenger had forgotten in his cab ***
In February, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated Robert Spencer & Pamela
Geller’s Stop the Islamization of America SIOA group as a hate group
*** shining a light on the most prolific distributors of anti-Muslim rhetoric.
In March, a group of Muslim students at Cornell University won the 17th annual James A. Perkins Prize for Interracial Harmony and Understanding. The award was presented March 8 to the Committee for the Advancement of Muslim Culture ***
In March, the Al Salam Mosque in Tulsa, Oklahoma held a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day and invited local officers for lunch at the mosque ***
In March, Political Research Associates released an in-depth report Manufacturing the Muslim Menace documenting anti-Muslim efforts by Islamophobes ***
In March, many Muslim organizations worked to provide relief for victims of the Japanese earthquake. ***
In March, although
entirely too many of our elected representatives have either remained silent
or participated in Muslim bashing, a number of elected repesentatives spoke out
strongly against Rep. Peter King’s hearings.
In April, a Saudi scholar, Sheikh Salman Al-Oadah, issued a fatwa saying that Muslims living in non-Muslim countries are obligated to obey the law in the country in which they live. fatwa
In April, the most recent Muslim community supported Free Clinic, the Mercy Care Center opened in Cincinnati, Ohio joining the numerous other such clinics in cities across America. ***. Another Muslim community supported Free Clinic, the Volunteers in Medicine West County Clinic opened in Manchester, Missouri.
In April, of this year, ISNA leadership led sessions and participated in the 8th Annual US Islamic World Forum in Washington, DC. ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid, who was one of the conveners of the conference, joined Humera Khan of Muflehun, an organization dedicated to countering violent extremism, to write a report based on discussions formed by the religious working group at the Conference. The report focuses on the dynamics of and challenges facing Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority communities around the globe. ***
In May, Muslim boxer Bernard Hopkins became the oldest boxing titlist in any division in any era with a unanimous decision over Jean Pascal in Montreal, Canada. Hopkins won the World Boxing Council (WBC) light heavyweight belt by winning all three cards after 12 rounds, by the scores of 116-112, 115-114, and 115-113. At the ripe old age of 46, no one had won a boxing title at such an advanced age since then 45 year old George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994. ***
In June, American Muslims from St. Louis and other cities went to Joplin, Missouri to take needed supplies and help the survivors of a tornado ***
In June, Chicago Muslims donated $26,000 to the Greater Chicago Food Depository ***
In June, Unity Productions Foundation UPF launched the “My Fellow American” program, collecting short films by and about American Muslims ***
In June, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), alongside the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Interfaith Alliance and other civil liberties organizations signed on to an amicus brief that urges the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to invalidate Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment passed in 2010, which barred courts in the state from using or citing Shariah law. ***
In June, in recognition of June as Torture Awareness Month, ISNA encouraged Muslim communities all over the nation to join in taking a stand against torture. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a membership organization of religious leaders and entities committed to ending torture that is sponsored or enabled by the United States. To this end, NRCAT hosts campaigns to raise awareness about and mobilize legislative action against the use of torture. ISNA has been a founding member of NRCAT since the organization’s inception in 2006. On June 26, ISNA and NRCAT will recognize the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In honor of that day, ISNA encourages Muslim communities to watch a 10-minute film entitled “Repairing the Brokenness,” which can be found online here. ***
In July, Rais Bhuyan, a Muslim who was shot and blinded by a white supremacist
days after the 9/11 attacks sued Governor Rick Perry of Texas to attempt to prevent
his assailant from being executed. He was not successful, but kept trying
right up to the execution. In one interview Bhuyan said “This country has
suffered a lot,” Bhuiyan said. “We are living in fear, but if we work together we
can break the cycle of hate. It’s not only Islam, but all religions that teach peace
and to show mercy.” While fighting to save Stroman he founded
World Without Hate, an organization that raises awareness of hate crimes in
an effort to prevent them. “I feel more love and compassion for human beings than
I ever did before this accident. Sight is gone from one eye, but my vision has never
In July ISNA expanded the ongoing mosque/synagogue twinning project to Latin America. ***
In July - MPAC released Building Bridges to Strengthen America: Forging an Effective Counterterrorism Enterprise between Muslim Americans and Law Enforcement. A number of important studies, reports, and polls were released this year. ***
In July, ISNA National Director Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed joined other national leaders
of prominent religious organizations and denominations for a prayer vigil directly
across from the U.S. Capitol Building to advocate for a fair budget deal that does
not place an undue burden on the poor.
In July, People for the American Way released a report The Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism. *** and the Southern Poverly Law Center released The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle *** and Jihad Against Islam *** further documenting both the existence of Islamophobia and the major players.
In August, there were riots in Birmingham, England. Three Muslim men were killed trying to protect their business from looters. Tariq Jahan, the father of one of those killed is credited with stopping the rioting when he came forward and pleaded for calm I lost my son. Blacks, Asians, whites: We all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home, please. ***
In August, the United Arab Emirates gave $500,000 so that students in the Joplin, Missouri public schools destroyed by the terrible tornado could purchase computers for every student. They pledged to match any other donations to the schools up to an additional $500,000. ***
In August, a Gallup poll showed that 93 percent of Muslim Americans say they are loyal to America. They have the highest confidence in the integrity of US elections (57 percent), and they are the most hopeful about their lives over the next five years, compared with other groups. ***
In August, the Center for American Progress CAP released a groundbreaking report FEAR INC.: THE ROOTS OF THE ISLAMOPHOBIA NETWORK IN AMERICA documenting the efforts and links between a coordinated anti-Muslim network. ***
In August, Abraham Foxman of the ADL printed an important statement against the anti-Sharia craze. ***
In August, despite the objections of Islamophobes, Gov. Chris Christie stood by his appointee, Sohail Mohammed, and Mohammed was sworn in as a judge in New Jersey. ***
In September, an estimated twelve thousand Muslims and interfaith leaders gathered
in London for an event called “Peace for Humanity” sponsored by Minhaj-ul-Quran
International (MQI). The event was broadcast live to dozens of countries, and was
a rally against extremism and to promote a moderate, inclusive version of Islam.
The event in Wembley Arena was led by Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a respected Pakistan-born
Islamic scholar. Dr. Qadri told the crowd “I want to address those who are lost,
who have a total misconception of jihad I want to send them a message come back
to normal life. Whatever you’re doing is totally against Islam. In spite of
statements and memorandum and condemnation of the terror, the voices of the 99%
true, peace-loving Muslims have not been heard, they have been drowned out by the
clamour and the noise of extremists. “Islam has nothing to do with any act of terrorism.
We reject every act of extremism and terrorism unconditionally.” The scholars
in attendance issued a Declaration of Global Peace.
In September, Tariq Ramadan re-issued his call for a stand against capital punishment. He said In the United Stated, in Saudi Arabia, in Iran or anywhere else, capital punishment should be abandoned. Our judicial systems are too imperfect, too influenced by politics and money, and far too exposed to procedural mistakes. The accused should enjoy the benefit of the doubt ; our societies should remain dignified. In 2005, I launched a call for a moratorium on the death penalty, corporal punishments and stoning. I emphasized that in the very name of Islam, Muslim majority societies should stop treating people in such a way, that so often targets women and the poor. It is in the very name of our common values that we need to take a stand today against capital punishment. Troy Davis is dead ; so is Mark Stroman : the former was surely innocent and was hoping for us to be forgiven, the latter was guilty, and begged for our forgiveness. As we look at ourselves in a mirror let us hope that, with or without compassion, we may at least show some dignity. If we remain silent, the shame is ours. ***
In September, Muslims for Life organized a 9/11 anniversary blood drive nationally. This first year they collected a total of 11,803 pints of blood for the Red Cross *** Islamic Relief USA held a National Day of Service to honor the memory of the victims of 9/11 ***
In September, The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), in partnership with Hartford Seminary and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), presented the second workshop on “Judaism and Islam in America.” The event, entitled “The Interpretation of Law and Scripture,” took place at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. ***
In September, four Muslim comedians (Negin Farsad, Dean Obeidallah, Maysoon Zayid, Omar Elba) performed in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Billed as ‘The Muslims are Coming!’ comedy tour, they also set up a “Name that Religion” game in Birmingham, Ala. and an “Ask a Muslim” booth in Lawrenceville, Ga. as a counter to Islamophobia. They are also working on a documentary feature of this routine.
In September, Nader Hasan (a cousin of the infamous Fort Hood shooter) started
the Nawal Foundation with the motto “no violence in the name of Islam, ever”.
The foundation lists three main goals: •Opposition to any violence in the name of
Islam; •Patriotic commitment to the protection of America; and
•Exploring our common humanity and amplifying the true majority voice of the Muslim-American community. ***
In September, despite threats, courtroom allegations and even legislation aimed at their faith, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro still had reason to celebrate in 2011. The congregation launched construction in late September on building the first 12,000 square feet of their new mosque and community center. ***
In September, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley made an historic decision on September 28, 2011, appointing a Muslim, Judge Hassan Ali El-Amin, to Maryland’s highest court. ***
On September 11, thousands of Americans joined together for the 9/11 Unity Walk http://911unitywalk.org/ , which took place along Embassy Row in Washington, DC. ISNA co-sponsored the Walk, which brought together people of all ages, backgrounds and faiths to learn to respect each other through a framework of experiential education, compassionate leadership, and intentional service. ***
In September, Rasha Abulohom worked with the MAS Youth Give program to arrange a special Eid party for Muslim children with specian needs. This may have been the first such event, and hopefully not the last. ***
In October, Muslim Student Associations MSA’s at universities across the country held their 10th annual Fast-A-Thon during Ramadan, to raise money for local charities and food banks. The University of Texas is only one example *** among hundreds.
In October, the WISE Muslim Women’s Conference was held in Istanbul attended by 180 Muslim women from 45 countries. One of the outcomes of this conference was that one participant, Jamila Afghani, from Afghanistan who heard about a program on the success of training gender-sensitive imams and religious leaders, thought that this was what Afghanistan needed. And so she went back to her country, contacted WISE (a program of the American Society for Muslim Advancement), and asked for help to start an imam gender-sensitive training program at the Noor Educational Center (NEC) in Kabul, where she had dedicated her life to empowering women in Afghanistan. She helped set a program to educate imams on women’s rights through Friday khutbahs and media appearances. The program has been in effect for a few years, with appointed monitors who sit in and listen to the sermons to make sure the training has been effective. According to Afghani, the program has reached 9.5 million people in Afghanistan. Although this story wasn’t exclusive to 2011 nor widely covered by the world media, the presentation of this program at the 2011 WISE conference in Istanbul was a turning point for the women leaders, activists, humanitarians, and journalists who had gathered to learn from each other’s work. Imam Mawlana Ehsan Saiqal, who had traveled with Afghani to the conference to talk about the program, told a story of one of his congregants who came to him after a Friday khutbah in tears, saying that he never knew Islam actually advocated for women’s inheritance, marital and property rights, adding that he regretted the decisions he had made for his daughters. ***
In October, Muslims joined others in taking a Food Stamp Challenge to raise awareness about how difficult it is for more than 21 million American families living in poverty, and attempting to feed a family on $31.50 a week per person. ***
In November, the Fiqh Council of North America issued a Resolution: On Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans ... ***
In November, 75 Jews and Muslims gathered together in Northern Virginia for a session on sharia and halacha (Jewish law). This was one of more than 130 events involving thousands of Jews and Muslims in 13 countries that took place as part of theWeekend of Twinning, an annual global event bringing together Muslims and Jews to build ties of communication and cooperation. ***
In November, a N.J. Muslim food bank prepared a Thanksgiving feast for the needy
***. Jewish and Muslim students at Rutgers joined to serve Thanksgiving
dinner to the needy
In December, the Nobel Peace Prize was won jointly by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian peace activist, and Yemeni pro-democracy campaigner Tawakkol Karman (a Muslim from Yemen). They won the Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”
In December, Jewish and Muslim volunteers in Detroit, St. Louis, and other cities across the country joined together to take the place of Christians at food pantries and other social service and charitable institutions so that Christian volunteers could be home with their families for Christmas ***
In December, Muslim New Yorkers donated 1,000 pounds of meat to local food pantries. ***
In December, a genocidal internet site Bare Naked Islam was investigated after
complaints by CAIR and other Muslim organizations and individuals, and ultimately
the site provider told them they were removing the site.
In December, MPAC the Muslim Public Affairs Council today expresses its support for the passage of a historic UN resolution to combat ideologies of religious hatred through free expression instead of silencing expression through a global blasphemy law. They also released a position paper “No Compulsion in Religion: A Faith-Based Critique of the ‘Defamation of Religions’ Concept.” opposing the misguided Defamation of Religions concept *** continuing the strong stand American Muslims have taken in favor of freedom of speech ***
In December, the Florida Family Association’s anti-Muslim campaign against the TLC reality series “All-American Muslim” resulted in many positive outcomes for the American Muslim community including strengthening interfaith relations, mobilizing the American Muslim and Arab communities across ethnic and sectarian lines, focusing awareness on Islamophobia and bigotry, and initiating the formation of a strong grassroots coalition of Muslims against bigotry. ***
In December, a group of Imams and Islamic organizations in Canada issued a “Call to action to end domestic violence” ***
In December, Time magazine named Ameena Matthews as #5 in the top 10 movie performances of the year for the documentary The Interrupters *** which is about her work with the anti-gang group Ceasefire in Chicago. Ameena Matthews is a reformed woman from a checkered past; her father is Jeff Fort, a notorious Chicago gang leader and she herself was involved with a drug ring. After finding love, children, and faith in her Muslim family, Ameena joined the Chicago group of gang violence “interrupters,” CeaseFire, in taking violence protection to the streets—literally. ***
In December, Linda Sarsour was honored by the White House as one of 10 American “Champions of Change” ***
In December, on a flight from Atlanta to Kansas City, a man foaming at the mouth lunged for the airliner’s cabin door, attempting to open it as flight attendants struggled to hold him at bay. Jabir Hazziez Jr. a Muslim passenger who is also a Kansas City firefighter, reserve Jackson County deputy and member of the U.S. Naval Reserve came forward, restrained the man who had become more violent and held him until the plane could be diverted. It turned out the man had had an adverse reaction to a vaccine. ***