Aitzaz Hassan, aged around 14, died in hospital after stopping a suicide bomber, who blew himself up, at the gates of his school in the northwestern district of Hangu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
Yasmin Diallo Turk is a passionate advocate for women, parent to two young children, and geographer making her way from GED to PhD. Ms. Turk graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Sociology from Huston-Tillotson University, a Master’s in Global Policy from the University of Texas (LBJ School of Public Affairs) and is now in her third year as a PhD student at Texas State University in the Department of Geography.
In addition to her work in academia, Ms. Turk is in her twelfth year working directly with survivors of sexual and domestic violence at SafePlace. Through Ms. Turk’s commitment to volunteerism, she serves as a Girl Scout co-leader, an Arabic language interpreter for American Gateways, mentor to girls who will be first generation college attendees, and as project director for HOPE for Senegal.
In her role with HOPE for Senegal, Ms. Turk has raised more than $40,000 to grant scholarships to girls, build a science lab, and bring drinking water to a school of more than 4,000 students.
Syed Shadman Hossain won the Alternate Grand Prize in the Medicine and Health Sciences category in the 2012 Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair for his project entitled, Cytotoxicity of TQ on Bacteria and Cancer Cells.
He is currently a freshman at Johns Hopkins University studying biomedical engineering and computer science and hopes to integrate his two areas of interest to hopefully one day develop novel methods of disease detection and treatment.
His publication of his research is here: http://www.jes2s.com/pdfs/hossain_et_al.pdf
Dr. Saud Anwar, a Democrat, was elected as the first Muslim mayor of South Windsor.
Dr. Jaber Hassan, is a pulmonary and critical care doctor born and raised in Syria. He is part of a team of doctors who belong to the Syrian American Medical Society, make regular trips back to Syria to help with medical treatment of Syrian civilians.
MH: Can you tell us a little a bit about yourself and what got you interested in providing free healthcare in Syria?
My name Jaber Monla-Hassan, medical doctor, born in Aleppo Syria, American citizen by naturalization, specialized in critical care medicine which is taking care the eminent life threatening illnesses such as shock and acute respiratory failure. I have been involved in volunteering my country of birth for many years as part of the non-for profit organization SAMS. When the crisis in Syria erupted, I had no hesitance to continue my obligation toward fellow humans in even more dire need for help.
MH: What inspired you to go to Syria and provide free healthcare there?
The collapsing medical system in Syria which left an entire population in dire need for medical aids has urged SAMS members to render the maximum they can do to alleviate the escalating suffering of the population.
MH: What is the Syrian American Medical Society and what does it do?
SAMS is a non-governmental professional and humanitarian organization consists of Syrian American medical professionals of various specialties which was formed 14 years ago and have been providing volunteering work all over the world and since the Syrian crisis erupted almost exclusively focusing on Syrian civilians trapped in the raging war violence. WWW.SAMS-US.net explains about its activities which includes and is not limited to supporting and building hospitals to serve the civilian population all over Syria, building mobile medical and dental clinics both inside and outside Syria to support the refugees and trapped civilians, dispatching medical professional inside Syria and in the camps to support the remaining existing health providers, conducting training courses for the purpose of improving the skills of the remaining doctors and nursing staff, delivering medical equipment and ambulances to the deprived areas among many other things.
MH: It is extremely difficult for most Muslim Americans and the world to see the ongoing atrocities occurring against the Syrian people. What are some practical ways people can help contribute to helping ease the suffering of the Syrian people?
Please support SAMS as all the donations are channeled very promptly and by its entirety to the beneficiaries without any administrative expenses as these expenses are being taking care by SAMS members.
MH: As someone who is on the ground and has seen the trauma first-hand, what are the current updates in Syria?
Worse every day as we speak as the International aids have been dwindling and sometimes non-existent in vast areas of Syria. Unless there is a massive move by all humanitarian and aids organizations millions upon millions of civilians are left to face even worse than war and trauma, which is starvation and disseminated disease.
MH: There has been an ongoing debate on intervention and no intervention internationally. What do you feel is the best course of action based on your experience and speaking to Syrian patients who you’ve spoken to?
The main intervention the Syrian are lacking is massive medical and humanitarian aids to alleviate their suffering supported by a true international pressure on all sides to force them to stop the violence and allow the civilians to catch their breaths and dress their open wounds.
MH: How can individuals looking to support or get involved with the Syrian American Medical Society and/or other Syrian relief organization?
Any individual can donate directly to SAMS on its website or by writing a check to SAMS foundation naming Save Syrian life campaign. They can name the specific program they are interested to support among the 9 program or just leave it generic.
Native Deen is an Islamic musical group from the Washington, D.C. area.
MH: How and when did Native Deen start?
The 3 of us started performing together in 2000. Although we did not actually come up with a name until about 2002. However, the seeds were planted through the project called MYNA Raps which started in 1992. I was on the first MYNA raps with other artists. Naeem and Abdul-Malik were on MYNA raps 2-4 with other artists. And all three of us were the only artists on MYNA raps 5. We performed songs from MYNA raps 5 for 5 years until we came out with our own album in 2005 titled Deen You Know.
MH: What topics or themes influence your music, lyrics and content?
We all have different backgrounds. And our upbringing finds its way into out music. We have home school backgrounds, Islamic School backgrounds, public school backgrounds, military backgrounds, university backgrounds, marriage, children, etc. We all have different music that we prefer and those different styles of music finds its way into our style as well.
MH: What role does music have in educating and inspiring individuals to change themselves and their communities?
Its huge. Music is a language that speaks to people on top of their regular language. A song can do a lot more than a speech for the emotional well being of a person sometimes. Music is another tool used to communicate thoughts and messages to people.
MH: Some argue that music can be dawah and can educate people of other faiths about Islam and Muslims. Should Muslim artists create music geared only towards Muslims or make music that is relatable to people of other faith too?
Both. Every artist does not have to do both. However, I think the Muslim community needs artists that do both.
MH: Native Deen is one of the pioneers when it comes to Muslim hip hop music. Have you seen an evolution and an increase in appearance of Muslim rappers and musicians?
Oh yes. Its good to see many more artists coming on the scene. Alhamdu-lilah we were able to push the envelope a little and open some doors for the artists coming now.
MH: Many of your songs focus on Muslim American identity. How important is it to create messages for Muslim youth to be proud of their Muslim identity?
It’s very important. Muslim identity is a growing concern for many American Muslim communities.
MH: Native Deen’s traveled internationally and nationally and your music has been universally accepted and been a crucial part of the development of some Muslim youth’s identity. Have you seen common challenges for Muslim youth in the US and internationally?
Gender relations is a common problem. Youth do not feel empowered to have proper relationships with the opposite gender. Identity is another common challenge. Muslim Youth are not aware of their history and sometimes they do not think of themselves highly. And may consider the West as the advanced society because of today’s reality.
MH: Many people complain about the negative connotations associated with hip hop and rap and the messages promoted in the genre of rap and hip hop. How would you respond to individuals who say hip hop and rap shouldn’t be listened to (no matter who the artist is) due to the negative influence it has on the youth?
That is a very general statement. A person can make it even broader and put ALL music into that category. The fact is that music is a tool and hip hop is a style. The lyrics are a different thing. And there are many hip hop songs that are extremely positive. It would be better to teach youth to stay away from bad lyrics no matter what the style of music instead of keeping them away from hip hop alone.
MH: Many Muslim artists like Lupe Fiasco have been critical of current trends in hip hop and amongst rappers and tries to promote positive messages in his music. How important is it for messages in music to be meaningful and positive?
Its very important. But I think its more important for it NOT to be negative. Meaning, a person can write a song about watching water on the beach. Or some experience they had. Another person may not find the song meaningful or positive. But they can recognize that its not negative.
MH: Is it possible for Muslim musicians and artists to go “mainstream” and still maintain the positive messages in their music?
Of course. I think the next generation will produce many more of these types of artists.
MH: Have you seen an expansion of Muslim artists into different genres of music apart from rap?
I’m seeing Muslims artists coming up into every style of music there is. Reggae, Country, Rock, etc.
MH: Who are some of your favorite Muslim musicians or artists?
Since I can’t name them all, I wont name any. Because I know these artists. And I would not want to offend anyone by forgetting.
MH: If you could collaborate with any artists or groups, Muslim or non-Muslim artist who would you like to work with?
I would like to do a project with Lupe personally. I think Naeem would love to do a project with Yasin Bey (Mos Def).
MH: What advice would you give to aspiring Muslim artists and musicians?
Have a partner. Don’t do it alone. Even if its just a manager who is close to you. But have a partner.
MH: Where can we learn more about your work and follow you work?
Facebook and http://www.nativedeen.com
Sadia Saifuddin (BA ’14) recently was confirmed as the 40th student regent to sit on the University of California Board of Regents. She became the first Muslim to join the board.
MH: Congratulations on becoming the first Muslim member of the UC Board of Regents! What made you want to pursue the position?
Thank you! I applied for the position because I know what it is like to be a struggling student and worry about how you will make ends meet. Between rent, tuition, books, and food, there is very little wiggle room. Every penny counts. When my financial aid was stripped from me during my sophomore year, I worked three jobs during the day and tutored in the evenings so that I could make enough money to pay my rent. It was stressful and made my grades suffer, and that should never be the experience of any UC student. When the application was released, I thought for a long time about whether I wanted to pursue this position, and then decided that I would give it a shot and see what would happen. I didn’t think I had a chance; many more qualified and experienced people from around the state applied, but alhumdulillah it all worked out and now I’m here.
MH: What do you plan to do as a member of the UC Board of Regents?
I have two priorities on the Board. First, I want to fix the Financial Aid system to be more student friendly. Right now, its a quagmire and navigating the system is extraordinarily frustrating. I’ll be working with students and administrators to identify the gaps in the system and then submit policy recommendations to the campus and UCOP. Second, I want to bridge the gap between students and the Regents so that their policy decisions can be more informed by the student experience. I will be bringing different student communities together to meet with the Regents on a biannual basis so that they can speak about their concerns and experiences.
MH: You seem to be quite the activist on your campus, which stirred up controversy when it came to your appointment on the board, how did you overcome the negativity and backlash towards your appointment?
You know you are doing something right when you have haters. Haha, but in all seriousness, you have to believe in yourself. Integrity is HUGE for me, and I knew that as long as I was staying true to myself and my value system, I would be okay. The only person i have to be accountable to is myself, and as long as I knew that I was better than the person I was yesterday, I was doing my job. I also have the most supportive friends, and they surrounded me like a shield when things became difficult. Its thanks to the wonderful people in my life that I was able to overcome this obstacle.
MH: Many of the individuals who spoke against your appointment cited anti-Semitism as their main concern for your appointment. How did you deal with the fierce criticism of individuals? How did you respond?
It’s so funny to me that people called me an anti-semite. I’m anything but. I’ve advocated against hate of any kind for all communities. I’ve worked closely with the leaders of the Jewish and Israeli communities, and have very close personal relationships with them. I’ve been to Tikvah (the pro-Israeli organization on campus) and Hillel events. I’ve invited them to our townhalls and had open and honest conversations with them so we could learn from one another. I know who I am, and the people that have worked with me know who I am as well. I don’t need to respond to those allegations because my work speaks for itself. Many of my Jewish and Israeli friends wrote letters of support and op-eds in support of my appointment, and that was testament to the fact that the cries of anti-Semitism were unfounded and grounded in ignorance.
MH: Some of your supporters include Simone Zimmerman who is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley. And currently serves as the president of the J Street U National Student Board and wrote an article in the Haaretz in support of your nomination and wrote that those opposed to your appointment did not speak for her or the Jewish community. Have you received similar support from other organizations and individuals either on campus, in California, or other organizations outside of California?
I’ve received an enormous amount of support from UC students from all backgrounds. Like I mentioned earlier, students from all backgrounds wrote to the Regents in support of my nomination, urging them to confirm me. It was beautiful to witness so much solidarity, especially because we disagreed politically but they still believed that I would represent their interests. Simone is actually a good friend of mine that falls into that category. In fact, an old friend of mine from high school who was heavily involved in StandWithUs wrote me an email and said that she didnt believe what the media was saying about me and that as someone who knew me personally, she believed that I would be a great representative. I’ve had people recognize me on the street and say that they are Jewish and support my appointment, and I’ve even received mail with cards and letters of congratulations and support. It was heartening to see so much unification, and I am forever grateful to those folks that stood up for me, even if it was against their own community (shout out to my girl Simone, i love you!)
MH: Many Muslim college students and their parents are skeptical and scared of becoming political activists or advocates. In your own experience how have you dealt with this fear or skepticism about activism from Muslim parents and some Muslim college students?
In all honesty, it is scary to live in the current Islamophobic environment and be an activist. I commend all of those people that have the courage to do it, because following your heart and doing what you believe is right is usually coupled with a massive public smearing campaign (I can testify to this). In my experience, I learned to play the game and learned to play it well. Thanks to organizations like CAIR, I learned so much about the political system and what skills I needed to excel. At the root of all of that, I internalized the belief that when you fight for justice, Allah is ALWAYS on your side. There are so many times I have fallen to my knees and asked for a miracle, and I’ve gotten one. We are stronger than we think we are, and the moment we are too afraid to speak up is when the opposition has won. Truly, the only thing to fear is fear itself.
MH: In light of the NYPD spying on MSAs in New York, has there any drop in activism amongst Muslim college students at UC Berkeley or local California colleges?
Thankfully, there hasn’t been a drop in activism. In fact, organizations such as MSA West have grown and taken political stances to encourage activism (the theme for the 2012 MSA West Conference was #OccupYourself)
MH: Some MSA leadership argue that MSAs should remain silent on political issues to avoid scrutiny by media or local student groups or university administration. What are your thoughts on MSAs taking a more political role on college campuses? Should they take a more political role on campuses?
I believe that MSAs should absolutely have a political arm. At UC Berkeley, we have the Cal MSA Political Action Committee that handles all of the sit-ins, demonstrations, protests, political khateras, etc. We need to understand that the Muslim community is under attack. We need to get smart and learn how to take our place in our political system. We cannot sit quietly as our brothers and sisters suffer abroad and here in the states. The mission of the MSA is to provide Muslim students with a holistic college experience, and I think understanding our political system and having the opportunity to participate in it is a part of that. At the very least, it is an avenue to educate our communities and ourselves about issues facing Muslims in the US and abroad, and how we can craft solution to address them.
MH: Many college campuses are susceptible to Islamophobia and outside organizations causing problems for Muslim students on campuses. How would you recommend Muslim college students prepare themselves against the threat of Islamophobia on their campuses? What proactive steps can Muslim college students take?
I’m glad you asked this question, because battling hate of any kind is important. The first thing to do is to build coalitions. If there is any kind of incident that threatens other student communities even if they aren’t Muslim, we need to be there to stand with them and vocally express our support. This will ensure that when we are under attack, they will be there for us as well. Second, we need to call attention to these situations and bring them to higher levels, whether it is administratively or politically. When an Islamophobic lecturer at UC Santa Cruz was making inflammatory comments against the Muslim community, I wrote a bill condemning Islamophobia and citing specific incidences (including NYPD surveillance of college students) and it passed unanimously in our Senate. I then had that same bill passed at UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, and a few other schools. This called media attention to the situation and the ways this was negatively impacting campus climate. It also made it clear to the Islamophobes that we weren’t kidding around about fighting for our rights, and that we would not be bullied into silence. There are serious consequences to their actions.
MH: You’ll be graduating soon, what are your plans after graduation? What are your career goals?
After graduation, I would like to work for a couple of years and then get my MBA. I’m really interested in social innovation and design thinking, and McKinsey & Co have some amazing global consulting projects. I’m interested in development consulting, specifically for multinational organizations operating in developing countries, and how we can change their day to day operations to become more socially and environmentally friendly. Eventually, I would like to open my own consulting firm for corporations operating in developing countries so that they can contribute to their development in more positive ways.
MH: What advice would you give to Muslim college students who would like to get more involved on their campuses in their university administrations, student governments, boards, etc.?
My advice would be to branch out and step outside of their comfort zones. We need Muslims in all fields, and that takes courage. Find the courage in you to pursue your goals and always renew your intentions so that you are working for the betterment of the Ummah. Network with different communities and learn where the gaps are so that you can fill them. I happened upon the office of the Student Regent Designate when I was applying for jobs, and I got to know more about the job when I served as the previous Student Regent’s Chief of Staff. Look for out-of-the-box opportunities to flex your activist and leadership muscle, and don’t be afraid of doing something different. After all, the entire point of life is to learn as much as we can, and sometimes that requires jumping into the pool and learning how to swim.
Sadia Saifuddin (BA ’14) has been confirmed as the 40th student regent to sit on the University of California Board of Regents. She became the first Muslim to join the board.
The mission of MakeSpace is to serve as an inclusive, responsive and transparently-managed hub for the Washington Metropolitan area Muslim community, with a strong focus on youth and professionals, to grow spiritually, intellectually and professionally and to develop an American Muslim identity rooted in the values of balance and compassion through educational programs, civic engagement initiatives, community service projects and recreational activities with the aim of making the timeless message of Islam relevant to the lives of all community members.