Thursday, February 26, 2009

CAIR Asks AG Holder to Defend U.S. Muslim RightsRecent incidents target Islam, Muslim lobbying, mosques, Islamic religious rights
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/26/09) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on Attorney General Eric Holder to protect the right of American Muslims to participate fully in the political process and to practice their faith without fear of government intrusion.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued that appeal following a number of recent government-related incidents targeting Islam, American Muslim lobbying efforts, American mosques, and Muslim religious practices.
In a letter to Attorney General Holder, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote:
“Today in Congress, taxpayer funds are being used for the screening of a virulently anti-Islam film and to promote the Islamophobic views of its producer. Despite appeals to offer a balancing perspective to the closed-door screening, elected officials and congressional staff will hear only anti-Muslim invective, without an opportunity for response from American Muslims.
SEE: Ariz. Senator Asked to Invite Muslim Reps to Balance Anti-Islam Film
“Today in Florida, there is a report that the leader of that state’s House Republicans is attempting to block a ‘Florida Muslim Capitol Day.’ In an e-mail to more than a dozen Jewish lobbyists, Rep. Adam Hasner wrote: ‘By now, I can't imagine you haven't heard about this upcoming lobbying day for Muslims in Tallahassee…Do you all intend to be part of an information campaign in opposition to it?’
SEE: House Leader E-Mails Alert About Muslim Event to Jewish Lobbyists (St. Petersburg Times)
“Yesterday, the ACLU issued a news release exposing a Texas fusion center alert stating that it is ‘imperative for law enforcement officers to report’ the legal activities of Muslim lobbying and civil rights groups in their areas.
SEE: Fusion Center Encourages Improper Investigations of Lobbying Groups and Anti-War Activists
“In a recent news article, a former FBI agent in Washington, D.C., was quoted as making the bizarre claim that every major American Muslim organization is engaged in an effort to ‘overthrow America and establish Islamic law’ through religious accommodation. He advocated ‘stepping on these people.’
SEE: Islamic Subversion Alleged by Speaker
“Today in California, the Los Angeles Times reports that the FBI employed a person with a criminal past to infiltrate mosques in that state, re-enforcing fears by Muslim leaders about religious profiling.
SEE: Man Says He was Informant for FBI in Orange County (Los Angeles Times)
“In Minnesota, Somali Muslims have expressed concern about FBI tactics that they say amount to religious profiling.
SEE: Group Says Somalis are Being Detained Unfairly (Star Tribune)
“In Oklahoma, legislation has been introduced that would prevent Muslim women from obtaining driver’s licenses while wearing religiously-mandated head scarves, or hijabs. That legislation was prompted by a recent decision to allow a Muslim driver to take her license photograph while wearing hijab.
SEE: Driver's License Law Isn't Needed (Oklahoman)
“Based on these and other recent incidents and initiatives targeting the Muslim community nationwide, we are concerned that the right of American Muslims to participate fully in our country’s political process and practice their faith free of government intrusion is under assault.
“It is our belief that these incidents are based on a desire by Muslim-bashers and other extremists who seek to use guilt by association to marginalize and disenfranchise the American Muslim community. This is contrary to the positive outreach efforts to Muslims that President Obama has made since taking office. American Muslim voices are critical to the success of the president’s outreach initiatives.
“We therefore respectfully request that you use the authority of your office to protect the political and religious rights of American Muslims. We also ask you to meet with representatives of the American Muslim community to discuss these troubling issues.”
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

DOMESTIC ABUSERS ‘SHOULD NOT SEEK REFUGE IN ISLAM’ - TOPBuffalo Killing Puts Spotlight on Domestic AbuseLiz Robbins, New York Times, 2/21/09
Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan, the Muslim-American television executive charged with murdering his wife Aasiya Zubair Hassan in suburban Buffalo 11 days ago, is still in the Erie County Holding Center without bail, awaiting a grand jury trial.
On Feb. 12, he told the Orchard Park police that his 37-year-old wife was dead and she was at the offices of Bridges TV, which he founded with his wife to counter Muslim stereotypes. When the police discovered Ms. Hassan’s body — which was separated from her head — they charged Mr. Hassan with second-degree murder.
The estate of Aasiya Hassan filed a lawsuit against Mr. Hassan and Bridges TV on Thursday in Erie County Supreme Court, requesting that the offices be kept closed and the judge granted the temporary relief.
Even as Mr. Hassan, 44, sits in jail under a suicide watch that has been considered only a precaution, said his attorney, James Harrington, the gruesome murder has provoked some soul-searching within the Muslim-American community about the role of women and domestic abuse within Islam…
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islam Relations, said that freedom and equality exist in Islam, but “there is a need of reform for Muslims,” Mr. Hooper said in an interview this week. “If someone mistreats women they should not seek refuge in Islam.” (MORE)
NY: A HISTORY OF ABUSE PRECEDED ORCHARD PARK BEHEADING - TOPAasiya Hassan endured years of violence and controlling behavior from her husband while keeping up the facade of a stable marriageSandra Tan, Gene Warner and Fred O. Williams, Buffalo News, 2/22/09
The lives of Muzzammil and Aasiya Hassan were quite different from their public image in the local Muslim and broadcast communities.
In the public eye, they were a dynamic couple, building their — actually her — dream of a Muslim-lifestyle TV channel in the United States.
But police reports compiled for much of their marriage tell another story:
Their home life was a nightmare. Aasiya was repeatedly subjected to controlling and sometimes violent acts by her ambitious but troubled husband.
To protect herself, she went to the police in two states. Yet for years she stopped short of pressing charges — thus preserving Muzzammil’s reputation and the venture they built together. (MORE)
MINNEAPOLIS MOSQUE TO HOST COMMUNITY DINNER - TOPNeighbors invited to interact and gain understanding about local Somali Muslims
(ST. PAUL, MN, 02/23/09) - On February 25, 2009, the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center will welcome neighborhood residents and organizations for a community dinner intended to increase understanding about the local Somali Muslim community and mosque.
The Wednesday event is free and open to the public.
WHAT: Community Open House and Dinner at Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic CenterWHEN: Wednesday, February 25, 5-8 p.m.WHERE: Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, 2824 13th Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn.SPEAKERS: Dr. Hamdi Sawaf, Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center representatives and CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica ZikriCONTACT: CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica Zikri, 612-226-3289, E-Mail:
Dinner guests, including commanders of local police precincts, will have an opportunity to observe an Islamic prayer at 6 p.m. before enjoying Middle Eastern and African foods. Speakers' presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
CAIR-MN said the mosque has received an increasing number of hate calls and e-mails since several Somali youth left the Twin Cities area, sparking rumors they were going to Somalia to join warring militias.
"We invite our neighbors of all faiths to come and learn more about the Somali Islamic community and to see that Muslims share the same challenges and concerns as other Minnesotans," CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica Zikri.
The open house and dinner are sponsored by the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, CAIR-MN and the Building Blocks of Islam.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica Zikri, 612-226-3289, E-Mail:; CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Taneeza Islam, Esq., 651-587-4712, E-Mail:; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202 488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:
CAIR: NC BANKS TO ‘CORDON OFF’ MUSLIM WOMEN CUSTOMERS - TOPCarolina Federal to make those in hats, hoods or sunglasses go to special teller to deter robbers.Clay Barbour, Charlotte Observer, 2/22/09
In an effort to deter bank robbers, an area credit union will become among the state's first financial institutions to restrict their customers from wearing hats, hoods or sunglasses.
Officials with the Carolina Federal Credit Union said last week that beginning March 2, it will institute new regulations requiring customers remove head coverings before entering their buildings.
Those who refuse will not be turned away, but won't be able to conduct business with the regular tellers. Instead, they will be monitored and served at a location near the front of the branch.
“This program will provide a safer environment for members and employees,” said Donna Beringer, CFCU president. “The simple act of removing hats, hoods, and sunglasses in the credit union will not only help deter would-be robbers, it makes it much easier to identify and capture anyone that chooses to perpetrate fraud.”
The policy's concession is aimed at customers who wear religious headgear, such as Jewish men wearing yarmulkes or Muslim women wearing hijabs. But they too would only be helped at the front.
“So we will be separate but equal,” said Rose Hamid, head of the Muslim Women of the Carolinas. “That is absolutely unacceptable. I would find that offensive and I would do everything I could to make sure it does not go through.”
Bank robberies are common. And according to experts, they tend to go up during times of economic hardship. Though, oddly, this year bank robberies have dropped.
Hundreds of banks and credit unions across the country have instituted the “No hats, no glasses, no hoods” policy, including agencies in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma and Florida.
This month, a Muslim woman was denied service at the Community Bank of the Bay in Oakland, Calif., where officials had recently instituted the policy. The ensuing controversy forced the bank to release an official apology.
“We understand what is behind this,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “But this is such a broad and vague policy that it will inevitably lead to problems.”
The council, based in Washington, D.C., is the country's largest Muslim advocacy group. Hooper said officials there have just recently started hearing about the “no hats” policy. He said it fails to address several issues, such as what to do about cancer victims wearing scarves, nuns wearing habits or blind people wearing glasses.
“Will they cordon them all off,” he said. (MORE)
Rola Awwad wants a private space for her 10-year-old son at Albert Payson Terhune Elementary School to exercise his right to Muslim prayer.
The school district had offered to let him pray at recess — either outside or in a classroom while classmates are there. And that, says Awwad, is "unacceptable."
All students are constitutionally guaranteed the right to pray during the school day as long as it doesn't interfere with learning. But Wayne is struggling with what accommodations to make if a Muslim student requests privacy for prayer.
The answer in other North Jersey districts ranges from providing access to the principal's office, to providing a spare room. But school administrators in suburban Wayne have been weighing the question since fall, when Awwad asked the principal to allow her son, Adam, a few minutes of privacy each afternoon to pray.
The district says it's concerned about allowing a young pupil to be unsupervised, even for a short time, and Awwad said her request was met with resistance.
"Why can't he be on his own for five minutes praying?" said Awwad, a Palestinian who moved to the United States from Jordan 11 years ago.
She said it's important to her that her children go to public school and make diverse friends. But she also wants them to be able to practice their religion.
"All I want from the school is to let my son pray in a private place in a small room, say his prayer and go back to class," she said. (MORE)
NC: NON-MUSLIM STUDENTS EXPERIENCE A DAY 'BEHIND THE VEIL' - TOPFemale students participating in social experiment discuss experiences with a panel of Muslim femalesMaggie Luckadoo, NCSU Technician, 2/1/09
As participants in "Behind the Veil," 28 non-Muslim female students learned about life as Muslim women as they wore head dresses, or hijabs, on Wednesday.
"Behind the Veil," an event Sara Yasin, a junior in textile and apparel management, said she thought up last summer, invited students to experience firsthand the life of Muslim women by mirroring their attire for a day, which includes covering their hair and entire bodies minus their faces and hands.
Yasin encouraged participants to abide by Muslim guidelines, such as not eating pork or drinking alcohol when wearing the hijab.
Wednesday evening, the organizers of the event along with a panel of female Muslim students sat to talk to the participants about past experiences and impressions from the day.
While one student said she participated "out of sheer curiosity," Meghan Witzke, a junior in graphic design, said she participated because she thought it was an interesting concept.
"I didn't get any kind of weird looks [while wearing the hijab]," she said.
Witzke said she sensed people were looking at her less than when her hair is uncovered, which she guessed was out of respect.
She said understanding the lives of Muslim women wearing hijabs on a daily basis could not be achieved without experiencing it firsthand.
"It doesn't feel like you're hiding yourself," she said. "It doesn't feel like you're ashamed. It feels like you're proud." (MORE)
Their films are short, falling just below four minutes long, but three young filmmakers hope their work sends a strong message about American Muslim life across the online world.
Ahmed Ghani and the brother-sister team of Akram and Arwa Alsamarae, all recent graduates of Fordson High School, are among the 29 finalists in the "One Nation, Many Voices" project, the brainchild of San Francisco-based Link TV, that looks to tell the stories about what its like to be a Muslim in America.
Kim Spencer, president of Link TV, said the contest is an opportunity to generate new voices about the religion and how it fits in American culture. By pushing that message on the Internet, where voices can spread virally and globally. (MORE)
AMNESTY CALLS ON US TO SUSPEND ARMS SALES TO ISRAEL - TOPHellfire missiles and white phosphorus artillery shells among weapons used in 'indiscriminate' attacks on civilians, says human rights groupRory McCarthy, Jerusalem Post, 2/23/09
Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel's extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles.
In a report released today, Amnesty International listed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the US president, Barack Obama, to suspend military aid to Israel.
The human rights group said those arming both sides in the conflict "will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated".
The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.
"As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme director. "To a large extent, Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers' money." (MORE
CAIR-LA to Seek Probe Into FBI’s Arrest of Ahmad NiaziAfghan native claims retaliation for refusal to become informant
(LOS ANGELES, CA, 2/23/09) - On Tuesday, February 24, the Greater Los Angeles Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) will host a news conference to announce the filing of a request for the U.S. Attorney General to launch an investigation into the FBI’s arrest last week of Ahmad Niazi.
The news conference will immediately follow a court hearing Tuesday for Niazi in Santa Ana, Calif. Members of his family will take part in the news conference.
Niazi is charged with perjury, naturalization fraud, misuse of a passport obtained by fraud, and making a false statement to a federal agency. He claims the charges are in retaliation for his refusal to become an FBI informant.
Mr. Niazi previously reported to CAIR-LA and other community members that, during a raid of a friend’s house, an FBI agent urged Mr. Niazi to work with the agency, saying that if he refused to cooperate his life would be made a “living hell.”
SEE: Tustin Man Related to Al Qaeda Figure is Arrested (LA Times)
WHAT: News Conference to Announce Call for Probe of FBI Actions in Arrest of Ahmad NiaziWHEN: Immediately following Tuesday’s court hearing. The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m.WHERE: Outside the Santa Ana Courthouse, 411 West Fourth Street, Santa Ana, CA WHO: Representatives from CAIR-LA, other Muslim groups and Ahmad Niazi’s familyCONTACT: CAIR-LA Communications Coordinator Munira Syeda, 714-776-1847 or 714-851-4851, E-Mail:
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
FBI Director Invited to Meet Minn. Somali CommunityInvitation to community dinner designed to open channels of communication
(ST. PAUL, MN, 2/24/09) - The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today invited FBI Director Robert Mueller to take part in a community dinner Wednesday at a Minneapolis mosque.
CAIR-MN is co-hosting the dinner at the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center as a way to increase understanding about the local Somali Muslim community and mosque. The Wednesday event is free and open to the public.
The invitation to Director Mueller comes in the wake of remarks he made yesterday claiming a Minnesota Muslim who allegedly carried out a suicide attack in Somalia had been “indoctrinated and radicalized” while living in Minneapolis.
SEE: Local Muslims Seek to Clear Air About Twin Cities Somalis, Militias (Star Tribune)
"We invite Director Mueller to attend the dinner and to help us build channels of communication between the FBI and the Minnesota Somali community," said CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica Zikri. “It is through open and constructive communication that we can best defend our nation’s security and protect civil liberties.”
Dinner guests, including commanders of local police precincts, will have an opportunity to observe an Islamic prayer before enjoying Middle Eastern and African foods. Speakers' presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
CAIR-MN said the mosque has received an increasing number of hate calls and e-mails since several Somali youth left the Twin Cities area, sparking rumors they were going to Somalia to join warring militias.
The open house and dinner are sponsored by the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, CAIR-MN and the Building Blocks of Islam.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
ARIZ. SENATOR ASKED TO INVITE MUSLIM REPS TO BALANCE ANTI-ISLAM FILM - TOPCAIR-AZ urges Sen. Kyl to recognize that there are ‘Muslims in his own state’
(PHOENIX, AZ, 2/24/09) - The Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ) today called on one of that state’s senators to invite Muslim representatives to offer a balancing perspective to a screening of an anti-Islam film he is hosting in Congress.
On Thursday, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) will host a closed-door screening of a 15-minute film by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders. Wilders was recently denied entry to Britain because of his extreme anti-Muslim views, including urging that the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, should be banned. One of the event’s co-sponsors, the Center for Security Policy headed by Frank Gaffney, is linked to an anti-Islam group that has advocated prison terms in the U.S. for “adherence to Islam.”
SEE: US Lawmaker Hosts Anti-Islamic Dutch Lawmaker (AP)
“It seems that Senator Kyl is oblivious to the fact that there are Muslims in his own state who will take offense at this cheap anti-Islam publicity stunt designed to promote a person who is under indictment for inciting religious hatred,” said CAIR-AZ Executive Director Ahmad Daniels. “Geert Wilders is just one of many self-promoting Islamophobes traveling the world in search of attention for their hate-filled views. We ask that Americans of all faiths ignore Mr. Wilders, thereby depriving him of the attention he so desperately seeks. Wilders has the right to spew his hate, but he does not have the right to a taxpayer-funded platform in the United States Congress.”
Daniels urged Sen. Kyl to join the ongoing efforts to end partisan politics in Congress and to reach out to the Islamic world by inviting speakers with a differing viewpoint to that of Wilders.
He added that, following a request by CAIR’s Los Angeles chapter, a California synagogue that screened a film claiming “confrontation between Islam and the Jews” agreed to invite a Muslim representative who could offer a balancing perspective of interfaith understanding.
He said CAIR’s Tampa chapter also called on a local synagogue to invite a representative of the Muslim community who could offer a balancing perspective to a controversial speaker who claims wearing an Islamic head scarf, or hijab, is related to the “growth of terrorism.”
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-AZ Executive Director Ahmad Daniels, 602-312-2223, 602-262-2247, CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail:
CAIR-LA: MAN WITH ALLEGED TERROR TIES AIDED POLICE IN 2007 - TOPGillian Flaccus and Amy Taxin, Associated Press, 2/23/09
The Council of American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, scheduled a news conference following Niazi's court appearance Tuesday to announce it would ask it would ask the attorney general to investigate whether Niazi's arrest stemmed from his refusal to help the FBI.
Council officials said in a statement that they met with Niazi in 2007 and he told them the FBI threatened to make his life a "living hell" if he did not become an informant. (MORE)
CAIR-LA: BAIL OK'D FOR ALLEGED IN-LAW OF AL-QAIDA OFFICIAL - TOPGillian Flaccus, Associated Press, 2/24/09
An alleged brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden's bodyguard was ordered to be released on $500,000 bail Tuesday, and a Muslim advocacy group said it wants a federal investigation into whether he was arrested because he had refused to become an FBI informant. (MORE)
A Muslim advocacy group is inviting FBI Director Robert Mueller to an open house at a controversial Minneapolis mosque.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations made the public invitation on Tuesday to the dinner on Wednesday at the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center. (MORE)
Click here to watch the video.
-----CAIR-NJ: COMMISSION HEARS TALES OF SCHOOL BULLYING - TOPMegan DeMarco, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/24/09For more than two hours, speaker after speaker approached the microphone at Lawrence High School to tell the 14-member Governor's Commission on School Bullying personal stories about children being bullied.
Wednesday's hearing was the first of three as commissioners gather testimony from the public about the problem of childhood bullying throughout the state. The next hearing will be tomorrow in Gloucester County.
Formed in October, the commission will submit a report and recommendations to the governor in July. It could suggest specific policies on bullying or enhanced training for school officials, among other possibilities. . .
Afsheen Shamsi, representing the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said New Jersey ranked among the top 10 states for bullying incidents against Muslim students.
One student, she said, came to school last year and found a scrawled message on his locker calling him a terrorist and telling him to "go home."
"This is a kid who's grown up here. He doesn't have another home," Shamsi said.
Other incidents include a student named Osama repeatedly being harassed, and a history teacher making derogatory remarks about Muslims and Arabs. (MORE)
CAIR-OK: SCARF EXPOSES NORMAN WOMAN’S BELIEFS - TOPReligion: Covering gives testimony to Muslim faithCarla Hinton, Oklahoman, 2/24/09
Lobna Hewedi welcomes questions about her hijab, a traditional head scarf worn by Muslim women.
The hijab serves as a symbol of her Muslim faith and an entry point for interfaith dialogue when people at fuel stations and grocery store checkout lines stare at the Norman woman’s apparel.
"My feeling is that most of the time when people look, they are just curious,” Hewedi said.
She said many non-Muslims may be unaware of the significance of hijabs.
Recently, another metro area Muslim woman, said she refused to take her driver’s license photograph at a Norman tag agency when an employee there required her to push her hajib back past her hairline, exposing a portion of her hair.
Monique Barrett, 21, of Norman renewed her driver’s license at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety headquarters last week after contacting the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma chapter. A chapter leader and public safety department officials said Barrett only had to show her face from hairline to chin to comply with the law.
Barrett, a student at Oklahoma City Community College, said she believes most people do not understand Muslim customs, which can lead to misunderstandings.
"People are afraid, and they fear things they don’t know,” she said.
Razi Hashmi, Oklahoma director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Muslim women who wear the head scarves draw attention because their everyday apparel easily identifies them as Muslim.
"Unfortunately they are the easiest to discriminate against, but our Muslim sisters are very strong in the faith,” he said. (MORE)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

During Mideast Trips, Members of Congress Visit Gaza, East Jerusalem
By Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Director
Over the President's Day break last week, several Members of Congress headed to the Middle East. Detailed below are highlights from some of these trips, including stops in Israel and the Palestinian territories and most notably in Gaza, by Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Brian Baird (D-WA) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Christian leaders and institutions in East Jerusalem, including Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani and the Augusta Victoria Hospital run by the Lutheran World Federation, also received a number of visits by U.S. officials.
Churches for Middle East Peace has long been urging Representatives and Senators and their staff to visit both Israel and the Palestinian territories and to meet with the Palestinian Christian community. These recent trips reflect a welcome and growing recognition in Congress of the need to understand and address the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians in order to achieve a just and lasting resolution of the conflict.
Join CMEP in sending a note of thanks for these important Congressional visits to the Holy Land by visiting
Gaza Receives First U.S. Government Visitors in More Than Three Years
Since the election of Hamas, Gaza has not only seen a reduction in the steady flow of goods and materials, but the closure of Gaza's borders has also meant fewer visitors to the narrow Strip. A CMEP delegation in early December 2008 was unable to obtain permission from Israeli authorities to enter, two Palestinian Christian Bishops were blocked entry in January, and U.S. government officials have not toured Gaza in more than three years.
However, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim-American member of Congress and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, all visited the struggling Gaza Strip, in coordination with the U.N., during trips last week to Israel and the Palestinian territories. All three Members of Congress also visited the Israeli town of Sderot which has suffered under a constant barrage of rocket fire in recent months and years.
According to press reports, Sen. Kerry's visit included touring a destroyed American-style school and a neighborhood where dozens of homes had been flattened. Kerry issued no formal statement but was quoted as saying that the trip was not an "indication of a change in policy. I am here to listen with the U.N. personnel on the ground to hear their assessment and to make personal judgment." However, given his leadership on foreign affairs in the Senate and his closeness to President Barack Obama, Kerry's visit received wide attention. One Israeli diplomat observed that while the Gaza visits may not indicate a different policy, they did signal a different attitude, reflecting Obama's philosophy that it is necessary to "go to different places and talk to many different people."
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The visit of Representatives Ellison and Baird, which unlike Sen. Kerry's did not have the official sanction of the Obama Administration, enabled the two Members, according to a joint statement, to "view first-hand the destruction from recent Israeli air and ground attacks, and to meet with international and local relief agencies." Both were deeply affected by what they saw and heard.
Rep. Baird said, "The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering?The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools; of entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching. What went on here? And what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words."
Commenting on the current status of the flow of needed goods, Rep. Ellison said, "We are glad that President Obama acted quickly to send much needed humanitarian funding to Gaza for this effort. However, the arbitrary and unreasonable Israeli limitations on food, and repair and reconstruction materials are unacceptable and indefensible. People; innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in."
Concluding their joint statement, Reps. Baird and Ellison emphasized that, "Just as the people of Gaza should not be subject to what they have experienced, the Israeli civilians should not have to live in fear of constant and indiscriminate rocketing." They urged the region and the international community to "recommit itself to making the difficult but necessary changes to bring about lasting and just peace, and security for the region" and cited President Obama's "important and encouraging initiatives" including the appointment of Special Middle East Envoy Senator George Mitchell who they said, "will undoubtedly listen long to the aggrieved parties and then give advice accordingly." To view the full statement, visit

In East Jerusalem, U.S. Officials Meet with Palestinian Christian Leader, Visit Christian Institution
Prior to their historic visit to Gaza, Representatives Keith Ellison and Brian Baird also spent time in East Jerusalem, meeting with the Right Revered Dr. Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, who was denied entry to Gaza just a couple of weeks ago when attempting to make a pastoral visit there. Bishop Dawani had invited the two Members to visit him at St. George's Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem when he met them at the "2009 U.S. Islamic World Forum ? Common Challenges" in Doha, Qatar. According to a press release, "Bishop Dawani briefed the two Congressmen on the work and mission of the Diocese and its active involvement in Ecumenical and interfaith endeavors."
Press Release:
Ellison and Baird also visited the Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), run by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and located on the Mount of Olives. According to a report by the LWF Regional Representative, the Rev. Mark Brown and the Chief Executive Officer of AVH, Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, the hospital received in the span of one week three visits from U.S. officials and friends in cooperation with the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. The visits are a testament to the significant work being done by the hospital and the unique role it plays as part of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network and the Palestinian health system at large.
Reps. Ellison and Baird toured the partially opened new Specialized Center for Child Care and met with patients from Gaza who gave their first-hand testimony as to the worsening medical conditions of their children and the extreme difficulties they are facing in accessing the unique services at AVH. They also received an update on the access situation facing all East Jerusalem Hospitals. In their joint statement, the two Members noted their visit of Palestinian hospitals and meetings "with doctors, nurses and hospital directors who described how official Israeli policies restrict border checkpoints which make it exceedingly difficult and expensive for patients, nurses, medical technicians, and other essential personnel to reach the hospital to receive or provide care."
Other visitors to the hospital included Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) as well as Ms. Hadassah Lieberman (wife of Senator Lieberman I-CT) accompanied by Ms. Leslie Genier, wife of the US Ambassador to Israel, Mr. James B. Cunningham. Holt toured the Specialized Center for Child Care; Hadassah Leiberman and Genier toured the cancer center for adults and children and were briefed on the cancer situation in the Palestinian population.
CMEP has sent thank you letters to Reps. Ellison, Baird, Holt and Sen. Kerry for witnessing firsthand the struggles of both Israelis and Palestinians during their recent trips to the Holy Land. CMEP is requesting meetings with each to express in person the church coalition's appreciation.
Please take a moment to add your thanks. View the CMEP thank you letters and find email contact information at

Friday, February 20, 2009

OKLA. MUSLIM ALLOWED TO TAKE DRIVER’S PHOTO WITH HIJAB - TOP(OKLAHOMA CITY, OK ­ 2/20/09) - The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) today thanked that state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) for allowing a Muslim driver to take her driver’s license photograph while wearing a religiously-mandated head scarf, or hijab. CAIR-OK said the Muslim driver attempted to renew her driver's license in September of last year, but was initially told her she was required to pull her hijab back past her hairline. Following intervention by CAIR-OK, the director of the DPS Driver License Examining Division offered to take the photograph with hijab and to institute diversity training for staff.SEE: Metro Woman Said Religious Beliefs Compromised (Video)SEE ALSO: Muslim Woman Takes Driver's Photo with Head Scarf (Video)The Muslim driver received an apology and DPS clarified its policy on religious accommodations. That policy states that head covering is permitted if it does not “obstruct a full front view of the face from hairline to chin.”“We appreciate the support of the DPS in resolving this matter and upholding the constitutional right to freedom of religious practice,” said CAIR-OK Executive Director Razi Hashmi. “CAIR will continue to work with DPS on training to prevent similar situations.” Hashmi said that according to a 2004 CAIR review, most states, with the exception of Georgia, Kentucky and New Hampshire, have addressed religious accommodation concerns. Five states - Arkansas, Mississippi, Kansas, Missouri, and Maine - recognize some religious practices, while the other 42 states have adopted more inclusive approaches to religious accommodation policies.SEE: Religious Accommodation in Driver’s License PhotographsCAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.CONTACT: CAIR-OK Executive Director Razi Hashmi, 405-248-5853, E-Mail:; CAIR-OK Chairperson Lobna Hewedi, E-Mail:; CAIR-OK Operations Coordinator Tariq Ahmad, E-Mail: APPOINTS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - TOP(SEATTLE, WA, 2/20/09) ­ The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) announced that Arsalan Bukhari has been appointed as its new Executive Director.
Bukhari grew up in Seattle, graduated from Ingraham High School in 1998 and then attended Seattle University where he received a bachelor's degree in Business Finance. In 2006, Bukhari joined CAIR-Washington (then known as CAIR-Seattle) as a volunteer and became the chapter's Board President approximately one year later.
"It is a profound honor to be appointed Director of an organization that has advocated for the civil rights of American Muslims for 15 years," said Bukhari.Bukhari said his top priorities are to:
Address the 50 civil rights cases our chapter received last year and the 5 cases it has received so far in 2009
Facilitate working relationships between local Muslim communities and their elected officials, law enforcement, interfaith networks, and media outlets
Address the increasing penetration of Islamophobic rhetoric into mainstream discourse
Train Muslim youth in professional activism and positive self-expression through our Symposia and internship programs.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.CONTACT: CAIR Washington Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari, Office Phone: 206.367.4081, Cell Phone: 206.931.3655, E-Mail: REP

SPEAKS TO MED. STUDENTS ABOUT AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUSLIM HISTORY - TOP(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 2/20/09) A representative of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) yesterday spoke at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., about the historical evolution of African-American Muslims.
CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid addressed medical students regarding the early history of African-American Muslims beginning at the formation of the British colonies to the historical significance of Detroit for African-American Muslims. Click here to listen to audio.CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.CONTACT: CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, Tel: 248-559-2247, E-Mail: ORDER AGAINST IGNORANCE - TOPKari Ansari, Chicago Tribune, 2/20/09
Aasiya Zubair Hassan is dead of decapitation.
When we in the Muslim community received this news we prayed for her soul and held our collective breath, waiting for the negative associations to surface in media reports. Sure enough, the term "honor killing" has risen like green scum on a stagnant pond, giving every Muslim-bashing blog and ultraconservative media outlet a proverbial field day.
What could be more ironic? A Muslim TV executive charged with decapitating his Muslim wife. Aasiya and her estranged husband, Muzzammil Hassan, founded an upstate New York cable TV channel called Bridges Television whose mission was to promote a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.
Now I'm even reading comments from people who worked with her on a professional level using the term honor killing to describe her death. Women's groups who know nothing about the situation are throwing the term around as if they know what it implies and what it entails, associating it with the murder of Aasiya.
First, let's get one fact straight. Islamic law does not allow a man to kill his wife, for any reason. There is nothing in the teachings of the faith that says a man should protect the honor of his stature in the community by committing violence against a woman.
While the problem of honor killings does still certainly exist in the Muslim and Hindu worlds, and in other patriarchal societies, we are addressing this problem on a worldwide basis, working to eradicate this cultural practice. However it must be said that in the case of Islam, these brutal acts occur in spite of the faith, not because of it.
When Nicole Simpson was savagely murdered, her throat was stabbed numerous times almost to the point of decapitation; did we call this an honor killing? Did anyone say the alleged killer, O.J. Simpson, did it because he was black, or a Christian? No. There was a long, documented history of domestic violence perpetrated on Nicole by O.J. This murder of Aasiya is no different.
Violence against women has no educational, racial, socioeconomic or religious bounds. Aasiya's story should give us the impetus to do more to protect all women from domestic violence. We as a society should not sully the memory of Aasiya Zubair Hassan's mission to build bridges of understanding between people by painting her faith with a broad black brush of mistrust and intolerance.
[Kari Ansari is the editor of America's Muslim Family Magazine based in Villa Park.]
Yesterday, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) delivered “a lecture on Islam” at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Santorum argued that the American public knows too little about the Islamic faith, and to prove his point, he asked the students whether they knew the difference between Sunnis and Shias. Only three audience members raised their hands. He continued:
Santorum said he believes Muslims’ religious views cannot be changed or altered, so Middle Easterners reject American, democratic ideals.
“A democracy could not exist because Mohammed already made the perfect law,” Santorum said. “The Quran is perfect just the way it is, that’s why it is only written in Islamic.”
As a self-anointed scholar of Islam, it’s surprising that Santorum would assert that the Qur’an is “written in Islamic.” It is, of course, originally written in Arabic. (MORE)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CMEP Bulletin: CMEP's Director on PBS, House Hearing Highlights Key Issues & Other Hill Updates
1. CMEP's Director Discusses Israeli Elections on PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly
2. House Hearing: Members Highlight Settlements, Palestinian Unity, Humanitarian Issues
3. House Resolution Supporting Special Envoy Mitchell Up to 56 Co-sponsors
4. CMEP Sends Policy Guide to 111th Congress
If you missed today's CMEP network conference call with Professor Nathan Brown, "After Gaza: Challenges Facing Obama's Peace Efforts", you can listen to a recording at
1. CMEP's Director on PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly
CMEP's Executive Director, Warren Clark, appeared on PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly show aired on Sunday, February 15th. Clark was a guest along with Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia and chair of the Interfaith Alliance. Bob Abernethy moderation their discussion of the outcome of the Israeli election and prospects for reconciliation in the region.
Listen to the show and view the transcript:
2. House Hearing: Members Highlight Settlements, Palestinian Unity, Humanitarian Issues
The House Committee on Foreign Affair's Subcommittee on the Middle East and South held its first hearing of the year last Thursday, February 12th on "Gaza After the War: What Can Be Built on the Wreckage?". Speakers included David Makovsky, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Ziad Asali, American Taskforce on Palestine, Michele Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute. Highlights from key statements by Members of Congress are included below. The speakers' testimonies can be viewed here:
Reps. Ackerman and Wexler Criticize Settlements
Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), chairman of the subcommittee and a longstanding Jewish-American leader in Congress, opened the hearing with an important statement identifying both Israeli and Palestinian actions as contributing to a situation in which the two-state solution may be "finally rendered impossible." Ackerman cited Israeli settlements as a key problem, saying the downward pressure comes "from terrorism and the march of settlements. It comes from the firing of rockets and the perpetration of settler pogroms?and yes, from diggings in Jerusalem as well." Ackerman was complementary of security efforts by the Palestinian Authority but said, "what can be made of the new and growing security dynamic in the West Bank, remains to be seen. A lot will depend on whether Israel--in a break from years of habit--can recognize its own self-interest in the success of this Palestinian enterprise." The full opening statement by Chairman Ackerman can be viewed here:
Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL), also a leading pro-Israel voice also highlighted the settlement issue, stressing that as a strong supporter of the state of Israel, he must state in an "unequivocal fashion, it is incumbent upon Israel to freeze settlement activity." While emphasizing that "Palestinians have enormous responsibilities" he said, "the notion that Israel can continue to expand settlements, whether it be through natural growth or otherwise without diminishing the capacity of a two-state solution is both unrealistic, and I would respectfully suggest hypocritical."
Ackerman and Wexler's comments are particularly significant in light of news that plans may be progressing for a major new expansion of the West Bank settlement of Efrat. The Obama Administration has not yet commented on Israeli settlement activity, but a Feb. 15th article by the Israeli journalist Avika Eldar in Haaretz reported that the Obama Administration "is preparing to put heavy pressure on the new [Israeli] government to freeze all settlement construction and keep its promises to lift roadblocks."
Rep. Ellison on Palestinian Unity and Gaza's Borders; Rep. McMahon on Humanitarian Issues and Peace
Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim-American Member of Congress, probed the hearing speakers on key issues related to Gaza, including initiating a discussion about unity among Palestinian factions. Ellison said, "we have now a three-state situation not a two-state" and asked, "What position should the U.S. take regarding Palestinian unity talks?" He noted that, "if Mr. Mahmoud Abbas said, I will sign any document you put in front of me, he still couldn't speak for all the Palestinian people." Michele Dunne from the Carnegie Endowment responded to Ellison's question, saying that, "this lack of Palestinian unity, lack of a unified leadership is a serious problem moving forward." She was encouraging of U.S. support for Egyptian efforts to "get Fatah and Hamas talking to each other and to try to work out some sort of a unified arrangement?so that there can be a restoration of some semblance of connection or unity between the West Bank and Gaza once again."
Ellison also highlighted the need to open up Gaza's borders, asking, "What progress can we make in terms of opening up the crossings? As I understand from -- things I have read from UNRWA [there are] about 120 trucks going through the [Karni] crossing now and they need about 700 a day." Ziad Asali of the American Taskforce on Palestine affirmed that many truckloads are indeed not gaining access to Gaza and urged that the two related issues of humanitarian relief and reconstruction be "dealt with immediately."
Rep. Michael McMahon (D-NY), a new Member of Congress and new to the committee also pressed the speakers on Gaza's humanitarian situation, asking "what's going on in the daily lives of the people there?" In an opening statement he emphasized that he remains "hopeful that a secure peace agreement that embraces the two-state solution can be reached through the leadership of President Barack Obama and Senator Mitchell" and expressed hope that the subcommittee hearing would help "bring humanitarian relief to all those who suffer in the region and reaffirm Congress' "commitment that the only future for Israel and Palestine is a path to peace."
3. House Resolution Supporting Special Envoy Mitchell Up to 56 Co-sponsors
House Resolution 130, expressing Congressional support for the appointment of Senator George Mitchell as Special Envoy for Middle East Peace has now garnered 56 sponsors. The resolution, initially introduced on Feb. 4th by a diverse group of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Arab-American Representatives, Democrat and Republican, commits to supporting the Obama Administration's "vigorous pursuit of a diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts based on the establishment of 2 states" and reaffirms Middle East peace as "essential" to U.S. national security interests. View the full text of the resolution here.
CMEP is supporting this resolution along with a broad group of Jewish and Arab American organizations, including Americans for Peace Now, the Arab American Institute, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Israel Policy Forum, and J Street.
To check if your Representative is a current co-sponsor, please click here. If he/she is, please send a note of thanks. If not, you can send an email urging support of H. Res. 130 with our online system by clicking here.
4. CMEP Sends Policy Guide to 110th Congress
Last week CMEP delivered a policy guide to all House and Senate offices, outlining longstanding CMEP positions and key recommendations related to Middle East peace issues. The introduction to the policy guide urged Members of Congress to meet the challenges of conflict and instability in the Middle East with "compassion, understanding and a strong will to act ? for the wellbeing of all the peoples of the region and the United States." The guide includes six sections: U.S. Leadership and Diplomacy; The Two-State Solution; U.S. Policy and Israel; U.S. Policy and the Palestinians; Holy Land Christians; Jerusalem- Home to Two Peoples, Three Faiths; U.S. Policy Toward Iran; and A Comprehensive Peace and Regional Issues.
The policy guide was accompanied by a cover letter with greetings to the 111th Congress. Also included was a copy of the ecumenical letter to President Obama urged a priority for Holy Land peace that was signed by 41 national leaders and 17,000 Christians from all 50 states. The cover letter reminded Representatives and Senators that their actions have a "profound impact on U.S. national security and relationships throughout the region and the world" and urged them to consult CMEP's policy guide as they consider legislation and make statements on Middle East peace issues.
View policy guide >
CIA agents are using a potent new weapon to aid the fight against the Taliban – Viagra pills.
The sex-boost drug is being used to bribe Afghan tribal warlords in return for vital intelligence information.
The elderly chiefs often have up to four wives to keep happy – and one ex-CIA agent in Afghanistan revealed how a 60-year-old warlord was persuaded to assist Coalition forces after they offered to ensure he was up to the task.
The chief had extensive knowledge of the area and controlled key passages, but was reluctant to help. US forces won his loyalty by handing over four blue pills after a medical check-up.
When troops returned four days later, the satisfied chief happily spilled the beans on Taliban movements and supply routes.
The CIA agent said: “He came up to us beaming. He said, ‘You are a great man.’
“After that, we could do whatever we wanted in his area.”
Bribing chiefs with medicine and school supplies has been standard practice since the Coalition entered Afghanistan in 2001.
Jamie Smith, another retired CIA agent, said: “You’re trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th Century and people from the 21st. So you look for those common things that motivate people everywhere.”
Penn. Muslim Students Allowed to Wear KaffiyehsStudents initially barred from high school to ‘diffuse tension’
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/18/09) - CAIR announced today that two Muslim high school students in Pennsylvania will now be allowed to wear kaffiyehs, a checkered scarf worn by many men in the Middle East.
The students at Gateway High School in Monroeville, Penn., were sent home yesterday after refusing to remove their kaffiyehs.
SEE: Gateway H.S. Agrees to Allow Scarves (Video)SEE ALSO: Gateway Students Allowed to Wear Cultural Scarves (Video)Gateway Students Allowed to Wear Arab Scarves (Post-Gazette)
In a meeting this morning with the parents of one of the students and a representative of CAIR’s Pittsburgh chapter, the school’s principal agreed to allow the kaffiyehs. He reportedly said his initial ban on the scarves was an attempt to “diffuse tension” between Jewish and Muslim students. The Muslim students say they suffered verbal abuse after another student at the school published a commentary falsely claiming the scarves are “hate” clothing.
SEE: Penn. Muslims Removed from School Over Kaffiyehs (Video)
Other organizations represented in today’s meeting with school officials included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, American Friends Service Committee, Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium, Middle East Peace Forum, Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, the Thomas Merton Center, Universal Academy, Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, and Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
“We thank school officials for recognizing that all students have the right to freedom of expression and that cultural symbols such as kaffiyehs have nothing to do with hate or terrorism,” said CAIR-Pittsburgh Communications Coordinator Zohra Lasania. She also thanked all the other groups that turned out in defense of constitutional rights.
Lasania added that CAIR publishes a booklet, called “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” designed to help school administrators understand Muslim beliefs and to promote a positive learning environment.
SEE: An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices SEE: Freedom of Expression

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FLA. MUSLIMS ASK SYNAGOGUE TO BALANCE PRESENTATION ON ISLAM - TOPControversial speaker says hijab related to ‘growth of terrorism’
(TAMPA, FL, 2/17/09) - The Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Tampa) today called on a local synagogue to invite a representative of the Muslim community who can offer a balancing perspective to a controversial speaker who claims wearing an Islamic head scarf, or hijab, is related to the “growth of terrorism.”
CAIR-Tampa said that “inflammatory” claim about hijab could endanger the tens of thousands of Florida Muslim women who wear Islamic head scarves every day.
The speaker, Tawfik Hamid, will lecture Wednesday at Temple Beth Sholom in Sarasota, Fla. Part of Hamid’s lecture will outline the alleged role hijab plays in the “proliferation of radical Islam.” In 2007, the Detroit Free Press quoted Hamid saying that there is a “correlation between the increase in the use of the hijab, an Islamic headscarf, and the growth of terrorism.” (3/14/07) Wednesday’s event is sponsored by West Coast Florida Chapter of the American Jewish Committee.
SEE: Islamic Reformer, Former Terrorist to Speak
Hamid has in the past faced criticism over the credibility of his claim to be an “Islamic reformer.”
SEE: Tawfiq Hamid, “Islamic Reformer” Who Hates Islam
“Any inflammatory claim that Islamic attire is related to terrorism should be balanced with accurate information about Islam and Muslims,” said CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ramzy Kiliç. “We respectfully request that Temple Beth Sholom invite a representative of the mainstream Florida Muslim community to offer a balancing perspective.”
Kiliç contacted Temple Beth Sholom last week about adding a balancing perspective to the controversial speaker, but the synagogue has not responded.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CONTACT: CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ramzy Kiliç, 813-486-2529, E-Mail:; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail:
CAIR-CHICAGO: MUSLIM AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT ATTENDANT ALLEGES BIAS - TOP(CHICAGO, IL, 2/17/09) - The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) announced today that it has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, on behalf of a Muslim flight attendant who allegedly suffered discrimination by his employer, American Airlines.In 2004 and 2007 the flight attendant requested religious accommodations, which included working a ground job, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.Although American Airlines regularly grants special ground assignments in similar situations, the Muslim man was denied any such assignment. A Flight Service representative allegedly told the victim that the company feared that other Muslim employees would request similar accommodations.The flight attendant, who has been working for American Airlines since 1998, also cited other incidents of discrimination in the workplace. CAIR-Chicago is working to achieve a just resolution to this matter.CAIR-Chicago, a chapter of America's largest Muslim civil rights group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.CONTACT: Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director, CAIR-Chicago, E-Mail:, 312.212.1520; or 202.870.0016; Amina Sharif, Communications Coordinator, CAIR-Chicago, 630.935.5562; E-Mail:
Click here to watch the video.
A civil rights group says federal investigators have been randomly stopping Somali residents at malls, college campuses and the airport to question them.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it has heard from 50 to 100 people stopped by federal agents since news broke about the disappearance of several young Somali men. The men's families worry they have returned to Somalia to fight.
"There seems to be no consistency here on who's being questioned," said Civil Rights Director Taneeza Islam. "It does seem like religious or racial profiling." Twenty-year-old University of Minnesota sophomore Saida Hassan says she was questioned at the airport for three hours and never told why she was detained. (MORE)
By Imam Mohamed Hagmagid AliExecutive Director, ADAMS CenterVice-President, The Islamic Society of North America
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is saddened and shocked by the news of the loss of one of our respected sisters, Aasiya Hassan whose life was taken violently. To God we belong and to Him we return (Qur’an 2:156). We pray that she find peace in God’s infinite Mercy, and our prayers and sympathies are with sister Aasiya’s family. Our prayers are also with the Muslim community of Buffalo who have been devastated by the loss of their beloved sister and the shocking nature of this incident.
This is a wake up call to all of us, that violence against women is real and can not be ignored. It must be addressed collectively by every member of our community. Several times each day in America, a woman is abused or assaulted. Domestic violence is a behavior that knows no boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, or social status. Domestic violence occurs in every community. The Muslim community is not exempt from this issue. We, the Muslim community, need to take a strong stand against domestic violence. Unfortunately, some of us ignore such problems in our community, wanting to think that it does not occur among Muslims or we downgrade its seriousness.
I call upon my fellow imams and community leaders to never second-guess a woman who comes to us indicating that she feels her life to be in danger. We should provide support and help to protect the victims of domestic violence by providing for them a safe place and inform them of their rights as well as refer them to social service providers in our areas.
Marriage is a relationship that should be based on love, mutual respect and kindness. No one who experiences a marriage that is built on these principles would pretend that their life is in danger. We must respond to all complaints or reports of abuse as genuine and we must take appropriate and immediate action to ensure the victim’s safety, as well as the safety of any children that may be involved.
Women who seek divorce from their spouses because of physical abuse should get full support from the community and should not be viewed as someone who has brought shame to herself or her family. The shame is on the person who committed the act of violence or abuse. Our community needs to take a strong stand against abusive spouses. We should not make it easy for people who are known to abuse to remarry if they have already victimized someone. We should support people who work against domestic violence in our community, whether they are educators, social service providers, community leaders, or other professionals. . .
As Allah says in the Qur’an: “O ye who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do” (4:136).
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never hit a women or child in his life. (MORE)
Click here to read the full statement.
(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 2/17/09) - A representative of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) today participated in a school discussion pertaining to the historical significance between Muslims and Black History Month at Finney High School in Detroit, Mich.
CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid spoke to students about the history of African-American Muslims, from West African Muslims who were brought to America during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to recent accomplishments of prominent African-American Muslims.
“We welcome opportunities like this to inform the future leaders of our country that Islam in America is not a new phenomenon, but an integral part of American history,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, Tel: 248-559-2247, E-Mail:
(SAN DIEGO, CA, 2/17/09) - The San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-San Diego) participated last night in a panel discussion after a screening of the documentary “Occupation 101,” which covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The event was organized by Activist San Diego.
CAIR-San Diego Public Relations Director Edgar Hopida addressed an audience of progressive activists on practical ways to inform the wider public about the brutal Israeli military occupation. Edward Sweed the co-founder of Alternate Focus was also part of the panel to discuss the different media tools activists could use to promote justice for the Palestinians.
“It is important for progressive activists in San Diego to learn more about the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to help mobilize a wider grassroots effort in bringing an end to injustice in the Middle East,” said CAIR-San Diego Public Relations Director Edgar Hopida.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-San Diego Public Relations Director Edgar Hopida, Tel: 619-913-0719 or 858-278-4547, E-Mail:
-----THOUSANDS OF SHI'ITE MUSLIMS MARCH IN DEARBORN - TOPNiraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, 2/15/09
Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims trudged through snow-covered sidewalks in Dearborn Sunday afternoon in a procession to remember the death of a Muslim leader killed in 7th century Iraq.
The 2-mile procession featured colorful flags in honor of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Islam's prophet, religious songs, and cries of "We support you, Oh Hussain."
The worshippers started at the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center on Warren Ave., the main commercial strip of Dearborn, and then walked to nearby Hemlock Park. There, they recited poetry and tapped their chests in mourning rituals known as latmiya.
Dearborn Police Lt. Wayne Seccombe estimated the crowd was between 2,000 and 5,000.
"We are here as lovers of Imam Hussain, lovers of freedom, of justice, of democracy," said Imam Husham Al-Husainy, the head of the Karbalaa center and the parade's organizer. "Imam Hussain is still alive with us, even though he was martyred 1400 years ago. His spirit is still alive."
The parade was held close to the 40th day after the death anniversary of Imam Hussain, who was killed in battle. Shi'ite Muslims, a minority among the broader Muslim community, remember Hussain every year during a holiday known as Ashura. (MORE)
SEE ALSO:TN: YOUNG MUSLIMS, JEWS WORK TOWARD PEACE - TOPGroups try to bridge gap between religionsBob Smietana, The Tennessean, 2/17/09
Shoshana Jaffa sums up the conflict in the Middle East like this: "Everybody wants to meet halfway, but no one knows where halfway is."
Jaffa was one of about 45 Jewish and Muslim teens and young adults who met Sunday at Congregation Micah in Brentwood to discuss the recent fighting in Gaza.
It's part of a dialogue between local Jews and Muslims aimed at building understanding between young people of different faiths. Organizers hope that if young people can learn to discuss the Middle East civilly, perhaps their parents can, as well.
In fact, there was just one rule in place at Sunday morning's meeting — no parents allowed.
"Adults can't have this conversation," Michael Pote, a Sunday School teacher at Congregation Micah, said to the interfaith group meeting in a classroom at the Brentwood synagogue. "Things like this don't happen, and it's a shame."
Pote says that Jewish and Muslim adults rarely discuss the Middle East conflict without ending in a shouting match. He and other organizers hope that young people can show their parents and faith communities a better way.
Sunday's meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue between youth groups at the Islamic Center of Nashville and two local synagogues, Congregation Micah and West End Synagogue in Nashville. (MORE)
-----NE: IMAM, CHAPLAIN 'BRIDGING TWO WORLDS' - TOPOmaha World-Herald, 2/17/09
The man who could become the first Muslim chaplain in National Guard history is the son of a Baptist mother and a Catholic father who will face east toward Mecca today and pray alone inside his Omaha, Neb., office.
2nd Lt. Rafael Lantigua -- half African-American, half Dominican-American, entirely Muslim-American -- has an easy way to describe his long strange trip from Army brat to Air Force veteran to the brink of Guard history.
He first points to his Guard-issued camouflage jacket, then to his matching green Muslim prayer cap. He smiles.
Lantigua's journey began at age 11, when he went to an Army post library in Oklahoma and checked out a book he'd never heard of: the Koran.
It eventually led him to Afghanistan, where he posed as an Arab businessman for the CIA. It sent him to Iraq, where he prayed in Arabic while holding the hands of Muslim civilians bleeding to death from an insurgent's bomb.
Now it finds the 32-year-old in Omaha recruiting Pakistani-Americans and Sudanese refugees to the Nebraska National Guard by day and studying Islamic theology by night.
According to Nebraska National Guard officials, he is the first Muslim candidate for chaplain in the 372-year history of the National Guard, which traces its origins to colonial militias. He is scheduled to finish his religious training in 2012 and become the Guard's first Muslim chaplain.
"I see myself as a bridge between two worlds, because I can stand on both sides," Lantigua said. "When our new commander in chief said he wanted to extend a hand to the Muslim world, I thought, 'I can do that.'" (MORE)
TESTIMONY OF SPC. BRANDON NEELY - TOPCenter for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas
On December 4, 2008, Specialist Brandon Neely approached CSHRA with testimony he wished to contribute to the Guantánamo Testimonials Project. He believed that insufficient attention had been paid to "the hell that went on at Camp X-Ray." He would be in a position to know, as he arrived in Guantánamo while the cages of Camp X-Ray were still being welded, and escorted the second detainee to hit the prison grounds.
In this interview, Specialist Neely provides testimony of the arrival of the detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, possible isolation regime of the first six children in GTMO, utter lack of preparation for guarding individuals detained during the War on Terror, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed.
Click here to read the interview transcript.
FORMER GITMO GUARD TELLS ALL - TOPScott Horton, Harper’s Magazine, 2/15/09
Army Private Brandon Neely served as a prison guard at Guantánamo in the first years the facility was in operation. With the Bush Administration, and thus the threat of retaliation against him, now gone, Neely decided to step forward and tell his story. “The stuff I did and the stuff I saw was just wrong,” he told the Associated Press. Neely describes the arrival of detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, he details their sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, an isolation regime that was put in place for child-detainees, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed. It makes for fascinating reading.
Neely’s comprehensive account runs to roughly 15,000 words. It was compiled by law students at the University of California at Davis and can be accessed here. Three things struck me in reading through the account.
First, Neely and other guards had been trained to the U.S. military’s traditional application of the Geneva Convention rules. They were put under great pressure to get rough with the prisoners and to violate the standards they learned. This placed the prison guards under unjustifiable mental stress and anxiety, and, as any person familiar with the vast psychological literature in the area (think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, for instance) would have anticipated produced abuses. Neely discusses at some length the notion of IRF (initial reaction force), a technique devised to brutalize or physically beat a detainee under the pretense that he required being physically subdued. The IRF approach was devised to use a perceived legal loophole in the prohibition on torture. Neely’s testimony makes clear that IRF was understood by everyone, including the prison guards who applied it, as a subterfuge for beating and mistreating prisoners—and that it had nothing to do with the need to preserve discipline and order in the prison.
Second, there is a good deal of discussion of displays of contempt for Islam by the camp authorities, and also specific documentation of mistreatment of the Qu’ran. Remember that the Neocon-laden Pentagon Public Affairs office launched a war against Newsweek based on a very brief piece that appeared in the magazine’s Periscope section concerning the mistreatment of a Qu’ran by a prison guard. Not only was the Newsweek report accurate in its essence, it actually understated the gravity and scope of the problem. Moreover, it is clear that the Pentagon Public Affairs office was fully aware, even as it went on the attack against Newsweek, that its claims were false and the weekly’s reporting was accurate. (MORE)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Minnesota Somalis Being Stopped, Questioned
By Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio, 2/13/09
Ever since news broke a few months ago on the disappearances of young Somali men from the Twin Cities, local Somali residents say federal investigators have been randomly stopping people to ask them questions at malls, college campuses, and the airport. One civil-rights group representing Muslims in the U.S. has compared the questioning to a fishing expedition.
Click here to listen to this story.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has heard directly from 50 to 100 individuals who say they've been stopped by federal agents in recent months. The council has begun increasing the number of "Know Your Rights" presentations in the community.
SEE: Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim
Lori Saroya, who chairs the state chapter, said religious profiling is something that all Muslims have faced since 9/11, but some Somalis are just now beginning to encounter it. Saroya said the FBI's approach has intimidated some Somalis who have traditionally feared government because of the oppression they knew in their old country.
"We had one man who was walking on the street, and the FBI agent invited him into his car," Saroya said. "There was one agent sitting in the front seat and another agent in the back seat. According to him, he was bombarded with questions. He just answered "no" to everything. He was just so scared."…

Friday, February 13, 2009

CMEP Delivers Obama Letter with 17,000 Signers to White House
The Christian Call for Holy Land Peace, an ecumenical letter to President Obama, signed by 41 prominent national church leaders and over 17,000 American Christians, was delivered this week to the Obama Administration. A delegation from Churches for Middle East Peace met with Daniel Shapiro, the White House's National Security Council Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa to present the letter.
Members of the Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant traditions joined together to support the letter's message urging President-elect Obama to make Israeli-Palestinian peace an immediate priority of his Administration. Signers from all fifty states were represented among the 17,000 signers as well as over 2,100 clergy from a wide range of denominations.
The CMEP delegation that met with Shapiro on February 11th included CMEP staff and members of CMEP's Board of Directors and Leadership Council. The group presented the Administration with the letter and details on the tremendous grassroots response from the Christian community. They expressed appreciation for the Obama Administration's early statements and actions in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace, including the appointment of Senator George Mitchell as Special Envoy to the Middle East on day two of the Administration. During the meeting, the delegation and Mr. Shapiro engaged in fruitful dialogue including being briefed on the recent trip to the region by Special Envoy Mitchell.
CMEP would like to thank everyone who took a stand for peace and signed the letter to President Obama during the Christians Call for Holy Land Peace campaign. The unprecedented grassroots response to the urgent need for securing a just and lasting two-state peace provides a strong groundwork for the advocacy work ahead. The Obama Administration's priority on peacemaking is encouraging, but the tasks are complex and formidable, and will require robust and sustained U.S. diplomatic engagement, with bi-partisan Congressional support.
In the coming weeks and months, CMEP will continue to offer opportunities for you to take an active role in advocating for Holy Land peace. Along with our periodic action alerts on important peace-related legislation in Congress (link to Mitchell alert), we hope many of you will consider taking part in home visits with your Congressional delegation during the spring recess in April or engaging your elected officials during our Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. being held from June 7-9. Thanks for all that you do on behalf of Holy Land

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Targeting civilians is forbiddenIn light of the recent escalation in violence around the Gaza Strip, and the firing of rockets towards Israeli communities, B'Tselem has repeated its demand that all parties to the hostilities prevent the harming of civilians. The rules of war obligate all parties to a conflict to do their utmost to defend the civilian population.
Ofra - Illegal outpostIn a new report B'Tselem reveals that, based on the Sasson report criteria that the government adopted, Ofra is an illegal outpost. 58% of the settlement's built-up area is registered to Palestinians in the Land Registrar. Also, no area of jurisdiction has ever been defined for the settlement, and no outline plan has ever been approved for it, making the hundreds of houses built there illegal.
Soldier charged with killing child flees IsraelIn April 2004, an indictment was filed against a soldier who shot and killed 'Omar Matar in the Qalandiya refugee camp in March 2003. In June 2008, following repeated letters from B'Tselem, the IDF Spokesperson responded that, "no verdict has been given in the case, given that the matter is still being heard and the defendant left the country and is staying abroad."
Settler to serve 16 months in jail for shooting PalestinianIn September 2007, settler Ehud Gadot fired at Palestinian shepherds in 'Ein al-Beida, in the northeast West Bank, hitting Muhammad Abu Mutawe'a and paralyzing him. In a plea bargain, Gadot pleaded guilty. On 14 December 2008, the District Court sentenced him to prison for 16 months.
Electricity blackouts in Gaza endanger child's lifeThe life of Yasser Sweisi, 11, depends on a respirator. The frequent blackouts resulting from the siege on Gaza forced his parents to buy a generator. When the fuel needed to operate the generator runs out, they use a manual respirator.
Gaza: Israel prevents toddler in need of surgery from returning home to West BankA year ago, Sonia Rasaras, a resident of the West Bank, took her children to visit her ailing father in the Gaza Strip. Since then, Israel has prevented her from returning home. As a result, her disabled 18-month-old daughter cannot receive medical treatment or the surgery she needs.
High Court voids amended route offered by State for Bil'in barrierOn 15 December 2008, in a rare decision, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that the second amended route of the barrier proposed by the State on the lands of Bil'in is also illegal. The court ruled that the proposed route violates the Court ruling from Sept. '07, and ordered the State to pay the residents of Bil'in legal expenses to the sum of 10,000 NIS.