Scholarship for Muslim women honors scientist

Detroit – When it came to pursuing a scientific career, Tasneem Essader encountered forces pulling her in and pushing her away: She drew inspiration from her mother’s work in chemistry, but initial discouragement from her engineer father, who thought she should do something else. She was inspired by women engineers she met, but found few girls around her in advanced high school science classes.Essader, who feels strongly connected to her Muslim faith, also struggled to find the right fit among an array of identity-based scholarships as she looked to help ease the financial burden of college.Then, an uncle informed her about the Adawia Alousi Scholars program, and the obstacles started to fall away. She found that fit, and a kinship with the scholarship program’s namesake.“After reading about Dr. Alousi’s life, I felt like the struggles I faced because of who I am in the field I want to pursue have been validated,” Essader wrote in her essay application, “that someone who has gone through the same struggles as I have and has something about it to make it easier for future generations.”The scholarship, established at the Center for Arab American Philanthropy in Dearbron with money from Alousi’s family trust, is believed to be the first of its kind for Muslim-American women studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Essader is in the inaugural class of 11 recipients of the scholarship, named after a scientist who helped develop a pioneering drug treatment for congestive heart failure in the 1980s.Alousi, who died in 2010, was an Iraq-born Muslim who had to fight to earn recognition in a male-dominated field. She wanted money from her trust to go toward charity.“We reflected upon who my aunt was, what she would want. She was most passionate about her science and Islam — the scholarship reflects those passions,” said nephew Amin Alousi, an associate professor of medicine at the Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE: Bigot tried ripping off two Muslim women’s hijabs as they strolled with their babies in Brooklyn attack

A bigoted Brooklyn woman launched a sickening attack on two Muslim women pushing their babies in strollers — punching them in the face and trying to pull off their hijabs, prosecutors said Friday. Emirjeta Xhelili, 32, hurled Islamophobic insults as she pounced on the two victims near her Bath Beach home about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, authorities said. “Get the f--k out of here,” Xhelili, 32, allegedly yelled at the pair, according to prosecutors. “Get the f--k out of America, b-----s.” As she punched the 23-year-old women in the face and kicked them in their legs, she tried to rip the traditional Muslim veils off their heads at Bay 20th St. and Cropsey Aves., police sources said. “This is America — you shouldn’t be different from us,” she yelled, prosecutors said. The victims and babies were not badly hurt, police sources said. Less than an hour before the attacks, Xhelili posted hate-filled Facebook messages on an account named Mary Magdalene ripping Muslims and blacks. “What is your Allah doing to me? It’s kissing my ass,” one of the messages reads. In another, she refers to “aliens with black skins.” “You lucky for a time that is left, for I have counted your days!” Xhelili was arraigned on a charge of misdemeanor assault as a hate crime. Brooklyn prosecutors said her attack included an attempt to knock over a stroller carrying a 15-month-old baby. “She didn’t even care for the well-being of a baby — that’s how serious this hate crime is,” Assistant District Attorney Kelli Muse said at the arraignment in Brooklyn Criminal Court. Police collared Xhelili a half hour after the assault when the victims pointed her out a few blocks away, officials said. “She continued to taunt them in front of police while in custody, saying ‘You guys Continue Reading

Attorney: FBI agents posed as Muslim women to entrap man

Khalil Abu-Rayyan was in love.Text messages his attorney recently released show the 21-year-old Dearborn Heights man was thrilled to meet online a woman named Ghadda, whom he planned to marry."Every time I close my eyes, I see you right by me," he texted to her on Dec. 13. "Words can't explain my love for you."But the person Abu-Rayyan thought was a Pakistani-American Muslim woman who loved him actually was an undercover FBI agent. Soon, the person acting as a love interest cut off the relationship, leaving Abu-Rayyan distraught. The next month, another woman, identified as a 19-year-old Iraqi Sunni Muslim, interacted with Abu-Rayyan online, also claiming she loved him. During their discussions, they chatted about ISIS and Abu-Rayyan mentioned attacking a Detroit church.But that person, too, was an undercover FBI employee, said his attorney, Todd Shanker."The government resorted to a mind-boggling double-team against Rayyan with not one, but two young, fictitious Islamic women, who mercilessly manipulated him and pretended to be potential wives to Rayyan, a young U.S. citizen with no prior criminal history before the government’s aggressive involvement in his personal life," Shanker wrote in a court brief filed Friday in an attempt to get him released on bond.On Monday, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh denied his request for bond and also ordered that Abu-Rayyan undergo a competency exam, saying that a psychologist who spoke Monday in court was not qualified to evaluate Abu-Rayyan's mental competency.Steeh said that Abu-Rayyan posed a potential danger, saying he had an "obsession with some of the conduct of jihadists."The new details provided by Abu-Rayyan's attorney show how serious the FBI was in going after him,  Shanker said.Abu-Rayyan is not charged with any terrorism crime. In a federal complaint unsealed Feb. 4, he was charged with weapons and marijuana charges. Prosecutors say that Abu-Rayyan did not disclose, when Continue Reading

Muslim women in Delaware speak out against Donald Trump

The man's words, Donald Trump attributed to a woman. His wife's silence, he left an open-ended question.But local Muslim women heard the implication behind Trump's words — that being a female practitioner of Islam means subjugation and silence."The comment wasn't just to disparage the Gold Star family, per se. It was basically Donald Trump's way of disparaging Muslim women once again," said Zehra Wamiq, a businesswoman and mother.The Republican presidential nominee was responding to a family's attack on his character, credentials and patriotism when he said Khizr Khan's Democratic National Convention speech could have been written by his rival Hillary Clinton, and his wife, Ghazala Khan, maybe "wasn't allowed" to be anything but silent on stage. The backlash came because they're the parents of a U.S. Army captain killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004, but Delaware women are firing back because they say he was insulting all of them."I'm really tired of this kind of notion or this kind of stereotype. I've been working for many years to educate people, to make them understand, to fight against these stereotypes and to dispel these notions," Wamiq said. "To see someone who is running for the highest office in the United States and, just by using one sentence, he seemed to negate all the work of not only myself but that other people are doing. It's not only offensive, it's just tiresome."Wamiq was raised in Pakistan's largest city and moved to the United States to finish her education after getting married. She now lives in Garnet Valley, serves on the board of the Wilmington Montessori School where her son is a student, operates a travel agency and is the founder of the Delaware Valley Speakers Bureau."So I do speak," Wamiq said. "He insinuated Muslim women are not allowed to speak, which is something I'm doing the opposite of. I am a speaker. I go out and speak, giving presentations about Muslim women and Continue Reading

Navy pulls targets of Muslim women from SEAL training range

The U.S. Navy says it will remove images of Muslim women as targets at a SEAL training range in Virginia Beach, Va. After The Virginian-Pilot published a photo on Tuesday of a cardboard target, a cutout of a Muslim woman holding a gun and wearing a traditional headscarf called a hijab, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked the Pentagon to pull the targets. In a letter addressed to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday, Nihad Awad, CAIR's executive director, said the target is "offensive and sends a negative and counterproductive message to trainees and to the Muslim-majority nations to which they may be deployed." CAIR also voiced concern about verses of the Quran that were hanging on the wall behind the cutout of the Muslim woman. ROBERT J. FLUEGEL/AFP/Getty Images "We have removed this particular target and Arabic writing in question from the range in the near-term, and will explore other options for future training," said Lt. David Lloyd, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Group 2, which oversees SEAL teams 2, 4, 8 and 10 at the base. Hour after the council's request, the Navy announced it had gotten rid of the controversial target. "We have removed this particular target and Arabic writing in question from the range in the near-term, and will explore other options for future training," said Lt. David Lloyd, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Group 2, which oversees SEAL teams 2, 4, 8 and 10 at the base. The target range is a new addition to Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story in Virginia Beach, and the $11.5 million facility hasn't yet been used, according to the newspaper. HYUNSOO LEO KIM/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT The new close quarters combat training range as has 56 different mock-up places including this market place on the right. The catwalk is for the instructors to view the training at the range in Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va. The building contains mock-ups of stores, schools, a hospital, a bank, a Continue Reading

WATCH: NJ Muslim women won’t hide to feel safe

Iman Mahmoud walked out of the Stafford Home Depot wearing her headscarf when she saw another lady staring at her with a grimace. Mahmoud kept walking. “Should I wear a shirt that says ‘I’m not a terrorist?’” Mahmoud, 36, of Stafford, said of the recent encounter.Pine Beach resident Salwa Hassan says now that it’s winter, she’ll sometimes swap her headscarf, or hijab, for a hat to avoid unsolicited looks in public and a question she’s heard one too many times: “Are you comfortable?”Naureen Hameed of Holmdel, says fellow her fellow students at Rutgers University sometimes ask her: "Why are Muslims terrorists?" But educating her peers about her religion is "what I do for fun," said Hameed, 19.Presidential aspirants like GOP candidate Donald Trump have uncorked anti-Muslim sentiments across the country, tapping into people’s fears of terror attacks by violent extremists in the U.S., advocates say. In some parts of the country, Muslims have reported an increase in hate crimes and harassment, according to the Council on American–Islamic Relations,a Muslim advocacy group.CAIR New Jersey, in South Plainfield, said violent incidents against Muslims are not widespread in this state. Since the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, CAIR has received reports that a woman wearing a hijab was assaulted in a Jersey City laundromat and another was verbally harassed in Target. A Jersey City mosque and the CAIR office also received a threatening letter after local religious leaders held a press conference denouncing Trump’s anti-Muslim comments.In Monmouth and Ocean counties, residents and students say fear and anxiety among Muslims are felt in small ways: the unwarranted stares at the supermarket; the whispered comments behind their back; or never knowing whether certain actions are targeted at them for being Muslim or just Continue Reading

Muslim women barred from flight to Pakistan after refusing full-body scan at Manchester Airport

Two Muslim women in the United Kingdom refused a full-body scan at an airport, becoming the first fliers to do so, the Daily Mail reports.The women were traveling together to Islamabad when they were selected at random by security officials to be screened with the full-body scanner.According to the London newspaper, one of the women refused to pass through because of religious objections, while the other cited medical reasons.Airport staff then informed the women that they would not be allowed to board the Pakistan International Airlines flight if they were not willing to be scanned.The women agreed to forfeit their tickets, valued at about $600 each, and leave the airport with their luggage.An estimated 15,000 people reportedly have already passed through the scanners since they were introduced at Heathrow and Manchester airports on Feb. 5, including Muslim passengers.The news comes on the heels of a fatwa issued by a group of North American Islamic scholars last month forbidding Muslim-Americans from passing through the devices, saying they violate the faith’s teachings on modesty. Following the decree, the Transportation Security administration issued a statement saying all passengers could opt out of full-body scanners and instead under go pat downs. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Spotlight on City People: Oral histories pay tribute to Muslim women

The gallery at Harriet's Alter Ego is a small, spare space in the rear of a delightfully stylish women's clothing and accessory store on Brooklyn's Flatbush Ave., blocks from Grand Army Plaza. Nsenga Knight is making history there. The 26-year-old Brooklyn filmmaker chose the space to mount a stunning show, "As the Veil Turns: Female Pioneers of the American Muslim Community." The show is stunning in its simplicity and depth; it includes only nine 30-inch-by-20-inch black-and-white photographs of African-American women of various ages, all of whom have been observant Sunni Muslims since 1975. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, each picture comes with headphones and a small MP3 player attached. Hold the play button down for five seconds and the pictures come to life - the women tell their stories of faith and family, of lives in and out of a religious context. "I wanted it to be an oral history, so the stories are told like they wanted them told," said Knight, 26, who has been a practicing Sunni Muslim her entire life. "With these tapes, people can go back and say this is what the person said because they heard them say it." She's been so faithful to that creed that it's doubtful most people will listen to all nine of the histories at a stretch, if ever, because the interviews range from 90 minutes to three hours in length. Most people won't have 22 hours to spare - yes, a collective two hours short of a day's worth of oral history hangs on the gallery walls. The women of the exhibit range in age from 44 to 79 years old, and tell tales both comic and tragic, all providing insight into a way of life foreign to those outside the faith. On one tape, a woman tells how her mother decided to join the faith on Nov. 10, 1969. Though she felt Muslim women she saw looked "sad," as she puts it, the mother still felt the faith calling her. A scary dream of dying in a car accident, followed by a serious car accident in real life, help spur Continue Reading

Barack Obama aide says sorry to two Muslim women

Barack Obama's presidential campaign apologized Wednesday for refusing to seat two Muslim women wearing traditional head scarves behind the candidate - and in clear view of TV cameras - during a rally in Michigan on Monday. The women were reportedly told they couldn't sit in the high-profile location because of "a sensitive political climate." The Illinois senator has been dogged for more than a year by false Internet-fueled rumors that he's Muslim. Obama spokesman Bill Burton released a statement saying campaign volunteers' decision to bar the women from the seating area behind the lectern is "not the policy of the campaign." "It is offensive and counter to Obama's commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run," the statement said. "We sincerely apologize for this behavior." Hebba Aref, one of the women refused a spot in the special seating area, demanded that Obama personally apologize to her and Shimma Abdelfadeel. "He needs to take the matter seriously and send a strong message against any kind of discrimination," Aref said, according to The Associated Press. She also demanded invitations to sit behind Obama at a future campaign event. Obama aides did not respond to an e-mail from the Daily News inquiring whether the senator planned to issue a personal apology to the women. The presumptive Democratic nominee has been walking a tightrope for months, working feverishly to disabuse voters of the idea that he's Muslim while not insulting the Muslim faithful. Obama is Christian. In December, Obama sparked controversy when he repeatedly refused to criticize an Iowa voter who said a Muslim would be unfit to be President. "There's no doubt that there are going to be voters for whom religious affiliation is important," Obama told The News at the time. "I don't know that that's the majority, but I think the main thing I want to do is just make sure that people know who I am, know my background." At the Continue Reading


ROBINA NIAZ, founder of the Turning Point for Women and Families, a Jamaica, Queens group dedicated to empowering Muslim women and children, says a single statistic shows one thing women of all faiths have in common. Every nine seconds, a woman is the victim of domestic violence in this country. "When people ask me if domestic violence is a problem in the Muslim community, I tell them domestic violence is a problem in every community," Niaz said. "A woman is victimized every nine seconds. Some of them are Muslim; some of them aren't. " No matter who the victim is, Niaz said, "a society can never be free of violence if our homes are violent. "We must call it what it is," she said. "Domestic violence is wrong under Islam and any other standard you want to apply. " Niaz, a native of Pakistan, founded Turning Point 12 years ago. A social worker in her native country with a master's degree in psychology, Niaz earned a second master's in social work from Hunter College two decades after earning her first. Turning Point offers social services that are sensitive to the cultural differences of Muslim women, who were often victimized a second time by language and religious barriers when seeking help with domestic violence issues. "Many of these women do not speak English that well," Niaz said. "Just because they are saying 'yes, yes,' as you speak doesn't mean they understand what you are saying. " Using a network of partner agencies and referrals, Turning Point offers crisis intervention, support groups, counseling, referrals for legal services and community organizing and outreach. There are support groups for teenage Muslim girls - "It is difficult being a teenager in any culture," Niaz said - and information on women's legal rights as well as on immigration and other issues. "The point is to help a woman find the strength within herself," Niaz said. Niaz is the group's only fulltime employee. She estimates she helps about 20 women and a like Continue Reading