North American Muslim Chronicle – Muslim Groups Support Parents in Custody Dispute
By Faisal Kutty – The AMC and CAIR representatives at this year’s ISNA Convention in Columbus, OH encouraged the thousands of visitors attending to sign petitions asking elected officials in Texas and elsewhere to look into the case of two Albanian Muslim children who were taken away from their parents by state authorities and converted to Christianity.
According to Khalid Hamideh, the family’s lawyer who spoke at the Conference, the Krashniqui children had been removed by the Texas Department of Child Protective Services based on an abuse complaint lodged against their father, based apparently on a cultural misunderstanding. A family court took away both children citing their best interest. Five years later a criminal court acquitted the father and cleared him of any wrongdoing.
The state refuses to return the children—who in the meantime had been adopted by another family—on grounds that the criminal decision has no bearing on the earlier family court decision. National Muslim organizations at the Conference were mobilizing to pressure elected officials including the governor of Texas to act to reverse this injustice. Members of the Krashniqui family, who sold all their possessions and property to fund their legal costs, have launched two lawsuits to get back their children—both of whom want to be with their parents. To contribute to the Krashniqui legal fund, please send your contribution c/o Khalid Hamideh, Attorney-at-Law, 1301 Northwest Highway, Suite 212, Garland, TX 75041, tel. (214) 271-4007.
10,000 Attend ISNA Conference
More than 10,000 people from across North America attended the event, which centered around the theme “Islam our Choice.” The figures were down from the record at last year’s convention in Chicago—which is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in North America.
The gathering got off to a highly charged start with Shaikh Abdullah Idris delivering an informative and deeply emotional Khutba (Friday sermon). Shaikh Idris, who was recently reelected as the president of ISNA, told the captivated audience, “We have to deliver what we have and not what we do not have, otherwise it will be hypocrisy.” Islam has to be reflected in the morals, behavior, action, speech and feelings of a Muslim, he said.
A number of internationally renowned speakers and activists addressed the conference, including the following from overseas: Yousouf Islam (former pop singer Cat Stevens), Syed Shahabudin (Indian member of parliament and editor of Muslim India), and Dr. Golam Azam (president of Jamat-e-Islami Bangladesh).
Most attendees were of the view that Columbus was an ideal location for the gathering. The city was not too big and had all the requisite amenities for a conference of this size. The local Muslim community, led by the Islamic Society of Greater Columbus, was very receptive and helped to facilitate the function. The people of Columbus were generally very friendly and the mayor of the City, Gregory S. Lashutka, even proclaimed “Islamic Day of Columbus” on Sept. 2, 1995.
The conference was not limited to speeches and displays. There also was a well-coordinated community outreach program which included a Bone Marrow registration drive. Shaikh Abdullah Idris and Dr. Khalid Iqbal, vice president for ISNA in Canada, reportedly were among the first to be tested.
Thousands packed into the largest hall at the Convention Center on Sept. 3 to attend the interfaith session addressed by Dr. Irfan Ahmad Khan, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui, Deacon Frank Ball, Dr. Blake Michael, Bonnie Awan, Samuel Horowitz and Dr. Jamal Badawi. Dr. Khan summarized the session when he said: “If mankind is to have a bright future at all, it will come from people of different faiths coming together to better serve, defend and support humanity.”
One of the most popular attractions at the convention was the bazaar. Attendees had the opportunity to purchase Muslim outfits, food items, jewelry, calligraphy…the list is endless. Bookworms found the bazaar to be a godsend. Most of the major book publishers and distributors in North America had stalls.
The bazaar also was useful for those who wanted to gather information about organizations such as the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
One Man’s Mission for the Children of Bosnia
Housam Kabalan, a native of Alberta, completed a three-month cross-Canada cycling tour on Sept. 12 to raise public awareness and funds for the most neglected and vulnerable victims in Bosnia—its children.
According to Bosnian government reports released last year, more than 40 percent of the children of Sarajevo had been wounded and 72 percent had lived in homes that had been damaged or destroyed. The numbers obviously have risen since then.
Kabalan’s three-month journey, which covered more than 10,000 kilometers, started on June 15 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and ended on Sept. 12 in Victoria, British Columbia.
Kabalan and Wael Zahab, who accompanied him in a van, arrived in Toronto on July 11. The following day, more than 200 children from the summer school at the Islamic Foundation presented Kabalan and Zahab with letters written by them to the children of Bosnia. This was one of the highlights of their tour, according to Kabalan. Kabalan, a former Alberta Karate champ, told the students that children like them in Bosnia were suffering. He asked them to pray for them and remind their parents about the children of Bosnia.
The letters written by the children will be forwarded to Bosnia by Human Concern International (HCI). HCI, an Ottawa-based charity, provided support for Kabalan’s mission for the children of Sarajevo, and will channel to Bosnia through its network of contacts the funds he raised.
Kabalan, 28, says that he was surprised and delighted at the reception he received. In Toronto, for instance, his bike was repaired free of charge by Broadway Cycle, when the owner found out about the mission.
Programs and projects funded by HCI in Bosnia to date have included: (1) Safe-Women Project, which provides counseling and other care services to the victims of rape; (2) Agro-packages project; and (3) Child Support Program, which involves continual financial assistance for their medical, educational and basic needs. For information or to contribute: Human Concern International, P.O. Box 3984, Station C, Ottawa, Ontario, K1Y 4P2, tel. (613) 742-5948, fax (613) 742-7733.
Canadian Muslim Rights and Advocacy Group Formed
Concerned members of the Muslim community in Canada have joined together to set up a new organization dedicated to empowering the community and removing harmful stereotypes about Muslims and Islam through social, political and legal activism.
The organization known as the Canadian-Muslim Civil Liberties Association (CMCLA) hopes to achieve its objectives through Anti-Defamation Work, Action Alerts, Lobbying, Training, Publications, Seminars and Public Education.
“This type of organization is sorely needed by our community,” says Shaikh Abdullah Hakim Quick, Ph.D. All those concerned about minority rights and anti-discrimination are invited to become members of CMCLA. Members will receive a quarterly newsletter and regular alerts, as well as discounts on CMCLA publications and seminars. “More importantly members will have the satisfaction of having contributed to the removal of harmful stereotypes,” says Imran Yousouf, a board member, “as well as to our empowerment as a community.”
A number of prominent Islamic activists and scholars will be affiliated with CMCLA either as board members, committee members, representatives or advisors. The Advisory Board is presently composed of: Jamal Hassan, Voice of Islam; Ibrahim Hooper, communications director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Shaikh Ibrahim Husein Malabari, Imam/Director, Islamic Center of Toronto; Shaikh Ahmad Kutty, Imam, Islamic Foundation of Toronto; and Shaikh Abdullah Hakim Quick, president, Islamic Social Services and Resources Association (ISSRA).
CMCLA will work closely with existing organizations to ensure that the community’s resources are not wasted through duplication. The CMCLA currently is working with the Voice of Islam and lawyer Peter Rosenthal on lobbying the Human Rights Commissions and mobilizing the community in support of Michael Taylor who was ejected from an Ontario courtroom for wearing a kufi—headwear worn by some Muslim men.
The CMCLA also is trying to mobilize funds to make donations of worthwhile books and periodicals to public libraries and schools, and to set up awards to encourage positive research and writing on Muslims and Islam in Canada. For further information or to contribute: CMCLA, Unit 13, 27 Lapsley Road, Scarborough, Ontario, M1B 1K1, tel./fax (416) 293-8065, E-mail: email@example.com
Faisal Kutty is a free-lance writer based in Toronto.
Note: First Published: October/November 1995, pgs. 73-74
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