SAFAR - RABI-UL-AWWAL
Volume 17-04 No : 208
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Muslim immigrants in America, the Gulf or even Australia are finding their land of Dreams turning into a nightmare.
By M. Hanif Lakdawala
Gulf, USA, Canada and Australia are the countries, most wannabe immigrants and potential applicants pin great hopes on. They believe that once in the country, all their previous problems and the so-called injustices done to them in their homeland will vanish into thin air. They also think they will be breathing fresh air while dollars and dirhams roll into their bank accounts.
As a result, many do not worry about going through the hassle of preparing immigration papers along with paying different kinds of fees, like the initial processing fee or the medical check-up fee. One also has to incur travel expenses to go for immigration interviews in a different city. At the end of the immigration process, one has to pay for the visa fees and the air-tickets. Most people dip into their lifetime's savings to pay the hefty charges of immigration agents who claim guaranteed results for their 'services'.
“Finding a small apartment is not an easy task in any of these countries. You have to have a good job or a personal guarantee from somebody in order to secure an apartment. "If you are not blessed with either of these requirements, then forget the comforts of your own accommodation, as you will be forced to stay with somebody, (relatives or friends), or get yourself a roommate who could turn out to be a total stranger," said Gayasuddin who returned to India after fifteen years.
"If you are lucky, you may be able to find a sub-let from the original leaseholder, but it would be for a shorter period during which you have to find employment to meet the rental qualifications. Throw your privacy out of the window and prepare to live with another family in the same single room accommodation," added Gayasuddin.
In western countries, whatever qualification and degree one has from any other country, especially a third world country, irrespective of the institution from which it has been acquired, it is totally meaningless. This is also true for any job experience from one's home country. One has to literally start from the scratch and only if you are lucky and happen to be at the right place at the right time, are you likely to find something.
"Every job requires some sort of American, Canadian or European qualification and experience. Razzak Darvesh, a mechanical engineer came to the USA in the early 90s. But could not find any legal job."These were very desperate times and therefore to put an end to my fast depleting savings, I started doing odd jobs, like most immigrants, such as tele-marketing, factory employment (as an assembly line assistant working a 12-hour shift), and working part time at a fast- food take-away outlet" he said.
Then there are the likes of Abbas Baig who is seriously regretting the day he decided to leave his well paying job and comfortable living standard to tread on this uncertain path. Abbas was a product manager with a Pharmaceutical company. He followed his friend's advice to visit Australia for better prospects. " With the passage of time reality started to dawn on me that things are not what I had expected, and immigration started seeming like only a pipe dream,' said Abbas. "I had also started sharing my living accommodation with other men in the same situation as me, since I could not afford to continue paying the high rents of Perth, which is the country's largest commercial center, but also Australia's most expensive city.
The situation had become a far cry from what Abbas wanted. Because he has been in Australia for a considerable period of time, it is not even worth coming back to India and looking for a job. "I am in a Catch 22 situation, caught in a quagmire," he said, while interacting through e-mail.
Dr Shahid Mohammed had a flourishing practice in south Mumbai. He left for the USA in 1996 after folding up his practice. Currently he is a taxi driver besides doing odd jobs on weekends. "Despite trying continuously, I was not able to find even a reasonable office job let alone a job in my area of expertise. Only odd jobs seemed to be the way to go, but is this what I came here for? And it was not just me, but many other immigrants from various parts of the world with all sorts of qualifications and experiences, who had similar stories to tell," said Dr Shahid.
Just to quote another example, Imran Patel from Mumbai is working at a departmental store and warehouse facility. He had been a finance manager in a multinational organization in Mumbai with almost 12 years of experience. He was unable to find even a lower level accountant's job in Chicago. Currently on a visit to Mumbai Imran is not very happy about his decision about going to the USA. "After spending two years in Chicago with my family, I was so hard pressed that I used to go to cheap Chinese stores to buy groceries. I still recall the days when in India my domestic staff used to do all those things, and how I had two cars at my disposal," said Imran.
The weather most of the year-especially in winter - is cold and is not suitable for outdoor work, especially if you are not in good physical shape. It gets extremely cold with temperatures dropping to -30 degrees Celsius with strong wind-chill factors. If you are not physically fit, you can be in for difficult times if your work requires some kind of outdoor physical labour.
People from conservative backgrounds have another problem with regard to their children growing up in a free society that has an open culture. "Parents find it extremely difficult to keep them under their control. Children try to blend into Canadian society so as not to be isolated or socially alienated from the world around them. In the process, with the passage of time, they associate more with western cultural values and can't relate to their parents' values as they see them as being obsolete", said Abbas .
If the parents force them to adhere to their values and customs they stand the risk of losing their children. From the beginning, children are taught in schools that the government is their protector, and if their parents are compelling them to do things against their will, they should immediately contact the law enforcement authorities.
Thus for many of the immigrants, the land of dreams turns out to be land of nightmare. So better think twice before running after a mirage.
Washington: The Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) has announced the publication of an advertisement in local newspapers highlighting Muslim respect for Jesus. The ad, headlined "More In Common Than You Think," features a photograph of the Old City of Jerusalem and text reading: "'Behold (O Mary!)' The Angel said, 'God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Christ (Masih or Messiah), Jesus son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the hereafter, and one of those brought near to God.' (Holy Quran, 3:45). "Like Christians, Muslims respect and revere Jesus. Islam teaches that Jesus is one of the greatest of God's prophets and messengers to mankind. "Like Christians, every day, over 1.3 billion Muslims strive to live by his teachings of love, peace, and forgiveness. Those teachings, which have become universal values, remind us that all of us, Christians, Muslims, Jews and all others have more in common than we think." The ad is being published in five Orange County, Los Angeles-area and Northern California community newspapers. It is an off-shoot of CAIR's "Islam in America"advertising campaign.
Geneva: The Aga Khan Award for Architecture has announced the nine members of the Master Jury for the 2004 cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Islamic Architecture. The Award established in 1977 by spiritual leader of Ismaili Shias, Aga Khan is organised on the basis of a calendar spanning a three year cycle and is governed by a Steering Committee whose members for 2004 are:
Ghada Amer, is an Egyptian artist who lives and works in New York City.
Hanif Kara, is a London-based structural engineer originally from Uganda. He is Co-founder of the firm, Adams Kara Taylor, a progressive, design-led structural and civil engineering consultancy in London.
Rahul Mehrotra, is a Mumbai-based architect and urban designer trained at the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad, and the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. He has been in private practice since 1990, and works on architecture, urban design and conservation projects. He has built extensively in India, and besides several single family houses, his projects include the Laxmi Machine Works Corporate Office in Coimbatore.
Farshid Moussavi, is an architect of Iranian origin, trained at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, University College London, the Bartlett School of Architecture, and Dundee University. She worked with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Genoa and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam prior to establishing Foreign Office Architects in London in 1992.
Modjtaba Sadria, is an Iranian-born philosopher, professor at the graduate school and faculty of policy issues at Chuo University in Tokyo.
Reinhard Schulze, is a German linguist and historian, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Berne, Switzerland, and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Humanities.
Elías Torres Tur, architect and landscape architect at Barcelona. Tur is a Spanish architect and partner in the firm Martínez Lapeña-Torres Arquitectos, S.L. Trained in architecture at the Escola Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona (ETSAB.
Billie Tsien is an American architect and artist trained in fine arts at Yale University and in architecture at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Jafar Tukan is a Jordanian architect trained at the American University of Beirut. He worked for the Jordanian Ministry of Public Works as a design architect, and then joined the firm, Dar Al-Handasah Consulting Engineers at their headquarter offices in Beirut.
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture enhances the understanding and appreciation of Islamic culture as expressed through architecture. Located in 44 countries, the 378 projects documented for the 2004 Award cycle represent efforts in the categories of infrastructure, landscaping, community development, public urban spaces, and responses to the growing crisis of housing shortage in many Muslim societies.
Rome: Muslim and Catholic representatives opened a two-day meeting to promote mutual understanding and a joint commitment to justice and peace recently.
The Joint Committee of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dailogue and the Permanent Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions, established in Rome in 1998 met on the topic, “Avoiding Generalisation in Speaking of the Other’s Religion or Community”. The public session began at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies. The Committee came into being as the result of a special agreement with Cairo’s Al-Azhar Institute. A statement by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue said that the joint committee “ provides a forum for exhanges on matters of mutual interests, such as the defence of human dignity and human rights and the promotion of mutual knowledge and respect among Catholics and Muslims.
Archbishop Fitzgerald and Sheikh Fawzy al Zafzaf, president of the Al-Azhar Committee are co-presidents of the joint panel. The Committee meets at least once a year, alternately in Cairo and in Rome.
London: “The Islamic world is a violent, authoritarian and undemocratic place”, according to Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. In a speech in Rome recently, Dr Carey denounced moderate Muslims for refusing to condemn the “evil” of suicide bombers, urged Islamic theologians to take a more critical approach to the Quran and lamented that “no great invention has come for many hundred years from Muslim countries”. “Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, we find authoritarian regimes with deeply entrenched leadership, some of which rose to power at the point of a gun and are retained in power by massive security forces,” he said. Turning his attention to suicide bombers, he said: “Sadly, apart from a few courageous examples, very few Muslim leaders condemn clearly and unconditionally the evil of the suicide bombers ... We need to hear outright condemnation of theologies that state that suicide bombers are martyrs and enter a martyr’s reward.
Taipei: “Muslims are not doing enough to counter campaigns targeting them in the West and other parts of the world by those who are trying to impose their cultural, social and political ways of life and who see Muslims as enemies to be eliminated, tamed or dominated,” said Dr. Abdullah ibn Abdul Mohsen Al-Turki, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL). Speaking at an international seminar on ‘Islam in East Asia’ which opened in Taipei last fortnight, Al-Turki called for a collective and aggressive effort involving official and non-governmental organisations in the Muslim world to explain to non-Muslims what Islam really stands for as a religion of peace, tolerance and co-existence. The two-day seminar titled, "Islam in East Asia-Civilization and Modernization" was jointly organised by the Makkah- based MWL and the National Chengche University in Taipei.
Riyadh: In a country where women are not allowed to drive, 25-year-old Hanadi Hindi hopes to become the first Saudi woman to fly a plane of the national carrier.
"My dream is to fly a plane of Saudi Arabian Airlines. If this does not happen, I am pretty sure a Saudi private company will hire me," says Hanadi who lives in Makkah. Hanadi is not quite ready to sit in the cockpit of a Saudi Arabian Airlines jumbo jet as yet. At the moment, she only has a Private Pilot's License (PPL), which does not allow her to fly for a job, although she can take to the skies "for fun," as she put it.
But she says she is determined to go on to take a Commercial Pilot's License and an Instrument Rating (CPL and IR) from the same school - the Mid-east Aviation Academy in Jordan. Her father, Zakaria Hindi, a retired civil servant, is currently arranging the financing of her costly pursuit."My father does not distinguish between boys and girls. He treats us in the same way," said Hanadi, who has two brothers and four sisters.
"He himself had aspired to be a pilot, but could not realise his dream because of financial constraints. So he encouraged me to become a pilot myself and I felt I had to make his wish come true," she said. Hanadi said the fact that she had been acknowledged as the first Saudi woman pilot by the Air Force's Saqr Al-Jazira Aviation Museum in Riyadh, where her picture is on display, amounted to "semi-official recognition" by the government.
(Courtesy: Arab News)
Granada (Spain): Six months after the first mosque was opened here in this once Arab-ruled city of Spain, the opposition to the new mosque has almost melted away. The mosque which has been constructed on a hillock in a village skirting the city of Granada is located amid serpentine bylanes in the region which was once called Andalusia. Initially, there was lot of resistance to the proposal to the mosque. The Mosque has invited school students, people from neighbourhood and tourists to visit its Islamic Centre and the interiors and directly interact with the Muslims manning the facilities. Mosque Director, Abdul Haseeb Costinaria says, "We have nothing to hide. We impart free lessons in Arabic. Everybody is free to judge and examine our faith, precepts and practices”. Says Jeronimo Paes, president of the Andalusia League, “people in the Andalusia region cannot severe their links from their Arab Past. 'Our passport may categorise us as Spanish, but there is an Arab element in our identity that cannot be erased”. This is the first mosque to be constructed in Granada after Arab rule ended in 1492.
Kigali: A Rwandan priest and a hundred of his followers have embraced Islam, according to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY).ThAe conversions happened after WAMY's medical convoy visited remote areas in central Rwanda, whose members' sermons deeply touched many locals. WAMY's assistant secretary general, Abdul Wahab Nour Wali said the convoy delivered sermons in Rwandese at the outskirts of the capital Kigali, which defined Islam and encouraged non-Muslims to accept it.
The long marginalised Muslim community in Rwanda - only 1.2 per cent less than 10 years ago - jumped on the last statistics to represent some 16 per cent of the Rwandan population.
Jeddah: It is an unprecedented move for Saudi Arabia . In an attempt to facilitate movement of Haj pilgrims, the Saudi royal family has allowed Indian engineers, including non-Muslims, into the holy city of Madinah for the first time. Konkan Railway Corporation managing director, B Rajaram described the visit as 'extraordinary', not only because the KRC team will be the first non-Muslim group to visit Madinah, but because the $500 million, 30-km project is the firm's first major international order for its own Skybus technology. The Madinah contract is likely to yield the public sector firm, revenue of $50 million, with a contract in Makkah to follow, said KRC officials. ''A Saudi committee said the project is sustainable and will preserve the heritage without hurting the foundation of the holy structures."
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