Do you have an opinion? 10-25

Dear Rina,
Every year at this time most of us exchange pleasantries and gifts and generally have a ‘feel-good’ outlook  during the holiday season.  This holiday season I feel especially good because of receiving a present in November that  gave me a great deal of elation.  My present is from El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Academy which is commonly referred to as Shabazz Academy.  This school, located on the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr and Barnes in South Lansing,  has “Beaten  the Odds” according to Michigan State Superintendent Mike Flanagan.
Shabazz Academy is not supposed to meet and exceed  state reading and math performance levels.  They have done this not  once but many times during the past decade.  They are a school, or village if you prefer, that ascribes  to smart work, knowledgeable and committed teachers and staff,  parents and volunteers who are willing to go the extra mile to see that students succeed.   How do they do it when they aren’t supposed to?  One reason is the leadership of Dr. Eugene Cain.  He is a veteran educator and was formerly a school superintendent in Michigan. He is also a kind compassionate individual and a no nonsense educator who deals with challenges consistently and effectively  and you always know where he stands. He is so dedicated to his educational passion that he gave up his office so that it could be used as a small learning center.  Now that’s commitment!
 Dr. Cain will tell you that he has been blessed with teachers who are committed to having their students succeed because they have high expectations for them.  His staff and parents are equally committed because they know that the school’s standards pass  muster every day the building is open.  Shabazz Academy volunteers are first class and I know they are because one of them stopped me last week to talk about the marvelous atmosphere of education  in the school. With a great positive environment and a caring and committed staff the recipe for success  comes out of the education oven  consistently.
In closing, I wish you all the best during the holiday season and I hope you receive the presents that you expected .  I received mine – the success of Shabazz Academy which certainly has beaten the odds.
George Rowan
Former Principal
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Editor’s Note:  Dr. George T. Rowan is a professor in the Department Community Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University (MSU). He teaches courses on research process, community development, and grantwriting and fund development. From 1993 to 2000 he taught a course on “Human Growth and Behavior” to first year medical students in the College of Human Medicine at MSU.
Dear Rina,
As an ardent supporter of local businesses, I thought you might appreciate this story.
For one of the stops my birthday on December 23, I went to Video-To-Go (VTG) located in Frandor at 300 N Clippert St Ste 18 in Lansing, MI to get my free video rental (as far as I know, VTG is one of the last shops to offer this anymore to their members). I had freebie coupons from many establishments for that day, and VTG was one of my last stops. Yet the clerk who gave me the movie I wanted (The Help) was the first business rep who wished me a happy birthday. I thought that was extraordinary, and told her so; another clerk overheard and we all laughed at the nature of man. They both wished me happy birthday again, and I went home.
Fast forward to December 26. Because of Christmas, the rental wasn’t due until today; and because my eyes are getting worse the older I get, I didn’t notice until we tried to watch the movie today, that I picked up the Blu-Ray version. Since we barely watch DVDs as it is, we don’t have a Blu-Ray player, so this was a pretty big disappointment. 
Michael and I took the video back to the store; rather than just drop it off, I decided to tell the clerk what happened – not expecting anything to come of it except “too bad/so sad” – and asked her where the new DVDs were located. She said that all the DVD copies were out for the day, and I sighed something about “happy birthday to me” (I wasn’t trying to be a pest, I was just disappointed), and started to walk away. 
Before I could get even a step away, she stopped me and said she remembered me coming in and talking to them, so she wanted to give me the credit for the DVD version. I was really surprised by that, but she said it wasn’t even a problem for them. It was cool enough to me that she remembered me; that I could get a credit for a free-in-the-first-place rental, just makes me want to go back there again. VTG rocks!
Rose Jangmi Cooper
Lansing, MI
Editor’s Note:  We love hearing about stories of great customer service.  It is truly to be appreciated especially when it is a local business.  Support your local businesses and tell us about your great customer service.
Dear TNCP,
Lowes pulling ads from “All American Muslims” has proven to be a tremendous mistake, one that has smeared it’s reputation and left doubts in many American’s hearts of the home improvement place’s intentions. However prejudicial and disturbing I find Lowes’ actions to be, my complaint is not against them. My complaint is against the broader population. 
I understand that the show “All American Muslims” is an well-intentioned attempt to normalize Muslims in the west, but when attempting to do this, we must ask ourselves, how did such a time come about in our nation that Muslims need to be normalized? 
Do we not realize how horrendously Islamophobic this nation has become? This is a serious problem facing an entire faith, a problem that threatens American values. As an American, I am disgusted and disappointed in what has overtaken this country. 
As a Muslim, I am not afraid and choose to stay resilient in the fight against bigotry and racism, but not just against Muslims, no, I will continue to stand and fight against this behavior towards any one of any faith and/or non-faith. 
It cannot be stressed any further that the recent attacks on Muslims, and the wave of Islamophobia is getting worse by the moment, whether it be students pulling off girls’ headscarves or calling Muslims ‘terrorists’, this country is slowly becoming a disturbing battleground for prejudice and hate. As a college student who seeks to continue post undergraduate education in the United States, and one day, hope to have a family here, I must ask myself, is this the country where I want my children to one day be raised? In a country where politicians, companies are openly dismissing a Muslim reality show based on American values as an effort to push ‘Sharia’ on to the American public? Well, let me be quite frank in this regard. Yes, we, are as Muslims, practicing Sharia. I am as a Muslim practicing my Sharia as I write this. 
Before I find an F.B.I. warrant on my head, let me explain that Sharia, in essence, is just the path that a Muslim takes to get closer to God. It may be praying in public, or fasting, or even writing letters to defend the faith, or defending others in the plight of injustice. That is Sharia, and that is all it will ever be. 
We, as Muslims, are not allowed to impose our views on anyone, and that is why you will rarely (if ever) see a Muslim handing out Holy Quran’s on campuses or screaming at college students that ‘they will go to hell’, as I’ve had happen to me many times on campus by representatives of other faiths. 
Instead of combatting Lowes’ and boycotting these 65 companies that have removed their advertisements from All American Muslims, maybe combatting the image that the nation has of Muslims will be better suited. I in no way condone Lowes’ actions, but I believe our efforts are better suited at open dialogue and preventive action against bigotry, rather than reactive action.
Aseel Machi is junior studying communications and pre law at Michigan State University.
This was printed in the January 1, 2012 – January 14, 2012  Edition