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Miami, FL – February 8, 2024 – Bound by their faith and a shared desire to help those in need, seven runners from across North America united under the banner of The Zahra Trust, an Islamic charity supporting orphans and widows, to conquer the 2024 Miami Marathon on January 28th.

Driven by the initiative of Salim Kassam, The Zahra Trust's media and communications manager, the team wasn't merely competing in a prestigious marathon; they were embarking on a mission of compassion and awareness. Despite their diverse backgrounds and varying levels of running experience, these individuals quickly forged a deep brotherhood, fueled by their shared purpose and unwavering faith.

Among them was Kumayl Lakha, a Minneapolis-based lawyer who initially grappled with self-doubt due to his limited running background. Yet, the opportunity to contribute to The Zahra Trust's noble work proved irresistible. "The night before, the pre-race jitters were palpable," Lakha shared. "But the camaraderie we shared, the encouragement and belief we gave each other, made all the difference."

Joining forces with fellow runner Ali Zhian, Lakha set his sights on raising funds for orphaned children in conflict-stricken regions like Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. Their combined goal: $2,000 USD. As part of the larger Zahra Trust team aiming for $10,000 USD, their efforts resonated with donors, bringing them close to their target with $1,735 USD collected so far. Their unwavering determination pushes them to reach the finish line of their fundraising goal by February 28th.

"They ask you [O Prophet in] what [way] they should donate. Say, 'Whatever donations you give are for parents, relatives, orphans, the poor, and [needy] travelers. Whatever good you do is certainly well known to Allah,'" Lakha recited, quoting the Quran to emphasize the importance of aiding vulnerable populations.

For Lakha, the Miami Marathon marked the beginning of a personal journey in the world of running, intertwined with his commitment to charitable causes. He envisions himself participating in future marathons, each stride propelling him closer to supporting those in need.

The Zahra Trust, recognizing the power of such challenge-based events, is already planning its next fundraising endeavor – the Hackney Half Marathon in mid-May. "These events foster community, build connections, and raise awareness about our work," explained Kassam. "When participants actively fundraise, they become ambassadors, spreading the message to their networks, creating a ripple effect of positive change."

The Shia Muslim Foundation applauds the unwavering dedication and inspiring efforts of The Zahra Trust runners and their supporters. Their unwavering commitment to serving the underprivileged serves as a beacon of hope and a testament to the transformative power of collective action. We are honored to share their story and encourage others to join their mission of making a difference in the lives of orphans and vulnerable communities worldwide.

Summary of this article

Call for Retraction and Editorial Accountability:

  • The Shia Muslim Foundation requests the retraction of the article, citing inaccurate representation and harmful stereotypes.

  • Calls for an investigation into the editorial process and the termination of both the writer, Steven Stalinsky, and the responsible editor from the Wall Street Journal.

  • The article has resulted in violent threats to innocent Dearborn residents.

Misleading Characterization and Generalizations:

  • The article employs sensationalized language, particularly the title"America’s Jihad Capital," falsely and unfairly stigmatizing Dearborn's diverse community.

  • The title oversimplifies the reality on the ground, disregarding the myriad professions and positive contributions of Dearborn area Muslims.

Contributions to National Security:

  • Fails to acknowledge significant contributions made by Muslims in Dearborn to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

  • Overlooks the diverse and invaluable efforts of Muslim Americans in safeguarding the United States, perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

Selective Portrayal of Views:

  • Egregiously neglects the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Dearborn who reject violence and terrorism.

  • Fails to recognize the rich tapestry of political discourse within the Muslim community, reducing legitimate political viewpoints to an inflammatory narrative.

Full text

WASHINGTON DC, February 4, 2024 - The Shia Muslim Foundation expresses profound concern over the opinion article titled "Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital" authored by Steven Stalinsky and published on February 2, 2024. We assert that the article perpetuates unfounded stereotypes, employs inflammatory language, and fails to accurately potray any aspect of the Dearborn community.

Misleading Characterization and Generalizations:

The article’s sensationalized language, particularly the label "America’s Jihad Capital," is not only false but also unfairly stigmatizes an entire community. Dearborn is home to a diverse population that engages in a myriad of professions and contributes positively to society. Associating the city with such a divisive term oversimplifies the reality on the ground.

SMF vehemently opposes the misleading and inflammatory title of the article, "Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital," as it is not only entirely inaccurate but also deeply insulting to the residents of Dearborn. This title perpetuates harmful stereotypes that have real-world consequences. The consequences are not confined to the realm of discourse; they extend to the safety and well-being of innocent residents who, as a result of this article, have faced threats. It is disheartening to learn that the Mayor of Dearborn has reported an increase in police patrols to ensure the safety of residents, highlighting the tangible impact of sensationalized journalism on the lives of ordinary citizens.

Journalistic responsibility demands a commitment to accuracy and fairness, and we call on the publication to acknowledge the real-world repercussions of its content. Such irresponsible reporting not only fuels discrimination but also compromises the safety of innocent individuals. We urge the media to recognize the gravity of the situation and refrain from perpetuating harmful narratives that contribute to the marginalization of communities, undermine social cohesion, and pose risks to public safety.

Selective Portrayal of Views:

The article egregiously neglects the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Dearborn and across the nation who unequivocally reject violence and terrorism. The Shia Muslim Foundation strongly condemns any form of terrorism and advocates for peaceful coexistence, as do the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide, including Dearborn area Muslims.

Failure to Respect Diversity of Opinions:

The Muslim community encompasses a spectrum of political opinions. It is harmful and bigoted to represent legitimate political viewpoints as akin to "jihad," - a term that most Americans associate with imagery of violence.

The failure to respect the diversity of opinions within the Muslim community is a glaring flaw in the article, "Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital." The Muslim community, much like any other religious or ethnic group, is characterized by a broad spectrum of political perspectives, ranging from conservative to liberal, and it is essential to acknowledge and respect this diversity.

By generalizing and misrepresenting legitimate political viewpoints as synonymous with "jihad," the article employs an inflammatory and bigoted narrative. The term "jihad," which holds a nuanced meaning in Islamic theology and can refer to personal spiritual struggle or collective efforts for social justice, is irresponsibly reduced to evoke images of violence and extremism in the minds of readers.

This oversimplification perpetuates harmful stereotypes and fails to recognize the rich tapestry of political discourse within the Muslim community. It is crucial to engage with the diversity of opinions, allowing for constructive dialogue that fosters mutual understanding. Responsible journalism should aim to elevate public discourse by fostering an environment that values diverse perspectives, promoting understanding, and challenging stereotypes rather than reinforcing them.

Contributions to National Security:

Despite the article's concerns about national security in Dearborn, it fails to recognize the significant contributions made by Muslims in the community to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Many Muslims in Dearborn actively engage in safeguarding the United States and play integral roles in counterterrorism efforts. The oversight of these contributions is a critical flaw in the article, as it perpetuates harmful stereotypes and fuels unfounded fears.

Characterizing an entire community as a potential security threat without acknowledging the diverse and invaluable contributions of Muslim Americans in law enforcement undermines the collaborative efforts to ensure the safety and security of the nation. Muslims in Dearborn, like any other community, are dedicated to upholding the principles of justice and protecting the welfare of their fellow citizens. Responsible journalism should highlight the positive contributions of diverse communities rather than perpetuating baseless suspicions that can lead to discrimination and erode the fabric of social cohesion.

The Shia Muslim Foundation Calls for Retraction of Inaccurate Article and Editorial Accountability

The Shia Muslim Foundation, deeply concerned about the misleading and inflammatory nature of the article titled "Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital" published in the Wall Street Journal formally requests the retraction of the said article and holds both the author, Steven Stalinsky, and the editorial team accountable for perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

Basis for Retraction:

The article in question misrepresents the Dearborn community and the Shia Muslim population, employing sensationalized language that fosters fear and division. Such mischaracterizations contribute to the stigmatization of an entire community and undermine efforts to promote interfaith understanding and tolerance.

Inaccuracy and Lack of Nuance:

The article selectively highlights extreme viewpoints, presenting them as representative of the broader community. This lack of nuance misrepresents the diverse opinions within the Muslim population and fails to acknowledge the majority who actively reject violence and extremism.

Unfounded Security Concerns:

By insinuating a potential national-security issue without concrete evidence, the article not only misguides readers but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes. This kind of reporting can have real-world consequences, fostering discrimination and bias against Muslim communities.

Call for Accountability:

In light of the aforementioned concerns, the Shia Muslim Foundation calls for:

  1. Retraction of the Article: We request the Wall Street Journal to retract the article due to its inaccurate representation of the Dearborn community and the broader Muslim population.

  2. Editorial Accountability: We urge the Wall Street Journal to investigate the editorial process that allowed the publication of such a divisive and misleading piece. Accountability measures should be taken to prevent the dissemination of content that contributes to the marginalization of specific communities.

  3. Termination of Writer and Editor: Given the egregious nature of the inaccuracies and harmful stereotypes perpetuated in the article, we call for the termination of both the writer, Steven Stalinsky, and the responsible editor from the Wall Street Journal.

Promoting Responsible Journalism:

It is crucial for media outlets to uphold the principles of responsible journalism and to avoid publishing content that contributes to division and misinformation. The Shia Muslim Foundation remains committed to promoting accurate representation, fostering interfaith dialogue, and combating harmful stereotypes.

Washington, D.C., January 25, 2024: Rahat Husain, Executive Director of the Shia Muslim Foundation, participated in a closed-door listening session at the White House today as part of the ongoing development of a national strategy to counter Islamophobia. The session, conducted under Chatham House rules, brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss the specific challenges faced by Muslim communities in the United States and offer recommendations for the administration’s action plan.

During the productive exchange, participants highlighted several key concerns, including:

  • The intersection of Islamophobia with broader discrimination: Several attendees emphasized the need to recognize the interconnectedness of prejudice against various minority groups, particularly the overlap between anti-Muslim sentiment and biases against individuals perceived as Arab or Palestinian. The recent escalation of the Palestinian crisis was cited as a specific example of how geopolitical tensions can fuel bigotry.

  • The limitations of a purely reactive approach: The conversation underscored the importance of moving beyond solely reacting to incidents of Islamophobia. Participants strongly advocated for proactive measures to promote understanding and combat prejudice at its root. Educational initiatives aimed at enhancing public knowledge of Islamic culture, art, and society were suggested as potential avenues for reducing bigotry through increased familiarity and positive depictions.

  • Recommendations for the national strategy: Drawing inspiration from the U.S. National Strategy To Counter Antisemitism, specific concerns raised included the need for:

  • Recognition of the link between the Gaza conflict and rising anti-Muslim sentiment at home, with efforts towards a ceasefire as a vital component of combatting Islamophobia.

  • Acknowledgment of the dehumanization of Muslims in public discourse and media coverage, especially during periods of heightened political tensions.

  • Reevaluation of discriminatory practices embedded within the post-9/11 security framework, even if not originating from the current administration.

  • Addressal of specific issues impacting Muslim communities, such as the recent shooting of an Imam in New York, employment discrimination, hate crimes, profiling and surveillance, discriminatory watchlists, and bullying in schools and on college campuses.

The listening session concluded with a sense of collaboration and optimism. While the details of the national strategy remain under development, Mr. Husain expressed hope that the administration will seriously consider the insights and recommendations shared by community leaders and stakeholders. "It was encouraging to see the White House actively engaging with diverse voices from the Muslim community," he stated. "We stand ready to work alongside the administration to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy that effectively addresses the challenges of Islamophobia and fosters a more inclusive and just society for all."

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