by Nagia Moharram
January 21, 2017, was an eventful day. While many citizens in the United States and worldwide marched in solidarity for the rights of women and minorities, a group of over 500 men and women of all faiths, ages, and ethnic backgrounds gathered at a hotel in Dallas, Texas for the same cause. The 12th Annual Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation’s (TMWF) Fundraising Gala offered a powerful and timely message. Board Chair, Mahmuda Hossain, welcomed the audience, along with TMWF Event Sponsors, auction donors, businesses advertising in the event and TMWF staff for the impactful work being done. TMWF Executive director, Dr. Hind Jarrah presented the accomplishments of TMWF since inception, noting that TMWF and its supporters parallel the diversity of the United States, and represent working together for a good cause. The agenda for the evening offered stories from all four of TMWF’s programs, Social Services, Youth Leadership Development, Education, and Interfaith Outreach.
The first story was both truly personal and yet represented the tragedies of many other victims. A TMWF Social Services client, speaking in anonymity, told of mental, physical, sexual, and financial abuse at the hands of her husband. She expressed her gratitude for an organization such as TMWF that helped her get out of her horrific cycle of abuse and reclaim her dignity. The client’s story showed how TMWF Social Services saves lives and helps victims find peace and community. Read her story.
Youth speaking for the Youth Leadership Program highlighted the importance of volunteering and youth involvement in strengthening themselves as well as the community. TMWF Youth Council member, Izzah Zaheer, acknowledged that at first her involvement was to earn service points, but as she became more involved she realized how much she was learning and growing. The experience of volunteering humbled her and helped her gain confidence in her ability to lead and serve society. As many youth have expressed when working with TMWF, the impact of helping others only strengthens ourselves.
Pledge of Young Men Against Abuse
The intertwining of youth involvement and social service was punctuated by the presentation of fifteen year old Hamza Iqbal, who lead the “Pledge of Young Men Against Abuse”. Speaking boldly, he acknowledged that as a young man he is not only gaining in physical strength, but also in responsibility. He knows he must not abuse his strength, but use it to support and protect others. Hamza denounced any abuser, “I don’t care how rich or educated, how old or strong you are. If you are an abuser, you are not my hero.” All the men in the audience were invited to follow his recitation of the pledge against domestic violence and to affirm their steadfast maintenance of peace in the home. Hamza Iqbal highlighted the Youth Leadership Program’s promotion of youth as our community’s future and the need for adults to support them on the their path to adulthood.
Islamic Arts Revival Series (IARS)
The education component of TMWF can never be understated. Dr. Jarrah lauded the Islamic Arts Revival Series (IARS) in bridging between cultures through their work. The partnership between the IARS team with the Irving Arts Center’s Marcie Inman and Todd Eric Hawkins created what Mr. Hawkins called “a table for us to sit together.” Their exhibits, performances, and workshops have created ways to bring diverse communities together through the beauty and creativity of art, intrinsic to our shared humanity.
The two highly anticipated keynote speakers focused on TMWF’s Interfaith Outreach program as well as its efforts to empower women. The first keynote address was given by journalist, Carla Power. A secularist, Ms. Power expressed her gratitude to her friend the Muslim scholar, Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, the subject of her book, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and Journey to the Heart of the Qur’an. Through her year-long study, she came to understand the nuances of the faith, helping to denounce misinformation, break stereotypes, and foster mutual respect and understanding.
Ms. Power also cited multiple woman scholars in history, whom she learned of through the research work of Sheikh Nadwi. She emphasized that these Muslim women believed strongly in seeking knowledge, as their faith encourages, and sharing it with others, teaching both men and women students. The significance of her friend being an Eastern male (raised in India) Islamic scholar researching and saluting 10,000 women in history in 40 volumes of research cannot be discounted. His findings magnify the gap that exists today between these Muslim women’s scholarly Islamic tradition, practicing fully in public life as equals to men, and modern day practice in many Muslim countries. Ms. Power sees TMWF as trying to change these practices of many centuries, so that they can once again empower women and, through their empowerment, better society as a whole. She closed by saying the command by God in the Qur’an for people to get to know one another and to do good works together are both Qur’anic and deeply American virtues.
The second keynote speaker, American Muslim scholar and leader, Imam Omar Suleiman, praised the work of TMWF and its efforts to unite people of all backgrounds to support the common good. Imam Omar Suleiman shared a personal story to elaborate on the significance of TMWF’s focus on empowering women through respecting their humanity and equal status. He shared that his mother had been quite ill when he was a boy. His father had to take care of her as well as the children. His father never complained, but, instead, said that his greatest blessing was his wife. Imam Omar explained that it was his father’s faith that compelled him to treat his wife that way. He made the point that “the best thing a man can teach his children is to treat his wife well.” He added that with the coming of the message of Islam, the divine revelations helped the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) promote respect for women in public policy and in society. Among the many things that the Prophet said in his final sermon was to keep connected to God through prayer and to treat women well.
Imam Omar noted the current disrespect for women and those who are seen as “other” in contemporary society requires that “we respond by repelling evil with that which is better” as we stand united together with love and respect for one another. He sees faith as the driving force behind TMWF’s commitment for championing peace in the home and society at large.
Through out the Gala, the message of strength through unity and civic engagement was loud and clear. The women and men of all ages and faiths who gathered that evening clearly stand for a vision of a bright future that they will continually commit to, together, in these United States and the world at large. TMWF shares that same vision and is steadfast in its ongoing commitment to the well-being and empowerment of the human spirit.
Thank you for your support in championing our cause. Thank you to our gala sponsors, silent auction donors, program advertisers and the wonderful ladies who donated the delicious treats for our guests!
If you were unable to join us at the Gala, please consider making your gift today at www.tmwf.org. We need more #PeaceChampions to stand with us to bring “Peace in the Home”.
The Youth Leadership program hosted its 9th Annual MLK Day “Feed Your Neighbor” event at the Beacon of Light Center (BOL) at Masjid Al Islam in downtown Dallas. The event brought together approximately 60 volunteers from TMWF youth and other organizations including, the Islamic Circle of North America, Islamic Relief USA, Brighter Horizons Academy, and the Flower Mound United Methodist Church. Thank you to all our volunteers who donated the food, supplies, and clothing.
In keeping with Dr. King’s legacy of service and promotion of the brotherhood of humanity, volunteers were moved by their experience. Irene Muturi, a friend of one of the TMWF families, was delighted to see youth coming in the morning on a school holiday to help others. “Hopefully I can continue helping this community regardless of the event…[This should not be] just a one day thing…[there’s an] ongoing need. Being with people of other faiths speaks to what MLK Day is all about: doing good and coming together of people of other faiths.”
TMWF youth, Anushe Sheikh, was surprised by the response of the needy who came, “I really like how polite and happy they are, despite their situation.” Yasmin Zeidan, a Brighter Horizons Academy (BHA) youth, felt that, “It was a great opportunity to see the community that we don’t usually see and a great opportunity to give back.” Her BHA school-mates, echoed her feelings, including Hana Awad, “To be honest I was going to stay home sleeping, but I’m so glad I came. Once I saw all their smiles it was all worth it.”
Other youth, such as Adam al-Asad, were contemplative. He wanted to tell others who might not have been able to volunteer on this day, “If you can’t feed a hundred people then just feed one.” Also, Amal Al-Hafi, who hadn’t volunteered at the Beacon of Light before, was profoundly touched by the experience. She reflected, “Giving back to the community is a gift to yourself.”
TMWF is grateful to the administration of BOL for opening up their facility to the youth volunteers. Sister Khadijeh Abdullah, the coordinator of the Health and Human Services of BOL expanded on their various services. Feeding programs from farmers’ market harvest projects and local restaurants help provide fresh produce for volunteers to cook at their facility, supplemented with frozen foods. Breakfasts are offered every weekend via various sponsors.
The BOL houses a donation room where volunteers can put together various hygiene and food kits. Food kits for the homeless are single use, including water, crackers, tea, candy, etc. Family pantry plus kits for needy families include oil, rice, and flour. The facility also has a reading and respite area with pencils, pens, paper, puzzle books, general books, magazines, games, and a microwave and popcorn. Through generous donations of large screen TVs and laptops they offer movie nights and computer classes. Cell phones are also available for usage in their facility.
Sister Khadijeh welcomes anyone who wants to come and help on Saturday mornings, from 9 am to noon. There are lockers for volunteers, a large kitchen area for food preparation and storage, and bathrooms. Sister Khadijeh concludes, “We are trying to make it a comforting and calming place.”
More information at http://www.masjidalislam.org/.
Reflecting on 2016, the year brought great highlights for TMWF, as well as difficult and sad times. My prayers are that 2017 and the coming years bring peace, goodwill, and compassion to all.
We continued to have our doors open to all our brothers and sisters, from all faiths and communities, from all over the country, and even from across the oceans. Victims of domestic violence (DV) with unique cultural and spiritual needs found an oasis of peace in our services and our compassionate, dedicated, and committed counselors, case managers, and attorneys. Victims moved out of the trauma and abyss of DV abuse, into a hope filled independent state, standing firm on their own two feet, working, learning, and knowing how to provide for themselves and their children. Our qualified counselors helped children who had experienced or witnessed the trauma of abuse to transition from a constant state of fear, anxiety, anger, and destructive tendencies to a calm, cooperative and more receptive state, open to healing, growth, learning and cooperation.
Our caring staff, generous community, and partnering organizations ensured that the needy and DV victims received shelter, housing, food, clothing, backpacks, furniture, cars, financial education, scholarships for continuing education, and most importantly the confidence to recognize their own worth.
A huge salute to TMWF’s generous, compassionate partner organizations and individuals. TMWF received grants from the Dallas Women’s Foundation, Harold Simmons Foundation, Liberty Mutual, Catchafire, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, City of McKinney, City of Frisco, City of Plano, City of Richardson, Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the Criminal Justice Division of the Texas Office of the Governor, US Dept. Health and Human Services-Family and Youth Services Bureau.
We partnered with New Hope Ministries (to furnish clients’ apartments), North Texas Food Bank, Hope Supply Co., Baitulmaal, ICNA, ICNA Sisters’, local mosques, (including IACC, IAC, MIA, EPIC, IANT, ICI, and ICA, which provided toiletries, diapers, cleaning supplies, clothing, and financial aid), Bank of America and BB&T’s compassionate staff (providing financial literacy training for clients), Tabani Family Foundation (providing transitional housing), Qaiser Jahan Najmi Memorial Fund, The WAQF Group (providing rent and help where it is most needed), and Rasheed Family Foundation (providing scholarships in the health profession).
Our financials have been audited annually by an outside agency since 2009, with minimal to no recommendations, and thus indicating their stamp of approval of our financial practices. Such positive audits highlight our meticulous financial maintenance and transparency.
Along with our celebration of our cumulative successes we also experienced tremendous heart aches with the huge tragedies in the loss of three wonderful ladies in our community to domestic abuse. These tragedies increased our educational efforts to raise awareness about DV. Again, we reached out to our wonderful imams during our two annual awareness campaigns which take place during the month of Ramadan (this year in June) and during October, the National DV Awareness Month. Imams devoted many khutbahs (sermons) and provided resources for services during those campaigns as well as throughout the year. Not only did local imams participate, but Imams who had partnered with TMWF in the past, but now reside in different cities or states, also participated in this effort to educate our communities about peaceful relationships in the home and within the community at large.
Other highlights included:
• Engaged the youth in DV awareness through many speaking engagements with CCCFV, MAS, PHI Alpha Gamma, SMU MSA
• Attended or spoke at national conferences/workshops: NNEDV in Atlanta, United States of Women’s Conference in Washington, DC
Outreach and Education
• Interfaith efforts in the 2nd Community at Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, First United Methodist Church in Plano, and the Faith Club
• Educational speakers at our Ladies Only Monthly Luncheons and Radio Azad
• Youth hosting their own topics on Radio Azad
• The Islamic Arts Revival Series 5th Annual Juried International Exhibition of Islamic Art at Irving Arts Center and the awesome group of artists and speakers who participated
Since the beginning of the TMWF Youth Leadership Program in 2007, over 500 youth have shown great leadership and community service. The Youth Program is preparing the future generation of committed civically and socially engaged leaders, which is made evident in this testimonial from our youth alum, Hanan Hassan:
“I used to volunteer with TMWF in high school. In the beginning, it started as an organized way for me to gain community service hours for my extracurricular activity commitments, such as the National Honors Society. However, over time I began to form friendships with the other members of the youth group, saw mentorship in the TMWF leaders, and gained knowledge in a variety of areas that would be beneficial in the years to come. I learned about various societal issues (i.e. homelessness, unemployment, domestic violence, and mental health) and how they impact my neighbors, brothers and sisters in Islam, and the greater population. I learned about team building, community partnerships, and interfaith collaboration for the purpose of combating these issues. I learned about what it means to give up my time to help those in need and rewarding it can be. I learned that regardless of socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender, or situation, we are equal and anyone may just need a hand at a certain point in life.
All of these teachings benefited me tremendously as I went on to college at Southern Methodist University. Throughout my undergraduate career, I served on the board of the Muslim Students Association, founded and served as president of the Habesha Collegiate Students Network, and co-founded and served as president of Women in Business at SMU. I also regularly volunteered at the I Have a Dream Foundation in Dallas. Volunteering in high school with TMWF, gave me the leadership skills necessary to do all of these things. It also made community engagement and giving back a regular accept of my life, something that no longer felt like a commitment. In May, I graduated with a master’s degree in accounting from SMU’s Cox School of Business. Today, I am living in New York, working for a Big Four accounting firm, in M&A transactions.”
We are thankful to you for helping us get this far in our services. We are extremely proud of the work that has been done and the accomplishments that have been made; the kind of work is stellar, and the impact on people’s lives is significant. Please continue your support and donations. TMWF is a unique organization that has given a voice to Muslim women and their families in all walks of life and through all venues. Every dollar you donate will be stretched to the maximum limit and will ensure that TMWF continues to be the “oasis of peace” for our community and society.
Thank you for being a #PeaceChampion. We look forward to your support in 2017.
Hind Jarrah, Ph.D.