What may be the world's oldest fragments of the Koran have been found by the University of Birmingham.
Our meeting and discussion, over lunch, revolved around Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and some of the challenges confronting Muslims in the West. Lord Ahmed shared the outline of a debate that he was preparing to engage in later in the day (on the floor of the British Parliament) on the growing trend of Islamophobia in the UK. I was also gratified to learn that he has publicly raised his concerns regarding Aafia in the past, and assured me that he will continue to do so in the future.
The very next morning Lord Ahmed sent me the draft of a letter that he was planning to send to the newly installed attorney general of the United States, Ms. Loretta Lynch. (After reading the letter I thought to myself, ‘If only Muslim elected and/or appointed officials in America had the courage and presence of mind to do likewise.)
From the Parliament Br. Rashid and I checked into our hotel, freshened up, and then headed out to the impressive studio offices of the UK’s “Islam Channel.” I was invited to participate in one of network's most popular talk show programs (“Living The Life”). Interaction with the high octane hosts of this informative program was a real pleasure.
The following day witnessed the most important initiative of my five day visit. It was this initiative, spearheaded by a group of committed Muslim women, that brought me to the UK: The Walk For Freedom for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The initiative began with an assembly outside the Pakistani High Commission in London. It was accented by a meeting comprised of a representative delegation from our assembly, with one of the counselor officials, Zahid Ahmed Khan Jatoi (First Secretary of the political wing of the High Commission for Pakistan).
The meeting went well, and was followed by a briefing to those gathered outside (by Sr. Yvonne Ridley and this writer); then prayer, which was followed by a mile long walk through Hyde Park that ended with a rally at the U.S. Embassy – a large, gated, imposing looking compound, with heavily armed security personnel (located at 24 Grosvenor Square, London).
The rest of my UK itinerary consisted of a number of talks at different venues in Manchester and Bradford. Each presentation touched upon a different aspect of a central theme – i.e. The Challenges Confronting Muslims in the West. The itinerary included khutbahs at two different masajid (about a 30 minute drive apart) on Friday, June 5th; a presentation to a sisters group; and an interactive discussion with an assembly of youth (of different age groups) at a large Muslim weekend school. (This was my most challenging audience, by far, but it went well, Alhamdullilah!)
On the day before I flew out of the country, we had a press conference at the law office of Shazia Anjum (Director/Principle Solicitor of Premium Law Solicitors LTD), where to my surprise, on a Sunday, a number of other Muslim public officials and activists came to meet me, and to receive a detailed briefing on my visit. Among those present were Afzal Khan (Member of the European Parliament for the North West); Councillor Shaukat Ali (Manchester City Council); and Raja Najabat Hussain (Chairman, Jammu & Kashmir Self-Determination Movement).
The meeting/press conference, followed by lunch and off-camera discussion, went exceptionally well. Overall, I found the Muslims of the UK to be far more confident and assertive (generally speaking) than my Muslim brethren in the US.
Needless to say, my first ever trip to the UK was an amazing visit that received considerable international attention. The June 3rd Aafia mobilization that took place in London received coverage in Pakistan, and shortly after my return to the states, I received a request for an interview from the South African-based, Muslim operated communications network, CII.
The struggle continues…
On April 3, 2015, one American Muslim will attempt to become the first person to call the athan in all fifty states.
Called “Project Muaddhin” is the history making journey by Jameel Syed from Michigan. He intends to share the beauty of Islam, stopping to collect stories in each state, making the Adhan and delivering the Last Sermon of the Prophet Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam at each stop.
"I made my intention to become the first Muaddhin (Caller of the Adhan) in history to make the Adhan in all fifty states across America. It’ll be a journey that gives the international Muslim community the opportunity to dictate the terms of their own narrative across the world. Instead of reacting to headlines, they’ll be creating their own by building a positive story around the community,” said Syed.
Starting from Farmington Hills, MI, Syed will stop and the ADAMS Center in Sterling, VA and Islamic Community Center of Laurel in Maryland on Friday, April 10, 2015. The Grand Canyon and Harry Potter World are also on the schedule.
This very American tradition of driving across the United States will be a world record, but for Syed it is also a spiritual journey to gain the pleasure of Allah.
"Through travel we get to know God better, it’s that simple. I have had some of my most spiritual moments staring out across a mountain range, a desert, lake, or even just humanity going about its daily existence,” says Syed. “Travel makes the familiar unfamiliar to us and in doing so we come to better appreciate God’s creation. Throughout the Qur’an verses ask man to reflect on what has been created on earth and in the heavens – what better way to do that than through travel?"
“I want to be a part of the legacy,” he said on his choice of reading the universal Farewell Sermon, which he says is the antidote to the many ills of society. It is a simple solution to a complex problem, said Syed. Project Muaddhin will also collect adhans of different muaddhins from each state and compile the journey into a documentary.
It’s a matter of telling our own stories, said Dr Malik Bella, Director of Islamic Studies at Oakland University, while endorsing Project Muaddhin. “The adhan- this message of Islam is for all people.”
Every home should have a designated muaddhin, recommends Syed, who wants to give this position the honor that it deserves. Many muaddins are the unsung heroes of their communities.
Jameel Syed, right, visits ISNA in Indiana as part of his Muaddhin tour around the
US. Photo courtesy of Jameel Syed.
A father and committed husband, he will leave his family behind to travel the country telling the stories of American Muslims. Syed is a marketing professional, a youth leader, and was the official muaddhin for the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 2014. He credits his Islamic schoolteacher at the Michigan Islamic School, Isa Abdul Baseer, for taking him as a personal mission and taming his youthful hyperactivity. Baseer, who is active in the jamaat at-tabligh movement, taught him the benefits of calling people to worship.
His father, the late Dr Salam Abdus Syed who passed away in 2004, also inspires Syed.