Tuesday, March 31, 2009

10 TERMS NOT TO USE WITH MUSLIMS - TOPThere's a big difference between what we say and what they hear.Chris Seiple, Christian Science Monitor, 3/28/09
Arlington, Va. - In the course of my travels from the Middle East to Central Asia to Southeast Asia it has been my great privilege to meet and become friends with many devout Muslims. These friendships are defined by frank respect as we listen to each other; understand and agree on the what, why, and how of our disagreements, political and theological; and, most of all, deepen our points of commonality as a result.
I have learned much from my Muslim friends, foremost this: Political disagreements come and go, but genuine respect for each other, rooted in our respective faith traditions, does not. If there is no respect, there is no relationship, merely a transactional encounter that serves no one in the long term.
As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them. Obviously, we are not going to throw out all of these terms, nor should we. But we do need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.
1. "The Clash of Civilizations." Invariably, this kind of discussion ends up with us as the good guy and them as the bad guy. There is no clash of civilizations, only a clash between those who are for civilization, and those who are against it. Civilization has many characteristics but two are foundational: 1) It has no place for those who encourage, invite, and/or commit the murder of innocent civilians; and 2) It is defined by institutions that protect and promote both the minority and the transparent rule of law.
2. "Secular." The Muslim ear tends to hear "godless" with the pronunciation of this word. And a godless society is simply inconceivable to the vast majority of Muslims worldwide. Pluralism which encourages those with (and those without) a God-based worldview to have a welcomed and equal place in the public square is a much better word.
3. "Assimilation." This word suggests that the minority Muslim groups in North America and Europe need to look like the majority, Christian culture. Integration, on the other hand, suggests that all views, majority and minority, deserve equal respect as long as each is willing to be civil with one another amid the public square of a shared society.
4. "Reformation." Muslims know quite well, and have an opinion about, the battle taking place within Islam and what it means to be an orthodox and devout Muslim. They don't need to be insulted by suggesting they follow the Christian example of Martin Luther. Instead, ask how Muslims understand ijtihad, or reinterpretation, within their faith traditions and cultural communities.
5. "Jihadi." The jihad is an internal struggle first, a process of improving one's spiritual self-discipline and getting closer to God. The lesser jihad is external, validating "just war" when necessary. By calling the groups we are fighting "jihadis," we confirm their own and the worldwide Muslim public's perception that they are religious. They are not. They are terrorists, hirabists, who consistently violate the most fundamental teachings of the Holy Koran and mainstream Islamic scholars and imams. (More)
After 10 weeks in office trying to save the U.S. economy, President Obama is ready to take on the world economy. Whether the world is ready for his remedy remains in doubt.
Obama flies to London on Tuesday, then on to four other nations, for his first overseas trip since assuming office and with the global economy in shambles. It's one of the most anticipated presidential trips since John Kennedy went to Berlin in 1963…
The trip is set to end in Turkey, a nation that is 99% Muslim but has direct ties to the West. "Turkey has always been viewed as a bridge between East and West, a kind of stabilizing influence in the region," says Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
In his inaugural address, Obama pledged to seek a new relationship with the Muslim world "based on mutual interest and mutual respect." As a result, his every move and phrase in Ankara and Istanbul will be closely followed. (More)
SEE ALSO:CAIR: MUSLIMS SEEKING GREATER INFLUENCE - TOPEffort puts resumes of top candidates in White House handsNoreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune, 3/29/09In a bid to get more Muslim Americans working in the Obama administration, a book with resumes of 45 of the nation's most qualified—Ivy League grads, Fortune 500 executives and public servants, all carefully vetted—has been submitted to the White House.
The effort, driven by community leaders and others, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), was bumped up two weeks ahead of schedule because White House officials heard about the venture, said J. Saleh Williams, program coordinator for the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association who sifted through more than 300 names.
"It was mostly under the radar," Williams said. "We thought it would put [the president] in a precarious position. We didn't know how closely he wanted to appear to be working with the Muslim American community."
The effort aims to get the administration focused on Muslim Americans, a group that has at times felt like a pariah. During the campaign, Obama's staff prevented Muslim women wearing head scarves from being photographed behind him, in one of many incidents that left Muslim Americans feeling slighted by the candidate.
Now, Muslim Americans—who according to a recent study overwhelmingly backed Obama in the November election—have been carefully watching the administration's every step.
Most expressed disappointment with Obama's initial silence during Israel's offensive in Gaza. They've been encouraged by the video message the president issued recently to the Iranian people on the eve of the Persian holiday of Nowruz, and they want more diplomacy with Syria and Iran. They've been troubled by FBI admissions of sending what activists call "agents provocateurs" into mosques, and the bureau's break in ties with Muslim American organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Community leaders hope the White House will consider Muslim Americans for posts in the administration. They say this is not just a chance for Muslim Americans to show their patriotism but also a chance for the country to engage the community and recognize its importance. There are an estimated 7 million to 8 million Muslims in America, but there have not been any Muslims appointed to key positions, as yet.
A White House aide confirmed the Obama administration had received the resumes, noting that it is "not unusual" for the administration to consider lists of job candidates suggested by constituent groups.
"We're still very much in the middle of the [hiring] process, even when it comes to very senior government employees. These things take time, and they're all based on finding the right fit," said the aide, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly for the administration.
"Muslims are not looking for handouts," said Abdul Malik Mujahid, the Downers Grove founder of the Muslim Democrats, who points to Zalmay Khalilzad, tapped by former President George W. Bush for many key roles. "We're just looking for equal opportunity and inclusiveness. That will give a far better message to the Muslim world than speeches." . . .
Some hope Atty. Gen. Eric Holder will reverse Bush administration actions such as the FBI's decision to break formal ties with CAIR because it was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case involving the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation.
"We're hoping that once Eric Holder puts the department in order and places people in different positions, we can re-establish what were very positive relations [with the FBI] in our 15-year history," said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. (More)
CAIR-TX: GENDER EQUITY ROOTED IN TEACHINGS OF ISLAM - TOPSarwat Husain, San Antonio Express News, 3/28/09
Throughout history, women all over the world had to struggle for equality in a male-dominated world. During International Women's Month, it's worth considering how Islam's teachings were an early harbinger of gender equity - contrary to a common misperception.
Prior to Islam, a female child was often regarded as a threat to the economic welfare of the family and some were even buried alive as soon as they were born. As an adult, she was a sex object that could be bought and sold. From this inferior position, Islam raised women to a position of influence and prestige in the family and in society.
Many of the rights conferred on women by the Prophet Muhammad more than 1,400 years ago have only partially and grudgingly been given to women in other cultures in recent centuries.
With respect to gender equity, the essential human dignity and fundamental equality of women in Islam is at one with the feminist movement of the West, despite images of Muslim women in the media and some agenda-driven circles as ignorant, oppressed and submissive. The perception that Islam subjugates women is far from the facts. (More)
-----CAIR-CA: HUNDREDS MARCH TO HONOR CESAR CHAVEZ - TOPSam Stanton, Sacramento Bee, 3/28/09
More than 700 people took to the streets of downtown Sacramento today for a march honoring the late farm labor leader Cesar Chavez and to support issues ranging from workers' rights to an end to the war in Iraq. . .
The event was the ninth annual march sponsored by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and included groups ranging from the Sacramento City Teachers Association to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (More)
SEE ALSO:CAIR-SAN ANTONIO HELPS HONOR CESAR CHAVEZ - TOP(SAN ANTONIO, TX, 3/30/09) The San Antonio, Texas, chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SA) recently participated in a Cesar Chavez Ecumenical Service attended by representatives of many different faiths.Speaking at the services as a representative of Islamic faith, Sarwat Husain, president of CAIR-SA said “We call on all people of good conscience to once again bring back the legacy of the union Leader Cesar Chavez by standing hand in hand in the long fight for peace and justice because we understand that service in the way of God is perfect freedom. It is neither restrictive nor limiting. Restrictions diminish a man's capacities and happiness. Oh God! Once again we are standing at the cross roads of oppression and injustice. You taught us that true excellence lies, not in the intellectual or manual attainments of people of differing gifts; but in the moral attainments of a pure heart.”The services that were held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church were focused on issues of peace and justice, and in particular, how those issues relate to immigration.CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide. 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.-----
Say, did you hear the big news about the FBI last week?
No? Come on!
Alright, because didn't read it in the Christian Science Monitor or the OC Register I'll fill you in. Here's the scoop.
In their noble effort to rid our country from the plague of terrorism, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hired an informant whose job it was to infiltrate California mosques with the hope of identifying suspicious individuals.
To quote, the exact assignment according to the informant was, "We want to perfect and train you to infiltrate the Islamic community."
Nice. Makes me feel great about popping into a local mosque for prayer.
Now you'd think that they would hire the ideal man for this noble, patriotic endeavor, right? Wrong.
In a profound display of extraordinary judgment. the man picked as the ideal candidate for the job was ex-con artist Craig Monteilh, convicted in 2008 for grand-theft.
Whoops. But wait, the fun doesn't end here. Read on!
Monteilh's assignment was to pose as a new Muslim convert named Farouk al-Aziz and spout fiery rhetoric to basically anyone who would listen. Whoever lended a sympathetic ear would be promptly reported to the FBI as a suspect terrorist.
As the "agent provocateur" visited mosque after mosque in SoCal, things weren't going so well for the Feds or Monteilh. They weren't finding any militants! In fact, the opposite happened. (More)
Muslims, Christians and Jews shared unleavened bread at a Passover Seder Sunday night in a Tacoma synagogue as a step toward building interfaith bonds and eventually a house.
Volunteers from the three faiths will join together to build a house on Tacoma’s East Side, from April 24 to mid-July, for Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity.
Habiba Karim, a Muslim from University Place, said the interfaith Seder at Temple Beth El was important because “it gives us a chance to understand each other.”
Her mother-in-law, Zarina Karim, agreed. “There’s so much to learn,” she said.
Led by Rabbi Bruce Kadden, the group of 50 recounted the Passover story of the ancient Hebrews’ deliverance from slavery.
They sat at tables with plates containing traditional Passover elements including matzo, or unleavened bread.
The word Passover comes from the book of Exodus, which tells how God killed the firstborn of Egyptian households but passed over the homes of the Israelites. The Israelites had to leave in such haste they had no time to let their bread rise, thus the tradition of unleavened bread.
Allison Wisco, a Christian who lives in Tacoma, said she found it “interesting to be involved with the ritual of the Seder.”. . .
American Indians also attended the Seder and are taking part in the building project. A salmon bake and an interfaith comedy show are planned before the house in Tacoma is completed, said Cassandra Jarles, with Habitat in Pierce County. (More)
SEE ALSO:NY: REACHING OUT TO CHRISTIANS: MUSLIMS MARCH FOR RECONCILIATION - TOPHundreds rally in BinghamtonGeorge Basler, Gannett News Service, 3/30/09
Muslims from the Southern Tier and other communities as far away as Michigan and South Carolina gathered in Binghamton on Sunday to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad's birthday and publicly urge reconciliation between Christianity and Islam.
"In many places Muslims and Christians are in conflict. This is senseless because it leads to a tremendous loss of life and suffering," said M. Hasib Haqq, public relations spokesman for the new United Muslim-Christian Forum, which organized Sunday's program.
The best way to overcome the conflict is to emphasize the commonalities between the two religions - namely belief in God, practice of The Ten Commandments and emphasis on "the golden rule" of "doing unto others as they would do unto you," he said.
More than 500 people, including a small number of non-Muslims, filled West Presbyterian Church on Main Street for a series of speeches, followed by a march on Main and Court streets to the Broome County Courthouse lawn.
West Presbyterian's board approved use of the church to "foster inter- religious dialogue, understanding and tolerance," said the Rev. Andrew Stehlik, pastor, who spoke during the program. Other speakers included Binghamton Mayor Matthew T. Ryan; the Rev. Tim Taugher of St. Catherine's Church in Hillcrest; and Khalifah Muhammad Hussein Adams, chairman of the Muslims of the Americas. (More)
Muhammad Rasoul, chief operating officer of Global Forex Trading, has been in back-to-back meetings since 5:30 a.m., starting with a conference call to Japan and London. He hopes to be home in time to put his two younger kids to bed.
But in this typical wire-to-wire day, Rasoul also will make time for something sacred: the five prayers Muslims are expected to make each day.
"Anytime, I can close that door and do whatever I have to do," Rasoul says of his airy office at 4760 E. Fulton St. in Ada Township. "I really benefit from having that five minutes of peace and quiet to myself. It's almost like a meditation."
Prayer is an obligation Rasoul takes seriously, as he does all other aspects of his adopted Islamic faith. Whether it's flying to Singapore on business or teaching his children about God, Islam is his guidebook for doing the right thing.
If you think you know who Muslims are, meet Rasoul and think again. (More)
(CHICAGO, IL, 3/31/09) - A number of religious and civil rights groups today held a news conference to condemn intolerant and hateful remarks made by Rosanna Pulido, the GOP candidate for the 5th congressional district seat.
"Ms. Pulido's statements under the blog moniker "Chicagolady" contain vicious remarks maligning groups such as Catholics, Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, and gays," said Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago. "All Americans including Pulido are entitled to a free opinion; by the same logic, we are entitled to oppose bigotry, particularly from those seeking leadership positions within our country."
Speakers at the news conference included Juan Salgado, Board President of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Reema Ahmad, Government Affairs Coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago; Junaid Afeef, Executive Director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC); Jane Ramsey, Executive Director of Jewish Council of Urban Affairs; Father Larry Dowling from Priests for Justice for Immigrants; Shayla King, NAACP student chapter president, Loyola University of Chicago.
CONTACT: Catherine Salgado, Communications Director, ICIRR, E-Mail: csalgado@icirr.org, 312.332.7360 x 235; Reem Rahman, Communications Coordinator, CAIR-Chicago, 217.493.0912; E-Mail: communications@cairchicago.org
ANONYMOUS RACIST FREEPER IS ACTUALLY… REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE TO REPLACE RAHM - TOPWonkette, 3/31/09In early March, a gal named Rosanna Pulido won the Republican primary for the upcoming special congressional election in Illinois’ District 5, Rahm Emanuel’s former kingdom. She will lose. But not before making the funnies! She was the founder of the Illinois chapter of the Minutemen, because she *hates* the Mexicans. Once in a CNN interview she described John McCain as “just another politician that acts as if he was elected to represent the Mexican government.” Well maybe he was! AND YET, her most delightful comments came under the name “chicagolady” on the Free Republic website, where she wrote hilarious racist blather for five years until being recently outed…
Oh and she hates the Muslims too, but probably only because she thinks they’re Mexicans. Here she jokes about how funny the Muslims look when they pray to their Mexican God:
It reminds me of my dog, smelling buts…
JAPANESE-AMERICAN, MUSLIM YOUTH TO PARTICIPATE IN LEARNING EXCHANGE - TOP‘Bridging Communities’ initiative to culminate in 40th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage(LOS ANGELES, CA, 3/31/09) Beginning February 21, some 40 high school students from Southern California will learn about the Islamic and Japanese cultures, with topics ranging from ethnic identity, culture/religion, civil rights activism, and experiences following the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks. The series of cultural program are the fist of their kind in the Southland, and serve to connect youth from the Japanese-American and American Muslim communities. The program is being organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA), the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC), Japanese American Citizens League - Pacific Southwest District (JACL-PSW) and Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR).
Some of the participants come from the cities of Claremont, Walnut, Corona, Rancho Palos Verdes, Yorba Linda, and Anaheim. Muslim participants are available for media interviews upon request. WHAT: Bridging Communities Program, a four-day program meant to teach Muslim- and Japanese-American high school youth about each other’s heritage and experiences.WHEN: On Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 21, March 14, April 4, April 25 WHERE: Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Islamic Center of Irvine, Little Tokyo, and Manzanar a former Japanese American internment campThe last day of Building Communities program will culminate in a trip to Manzanar National Historic Site. The Manzanar pilgrimage is intended to raise awareness of civil rights abuses in America’s past with the aim of preventing them from being repeated. Formerly known as “Manzanar War Relocation Center,” the central California site was one of ten internment camps that held more than 10,000 Japanese-American men, women, and children during the war. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of Manzanar Pilgrimage.
“It’s important for Muslim and Japanese youth to learn from each other’s struggles in efforts to advance the cause of civil rights in our nation,” said Affad Shaikh, civil rights manager at CAIR-LA.
SEE: Pilgrimage to ManzanarLast year, CAIR-LA organized a group of more than 100 Muslims from Southern California to participate in the Manzanar visit. A documentary was subsequently made about the visit and the bonds that were formed between members of the Muslim and Japanese American communities. SEE:CAIR-LA Documentary of 2008 Manzanar PilgrimageCAIR, America's largest Muslim 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-LA Communications Manager Munira Syeda, 714-776-1847, 714-851-4851; E-Mail: info@losangeles.cair.com
CAIR-LA: MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE: INTOLERANT? - TOPOsma Dossani, al-Talib (Muslim Student Newsmagazine at UCLA), 3/30/09
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has built the Museum of Tolerance here in LA, has been issued the permit to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. There is some tension behind this because the site includes a Muslim cemetery.
“This issue ought to be judged with knowledge,” said Ran Boytner, an Israeli-born archaeology professor here at UCLA. After interviewing the opposing sides, namely the Museum of Tolerance and the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Los Angeles, with the additional help of Ran Boytner, the truth finally emerged.
Ran Boytner affirmed that the site they are going to build on is a Muslim cemetery. “It’s definitely a Muslim cemetery, there’s no question about that,” Boytner stated. He said that it was partially covered by a parking lot sixty years ago, and while the reasons for the building of that car park are nebulous, the fact is that there is a car park there that is on top of human remains.
CAIR also confirms that the site of the new museum is also the site of a Muslim cemetery there. This is the whole reason they are against it. Munira Syeda, a representative of CAIR-Los Angeles, said, “We never said, ‘don’t build,’ we just want it to be moved elsewhere. Not doing so will further the tension and animosity between Muslim and Jewish communities. Companions of Prophet Muhammad and other famous Muslim scholars are said to be buried there. So, obviously the site has a special religious significance for Muslims, aside from having archaeological value.”
She said that the concept of the museum will be a good thing, holds good intentions, yet the location of it must be reassessed. Both Boytner and Syeda noted that for a Museum of Tolerance to stand atop the final resting place of Palestinians would not be tolerant and even hypocritical. (More)
CAIR-OH: TRACKED BY SPIES AND INFORMERS - TOPJulia A. Shearson, Cleveland Indy Media Center, 3/30/09
[Julia A. Shearson is executive director of the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.]
The February 26, 2009 revelation in the Los Angeles Times that FBI domestic intelligence informant and ex-convict Craig Monteilh and others were paid handsomely to spy on Muslim Americans in their houses of worship in Southern California should come as no surprise. Such domestic intelligence gathering has a history in the United States.
The annals of modern domestic surveillance in America are contained in the massive 1976 Church Committee Reports of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The reports, drafted by the Senate in the wake of the Watergate scandal, should have ended domestic intelligence abuses, but in the post-9/11 climate, their warnings and descriptions of crimes against liberty go unheeded.
The chapter entitled “The Use of Informants in FBI Domestic Intelligence Investigations” begins: “Men may be without restraints upon their liberty; they may pass to and fro at pleasure: but if their steps are tracked by spies and informers, their words noted down for crimination, their associates watched as conspirators—who shall say that they are free?”
This quote was borrowed from Sir Thomas May, the nineteenth-century author of The Constitutional History of England. May railed against the use of such spying practices by “continental despotisms” and claimed that “the freedom of a country may be measured by its immunity from this baleful agency.”
The Church reports, available on the Internet, are worth reading today in light of the FBI’s consolidation of domestic intelligence powers in the waning days of the Bush administration. Indeed, the December 1, 2008, issuance of the new investigative guidelines by Attorney General Mukasey was a major step in reconstituting the FBI as the United States’ premier domestic intelligence agency with the Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces as their force multipliers on the ground.
We may be safer now because of this, but at what price for liberty? The new post-9/11 domestic intelligence regime, coupled with immense power, information technology, lack of congressional curiosity and lax Department of Justice oversight, has put our Bill of Rights in peril.
In short, the FBI has been sent headlong into what former vice president Cheney calls the “tough, mean, dirty, nasty business” of keeping the country safe from terrorists. But the problem is the FBI cannot serve two masters: it cannot both serve the Constitution and get into the domestic intelligence trenches. History proves this. (More)
(OTTAWA, Canada, March 31, 2009) - The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) in an open letter today to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney, called on the federal government to adopt a “consistent” position on free speech and foreign speakers entering Canada.
In its open letter, CAIR-CAN highlighted that virulent anti-Muslim American writer Brigitte Gabriel is slated to speak in Toronto on April 2, 2009 to a prominent Jewish organization, whereas other foreign speakers, on the grounds of hateful commentary, have been denied entry.
“To be clear, we fundamentally value freedom of speech and expression in Canada as enshrined in our Charter of Rights & Freedoms. We are not calling for Ms. Gabriel to be denied entry into Canada but for a consistent standard to be applied by the Government of Canada at all times. When foreign nationals are selectively banned from entry into Canada for their commentary it sends the message that freedom of speech and hate speech are arbitrarily measured,” wrote CAIR-CAN Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.
“Canadian Muslims and their fellow citizens of conscience are deeply concerned about the nature and content of the message Ms. Gabriel intends to communicate at her scheduled speech in Toronto on April 2, 2009. As such, we respectfully request that your office takes steps to make sure her speech is carefully monitored by local authorities and, if it does contravene the hate-speech laws governing Canada, take appropriate legal action,” Gardee added.
Gabriel, whom the New York Times has called a “radical Islamophobe”, has publicly said “every practising Muslim is a radical Muslim” and that a “practising Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America."
SEE: Brigitte Gabriel: ‘Islam Is the Problem’SEE ALSO: ‘Obsession’ Stars Have Lectured at U.S. Military Colleges; U.S. Navy Uses Film
CAIR-CAN is a national, not-for-profit, grassroots organization with a vision to be a leading voice that encourages Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.
CONTACT: Ihsaan Gardee, CAIR-CAN Executive Director, 613.254.9704; 613.853.4111
Imam Sayid Hassan al-Qazwini, the head of the Islamic Center of America, welcomed Archbishop Allen Vigneron to the largest mosque in the country today, as the new leader of 1.4 million Catholics in Metro Detroit continues to make good on his vow to foster interfaith relations.
"So many of us here today are bound by the word of God, and we look to Abraham as one of our fathers in faith," Vigneron said. "I am almost overwhelmed by your words of welcome and warmth."
Vigneron's trip to the landmark mosque on Ford Road is at least the third by an Archbishop of Detroit, including Adam Cardinal Maida's visit in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. His visit is still recalled with fondness by many Muslims in Metro Detroit.
"We welcome you to Dearborn, the Muslim capital of the West, as I call it," Qazwini said. "God says in the Quran, 'You will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who say they are Christian.' Jesus and Mohammad are none other than but two channels to God. Let us open our houses of worship to each other." (More)
-----UC URGED TO EXPAND ETHNIC LABELS - TOPMiddle Easterners at the L.A. campus want to see alternatives to 'white' and 'other' on university forms.Raja Abdulrahim, Los Angeles Times, 3/31/09
Nicole Salame, 19, was filling out an application to UCLA last year when she got to the question about race and ethnicity. She thought a mistake had been made.
"I read it five times and was like, where is Middle Eastern?" the freshman recently recalled. "Is it on the other page, did it get cut off? I thought they forgot."
Her Lebanese-born mother told her Arabs are considered white, but Salame didn't believe her. Her high school counselor told her the same thing.
"It did not make sense to me, it's so far-fetched," said Salame, who ended up checking "Other."
For years the federal government has classified Arab Americans and Middle Easterners as white. But confusion and disagreement have led some students to check "Asian" or "African," depending on what part of the Middle East they came from. Some, like Salame, simply marked "Other."
Now several UCLA student groups -- including Arabs, Iranians, Afghanis and Armenians -- have launched a campaign to add a Middle Eastern category, with various subgroups, to the University of California admissions application. They hope to emulate the Asian Pacific Coalition's "Count Me In" campaign, which a few years ago successfully lobbied for the inclusion of 23 ethnic categories on the UC application, including Hmong, Pakistani, Native Hawaiian and Samoan.
The UCLA students said having their own ethnic designation goes beyond self-identity and has real implications for the larger Arab and Middle Eastern communities. (More)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

(CNN) -- Ten U.S. Muslim organizations threatened this week to cease working with the FBI, citing "McCarthy-era tactics" by the agency, including efforts to covertly infiltrate California mosques.
The groups claim the FBI has sent undercover agents posing as worshippers into mosques, pressured Muslims to become informants, labeled civil rights advocates as criminals and spread misinformation.
The FBI declined to comment on specific allegations but called the proposed move unproductive.
"Limiting honest dialogue, especially when complex issues are on the table, is generally not an effective advocacy strategy," spokesman John Miller said in a statement. "The FBI has continued our outreach efforts, across the board, with a number of concerned groups and where we agree -- or disagree -- most have concluded the best results are achieved through continued conversation. We believe that, too."
The group's statement, dated Tuesday, said several incidents of the FBI "targeting Muslim Americans lead us to consider suspending ongoing outreach efforts."
The statement was issued by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, whose director, Agha Saeed, couldn't immediately comment because of a family emergency.
The FBI has sent "agents provocateur" into California mosques, according to the statement, which says an FBI agent threatened to make one mosque member's life a "living hell" if he did not become an informant.
Though the statement does not name the mosque member, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said last month it would seek an investigation into the February 21 arrest of Ahmadullah Niazi, an Afghanistan native.
"Mr. Niazi previously reported to [CAIR's Los Angeles office] 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,' " a news release said.
Niazi, a member of the Islamic Center of Irvine, told CAIR his arrest was retaliation for his refusal, the release said. (More)
MORE GROUPS SIGN AMT STATEMENT ON RELATIONS WITH FBI - TOP(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/20/2009) - A number of Islamic, minority and interfaith organizations have signed on to a statement by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), a coalition of major national Islamic organizations, stating that it is considering suspending outreach relations with the FBI over recent incidents in which American mosques and Muslim groups have been targeted.SEE: FBI Planting Spies in U.S. Mosques, Muslim Groups Say (CNN)The new signatories include the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), Muslim Voters of America, Muslim Students' Association-West, National Immigrant Solidarity Network, Interfaith Freedom Foundation, and a number of local mosques and Islamic centers.SEE: U.S. Muslim Coalition Considers Suspending Relations with FBITo endorse the AMT statement online, click here.Media Contact: AMT Chair Dr. Agha Saeed, Tel: 510-299-9313, E-Mail: aghaksaeed@yahoo.com---NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD SENDS LETTER TO AG HOLDER ON FBI SPYING - TOPMarch 19, 2009Hon. Eric HolderAttorney GeneralU.S. Department of Justice950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.Washington, D.C. 20530RE: FBI spying in MosquesDear Atty. General Holder:I am one of many in Los Angeles who were disgusted and dismayed to learn that the FBI has been covertly inserting spies into Islamic mosques in Southern California. This news was all the more disappointing given the sincere efforts of the Muslim community here to work cooperatively with the Bureau.To do what the FBI did here, send in a convicted felon to serve as an agent provocateur in several Islamic mosques and, as is alleged, tell at least one mosque attendee that the FBI would make his life “a living hell” if he did not become an informant, is abhorrent. Indeed, the whole sorry business of spying on religious adherents is despicable. It suggests that the U.S. Justice Department, and the Obama Administration, are prepared to continue the xenophobic and discriminatory polices of the Bush Administration. If so, it puts a lie to President Obama’s claim that we can defend ourselves against terrorist attacks “without sacrificing our values.”This current practice mirrors the same illegal, discredited and mischief-making practices outlawed in this nation following the disclosure of the FBI’s COINTELPRO practices of the ‘60s and ‘70s. It has no place in a free nation. It only serves to fuel the all- too- prevalent notion amongst the people of this nation that Muslim citizens are, by definition, Un-American, prone to violence, and not to be trusted.I ask that you immediately launch an investigation into this matter and quickly issue a statement assuring the nation, and most importantly, the Muslim people of this nation, that what has been going on in Southern California will be ended here and not repeated elsewhere. And I urge the statement to include an apology to the Muslim community of Southern California, who, like all Muslims since the criminal attacks of 9/11, have already suffered greatly for no other reason than that the government of this nation has, in more ways than I can recount here, repeatedly violated their rights, and their very humanity.Sincerely,James LaffertyExecutive DirectorNational Lawyers Guild - Los Angeles Chapter
(OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, 3/20/09) - The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) and the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma (ACLU of OK) today called on Oklahomans who are concerned with constitutionally-protected religious freedoms to contact their state senators about proposed legislation that would ban religious headwear in driver’s license and other identification card photos.
The bill, HB 1645, passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on March 2, 2009 by 88-8. An Oklahoma Senate subcommittee, the Transportation Committee, is expected to take up the bill.
SEE: Religious Head Covering Bill
The proposed amendment states: “The photograph or image shall clearly identify the licensee or cardholder and shall depict a full front unobstructed view of the entire head and shoulders of the licensee or cardholder. Hats, head scarves, head garments…that cover or partially cover the head or shoulders are strictly prohibited and shall not be worn by the licensee or cardholder when being photographed for a license or identification card.”
CAIR-OK believes the amendment proposed by Rep. Rex Duncan (R-Sand Springs) was introduced in reaction to CAIR-Oklahoma’s successful resolution of a dispute over a Muslim woman’s right to wear Islamic head scarves, or hijab, in her driver’s license photo.
SEE: Okla. House Passes Bill Banning Religious Head Covering
SEE ALSO: CAIR-OK: Okla. Muslim Takes Driver’s License Photo with Hijab
Senator Roger Ballenger (D-8) was the first sponsor of HB 1645, but took his name off it questioning the bill’s motives. Sen. Ballenger called DPS who said, “they do not have a problem with the current law.”
The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) criticized Oklahoma’s House of Representatives for its attack on religious freedom.
See: Religious Freedoms Under Attack in Oklahoma
“It appears that the author of the bill was unaware that this would disproportionately affect Catholic nuns, Orthodox Jews, Sikh men, Muslim women and other religious groups who have headwear. There are also medical patients who would be affected, in particular those undergoing chemotherapy who lose their hair and may wear wigs, scarves or hats,” said CAIR-OK Executive Director Razi Hashmi. “By embracing the diversity our state has to offer, we need to respect one another and not violate each other’s first amendment rights.”
1. CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATORS and urge him or her to ensure that religious freedoms continue to be protected by the U.S. Constitution. This will ensure that Americans do not view Oklahomans as divisive and opposed to interfaith dialogue and the many contributions by its diverse citizens.
Contact Your Elected Officials click here.
Call the Oklahoma State Capitol switchboard at 405-521-3356 and ask for your representatives’ office.
2. CONTACT the Transportation Committee Chairman to ensure that the Oklahomans’ First Amendment Rights of religious freedoms are protected. (Find suggested talking points below).
Senator Cliff Branan (R-40) Phone: 405-521-5543, E-Mail: branan@oksenate.gov
Sample talking points:
All Oklahomans should be concerned when there is a chance for violations of any religious liberty.
If the purpose for such a bill is to clearly identify an individual, then one should be photographed wearing what one would wear every day regardless if it is headwear or glasses.
The Department of Public Safety already has a policy for religious exemptions on headgear, and this bill is unnecessary.
Oklahomans should not tolerate such blatant attacks on minority faiths.
Ensure all Oklahomans’ First Amendment Rights are protected. Urge your State Senator to vote No on HB 1645. Request a religious and medical exemption to the bill.
3. CONTACT Oklahoma State Senators from the Transportation Committee to inform them about the HB 1645.
Senator Bryce Marlatt (R-27), marlatt@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5626Senator Randy Bass (D-32), bass@okseante.gov, (405) 521-5567Senator Brian Bingman (R-12), bingman@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5528Senator Randy Brogdon (R-34), brogdon@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5566Senator Bill Brown (R-36), brownb@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5602Senator Sean Burrage (D-2), burrage@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5555Senator Harry Coates (R-28), coates@okseante.gov, (405) 521-5547Senator Judy Eason-McIntyre (D-11), easonmcintyre@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5598Senator Earl Garrison (D-9), garrisone@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5533Senator Connie Johnson (D-48), johnsonc@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5531Senator Ron Justice (R-23), justice@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5537Senator Debbe Leftwich (D-44), holland@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5557Senator David Myers (R-20), ingraham@Oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5628Senator Mike Schulz (R-38), schulz@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5612Senator Joe Sweeden (D-10), sweeden@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5581Senator Charlie Wyrick (D-1), wyrick@oksenate.gov, (405) 521-5561
4. WRITE letters to the editor, OP-EDs or blogs to educate Oklahomans and other Americans about this infringement on our civil liberties.
5. SHARE this important alert with your colleagues, friends and family. Post to personal blogs.
6. Oklahoma residents only - sign this letter or write your own and send it to your Oklahoma state senator. CAIR-OK and ACLU-OK have prepared a letter to address Oklahoma State Senators.
CONTACT: CAIR-OK Executive Director Razi Hashmi, 405-248-5853, E-Mail: rhashmi@cair.com; CAIR-OK Chairperson Lobna Hewedi, E-Mail: lhewedi@cair.com; ACLU-OK Legislative Counsel Tamya Cox, ACLU Deputy Director C.S. Thornton; 405-524-8511; E-Mail: acluok@acluok.org
A religious advocacy group has asked to meet with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in order to change a new directive at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport that bans Muslim cab drivers who leave their vehicles to pray.
The Cleveland-based chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations said earlier this month that Standard Parking Co., a group contracted by the city to handle parking operations, enacted a new policy that prohibits cab drivers from leaving their vehicles while they wait in line to pick up arrivals at the airport.
The policy also bans prayer in the taxi queue and prohibits other cab drivers from advancing vehicles in the taxi line for the praying driver.
If seen praying, they will be in violation of the policy and could be banned from picking up fares.
A group of about 60 cab drivers, who are of Somali descent and Muslim, oppose this because they said it limits their potential revenue and also prevents them from making Salaat, a five time-a-day prayer that Muslims must make at specific times.
The advocacy group said it will submit a letter to Jackson signed by several mosque leaders and community activists who support them, said CAIR Executive Director Julia Shearson.
"We are not asking for them to give us special treatment . . . we are asking under the Constitution, and under the law, to give us reasonable accommodations so our religious needs can be met," she said. (More)
(SAN DIEGO, CA, 3/20/09) - The San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-San Diego) recently helped conduct an all-day "Days of Discovery" program organized by the Elderhostel organization at the Islamic Center of San Diego.
"Elderhostel has organized a wonderful bridge-building program for its members to learn about Islam and Muslims. The goal of this series is to offer Elderhostelers in cities across the country an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of Islam, as well as to interact with members of their local Muslim communities," said CAIR-San Diego Public Relations Director Edgar Hopida.
Hopida offered a presentation, "Addressing Islamophobia: Breaking Down Stereotypes," to a group of some 50 Elderhostelers.
Other presenters included Shaykh Taha Hassane, Imam of the Islamic Center of San Diego, who covered a lecture entitled, "Islam 101" and CAIR-San Diego staff member Homayra Yusufi who elaborated on addressing stereotypes of women in Islam.
There will be one more scheduled 'Bridging Bridges to Islam' scheduled on March 26. For more information, go here.
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, 619-913-0719 or 858-278-4547; E-mail: ehopida@cair.com
A controversial film about threats to the U.S. from Islamic radicals was shown on Sunday at a Flanders church not to fuel anti-Islamic sentiment but as an indication of the expected return of Jesus Christ, according to the church pastor. . .
The film, however, has been sharply criticized by the Islamic community for inflaming anti-Moslem sentiments and for misrepresenting facts about Islamic fundamentalists.
Afsheen Shamsi, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations of N.J. (CAIR), said the film exploits America’s unfamiliarity with Moslems.
“It is a propaganda piece,” Shamsi said. “It tries to bring people to believe that the Moslem world is an overall hot bed that wants to destroy the west. That is not so. These are people who are on the fringes of society.”
“There is no threat from mainstream Muslims or Muslim nations,” she said.
Shamsi also said she would offer to provide a 10-part educational DVD about Islam for parishioners of Hope Baptist Church. . .
“Obsessions” was sharply condemned by an organization known as Hate hurts America, a non-partisan interfaith and community coalition formed by a wide base of religious and civic organizations in an effort to address the rising problem of hatred against American minorities.
The Hate Hurts America website, Obsessionwithhate.com, says anti-Western militant ideology is being propagated by “those who have misused Islam.”
“Few would disagree that Al Qaeda and its imitators are ruthless enemies that the United States must deal with forcefully,” the website says. “But “Obsession” is not an honest critique of violent radicalism. Instead, it is a propaganda piece that seeks to cast a wide net of suspicion against Muslims by blurring the line between violent radicalism and mainstream Islam.” (More)
WHEN NYPD WEARS A MUSLIM TOPI - TOPPolice chaplaincy lets Khalid Latif embody both Islam and American culture.Harry Bruinius, Christian Science Monitor, 3/19/09
Around five in the morning one day in the summer of 2007, just as Imam Khalid Latif was preparing for the salatul-fajr, the obligatory prayer between dawn and sunrise, the phone in his small Manhattan apartment began to ring.
He had been up late the night before, having just conducted a nikkah, a Muslim wedding ceremony, for a South Asian couple he knew from New York University, where he served as chaplain. Afterward, he offered to drive a few students back into the city, so he had not gotten home as early as he might have expected.
On the phone was an operations dispatcher from the New York Police Department (NYPD), where Imam Latif also served as a chaplain, having been named only three months earlier to the post. This was his first emergency call: Two cops had been shot, one fatally. He was to go to the hospital to minister to the families and fellow officers of the fallen.
He has had a number of emergency calls since then, but none has been for a Muslim officer or family. The eight members of the NYPD Chaplains Unit a group of part-timers that includes Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews take turns being on call. But even when the relevant denominational chaplain arrives, the first responder often stays. For six hours, Latif remained with the mother of the slain officer, an Orthodox Christian. She wept the entire time. (More)
(LOS ANGELES, CA, 3/17/09) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations-California (CAIR-CA) and the Muslim American Society's MAS Freedom (MASF) join Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate last week.
In a joint statement, MAS Freedom Executive Director Mahdi Bray and CAIR-Los Angeles Executive Director Hussam Ayloush, both national board members with IWJ, said:
"Workers who demand the right to their free association with labor unions operate not only within the parameters of American law, but also within the boundaries of the Islamic concept of justice.
"For Muslims, justice is an integral and indispensable part of all human relationships, including those within the workplace, and between employers and workers. This concept of justice means fairness, balance, and reciprocal respect for the dignity and rights of owners, managers, and employees. One of these rights is the right of free association for the protection of the dignity and economic well-being of working people."
READ FULL STATEMENT HERE: An Islamic Perspective in Support of the Employee Free Choice Act (scroll down to see the Islamic perspective on the issue) SEE ALSO: Union Legislation Drive Begins in Congress (New York Times blog) The Employee Free Choice Act is expected to play a critical role in improving the lives of poor and working class families by giving them the opportunity to negotiate their own economic security. The Act provides workers an opportunity to form unions through card checks or secret ballot elections. Under the current law, management has the power to decide whether to recognize a union through card checks or secret ballot elections, often times intimidating workers through the election process.
SEE: Clash Over Labor-Rights Bill Appears Likely (Washington Post)
ACTION REQUESTED: (As always, be polite and respectful)
1. You can take action now by calling Congress and letting them know you support the Employee Free Choice Act. Call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) and ask them to transfer you to your Representative and both State Senators.
Whenever concerns are expressed over civilian casualties inflicted in Israeli military operations, the country's generals and political leaders are quick to insist that theirs is the "world's most moral army." That claim was challenged by human rights observers over Israel's recent offensive in Gaza, although such criticism is reflexively dismissed by Israel as driven by pro-Palestinian bias. But when the allegations of abuses come from Israeli soldiers involved in the fighting, they can't be as easily dismissed.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak was forced to repeat the "world's most moral army" mantra on Thursday, this time to reassure his own countrymen shocked by allegations published in the Israeli media from six veterans of the Gaza operation. The six soldiers, whose identity is being kept confidential, made their claims in an address last month to cadets of the Yitzhak Rabin military academy, of which they are graduates. Among other claims, the soldiers alleged that an Israeli sniper had shot a woman and her two children who walked in the wrong direction after being ordered out of their home by Israeli troops. In a second incident, a sniper supposedly killed an unarmed elderly woman who posed no apparent threat to Israeli troops. And the soldiers ascribed these incidents to overly permissive rules of engagement. See pictures of Israel's Gaza offensive)

Friday, March 20, 2009

HR groups: "Stop whitewashing suspected crimes in Gaza"Israeli human rights organizations repeated their demand that the Attorney General hold an independent investigation into the military's conduct during operation "Cast Lead", in light of chilling testimonies of soldiers published in the media.
Hamas must release Gilad Shalit immediately and unconditionallyOn Saturday, 21.3.09, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will have been held hostage for 1000 days. Hamas must release him unconditionally.
Forces using tear-gas canisters as weaponsThe judge advocate general must immediately reinforce the prohibition on aiming tear-gas canisters directly at demonstrators, a practice that has already resulted in severe injuries.
High Court permits punitive house demolitionOn 18 March, the Israeli High Court of Justice allowed the state to demolish the home of the family of Husam Dwayat, who carried out an attack in Jerusalem last July. Collective punishment of persons who are held innocent is forbidden under international law.
Do not use patients as political toolsHR organizations protest the Palestinian Authority's refusal to authorize medical treatment in Israel and Israel's insistence on a PA promise to pay for treatment.
Prize awarded to B'Tselem and al-HaqB'Tselem protests Israel's refusal to let al-Haq's executive director leave the West Bank to receive the award in Holland.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BASHING MUSLIMS PROMOTES FEAR FOR ALL - TOPHussam Ayloush, Desert Sun, 3/18/09
In a post-Sept. 11 America, inciting Islamophobia and attempting to marginalize Muslims is a lucrative business. Extremists like Steven Emerson seek to polarize our nation and world to continue profiting from the industry of fear.
Emerson uses methods of distortion, exaggeration and outright falsehood to demonize Muslims and urge fellow Americans to fear Islam.
He borrows terminology and tactics once employed by Nazi Germany to justify anti-Semitic hate to help create similar hatred of American Muslims in America.
In his talk, titled “The Islamic Threat,” Emerson is quoted by The Desert Sun as saying that “Islam's ‘leadership and organizational superstructure' threaten Western values” and that (radical) Muslims “want to conquer the United States. They want to conquer Europe.”
Try replacing the word “Islam” or “Muslims” with the word “Jews,” “Latinos,” “Catholics” or “blacks” in his quotes and note how repulsive and hateful those comments sound. So, why have we become desensitized to anti-Muslim bigotry?
Why are agenda-driven propagandists such as Emerson allowed to disregard the more than 1 billion peaceful Muslims who are hard-working, family-oriented people seeking a better life for their children? Why are the positive contributions of 6 million to 7 million American Muslims substituted with guilt by association and fear-mongering that places the local Muslim community at risk of discrimination and hate crimes?
True Islamophobe
A leading national media watch group, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, listed Emerson as one of the top 12 Islamophobes in America. These Islamophobes, together, “form a network that teaches Americans to see Islam in fearful terms and their Muslim neighbors as suspects,” (www.smearcasting.com).
It is no wonder Emerson attempts to marginalize American Muslims and their leading organizations and label them as terrorist-sympathizers. It is puzzling that Emerson gets to promote his bigotry, unchallenged, at the invitation of an esteemed institution such as the World Affairs Council or in the pages of The Desert Sun.
CAIR is one of the most respected Muslim advocacy organizations in America. We work closely with our nation's interfaith leaders, elected officials, media professionals and law enforcement agencies to provide them with the Muslim community's perspective on issues varying from national security to civil rights and to promote tolerance and mutual understanding.
CAIR and the Muslim community repeatedly and unequivocally condemn all forms of terrorism because Islam teaches us to value life - every life.
Emerson is entitled to free speech, including hate speech.
But residents of the desert cities deserved better than hate-mongering.
As our country and world face the challenges of polarization, extremism and terrorism, we need voices of understanding, peace and moderation from all faith communities.
[Hussam Ayloush is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area office.]
Citing the highly publicized case involving an undercover informant who spied on an Irvine mosque, a coalition of U.S. Muslim organizations has announced it may suspend relations with the FBI.
"Muslim communities throughout the United States have made significant advances in promoting and contributing to a fair, free and pluralistic society," reads the statement from the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT). "Through civil rights advocacy, civic and political engagement, and the promotion of dialogue with interfaith leaders and law enforcement agencies, Muslim Americans continue to be a positive and stabilizing force in keeping our nation safe and secure from acts of violence and foreign threats."
Muslim Americans are productive, law-abiding citizens who have naturally been allied with law enforcement, reads the AMT statement, but "recent incidents targeting American Muslims lead us to consider suspending ongoing outreach efforts with the FBI."
"In California, the FBI sent a convicted criminal to pose as an agent provocateur in several of that state's mosques. An FBI agent allegedly told one of the mosque attendees that the agency would make his life a 'living hell' if he did not become an informant."
The mosque attendee is 34-year-old Afghan native Ahmad Niazi, who was arrested at his Tustin home on Feb. 20 on five fraud and perjury counts. At his Feb. 24 bail hearing, Niazi was alleged to have talked in an unnamed informant's e-mails and recordings of initiating jihad, getting weapons, blowing up buildings, sending money overseas to the Afghan mujahedin and even calling Osama bin Laden "an angel." At the hearing, Irvine fitness instructor Craig Monteilh (pictured in this John Gilhooley portrait) filed court documents identifying himself as the informant.
Monteilh had arrived at the Islamic Center of Irvine in 2006 and befriended members, including Niazi, who informed mosque leaders that Monteilh was talking about jihad or holy war. The leaders turned to the Anaheim office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which contacted the FBI while the mosque got a restraining order against Monteilh. At CAIR's behest, an FBI official later came to the Irvine mosque to reassure members the government was not spying on them. (More)
CAIR-ORLANDO HELPS FAMILY OF GAZA EVACUEES - TOPPalestinian mother and two children find safe haven in Florida
(ORLANDO, FL, 3/18/09) - The Orlando chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Orlando) announced today that a Palestinian mother and her two American-born children have moved into a new donated residence in Sanford, Fla., after being evacuated by the U.S. State Department from the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.
During and following the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, CAIR sought the evacuation of American citizens and their family members who were trapped under Israeli bombardment. The Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy group also called for American sponsors willing to assist families of U.S. citizens who were evacuated.
SEE: CAIR Seeks Sponsors for Gaza Evacuees (Video)
In response to CAIR’s appeal, United Muslim Foundation (UMF) of Lake Mary, Fla., agreed to sponsor one family from Gaza. According to the family, a niece was injured and the homes of close relatives were destroyed by Israeli attacks.
CAIR-Orlando and UMF are working to help the family get acclimated to their temporary home. Both organizations are seeking continued support from volunteers to prepare the family for a successful future in the Orlando area.
“Considering the harrowing experience that just this one family has gone through, CAIR and the Florida Muslim community are honored to help in any way we can,” said Hasan Hboubati, president of the CAIR-Orlando Executive Committee.
“It’s been a long and emotional journey for all of us, and we look forward to making the transition as easy as we can for them,” said Masuma Virji, executive director of UMF.
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: Hasan Hboubati, president of CAIR-Orlando’s Executive Committee, 407-687-9204, hhboubati@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: arubin@cair.com
CAIR: MUSLIM ADVOCATES GET SOFT-SPOKEN LEADER - TOPYonat Shimron, News & Observer, 3/15/09State Sen. Larry Shaw takes pride in keeping a low profile.
"I fly beneath the radar," he says. "That suits my style."
It's an odd claim for a man who until three years ago was the highest-ranking Muslim elected official in the United States. (U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota snagged that distinction in 2006.)
At 59, Shaw remains the longest-serving Muslim elected official, and recently added another badge: The Democratic senator representing Cumberland County was elected chairman of the nation's leading Muslim civil rights advocacy group, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Shaw, who lives in Fayetteville, is soft-spoken. His voice is barely audible as he walks the hallways of the state legislature, a broad-shouldered former football player with a wide smile and a thinning tuft of white hair.
But as chairman of CAIR, which has a reputation of being one of the more aggressive Muslim advocacy groups, he may be forced into a higher-profile role. For several years, the group's financing has been under scrutiny, and a small group of critics has made a determined, but so far unsuccessful, effort to link it to Hamas, the ruling political group in the Gaza strip, which the U.S. government labels a terrorist organization.
More recently, CAIR was one of hundreds of Muslim individuals and groups named as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism-financing trial wherein a Texas charity was accused of helping to finance Hamas. CAIR rejects the accusation, and Shaw says his first order of business will be to clear the group's name.
"It's straight out of the playbook they use for all the civil rights groups," Shaw says, noting that Martin Luther King Jr. and many other civil rights movement leaders were investigated by the government. "This is nothing new. If they had anything, they would have acted on it and shut us down."
Shaw says he has already asked to meet with top officials in the FBI and Department of Justice.
And he makes it clear he does not back Muslims reflexively. A keen observer of the Middle East and its conflicts, he is willing to criticize dictatorial Muslim countries as well as Hamas' practice of firing rockets into Israel.
"If they have grievances, this is not the way to get them addressed," Shaw says of Hamas. "Taking actions that endanger the lives of many is irresponsible." (MORE)
ANTI-ISLAM COMEDIAN USES RACIST SLUR AGAINST PRESIDENT OBAMA - TOPFuror Over Jackie Mason's Obama RemarkMyFoxNY.com, 3/18/09Comedian Jackie Mason may be in hot water over a racially charged remark about President Obama, according to TMZ.com.The Web site reported that Mason referred to Obama as a "schwartze." It's a word that some claim is equivalent to the "n" word… (More)EDITOR’S NOTE: In 2004, CAIR called on the nation's largest radio network to apologize for anti-Islam remarks by Jackie Mason, who called “the whole Muslim religion” a “murderous organization” that teaches “hate, terrorism and murder.” CAIR said Mason, who is also known for his right-wing and pro-Israel political commentaries, made the remarks as guest host on a recent broadcast of the Jim Bohannon Show, syndicated nationally by Westwood One. During the broadcast, New York lawyer Raoul Felder, who is a frequent co-author of Mason’s commentaries, attacked the character of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. He also said: “This (Islam) is a religion of hate; this is a religion of murder.”Mason responded by amplifying Felder’s bigotry. He said: “This is amazing information that almost nobody is aware of...everyone thinks that it’s a legitimate religion that preaches love and brotherhood…the truth of the matter is (that terrorists) are reflecting the religion and following the religion…they are following the orders of the religion directly from the Quran…in plain English, the whole Muslim religion is preaching and teaching hate, terrorism and murder, and nobody knows it, and its about time they found out about it…The Quran…is 50 versions of hate, venom, hostility, and murder…dedicated to terrorism…I don’t know how we can call it a religion in the traditional sense. It should be called a murderous organization that’s out to kill people.” In a letter to Westwood One, CAIR demanded a public apology to the Muslim community and an opportunity to refute Mason’s Islamophobic smears. The letter stated: “It is this type of hate-filled propaganda that was used by the Nazis as justification for their persecution of the Jewish community in Germany.”
In February 2007, it was learned that Washington had a secret new facility for so-called "high-security risk" Muslim and Middle Eastern prisoners in violation of federal law that prohibits severely limiting or cutting them off entirely from other inmates as well as outside contacts and communications. Segregating prisoners by race, national origin, or language violates the Supreme Court's February 2005 decision in Johnson v. California that affirmed 14th Amendment protection against racial discrimination. Specifically, the Court:
"rejected the notion that separate can ever be equal-or 'neutral' - 50 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education (this Court repudiated it and) refuses to resurrect it today."
US Prison Bureau regulations also stipulate that "staff shall not discriminate against inmates on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or political belief (including) administrative decisions (involving) access to work, housing and programs." Nonetheless, the Bush administration instituted these practices, and they continue under Barack Obama at the Terre Haute federal prison's Communications Management Unit (CMU). Perhaps at other federal and state facilities as well at a time Muslims are vilified and persecuted.
September 11, 2001 events unleashed a torrent of fear, repression, and a war on Islam, henceforth targeting innocent Muslims as terrorists, Islamofascists, and criminals for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, and/or charity.
Ever since, numerous innocent men and some women have suffered grievously. Besides "unlawful enemy combatants" in global "torture prisons," they've been unfairly harassed, arrested, prosecuted, and interned as political prisoners for being Muslims at the wrong time in America. Most end up in federal facilities like the CMU at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI), Terre Haute, Indiana, established to segregate and discriminate against Muslims and Middle Eastern internees. (More)
[Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Center for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net]
TX: IMAM ASKING FOR BAIL HEARING - TOPLindsay Wise, Houston Chronicle, 3/17/09
Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi put his palm to the glass separating him from his 18-month-old daughter at a Houston immigrant detention facility and blew her kiss after kiss, his eyes brimming with tears.
The bewildered toddler touched the window as her older sister picked up a telephone handset to talk to their father for the first time since his arrest at their home three months ago.
“Baba,” said 7-year-old Bushra, using the Arabic word for Daddy. “Are you ever going to come back?”
Bouchikhi, the popular spiritual leader of a southeast Houston mosque, has been held without bail at the facility since Dec. 17. In an interview this week, the 39-year-old imam of Houston’s Abu Bakr Siddqui mosque said he planned to start a hunger strike today to protest the government’s refusal to release him on bail while he awaits a deportation hearing.
“I feel that this is an injustice,” Bouchikhi said. “It’s absolutely outrageous what they are doing, so if they don’t release me I will bring the attention of the whole world to my case.”
The imam said he has faith in the American justice system, “but I think certain government agencies are not really doing justice to themselves, let alone to me.”
Bouchikhi is a native of Algeria who came to America 11 years ago as a student. He later obtained a religious worker visa and applied for permanent residency status for himself, his wife and oldest child. Bouchikhi’s other three children are American-born citizens. (More)
PLAN WOULD LIMIT PRISON CHAPEL BOOKS - TOPSolomon Moore, New York Times, 3/17/09
A broad swath of religious organizations and civil liberties groups — often on opposite sides of contentious issues — have joined together to condemn a proposed rule that they say would prohibit some religious texts in federal penitentiary libraries.
The Bureau of Prisons in January proposed that “materials that could incite, promote, or otherwise suggest the commission of violence or criminal activity” may be excluded from chapel libraries. An alliance of groups — Christian, Muslim and Jewish, conservative and liberal — opposed the rule during the open comments period, which ended Tuesday.
The word “could” is at the center of a two-year dispute between the agency and these groups over which religious texts should be banned from prison libraries.
The American Civil Liberties Union and several other civil rights and religious groups argue that the agency is going beyond the provision of the Second Chance Act of 2007, which included a restriction on materials that “seek” to incite violence.
They argue that the act was meant to prohibit only books that intend to suggest violence, and that the agency’s new rule would expand that ban to all books that could possibly lead to violence.
“Those one or two words have incredibly broad significance because of what they do to the scope of what books can be taken away,” said David Shapiro, an A.C.L.U. lawyer. “They could remove texts that are critical to prisoners’ ability to practice their religion.” . . .
Other groups opposing the rule change include Muslim Advocates, the Seventh-day Adventists and various Jewish organizations. (More)
-----MD: CREDIT UNION SUSPENDS NO-HAT POLICY - TOPMatt Zapotosky, Washington Post, 3/16/09
Navy Federal Credit Union has told employees to stop enforcing its "no hats, hoods or sunglasses" security policy while officials decide how it can be applied fairly, according to an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post.
The memo tells employees not to approach anyone wearing a hat, hood or sunglasses, but also not to take down the signs prohibiting such items. Tom Lyons, senior vice president of security for Navy Federal, said the new instructions will give credit union officials time to determine what additional training is needed to ensure the policy is enforced consistently. He said the memo is not an indication that the policy, implemented in December to stem robbery and identity theft, will be abandoned.
The memo was issued days after employees at a Navy Federal in St. Mary's County asked a Muslim wearing a head scarf to leave the line and conduct her business in a back room. Lyons said those employees' actions were inappropriate because the woman was clearly identifiable.
Earlier this year, an employee of Navy FCU pulled a Muslim immigrant from Somalia out of line for wearing her traditional head scarf.
The Muslim woman, Amal Hersi, has been a long time member of the credit union as well as an employee of the U.S. Navy.
When news reporters came asking about the incident, Navy FCU was predictably defensive: no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses. Unfortunately for Navy FCU, that policy does not apply to religious apparel.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a prominent Muslim civil rights advocacy group, called on the Department of Justice to investigate what it is calling Navy FCU’s “illegal and unconstitutional” behavior. (More)
American Muslims have been political late bloomers, said a Muslim political science professor, but collectively the group is slowly but surely coming of age in the United States.
Isolated from American politics by language, culture and religion, migrant American Muslims have faced huge obstacles to their political engagement and advancement, most recently the domestic and foreign policy implications of the worldwide war on terror, Black Hills State University professor Ahrar Ahmed said Monday.
Ahmed spoke on “Muslims in the U.S. and American Foreign Policy” to about 50 people at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, sponsored by the Muslim Student Association.
Hamzeh Jaradat, president of Mines’ MSA chapter, said the group invited Ahmed to speak about the history and current political status of American Muslims to help correct the “terrible” image that many Americans have of Muslims. Jaradat plans to return to his native Jordan after earning a doctorate in engineering, but the American Muslim community now stands at about 5.8 million and is expected to double in the next 20 years, Ahmed estimated. (More)
U.S. IS URGED TO LIFT BAN ON FOREIGN SCHOLARS - TOPJohn Schwartz, New York Times, 3/17/09
Tariq Ramadan, a respected Swiss academic and Muslim scholar, had a job all lined up at the University of Notre Dame in 2004, but the Bush administration prevented him from entering the country. Government officials said he had contributed to a charity believed to have connections to terrorism.
A federal judge supported the government’s position in December 2007, and an appeal will be heard next Tuesday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York.
Now, in a move leading up to that hearing, a coalition of academic and civil liberties groups is calling on the Obama administration to break with the Bush administration’s policies on blocking visas of some foreign scholars, writers and activists. (More)
VT: MUSLIM WOMEN TAKE THE YMCA PLUNGE - TOPPaula Routly, Seven Days, 3/18/09
The Islamic Society of Vermont rented the YMCA lap pool for two hours last Saturday night so local Muslim women could have a private place to dip — or take a first-ever swimming lesson.
It was no routine rental: Since the locker room couldn’t be properly secured, the women entered through the back entrance and changed clothes in the pool area. Only female lifeguards and instructors were permitted to watch over the aquatic action.
Caroline Comley, a senior at the University of Vermont who teaches swimming at the Y, said about 20 women took the plunge. Only two bikini-clad teens actually knew how to swim; the others, all non-swimmers, varied from “comfortable in the water” to “really nervous.” She said some of the adult women kept their heads covered, and most wore long pants in the pool.
But “they weren’t shy,” Comley insists, noting they listened to music supplied by the Y. “They were all really friendly and outgoing.” (More)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

GOP Rep Pressures FBI for ‘Payback’ Against Muslim Civil Rights GroupCAIR: Rep. Frank Wolf ‘abused his office’ in seeking negative info from agency
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/12/09) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) charged today that a Virginia member of the U.S. House of Representatives has “abused his office” by seeking to pressure the FBI to produce negative information about the Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.
In a letter delivered to the FBI on Monday, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) said he is “deeply disappointed” in the agency’s “insufficient response” to an earlier letter apparently seeking negative information based on smears against CAIR by Internet Muslim-bashers like Steven Emerson.
Emerson was recently named one of Fairness & Accuracy in Media’s “dirty dozen” of Islamophobes. FOXNews.com articles on the controversy have been based on Emerson’s online attacks on CAIR.
SEE: Congressman 'Deeply Disappointed' By FBI's Lack of Answers (FOX)
CAIR has been exposing Emerson’s Islamophobic rhetoric since publishing a point-by-point refutation of his 1994 “Jihad in America” video.
SEE: Steven Emerson's Crusade
Wolf seemed to threaten the FBI’s budget unless he received the type of negative response he seeks. He wrote: “Having resumed a leadership role this year as ranking member on the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations subcommittee, it is important to me that the FBI provide timely and detailed responses.”
Wolf’s attempt to obtain negative information to be used against CAIR may stem from that group’s long history of criticism of the Virginia congressman’s political stances.
“It appears that Congressman Wolf is seeking payback for all the times CAIR and American Muslims have challenged his political positions using their constitutionally-protected right to petition elected representatives,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “It is unfortunate that Wolf has abused his office to pressure a government agency to target those he obviously views as political opponents. Public office should be used to serve the people, not to pursue personal vendettas.”
SEE: Our View: No Religious Test for Sen. Shaw or CAIR
Awad cited the numerous times CAIR “butted heads” with Wolf over the past 12 years.
In 1997, CAIR asked members of the American Muslim community to contact Wolf about his “Freedom from Religious Persecution Act,” which it said seemed to ignore the persecution of Muslims. Also that year, CAIR asked Muslims to contact Wolf, then chairman of the Transportation and Related Agencies Subcommittee, to raise questions about passenger profiling and about how the civil liberties of all travelers could be guaranteed.
In 1998, CAIR asked Muslims to contact leaders of a House-Senate conference committee and urge them to amend or eliminate new legislation that would create a National Commission on Terrorism. Wolf introduced the legislation to create the commission.
CAIR expressed concern about the objectivity of the proposed commission because of “Wolf’s legislative history, his apparent focus on Islam and Muslims and the backgrounds of several individuals proposed as members of the commission.” The council said that a number of those put forward as possible commission members were “associates of Muslim bashers who have targeted the American Muslim community as a threat to this society.”
In 1999, CAIR called on the American Muslim community to defend a Muslim appointee to Wolf’s National Commission on Terrorism by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO). The appointee, Salam al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, was under attack by pro-Israel groups. A New York Post editorial attacking the appointment referred to “a list of public statements compiled by terrorism expert Steven Emerson,” the same Muslim-basher now smearing CAIR.
In 2001, CAIR challenged a decision by Wolf’s office to deny the right of an American Muslim leader of Sudanese heritage to attend a meeting to discuss policy toward Sudan on Capitol Hill. That leader, who was and is the Imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Herndon, Va., was a resident of Wolf’s district.
In 2006, CAIR called on “Muslims and other people of conscience in Northern Virginia” to contact Wolf to urge him to repudiate anti-Muslim remarks by his colleague Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA). Goode was critical of the planned use of a Quran for the ceremonial swearing-in of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.