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.
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.
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.
Kübra Gümüsay is the co-founder and press-officer of the Zahnräder network for active, creative and intellectual Muslim entrepreneurs in Germany (ranked amongst the top 20 visionairy ideas in 2011 by Generation-D and financed e.g. by the European Union Youth in Action Programme) and am involved in various social projects on areas such as social blogging, diversity and feminism.
According to Germany radio , she is one of the most influential minds of Islam in Germany.She is also the first Hijabi Columnist in Germany.
Ehab Sadeek, an Egyptian Muslim American decided to give 100-percent of the profits from his retail bagel business to the One Fund Boston, will keep it up until the last victim of the Boston Marathon bombing (that occurred April 15, 2013) is out of the hospital.
Hammad Aslam was set to start medical school in Augusta in the fall of 2009 when a car accident almost took his life. But paralysis from the chest down only delayed his plans by one year. Hammad has overcome many obstacles and is now pursuing his doctorate at the Medical College of Georgia.
MH: You overcame a pretty serious life-changing event in your life. Can you tell us more about it and how you overcame it?
I was in a car accident with my family in May of 2009. Our SUV hydroplaned off the road and hit a tree. The tree fell on top of my corner of the vehicle, crushing me under the roof and glass. Thankfully, no one else was seriously hurt. My dad fractured a bone in his forearm and had a small neck injury. My mom had a minor injury to her ribs. My younger sister broke her leg and my youngest sister was untouched. My older brother was away at the time.
I am just blessed to be alive. I received a traumatic brain injury with a skull fracture and bleeding in my brain, nerve damage in my right arm, and a complete spinal cord injury. I spent a few weeks in an unconscious and semi-conscious state. I do not recall anything from this time period and I do not even remember getting into an accident.
I came consciously aware of things a few weeks later. At the time, I was in the traumatic brain injury unit of the Shepherd Center because my brain injury was so severe that the doctors all predicted that I would be permanently inflicted with mental deficits on top of my physical handicaps. I spent a few weeks in that unit before I was transferred to the spinal cord injury unit. I spent three months as an inpatient at the Shepherd Center and continued to come there for therapy for several months after I was discharged and living at home.
MH: How have friends and family helped you overcome some of the challenge you’ve faced?
I had and still have a very strong support system consisting of my family and friends. They have always supported any and all goals I have had. They have been there in my darkest of times, when I have been let down, when I have fallen and when I have failed. Thanks to my family and friends, it has been much easier adjusting to this new life and new circumstances. I was never really allowed to consider myself different from anyone else and I was never really given the time for any self-pity.
My parents and friends never let me feel that I was any different. I knew that I was placed in that situation for a reason. In fact, I was thankful to be the one lying in the hospital bed and not any of my family members or friends.
MH: Did faith play a role in overcoming your challenges, if so, how?
It’s very easy to blame and be angry at God or other people when we are in disadvantageous circumstances. It would have been way too easy to ask, “Why me? Why was I chosen for this?” Instead, I have been thankful. No one else who was in vehicle at the time was seriously injured like me. None of my friends have been injured like this. Thank God. I would never want to see any of them in this situation. I believe there is a reason for everything and that we are given only as much as we can handle. Therefore, I am thankful that I have been put in this situation and not anyone else. I know that this is all part of a plan that none us can foresee and that in the end, things will be alright.
MH: What inspired you to pursue medical school?
I have always wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor. After my accident, though, I knew I wanted this even more. It became even more apparent to me that my true calling was in the relief of the suffering of others. I have suffered a lot and I do not want anyone else to suffer like I have or suffer in their own circumstances, whatever those may be. Medical school was also a big challenge. I knew that people doubted me with many things so I wanted to prove to them—and to myself—that I could do it.
MH: What challenges did you face and have you faced on your road to medical school?
The first challenges in medical school included just adapting to living completely alone. I was stubborn and I somehow convinced my family to allow me to move away to a different city and live by myself, without any roommates or helpers. This was only a year after my accident and I was still adapting to my disabilities. Doing everything in a wheelchair for the first time took longer than I expected.
On top of adapting myself both physically and mentally to these new circumstances, I also found myself struggling in medical school. I was quite timid and had a significant inferiority complex. I felt like everyone was smarter than me. I was afraid to speak up during our discussions. I also found myself studying harder I ever had before and harder than anyone else in my class, but I was barely getting by. This was extremely frustrating and I was very upset about this. But I adapted. I knew I could do this, one way or another, so I adjusted by study habits to study both smarter and harder than ever before.
MH: You certainly have remained active in the Atlanta Muslim community. Tell us more about your work and what motivates you to serve others?
The first year after my accident before I started medical school, I knew I had to do something productive. I knew that it would be selfish of me to try and work hard only for the benefit of myself. So, I decided to immerse myself in different volunteer activities, especially since I wasn’t doing much at home. I knew that doing things in the service of others would in turn benefit me more than anyone else, in both the short and long term.
MH: What advice would you give to others facing the same challenges you’ve faced on pursuing their dreams and goals in life?
First off, I wish and pray that no one faces the same challenges I have faced. That being said, many people face their own challenges in their pursuit for accomplishing the tasks that they plan or of which they dream. As I stated earlier, it is too easy to blame our circumstances on God or on other people. It is too easy to simply accept our circumstances as “just the way God wants them to be”. Instead, I feel like people should not look at different situations as something from God and that must simply be accepted, but these situations should be looked upon as challenges. It is these challenges and the way we react to them—or fail to react to them—that define us.
MH: What advice would you give to those seeking to pursue medical school?
I hear all the time about people who have plans to go to medical school. To these people, I propose that they do some self reflection and contemplate upon why they want to purse this profession. Are they doing this because their parents have been telling them their whole lives that this is a good idea? Are they doing this because they feel like it’s a noble profession? Are they doing this for the job security?
I knew that this was my calling and I knew the disabilities that I had been given would only help me and help others in the long run. Therefore, I was willing to work harder than anyone else I knew.
I suggest others really “get their hands dirty” in terms of learning about this profession. Learn about the ups and downs. Learn about life. Perhaps more importantly, learn about death. I have faced my own mortality and it has given me a completely new perspective on life. It was only after I had almost everything taken away from me that I was able to think clearly.
You can follow Hammad here on his blog: http://mindofhammad.blogspot.com/