Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Speaking out Against the Massacre

May Peace be Upon You,

My name is Nora Zaki and I am a student at UF. I am also a Muslim. After hearing about the mass shooting by Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan at Fort Hood, TX this past Thursday, I am just so shocked and upset. I want to express some comments from a Muslim perspective about this unfortunate event.

First, I want to express my sincere condolences to the victims of this horrible incident. Muslims pray five times a day, and so after each prayer, I will ask God to help the families of the victims and the Fort Hood community. I also express my prayers for the family of Maj. Hassan for I am sure they are dealing with a hard time too.

Second,I want to express my disgust and shame for what Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan committed. I know that the media will portray the unfortunate fact that he is a Muslim and I have already seen him being labeled a Muslim terrorist on several news websites.
The Council on American Islamic Relations was the first Muslim organization to denounce this act in the CAIR Statement which said, "No political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence. The attack was particularly heinous in that it targeted the all-volunteer Army that protects our nation. American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens in offering both prayers for the victims and sincere condolences to the families of those killed or injured."

The circumstances regarding Maj. Hassan's harassment by fellow military members is unfortunate and discriminatory. But, no human being has a right to take the lives of innocent people. And, that goes for soldiers fighting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, too.
I am sure Maj. Hassan was upset by the fact that many innocent Muslims are killed by U.S. soldiers, but that doesn't justify him killing some people at Fort Hood, regardless if they are Muslim or not.

I just hope Muslim Americans realize how lucky they are to live in America. Truly, what a great country this is. I was born and raised here and have taken it for granted until I've learned more about how other Muslims are treated in other Muslim minority countries, and even Muslim majority countries. I don't agree with all of U.S. foreign policy, but I respect the values this nation was founded on and I respect the country America, and in fact, these values are complimentary to Islam. Hamza Yusuf, an Islamic scholar and convert, wrote, "Indeed, I have marveled at how most of what western society claims as its own highest ideals are deeply rooted in Islamic tradition."

Finally, I would like to end with a historical story, an encounter between different peoples. During the time when the Prophet Muhammad was revealing his message in Mecca, the most powerful clan realized that his message was challenging their unfair social order and polytheism which led to lucrative business for the clan. So, some of Muhammad's followers emigrated to Abyssinia, which is known as Ethiopia today. The Abyssinian king, who was a Christian, was known for his tolerance and "being respectful and fair with his people", writes Tariq Ramadan, author of In the Footsteps of the Prophet. Some emissaries from the clan that tried to persecute the Muslims tried to magnify the differences of the Muslims and Christians by presenting them to the the Abyssinian king. The Muslims told the king about their religion and he heard the meaning of what they said: "their God is the same, whatever the differences between their texts and our beliefs; their values, of respect and justice, are the same whatever the discrepancies between the religions' text. The king heard and welcomed those believers of another faith," writes Ramadan.

Muslims in America can relate to this story. America has allowed Muslims to live their lives seeking opportunity while maintaining their faith. Of course hardships and some unfairness exists, but Muslim Americans should be thankful nonetheless.

Muslims, like any other group of people, are a mixture of human beings; some of whom choose to do good and and some of whom choose to do evil. is a beautiful and perfect religion, but a few Muslims have distorted its teachings. Please do not confuse the religion with its followers, because they can be completely different.

"And be patient in adversity: for verily, God does not fail to requite the doers of good!" Qur'an ( 11: 115).

Nora Zaki
Muslim Youth for Truth Contributor

Where will your next 5 dollars go?

Have you ever complained about having to go to school every day? Have you gone school supply shopping every year before school began? Now, I would like you to picture yourself not being able to go to school when you really want to; Not having a pencil and some paper to be able to do your work on when you need to.

What are YOU going to do when you find out that exact feeling of deprivation is going on every day around the world, and especially to fellow Muslim brothers, sisters, and families in Sierra Leone? Are you willing to help change that for young Sierra Leonean girls and boys in that real-life picture?

The West African country, Sierra Leone, went through a twelve-year civil war (1991-2002) which resulted in the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands. Francis Mo Roberts (formerly Mo Haidara), a native of Sierra Leone and FSU Law graduate, founded an organization called “Help Sierra Leone” to help the situation he saw upon his visit home. He said, “witnessing, firsthand, the daily plights of ordinary Sierra Leoneans, especially children, was very disheartening. During my trip, I visited schools, hospitals, orphanages, amputee camps and villages. These visits not only saddened and angered me, but they also motivated me to do all I can to help the people of Sierra Leone. I realized that with just a little help and generosity, we can change the life of children and families.” Check out pictures and more info: and

Did you know that: with just $20, you can pay a grade-school child’s tuition for a full school year in Sierra Leone; with $50, you can pay for that child’s tuition and books for a full school year; and with $100, you can pay for that child’s tuition, books, uniform and shoes for a full school year.

The goal of this non-profit organization is to provide scholarships, food, clothes, shoes, school stationery and other necessities for the children and families of Sierra Leone. Education is at the heart of what Help Sierra Leone seeks to provide to children because it gives them hope in an otherwise hopeless society. Since its inception in 2007, Help Sierra Leone has offered over 100 full scholarships, donated money to local needy causes, donated rice to residents of a small village and an orphanage, donated clothes to new and expecting moms of a maternity hospital, donated shoes, bags, toys, and clothes to children and families.

I am calling on you all to join me and give what you can. Please donate and encourage your friends and family to do the same. With your help, not only can we send some children to school and feed some families, but we can actually change lives. I thank you in advance for your help and may Allah (swt) reward us all for even our smallest efforts!

So are your next $5, $10, or $20 going for candy, fast-food, shoes, accessories, etc. OR are you going to invest it in charity to be returned to you multiplied?

Safiah Afify

Muslim Youth for Truth Contributor

FSU Law Student

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Everyone Has a Story: "Are you a terrorist?"

“Are you a terrorist?” How do you think you would feel if the first day you chose to wear hijab (headscarf) in public someone you don’t know just randomly asked you that. Now, imagine if every other person you saw that day asked you that. Well, that was my first day of school. I‘m not going to lie, it was hard for me to keep myself from taking my hijab off. Everyone’s eyes were glued to me. People that I thought were pretty good friends just walked right by. I felt ashamed to be supporting my religious beliefs. It was crazy how so people just acted so ignorant. Some boys even tried hitting it off. The sad part is, I let everyone get to me. The next day of course I didn’t wear it. I thought, well if I just cover up the rest of my body it will be fine. Boy was I wrong. Sure, those annoying questions and stares went away, but my feeling of being ashamed didn‘t. It was a different type of shame though. Now, I felt ashamed for not wearing it. Like, I let not only myself, but Allah (God) down for letting everyone get to me. It was on that day I made the decision not let people make me feel ashamed for being who I was. I was going to wear my hijab, whether they agreed or not. Soon enough, the people who used to frown at me started smiling again. My friends realized I was still the same jokester I‘d always been. And the questions changed from “Are you a terrorist?” to “Hey what’s that thing your wearing?” and “What do you believe in?” Now, no matter where I go wearing hijab, I hold my head up high and look pass all the stares. I was content in what I believed in, and no one can take that from me unless I let them. That wasn’t going to happen.

~Cheyanne Lennon
Muslim Youth for Truth Contributor

Friday, September 11, 2009

Everyone Has a Story: "Who am I? It is within human nature to posses the quality of mercy. Was I human?"

For 16 years I've only seen the part of the world that I wanted to, turning a blind eye on the part that gave me a guilty conscience. For 4 hours I expected to leave a world different from the one in which I lived in, only to realize that all I had to do was open my eyes to the truth that was right in front of me: reality was scary.

For a moment, I wanted to run, to escape the pain that pierced the bottom of my heart as I watched the homeless embrace the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we had prepared. I was only aware of my conscience, finding its way out from the corners of my mind. It was yelling at me, accusing me for things I never thought I had to do with. It made feel responsible for the way in which they lived.

How did I sleep soundlessly every night, I thought, where these people slept on the cold ground? How did I bear the fact that my stomach was full beyond the max, while theirs lay hollow? Who was I? It is within human nature to posses the quality of mercy. Was I human?

Going to Project Downtown aided me in lifting my blindfold of a perfect America. Opportunity was plentiful, I thought, anyone who was on the streets was simply not working hard enough. At least thats what I told myself to keep my state of mind. Talking to so many different people, who before lived perfectly normal lives, immediately lifted that misconception. The story of their lives, seems just like the one of an ordinary person: A perfect plan gone wrong. While we had the resources to lift ourselves from the ensuing black hole, they just weren't as lucky.

Despite the gloomy environment, I noticed a flame of hope. Hope, that one day they too would be lifted from their misfortune and go back to college or obtain their dream job. Hope that their will be enough upcoming meals. Hope that the Project Downtown radiates with its genuine Humanitarian issues. I am more than honored to have participated in such a program.

Sally Kassem

Musilm Youth for Truth Contributor

Editor's Note: To learn more on how to get involved, please visit the website

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Athletes During Ramadan?

Asalamu’Alaikum brothers and sisters. Before I say anything on the topic, let me post a disclaimer that I am not, nor do I claim to be, a professional or expert on this subject. I speak only from my lifelong experience as an athlete, through trial and error, and any personal research I may have conducted. For that kind of advice please consult your own health professional. Also, everyone’s body is different, so what may work for me may not work for you.

Now, with that caveat out of the way, let’s talk training while fasting. There is no reason to cut physical activity during Ramadan if you go about it intelligently.

First, know your body, its limits, its warning signals, and its potential. The first rule of being a great athlete is to know and respect your body. Only focusing on cranking the weights and ignoring other factors, such as sleep, will result in minimal gain and more likely possibilities of injuries, catabolism, and just constant fatigue.

As far as nutrition goes, during Ramadan, I recommend increasing protein intake during Suhur and Iftar- or any other time you may eat. This is because while you are fasting, the body starts to catabolize and eat away muscle for energy. Increasing protein intake can help to limit this phenomenon. But still, don’t forget your carbs and essential fats.

Once that’s taken care of, we can move on. If it is the off-season for your sport, yet you still wish to train, you have the advantage of creating your own schedule. I would recommend timing your workout to one or two hours before Iftar. This way, you can train, then immediately after, you can eat and consume the essential nutrients you would need for recovery and sustenance- remembering to maintain increased protein intake. As far as how many days of the week you train with this schedule- that is up to you and how well you know your limits. Again, if it’s the off-season, you create your own schedule so take advantage of it and be smart with it.

If your athletic training is during the sport’s season and you are with the team, it may be a little bit more difficult- but definitely possible; I’ve done it my whole life without negative consequences. First, talk to your coach. S/he is your best friend on the team. Tell your coach as much prior to Ramadan as possible about fasting and how you shall be partaking in this. Assure the coach that this is not an excuse for mediocre performance because even during Ramadan you should be playing with full effort. Maybe, the coach may modify the practices a little bit to be closer to Iftar time. During practice, ask the coach for breaks whenever you feel the need. Don’t be afraid- your team is your family and they will understand. Don’t dress in a way that will cause you to overheat. And if you do feel tired, try to cool off a little before continuing. All the while you should still be working as hard as you would be while not fasting. Ramadan is not an excuse. Rather take it as an opportunity to increase you mental strength. Very few things can increase mental toughness like training on an empty stomach can. You will be respected for it- so again, do not be afraid or ashamed or embarrassed to talk to your coach and team. They need you as a player and will help.

After the practice, immediately consume high levels of sugary fruits (possibly blended into a shake) to replenish glycogen stores that were depleted throughout the day and practice. Then consume a high protein meal without forgetting your essential carbs and fat.

Insha’Allah with a little intelligent scheduling, playing your sport will be a breeze during Ramadan. If there are additional questions do not hesitate to post them. Insha’Allah I will answer with my humble advice.

Ramadan Mubarak and Asalamu’Alaikum.

Ashkaar Qazi
Muslim Youth for Truth Contributor

Saturday, August 22, 2009

So, I'm a girl that's gotta play sports and fast the same time....HELP!

Sports and Ramadan may seem like an oxymoron to many. But, there is nothing wrong with keeping active during this holy month of fasting. Here, I offer some tips of how to exercise or participate in physical activity while remaining healthy and safe. These are based on my experience playing basketball as a high school freshman and common sense :-)

- You must be sure that your body can handle physical activity without any sustenance during the time you partake sports or exercise. So, it may be wise to consult a doctor and think about your current state of health and fitness.
- Having the proper gear/clothes is essential. As a Muslim young woman, speaking to other Muslim girls and women, wearing light but modest clothing is no problem. Exercise pants, a loose long sleeve shirt, an easy and light-colored scarf ( if you wear one), a hat and/or sunglasses, quality tennis shoes and sunscreen are appropriate and easy. Having a water bottle with you so you can rinse your mouth with water is good as well. And, applying chap stick or lip balm also will help to lessen dried lips and a parched mouth.
- If you are an athlete and practice with a team, you should tell your coach that you will be fasting for religious purposes and may need to take additional breaks. You won't be asking for an easy way out of practice, but simply telling your coach that you need to take it a bit easy for the next month during practice. This is also a great way to do dawah ( outreach) by explaining why you fast to your teammates and coach.
- When you complete your physical activity, it would be refreshing to go into a pool or take a cool shower. When you exercise, you lose water due to sweat. So, even though you cannot drink immediately to replenish your body internally, you can externally cool yourself down. And, it's fun to take a dip in the pool!
- Know your limits. Don't over exhaust yourself. If you are feeling really awful, then please stop. Allah swt will, InshAllah, give us all the strength during this Ramadan and give those whose bodies undergo more exertion, extra blessings. Ameen.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Nora Zaki
Muslim Youth for Truth blogger

Sunday, August 16, 2009

So...What's the point of this thing?

Picture, if you will, a group of youth, tweens, teens and college students, in Tampa, FL on a Saturday morning. They are helping their community. They are a diverse group. They are getting rid of stereotypes about themselves. They are Muslim and proud of it.

Welcome to the Muslim American Society (MAS) Tampa's new Media Movement. This aforementioned scene is what we, as members of this beginning group, hope will blossom and thrive. We make no bones about it: Muslims around the world are definitely in a tough situation now. They can no longer remain indifferent to the current social climate. Rather, they must stop waiting for the world to change. Instead, we firmly believe that it is the duty of every able-bodied Muslim to take initiative and change the world for its betterment, especially the youth.

The Holy Book of Islam, the Qur'an, reads: "Verily, Allah (God) never changes the condition of a people until they change themselves." (13:11)

We have decided that it's about time to step up to that challenge and take the lead. If we don't care about our future, who will?