DUTCH FOE OF ISLAM IGNORES US ALLIES' FAR RIGHT TIES - TOPDaniel Luban and Eli Clifton, Inter Press Service, 3/1/09
WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (IPS) - The fiercely anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders has been traveling through the U.S. this week on a highly-publicised trip to meet with politicians, promote his controversial film ‘Fitna’, and raise money for his legal defence back home.
Although Wilders’s stated goal has been to campaign for free speech, his trip has been sponsored and promoted by an unlikely coalition of groups united primarily by their hostility towards Islam. His backers include neoconservative and right-wing Jewish groups on the one hand and figures with ties to the European far right on the other.
Since he was charged with incitement to hate and discrimination in the Netherlands in January and denied entry to Britain earlier this month on public safety grounds, Wilders has become something of a cause celebre for the U.S. right.
This week, he gave a private viewing of his 17-minute anti-Islam film in the U.S. Senate, where he was hosted by Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican. He also appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s and Glenn Beck’s popular right-wing TV shows, met privately with the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and hobnobbed with former U.N. ambassador John Bolton at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
On Friday, he capped his busy week with an appearance at the National Press Club. At the event, he reiterated his calls for a halt to immigration from Muslim countries and pronounced, to raucous applause from the audience, that "our Western culture based on Christianity, Judaism, and humanism is in every aspect better than Islamic culture".
Wilders is also known for campaigning to ban the Koran, Islamic attire, and Islamic schools from the Netherlands, and for proclaiming that "moderate Islam does not exist."
His chief sponsors during the trip have primarily been neoconservative organisations such as Frank Gaffney’s Centre for Security Policy, David Horowitz’s Freedom Centre, and Daniel Pipes’s Middle East Forum, which is also helping to raise money for Wilders’s legal defence.
An event he held at a Boston-area synagogue was sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition, an influential group whose board members include casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and neoconservative writer David Frum, who attended Wilders’s Friday event in Washington.
His trip has also been heavily promoted by conservative blogger Pamela Geller, who sponsored a reception for him in Washington on Friday. Geller is perhaps best known for alleging during the 2008 presidential campaign that now-President Barack Obama is the illegitimate child of the late Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X; she also continues to argue that Obama is a secret Muslim.
A less well-known but key backer of Wilders’s trip has been the newly-formed International Free Press Society (IFPS), which is headed by Danish journalist Lars Hedegaard and upon whose advisory board Wilders sits. The IFPS has been instrumental in promoting Wilders’ case as a free-speech issue, joining him in calling for an "International First Amendment", and it was a co-sponsor of Friday’s event at the National Press Club.
Wilders might seem to be an unlikely free-speech martyr - he famously called for the Netherlands to ban the Koran in an August 2007 op-ed, on the grounds that it was hate speech no different from Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf.’ Wilders and his defenders now claim that he is actually in favour of the repeal of all hate speech laws, although he made no mention of this issue in the original op-ed.
While the IFPS has strong ties to neoconservatives - its staff includes members of Pipes’s and Gaffney’s organisations - it also has ties to the European far right, and specifically the Belgian rightist party Vlaams Belang (VB), or Flemish Interest.
The IFPS’s vice president Paul Belien is married to Vlaams Belang MP Alexandra Colen, and has been a fierce defender of the party against its critics.
And in 2007, Hedegaard and Belien - along with IFPS board members Bat Ye’or, Andrew Bostom, Robert Spencer, and Sam Solomon - appeared with VB leader Filip Dewinter at the CounterJihad conference in Brussels. Although "the VB did not organise the conference, it provided an important part of the logistics and the security of those attending," according to Belien.
These VB ties among some of Wilders’s most important backers may raise difficulties for the politician, who has taken care to differentiate himself from far-right leaders such as Jean-Marie Le Pen of France and the late Joerg Haider of Austria. In particular, they may complicate his efforts to market himself to mainstream Jewish groups, which have traditionally been suspicious of the European far right due to its reputation for anti-Semitism and fascist tendencies. (MORE)
POLL FINDS U.S. MUSLIMS THRIVING, BUT NOT CONTENT - TOPLaurie Goodstein, New York Times, 3/2/09
A Gallup poll of Muslims in the United States has found that they are far more likely than people in Muslim countries to see themselves as thriving.
n fact, the only countries where Muslims are more likely to see themselves as thriving are Saudi Arabia and Germany, according to the poll.
And yet, within the United States, Muslims are the least content religious group, when compared with Jews, Mormons, Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Gallup researchers say that is because the largest segment of American Muslims are African-Americans (35 percent, including first-generation immigrants), and they generally report lower levels of income, education, employment and well-being than other Americans.
But American Muslims are not one homogeneous group, the study makes clear. Asian-American Muslims (from countries like India and Pakistan) have more income and education and are more likely to be thriving than other American Muslims. In fact, their quality of life indicators are higher than for most other Americans, except for American Jews.
“We discovered how diverse Muslim Americans are,” said Dalia Mogahed, executive director and senior analyst of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, which financed the poll. “Ethnically, politically and economically, they are in every way a cross-section of the nation. They are the only religious community without a majority race.”
The Gallup study is significant because it is the first to examine a randomly selected sample of American Muslims. Gallup interviewed more than 300,000 people by telephone in 2008 while conducting broader polls, and focused on 946 who identified themselves as Muslims. (The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.) . . .
American Muslim women, contrary to stereotype, are more likely than American Muslim men to have college and post-graduate degrees. They are more highly educated than women in every other religious group except Jews. American Muslim women also report incomes more nearly equal to men, compared with women and men of other faiths.
Muslim women in the United States attend mosque as frequently as Muslim men — a contrast with many Muslim countries where the mosques are primarily for men. American Muslims are generally very religious, saying that religion is an important part of their daily lives (80 percent), more than any other group except Mormons (85 percent). The figure for Americans in general is 65 percent. (MORE)
TUSTIN MAN SUSPECTED OF TERRORIST TIES TO BE ARRAIGNED - TOPAhmadullah Sais Niazi, arrested on immigration charges, eleased from custody Friday.Salvador Hernandez, Orange County Register, 3/2/09
SANTA ANA Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, a Tustin man accused of lying about possible terrorist ties, including having a brother-in-law suspected of being the security coordinator for Osama bin Laden, is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court this morning.
Niazi faces several immigration-related charges, such as lying to obtain citizenship and a U.S. passport, and lying about a 2005 trip to Pakistan during which he met with Dr. Amin al-Haq, who has been identified as a terrorist. Niazi doesn't face any terrorism-related charges, but allegations that he was recorded talking about blowing up empty buildings and referred to bin Laden as "an angel" have dominated his case.
Last week, U.S. Magistrate Arthur Nakazato set bail at $500,000 for the 34-year-old Niazi. Nakazato also said he wanted at least two relatives to be financially responsible for Niazi's bail. Family members posted bail Friday.
Since Niazi's arrest, the case has reverberated in the Muslim community in Orange County because FBI used an undercover informant to build a case against Niazi.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Niazi came to him because the FBI was trying to recruit him as an informant. The case built against him, he said, was in retaliation for his refusal. (MORE)
CAIR-LA: L.A. AREA MUSLIMS SAY FBI SURVEILLANCE HAS A CHILLING EFFECT - TOPUse of an informant in Orange County leads some to avoid mosques and cut charitable giving.Teresa Watanabe and Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times, 3/1/09
The Islamic Center of Irvine is a beige stucco building that blends into the rows of office buildings surrounding it. But last week, it became the most publicized mosque in California with disclosures that the FBI sent an informant there to spy and collect evidence of jihadist rhetoric and other allegedly extremist acts by a Tustin man who attended prayers there.
The revelations dismayed mosque members like Omar Turbi, 50, and his 27-year-old son who shares his name. After Friday prayer service last week, while hundreds of others scurried back to work, the pair stood with their backs to a wall and mulled over the news.
"It gives you a little bit of apprehension about who you trust," the elder Turbi said. "Makes you think twice about what you say; what if people misunderstand you?"
Turbi's fears were echoed by other Muslims throughout Southern California last week. Some say a climate of suspicion toward them, fueled by 9/11 and underscored by the latest disclosures of FBI surveillance, is inhibiting their freedoms of speech and faith.
According to Muslim leaders, some people are avoiding mosques, preferring to pray at home. Others are reducing donations to avoid attracting government attention or paying in cash to avoid leaving records. And some mosques have asked speakers to refrain from political messages in their sermons, such as criticism of U.S. foreign policy, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Anaheim.
"Some average Muslims interested only in praying are avoiding mosques for fear of somehow being monitored or profiled," Ayloush said. "Everybody is afraid, and it is leading to an infringement of the free practice of our religion."
The latest anxiety wave was triggered by an FBI agent's testimony last week that an informant was sent into several Orange County mosques and helped collect evidence against Ahmadullah Sais Niazi. The Afghanistan-born Niazi, 34, is scheduled for arraignment this month on charges of perjury, naturalization fraud and other acts related to lying about ties to Al Qaeda.
A man claiming to be that informant, Irvine resident Craig Monteilh, said last week in interviews and court documents that he served the FBI as a paid informant from July 2006 to October 2007 and used concealed audio and video equipment to record thousands of hours of conversations with Muslims in homes, restaurants and mosques in Irvine, Tustin, Mission Viejo and elsewhere.
But Ayloush and other Muslim leaders said that FBI scrutiny of the Muslim community -- and efforts to recruit informants -- began years ago. The FBI declined to comment.
Both Ayloush and Shakeel Syed of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization of 68 area mosques, said numerous Muslims have reported to them attempts by the FBI to recruit them as informers. In virtually all cases, they said, the Muslims in question had immigration and other legal problems or were applying for green cards. "We will make your problems vanish if you cooperate," Syed said the FBI told Muslims.
Suspecting widespread surveillance of their community, several American Muslim organizations and their leaders filed a Freedom of Information Act request, followed in 2007 by a lawsuit against the federal government, demanding the release of all information collected on them.
Muslims have also complained of FBI interrogations about their charitable contributions, asking why were they donating and who was receiving their money. At one Los Angeles-area mosque, nearly every donor was quizzed by the FBI, and the mosque subsequently experienced a steep decline in donations, Ayloush said. (MORE)
SEE ALSO:CAIR-LA: EMOTIONAL DAY OF REMEMBRANCE AT JANM - TOPConnection to immigration issues explored at 41st Day of RemembranceMariko Austin, Rafu Shimpo, 2/28/09
On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that authorized the Japanese American internment during World War II. On Saturday, the Japanese American National Museum held the 21st annual Day of Remembrance event that commemorates the signing of that document.
Like previous years, this event was not only about the Japanese American experience, it also focused on the topic of immigration, an issue pertinent to many, as evidenced by the attendance of members of several different ethnic communities.
The rollercoaster of emotions induced by the event was palpable. Looks of reflection and understanding were clear on the faces of the older members of the audience and younger generations showed an air of solemnity and respect. JANM President and CEO, Akemi Kikumura Yano, said, “[This event] is about learning from the past to inform the future. This could happen to anyone.”
It began with a brief introduction and history of the internment and campaign for redress, followed by the presentation of the NCRR Fighting Spirit Award to Lillian Nakano. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend due to a recent operation and her family accepted the award on her behalf.
The presentation was followed by the keynote address, given by Professor Roger Daniels, the Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Cincinnati. He offered an in-depth history of the Japanese American internment, including the Issei and Nisei experience, the aftermath following their release, and the efforts of subsequent generations in the campaign for redress. He also addressed the parallel events that followed the internment that affected other ethnic groups in times of “internal security emergencies.” The atmosphere was solemn during his address, and was a time of reflection for some in the audience during this historical recount.
A series of special performances featured a short film, a collection of personal stories from recent immigrants and those with experiences related to the internment, and a potent performance by hip-hop artist Prophet.
Several organizations from the Southern California area were also present; the Campaign for Justice, representing the Japanese Latin American campaign for Redress; UCLA CAPSA and UCLA IDEAS for the DREAM Act campaign; and the Council on American-Islamic Relations for the Muslim American community. The Southern California Executive Director of CAIR, Hussam Ayloush, delivered a moving thanks for the support the Japanese American community had shown in the aftermath of 9/11. (MORE)
VIDEO: MINN. BILL WOULD BAN HIJAB ON DRIVER'S LICENSE PHOTOS - TOPJohn Lauritsen, WCCO , 3/1/2009
Most people don't like their driver's license picture, but if a state lawmaker has his way, one group of Minnesotans said they are going to like theirs even less. State Rep. Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud is trying to pass a bill that would ban any kind of headwear worn on a driver's license pictures.
Gottwalt said it is a matter of safety to help law enforcement identify people easier. However, people in the Muslim community said covering their heads is their religious right.
"We cover our hair for that reason. We follow our religion -- what God told us to do," said Suban Khalif. (MORE)
CONTACT: CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica Zikri, 612-226-3289, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Taneeza Islam, Esq., 651-587-4712, E-Mail: email@example.com
OK: DRIVER'S LICENSE LAW ISN'T NEEDED - TOPWorld's Editorial Writers, 2/25/09
On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a proposal that would prohibit people from wearing anything on their heads in their driver's license photo.
Committee Chairman Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, took another legislator's bill (that was designed to deal with a completely different issue) and persuaded the committee to put in his ban on eyeglasses, scarves or other head wear in driver's license pictures — with no exception for things worn for religious reasons.
Duncan said the proposal started with a recent Norman incident in which a Muslim woman got into a dispute with the tag agent over a driver's license picture involving her hijab — a traditional head scarf worn by Muslim women. The tag agency wanted her to push the scarf past her hairline, which she felt violated her religious practices.
Later, the Department of Public Safety accommodated the woman in accord with the agency's previous policy and took a new picture with her hijab at her hairline.
The situation was resolved amicably: The department got an identifying picture; the woman got to maintain her religious practices and obtain a driver's license.
The situation didn't need legislation, but Duncan acted anyway. (MORE)
GLOBAL: HIJABLOGGING IN VOGUE - TOPJillian York, Global Voices, 3/1/09
Hijablogging: Just another global trend taking the blogosphere by storm. All around the world, women who opt to wear hijab (the Islamic head covering) are also opting to blog about their experiences, as well as veiled fashion, lifestyle, experience, and the political and religious issues surrounding it.
The Hijablog is leading the movement. Based in Norway, the woman behind the blog writes about everything from political issues (such as the recent debate surrounding hijab-clad women joining the Norwegian police force) to Islamic wedding fashion in Malaysia. In one recent post, the blogger profiled Indonesian designer of Islamic fashion Itang Yunasz. (MORE)
CAIR: MUSLIM VETERAN HAD FEW PROBLEMS AT FORT BLISS - TOPChris Roberts, El Paso Times, 3/02/2009
FORT BLISS -- Iman Zaid Tajiddin is a combat veteran who operated a Fort Bliss Patriot missile battery in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War.
"You could say it was exciting," said Tajiddin, who was stationed in the nation's capital, Riyadh. "That was Scud central. We had more attacks there than just about anywhere else."
Despite the fact he wore the same uniform and fought for the same cause, he encountered soldiers who, because of his name, his Muslim faith and the fact he read the Quran in Arabic, assumed he was a Saudi national. Tajiddin is from Virginia, where he used to sing in the church choir.
These days, he is an imam with the Islamic Center of El Paso who conducts services for soldiers and civilians at Fort Bliss.
Although nationally there have been reports of discrimination and bias toward U.S. soldiers who are Muslims, "I wouldn't say it's one of our larger categories of work," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. However, he expressed concern about soldiers who have served in Iraq who come back twisting a positive term in Arabic into an English slur.
"They refer to an Iraqi Muslim with use of the term hajji," Hooper said of the word used among Muslims that literally refers to a person who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. "It's a term you use when you meet an older person or a person who you want to treat with respect." . . .
Tajiddin understands where the misuse of the term "hajji" comes from.
"In the military, it's not just some animosity toward Islam," said Tajiddin, who served in the Army for 10 years. "Part of the psychology of the military is whoever is construed as the enemy is dehumanized."
He remembers a marching song used to keep the cadence when he served in Germany, "Send me to Vietnam so I can kill Charlie Cong."
However, the color of his skin -- he is African-American -- was another story.
"I never had anybody come at me with" a slur on Islam, he said. "If you don't bring your foolishness and actually touch me with it, I can give you the room to grow. The American people have a greater level of social maturity than most places in the world." (MORE)
NY: MUSLIM CHAPLAIN TRAVELS PATH OF COMPASSION - TOPAzra Haqqie, Albany Times Union, 2/28/09
Nur Tiven: Pastoral care intern at Albany Medical Center HospitalBackground: 30, born and raised in the Berkshires. Studied divinity at Suluk Academy, New Lebanon, with focus on Islam and interfaith. Lives in Albany.
What is your religious background?
I wasn't raised overtly religious. My mother was Christian and my father Jewish. I converted to Islam in my early 20s.
What drew you to chaplaincy?
I had a longing to be of service to humanity so we are not doing things just for ourselves. The goal is to be a servant of God and serve whatever need presents itself — the poor, the sick. Previously, I had been doing a "bouquet of things" — teaching as a youth mentor, artist, musician. The longing to focus welled up in me. Chaplaincy has become my vocation.
What path did you take?
Clinical pastoral education is offered at hospitals all over the country for interfaith, or even those who have no faith. The program is embedded in hospitals, nursing homes and prisons. . .
Do you minister mostly to Muslims?
Most people I minister to are not Muslims. I represent compassion, love, care and generosity to all patients. What people want is to be listened to and comforted. The patient has a great thirst for attention and compassion. These are feelings for God. (MORE)
SEE ALSO:PA: PITT PROFESSOR RELATES MUSLIM IDENTITY TO THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY - TOPMarium Chandna, The Tartan, 3/2/09
University of Pittsburgh faculty member Arif Jamal spoke last week about the roots of Islam within the African-American community to help commemorate Black History Month at Carnegie Mellon.
The lecture was a collaborative effort between the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and the black awareness organization, SPIRIT. While an acknowledged presence of Muslim communities across the U.S. exists, “not many people are aware of the diversities among Muslims,” Jamal said. He also said that a large segment of the Muslim population in the U.S. is actually from the U.S.; that is, they are American Muslims.
According to a Newsweek report, there were an estimated 7 to 8 billion American Muslims in the U.S. in 2008, excluding residents who do not have U.S. citizenship. Since the U.S. Census Bureau does not classify citizens according to their religions, it is less likely to obtain an exact demographic.
“African-Americans make up a large percentage of the people who convert to Islam,” Jamal said. But for the Muslim African-American, being Muslim goes in hand in hand with “not leaving being black,” he added. (MORE)
MN: NEW ISLAMIC MORTGAGES NOW AVAILABLE IN MINNESOTA - TOPJessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio, 3/1/09
Click here to listen to this story.
For many Minnesota Muslims, it's been virtually impossible to buy a home, because Islamic law forbids the paying or charging of interest. To help close the home ownership gap among Muslim immigrants, the state's housing agency is launching a new program offering Islamic mortgages.
Islamic law does make exceptions to the ban on interest, if one's family is at stake. But the exceptions are open to interpretation and for many observant Muslims, conventional mortgages are strictly taboo.
Nawawi Sheikh is one of them. The Somali-American says he and his wife just couldn't go against their beliefs, even if it meant giving up their dream of owning a home. Still, he grew tired of moving from one rented apartment to another.
"One thing I hated was moving. I don't like to move all the time," he says.
He has no plans to move again anytime soon. Sheikh is the first home buyer to get a loan through the state's New Markets Mortgage Program. That's because, program manager Nimo Farah says, he has all the makings of a successful homeowner.
"I had lots of applications, but he's the first one, because really, he was ready. He has been working at the same job for quite a while; he took care of his credit; he had the right size family, and he had all his documents together," she said. "He was basically ready to go."
The program is targeted at low-to-moderate income families. Qualified applicants have to complete first-time home buyer education classes. The goal is to help Muslim home buyers build wealth and reap the benefits of home ownership. (MORE)
FL: MUSLIMS FEATURED IN ‘UNSEEN AMERICA’ PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT - TOPLashonda Stinson Curry, Gainesville Sun, 3/1/09
The faces of Muslims are framed in an art exhibition at Reitz Union that offers a window into their lives and culture.
University of Florida students Mohamed-Eslam Mohamed, Asaad Musba, Charissa Dawn Scott and Hena Waseem and UF graduate Muhsin Aziz Ahmad were asked to take pictures that documented Muslim life from a part of Unseen America.
"Unseen America" is a national photography project originally started in New York to show the lives of immigrant workers. Then the project expanded to include people and groups misrepresented, ignored or stereotyped by mass society. The first Unseen America project in Gainesville was 2004's "Women in Transition," which chronicled the lives of homeless women in the city.
As part of this year's project, the students participated in a 10-week class. They received basic photography training and wrote the explanatory text panels for each photo. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts funded the project.
Liz Gottlieb, coordinator of the Unseen America project in Gainesville, was inspired to choose Muslim life as the topic after talk of President Barack Obama being a Muslim became a hot campaign issue.
"People took being called a Muslim as an insult ... and that's a lot of what I'm trying to turn around with this, that being Muslim is no different than being just another human being." (MORE)
MUSLIM SENT HOME - TOPA Legal Visa Holder Meets Unreason at DullesJohn Marks, Washington Post, 3/2/09
[The writer is president and founder of Search for Common Ground, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that works to find peaceful solutions to conflict around the world.]
On Jan. 26, my office received a call from an immigration agent at Dulles International Airport, who said that my colleague Rashad Bukhari had been refused entry to the United States. He was not charged with anything, the agent said, and would be eligible for a future visa.
In fact, when Rashad arrived at Dulles, his Pakistani passport contained a valid, multi-entry visa, issued less than two years before by the U.S. State Department in Islamabad. He used this visa in 2007 to enter the United States without difficulty. Rashad is 36, and he worked for two American organizations, including the U.S. Institute of Peace, before he joined us at Search for Common Ground in 2007. He is Urdu-language editor of our Common Ground News Service, whose goal is to build bridges between the Muslim world and the West.
Immigration officials at Dulles could have easily verified all of this if Rashad had been allowed to make a phone call or if they themselves had chosen to check. Rather, they detained him for 15 hours, temporarily took away his cellphone and laptop, and eventually put him on a plane back to Pakistan. They prepared a transcript of the encounter in which an official justifies the United States not honoring Rashad's visa by saying, "You appear to be an intending [sic] immigrant."
Rashad answered that he has a wife and three children in Pakistan, that his job is based there, that he had a return ticket and that he had no intention of remaining in the United States.
Rashad later told us that the agent said -- in words that do not appear in the transcript -- that if he "voluntarily" withdrew and did not try appealing to more senior immigration officials, he would have a chance to return to the United States after getting a new visa; otherwise, he would face a five-year ban. In either case, Rashad was told, he would have to leave.
Faced with this Hobson's choice, Rashad "voluntarily" left the country. (MORE)