Chicago Roundup

If Mishandled, Religion Is Like Plutonium, Says Imam Hamza Yusuf . Muslim Funnymentalists Rock the NEIU Auditorium . Central Milad Committee of Chicago Celebrates the Birth of the Prophet (SAW) . Alumni of FBI Citizen Academy Meet at Reza’s Downtown . Niagara Celebrates Black History Month

By Dr. Mujahid Ghazi


If Mishandled, Religion Is Like Plutonium, Says Imam Hamza Yusuf

Imam Hamza Yusuf at Elmhurst College

Chicago : Delivering a lecture in the Al-Ghazali Lecture Series at the Elmhurst College on 19 th of February, Shaikh Hamza Yusuf, founder of Zaytuna Institute, said, "Imam Ghazali has this uncanny ability to transcend time and place". He said he is somebody who can speak to us from 11 th century and his work still resonates in the 21 st century in America to somebody who is raised in California and not in Khurasan or within the milieu of Islamic traditional civilization. He said Imam Al-Ghazali is called Hujjatul Islam, the proof of Islam. He said his teacher recently told him that the struggle in Islam is the struggle between two visions in Islam: the vision of Imam Ghazali and the vision of Imam Ibne Taimia. Even Ibne Taimia is constantly referring to Imam Al-Ghazali, he added. He said Imam Ghazali is considered a great reference for the Islamic tradition.

He was giving a talk on the absorbing subject of "We are All Wayfarers: Reflections on Imam al-Ghazali’s Theology of Alterity".

He said Imam Ghazali, beside his many characteristics, was uniquely capable in the Islamic tradition to build the bridge between the esoteric and exoteric truth of religion. He said this is something that religions have a difficult time in grappling with. The esoteric tradition or the inward meaning of religion and the outward aspects of that religion have been discussed in detail in orthodox Christianity as well and were not understood completely. Imam Ghazali was the one who said that both of these traditions are needed and are the wings on which the religion flies. His whole speech later explained in detail this point. He said Muslims never understood Prophet Mohammad (SAW) as Merchant, Politician or a Military genius. They always understood him to be a mercy. He said that is the essence of the Islamic teaching of who the Prophet Mohammad (SAW) was and that is how he is described in the Qur’an.

He said Imam Ghazali was the reformist in the 11 th century who corrected the scholars of that time who were promoting only the exoteric traditions of Islam and presented a balanced picture of the religion between esoteric and exoteric traditions. He said that Imam Ghazali had also confronted sectarianism at that time. He said the problem of extremism is a problem not only with the Muslim world but with religious communities everywhere. He said religious traditions constantly produce spiritual pride. It is an unintended product of the idea that I have something which other people don’t have and it makes me better than the others. Another unintended byproduct of religious tradition is that some Muslims view those outside of their faith in terms of misunderstanding of their religion like God only loves Muslims. He said that it is a misunderstanding as God loves every one as everyone is His creation.

He said an unguided study of the books of religion is like giving plutonium to the people and letting them do what they want to do with it. He said the only solution to this problem is the recognition of secularity and he acknowledged that this is what this country has done. It attempted to regulate the problems of religion that are inherit in the religious traditions. He said it did this by creating a neutral force that enables these religions to interact with each other but the playing field is equal. He said America has been reasonably successful at this enterprise. He said that is why we are in an extraordinary situation now where an orthodox Christian from California could convert to Islam, go to the Middle East and study Islamic traditions and then come back and lecture at a Christian College under the Al-Ghazali Lecture series. He said this can happen only in America. He said this is in opposition to the laicism practiced in France, which is to exclude religion completely from the public space. He said these are the two ways religion can be regulated and without these two forms religion is a disaster. Instead of becoming solution to the problem it becomes part of the problem, if not the root of the problem in many cases.

He said understanding our inner self and getting rid of greed and selfishness is a key to the many problems we face today. He said that we definitely have a crisis right now in the Muslim world and Islam. Quoting an English philosopher, he said the loss of Muslim sovereignty is not a negative thing but a positive thing as Islam will no longer be encumbered with the corruption of a political entity masking itself a religious entity. It will enable the Muslims to once again discover their deep spiritual tradition… The religious leadership in our community is the same that Imam Ghazali was fighting in the past: “The Mutarrassimoon”.

Prior to his lecture Professor Inamul Haq introduced him and commended him for the scholastic work he is doing. Later, after the lecture at a reception given by the MSA and the department of religious studies, Paul Parker, Professor and Baltzer Distinguished Chair in religious studies at Elmhurst said, “He has the talent of showing how this ancient religion is as modern as an iPod, he brings a modern sensibility, but also a critical eye for the problems of modernity, the wars, the pollution. And he can probably draw more English-speaking Muslims than anyone on the face of the Earth.”


The Muslim Funnymentalists Rock the NEIU Auditorium: A successful Halal Event of PSA

Muslim funnymentalists rock the North Eastern Illinois University Auditorium

A group of Muslim comedians infused uncontrolled laughter into the packed young Muslim audience at North Eastern Illinois University last Saturday. On a cold freezing evening an unexpected number of audiences crammed the auditorium to see Baba Ali who was the main attraction of the Muslim comedy night organized by Pakistan Students’ Association. Wajiha Moonis and her co-host Sabila Banu didn’t take long to introduce SoundRight to begin the funniest student show in the history of Chicago land. Chicago's very own Muslimah-led rhythmic ensemble SoundRight was formed by a group of young women in Chicago responding to the lack of engagement of Muslim women in the arts, especially as musicians. In April 2008, they amazed audiences with their homemade instruments. Ever since, they have picked up an assortment of real instruments to create rhythms and surely this they did when they sang “Wait a minute I got my own tune”. With Amina Muhammad and Indi Go as lead vocalists, and Sana Ali on drums and percussion, Amina Waheed, Ghazal Shafiei, Aaisha Sheereen Durr and Seemi Choudry teamed up well to produce a beautiful halal music ensemble.
After the individual standup comedy by Saad Ahmed and Ammar Ali “The Muslim Funnymentalists” were hilarious. Aman Ali’s fixation to his family portrayed funny moments of a settling immigrant family. Asif Ali’s body was trying to speak Jim Carey’s body language. Was he successful in this effort? God knows. Baba Ali’s short comedy spell left every one wonder why it was so brief. The last act which included Darakhshan and Maha as volunteers was a good attempt to make it more interactive and improvised but lacked humor and comedy and didn’t make the audience laugh while leaving the auditorium.

Overall it was a very good attempt of PSA NEIU to provide a clean and Halal entertainment on 12 th Rabiul Awal, the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).


Central Milad Committee of Chicago Celebrates Birth of the Prophet (SAW)

Central Milad Committee of Chicago celebrates the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)

Muslims of Chicago gathered on Devon and Leavitt intersection to be part of the first procession to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. A known Sunni Muslim scholar Maulana Badruddin Quadri led the procession. This scribe came to know that this was only possible due to the efforts of Sister Tamanna who conceived the idea and pushed the Muslim leadership to celebrate the birth of the prophet by taking out a united procession. Mr. Jamil Akhter, Mr. Raja Razzak, Mr. Ilyas Khokar, Mr. Shakeel Siddiqi, Mr. Hameedullah Khan, Mr. Wasif Quadri, Mr. Liaqat Ali, Mr. Sheikh Ahmed and Mr. Ali of Ali Saloon were among the leading Muslims. The procession started from Leavitt and Devon and ended at Bombay Hall, where a meeting was held to commemorate the day.

In his speech, Maulana Badruddin Quadri urged the audience to follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to get rid of the evils of this world. Mr. Shakeel Siddiqi recited Naat Shareef.


Alumni of FBI Citizen Academy Meet at Reza’s Downtown

Alumni of FBI Citizen Acadmey meet

About 60 alumni of Citizens Academy met at Reza’s Restaurant in downtown Chicago on February 25 to honor Judge Benjamin Mackaoff and Carol Mackoff. They were among the hostages in The Taj in Mumbai India during the Mumbai terrorist attack. Chicago president of the Alumni Craig Kelbus welcomed the guests and paid tribute to the courage of Ben and Carol Mackoff. He said the Alumni meet every month. He recognized Aamir Chalisa, vice president of Chicago Chapter, and board members Cindy Rice and Jeanette Tamayo, Steve Bernas, Duan Debbs and Joe Tamaraz. He also thanked Ross Ryes and Laura Feldman from the FBI for their support.

Special Agent in-charge of FBI in Chicago, Robert Grant, welcomed the guests. He said that November 19 th, 2008 was India’s 9/11 when 10 trained operatives arrived in the Mumbai Harbor by boat armed with hand grenades, explosives, automatic weapons and other devices. Mentioning in detail the Mumbai attack he connected it with the ongoing trial of Mr. Tahawar Rana and Mr. David Headley and said that Mr. Headley had voluntarily given information of his link with the Mumbai terror attack. Introducing the guest speakers he said that our guest tonight has experienced the Mumbai attack as a hostage. Judge Mackoff was the head of domestic relations division of the Cook County Circuit Court for many years. He now handles mediation in the private sector and enjoys plenty of time traveling. His wife Carol Mackoff is the managing director of Chicago Office of Rice Financial Products Company and has informally worked as a senior financial executive in the international financial community. Judge and Mrs. Mackoff are actively involved in non-profit programs focused on addiction and recovery. In 2008 they were in India with a travel organization while touring the Middle East. In the last leg of their trip they were staying in the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower in Mumbai when terrorists attacked several locations in the city, including the hotel in which they were staying. They survived inside the hotel for 40 hours.

Mr. and Mrs. Mackoff gave a detailed account of their ordeal. They were having dinner in the restaurant downstairs. Judge Mackoff is a diabetic and in keeping with his routine skipped the desert and both of them went to their room a little early. Mrs. Mackoff also later said that they were originally booked for a room on the front of the hotel on the fourth floor but because of some error at the registration desk they were given a room in the back and on a higher floor. Later, the floor where they were supposed to be initially provided accommodation was attacked by the terrorists and caught fire.

Their detailed account of the 40 hours was filled with chilling details of endurance and courage. Carol Mackoff narrated a number of coincidences that saved them and brought them back safely to the US.


Niagara Celebrates Black History Month by Organizing a
Reception with Secretary of State Jesse White

Niagra celebrates Black History Month

Concluding his speech at a reception organized by Niagara Foundation to commemorate Black History Month on February 24, Secretary of State Jessie White Quoting "Vince" Lombardi said his principle in life was: "Winners never quit and quitters never win." He was speaking to a packed audience of downtown executives and CEOs. He took people through the memory lane and recalled his experience with the late Dr. Martin Luther King and the days of civil rights movement and racial segregation. He said because of that great movement it became possible to have a black president in the White House. Responding to a question about role of racism in creating the grid lock in Washington DC he said that issues like these sadden him and the only solution to address these issues is to have an awareness of the political and civic role that one could play. He said that citizens should contact their representatives and tell them what they want and bargain with them that if they don’t listen they are not going to get your votes in the next elections. He also referred to the increase in the license plate fee and said that the raise is advised by the state representatives and he was just a messenger. People should protest to their respective representatives, only this communication with the reps can change the situation. Responding to a question about the healthcare reform bill he said that it should be resolved bit by bit. Trying to get it passed as a whole may not be possible.

He said that he had known Barack Obama for over 20 years. He said, “I was asked once by the then Senator Obama to tell the committee what I wanted to do as Secretary of State and I told them that I want to run this department like a business. Cleaning it of the corruption, modernizing it to the requirements of the 21 st century.” He said that’s what he did by introducing the computerized system and ending political corruption. He said he banned political fundraising by the employees. He said his department had the finest website which is lauded internationally. He said a new program “Emergency Database” is being introduced The program will record names of two individuals who could be contacted in case of an emergency. So if someone had an accident we would instantly know who to contact by putting the name or license number. He said in addition to this our organ and tissue donation program is the best in the country. He said when you save someone by donating your organ or tissue you become a hero. He said one donor can save multiple lives. We ask everyone to become a hero.

At the end of the program, Niagara Foundation gave Secretary of State his painted portrait as a gift.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.