Copyright © 2003-2011, Aishah Schwartz. Permission granted to circulate among private individuals, groups, or in not-for-profit publications in full text and subject title. All other rights reserved.

December 13, 2010

Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) Documentary on Al-Jazeera Dec. 15, 2010, with Aishah Schwartz and Rania Marwan

Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) Documentary on Al-Jazeera Dec. 15, 2010
زمام المبادرة - عائشة شوارتز / Lead the Way - Aishah Schwartz

Broadcast Times: 17:17 Makkah, Egypt 16:17, GMT 14:17, EST 9:17

EASY SHARE URL: http://tinyurl.com/mwa-documentary

SCHEDULING: http://www.aljazeera.net/channel/livestreaming?timetablenum=15

RELATED: Muslimah Writers Alliance Member Rania Marwan of Cairo, Egypt Publishes First Book http://www.prlog.org/10575669

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November 22, 2010

MWA Joins 45-Member Coalition Calling for Investigation into FBI Targeting of Activists

Coalition of prominent community, civil and human rights organizations delivers open letter to President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., in follow-up to Sept. 24 FBI raids against activists and issuance of grand jury subpoenas.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – http://prlog.org/11086818

PRLog (Press Release) – Nov 20, 2010 – WASHINGTON, D.C. (MWA-Net) – On November 19, 2010, a coalition of 45 national and statewide prominent community, civil and human rights organizations, including Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA), delivered a jointly signed open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., and the U.S. Congress, calling for an investigation and report on FBI activities that appear to be targeting legitimate political speech and assembly. (LETTER - SHORTCUT URL: http://tinyurl.com/letter-fbi-raids)

The coalition's letter is in follow-up to the Sept. 24 FBI raids targeting the offices and homes of 14 peace and anti-war activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Raid victims were also served with grand jury subpoenas. It has been reported that the grand jury subpoenas target the activists for alleged material support of terrorism. On the same day agents also attempted to question activists in San Jose, California; Durham, North Carolina; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The raids come on the heels of a recent report by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the Inspector General documenting recent examples of the FBI monitoring activists engaged in protected political speech and not criminal behavior. This suppression of civil rights is aimed at those who dedicate their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war.

"The September 24 raids serve as a wake-up call. We must not remain silent as the First Amendment rights of all Americans are increasingly jeopardized. We must take action now in turning back the tide, by demanding that the trend of intrusive government surveillance and prosecution of progressive activists for protected political activity stand corrected," stated MWA director, Aishah Schwartz. 

November 14, 2010

Looking Toward the Eve of Eid ul-Adha...

By Aishah Schwartz
Originally published January 9, 2006

It's hard to believe this time last year (2005) I was at Arafat making Hajj. Al-hamdulillah!

What a difference there is between how I felt during that time and how I feel today.

While it is true that I have surrounded myself with reminders of being in the
first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah through prior blog posts and communication with friends via email, and tried to do a good deed here and there, the truth is there hasn't been much in my environment lending itself to the suggestion that Eid ul-Adha is supposed to be a time of festivity.

After rising from a short nap this afternoon I prayed Asr and dressed to go outside for a walk. Al-hamdulillah the weather is still quite pleasant here in Alexandria, although the skies were somewhat overcast, indicative of my non-festive mood.

On reaching the end of the street adjacent to the apartment building where I live, deciding to turn left, I immediately ran into an impromptu barnyard; a first sign of the upcoming Eid holiday. Subhan'Allah.

I started to walk right past the goat curled up on the sidewalk against the wall in front of a parked car, the cow tethered next to it, and the lamb watching me from across the street (pictured above), when I came to an abrupt stop to turn around, realizing I was leaving behind a perfect photo opportunity, which in turn, provided the inspiration for this story.

My mind is flooded, much like our campground was the day after we returned from Arafat to Mina during last year's Hajj. I remember thinking how symbolic it was that Mecca was hit with a rare, thunderous
rainstorm that drenched the entire area, including our Mina campground, the day after Eid as many pilgrims began to depart for Masjid al Haram to make their final tawaf, marking the end of Hajj.

Pilgrim
Mohamed Jamal Khan, from the Pakistani city of Peshawar summarized my thoughts most succinctly: "Rain is always a blessing and for it to fall so hard at the end of our hajj rituals means our sins are washed away and God has accepted our prayers."

Despite the subsequent flood that threatened to dampen the spirits of the record 2.56 million pilgrims, if a poll had been taken of the sisters in the camp at Mina that had been my home-away-from-home for the most amazing five days of my life, you would have been hard-pressed to find a single one anxious for the week to end.

On the contrary, we were most reluctant to leave behind the new friendships we had forged with one another, bonds made with sisters who had come from near and far. We had grown into this huge, somehow instantly and forever connected, happy family.

Returning from making the third and final
jamarat the day after the flood, I knew the time had come to prepare for departure. However, I failed to realize on agreeing to be ready for boarding the bus back to Taif within five minutes, how impossible it would be to say goodbye in such a short period of time.

I solemnly walked down the indoor-outdoor green carpet path to the entrance of my tent, and stepping inside went straight to where my packed belongings were waiting for me.

As I reached to pick up my tote bag and turned around to face the tent's entrance again, there stood the group of sweet young sisters who had been my closest bunkmates. Tears immediately welled in my eyes as one by one they stepped forward to hug me. I somehow knew the next five minutes of my life would seem like an eternity as the farewells commenced.

Stepping outside the folds of the tent's opening, the biggest surprise of all was right before my eyes. Perched neatly in a row along the top of a short block wall sat each one of the nine servant girls who had adopted me (and I them), waiting for me to come out so they could say goodbye.

Passing by each one, feeling their arms embrace me, and meeting their tearful faces eye-to-eye, it felt as though my heart was being ripped right out of my chest.

The tiniest one, a young girl from Mecca, reminded me that she would gladly squeeze herself into my suit case and go home with me in order to continue her ritual of combing out my freshly shampooed hair; a memory that makes me smile every time I picture her innocent face.

But coming to the end of the line was the hardest thing ever, as there sat 'little u nour'. (That is how she always signs her text messages.) Nour (and her mother, Umm Mustafa) had become the most dear to me of everyone I had met that week. As her tear-filled eyes met mine, it felt as though I couldn't bear to say good-bye to her, and prying myself from her arms was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

As our bus began the winding, slow journey out of Mina I pulled a
niqab from my handbag and fastened it behind my head, grateful for the comfort it provided in covering the tears that continued to stream uncontrollably down my cheeks.

I sat reflectively and recalled
my first Ramadan and the iftars shared with sisters who had gathered at the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. One evening after breaking our fasts, praying Maghrib, and eating our mini-feast, we sat visiting, enjoying sweets and hot tea. After a short time our conversation ventured into the topic of Hajj. A few of the sisters had already made hajj and began to share their experiences. I remember, being that I was still pretty new to Islam, listening with the utmost attention, drinking in every word.

In that evening's conversation I heard the bad and the good, the harsh realities, the blessings and joys. I remember being so grateful for the opportunity to hear their stories. But what I remembered the most from that conversation as we drove out of Mina, having just completed my own hajj, was the unanimously spoken sentiment, "When it's time to leave, you won't want to go."

Watching Mina's seemingly endless sea of white tent domes pass from view, I realized no truer words had ever been spoken.

I found something recently in randomly reading through other blogs, that seemed so profound that I saved it, and tonight I think it pretty well wraps up my thoughts this Eid ul-Adha eve:

"Truly in the heart there is a void that cannot be removed except with the company of Allah. And in it there is a sadness that cannot be removed except with the happiness of knowing Allah. And in it there is an emptiness that cannot be filled except with love for Allah and by turning to and always remembering Him. And if a person were given all of the world and what is in it, it would not fill this emptiness."
(Ibn al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyya)


Copyright © 2006 Aishah Schwartz
Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications. Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.

November 13, 2010

Do You Know a New Muslim?

Incentive to reach out to a new Muslim this Eid-ul-Adha. "My memories of my first Eid (it was actually a Eid al-Fitr) are actually quite lonely. As a new Muslim I knew very little about what to do and where to go and was too shy to invite myself somewhere. Unfortunately invitations weren't very forthcoming either. Only years later I decided to create my own festive atmosphere by getting together with other converts who also did not have Muslim family. Together we would go around the whole day visiting different individuals and families. This was the first time I really felt some of the togetherness, which should be such an important element of Eid. It would be good if Muslim families, instead of focusing only on their own extended family, would make a greater effort to include people within their Muslim community who may not have a place to go for Eid. It would give converts a greater feeling of belonging and strengthen their hearts in the deen."
From: Your First `Eid Al-Adha: Joys & Frustrations
Copyright 1999-2005 Islalm Online
The word 'Eid is an Arabic name to mean a festivity, a celebration, a recurring happiness, and a feast. In Islam, there are two major 'Eids namely the feast of Ramadhan ('EId Al-Fitr) and the Feast of Sacrifice ('Eid Al-Adhha). The first 'Eid is celebrated by Muslims after fasting the month of Ramadhan as a matter of thanks and gratitude to Almighty Allah. It takes place on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the lunar calendar. The second 'Eid is the Feast of Sacrifice and it is to be celebrated for the memory of prophet Ibrahim trying to sacrifice his son Isma'il (Ishmael). This 'Eid lasts four days between the tenth and the thirteenth day of Zul-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the lunar calendar.

Eid-ul-Adha History and Origin

Two of the most important Islamic holidays of the year are Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. While the former marks the end of the long fasting month of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Adha marks the end of Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to the holy city Mecca. It’s customary for every able Muslim (as prescribed in the Five Pillars of Islam) to go on a Hajj at least once during his lifetime. Also popularly known as the Festival of Sacrifice, this Muslim holiday Eid-ul-Adha commemorates Prophet Abraham’s unselfish act of sacrificing his own son Ishmael to the One God, Allah.

The history behind Eid-ul-Adha follows the story of the faithful Abraham, who was instructed by Allah in a dream to raise the foundations of Kaaba, a black stone, the most sacred Muslim shrine in Mecca (Saudi Arabia), which the Muslims face during their prayers (salat). Immediately responding to the Lord’s call, Abraham set off for Mecca along with his wife and son, Ishmael. At that time, Mecca was a desolate and barren desert and Abraham had to face a lot of hardships. However, he supplicated Allah’s commands uncomplaining. In a divine dream, he also saw himself sacrificing his son Ishmael for Allah’s sake. When he told this to Ishmael, the latter immediately asked his father to carry out Lord’s commands without faltering and assured that he was completely ready to give up his life for God. But miraculously enough, when Abraham was about to sacrifice Ishmael, Allah spared the boy’s life and replaced him with a lamb. And this is what Abraham ultimately sacrificed.

To commemorate this outstanding act of sacrifice (qurbani) by Prophet Abraham, people sacrifice a lamb, goat, ram or any other animal on Eid-ul-Adha and give the meat to friends, neighbors, relatives and the needy. People who are away from the holy pilgrimage, Hajj, also carry out this traditional sacrifice. Hence Eid-ul-Adha is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice or the Day of Sacrifice.

Eid-ul-Adha begins from the 10th day of the 12th Islamic month Dhul-Hijjah. But the date of Eid-ul-Adha depends on the visibility of the moon each year. Eid-ul-Adha is known by different names in different parts of the world. For instance, Eid-ul-Adha is known by the name Hari Raya Aidiladha in south-east Asia. In Singapore, the local name for Eid-ul-Adha is Hari Raya Haji and in Malaysia, people refer to this festival as Id al-Adha and have made it a national holiday there. Indians know Eid-ul-Adha as Id al-Adha or Idu’z Zuha. And in Bangladesh, Eid-ul-Adha is known as Eid-ul-Azha or sometimes even Id al-Adha. But whatever the name, the celebratory spirit of Eid-ul-Adha runs high among Muslims all over the world, the geographical variations notwithstanding.


http://www.123greetings.com/eid_ul_adha/info1.html

November 10, 2010

BREAKING: GFM 2009 Delegate, Marjam Salvesen Bhatti, Deported from Egypt

Marjam Salvesen at Erez Border Crossing, Gaza.
STAVANGER, NORWAY (Nov. 10, 2010) - Shortly after arriving at Hurghada airport in Egypt on Tuesday, November 9, 2010, Marjam Salvesen Bhatti, a 2009 Gaza Freedom March delegate, was deported back to Norway.

Salvesen stated via sms from Norway's Stavanger Airport, that she had not been harmed in Egypt, but was deprived of her mobile until she boarded the return flight.

Egyptian authorities questioned Salvesen about her visits to Gaza, Algeria and Pakistan. Salvesen added that on arrest she was told her name was on a list of people that cannot enter Egypt.

At 7AM Norway time on Wednesday, Marjam, who had arrived to Hurghada for holiday with her daughter, was still at Stavenger airport where the two had slept through the night with no tickets to arrive to their hometown in Trondheim.

November 07, 2010

Pondering the Best Deeds of the First 10 Days of Dhul-Hijjah

By Aishah Schwartz
November 18, 2009 (updated)
January 8, 2006 (original publication date)
TINY URL: http://tinyurl.com/yankuf9
NOVEMBER 7, 2010 - It's here! The first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah! And, subhan'Allah, as I sat updating this in November 2009, I was still reliving moments shared earlier in the day with two very dear people, married 36-years, preparing to board the passenger vessel, Dhab, at Safaga, Egypt – destination, the experience of a lifetime (and their first) – HAJJ! My heart swelled as I remembered those very first steps for my own hajj  experience – and the memories came flooding back as if it were yesterday, not, wow…four, now five years ago? Time sure does fly, doesn't it?

Many of you may have already read your share of articles about the virtues of the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah, but try to trust me when I say; this one is a little different.

The first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah are noted to be among the special seasons of worship preferred by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala over all other days of the year, and a Muslim has to seize every opportunity that could bring him or her closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, no doubt about that.

Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days." [emphasis] The people asked, "Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah?" He said, "Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah, except in the case of a man who went out to fight, giving himself and his wealth up for the cause, and came back with nothing." (Bukhari)

Another hadith affirming that fasting is one of the best deeds, urges us to fast on the Day of Arafat (9th of Dhul-Hijjah) as the reward for fasting on this day is multiplied greatly:

It is said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Fasting the Day of Arafat atones for two years of [minor] sins, the year prior and one forthcoming." (Reported by Muslim, Abu Dawud and others.) (Fiqh-us-Sunnah Vol. 3 Page 124c.)

It is my most sincere dua that each Muslim who has this knowledge and is able to, takes advantage of the great benefit to be derived from fasting on this special day.

However, perhaps in not specifically stating that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) fasted each of the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah, is it not within the realm of possibility that there are other ways to perform good deeds in addition to fasting on the 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah? Of course!

In further reflecting on the best of deeds, we might first, as a wise friend of mine has often said, go back to the basics...the five pillars.

As Muslims we have already achieved the first pillar, the testimony of faith (saying with conviction, "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadur rasoolu Allah." This saying means "There is no true god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God."

Zakaat (alms), being the third pillar, is what a believer returns out of his or her wealth to the neediest of Muslims for the sake of the Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala; it is an obligation upon every Muslim who possesses the minimum Nisaab (requirement). The word itself means to increase, purify and bless. "… what you give in Zakaat, seeking Allah's Pleasure, then it is those who shall gain reward manifold..." (30:39)

The fourth pillar, fasting the month of Ramadan, we did our best to complete, insha'Allah (for those of us who were able), as it has already passed.

And the fifth pillar Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), which is made during the month of Dhul-Hijjah (a one-time requirement for those with means), is something I hope we all pray that each and every Muslim gets the opportunity to perform, insha'Allah.

I bet you thought I forgot the second pillar, often referred to as the "central" pillar of Islam, salat (or prayer), but I saved that one for last on purpose.

In consideration of what is within our means to do when looking for the "best deeds" - one of the simplest things that came to mind (which doesn't cost us a thing monetarily), is to perfect our salat.
  • Are we making our best effort to pray on time?
  • Are we making our best effort to concentrate?
  • Are we striving to make our salat in a state of humility and consciousness?
  • Are we making our best effort to perfect the surah's we recite in our salat?
  • Are we rushing off after salat without making dhikr?
  • Are we missing salat altogether?
  • Are we making up missed salat?
  • Are we lazy and lacking in commitment?
  • Are the men in our lives praying as much as possible in the masjid?
Bottom line: Are we making our best effort to perfect our salat?

Be conscious of Allah's angels who have shifts - one by day and one by night - to monitor your condition and your prayers and report to Allah Most High.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "There are shifts which rotate with regard to you - angels by night and angels by day. They all meet during the dawn prayer and during the afternoon prayer. Then those who spent the night with you go up and their Lord asks them – and He is the most knowledgeable of them - 'In what state did you leave my slaves?' They answer: 'We left them praying after having come to them while they were praying.' (Muslim & Bukhari)

Need an even stronger incentive to safeguard and perfect this most important second pillar of Islam?

Narrated Abu Qatadah ibn Rab'i: "Allah, the Exalted said: I made five times' prayers obligatory on your people, and I took a guarantee that if anyone observes them regularly at their times, I shall admit him to Paradise; if anyone does not offer them regularly, there is no such guarantee of Mine for him." Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 2, Number 430, Prayer (Kitab Al-Salat).

In conclusion, when seeking a determination as to what might be considered amongst the "best deeds", we really don't have to look any farther than our knees, do we?

May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala guide us, forgive our sins, protect us from the hellfire...and reward our intention to perfect our salat. Amin.

Copyright © 2006 - Aishah Schwartz
Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications. Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.

URL: http://aishahsjourney.blogspot.com/2006/01/pondering-best-deeds-of-first-10-days.html
http://www.naseeb.com/naseebvibes/authors-detail.php?uid=51858532817598

Also by Aishah Schwartz
Al-Jamarat: The Rest of the Story
You're Back from Hajj…Now What?

November 06, 2010

"The challenge is not to be perfect...it's to be whole." Jane Fonda

A Muslim viewer pays tribute to the October 27, 2010, 25th Anniversary Oprah Winfrey Show Episode Featuring Jane Fonda

By Aishah Schwartz

Wisdom and its Varying Sources

The quote titling and triggering this post began with a Facebook reader asking me about the meaning behind the quote.  I replied that it came from a discussion Oprah Winfrey was having in a televised interview with Jane Fonda as she shared reflections on 'life, love and working out."

I further explained that often times people spend their lives striving for perfection, which in and of itself is not bad, however, when striving to be perfect becomes all consuming, it can also be like a poison negatively impacting your life. This is why Islam teaches that there is moderation in everything. (smile) To strive to be whole is to accept yourself, and all of your imperfections and idiosyncrasies; to let go of pain and to forgive so you can move forward, freeing yourself to evolve - to move toward becoming whole. 

Jane Fonda has, to say the least, led a very public life. In the interview with Oprah she discussed the first two chapters of her life and her memoirs, "Jane Fonda: My Life So Far" (published in 2005). She is now writing another book about the 'third' chapter of her life. Masha'Allah, she will be 73 in December! Seeing her and listening to the interview gave me renewed hope that, at 49, I am far, insha'Allah, from being dead!

She also helped me feel reassured that it's not too late yet to find true joy and happiness in a relationship...something I have found myself in despair of never achieving.

I can just imagine someone reading this and wanting to write saying, "Astifurgallah al-Azeem - why do you look to Jane Fonda in that way? She isn't Muslim!" To which I reply, you do not have to be a Muslim to be a human being; or to have wisdom to share.

To further preempt those who might feel the itch to shoot me down for finding myself lost in thought over a televised interview featuring a non-Muslim woman, what people often forget or refuse to accommodate for when mistakenly jumping to judge reverts is that, that is exactly what we are; reverts.

I was raised in a different faith and culture for 42-years. I lived an entirely different life apart from what the average Muslim woman born into a Muslim family and raised in a completely different culture has lived. No one can erase that! And those who refuse to accommodate for the fact that reverts, like myself, have had a lifetime of experience(s) pre-Islam, are being far too short-sighted and judgmental.

So, if I, as a revert of merely eight years, find myself identifying with a woman who has lived a life in the same culture I lived in - it is simply what it is! Therefore, if anyone reading this pauses for a even a nano-second to allow judgment to form in their mind over me, my life or comments about my life - please pause again and stop yourself, insha'Allah.

Identifying

In the interview Jane elaborated further on the how a woman's life is divided into chapters. When she spoke of menopause and how difficult this stage of life is - tears came to my eyes. The past two years of my life have been extremely difficult. 

Aishah Schwartz shortly
after she became Muslim.
Earlier in the day I had been reflecting on life and in an sms to a friend I wrote, "I was watching a movie, a story of lawyers in a DC law firm. I had to stop watching, it made me remember the sights, sounds, buildings; satisfaction of a job well done. I LOVED my work & I was damn good at it. I had a 2br. apt. beside Washington National Cathedral, my favorite car; a 8cyl. Thunderbird (oh how I miss driving!) amazing clothes, manicured hands and feet (lol), $70,000 salary; RESPECT. I had it all. And I was GOOD ENOUGH. Then came Islam and a year later I walked away from that life. Since then I haven't felt 'good enough' for anything...I lost myself. I am just a shell of the person I spent 17-yrs to become...I'm just a memory..." (frown)

Of course, I know the last eight years of my life have been a COMPLETE turn-around; in many respects bringing me full circle. Indeed, I have lived a different life - one that, despite how depressing my note might have sounded (actually it was exactly how I felt at the time), I know I was guided toward Islam. I've had experiences I never imagined I might have...and I am grateful, Al-hamdulillah - it is, after all, MY "Chapter Two". (smile)

For sure I am still in the second chapter of my life (it is after all my mid-life period) and, insha'Allah, as Jane and so many before us have, I will survive it. Perhaps he conclusion of this chapter will be titled, "Getting off the sofa...and out of the refrigerator." I might also have to invest in Jane's newest exercise video. (laughs)

As I continued listening to and watching the interview, my ears and eyes absorbed everything. In front of me I observed a woman not unlike myself, feeling so much that often tears threatened to breach the brim of her eyelids; she brushed them back several times with the elegant stroke of an index finger.

In speaking about her first grandchild she described how her relationship with him opened her heart in a way she never imagined. She described how she used to just get lost looking into her grandson's eyes, and how before he would fall asleep she would lay with him curled up beside her. She said, "I'd turn to go to sleep, but he'd pull me back and say, 'I'm not ready.' And he'd look at me more and say, 'I wuv you, Gamma.'" Subhan'Allah. It made me so grateful to be able to remember similar moments; it was surreal.

Aishah Schwartz and her grandson, Landen.
I have a photo, Al-hamdulillah, of myself and my grandson Landen when he was three years old, taken during a visit with family shortly before a trip abroad. It was morning; he had awakened and hearing him call out, I went upstairs to get him because my daughter had spent the night away. Still half asleep when I reached for him, he wrapped himself in my embrace, melting into my body and I carried him downstairs to the sitting room. From the comfort of a chair and the cradle of my arms, Landen fell easily back into a semi-slumber; the warmth of his body, the smell of his hair and skin quickly consuming me. I sat for the longest time just looking down on his angelic face...and my sister picked up her camera to snap the 'Kodak' moment. When I saw the photo...masha'Allah...it was amazing...but even if I didn't have the photo, I will never, ever, insha'Allah, forget holding him in my arms and remembering the gift of motherhood.

Moving Forward

Later into Jane's interview Oprah reminded her of a quote from their first interview ten years ago for O Magazine: "To do life right you have to feel like you're growing up until the day you die..." It made me smile; so many times I've found myself asking, "Aishah, what DO you want to be when you grow up?!?!"

I still don't know.

But what I do know is that I need to remind myself sometimes that it isn't such a bad idea to go back and read some of the inspirational stories I've written since becoming Muslim (www.sisteraishah.com), just to remind myself that I'm not really lost - I've just evolved; moving towards becoming whole.

It is often difficult to focus on accentuating the positive and letting go of the pain - but, insha'Allah, I'll keep working on it.

RELATED:
Legendary Icon Jane Fonda: Her Life, New Love and Working Out  
Jane Fonda: My Life So Far 
Jane's workout DVD, Jane Fonda Prime Time: Fit and Strong, comes out November 30. Preorder it now.
On the Importance of Writing Your Own Memoirs. And Jane Fonda's Relationship with her Mother, Frances Ford Seymour 
Biography Aishah Schwartz
Sister Aishah's Beginner's Cheat Sheet (a brief Muslim glossary with audio)

September 16, 2010

PSA for All Muslim Masjid/Mosque/Islamic Center Project Developers

One of the most important things you NEED to know before entering any planning commission/zoning committee meetings:

In 2000 a Republican-backed FEDERAL LAW (enforceable by the U.S. Department of Justice) was enacted that protects the rights of the developers the same way it protected the rights of those seeking to develop Park51 in New York; regardless of the absence of foresight into their choice of location.

CHAPTER 21C--PROTECTION OF RELIGIOUS EXERCISE IN LAND USE AND BY INSTITUTIONALIZED PERSONS - SOURCE

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act states that, "No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution," unless it meets very strict conditions.

Nor may any government inflict a regulation that discriminates "on the basis of religion or religious denomination." Thus, it is clearly designed to protect individuals and houses of worship from discriminatory and unduly burdensome zoning regulations, and protects the religious exercise of all Americans.

Knowledge is power.

Best wishes.

An example of sharing outside of Facebook
Comment No. 22

See Also: http://www.prlog.org/10884500  

September 12, 2010

Muslimah Writers Alliance Credited for Pro-Active Efforts in Response to Park51 Related Islamophobia

It will take the wisdom of Solomon to answer the question "what would be best for the common good" as what may be the final chapter in the Park51 controversy unfolds.

PRLog – Sep 12, 2010 – WASHINGTON, D.C. (MWA-Net) – On September 11, 2010, Sheila Musaji, Founding Editor of The American Muslim (TAM), published an eye-opening follow-up to an extensive list of articles written by American Muslims and Arabs that is well worth the time to absorb, as she attempts to unravel the inauspicious background and 'leadership' of the Cordoba Initiative/Park51 project, which appears now to point in the direction of all things related to money. 

In her opening comments Musaji stated, "For all of us in the American Muslim community who have spent a lot of time defending Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan, and defending this Cordoba House project because we believed that they were the primary leaders of the project, and because they were under attack unfairly by Islamophobes – it may be that we were misled, or that we at least didn’t understand the structure of this project. What Imam Feisal or the Cordoba Initiative stand for may be irrelevant to the core issues involved.

"Since this project was announced, the American Muslim community has experienced not only an alarming increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric, but has also seen this rhetoric lead to actual acts of intimidation and even violence."

The Islamophobic backlash being a key factor that Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) Director Aishah Schwartz has focused on since mid-August in an article titled, "Park51: Here is the Fruit of Your Labor", wherein she addressed the rise in hate-filled rhetoric and bigotry threatening not only the Muslim community at-large, but also its potential for adversely affecting the Muslim student population recently starting a new school year. 

Opening comments aside, the background and 'leadership' of the Cordoba Initiative/Park51 project unravels as Musaji details with the resourcefulness Schwartz has long admired her for, information that she states had, unfortunately, been previously overlooked as the race to defend the project steamrolled worldwide.

As the tangled web of leadership and lack of transparency is revealed throughout Musaji's extensive article titled, "Cordoba House – Yes!: Park51 – No way?", she credits several individuals and organizations with attempting to respond in a pro-active way to the controversy and Islamophobic media frenzy.

Schwartz's MWA issued request for federal action against Islamophobia was listed, in addition to the efforts of Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer's website 'Ground Zero Dialogue' - My Faith My Voice: American Muslim voices PSA's released as a grassroots effort; a CAIR PSA campaign produced a series of separate PSA's; a Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan New York, a coalition of 55 New York City American Muslim organization leaders, issued a statement on combating ethnic and religious intolerance and defending the continued building of mosques in America; a Coalition of African American Muslims (CAAM) held a press conference in Washington, D.C.; ISNA called an emergency meeting of top interfaith leaders to address anti-Muslim fear and intolerance; and CAIR, ISNA, MPAC, etc. issued advisories and community response tips and safety guides.

With questions surrounding leadership and direction for Park51, which remain at the heart of the debate, Musaji acknowledged that the Muslim and Arab communities are now left to deal with the problems unnecessarily raised by the ensuing controversy, stating that the project is, indeed, the catalyst for the subsequent turmoil; dealing with rampant Islamophobia while defending citizen rights.

Musaji added, "The fact that the leadership and vision for the project may not be what we were led to believe only adds one more complication to our situation. Even if this project turns out to be a purely business venture on the part of the actual project leadership, the core issues that the project has raised go well beyond this one project, or the individuals directly involved – that of the legal, civil, and constitutional rights of all Muslims in the United States."

As Musaji suggested, and Schwartz has been asking from the onset, "what would be best for the common good?"

"This will take the wisdom of Solomon to solve," Musaji concludes. 

RELATED:
Cordoba House – Yes!: Park51 – No way? By Sheila Musaji

Muslimah Writers Alliance Director Commends U.S. Officials for Speaking Out Against Quran Burning - Sep. 9, 2010 (Supporting national leadership and reminding community of 9/11 Freedom Coalition Rally in Washington, D.C.)

9/11 Freedom Coalition Launches Petition Calling on President to Enforce Religious Land Use Act - Sep. 2, 2010 (MWA'S participation in proactive coalition with Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), Responsible for Equality and Liberty [R.E.A.L.] and United for Pluralism Rallying in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11)

Muslimah Writers Alliance Director Requests Federal Action Against Islamophobia - Sep. 1, 2010 (Item referred to in Musaji's report)

Muslimah Writers Alliance Announces 'The Non-Islamophobic Muslim News' on Facebook - Aug. 29, 2010 (Pro-Active Facebook platform designed to be a one-stop resource for NON-Islamophobic Muslim News)

Park51: Law Passed 10 Years Ago Trumps Religious Freedom Debate - Aug. 25, 2010 (Highlighting the fact that the debate was never really a debate as the project was protected from its onset by the Religious Land Use Act of 2000)

# # #

Established in 2006, MWA is an internationally-based collaboration of Muslim women writers and advocates working together to counter negative and inaccurate perceptions regarding members of the Muslim community and the Islamic faith.

--- end ---     Visit Press Room

September 09, 2010

Muslimah Writers Alliance Director Commends U.S. Officials for Speaking Out Against Quran Burning

"Hail to the Commander-in-Chief for upholding that which is right and abhorring that which is inherently wrong," stated MWA Director, Aishah Schwartz.

PRLog (Sep 09, 2010) – WASHINGTON, D.C. (MWA-NET) – Muslimah Writers Alliance Director, Aishah Schwartz, commends U.S. President Barack Obama for "standing up for that which is right and abhorring that which is inherently wrong," on receiving the news that Gainesville, Florida Pastor Terry Jones had called off the previously scheduled September 11 event organized to burn copies of the Qu'ran.

Earlier today on ABC's "Good Morning America" Obama, speaking both to an audience of millions and to Jones in particular, said that: "I hope he listens to those better angels and understands that this is a destructive act that he's engaging in."

The President further asserted that Saturday's planned protest on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks was a dangerous "stunt" that could imperil U.S. troops abroad and incite suicide bombers on American soil.

Obama, framing his remarks "as commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the United States," further stated "I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan."

September 07, 2010

~*Sister Aishah's Journey Continues…Through Good Times and Bad*~

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCTOBER 18, 2005

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatuallah wa Barakatuhu.

Insha'Allah this message finds you in the best of health and imaan, in addition to enjoying the peace and blessings of Ramadan.

This week I have been reading and sporadically participating in conversations between a few of the new Muslimah's and some of our more seasoned Muslim sisters, touching on many issues, the majority of which seem to be focused on spiritual turmoil, disappointment and loneliness.

What initially triggered these conversations was the first reply to an email I recycled and circulated called "The Rusty Muslim's Ramadan Action List", which was followed up by an email imploring one another as sisters and brothers in Islam, to reach out to anyone we might know who could be alone during this Ramadan, particularly new Muslims, many of which only know of a "Muslim Community" through e-group memberships.

As the combined emails began to be read, one-by-one, those passing the time alone, started replying. Amongst the replies were:

September 02, 2010

911 Freedom Coalition Launches Petition Calling on President to Enforce Religious Land Use Act

Petition will be delivered to the White House and DOJ on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010 in conjunction with a Rally for Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Worship, and Freedom of Conscience at Freedom Plaza from 2:00PM until 3:00PM. RSVP via Facebook!

PRLog – Sep 02, 2010 – WASHINGTON, D.C. (MWA-Net) - In response to recent events triggering a wave of hate-filled rhetoric, bigotry and acts of violence against Muslim Americans across the nation, as well as consistent efforts by others seeking to block the legal rights of Muslim Americans to exercise their right of religious freedom in building houses of worship, a group of human rights and Muslim activists, The 911 Freedom Coalition, has launched an online petition addressed to President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that they defend the United States Constitution by acting to enforce the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), a federal law to prevent discriminatory practices against houses of worship.

The Defend Freedom of Religion online petition is located here.

The signed petition will be delivered to the White House and U.S. Department of Justice in conjunction with a Rally for Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Worship, and Freedom of Conscience to be held on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at Freedom Plaza, Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. between 13th and 14th Streets NW in Washington, D.C. from 2:00PM-3:00PM.

Petition and Rally organizers include, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), United for Pluralism, Responsible for Equality and Liberty (R.E.A.L.), and Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA).

September 01, 2010

Muslimah Writers Alliance Director Requests Federal Action Against Islamophobia

Muslim American activist Aishah Schwartz, in an open letter to President Obama and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder, requests federal action in support of Republican backed ten-year old federal law shielding Muslim community from zoning ordinance debates.

September 1, 2010

VIA FACSIMILE (202) 456-2461
Via Email
United States President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Hon. Eric H. Holder
United States Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
Email: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

RE: Request for Federal Action in Support of Federal Law on Freedom of Religion

PRLog Sep 01, 2010 (MWA-Net) Mr. President, I heard you loud and clear when you supported the right of Park51 organizers to pursue their project in the downtown Manhattan area known as 'Ground Zero' - or hallowed ground - but I also heard the secondary message you spoke of regarding the wisdom of Park51 organizers in their choice of location for the project. Additionally, I wrote extensively in support of your comments http://pressroom.prlog.org/mwa-net.

Sadly, however, as a result of the Park51 controversy, a media and political frenzy fueling a whirlwind of Islamophobic and hate-filled rhetoric targeting Muslim community members and the Islamic faith, has engulfed the nation, provoking me to call upon both you and Attorney General Holder, to uphold and enforce federal law regarding freedom of religion and freedom of worship based on not only the U.S. Constitution, but also the Republican backed 2000 lesser-known law, U.S. Code Title 42, Chapter 21C, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).

I trust, of course, that you are both well aware of the Park51 triggered backlash against Muslim community members, their projects and plans, as an alarming increase in reports from across the nation indicate a rise in local governing agencies attempting to excessively scrutinize said plans, by invoking alleged zoning ordinance stipulations that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act was designed to shield against. 

From coast-to-coast a series of  protests have risen against those who seek to freely worship in Islamic mosques, including the states of California, Tennessee, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut, and  throughout New York. More on backlash at http://realhumanrights.wordpress.com.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act states that, "No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution," unless it meets very strict conditions.

Nor may any government inflict a regulation that discriminates "on the basis of religion or religious denomination." Thus, it is clearly designed to protect individuals and houses of worship from discriminatory and unduly burdensome zoning regulations, and protects the religious exercise of all Americans.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of the U.S. Federal Government and the Department of Justice to enforce this law.

Muslimah Writers Alliance Announces 'The Non-Islamophobic Muslim News' on Facebook


PRLog Aug. 29, 2010 (MWA-Net) The recent controversial decision of Park51 organizers to construct an Islamic center/mosque in the area of downtown Manhattan, otherwise known as 'Ground Zero', NY (or 'hallowed ground'), highlights a spike in the increase of Islamophobic, hate-filled rhetoric spewed out daily from certain media outlets, bloggers and even politicians. It is evident, now more than ever, that a need exists for an immediate influx of 'good' Muslim news.

In an effort to bridge the gap in resources available to the public for learning more about the positive contributions members of the Muslim community are making not only in the United States, but worldwide, Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) announces a new Facebook campaign, 'The NON-Islamophobic Muslim News' (NIMNews).

Similar to the concept behind MWA's Muslim Women Making History project, which focuses on the achievements of Muslim women, NIMNews aims to showcase worldwide Muslim community member news, stories, and events, in an effort to provide the general public, and the media, with easy access to 'NON-Islamophobic Muslim News'.

As recently reported Facebook now has over 500 million subscribers. What better free Muslim community news resource and advertising/promotional venue could there be?

Now it is up to you, the Muslim community member. Are you tired of the Muslim-bashing propoganda and Islamophobic outpouring of hate-filled rhetoric reported daily? This is your chance to be a part of the wave of change.

The nation and in fact, the world, has been waiting for President Obama to make all the changes; but the Muslim community has to own its share of responsibility for how the world perceives Muslims and the Islamic faith.

It's time to clean up our own back-yards, step-up-to-the-plate, and be participants in the change we want to see in the world.

Join MWA in sharing your Muslim community news, events, stories, photos and discussions. Visit NIMNews with just one click.

RELATED
MWA Muslim Women Making History
PARK51: Law Passed Ten Years Ago Trumps Religious Freedom Debate
NIMNews Short-Cut Link: http://tinyurl.com/nimnews
Also published at The American Muslim (TAM) Aug. 30, 2010
 

# # #

Established in 2006, MWA is an internationally-based collaboration of Muslim women writers and advocates working together to counter negative and inaccurate perceptions regarding members of the Muslim community and the Islamic faith.

Visit Press Room: http://pressroom.prlog.org/mwa-net

August 25, 2010

Park51: Ten Year Old Law Trumps Religious Freedom Debate

If Muslims expect to be perceived as peace loving people of consciousness, piety, and worthy of being shining examples of the Islamic faith - let not one of them side with the President or even myself, but with the knowledge that, as Muslims, respecting the area of Manhattan known as 'Ground Zero' is the least we can do as one of the most significant demonstrations of good faith, charity and above all, the utmost compassion. After all, isn't the Muslim community yearning to be treated with the same qualities?

Aishah Schwartz
PRLog (Aug. 25, 2010) MWA-Net—It is most certainly regrettable at best, that certain television and news networks and certain politicians—Republican and Democrat—have latched onto this paranoia, this 'fear', of Muslims in the United States—more broadly referred to as Islamophobia—for economic and political gain ahead of November's midterm congressional elections, using Park51, Islam and members of the Muslim community as their whipping post.

However, in rushing to the pulpit waving the U.S. Constitution in one hand, and a microphone in the other to defend the wisdom of Park51 organizers to construct a 15-story mosque and cultural center on property encompassing the area of the collapsed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, a/k/a 'Ground Zero', members of the Muslim community might not realize they've been unwittingly duped into sabotaging nine years of image repair, fence-mending and dialogue efforts.

Yes, indeed, Islamophobia is a growing problem in the United States. However, in the case of Park51, rather than jumping in and taking the religious freedom bait, which the Islamophobes knew the Muslim community would do, our leaders should have paused, consulted more closely among and better organized their response to the ensuing attack. But they jumped out of the starting gate like horses at a race track without fully grasping the significance of the defeat already dealt to the opposition when the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9-0 against granting historic protection on the Burlington Coat Factory building and land where the $100 million center is proposed to be built. The decision, made August 3, is described as being the final hurdle in the quest for approval.

This approval was made based on a Republican sponsored law called the 'Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act', crafted to address a common problem often ignored by the courts: local government bodies using zoning authority to prevent religious institutions from moving in or expanding their operations.

The law protects the right of Muslims to establish mosques, even where such a building might be unwelcome.

The law says, "No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution," unless it meets very strict conditions. Nor may any government inflict a regulation that discriminates "on the basis of religion or religious denomination."

New York City could have invoked its landmarking power to kill the project, but thanks to the 2000 law, a court challenge was destined to be lost. The commission did everyone a favor on August 3 by ensuring that the debate would lose wind sooner rather than later.

Which brings us back to the issue of reflecting on when our actions (or decision not to act), cause the greater harm; or have the greatest hope for improving an issue as near to epidemic proportions as Islamophobia.

The writing was on the wall when the Park51 organizers chose the Burlington Coat Factory site for Park51; a location rife with lingering sensitivity, pain, anguish, and the memory of devastating loss.

And now, because so many rushed so quickly in defense of the religious freedom outcry, that was already guaranteed by law, rather than pausing and tapping into their collective wisdom in deciding how to deal with the newest Islamophobic attack on their community, the perceived gains the Muslim community had worked so hard to nurture in dispelling the misconceptions and distrust generally perceived by non-Muslim U.S. citizens toward Muslims has been dealt a tenuous blow.

All because our mainstream Muslim leadership jumped to the microphone to gather its flock, whom they knew would blindly heed their call to rally against Islamophobia via Religious Freedom. Yes, we should abhor Islamophobia, but greater wisdom should have been exercised in determining the most beneficial position to assume with regard to Park51.

It is not unrealistic to consider that Park51 organizers were confident from the onset that their plan would get as far as it has today—the law was already in their favor—all they had to do was be patient and ride out the storm. A U.S. State Department funded tour of the Middle East would go a long way in keeping one Park51 organizer out of the cross-fire.

Conspiracy theories aside, this is what the American public generally understands about 9/11; the people responsible for hijacking the airplanes were Muslim, their religion was Islam, and 3,000 people died in downtown Manhattan when they strategically and intentionally flew two airplanes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

And now they know that Muslims, waving the United States Constitution and heralding U.S. Law have landed once again, only this time on hallowed ground.

I read a comment yesterday that said, "I have no idea what the Burlington Coat Factory is." There are likely many who are unsure about the significance of the Burlington Coat Factory/Park51. It is often said that an image is worth 1,000 words so in the interest of facilitating continued dialogue and understanding, I embarked upon creating an image file that would, in less than a thousand words, allow people to understand what sometimes only an image can convey.

CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW FULL SIZE

The Burlington Coat Factory is on the property that Park51 organizers have purchased for their proposed 15-story mosque and cultural center. As you can see from the photo included with this article, despite protests to the contrary the building is, indeed, on property encompassing the plume of ash and debris that was once the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and tragically, human lives. Thus, the argument that the area, also known as 'hallowed ground'—or worthy of profound respect—is not part of Ground Zero, has no merit.

August 23, 2010

Park51: Here is the Fruit of Your Labor...

ANTI-MUSLIM RALLY AT GROUND ZERO

Is the wisdom used by organizers of the Park51 project in choosing a location within such close proximity to Ground Zero, representative of the wisdom the nation's Muslim community wants to see in members of its leadership?

PRLog – Aug. 23, 2010 (MWA-Net)Anti-Muslim Rally at Ground Zero — [VIDEO http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwaNRWMN-F4] It is most certainly regrettable at best, that certain television networks, news networks and certain politicians — Republican and Democrat — have latched onto this paranoia, this fear, of Muslims in the United States, for economic and political gain ahead of November's midterm congressional elections.

Even more disappointing is the fact that an organization, in the name of Islam, played its part in giving ammunition to the very enemies it knew were ready, willing and able to use the Park51 project as a catalyst for the Islamophobic war against Islam now threatening to burn like a wild fire in our own country.

This past Saturday President Obama was asked about the issue during his trip to Florida. He said, "I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there."

I respect the President's decision, but thank him for planting the seed. And I will question the wisdom of the location for construction of Park51.

Is the wisdom used by organizers of the Park51 project in choosing a location within such close proximity to Ground Zero representative of the wisdom the nation's Muslim community wants to see in members of its leadership?

There are members within mainstream US Muslim organizations that don't like what I have to say, but I do not recall having given any one of them permission to speak on my behalf - nor am I aware of there being any campaign nominating and electing a single one of them as being representative of the national Muslim voice.

Cordoba/ASMA leadership may very well continue to insist on and indeed succeed in building on the property chosen; but I ask again, at what price?

The backlash of this decision will ripple through the Muslim community for years, and our youth will be counted among the casualties. Where will the Cordoba/ASMA leadership be then; home safe in their beds or perhaps on holiday in Qatar or Bahrain.

Over on YouTube the anti-Muslim Rally at Ground Zero has already been viewed is video has been viewed nearly 50,000 times.

Meanwhile, on a Mideast tour funded by the U.S. State Department, Park51 organizer Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said in Sunday's AP report that the attention generated by the project is "positive" adding that he took heart from the dispute, saying "the fact we are getting this kind of attention is a sign of success."

In a March 2002 PBS interview Rauf also said, "we are accountable to God for our actions."

RELATED
Park51: Sharia or the U.S. Constitution
Park 51: Here is the Fruit of Your Labor
Park51: Yes, I Get Mail
Park 51 Organizers Missed Opportunity to Promote Tolerance and Understanding
Park 51/'Ground Zero Mosque' - The Crux of the Matter
MWA Director Commends NY Governor in Step Toward Compromise on Ground Zero

# # #

ABOUT AUTHOR
Aishah Schwartz, an American Muslim published writer and activist, serves as Founder and Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA), established in 2006. She is also a retired 17-year career litigation legal assistant. As an activist her focus leans toward the rights of Muslim women and the plight of the Palestinian people affected by the Israeli imposed illegal embargo on Gaza.


--- end ---     Visit Press Room

August 21, 2010

Park51 - Yes, I get mail

Members of mainstream US Muslim organizations don't have to accept my position on the matter; I do not recall having given any one of them permission to speak on my behalf - nor am I aware of there being any campaign nominating and electing a single one of them as being representative of the national Muslim voice. 

PRLog (Aug. 21, 2010) – I fully embrace the fact that I may not be on the popular side of the proverbial fence regarding the current proposed location of the Cordoba/ASMA cultural center and media dubbed 'Ground Zero Mosque', now known as Park51, but I have not expressed my views with the objective of winning a popularity contest.

It is also not my contention, as is that of others in the debate, that the project should be scrapped. On the contrary! I simply believe that it was not necessary to exacerbate an already inflamed climate of Islamophobia by choosing a site for the construction that would be hard-pressed to escape the scrutiny of those who would conspire against its intended purpose. However, the decision was made, and now the Muslim community at large will live with backlash that simply did not have to happen in the first place.

The responsibility of being peacemakers is, indeed a great one. However, antagonizing the non-Muslim community and then invoking the U.S. Constitution in defense vs. simply making a non-confrontational decision in the first place, does not mean that I have to accept the location decision as being right; therefore, I have spoken.

And yes, I get mail. If you'll forgive the typographical and grammatical errors, I will share them as-is. Here are just a few, for the sake of brevity.

Park 51 Organizers Missed Opportunity to Promote Tolerance and Understanding

Perhaps it is time for members of the Muslim community to own some of the responsibility for the lack of tolerance and bigotry hurled against them. It's not too late.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


PRLog (Aug. 21, 2010) – If Park 51 decision makers within the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), had used a moral compass based on the principle of compassion so highly touted in the Islamic faith, as a guide in making the location decision for their cultural center of understanding, peace and harmony, the nation would not be in the uproar it is today.

They could have taken the high road.

The history of the site, formerly the Burlington Coat Factory, in relation to 9/11, was a known fact. It had been grazed and was heavily damaged by one of the jet liners that crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center; information that substantiates the confrontational nature of the choice made when purchasing the property.

Information that has now been exploited for the benefit of raising the $100 million needed to complete the 13-story cultural center and mosque.

And at what cost?

August 19, 2010

Park 51/'Ground Zero Mosque' - The Crux of the Matter

Bottom line? Business as usual; it's all about the money.

As an American Muslim citizen and activist, I wholeheartedly agree with and do not deny the right of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and the Cordoba Initiative, who purchased the building at 51 Park Ave. for a reported $4.85M, to do with it as they like; in accordance with applicable laws.

However, given that it was known that this building was grazed by one of the jet liners that crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and that the information - being the potent symbolism that 'became a compelling rationale for the project' - was insufficient to cause the organizers to re-evaluate the choice of location for their Islamic cultural center and mosque, further substantiates the confrontational nature of the choice made when purchasing the property. 

The estimated cost of constructing the 13-story project is reported to be upwards of $100M. What better way to garner support from donors than to incite them into contributing monetarily to the project by choosing a site that would inevitably become controversial - politically or otherwise - leading ultimately to mainstream media attention. Ka-ching. Free advertising.

At what cost?

August 18, 2010

Muslimah Writers Alliance Director, Aishah Schwartz, Commends NY Governor for Supporting Compromise on Ground Zero Mosque

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
http://prlog.org/10866661

PRLog - Aug. 17, 2010 - WASHINGTON, DC (MWA-NET) — Late Tuesday afternoon Reuters reported that New York Governor David Paterson plans to discuss a compromise that would relocate the Muslim cultural center, dubbed by media as the 'Ground Zero Mosque'. Muslimah Writers Alliance Director, Aishah Schwartz, an American Muslim, weighs in on the announcement.

"On the morning of September 11, 2001, from the sitting room of my downtown Washington, D.C. apartment, Good Morning America was interrupted for breaking news. I stood frozen in time watching in utter despair as the ensuing tragedy unfolded.

"I remember the feeling of brain numbing disbelief.

"I remember standing on the 12th floor rooftop of the D.C. office building where I worked at the time, watching the billowing black clouds of smoke rise up over the Pentagon.

"I remember evenings walking the Coast Guard patrolled sidewalks of our neighborhood with my daughter, both of us restless and unable to sleep.

"I was born and raised in the United States and I am proud to be an American. But as a Muslim, it is my hope and prayer that voices of reason prevail in the final decision of where to construct the Cordoba Initiative's project, God-willing, and the parties involved in this can agree to compromise in choosing a less offensive location. For everyone's sake.

"Regardless of who is to blame for the tragic events that took place on September 11, 2001, the currently proposed location for the Cordoba Initiative's project will never be viewed as anything less than an affront to the survivors, and those who lost loved ones on that ill-fated autumn day in New York.

"Despite the fact that 2010 marks the ninth anniversary of what has been described as the most dramatic attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, it is clear from recent events surrounding the proposed construction project, that painful sentiments run deep and hearts are far from healed. These are wounds that will only deepen if construction proceeds as planned. And history will forever brand the surely well-intended Cordoba Initiative's concept as, the 'Ground Zero Mosque'.

August 09, 2010

July 04, 2010

THE SAUDI ARABIA CHRONICLES: Aishah Schwartz on the Women's Rights Movement in Saudi Arabia

Aishah Schwartz found herself fascinated with Saudi Arabia during a one-year stay in the Kingdom, a period which she chronicled heavily through a series of autobiographical "journey's", posted on her personal website.

As a result of her experiences in Saudi Arabia, Ms. Schwartz was later prompted to lend her support to the women's rights movement, spearheaded by Saudi women journalists, writers, human rights advocates, and scholars, such as Hatoon Al Fassi, Maha Akeel, Nimah Nawwab, Reem Asaad, Thuraya Arrayed, and Wajeha Al-Huwaider.

The first project Ms. Schwartz embarked upon supporting was spurred by news in the autum of 2006, of a proposal among officials within the Kingdom to remove a women's prayer space within the courtyard of the Grand Mosque in Mecca (in view of the Kaba). The proposal alarmed Ms. Schwartz, who subsequently set-out over a three-day period to develop a website, poster, online petition and press release (issued through Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA), organized in January 2006), in support of an international campaign to ensure reversal of the proposal.


The Saudi Gazette announced, "Chorus Gets Louder", as news of MWA'S support toward ensuring a reversal of the proposal to remove the women's prayer space spread. The online petition swiftly gained nearly 2,000 signatures and Margot Badran, a Senior Fellow at the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., described the unified voice of Muslim women in Al-Ahram Weekly (a publication in Egypt) as, "the most striking example to date of concerted Islamic feminist global protest and one that authorities could not ignore." Within eleven days of the international outcry in opposition to removal of the prayer space, officials within the Kingdom announced that the prayer space would remain; as it does to this very day. Al-hamdulillah.

Muslimah Writers Alliance Director Welcomes News of Saudi Reversal to Eliminate Women's Prayer Area

Activist Aishah Schwartz on Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia

Will Forced Divorces Become Rule-of-the-Day in Saudi Arabia?

Muslimah Writers Alliance Joins Coalition of Activists Seeking Preservation of Women's Prayer Area at Mecca's Grand Mosque

Muslimah Writers Alliance Grand Mosque Equal Access for Women Project Online Petition

GMEA4W FLYER
http://muslimahwritersalliance.com/images/Flyer1.jpg

GMEA4W Website

A few short months later, in February 2007, Ms. Schwartz lent her organization's support to the Saudi women's guardianship reform campaign upon hearing news of the now settled forced divorce case of Fatima Azazz and Mansour Al-Timani; reunited after a prolongated media campaign and court battle.

An online petition continuing the call for Guardianship Reform in the Kingdom remains live to this day.

Ms. Schwartz also wrote an article in 2007 adding to her contribution on the women's rights movement in Saudi Arabia, published at Naseeb Vibes titled, "To Advocate or Abdicate: Muslimah Writers Alliance Stands in Defense of Islam."

In 2008 Ms. Schwartz's contribution to the women's guardianship reform campaign of Saudi Arabia was cited in a report issued by Human Rights Watch titled, "Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia".


In 2010 the campaign for guardianship reform, in conjunction with the rights of foreign nationals, continued as news broke of a pending June 29 visit by King Abdullah to the White House. Ms. Schwartz again lent MWA's support, to demonstrations that took place in front of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., and in front of the White House, in association with the Comit'e de Soutien 'a Nathalie Morin,' of Canada, Muslims for Progressive Values and Responsible for Equality, and Liberty (R.E.A.L.), based in Washington, D.C.

"The women of Saudi Arabia continue in pursuit of much needed reform in the Kingdom's existing guardianship laws," stated Ms. Schwartz.

"Many people confuse reform with abolishment; the movement is not to dissolve guardianship, it is merely to improve the conditions of women suffering from uneven-handedness and to provide alternative recourse for those not benefiting from the protections that the law is intended to provide," Ms. Schwartz added.   

MWA Joins Call to Action in Support of Saudi Guardianship Reform and Release of Nathalie Morin

CAMPAIGN ALBUM ONLINE

Human Rights Watch Cites MWA Director, Aishah Schwartz in Report on Saudi Arabia

MWA Director, Aishah Schwartz Welcomes Saudi Reversal in Al-Timani Forced Divorce Case

Muslimah Writers Alliance Petition Exceeds 1,000 Signatures in Support of Guardianship Reform in Saudi Arabia

Muslimah Writers Alliance Joins Al-Timani Attorney and Saudi Women Activists in Petitioning for Reversal of Forced Divorce

Muslimah Writers Alliance Petitions King Abdullah to Stop Forced Divorces

Forced Divorce Case Info

Muslimah Writers Alliance Forced Divorce Case Chronological Media Log (latter updates not added)


Spotted on the web: 
Click on image to view full size. Published June 2011.
In June 2012 Ms. Schwartz joined Saudi women in support of their ongoing campaign to win the right to become licensed drivers in promoting the Women2Drive campaign's 1-year anniversary commemorative event.

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Video: http://youtu.be/zsPlLYl6aaA

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AISHAH SCHWARTZ ON GAZA.

2010 BIOGRAPHY OF AISHAH SCHWARTZ.