Sunday, June 24, 2007

Help Make Eid an Official NYC Public School Holiday

I was forwarded this email and consider it important enough to post on a blog as a means of getting the word out on helping make Eid a Holiday in NYC school - kids get off to be with their families, and perhaps come to understand that Muslims like the Jews and Christians, can look forward to days off on their religious days.

From: Senator John Sabini
To: 'John Sabini'

Subject: URGENT ACTION ALERT: Help Make Eid an Official NYC Public School Holiday

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 14:11:06 -0400

Dear Friend:

Earlier this year, I introduced a bill in the New York State Senate that makes Eid-al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitr official holidays in New York City public schools.

This bill, S3142, would have a significantly better chance of passing if you and other supporters would call, email or fax your respective State Senators and tell them to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. I have prepared a brief guide (below) to help you simply and effectively accomplish this. With the Senate's regular session ending on Thursday, June 21, it is urgent that this be done as soon as possible.

Thank you for your support. If you have any questions, please contact Shams Tarek in my District Office at (718) 639-8469.




Eid School Holiday Bill (S3142) Supporter's Guide

1) How to Get Your State Senator's Contact Info

If you don't already know who your State Senator is, find out by visiting and clicking on the "Who Represents Me?" link on the left-hand side. This site will list all of your elected representatives, as well as their email addresses and District Office telephone numbers. To get a State Senator's Albany office number through this method, call the District Office and ask. If you live outside New York City, the "Who Represents Me" site won't work; use the "Senators" link on If you cannot visit the Web, contact my District Office at (718) 639-8469.

2) If You Want to Call

If you want to call your State Senator about my Eid School Holiday Bill, call his or her Albany office (518 area code). You will most likely have to leave a message with a staff member. You may use the following sample script:

Hello, my name is [your full name] and I'm one of your constituents. I would like Senator [your State Senator's last name] to please support S3142, which makes Eid, the holiest day of the Muslim calendar, a public school holiday in New York City.

3) If You Want to Fax or Email

If you want to write your State Senator, you may use the following sample message:

Dear Senator [your State Senator's last name]:

As someone who cares about the right of Muslim students in New York City--who make up 10 percent of the public school population there--to observe their religion without disruption, I urge you to please support S3142. This important bill would make Eid-al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitr, two of Islam's holiest days of the year, official public school holidays. The days have been recognized on the New York City Department of Transportation's Parking Calendar for years; it's time for the Department of Education to recognize them, too.


[your full name]

[your home address]

4) OPTIONAL: In addition to contacting your own State Senator, call, fax or email:

- Majority (Republican) State Senators who represent parts of New York City or other areas with large Muslim populations. They include Senators Serphin Maltese, Frank Padavan and Martin Golden.

- Senate Education Chair Stephen M. Saland. Tel. (518) 455-2411, Fax (518) 426-6920, Email

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

'Old Neighborhood Boys'

When I returned home to New York City after a year away in PA, I decided to take a long walk through the streets of Corona to see if the neighborhood might have changed in some small way since I had been gone. I was wrong. After walking a few blocks I began to think about what the narrator in James Baldwin’s in Sonny’s Blues said about his New York neighborhood after being away from it for years: “These streets hadn’t changed, […] houses exactly like the past yet dominated the landscape, boys exactly like boys we once had been found themselves smothering in these houses, came down into the streets for light and air found themselves encircled by disaster.” I found an eerie reality of Corona that mirrored the lines Baldwin use to describe Harlem of the late 1950s: a trap. “Some escaped the trap, most didn’t. Those who got out always left something of themselves behind, as some animals amputate a arm and leave it in the trap.” As someone with a college degree and now working towards a graduate degree, many of the same people I grew up with looked at me as an outsider - as one of the few who had escaped the “trap.”

When my family immigrated to the United States, we settled into the neighborhood of Corona because it had one of few Masajid (Mosques) in Queens and an apartment my father could afford on a blue-collar job. My sister and I enrolled in the local elementary school where more than ninety percent of the students were the children of immigrants and spoke a second language other than English at home. While I struggled with English, I learned the language quickly because no bilingual classes existed like those available to my Spanish-speaking friends. With a majority of the students enrolled in bilingual classes, overcrowded classrooms and pressure from parents and the Board of Education district officials to prepare students to pass citywide exams, elementary school teachers focused on teaching us enough to ensure that we would pass the citywide exams – the sole indicator of our and our teachers’ success. We passed through middle school with a work ethic that emphasized doing just enough to succeed, and believed high school would be no different.

However, high school brought new academic challenges because teachers no longer repeated lessons that students did not initially grasp and were willing to fail students without a second thought. It didn’t help that a culture of gangs and sex dominated the social scene during high school and encouraged people to skip classes or drop out. Some of the boys I had played with in the park as a kid were now eager to prove their loyalty and physical toughness through violent and criminal acts to gangs like the ‘Latin Kings and ‘Dominicans Don’t Play.’ When a triple homicide occurred outside of my apartment building due to a long gang rivalry between members from two different towns in Mexico, I found it hard to believe that such disregard for human life existed over seemingly trivial matters. It was often worse for girls – their beauty became their curse as it attracted the attention of older teenagers and men who showered them with jewelry and clothing in return for being their girlfriends. It wasn’t uncommon to see girls from my neighborhood getting pregnant when they were only beginning to start high school – sometimes by the same boys aspiring to be gangsters. Issues of teenage sex, pregnancy, and abortion became a norm in our school to the extent that it didn’t seem unusual that our high school’s Junior Pageant winner was a sixteen-year-old mother with an infant son.

In order to cope with these social problems, many Muslims in our neighborhood, including myself, found solace our Islamic faith to help resist the surrounding social pressures. Coincidentally, some of the aspiring gang members became Muslim after spending time in corrections facilities and speaking with incarcerated black and Latino Muslims who were former gang members. Unfortunately, when they were released, they found it hard to stay away from the same friends and were often found staying in the Masjid to avoid going back to their troubled homes or friends. I once recall helping a seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican friend named Jafar who grew up with me and became Muslim after being spending time in a juvenile detention center, prepare for the GED tests confess to me how he had been spending most of his time in the Masjid (Mosque) and didn’t mind being back in juvenile detention because he was safer there than around his old friends and our neighborhood. A few weeks our planning for the GED tests, I saw Jafar with his old friends – he ignored as he walked on by with them.

After returning home this summer, I met Jafar on the streets again – this time he didn’t ignore. He told me that he had recently gotten married and his wife was pregnant and expecting soon. I wanted to ask him about whether he ever thought about the GED test we once spoke about but I felt as if I was a stranger asking him a personal question. If I did escape the trap that is my neighborhood, as everyone believes I have, I know that the metaphorical limb I have had to sacrifice is a part of my psyche; my identity of being one of the ‘old neighborhood boys.’

Monday, June 18, 2007

An Unusual Father for this "Father's Day"

I don't care much for "Father's Day," and there are alot of bad fathers out there (many good ones as well) but this one the below quote is speaking of one - is quite unusual.

Moshe Dayan , IDF General and Israeli Defense Minister during the 1967, remarked to a Palestinian poet that the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians (after Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories) would be like that between a Bedouin man and a young girl he takes against her wishes: Their children would not recall the rape but would view the man as their father.

I told my sister about this quote and she, being a psysch major, told me:

interesting. sad. true.
Perhaps the sadder part is that in these situations (once the children are away from the mother) the children will still always be attracted to their father and will want to reconcile with him, perhas hoping he can offer an apology and they can be the united happy family--something they saw but never had.

How about that? Seems like serious phychological/emotional problem... One could easily see the children seeking therapy or counseling in the future - so does that mean the Palestinian people as a whole are probably suffering from a physchological crisis? Perhaps.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Interesting News

I wanted to post the whole story below because its worth reading for a couple of reasons. The first reason is to show that discrimination is still prevlant - even in the multiculturally diverse NYC - this is Staten Island - not South Carolina. However, I found this story a little disturbing because the parents of Osama changed his name to "Sammy" ... thats right, SAMMY!?

Sammy is ok name if your a Dominican baseball player for the Texas Rangers but for Muslim... not really. Personally, I've hate it when Muslims introduce themselves as Westernized nicknames of their Islamic names (i.e. Mo for Muhammad, Manny for Usman, etc.) but this an entire name change done by the Parents. Parents are suppose to show support for their children in tough times. Instead, here we see the boy wanting to keep his name as Osama and the parents caving into the pressures.

I give the brother props, I know H.S. is really tough in America with all these social pressures - I hope that he does chnage his name back to Osama eventually.

Tough times for Island boy named Osama

Family files suit over alleged harassment at Tottenville H.S. that nearly caused suicide

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A Staten Island teen said yesterday he was taunted and harassed for more than two years by Tottenville High School teachers and personnel, sending the one-time honors student into suicidal bouts of depression, all because he shares his first name with 9/11 terrorist Osama Bin Laden.

Jordanian-born Osama Al-Najjar, 16, of Rosebank -- whose parents have since changed his name to "Sammy" against his wishes -- is seeking unspecified financial damages against the city and the Department of Education, alleging that Tottenville administrators acknowledged his plight in private meetings with his parents but did nothing to stop it.

"They did not deny it," asserted his mother, Suad Abuhasna. Rather, she said, a Tottenville assistant principal suggested she enroll Osama in an Islamic school.

Osama's father, Bassam Al-Najjar, said he and his wife wrote letters appealing for help to Rep. Vito Fossella, City Councilman James Oddo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to no avail.

What's more, at a press conference in his attorney's Manhattan office, Osama and his parents said the tormenting by teachers and school security guards made them fearful and sent them fleeing upstate for a time. Osama also tried to slit his wrists, placed a cord around his neck and self-medicated.

The lawsuit, filed in Brooklyn federal court, alleges that a gym teacher at the Huguenot school mocked Osama, saying, "I thought you were in a cave somewhere."

Another time, a security guard told him, "We don't want Bin Laden's son in our school."

And two math teachers verbally abused Osama because of his name, including one who repeatedly called him "Bin Laden" and advised him he'd never receive a passing grade.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Omar Mohammedi, says Osama was the subject of "racial profiling" while at Tottenville High and was "maliciously harassed and discriminated against" by school staff, leaving his "welfare greatly endangered."

Mohammedi said Osama's teacher tormentors "should have been suspended right away."

Calls left at Tottenville High School and Board of Education offices seeking comment went unreturned yesterday.

When the harassment first began, Osama said he regarded it as "stupid stuff, to get my attention." He said, for example, that his gym teacher routinely mocked him "in front of the whole class."

Only one teacher, his ninth-grade math teacher, later apologized, he said.

Osama said at first he wanted to live up to his parents' credo "to give respect to my teachers." Later, he tried to argue with teachers seemingly bent on tormenting him. In the end, he would call his mother and ask to be picked up from school.

Eventually, Osama's grades plummeted and he said he did not want to return to school.

He "withdrew from everything," said his mother, "kept in his room" and "couldn't sleep."

"I used to stay up all night wondering what is going to happen to him," added Ms. Abuhasna. "Being a Muslim is not a crime."

Osama said he had friends at school and that his classmates were generally supportive.

He left Tottenville High School in March 2006, and has since transferred to Telecommunications High School for Art and Technology in Bay Ridge, which the family said has a special program for students with "school phobias."

Osama, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a polo shirt, seemed uneasy with all the media attention. However, he made it clear that it was his parents' idea to change his first name to Sammy. He said he still thinks of himself as Osama and suggested he might change it back when he turns 18.

"I didn't want to change my name," said Osama, who aspires to be a lawyer. "If it was up to me, I'd have that name now."

Ms. Abuhasna, who wears a gold letter "O" around her neck, said she still thinks of her son as Osama, the name bestowed on him by his grandfather.

She added that she initially wanted Osama to attend Tottenville High School because it was a "good school" with an honors program.

After the press conference, Ms. Abuhasna told the Advance that when she and her family first moved to Staten Island from Brooklyn three years ago, "we did not have any problems."

But she said after their problems began at Tottenville High, friends on the Island told her "they had faced problems if they were Arab, Muslim, Jewish, black."

"I don't think it is so welcoming," said Ms. Abuhasna. "I don't think they want it to be mixed."

She said that while she wants to move back to Brooklyn, her family says "you can't run away."

The case is slated to be heard July 12.