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Taher Herzallah: AMP to Host “Virtual Palestine Advocacy Day” 2020

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American Muslims for Palestine is a “national education and grassroots-based organization, dedicated to educating the American public about Palestine and its rich cultural, historical and religious heritage.” Since 2015, AMP has held an annual Palestine Advocacy Day and Training weekend to educate activists, students, and leaders from across the nation on advocacy for Palestine. Taher Herzallah, the Associate Director for AMP, has announced that there will be some modifications to this year’s Advocacy Day.

Historically, this has been an in-person event, and there was a record-breaking registration of attendees for this year’s planned event. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, original plans were cancelled, but AMP has announced that they will be holding a Virtual Palestine Advocacy Day this year – which could reach even more people nationwide.

This year’s Virtual Palestine Advocacy Day is on, and will be held September 14-18, 2020. This event is open to all advocates for Palestine, and will be one of its kind. Taher says that it could break the record for attendees, given that anyone can attend from the comfort of their homes, and there is only a small $10 registration fee. Taher Herzallah is a renowned activist in the Muslim American community, and has been featured on Al-Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, Islamicity, and the FOSNA Palestine speaker list for his work.

Hossam Gamea Leads First Halal Lunch Program in NYC

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Many Muslim youth in the United States grow up eating only halal food, and for the majority in public school, that means being limited to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the few vegetarian options from school lunches. In New York, 38% of public-school students are Jewish and Muslim, and measures have been taken to accommodate students with Halal and Kosher dietary restrictions. The Islamic Leadership Council of New York led the First Halal Lunch Pilot Program in New York City, collaborating with the Department of Education, local Muslim businesses, and local community leaders in the process.

Hossam Gamea represented ILC-NY throughout this process and helped successfully execute this one of a kind project. Gamea grew up in the Bronx and knew the importance of inclusion and accommodation for Muslim students – and led this initiative as an active effort to ensure that Muslims were given reasonable accommodation at school, while also investing in local Muslim-owned businesses. Hossam Gamea is a respected advocate in his community, and has written for Tab, Traversing Tradition, and Medium. He has been featured in numerous podcasts for his insight on Islamophobia at a structural level, where he spoke on bullying he experienced as a student post-9/11. Leading the Halal Lunch Program in NYC is a step to work against that and promote equity and inclusion in New York’s public schools.

“Before You Tie the Knot” by Mohamed Magid and Salma Abugideiri: A Muslim Couple Staple

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For Muslim individuals in the United States, marriage is one of the most popular and discussed topics in mainstream circles. It is an important milestone in many people’s lives, and beyond that, it’s a unique experience that must be well prepared for – just as one would prepare for anything else. Salma Abugideiri and Imam Mohamed Magid co-authored a book titled “Before you Tie the Knot”, to help Muslim couples prepare for the process of getting married and achieving a successful, long-lasting marriage. The  authors present a unique approach, and combined have 40 years of experience counseling couples. Even more, it provides an Islamic framework to the marriage process and envisioning the dynamic as a healthy partnership. Mohamed Magid is the Executive Imam of All Dules Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center and the Chairman of International Interfaith Peace Corps (IIPC), as well as the former President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). He is renowned in the Muslim community for his sermons.

Mohamad Habehh and Other Faith Leaders: United for Mental Health

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Cynthia Chazen of the Stigma Free Zone News of New Jersey reported on a recent initiative that brought together leaders from a variety of communities to discuss mental health. An event named “Interfaith Roundtable on Mental Health Awareness” was sponsored by the Pastoral Care Team, Central Unitarian Church in Paramus. Exhibitors discussed a range of topics, including similar patterns among different communities and resources that are accessible within the state of New Jersey. 

Mohamad Habehh represented and provided insight on the Muslim community in New Jersey, speaking on the struggle for many youth. Bergen County’s Maureen Kerne, Director of Region V Council for Special Education, said, “The mental health of kids is presenting now as the greatest concern for New Jersey educators.” Educator Mohamad Habehh, with the other panelists, agreed that there was a rise in mental illness among youth.

 Mohamad Habehh is currently the National Development Coordinator with American Muslims for Palestine, and has been featured extensively for his insight on advocacy, campaigning, community building, and solidarity movements. He spoke on the condition in the Passaic County Muslim community, describing the efforts as “knee-deep in efforts to better understand mental illness and educate.” 

USCMO Secretary General Oussama Jammal Speaks at ILC-NY 30th Anniversary Banquet

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The US Council of Muslim Organizations is a member organization of Majlis Ash-Shura, the Islamic Leadership Council of New York. ILC-NY’s 30th Anniversary Banquet brought together organizations and individuals that serve the Muslim community, for a night of reflection and fundraising.450 guest attendees were present at the Grand Prospect Hall in celebration of the work and legacy of Muslims in New York. Attendees included community leaders, partners and allies, mosques, elected officials, activists, and students.
One of the many distinguished speakers at this event was USCMO Secretary General Oussama Jammal. He extended his deep “congratulations for 30 years of service, unity, commitment, and dedication to the Muslim community” to ILC-NY. He said, “bringing people together isn’t an easy job, but it’s a must…Our strength, survival, aspiration will come through our unity and working together.”

Palestinian Activist Taher Herzallah on Solidarity with Black Americans

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The Middle East Eye recently featured a number of Arab Americans who have taken to the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd. According to the New York Times, at the peak of the protests on June 6, half a million people came out in nearly 500 places across the United States on that single day. The protests brought people together in the call for justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Briana Taylor – all unarmed Black people killed at the hands of police – and an end to police brutality and systemic racism. 

In addition to speaking outward, many communities including the Arab and Muslim community have reflected and led initiatives to eradicate racism within their own communities. Palestinian Taher Herzallah was featured in this article and spoke on solidarity with the Black community from his perspective as an advocate for Palestine. Taher has written for Al-Jazeera, spoken for AMP, has been featured in The Electronic Intifada, and has written a manual for activists on university campuses called “Everybody Freeze!

He said, “I feel that as a Muslim American, and as a Palestinian American, I needed to show up where it was needed most, instead of spending time on Facebook, putting [up] a black Facebook profile picture. I wanted to actually be on the ground, putting myself between Black bodies and police, making sure that we were making the best use of our youth and our health to help our brothers and sisters in this moment.”

He goes on to speak on the historic connection between Black and Palestinian movements, saying “The Black Panther Party and Malcolm X were meeting with Palestinian leaders and travelling to the region to engage in these discussions. And I think historically speaking this is a beautiful part of that. We have a history. I’m not doing anything new by participating in these protests, per se. I’m actually just continuing that tradition of solidarity between our two communities and our two struggles.”

Taher has also written and spoken at length on meaningful alliances for the greater, universal cause of justice.

The Smithsonian Features Mohamed Magid in Quranic Treasures Exhibit

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The Smithsonian held an exhibit “in recognition of one of the world’s extraordinary collections of Qur’ans.” This was the first of its kind in the United States, and it featured manuscripts from Herat to Istanbul. While shedding light on the  physical beauty of these Qurans, in calligraphy and book style, the exhibit also featured learned individuals knowledgeable on the Quran to share their insight on its figurative beauty.

Imam Mohamed Maged was featured in the exhibit as the Imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center). He regularly appears in media, and was recently featured on CNN. He is recognized for the work within his community, by speaking at colleges nationwide, and beyond, in leading interfaith efforts across religious organizations.

One of the gems Mohamed Maged shared of the Quran was in saying, “the Quran is not the biography of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. It is the biography of all of the Prophets.” He shared that the stories of the prophets were revealed in the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, and his first revelation came when he was on a mountain in the cave of Hiraa. This exhibit displayed and featured some of the physical and metaphysical beauties of the Quran to a worldwide audience.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj Speaks on Systemic Racism in the U.S.

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In a livestream hosted by Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), Imam Siraj Wahhaj spoke on the issue of systemic racism within the United States that Black Americans face regularly. Siraj Wahhaj, who was covered extensively by the Wall Street Journal in 2003, is no stranger to this subject, having spoken recently about George Floyd for Lampost Education and at the 14th Annual MAS-ICNA Convention in 2016.

During his talk, Siraj Wahhaj spoke about the importance of engagement, both at the community level and at the political level. Those familiar with Siraj Wahhaj know that political engagement has been a staple of his ideal paradigm for a successful community. According to Siraj Wahhaj, a successful community engages with individuals on a grassroots level and with politicians in the capacity of voting and holding them accountable.

Siraj Wahhaj urged Muslims of immigrant background to establish and strengthen their ties with Black Muslims in the inner cities. He also urged Muslim communities to use the influences and relationships that they’ve built with their local police department to push for reform that would benefit their countrymen and fellow Black Muslims.

Taher Herzallah on Countering Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism Hand in Hand

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American Muslims for Palestine has regularly collaborated with Jewish Voice for Peace in a number of initiatives. In 2017, Taher Herzallah, the Associate Director of Outreach & Grassroots Organizing with the American Muslims for Palestine, wrote an article in Al-Jazeera titled “In the US, we need a Muslim-Jewish alliance.” In this article, Herzallah discusses the need for interfaith collaboration on a number of social justice issues, one of which is the global Palestinian solidarity movement. He writes that the election of Donald Trump has reinstated an interest across the country in Muslim-Jewish partnership. “…The emboldening of white supremacist groups bent on causing physical harm to both Muslims are Jews, [creates] an urgent sense that we all need to come together to weather this fascist storm.” He explores how Trump’s racist rhetoric has emboldened anti-Semitism and Islamophobia alike. 

He warns against counter-intuitive partnerships with organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee, which have been complicit in creating the climate of Islamophobia they “claim to abhor.”

He previously served as a community organizer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. His campus activism has attracted the attention of Electronic Intifada and other platforms, has published on platforms like the Orange County Register and Al Jazeera English, and has been featured in live interviews on Al Jazeera Arabic. He has authored a guide for student activists titled “Everybody Freeze.”

Herzallah advises organizers to continue collaborating and building connections with organizations like FOSNA and Jewish Voice for Peace, who as a campus organizer himself has “worked for years to build accountable partnerships between Muslims and Jews, founded on principles of justice, solidarity, and love.” He demonstrated this example in 2014 as a student organizer, who collaborated with Jewish Voice for Peace on a program related to countering bigotry like Islamophobia and anti-semitism with Estee Chandler of JVP. American Muslims for Palestine have also worked with IfNotNow, an American Jewish progressive activist group opposing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Herzallah ends with a call to Muslims and Jews to come together and combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, as both Muslims and Jewish people are targets of the white supremacist alt-right movement. Meaningful Muslim-Jewish alliances can be, and are key to expanding the movement for equality and justice in the United States and worldwide.

Hossam Gamea Condemns Christchurch

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Over 5,000 people of various religious and ethnic backgrounds attended the United Against Islamophobia rally in Times Square, NY in support of the victims of the Christchurch shootings which occurred in New Zealand a little over a week ago.

The rally was organized by several Muslim led organizations, including Majlis Ash-Shura Islamic Leadership Council of New York (ILC-NY), and saw the endorsement of over 60 local organizations of various political and religious backgrounds.

One of the lead organizers of the protests, Hossam Gamea, Outreach Director of ILC-NY, kicked off the rally with a passionate speech decrying racism, Islamophobia, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism. Hossam has been featured as an author with The Tab, Traversing Tradition, Medium, and for a number of podcasts with the Mad Mamluks, and has an episode on The Christchurch attack.

His words echoed similar sentiments he shared after speaking at a vigil for students at CUNY-Baruch College and a rally earlier in the week organized by Jewish and anti-racism organizations in lower Manhattan. Hossam Gamea’s powerful introduction sparked a zeal in the rest of the speakers, which included several imams, a Rabbi, a Reverend, and a representative of BLM in NYC.Following the speeches and a variety of chants calling for unity and an end to racism, thousands marched for over 3 miles, with Hossam Gamea leading the pack to the CNN headquarters in Columbus circle and prayed the afternoon asr prayer to send a message of unity and show the collective of New Yorkers who have come together to oppose hate and violence.