Category Archives: Blog

Community Advisory


By, Zohra Lasania

Muslim sisters in hijabs are frequently subjected to bigoted religious and racial slurs. At CAIR Pittsburgh we receive reports of such hate regularly. Some sisters prefer to ignore and walk away, to avoid escalation.  But some sisters handle it well with a response that could educate the attacker.

We received one such report from a hijab wearing Muslimah who was at a Dollar General store check-out line. Consider that this sister is a native born American, and does not even look like an “immigrant”.  A bigoted lady standing behind her got impatient and uttered a nasty remark about her hijab and asked her to go back to her country.

Our Muslimah, remained calm, and replied: “Maam, it is you who needs to get out of this country, because it seems you do not understand the rights of people in this country.”  And she explained – “I am  American born and raised here, and my country gives me the right to practice my religion. If you did not accept this, then you do not have a right to stay here. And you need to go back to where your ancestors came from. Your ancestors were immigrants themselves.”

Fortunately for our Muslimah, the manager of the store intervened, and apologized to her for the incident and walked the hate-spewing lady out the door.

We commend this sister for standing up for her rights, and giving a befitting reply in the face of bigotry and hate.

Our reminder to all Muslims, that if you are confronted with such a scenario, always remember your rights in this country under the Constitution of the United States; religious practice is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, and protected further by the Civil Rights Act.

Also remember that this country was built by immigrants. So being an immigrant is normal.

And always remember to report such incidents to CAIR Pittsburgh at -412-606-3601.

Joy to the world: Jesus is a celebrated prophet in Islam, too, peace be upon him



By: Safdar Khwaja


Safdar Khwaja is president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

The Christmas season brings lights, cheer and charity across America and prayerful celebration of the Christian savior’s birth in churches across the world. Greeting cards proclaim “Joy to the World,” though people might wonder just how to spread joy.

Christian Americans also might wonder how non-Christians perceive the festive Christmas season — particularly Muslims, given all the controversy about them that’s been stirred up in recent election cycles.

It may come as a surprise to many people that Muhammad, peace be upon him (pbuh), recognized Jesus (pbuh) as the promised final leader for mankind. As recorded in multiple Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) ( Bukhari, Vol. 3, Book 34, No. 425 et seq.), “… Jesus (pbuh) son of Mary, will descend amongst you as a just ruler, kill the anti-christ, and abolish unfavorable practices. Money will become in abundance so that no one will accept it as charity.”

This significant Hadith is neither unique nor an isolated forecast in Islam. As the youngest of the three major Abrahamic faiths, Islam recognizes all of the revelations and commandments of a singular God (Eloh in Hebrew, Alah in Aramaic, Ilah in Arabic, Allah as “the-God” in Arabic), as a continuum of God’s messages. The Scrolls (Abraham, pbuh), Torah (Moses, pbuh), Psalms (David, pbuh), Gospels (Jesus, pbuh), and Quran (Muhammad, pbuh), are all recognized as of divine origin and included in the faith of Islam.

Quran 2:136: “Say: (Oh Believers) ‘We believe in God and in what was sent down to us and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and all the prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we devote ourselves to Him (God).’ “

Followers of these divine revelations are recognized as “People of the Book,” with marriages allowed among them, which has led “mixed” families over the centuries to develop close relationships.

Jesus is mentioned 25 times in the Quran in many contexts, including as a messenger of God, as the Messiah, as the “word” and “sign” of God, as endowed with healing miracles, as ascending into heaven, as promising to return.

The Quran mentions the virgin birth of Jesus many times. He is the only prophet who is mentioned along with his mother. The Quran’s chapter 19 is dedicated to Mary (Maryam), who holds a singularly exalted place in Islam, being the only woman named in the Quran. She is referred to 70 times in multiple chapters, and she explicitly is identified as the greatest of all women.

To Muslims in America, celebration of the life of Jesus and acts of charity during the Christmas season are very similar to their own traditions. The two major Muslim celebrations, or Eids, feature charity, prayers and festivities. They occur following the month of fasting (Ramadan) and at the commemoration of Abraham’s (pbuh) commitment to personal sacrifice. Celebrations such as Christmas and Eid are meant to renew the foundations of our beliefs.

Sadly, we see anxiety and suspicion between Christians and Muslims, which are politically inspired and cause us to overlook our shared heritage. If we were true to the teachings of our faiths, we would see that the values we collectively cherish are rooted in a common history. Such a realization could become the basis for cooperation, for friendship, for truly spreading “Joy to the World.”

Humanity has massive challenges to overcome; disease, poverty, hunger, ignorance, war, the list goes on. These challenges require a new paradigm of collaboration among people of all faiths, or no faith, from the local to the global level.

Interfaith dialogue is growing here in Pittsburgh, but participation remains sparse. In our “home of the brave,” we need more brave souls who are willing to listen to the narratives of people who are very different from themselves.

Here is my wish for this holy, festive season:

May our leaders be brave. May they employ their energies and talents toward bringing us together rather than driving us apart. May they help us solve the intractable problems we face by harnessing our common values and humanity. May this spirit of cooperation bring us joy.

Media Relations Workshop

CAIR Pittsburgh held a workshop at MCCGP on Saturday morning to enable community members and organizations alike to be more engaged in presenting the correct message and image of Islam through the various local media sources. Ibraheem Hooper, CAIR National’s Communication Director, led the group in an informative and enlightening manner. The program consisted of a thorough presentation with Q&A, an on-your-feet response demo for hot / difficult topics, interest group discussions / face time with Brother Ibrahim, and drafting individual plans for media involvement. It was a fun and interactive morning.

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Commemoration and Hope

Assallamu Alaikom and May Peace and Blessings Be Upon You!

On this day, we thankfully commemorate one of the greatest figures in our great nation’s history.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspirational leader, and we are all truly blessed for the great strides that he made in the realm of civil rights. He saw injustice and chose to stand up and speak out. He faced the strong currents opposing him in order to motivate others and to ensure that the vital rights of human equality were acknowledged and implemented.

However, this struggle did not end with him. We can still see an unfortunate rise in the mistreatment of others driven by ignorance, fear, and misrepresentation; we are all searching for an effective means to confront injustice and preserve the right for Muslim Americans to live harmoniously within our great nation. We gain strength and a means of guidance in how to do so when we remember and honor the peaceful and bold efforts made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim].

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew what was right in his heart, and he used that passion to speak about it with his eloquent words, and to act upon it by mobilizing others through groundbreaking forms of civic engagement.

CAIR Pittsburgh sends out its thanks to all hardworking civil rights leaders, and expresses hope and determination to champion the cause of civil liberties in this great city of ours.

Alia Schindler
(Program Director)

Presentation – Bullying and religious rights in schools

Sr. Rugiatu Conteh – Outreach Coordinator of CAIR Philadelphia presented Talk on School Bullying to Pittsburgh muslim community during the Family Night program of the MCCGP (Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh). This is a collaborative program between CAIR Pittsburgh and MCCGP aimed to educate the community about the religious rights in public schools and how to identify and deal with bullying.


PIIN Public Action Meeting – Oct 18

CAIR Pittsburgh participated in the Public Action Meeting organized by PIIN (Pennsylvania Impact Interfaith Network) on October 18 from 6:30 PM at Temple Rodef Shalom, Shadyside. CAIR congratulates the Pittsburgh muslim community delegation who came out with more than 100-people strength largely organized by the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh (ICP). Imam Atef Mahgoub from the ICP opened the meeting with the prayer. An excellent organization by PIIN has produced a super productive meeting with more than 1000 enthusiastic attendance flooded the sanctuary of the Rodef Shalom temple. The meeting has resulted commitments by public officers and politicians to work with PIIN in the upcoming year in the critical areas such as public transportation, education, and water treatment. CAIR Pittsburgh would like to thank the muslim community from many different congregations for demonstrating the positive participation in this critical process of Pittsburgh regional development. Particularly, CAIR also want to thank both imams from ICP; imam AbduSemih and Atef Mahgoub and the ICP Board and EC members who have worked hard in bringing the community to this event.
Politicians attended the meeting
Mike Doyle, US House of Reps, Dist. 14
Matt Smith, PA House of Reps, Dist. 47
Michael Martin Schmotzer, PA House of Reps, Dist. 22
Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive
Bill Peduto, Pgh. City Council, Dist 8
Bruce Kraus, Pgh. City Council, Dist 3
Corey O’Connor, Pgh. City Council, Dist 5
Bob Casey, US Senate, (Representative only)
Mike Critz, US House of Reps, Dist.  (Rep only)
Matt Drozd (maybe), Allegheny County Council, Dist. 1

Issues to address:

The hard work of PIIN and our partners helped avert the proposed 35% cuts in transit service in September but if the problem of insufficient transit funding is not resolved, the system will again be at risk.  PIIN and our partners are coming together to kick-off a multi-year campaign to get sufficient dedicated local and state funding for public transit. We are better together!
PIIN is seeking a commitment from Dr. Linda Lane, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent, and Nina Esposito-Visgitis, President of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, to continue to work with PIIN and our partners to achieve equity for all of our students, which can only be achieved with a partnership of parents, community, administration and teachers.
Jobs and the Clean Rivers Campaign
ALCOSAN has proposed and plans to implement a multi-billion dollar fix to the sewer system.  PIIN, as part of the Clean Rivers Coalition, wants this, the largest infrastructure investment in Allegheny County’s history, to do the maximum good in the community.  We are pushing for good jobs, for green methods to help solve the storm water problem, and provide benefits to our communities and for strategies to reduce flooding.
Voter ID and Turnout
We will ask all present to not only commit to vote but to consider working the polls on November 6th,  work to get people in our congregations and communities to the polls, and make sure that people have an acceptable form of ID so they can vote.  Civic participation is a cherished value of each of the faith traditions represented in PIIN and we will put it into action by encouraging and protecting the vote this November.

In the early hours: Actions that explain without a word

Come Sunday, when most people would stir out of their beds late mid-morning, a group of Muslim early risers in Pittsburgh begin their Sunday routine.

A sister has risen, preparing 30 food packets – a sandwich, fruit and water bottle. Soon, cell phones begin to ring. It’s 10:00 a.m. – the group is already on their way, the brothers in one car, and the sisters in another. At 10:30 a.m. they converge in a Giant Eagle Parking lot. Bright eyed, they greet one another with “Assalamu Alaikum”.

On most Sundays they are a group of six to seven or even more – brothers full of enthusiasm, and sisters, with smiles, some in hijab, and some without. They stand in a little circle, and say a little prayer to God, reminding themselves that they are doing this for the sake of God alone. Energized by the prayer, they pick up the bags of food, and march towards the overpass bridge.

A big group of homeless people, are huddled under the shade of the bridge, away from the prying eyes of the world; some asleep, some already awake, and some in anticipation. One of them calls out “Assalam Alaikum” with a friendly familiar smile. The brothers and sisters wish them back, walk over to them, hand them the packets, and hang around asking how they were.

Once all of the packets have been distributed, they humbly trod back to the parking lot in deep contemplation.They form the little circle again, and raise their hands in prayer, asking God to give them the strength to do what they have to do, and share God’s bounty with all of His creations.

Who are these brothers and sisters? They belong to the Muslim community of Pittsburgh and represent a wide spectrum of age, ethnicity, profession and community. Sisters who prepare the food are housewives, working professionals or students. And the brothers and sisters who go to the site are students, or professionals or even stay-at-home young moms. But one common thing that binds them is the desire to wake up each Sunday morning and think of the homeless first.

The work of this group may be a drop in the ocean, but it’s a practical beginning, started only 9 months ago. It opened our eyes to the reality around us. Most of us live complaining about things we do not have. One visit to the homeless site would puts things in perspective.

The purpose behind this work is not to convert them to Islam, but to help Allah’s creations, even if it be in the form of one sandwich to one person in the entire week. Being an American Muslim is not just about planting the American flag on our front door, but it’s about being in solidarity with the rest of humanity around us.

With so much stereotyping of Muslims, most Muslims cry hoarse explaining, writing letters to the editor, publishing books debunking Islamophobes, and presenting research findings, in the hope that the stereotyping will stop. But let us stop for a moment. To be an American Muslim in true spirit, we have to prove with actions, not just mere words. When Muslims in hijab are out on the street on a Sunday morning, seen talking to the homeless and inquiring about their needs, they are demonstrating the truth about Islam with their actions.

This project took seed in a masjid gathering where I met Sister Rasheeda from Atlanta who was doing a similar activity in Atlanta. Alhamdulillah, inspired by her encouragement, we have delivered food to the homeless Sunday after Sunday since Oct 2011. Food is prepared in rotation, so that no one is burdened with the task. If you’d like to volunteer, write to: 


Zohra Lasania

Communications Coordinator

CAIR Pittsburgh Chapter

412 606 3601