By: Noor Salahuddin
I first heard about East West Link (EWL) when a family member met Mr. Masood Farooqi, who heads the organization and was looking for Muslim youth to work as leaders in the community. As I had already worked as a communications and grant writing intern at the Council on American Islamic Relations in Chicago, I had experience writing news articles, editing and proofreading articles and publishing them on the organization’s website.
After Mr. Farooqi conducted my interview, I started working on an article titled, “NATO Supply Routes to Pakistan – Reopened”. As I am Pakistani, I have a keen interest in South Asian history, politics, religion, and culture, which is reflected in my writing. My second article was also based on Pakistan, in which I wrote about the injustices and societal issues in the country regarding lack of education, gender inequality, and implementation of law.
The next article I wrote was titled “The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding – Taking a Lead”. For this particular piece, I researched the think tank’s website and familiarized myself with the scholarly staff and fellows who conduct important research on Islam and Muslims in America, and are featured in various publications. As I aspire to be a professor one day, research and analytical writing on civil rights and policy making issues piques my curiosity. I am looking forward to working with ISPU through the EWL-ISPU Joint Internship and increasing my knowledge about how the institute affects American policies regarding Muslims.
Taking a break from political topics, I next wrote an article based on a tafseer of Surah Furqaan from the Quran. I learned the distinctions the Quran makes between good and bad attributes of believing people. As is evident in the surah, Allah (SWT- subhanu wa ta’ala - may He be glorified and exalted) favors humility, dignity, sacrifice, and moderation over arrogance, pride, selfishness, and extreme behavior. Even though the lessons are deceptively simple, they serve as reminders for us, advising us to rethink our impulses and purify our intentions.
The article I wrote next was probably the most interesting I have written yet. Strangely, it took me only a short time to come up with all of the points I wanted to make as I already had my thoughts in order on what I wanted to write. This article stemmed from a documentary I watched called, “Bowling for Columbine” which was based on gun violence in America and directed by Michael Moore.
The documentary’s main focus was the 1999 Columbine shooting in Colorado, in which two high school students went on a murderous rampage and killed 13 students and injured 21. I chose this topic because in the aftermath of the Oak Creek tragedy in which 7 Sikh Americans were killed by a white supremacist, I had many questions and concerns about these events. I wanted to learn about how these incidences happened with such ease and how much psychological trauma they caused for Americans.
I also wanted to understand what the reasons were for such violent and hateful tendencies in seemingly every day Americans, what role gun control played in this issue, and what could be done to prevent such crimes and senseless cruelty in the future. Today, as I write this article, another “deranged gunman” has gone on a shooting rampage in New York City, killing his boss who he apparently held a grudge against.
Finally, I wrote about Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, who garnered national attention when he made controversial and false remarks about some Muslims in America wanting to and succeeding in killing Americans “every week”. I felt compelled to write about this issue because it hit close to home; I am from Chicago, Illinois. Such Islamophobic comments coming from a man who represents the state of Illinois were deeply disrespectful. They also proved dangerous as hate crimes against Muslims in Illinois, and in the county at large, are rapidly growing in number.
Besides writing articles, I also publish all of the interns’ work on EWL’s website in order to promote the writing of our talented youth staff. While reading my colleagues’ articles, I was struck by how informed and opinionated the Muslim youth is and convinced that their voices need to be given center stage in any dialogue about Muslims in America.
In the future, I hope to continue learning at EWL and using the skills I learned here in future job opportunities. I would like to thank Mr. Farooqi for giving me this wonderful opportunity, and Nabila Ikram and Sara Khan for their guidance and training. It is a dream to work with you and as a team member of EWL!
By: Sara Khan
Wayne State University
Almost one year ago, I was introduced to East West Link (EWL) by Nabila Ikram, the current Program Coordinator for EWL. I decided to join the organization because it seemed like a good learning experience. In the time that I have spent at EWL, I can confidently say that I have gained many skills that will be useful to me in the future. However, the most interesting thing about this program is that, not only does it teach useful skills to its participants, it also helps them to grow as individuals. EWL is often referred to as an Internship and Leadership Training Program. I believe it lives up to its title as the program provides students with the necessary resources and opportunities to help them prepare for leadership roles.
All interns at EWL are required to write articles. This is a really great learning experience for all students. The most obvious advantage in this is improving writing skills. Aside from that, interns are exposed to what’s happening around the world. EWL has weekly brainstorming sessions in which we talk about what’s happening around the world and current news and events. The idea is to provide suggestions on what to write about. The brainstorming session is a great eye-opener especially for those who don’t otherwise keep up with the news.
When I first joined, I started out with a few small tasks such as writing articles and organizing the office. Gradually I was given the responsibility of other tasks such as managing the newsletter, keeping the website updated, and editing articles. Although it was intimidating to take on new responsibilities, I was encouraged by the EWL staff to give it a try. After working on the new tasks for a while, I became comfortable with them and was even able to train other incoming interns.
EWL gives interns a strong sense of responsibility through the tasks that they are assigned. When people – especially students – are given responsibility, they naturally become stronger in various ways. For example, when I was put in charge of handling the newsletter, it was up to me to figure out how to design it. It was up to me to contact the necessary people for guidance. Throughout the process of organizing the newsletter, I was forced to make my own decisions and to have confidence in myself. With my newfound confidence, I was able to take on more difficult and rewarding tasks such as editing.
A lot of EWL tasks require a lot of teamwork. This setup is intentional and allows interns to really develop interpersonal skills that will serve them well in all kinds of future endeavors such as college courses, internships and jobs. Also through involvement in EWL, interns are able to build many contacts in the community who can serve as friends or even mentors for them in the future. After only a year I have gotten to know so many wonderful people who I would love to keep in touch with after I move out of EWL.
I believe the biggest advantage of being in EWL for me was being given the platform to raise my voice. The Muslim youth is the next generation that will make positive differences in this world. The wonderful thing about EWL is that it doesn’t restrict you to certain types of topics to write about. They are open to just about anything you wish to write about. I believe EWL is a wonderful starting point for our youth community.
I recommend students who want to become more active and gain leadership skills to join EWL. It will prove to be a rewarding experience and leave you with a strong foundation for your future endeavors. If you would like to join, contact the Program Director, Masood Farooqi, at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call him at 734-837-5100.
By: Sara Khan Photo Credit: Anas Alkatib
Starting off the day with the sweet taste of syrup on pancakes seems almost like a perfect morning. However, the best syrup isn’t the one you would normally buy at your local
grocery store. The best syrup, as I just experienced recently, is freshly made.
Northeastern parts of North America have suitable weather conditions for maple syrup production. Vermont is the largest maple syrup producer in the United States. Luckily for us, we are also part of the Northeast and have the resources and weather required for making maple syrup.
Our East West Link team took a trip to the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Environmental Interpretive Center where we learned how to identify Sugar Maple trees as well as the process for making maple syrup. It turns out that this is a simple, yet labor intensive task. It actually takes 30-50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.
The sap, from which maple syrup is made, flows inside the Sugar Maple trees. This sap is the tree’s source of nutrition. Although the sap flows all year, it is tapped only during the winter-to-spring transition which lasts for about 6 weeks. This is because when spring starts, the buds start to form and that causes chemical changes within the tree which in turn causes an off-flavor in the sap. A freezing night followed by a warm day is the ideal condition for good sap flow inside the trees. Once the sap is flowing, we are able to tap the trees and collect the sap in buckets.
To determine whether a tree is suitable for tapping, some measurements must be taken. It should be at least 30 years old and 12 inches in diameter. The larger the tree is, the more it can be tapped. This is done to ensure that we don’t take away so much sap from the trees that it ends up harming them.
The tapping process begins by drilling a small hole about two inches deep into the tree. A spout is then inserted into the hole to allow sap to flow out into the bucket, which is attached to the end of the spout.
After collecting the sap, it is taken to an evaporator, where the boiling process occurs. Sap is naturally 97% water. It takes about 6 hours for the water to evaporate, leaving mostly sugar. Once the water has evaporated, the maple syrup is filtered, removing all unwanted particles. After that, the maple syrup is done and ready to be packed and served.
Personally, I had never had pure maple syrup before and after trying it for the first time I absolutely loved it. Not only does it taste better than normal maple syrup, but it has been proven to be healthier as well.
The makeup of real maple syrup and the fake maple syrup is very different. The fake maple syrup has a corn syrup base and has added artificial flavors, one of them being sodium hexametaphosphate which is an ingredient used
in soap. The fake maple syrup is made up of mainly sugars with no vitamins and minerals.
Pure maple syrup, on the other hand, has no added flavors at all and contains zinc and manganese which actually aid in strengthening the immune system. In addition to that, it also contains small amounts of other beneficial vitamins and minerals. One of the major advantages of pure maple syrup is the presence of phytochemicals which helps prevent diseases from occurring.
Based on my personal experience, I would encourage everyone to go out and have a taste of the natural maple syrup while it lasts!