My Experience at EastWest Link

Original article: My Experience at EastWest Link

I first heard about East West Link (EWL) when a family member met Mr. Masood Farooqi, who heads the organization and was looking for Muslim youth to work as leaders in the community. As I had already worked as a communications and grant writing intern at the Council on American Islamic Relations in Chicago, I had experience writing news articles, editing and proofreading articles and publishing them on the organization’s website.

After Mr. Farooqi conducted my interview, I started working on an article titled, “NATO Supply Routes to Pakistan – Reopened”. As I am Pakistani, I have a keen interest in South Asian history, politics, religion, and culture, which is reflected in my writing. My second article was also based on Pakistan, in which I wrote about the injustices and societal issues in the country regarding lack of education, gender inequality, and implementation of law.

The next article I wrote was titled “The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding – Taking a Lead”. For this particular piece, I researched the think tank’s website and familiarized myself with the scholarly staff and fellows who conduct important research on Islam and Muslims in America, and are featured in various publications. As I aspire to be a professor one day, research and analytical writing on civil rights and policy making issues piques my curiosity. I am looking forward to working with ISPU through the EWL-ISPU Joint Internship and increasing my knowledge about how the institute affects American policies regarding Muslims.

Taking a break from political topics, I next wrote an article based on a tafseer of Surah Furqaan from the Quran. I learned the distinctions the Quran makes between good and bad attributes of believing people. As is evident in the surah, Allah (SWT- subhanu wa ta’ala – may He be glorified and exalted) favors humility, dignity, sacrifice, and moderation over arrogance, pride, selfishness, and extreme behavior. Even though the lessons are deceptively simple, they serve as reminders for us, advising us to rethink our impulses and purify our intentions.

The article I wrote next was probably the most interesting I have written yet. Strangely, it took me only a short time to come up with all of the points I wanted to make as I already had my thoughts in order on what I wanted to write. This article stemmed from a documentary I watched called, “Bowling for Columbine” which was based on gun violence in America and directed by Michael Moore.

 

The documentary’s main focus was the 1999 Columbine shooting in Colorado, in which two high school students went on a murderous rampage and killed 13 students and injured 21. I chose this topic because in the aftermath of the Oak Creek tragedy in which 7 Sikh Americans were killed by a white supremacist, I had many questions and concerns about these events. I wanted to learn about how these incidences happened with such ease and how much psychological trauma they caused for Americans.

I also wanted to understand what the reasons were for such violent and hateful tendencies in seemingly every day Americans, what role gun control played in this issue, and what could be done to prevent such crimes and senseless cruelty in the future. Today, as I write this article, another “deranged gunman” has gone on a shooting rampage in New York City, killing his boss who he apparently held a grudge against.

Finally, I wrote about Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, who garnered national attention when he made controversial and false remarks about some Muslims in America wanting to and succeeding in killing Americans “every week”. I felt compelled to write about this issue because it hit close to home; I am from Chicago, Illinois. Such Islamophobic comments coming from a man who represents the state of Illinois were deeply disrespectful. They also proved dangerous as hate crimes against Muslims in Illinois, and in the county at large, are rapidly growing in number.

Besides writing articles, I also publish all of the interns’ work on EWL’s website in order to promote the writing of our talented youth staff. While reading my colleagues’ articles, I was struck by how informed and opinionated the Muslim youth is and convinced that their voices need to be given center stage in any dialogue about Muslims in America.

In the future, I hope to continue learning at EWL and using the skills I learned here in future job opportunities. I would like to thank Mr. Farooqi for giving me this wonderful opportunity, and Nabila Ikram and Sara Khan for their guidance and training. It is a dream to work with you and as a team member of EWL!

The Arab Spring: Its Geostrategic Significance by Mohammed Ayoob, ISPU Adjunct Scholar

Policy Report Summary

The Syrian Civil War includes Iran and Turkey, which have widened the conflict’s reach. Turkey supports the Sunni-dominated opposition against the Asad regime, as does Saudi Arabia, which has sectarian and ethnic differences with Iran. Iran supports Asad because his government supplies the Lebanese Hezbollah with financial and military aid. Saudis supply the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups with weapons.

As the opposition’s cause is accepted as justified by the international community, and Asad’s Defense Minister and brother-in-law have been killed, Ayoob believes that the Asad regime is coming to an end. Further complications arise with the inclusion of Russia and China, who tolerate Asad’s regime and have vetoed UN Security Council resolutions against Syria

Russia is averse to a Libyan-style military intervention that would damage its role in Syria, its only ally in the Arab Mediterranean. The US, however, which considers Iran its political and ideological foe, sees Asad as a danger also because his support for Hezbollah would cause attacks against American and Israeli targets as retaliation for attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. Still, the US doesn’t have any plans for a post-Asad Syria and is afraid of creating another Iraq if it invades to intervene. While covertly supporting the disunited opposition groups in Syria, the US has refrained from a military intervention that might cause total anarchy.

Bahrain, which houses the Fifth Fleet, the American naval base in the Middle East, can be used against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The pro-Iranian Shia population in Bahrain complicates issues further; considering a democratic overthrow of the Sunni-led monarchy, it could create another natural ally for Shia Iran. Saudi Arabia, like the US, has been a massive support to Bahrain’s monarchy against Iran and is keeping Iran preoccupied with Syria so that it doesn’t gain an advantage in the Persian Gulf and Bahrain. Still, it is vulnerable as it’s led by octogenarians, lacks genuine political institutions and has to rely simply on cash to influence events.

Egypt, which has been the only Middle Eastern ally to Israel for 30 years, might now change its policy due to democratic change that sees Israel as a threat, which makes Israel nervous. Israel’s gain from the fall of Asad’s regime (Iran’s ally) may vanish quickly if it’s replaced with a pro-Palestinian Islamist government- like in Egypt – which would also cause tensions in the Israeli-Syrian border. The US-Israeli relationship would also suffer as the US has unequivocal support for Asad’s removal.

Egypt will stay fixated on the domestic struggle for power at the expense of expanding its regional role. Iraq has been significantly weakened after the 2003 US-led invasion and war, which leaves it unable to influence the region or the world politically.

Israel’s political position in the region is likely to weaken further given the US’s disengagement from the Middle East after the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most people in the Middle East see Israel as a “pariah” state with no legitimacy in regional politics.

Turkey is seen as a role model for a Middle Eastern democracy and is supportive of the Arab Spring. Iran is also supportive, although for a different reason. Khamenei sees the Arab revolutions as empowering militant groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and other Shia extremists, but is primarily concerned with empowering Shia populations against Sunnis. Both countries would rather avid the creation of a Kurdish state, which could result from a disintegration of Iraq.

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding – Taking a Lead

Original article: The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding – Taking a Lead

 

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding is a think tank and research facility founded in Detroit, MI and located in Washington D.C., that conducts extensive, crucial research, and offers nuanced policy analysis and context to the issues facing the Muslim community in the United States and abroad. ISPU’s research and analysis are performed by highly trained scholars in the economic, foreign policy, national security, and public health fields.

Founded in 2001 in the wake of the September 11th attacks as a result of growing curiosity about Islam and Muslims, ISPU has since established itself as a respected and trusted source of valuable information about Muslim traditions, values, practices, and institutions. Since then, ISPU has published hundreds of articles, reports, and research papers written by more than two hundred scholars, graduate students, lawyers, professors, and various other academics. ISPU’s website has been accessed by people in more than 115 countries; the institute has a budget of less than a million dollars annually, and is the only think tank focused on American Muslims.

More than $42 million have been donated to Islamophobic think tanks since 2001, a frightening fact, which gives even more importance to the work that ISPU does to counter stereotypes and anti-Muslim policies in America. In 2011 alone, ISPU published extensive research on topics including the Arab Spring, Al Qaeda and terrorism, the bullying of Muslim children in schools, the legality of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, how the media is improving the image of American Muslims, and the effects of the September 11th attacks on European Muslims.

ISPU scholars have been featured heavily in the news, television, online, and print media. The institute has provided ample analysis of the futures of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the U.S. and how the American government might make new policies which could ease tensions between these nations.

With her work at the Center for Global Health at ISPU, Dr. Sania Nishta a Pakistani cardiologist, healthcare reformer, medical academic and writer produced “Through the Health Lens: The Aftermath of the 2010 Pakistan Flood”; a report which analyzed the challenges Pakistan faces as a result of the destruction the floods caused. Currently, ISPU’s Director of Research, Farid Senzai is conducting research on the political and civic engagement of American Muslims in the ten years since 9/11 (from 2001 up till 2011).

Julie Macfarlane, a Fellow at ISPU and a Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Windsor is writing a report on the use of Islamic family law principles and values in divorce processes conducted by third parties in North American mosques. Two research reports titled “A window into American Muslim traditions” and “Aging Muslim Families” are also under production and are being actively worked on by ISPU’s experienced scholars.

In light of the societal, political, economic, and international issues still facing the Muslim community in America, it is essential that policy research institutes such as ISPU not only function well, but that they are actively supported and promoted on an international stage. Only through dialogue, policy making, civic engagement and developing a deeper understanding of Muslims and Islam will the stereotypes and injustices against them end. To that end ISPU is a much needed and appreciated tour de force of activism and information. Take the opportunity to learn more about ISPU at their website www.ispu.org and their Annual 2012 banquet in Dearborn, MI on September 15th.