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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

City alderman, cop cited for their work

By Victor Zapana
Special to the Register
NEW HAVEN
— Two local political all-stars have been honored for breaking the Islamic glass ceiling.
Alderman Yusuf Ibn Shah, D-23, and Dixwell police Officer Shafiq Abdussabur each were presented with "The People’s Victory Award" at a recent banquet in Hartford.
Part of a group of about 10 Muslims from across Connecticut, they have helped to destroy the negative stereotype that Muslims rarely work in law and politics, event officials said.
The award commemorated "how we overcame obstacles…how we overcame oppression," said Kashif Abdul-Karim, who also is the head organizer of the Juneteenth event.
The award ceremony helped to celebrate black Independence Day, called Juneteenth, when on June 19, 1865, news of former President Abraham Lincoln’s "Emancipation Proclamation" speech reached Galvaston, Texas, the last town in the United States to learn of the announced freeing of slaves.
The theme of the event was "Something from Nothing," according to Abdul-Karim, who is resident imam of the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford. The event honored the life of abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
"We are celebrating those being able to go ... to being somebody who champions our people’s victories," Abdul-Karim said.
Abdul-Karim pointed to Abdussabur and Shah’s abilities to persevere through troubled pasts as reasons for their nominations.
Abdussabur, coordinator for the city Street Outreach Worker Program, said he is excited to receive the award because it gives proof to how "needed" his methods of community policing are for the community. Over the years, he created the youth development agency CT-RIBAT and has voiced for more grassroots, neighborhood-friendly methods to temper youth and gun violence.
Abdussabur is the only Muslim police officer on the New Haven force, he said.
"I wear it as a badge of honor," he said of the statistic. "Not just for myself, but for my children, for my family, and for the community at large."
Shafiq has also received the 2008 Man of the Year award from City Hall for lowering gun violence among youth.
Shah, who could not be reached for comment, is the only Muslim alderman. His father, Imam Yusuf Shah, led a famous Islamic mosque in Harlem for 23 years and was friends with Malcolm X. Imam Shah died in 1993. due to heart disease
To Shafiq, Shah is a beloved brother. "Yusuf Shah is my man," he added. "He’s been a really good mentor."
The awards dinner featured jazz music from the Jesse Hameen II Band and spoken word poetry by poet Abdur Rahman Ibn Muhammad.
Also at the event, award officials presented Kareemah Muhammad, 17, with the Imam Qasim Sharief Memorial Scholarship. A Hartford resident, Muhammad attended Hillhouse High School for two years before transferring to Weaver High School in Hartford. She plans to attend the University of Connecticut in September.
Victor Zapana is a New Haven Register intern.

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