A look back at some of the feature stories from the Wisconsin Muslim Journal in 2021; a celebration of Muslim-owned businesses that opened this year, an acknowledgment of the essential programs of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition such as Wisconsin Muslim Journal, the Muslim Film Festival, Our Peaceful Home, and many more.
We appreciate our contributing reporters and writers, Sandra Whitehead, Annysa Johnson, Marlene Zahran, and Cherrie Hanson, for spotlighting stories and news about our local and global Muslim community.
In total, the Wisconsin Muslim Journal published over 100 feature articles this year!
We reported about new Muslim businesses such as EverKid, a children’s clothing store at Southridge Mall in Greendale, Wrap it Up, a home-based hijab business, Gordo Burger, a Middle Eastern-influenced burger restaurant, Paradise Roastery, the only Arabic roaster in the state, Al Ameera conservative fashion clothing store, and Taste Amir’s Roti Food Truck.
A graduate student in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding program, Rawand Yazaw works part-time at Milwaukee’s Islamic Resource Center where she translates for Arab-speaking clients in its domestic violence program, and is developing a series of programs for young people aimed at helping them better navigate their new lives.
Sandra Whitehead is an author, educator, and nationally award-winning journalist. She teaches journalism and media studies at Marquette University, and is a regular feature writer for Wisconsin Muslim Journal.
Dr. Ahmad Nasef and his wife Charlotte Nasef. Dr. Nasef’s generosity and kindness are acclaimed. He was usually the first to raise his hand at fundraisers, said his son Mohamed, 21. A loving son, husband, father and uncle, a loyal friend who would help with whatever you needed, no questions asked – this is how those who knew him best described him. He epitomized love, they said.
The world is a better place because he lived. He opened a sleep clinic in an underserved area in Milwaukee, supported medical missions to refugees in Jordan and Turkey and personally saw to the needs of refugees who settled in Milwaukee, even opening a restaurant so they could find work, and the list goes on and on.
Halo co-founders Faizan Bhatty, Kenan Saleh, Nabeel Farqui, and Ryan Fadel with lead investor Jonathan Beda (center). Kenan Saleh is recognized in Forbes’ 30 under 30 Class of 2021 for Marketing and Advertising.
Fox Valley Islamic Society board members during the groundbreaking ceremony for the opening of the new 12,000-square-foot masjid, taking shape on seven acres in the northeast Wisconsin city of Neenah.
A crowd gathered at “The Calling,” the orange sunburst artwork on the east end of Wisconsin Avenue, for a “Free Palestine” rally planned by a coalition of organizations. The rally, one of several in Wisconsin in support of Palestinians over the week, featured an array of speakers from a variety of organizations. The speakers reflected the diversity of the crowd, including representatives of AMP, ISM SJP, JVP, BLOC (Black Leaders Organizing for Community), RAS and a Columbia-solidarity collective.
Long-time regulars at the Islamic Resource Center Book Club say they keep coming back for stimulating discussions about challenging books. Now in its 11th year, the IRC Book Club meets on the second Monday of every month (except Ramadan) to discuss a book selected by the group.
The Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, in partnership with the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and Hanan Refugees Group worked hard to put on the festival in record time. Dozens of community sponsors underwrote the festival to make the event free of charge, so everyone could enjoy the holiday. The organizers brought in Midway rides, ponies, a petting zoo, and a wide array of entertainment acts. The acts included Mark Hayward, a world champion yo-yoest, magic and circus stunts from Professor Pinkerton Xyloma, fire eating and escape acts from EriK Bang and much more. Food trucks serving a variety of ethnic foods as well as ice cream, cotton candy, popcorn and flavored coffees were busy as the temperature climbed to nearly 90 degrees.
Nearly three years ago, the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition began Our Peaceful Home, a culturally specific family strengthening and domestic abuse program. Prior to beginning the program, we would routinely receive calls from women in abusive situations as well as from domestic violence agencies, schools, universities, lawyers, and even law enforcement officials who were looking for assistance, resources, or information.
Hanan Refugee Relief Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to transition refugees into contributing members of their host communities by providing long-term solutions, such as housing, labor opportunities, and medical relief.
Since the Kabul airport attack on August 26th this year, Hanan Refugee Relief Group (HRRG) has focused its attention on Afghan evacuees, collecting and shipping new clothing and basic necessities to bases like Fort McCoy. HRRG will continue playing a large role for Afghan refugees in Wisconsin to assist them in the complex process of resettlement.
Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s first-ever mental health conference, Sept 18-19, 2021. MMWC organized the conference, held at the Insight Life Learning Institute, 13780 Hope St., Brookfield. It was funded through a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
“We hope this will be an annual event,” said MMWC president and founder Janan Najeeb. Interest in the conference was very high and registrations reached capacity early.”
A delegation of 10 Wisconsin Muslim Women organized by the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, joined by U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore and Ilhan Omar, visited Ft. McCoy Saturday to check on the condition of the almost 13,000 Afghans housed there, waiting to resettle in the United States.
Ten Wisconsin Muslim women, including two Afghan interpreters, were the first group of Muslim civilians to visit Afghans who have been relocated to Fort McCoy since the U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan in August, ending the 20-year war against the Taliban. The group included members of the MMWC and the Hanan Refugee Relief Group.
During the four-hour visit, they met with the Afghans, toured the base and were briefed by military officials about the measures taken to address the needs of the relocated Afghans and plans for their future.
About 160 people attended the special Donor Dinner event to thank donors, Friday, Dec. 10, at Dresden Castle, 3775 E. Underwood Ave., Cudahy.
“The importance of the annual gala is that it brings in unrestricted funds, unlike grants that are for specific programs,” president of MMWC Janan Najeeb explained. “This allows us the creativity to come up with projects and ideas, gives us the opportunity to do new things and initiate new ideas, and to have the staff people to do these things.
When Afghan evacuees flowed into Wisconsin in the fall, just before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the MMWC stepped up to raise funds, collect donations of new clothing and supplies, and monitor their care. With each new need the Afghans faced, the MMWC moved to meet it. Most recently, it provided activities for children who were living in motel rooms while their families awaited resettlement.
A United States Army lieutenant general sent a letter in November from its headquarters in Texas commending the MMWC for donating six truckloads of new items to Afghan evacuees at Fort McCoy, as well as helping resettle them and “making a difficult situation better for our guests.”
How could the MMWC do all this?
The short answer: “generous donors,” said MMWC president and founder Janan Najeeb.
Dr. Sameera Ahmed was a featured speaker at MMWC’s two-day conference that brought together national and local behavioral health experts to address the unique needs of Muslim patients. It was the first conference of its kind in Wisconsin.
How can we help Muslim youth thrive? “Do the research, analyze the data and find solutions, then develop resources,” said Dr. Sameera Ahmed, founder and executive director of The Family and Youth Institute, a national research and educational institute that focuses on Muslim mental health and family wellness.