University Students Face Personal Inhibitions in Islamic Celebrations

NEW YORK – The end of Ramadan fell on a Friday this year. Luckily, Laila Hussain had no class on that day and was able to celebrate the holiday with  family without having to consult with her professor. But because class assignments were still due, observing Eid al-Fitr meant that she ended up with a significant lack of time to do her work.

Hussain is not the only one in this situation. Despite official policies respecting the religious observance of students in universities across the United States, Muslim students are sometimes hesitant to ask their professors for special consideration.

Whereas most faculty members of universities are well aware of major Christian and Jewish holidays, Islamic celebrations are often unknown. Muslim students usually are a minority in their programs and don’t want to draw attention to themselves. The number of Muslim students is increasing however, as is the number of Muslims in the United States in general, and dealing with Islamic holidays is likely to become more important as this trend continues.

An estimate from a 2007 study by the Pew Forum states that Muslims make up 0.8 percent of the American population. In New York City, that number goes up to almost 8 percent, nycreligion.org says, based on a study of mosques in the city.

How Muslim holidays are dealt with differs per level in the educational system. In the federally funded public schools Muslim students and parents are currently fighting for the right to have time off for religious holidays, while American colleges and universities have had policies in place for some time.

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How political candidates are stealthily targeting voters online

American voters were bombarded with online ads as candidates scrambled to get out votes in the last days of midterm campaigning. But the offensive more closely resembled millions of targeted missiles rather than an indiscriminate artillery barrage.

Voters can be advertised to on the basis of the interests, location and what they are searching for online. Numerous companies are building extensive databases of information about individuals based on their online habits and social media profiles.

The targeting of ads takes place automatically without the Internet user being aware of the process.

Targeted advertising is nothing new in American politics. Since the 1960s, campaigns have used direct mail to reach specific groups of voters. But privacy advocates are starting to raise questions about the new techniques used by campaigns.

Michael Bassik, senior vice president of campaign consultancy Global Strategy Group, described the growth in online political advertising as “exponential”.

Candidates are experimenting with Google and Facebook ads in-house, driving much of the growth. These are the easiest to use but even they involve targeting through search terms or interests. Consultancies like Global Strategy Group are able to offer a step up in complexity.

This year’s elections could represent just the tip of the iceberg. It is very difficult to measure total online ad spending but Bassik estimated it might be as low as 1 percent of the nearly $3 billion that will be plowed into midterm campaigning.

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Hello world seems strangely appropriate.

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