Tag Archives: Michigan

Metro Detroit man to recite Muslim call to prayer in 50 mosques in 50 states in the U.S. Islam

Jameel Syed, 40, of Auburn Hills is embarking on a 35-day spiritual journey to become the first person to give the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, in all 50 states.

Read the full story here at the Detroit Free Press:  http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/04/03/muslim-call-prayer-states/25273397/

Watch video I shot of Syed giving the Musilm call to prayer

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800 pack Jewish Community Center in Oak Park, Michigan, to stop it from closing

Hundreds jammed the Jewish Community Center in Oak Park Monday night to strongly object to the center’s closing, accusing Jewish leaders of favoring the wealthy in the community.

It was standing-room only inside the center as residents lined up to blast the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and Jewish Community Center leaders for moving to close the center. About 800 attended, with police preventing additional people from entering because of fire safety regulations.

Leaders are “only caring about the country-club set instead of worrying about those in need,” said Alan Hitsky, 69, of Southfield, to loud applause.

“Something has to be done to save it,” said Tova Schreiber, 26, of Oak Park. “It provides a very valuable service for different segments of the community.”

Some at the Monday discussion suggested setting up a grassroots fund to raise money to save the center, with one woman writing a $1,000 check.

Alan Hitsky, 69, of Southfield, speaks out against the closing of the Jewish Community Center in Oak Park, Michigan, on Jan. 12, Monday.

“I have tears in my eyes,” Florine Mark, president of the Jewish Community Center, said at the meeting. “I’m so proud of this Jewish community. I just got a check for $1,000. Let’s save this building.”

But center officials stressed Monday that any such effort to save the building would probably have to be independent of the Jewish Community Center.

Leaders with the center and Federation are recommending the center be closed because it is losing up to $1 million a year. The plan has led to a sharp pushback from some in the Oak Park area, with a petition against the closing drawing 650 signatures so far, said Aaron Tobin, 53, of Oak Park, who opposes closing the center.

The meeting on Monday night was to hear the concerns of the public; all of the speakers from the audience opposed the closing.

“We’re not abandoning this neighborhood,” said Scott Kaufman, CEO of the Jewish Federation. “We’re going to continue servicing the community, but at a price we can afford.”

Built in 1956, the Jewish Commmunity Center in Oak Park is the oldest and smaller of the two main Jewish community centers that is largely funded by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. The other center is in West Bloomfield. Residents say the closing of the Oak Park center would hurt the Orthodox and less wealthy members of the community, who tend to be more concentrated in the Oak Park area.

In fiscal year 2013-14, the Jewish Community Centers in Oak Park and West Bloomfield lost close to $1.4 million, said Jim Issner, interim executive director of the Jewish Community Center. The centers were projected to lose $1.2 million for fiscal year 2014-2015.

“They have been losing a significant amount of money for a number of years,” said Issner. “A significant portion of the losses can be attributed to the Oak Park facility.”

But Issner says he understands the concerns that some may have.

“No one is taking this lightly,” he said.

Schreiber said that Jewish leaders are not aware that a growing number of young Jewish people have moved to the Oak Park area in recent years.

She said the center is a great place for different denominations in the Jewish community, and age groups, can come together.

“It would really be a shame if it closed,” she said.

Marvin Berman, 80, of Southfield, suggested teaming up with the Chaldean community to create a joint Jewish-Chaldean center. He also said the Federation should spend more locally on the community than on helping Israel.

“The needs of the local community are more important than the financial needs of Israel,” Berman said.

Shirley Zimberg, 84, of Southfield, said the center plays an important role.

The Oak Park center “offers a face-to-face experience for all people, young and old, disabled, all kinds of religions and races,” she said.

Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792, Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo

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Muslim athletes in metro Detroit balance sports and faith during Ramadan fasting

The 2014 World Cup poses challenges for observant Muslims as Ramadan starts this weekend.  In 2007, the Detroit Free Press wrote about how local Muslim athletes observe Ramadan.

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Fordson High School football team prays before game in 2007

Fordson High School football team prays before game in 2007

 

THE RAMADAN FAST | A TEST OF BODY AND FAITH

MUSLIM ATHLETES SACRIFICE SUNRISE TO SUNSET

Published in Detroit Free Press, Oct. 5, 2007, Page 1a.

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS05/710050338/0/RSS07

By Niraj Warikoo

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer


 

Hunched over, clutching his stomach, Saeed Saleh gasps for air. The cross-country runner has stopped suddenly during a practice sprint around the track at Fordson High in Dearborn.

“I couldn’t breathe, ” the senior panted. “It came out of nowhere. I wasn’t able to keep on going.”

That’s understandable, given that Saeed, like thousands of Muslims across metro Detroit, abstains from all food and liquids during daylight hours for Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that started in mid-September.

For high school athletes, the 30 days are a special challenge, one that puts their faith to the test as they balance America’s tradition of school sports with their religion.

Far from a clash of civilizations, what plays out on fields and courts across Michigan is a blend of cultures that complement each other, reinforcing their common values of sacrifice, discipline and hard work.

Islam’s emphasis on forbearance overlaps with the lessons learned on American playgrounds, say local imams, athletes, players and coaches, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

“The philosophy of Ramadan … is the same thing we’re teaching these kids on the field, ” said Hussein Berry, who founded a junior football league in Dearborn. “It all comes together.”

Some Muslim football players got dispensations this fall from local Islamic scholars to break fasts early on game day – not unlike the time when a Detroit rabbi cited a Talmudic verse that allowed Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg to play on Rosh Hashanah (but not on Yom Kippur) during the 1934 pennant race.

Other Muslim athletes eschew food and water even on the day of competitions. A top runner, Saeed placed first in a meet in Ypsilanti the week before Ramadan started. But during a Thursday practice after two weeks of fasting he pondered whether his abstaining would affect his time in a coming meet.

“Sometimes, you just die out, and you just can’t take it anymore, ” he explained while massaging his cramped right side. “Sometimes, you just feel like, keep on going, you know? … We’ll see what happens.”

 

Football and Islam

Last season, Fordson High’s football team, which is about 95% Muslim, started 4-0.

Then Ramadan came.

The team lost its next four games, all held during the holy month. After Ramadan, the team won its last regular game of the year, squeaking into the playoffs.

Did the fasting affect their performance? Maybe.

But this season, new head coach Fouad Zaban isn’t making it an issue.

“It became an excuse, whether legitimate or not, ” said Zaban, a former star running back at Fordson. “It became a distraction, something we had to deal with the last four to five years. …But our motto this year is: ‘No excuses.’ We will not bring the issue up, and we haven’t.”

Zaban is a devout Muslim and fasts. But he’s leaving the choice up to his players: There’s water on the sidelines if they want to drink during workouts. During a practice last Thursday, though, the players chose to sweat it out.

“I got to follow my religion, ” said Mohammed Bazzy, 17, the team’s quarterback. “It’s very hard during football, but there’s no excuse … you got to do what you got to do.”

For athletes, the first days of Ramadan are often the toughest, as the body tries to cope with no food or water from sunrise till sunset. To Bazzy and other students, avoiding liquids is particularly tough.

But they say it’s worth it.

“It makes me feel strong knowing that I can fast and go through football, ” he said. “Fasting makes you a stronger person, a better person.”

Scholar’s advice

Before Ramadan began, some of Fordson’s starters met with Imam Abdul-Latif Berry, a Shi’ite Muslim scholar who heads the Islamic Institute of Knowledge in Dearborn. They asked him: Can we eat and drink before the game?

Imam Berry advised them: It’s OK, but they must make it up after Ramadan. Also, they must travel on game days at least 22 miles outside their home city before afternoon prayers, and break the fast there.

So on game days, several Fordson players drive out near Ann Arbor before 12:30 p.m., gulp down some water or Gatorade, and then drive back to eat before the 7 p.m. kickoff.

There are other Islamic interpretations of when and how Muslims can break fast early, a reflection of the diversity within Islam. One general rule scholars teach is that if someone can’t handle fasting and playing sports without harming themselves, they must break fast, said Khalida Beydoun, an Islamic teacher at the institute who advises young women playing sports.

“You need to look at the individual situation, because each person goes by what they can tolerate and do, ” Beydoun said.

Ali Reda, 15, a sophomore on Fordson’s varsity tennis team, said he usually can survive the first two sets of matches. But then he hits a wall.

“You feel exhausted, ” Ali said. “You can’t run as fast to get to the ball. You lose a step.”

Before Ramadan started, Dearborn schools reminded principals and teachers that many students would be fasting. It asked them to consider how that might affect students during tests and physical education.

Hamtramck schools face a similar challenge, said athletic director Jeremy Cartwright. During football games, the coach calls a time-out at sunset so his Muslim players – who make up about half the team – can eat and drink.

Because Ramadan starts 10 days earlier every year, coaches are worried about years when the holy month will overlap grueling summer workouts and later sunsets.

Game day

Like last year, Fordson’s football team started 4-0 this season. But also like last year, they dropped the next two games, both played after a week of practices during Ramadan. Even if the kids break fast early on game day, abstaining during the week may catch up with them, said Fordson athletic director Mark Shooshanian.

Still, Fordson’s opponents – Allen Park and Monroe – were tough and both were favored to beat Fordson.

Fasting all week didn’t appear to hurt the cross-country team at all.

At a meet Saturday morning at Dearborn High School, Fordson came in first, beating 20 other teams from across the region. And four of the top five runners were from Fordson. All were fasting Muslims.

It was a joyous morning for the team’s runners, who have become good friends after years of racing together.

Saeed, the senior who cramped up two days earlier in practice, came in first, recording a personal best of 16 minutes, 20 seconds in the 3.1-mile race. Teammate and senior Samer Ilayan came in fourth and also recorded a personal best.

“It’s all mental, ” Samer said. “We don’t go around saying, ‘Oh, we can’t do good, we’re fasting.’… When we’re racing, we don’t think about food … we just make sure we give it 100%.”

 Contact NIRAJ WARIKOO at 248-351-2998 or nwarikoo@freepress.com.

Fordson High football player takes water break

Fordson High football player takes water break

 

( below is sidebar:)

Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?

The general idea is that Muslims should focus on their faith instead of being distracted. It’s also to remind followers of how poor people feel.

How do they cope while playing sports?

Some gulp down a gallon of water before sunrise to help keep them hydrated through the day. Many say that mental focus is the key.

Can Muslims break the daytime fasts to play sports?

It depends. Some Islamic scholars say they can if fasting may adversely affect their health. Others say it’s permissible if the athlete travels a certain distance and makes up the fasting after Ramadan.

How have other religious minorities dealt with playing American sports?

Jewish athletes have long grappled with how to deal with holidays and Sabbath days that overlap with game day.

During the 1934 pennant race, Detroit Tigers star Hank Greenberg was thinking of sitting out games during the Jewish high holy days in September.

A Detroit rabbi said it would be OK for him to play on Rosh Hashanah, which Greenberg did – and went on to slam two home runs in a 2-1 victory. The Detroit Free Press ran a front-page headline – in Hebrew – that read: “Happy New Year, Hank.”

When Greenberg sat out for Yom Kippur, the Detroit Free Press poet wrote:

“We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat

“But he’s true to his religion, and I honor him for that.”

— By Niraj Warikoo

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Ohio woman who’s half-Jewish, half-Arab, files lawsuit against federal agencies for arrest, strip-search on 9-11-2011

Shoshana Hebshi, a half-Jewish, half-Arab woman from Ohio, filed lawsuit against federal agencies after being pulled off plane and strip-searched

By Niraj Warikoo

Detroit Free Pres Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013

A 36-year-old Ohio woman who is half-Jewish and half-Arab filed a lawsuit today against the FBI and other federal agencies, saying she was yanked off an airplane at Metro Airport on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, strip-searched, and jailed more than four hours in a dirty cell because of her ethnic background.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Detroit on behalf of Shoshana Hebshi of Sylvania Ohio, who was on a Frontier Airlines flight that landed in Detroit on Sept. 11, 2011. She and two Indian-American men sitting in her row were targeted by federal agents who entered the plane, ordered them off the plane, handcuffed them, and pushed them down the stairs into vehicles, Hebshi said.

She was then placed in a cell, where she was ordered to strip naked, squat, and cough while an officer looked at her. Hebshi said she was terrified.

“I was frightened and humiliated,” said Hebshi, a freelance journalist and mother of 7-year-old twins. “As an American citizen and a mom, I’m really concerned about my children growing up in a country where your skin color and your name can put your freedom and liberty at risk at any time.”

At the time, Hebshi’s case drew international attention, leading to reports from the Guardian to The Economist that raised questions about the profiling of minorities in the U.S. Hebshi told the Free Press on Tuesday that she hopes the lawsuit can lead to changes and “heightened awareness” of abusive law enforcement.

Hebshi and the two men were detained after people on the plane complained about two of them going to the rest room. Flight attendants had alerted the pilot that the men going to the rest room were “possibly of Arab descent,” the lawsuit said.

After landing, “men with very large guns, militaristic looking, ran on the plane,” Hebshi recalled.  Continue reading

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150th birthday of Swami Vivekananda is celebrated in metro Detroit, where he spoke several times

Swami Vivekananda

Statue of Swami Vivekananda stands inside the Bharatiya Temple in Troy, Michigan. Photo taken in 2011.

The 150th birthday of Swami Vivekananda is being celebrated this month in metro Detroit and around the world. This Sunday, Jan. 19, 2013, at 10 a.m. there will be an event marking his birthday at Troy Community Center in Michigan. Here’s a story written last year about Vivekananda’s connection to metro Detroit.

A message of peace

19th-Century spiritual leader inspires metro Detroiters

By Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Published in Detroit Free Press:
Sunday, March 11, 2012

Draped in saffron robes, a 9-foot statue stands in a corner of the Bharatiya Temple in Troy of Swami Vivekananda, the 19th century spiritual leader from India who gave birth to the modern interfaith movement.
It’s a symbol of his continued influence as his 150th birthday is commemorated this year with events in metro Detroit and around the world.

At the Hindu center in Troy, Vivekananda’s message will be discussed today at a lecture, one of several such events the temple is holding to remember the man who introduced Indian philosophy to the West. During his life, Vivekananda lectured often in cities such as Detroit, Boston and New York.

As Hindu practices like yoga, meditation and vegetarianism rise in popularity in America, so does the interest in Vivekananda.A Newsweek writer is working on a biography of Vivekananda that examines his influence on a range of thinkers in the West. In January, the University of Chicago announced it was creating a $1.5-million academic chair in his name.

And with religious tensions rising today, his message of peace and tolerance is needed more than ever, his admirers say.

Vivekananda is most well-known for his speech at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 in Chicago, where his message of universal brotherhood and diversity was praised. Coretta Scott King, the late wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., called Vivekananda’s talk “the most definitive statement of religious tolerance and interfaith unity in history.”

“Though they were uttered a century ago, Vivekananda’s words ring with a clarion relevance for our times, ” she wrote on the 100th anniversary of the speech. Continue reading

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Episcopal Church losing members as it strives for inclusion

Some conservatives say the Episcopal Church is losing members because it has gone too far left on political and social issues, such as same-sex unions. But the Church’s highest ranking lay leader Bonnie Anderson (in photo) said the church isn’t too liberal and regardless, won’t shift its views because people are leaving.

July 7, 2012, Detroit Free Press

http://www.freep.com/article/20120707/NEWS05/207070359/Episcopal-Church-losing-members-as-it-strives-for-inclusion-champion-for-change-steps-down

By Niraj Warikoo

Free Press Staff Writer

As the highest ranking lay leader in the Episcopal Church for the past six years, Bonnie Anderson has had a hectic schedule, traveling across the U.S. to be a voice for the Protestant denomination’s 2 million members.

But, despite her long days, the Bingham Farms woman sets aside time for “prayer and meditation every day … or I could get out of whack.”

It’s a daily routine that has helped guide Anderson, who plans to step down next week at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, held every three years. Along with Presiding Bishop Katharine Schori, Anderson is one of the two top leaders in the church. As president of the Church’s House of Deputies, Anderson, 69, said she has accomplished her goals of promoting democracy, diversity and social justice.

Anderson said she is stepping down to spend more time with her family, especially her 42-year-old son, who became physically challenged 20 years ago after a car accident.

“He’s like living with a miracle,” Anderson said at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pontiac.

Anderson’s leaving comes at a time of challenges for the Episcopal Church, a denomination rooted in the Church of England. Traditionally part of the Anglo upper class, members of the Episcopal Church have the highest incomes and percentage of those with a college degree among all Christian denominations, according to Pew surveys.  Continue reading

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