MN SCHOOLS MUST PROTECT MUSLIM STUDENTS’ RIGHTS - TOPFBI Questioning Minn. Somali Students KAAL-TV, 4/9/09
View the video.
An Islamic-relations group says high schools, colleges and universities need to do more to protect the rights of Somali students.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-MN, says it's received an increasing number of reports from students who say they have been interrogated by the FBI on Minnesota campuses.
The group says the interviews focus on allegations that Somali men have left Minnesota to go to Somalia and fight in that nation's civil war.
According to CAIR-MN, federal agents have approached students in campus libraries or while walking to class.
The group says it received one report of a campus police officer who invited a Somali student leader to what she understood to be an outreach program. The student told CAIR-MN, the officer accompanied her to the meeting with FBI officials. She reported she did not have a lawyer present.
CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Taneeza Islam said, "Students' legal rights need to be upheld and they aren't currently being afforded the only true legal protection they have when talking to the law enforcement-an attorney." (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
A NEW PUSH BY THE FBI IS FOSTERING FEAR, ANGER AND A DILEMMA OF HOW TO SHOW LOYALTY TO TWO COMMUNITIES - TOPBy JAMES WALSH and RICHARD MERYHEW, Star Tribune, 4/10/09
When the FBI approached the young women at the University of Minnesota, they said they didn't mind talking.
But the women, both second-year students who don't want their names used because they fear for their safety, said the investigation into whether missing Somali men from Minnesota have been recruited by terrorists to fight in their homeland has left many students caught between wanting to help investigators find the truth and facing scorn from some in their community.
"On both sides, there is misunderstanding," one of the women said. "Americans see all of us as terrorists. And on the Somali side, people look at anyone who talks as snitches."
Said the other: "I just feel that everybody is taking it out of proportion."
The interviews have fueled what was already a contentious relationship between the Minnesota chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the FBI. On Wednesday, CAIR sent letters to area high schools, colleges and universities, asking that they provide legal support to Somali students who have been questioned on campus by the FBI. The FBI has ended formal relations with CAIR chapters nationally over their alleged connections to the funding of terror groups.
"CAIR's concern is that the community doesn't know what their rights are," said Taneeza Islam, CAIR's civil rights director. "When you don't understand what your rights are, you are more vulnerable in those situations."
Islam added that the FBI's decision to discontinue its outreach efforts through CAIR "is a huge loss for them."
BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME - TOPObama's efforts to repair relations with Muslims abroad are admirable. But what about those living in the US?Wajahat Ali, The Guardian, 4/9/09
While visiting Turkey this week, President Barack Hussain Obama, the multicultural Superman for the globalised world, proclaimed: "The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans," despite a recent ABC/Washington Post poll showing 48% of Americans hold an unfavourable opinion of Islam, the highest unfavourablity rating since 2001.
With his inaugural world tour, President Obama's rhetoric hopes to repair and rebuild diplomatic bridges with Muslim countries recklessly abandoned by George Bush's aggressive, Yosemite Sam foreign policy one which resulted in heightened animosity, mutual mistrust, and civilian causalities written off as collateral damage. However, perhaps the frayed relationship with Muslim citizens at home in the US should also be considered…
If partnership with Muslims is truly our intention, then the hand must first be extended to Muslims at home. Sadly, this was not the case when the FBI recently admitted to planting an informant at a California mosque, whose mission was to pose as a Muslim and actively "recruit terrorists." This revelation follows in the footsteps of the FBI's myopic decision last fall to cut off relations with the largest American Muslim civil rights organization, Council on American Islamic Relations (Cair) - undoubtedly a move influenced by certain powerful lobby groups. Deceptive, disrespectful and disingenuous methods like these continue to erode the FBI's dwindling currency with a patriotic Muslim American population eager to assist the government in its anti-terrorism efforts. However, they must first be treated as partners and not suspects. (More)
AMERICA'S MUSLIMS STILL UNDER SIEGE - TOPDespite healing words from President Obama in Turkey about bridging the divide between the Muslim world and the West, America's Muslim community is subject to pervasive and persistent attacks by the federal government, many spearheaded by the Joint Terrorism Task Forces.By Amy Goodman, Seattle Times, 4/9/09
As President Barack Obama made his public appearance with Turkish President Abdullah Gul Monday as part of his first trip to a Muslim country, U.S. federal agents were preparing to arrest Youssef Megahed in Tampa, Fla. Just three days earlier, on Friday, a jury in a U.S. federal district court had acquitted him of charges of illegally transporting explosives and possession of an explosive device.
Obama promised, when meeting with Gul, to "shape a set of strategies that can bridge the divide between the Muslim world and the West that can make us more prosperous and more secure."
Megahed, acquitted by a jury of his peers, thought he was secure, back with his family. He was enrolled in his final course at the University of South Florida that would allow him to receive his college degree. Then the nightmare he had just escaped returned. His father told me: "Yesterday around noon, I took my son to buy something from Wal-Mart ... when we received a call from our lawyer that we must meet him immediately ... when we got to the parking lot, we found ourselves surrounded by more than seven people. They dress in normal clothes without any badges, without any IDs, surrounded us and give me a paper.
"And they told me, 'Sign this.' 'Sign this for what?' I ask him. They told me, 'We are going to take your son ... to deport him.' "
Megahed is being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a deportation proceeding. The charges are the same ones from which he was completely acquitted. In August 2007, Megahed and a fellow USF student took a road trip to see the Carolinas. When pulled over for speeding, police found something in the trunk that they described as explosives. Megahed's co-defendant, Ahmed Mohamed, said they were homemade fireworks. (More)
OBAMA AND AMERICAN MUSLIMS - TOPMiddle East Online, 4/10/09
Barack Obama’s speech in Turkey last week was a welcome message of clarity and warmth for Muslims everywhere. But there are domestic issues for American Muslims and Arabs that are very troubling, notes Nadia Hijab.
Is it easier for the American administration to reach out to the “Muslim world” than it is to deal with Muslims in America? Barack Obama’s statements in Turkey this week, welcome as they are, play out against a backdrop of increasing tension between his administration and Muslim American organizations. Unless these tensions are addressed quickly and effectively, they risk undermining his public diplomacy.
A national coalition of Muslim Americans -- the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) -- raised these domestic issues even as it applauded Obama’s Ankara remarks. It listed the “deteriorating relations between the FBI and American Muslims, the dissemination of inaccurate and agenda-driven information by DHS-recognized ‘fusion centers’, and Muslims' concerns about Justice Department guidelines implemented in December 2008 that allow race and ethnicity to be factors in opening an FBI probe.”
The AMT coalition is even considering suspending their outreach relations with the FBI because of recent incidents -- though not their support of legitimate law enforcement. (More)
MUSLIM FORMER CIA OFFICIAL DETAILS STRUGGLES - TOPSusan Zalkind, Daily Free Press, 4/8/09
Former director of the CIA’s Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program Emile Nakhleh told an audience of about 25 people that though he is optimistic about the Obama administration, American understanding of Islam is still lacking.
Nakhleh spoke Tuesday at the Castle Tuesday evening to promote his book, “A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World.”
“We need to understand the Muslim world much better,” Nakhleh said. “It is a matter of national security.”
Nakhleh, who was born in Palestine and served in the CIA for 16 years before retiring in 2006, said there was a tendency during the Bush administration “to paint the Islamic world with one broad brush.” The CIA, on the other hand, made the distinction “between terrorism and the larger Islamic community,” he said.
For example, Nakhleh said the lack of communication between the Bush administration and the Muslim world was demonstrated when Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan could not teach at University of Notre Dame after he was denied a visa because of an intelligence file.
As it turns out, the only intelligence in existence against the scholar was newspaper clippings in his file, “but because it was an intelligence file, it had some sort of aura,” Nakhleh said. (More)
PETITION DRIVE UNDERWAY CALLING FOR YOUSSEF MEGAHED'S RELEASE - TOPWTSP-TV, 4/9/09Tampa, Florida -- A petition drive is now underway calling on the immediate release of former USF student Youssef Megahed. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is also sending out letters to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, as well as a host of other lawmakers asking for their help in freeing the jailed 23-year old.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE arrested Megahed on Monday outside a Tampa Wal-Mart. The arrest came just days after a jury cleared Megahed in a federal explosives case.
ICE released a statement on Monday saying Megahed was arrested for "civil violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act." However Arturo Rios, a St. Petersburg attorney who specializes in immigration cases, believes such statements violate Megahed's civil rights.
"They're already saying that he (Megahed) violated the Immigration Nationality Act without a trial so the old adage of being innocent until proven guilty seems to be out the window in this case" Rios said.
10 Connects also requested more specifics about why Megahed was being held and what was he being charged with. The request was made under the Freedom of Information Act. But ICE responded by saying the only way they would turn over any information to 10 Connects is if Youssef Megahed signed a release form. Yet, Megahed is behind bars and even his family hasn't been able to see him.
"It's concerning that they haven't been more open about it right now and it's very suspicious" added Ramzy Kilic the executive director of CAIR Tampa Bay.
JUDGE, JURY, VERDICT? DOESN'T MATTER - TOPDaniel Ruth, St. Petersburg Times, 4/10/09
This is what the criminal justice system looks like when it is hijacked by the mother-in-law from hell meets North Korea.
Last week, former University of South Florida engineering student Youssef Megahed walked out of a federal courtroom in Tampa a free man after being found not guilty of charges of illegally transporting explosives and possessing a destructive device.
Four days later, he found himself sitting in another federal jail cell -- convicted of first degree sour grapes…
…Megahed's only crime appears to have once been a defendant in a criminal case, in which he was found not guilty by a jury. Immigration and Customs Enforcement insists incarcerating this young man does not constitute double jeopardy because the deportation action is a civil matter. But that is complete hooey, or words to that effect.
A question. Had Megahed simply been a young man living in this country as a permanent resident alien who had never been charged with a crime, much less acquitted — acquitted — in federal court, would he still have been dragooned off the streets and tossed in the calaboose?
To be sure, the slack-jawed Deliverance-esque blogosphere has been frothing with the spittle of redneck rubes hailing Megahed's jackbooted arrest and calling for his immediate deportation.
For what? For being different? For being an Arab? For being a Muslim? For being right?
America has a long and checkered history of discrimination and persecution of immigrants. In different times the Irish, Italians, Asians and others have felt the sting of bigotry. Once you could get in an awful lot of trouble with a vowel at the end of your name. Today a Koran can become a virtual noose.
But for all its historical faults, this country still stands for justice for all. It makes it difficult for the United States to preach to the world about the sanctity of our courts, the fealty to fairness and due process when those who sought that very justice become victims after exercising their civil rights.
The bullying of Megahed by ICE trampled on the court system, on our democracy. What's the point of immigrants in a legal pickle challenging the charges against them if they are only going to be dragged off the streets by government agents who loathe the ability of a jury to reach an honest verdict?
What happened to Youssef Megahed amounts to a de facto obstruction of justice.
Megahed may be the one sitting in jail. But we've all been shackled by fear, ignorance and bureaucratic tyranny.
MEGAHED'S ARREST IS UN-AMERICAN - TOPSt. Petersburg Times, 4/10/09
Let me assure you, I am not a Muslim. I consider myself an American of Scottish descent. I too, urge the release of Youssef Megahed.
This great country was founded under a group of laws and rules by which all its citizens must abide. This young man was given a jury trial and acquitted. I repeat, acquitted of all charges. For Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain and incarcerate him now on contrived assumptions is, simply put, un-American.
Megahed is a legal alien seeking citizenship. He should be allowed to pursue his aspirations. One could argue that this is just another form of rendition.
If we allow this to happen now, what will happen when we run out of Muslims? What group will be targeted next?
This is shameful and disgraceful. His release should be imminent.
Roy Monteith, Clearwater