Written by Eric Wise
A Steelton father takes his son’s ashes to the trial of the young man’s murderer.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 April 2016 17:07
Written by Dan Miller
What’s it like being a Muslim student at Penn State Harrisburg – and living in Middletown?
“Because of the college atmosphere here and all the diversity, it’s pretty good to be a Muslim in Middletown,” said Ali Hamza, an engineering major at the university.
Hamza was one of five Penn State Harrisburg students who described what it’s like to be a Muslim today as a student and a resident of the Middletown area community during a recent public forum on the Lower Swatara Twp. campus.
Among those attending the event at the Olmsted Building were fellow Penn State Harrisburg students, faculty and staff.
The forum offered an eye-opening glimpse into the rich diversity that is found on the campus:
• Hamza is from New Jersey but spent five years living in Pakistan learning about his native culture from his parents.
• Fairuziana Humam is a graduate student studying community psychology who comes from Indonesia but grew up in Kansas.
• Faqirullah Khan was born and raised in the U.S., but his mother is from Afghanistan and his father from Bangladesh.
Forty-eight different countries are represented among the students who attend Penn State Harrisburg, said Marcellus Taylor, who is the university’s assistant director of student activities and fraternity/sorority life.
Taylor put together the Muslim student event. He was not aware of any incidents on campus or in the Middletown area involving harassment of Muslims. In any case, the forum was part of “being proactive,” Taylor said.
Overall, Muslim students sounded more concerned about what life is like for Muslims throughout the U.S. today.
“It’s a bit scary to imagine that in a great country like America, there are people out there who think it is not safe to be here and that Muslims are not welcome,” Humam said.
Taylor presented a talk that was given in February through the Web site TED.com from Dalia Mogahed titled, “What Do You Think When You Look at Me?”
“Some people want to ban Muslims and close down mosques,” said Mogahed, standing on a stage and wearing a hijab, the Arabic word often used to describe a headscarf worn by Muslim women and girls. “They talk about my community kind of like we are a tumor in the body of America, and the only question is are we malignant or benign?”
“A malignant tumor you extract altogether and a benign tumor you just keep under surveillance,’’ Mogahed said. “The choices don’t make sense because it’s the wrong question. Muslims, like all other Americans, aren’t a tumor in the body of America. We’re a vital organ. Muslims are inventors and teachers, first responders and Olympic athletes.”
The rise of ISIS fuels the perception that Islam is “a violent religion,” Mogahed said. “But we would be giving into their narrative if we cast them as representatives of a faith of 1.6 billion people. ISIS has as much to do with Islam as the Ku Klux Klan has to do with Christianity.”
The Penn State Harrisburg students talked about their own experiences growing up and leading normal lives in this country.
Khadija Hassan was born in Somalia, but has spent most of her life here and feels “as American as can be.” She sang Christmas carols. But when it came time for the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, none of her non-Muslim friends knew anything about it. They learned about it from her.
For the most part, it seemed like Hassan and other Muslims were anonymous until 9/11. “For millions of Americans I think that was their first introduction to my religion,” Hassan said.
As terrible as 9/11 was, it began to force a conversation between Muslims and non-Muslims that continues today, she said.
Hassan encourages other students to ask her anything they want about her faith, including why she doesn’t always wear the same headscarf.
“That’s the same as any American girl, what kind of dress or what kind of style she has,’’ Hassan said. “I also have a different headscarf every once in a while. That’s just like an expression of me. We might express ourselves differently, but we are still expressing ourselves, as anybody else would.”
She thinks of herself and other Muslim students at Penn State Harrisburg as “the bridge that kind of connects from what people know or perceive to know about my religion, and what truly my religion is,’’ she said. But the differences really aren’t as great as what people think, Hassan said.
“Most people will be fairly surprised to learn that we have so much in common that you might actually never know until you hear it from the mouth of someone who has lived outside of this country,” Hassan said.
Khan talked of growing up in small town America. His days were filled with McDonald’s french fries, weekend barbecues, going camping and summer vacations. But the KKK had a foothold in the town.
Khan’s younger brother was supposed to be born a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but Khan’s mother had a miscarriage.
“I remember being a 5- or 6-year old sitting in the waiting room hearing nurses talk about him, and the one nurse, said ‘Thank the Lord Jesus Christ that the terrorist child was not born,’ and the other nurse with her agreed,’’ he recalled. “She didn’t say, ‘What you said was wrong.’ ”
“It destroyed me emotionally because I did not understand…to find out that my younger brother had passed away in that context before my parents had told me - it was disgusting,” Khan said, the pain of the experience still fresh in his voice.
Now, “they want to send me back, they want to send my parents back, and this is heartbreaking because my father has been here since he was a Ph.D. student,’’ Khan said. “My mother came here when she was only 18 or 19 as a refugee. The thought of sending them back, to two separate places first of all, is horrendous. It splits apart a family.”
Moreover, Khan said his mother has no home to which to return. The town in Afghanistan where she is from was destroyed by U.S. bombs in 2002, because the Americans thought the Taliban was there.
“I don’t consider myself less of an American after 9/11 as I did before 9/11,’’ Khan said. “But the rest of America doesn’t seem to see me the same way.”
Despite that experience, Khan sounds optimistic as he looks ahead.
“America has the hope in all of us,’’ he said. “We can make this change, we can avoid such close-mindedness, we can make a difference, we can stand up to such evil ways of thinking. Because this is what America stands for.
“Being a Muslim does not conflict with being an American,’’ Khan said. “You can be both and you don’t have to practice either in any lesser way.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 April 2016 17:01
A Londonderry Twp. business was fined $41,200 by the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for violations related to a trench collapse that occurred in Susquehanna Twp. on Sept. 30, the agency said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 April 2016 17:08
Written by Dan Miller
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, no doubt steeled the resolve of Arthur Halfpapp to become a pilot in the military. But it’s clear that the young man, who lived in Steelton, set his sights on a career in the skies long before that disastrous day.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 April 2016 16:33
Written by Jim Lewis
After 14 years, state Rep. John Payne is retiring from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and voters in his predominantly Republican 106th District will chose between two candidates for the GOP nomination for his seat in the primary election on Tuesday, April 26.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 April 2016 16:49