A Festival Galore: Eat, buy, play and enjoy

IT was a good day to be out of doors. Unseasonably warm temperature on a quite weekend would invite you to a park or playground. Yet a whole bunch of haggling children were jumping in and out of a moon bounce on the second floor of a large office building in Chantilly , Virginia.

That was just one side of a Muslim annual festival that had attracted parents and commmnity members of all stripes to an extensive bazaars selling traditional clothes and exquisite jewelry, and a lot in between. And not to forget food. Traditional middle eastern and south Asian dishes and sweets were available in plenty. To top it all, visitors could get tested for various ailments at the free health clinic with attending doctors.

Such occasions are the glue of a community, and the Muslim community is no exception. People mingled about. Many ate and ate more. Others shopped for clothes not easy to find in regular stores. Children indulged in games and crafts to their hearts’ content.

And all that was a good cause. Ticket sales and vendor booth rentals raked up a decent amount that will go towards the purchase of a facility to house the Sully Center affiliated with All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center). A good cause made everyone enjoy themselves and feel good at the same time.

Do share your thoughts and your experiences!


Educating Disadvantaged Children: Why Your Involvement Matters

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The graphic above illustrates a point that will resonate with most of us – that education of dispossessed, disadvantaged or distressed children is a high priority. Not to overuse a cliche, they are indeed our collective future, and if not given the opportunity to be educated, they could be our collective burden.
One of these children could become a pioneer in discovering a valuable cure, breaking the limits in space exploration, or diving deep into nanotechnology to change the world of the future. We don’t know who that child will be. We do know, however, that that child could not do any one of these things if we hold back from him or her the opportunity to grow and blossom by withholding the means to grow and blossom.
Never mind the children represented by this graphic are Palestinians. Intelligence, creativity, ambition, passion, and the drive to do better are not confined by borders or boundaries, nor by race or religion. Let’s think of them as our own hopes for the future, our own dreams to be fulfilled.
By now you know that the graphic above represents the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). You also know that the United States government under the current leadership is withholding over half of its sizable financial contribution to UNRWA, with consequences detrimental to the promise of education for disadvantaged Palestinian children. Over half of UNRWA’s funding is dedicated to children’s education.
Why is it even thinkable that the US will withhold about $65m out of a $125m aid package – a small piece of all the financial aid that the U.S. gives out. Leaving politics aside, this happens because the American public is not fully aware of what UNRWA does and, in a wider sense, why the UN’s work  is crucial for America’s well being. 
We can help to change that.
The United Nations Association of the United States and its oldest and largest chapter, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) have made it their mission to educate the American public about the work of the United Nations and what we as citizens can do to help achieve United Nations’ goals, as well as the crucial work that UN agencies such as UNRWA do.
Let’s do our part.
Please visit www.unanca.org. Read about issues that matter and how you can become involved in helping renew the strength of America’s commitment to United Nation and all its agencies, including UNRWA, You will be inspired to join and help – and I hope you will join UNA-NCA with family and friends. How about persuading at least five persons to become UNA-NCA members with its reasonable membership fee, and also at least five students under 25 years of age whose fees are waived, in the next two weeks?
I thank you for your understanding and your support. 
Iqbal Unus
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area

American. Muslim. Immigrant. Surprise?

A Somali teenager from Minnesota, an observant Muslim, a student at Harvard (which she chose from all the eight ivory league universities that accepted her), a social activist from her school days, and the freshest face of the American Muslim community, is the new US youth representative to the United Nations. To much of America this may still be a surprise, and to some this may even be discomforting, but it shouldn’t be. Intelligence, excellence, a sense of selfless service, and a drive to reach the top, are not the monopoly of any demographic group in the land. Yes, a person of immigrant background can get there. Yes, an observant Muslim can get there. Yes, any American with the drive and dedication can get there. The sooner all American appreciate that, the sooner America can achieve its highest potential as a nation and a society.

Read about her here – http://genun.unausa.org/youth_observer

Your thoughts?

Murder on the Sidewalk

A 17-year old girl gets assaulted with an iron baseball bat and killed, and then dumped by a pond a couple of miles away. In today’s America, one might just look the other way and move on. It happens all over the place all the time, one might say.

Most of the times it happens somewhere far away. Most of the time there is a reason – even a twisted, illogical, unjustifiable, unacceptable reason. But when it happens in your neighborhood and it happens for no reason – at least apparently – you wonder why. You come up with all the scenarios in which it wouldn’t happen, and how the results could have been different.

The media has covered the story in some detail: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/killing-of-muslim-teenager-not-being-investigated-as-a-hate-crime-police-say/2017/06/19/e7670f0a-54f0-11e7-ba90-f5875b7d1876_story.html?utm_term=.0a8c607fa5cf#comments

We will have to wait to hear more from the man charged with the murder to know why it happened. Even then we may not understand the motive or figure out what could have been done to prevent it from happening. Should we be all walking around with a ring of security around us, or not walking around at all?

Your thoughts?

An American Muslim? How and Why

The question of identity sits at the root of personal self-worth. But, as Haroon Moghul’s experineces illustrate, identity is shaped and asserted by life’s changing circumstances and a person’s responses to them, A Muslim American identity is the projection of being comfortable in, and responsive to, his or her “Muslim-ness” and his or her “American-ness” at the same time, because they are socially inter-twined.

Here is a review of Haroon Moghul’s book: A Muslim’s difficult journey through despair to grace. Read Review. Courtesy: Ausma Zehanat Khan, The Washington Post

Your thoughts?

UN and USA: The mantle of leadership

11th Plenary Meeting, General Assembly 65th Session: General Debate: MiscLetter sent to Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine and Representative Barbara Comstock via their individual webpages. You are invited to send similar letters to your representatives. [Ignore the recent flap over the recent Security Council resolution. Time will tell how this plays out.]
As administrations change, policies are revamped, and a new course is set for our nation, one thing remains unaltered – that the United States continues to wear the mantle of unchallenged leadership in the community of nations. And while a new leadership team may exercise this role in ways different from the past, United States of America cannot abandon that role, and the responsibilities that come with it.

I submit to you that the United Nations is the most important stage at which the United States plays its leadership role for better or worse. And if service is at the heart of leadership, the UN is also the stage at which the United States must continue to be – as it has done for over 70 years – involved, committed and generous, so that the nations of the world respect our leadership for its character, not simply for its muscle.

You know better than many that the UN is more than a platform where we duel with friends and foes in an endeavor to keep the peace. It is also about improving the human condition. From human rights to hunger reduction, from disease eradication to universal education, from protecting the environment to reducing inequalities, 193 nations of the world have united around 17 sustainable development goals to transform the world we live in.

And while the UN is not perfect, it is the best hope we have for a world that may be a little more peaceful, a little more educated, a little less hungry, a little more habitable, and a little more sustainable. You know better than many that such a world will be in the highest national interest of the United States.

So, I write to you today not to advocate one position or another that you may hold or take on specific issues in this respect, but to simply request this – that whatever the issue may be, you take the side of continued, indeed enhanced, affirmative and energetic United States support for the United Nations, and that you urge your colleagues in the United States Congress to do the same.

Thank you for your attention and consideration.

What have the UN Sustainable Development Goals to do with Muslim Americans?

A lot that matters.

Such as caring for the neighbor in need, near and far. In today’s global village, the far away neighbor is as near as our newspaper, radio, television or just the social media. And what happens to that neighbor – far away, yet so close – is a matter of concern to us and affects our own welfare.

Whether it is world peace, or hunger and sickness, human beings are interconnected across political boundaries and cultural barriers. Transmission of disease, transfusion of ideas, transportation of commerce, all demand from us the responsibility to act globally even as we busy ourselves with matters of local import.

For over 70 years now the United Nations has been the hope and the channel for those who seek to care for the neighbor far away – in matters of peace, hunger, health, education and a myriad other things. The United Nations Association of National Capital Area (UNA-NCA), a non-profit association of members, volunteers, and supporters in the greater Washington area, dedicated to helping the UN achieve its goals – has worked “to build knowledge, understanding, informed opinion, and new ideas on the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and its relationship with the United States.” UNA-NCA has worked “with foreign policy and political decision makers, schools of all levels, and other organizations in the National Capital Area on such issues as conflict resolution, nuclear non-proliferation, global health, and sustainable development.” It has worked to “build public support for constructive US leadership in a more effective United Nations.”

Advocacy, outreach, education and networking are the four pillars of UNA-NCA’s work with the U.S. Congress, with universities and other non-government organizations, with schools students, and with young professionals. Through a variety of programs, UNA-NCA seeks to help the public at large understand and appreciate the work of the United Nations, and be motivated to act.

One area of focus that demands and deserves our attention is the commitment of the United Nation’s member nations to a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Adopted on September 25, 2015, these 15-year goals present “an unprecedented opportunity to bring the countries and citizens of the world together to embark on a new path to improve the lives of people everywhere, building a better world with no one left behind.”

From ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all across the world, each goal has specific targets to be achieved. And achieved they can be if all – governments, the private sector, civil society and people like us – do their part. Let’s tell everyone about SDGs, not only to widen the circle of those who care, but also to contribute to a sustainable future by taking necessary actions in normal everyday life. Here are some examples of what we can do: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/takeaction/

A word to the community leaders.

Your leadership is critical in motivating others to care for our neighbors around the world, starting by associating with the UNA-NCA. Please share your thoughts with your community to educate them about the critical need and purpose of the United Nations in today’s world, and encourage them to become members and participants in UNA-NCA.

Your leadership matters.