Friday, November 20, 2009

Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, 11/20/09

Reaching out to Arab Americans and Muslims, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a Detroit speech Thursday night that their full rights must be protected as the country battles security threats.

"This is not blind adherence to political correctness," Holder told hundreds at the Detroit Marriott in the Renaissance Center. "It is devotion to our founding documents."

He said that it's vital that all ethnic and religious groups in America be treated equally. He also said racial profiling was bad policy that breeds mistrust and division.

"For the last nine months, I've heard from Muslim and Arab Americans who feel uneasy about their relationship with their government, who feel isolated and discriminated against by law enforcement," Holder said. "It is inconsistent with what America is all about." (More)


Speech offers chance to discuss such issues as racial profiling
Oralandar Brand-Williams, Detroit News

Detroit -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a crowd of law enforcement, and community and Muslim leaders Thursday the U.S. Justice Department "is again open for business."

"I can assure you under my leadership the Department of Justice will enforce all of our nation's laws with equal conviction," Holder declared, saying that under the Obama administration, the department will return to its "traditional" role of ensuring civil rights.

Holder, the nation's first African-American attorney general, also said he ordered an internal review of law enforcement data within the U.S. Justice Department to study the issue of racial profiling.

"Racial profiling is simply not good law enforcement," said Holder, who told the crowd that he was racially profiled in the 1970s as a college student.

Holder also touched on other hot-button issues, saying the Justice Department is committed to fighting terrorism. But, said Holder, he also is committed to "ensure the fair application of our nation's laws and constitutional protections, and there is no contradiction between the two."

The speech came amid heightened sensitivities in the Muslim community, following the fatal shooting last month of Detroit Imam Luqman Abdullah by FBI agents and the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings that killed 13 people and wounded 29. The Fort Hood shootings rocked the nation and had Muslims bracing for a backlash.

An Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan, was charged in the attack, and agents are probing his alleged contacts with a radical imam before the shootings.

Indeed, Holder said he has heard from Muslim- and Arab-Americans who said they feel uneasy about their relationship with the U.S. government.

"They feel isolated and discriminated against by law enforcement," Holder said. "Some of them have told me that they feel denied the full rights of citizenship." (More)


Student told not to offer prayers on school property

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/20/09) The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today asked a school district in Maine to allow a Muslim student to exercise her constitutionally-protected right to pray between classes.

According to the mother of the 7th-grade student at Lewiston Middle School, her daughter has been praying discreetly during her free time or lunch break in a corner of a school hallway. Earlier this week, when school officials discovered that she was praying during breaks, she was allegedly told never to pray on school property.

The girl’s mother reports that despite her best efforts to explain the significance of the prayers, the school has refused to provide religious accommodation. She said she has been forced to pick up her daughter every day and take her to a nearby park to pray.

“While school officials may not promote religious practices, they must allow students to pray in a manner that does not disrupt classroom activities,” said CAIR Civil Rights Manager Khadija Athman. “Clearly, this student was not a disruption to a positive learning environment and has the right to pray on school property.”

In a letter to the superintendent of Lewiston Public Schools, CAIR National Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili wrote in part:

“The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects citizens from government infringement on the free exercise of religion. The Fourteenth Amendment makes the United States Constitution applicable to the states. Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court has held that the government may not impinge on an individual’s free exercise of religion unless the state is advancing a compelling interest that is essential to the accomplishment of an overriding governmental purpose. We do not believe that prohibiting a student from praying in a quiet corner of a school hall on her free time, without disrupting any classroom activity, meets the test of a compelling interest.”

Al-Khalili asked the school district to 1) allow the Muslim student to pray on school property during her free time, 2) modify school policy to provide constitutionally-protected religious accommodation, 3) ensure that the student will not face retaliation because of her request for religious accommodation, and 4) institute diversity training for school staff.

CAIR offers a booklet, called “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” that is designed to help school officials provide a positive learning environment for students of all faiths.

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. 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 Civil Rights Manager Khadija Athman, 202-646-6033; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787 or 202-341-4171, E-Mail:



Postcard from Dearborn
Bobby Ghosh Monday, Nov. 30, 2009

As soon as media reports named Hasan the shooter, Mardini began to contact imams across the Detroit area to coordinate a response, consulting national groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). The consensus: condemn the massacre with no reservations, and offer support for the victims and their families. ISNA launched the Fort Hood Family Fund and by Nov. 17 had collected $45,000. Mardini went further, offering prayers for those killed and injured. "It was important for everyone to know that we're grieving as Americans," he says.

Did it work? Mardini notes that there have been no reports of heinous attacks on Muslims anywhere in the U.S. "Our worst nightmare has not come true," he says.

But as the worshippers stream out of Mardini's mosque, one man finds a package at the door. It is a hardbound Koran, in English, and it has been defaced with silver spray paint. Folded inside is a sheet of paper, bearing a message written in childish capitals: "Islam is a disease. Muslim immigrants are the virus ... Every Muslim should be kicked out of the USA." (More)


Lisa Trigg, The Tribune-Star, 11/18/09

TERRE HAUTE -- A sign at a Terre Haute church bearing a message that many people would deem “intolerant” has raised an objection from a concerned teenager who could not let the message go unchallenged.

Saagarika Coleman submitted a letter to the editor of the Tribune-Star (see page A8) stating that she was “hit with a wave of shock. I was horrified” when she saw the sign at Bible Baptist Church as her father drove her to school Monday morning.

The sign stated, “Jesus died and rose and lives for you. What did Allah do.”

To Coleman and others, the message seems to challenge or belittle the Muslim faith. At best, such sentiments strike some people as an un-Christian approach to tolerance of other beliefs. (More)



POLL: The world’s top 500 Muslims
Tom Heneghan, Reuters, 11/17/09

[CAIR National Executive director Nihad Awad is listed on page 143.]


If you’ve ever been confused by Muslim names you read in the news or unsure who’s important in the Islamic world, help is near. A new book entitled “The 500 Most Influential Muslims -- 2009” lists prominent Muslims from different fields -- politics, religion, women, media, even radicals -- with informative short biographies explaining who they are. It starts with an overall “top 50” list and then surveys the most prominent Muslims in their fields. (More)


Meetings occurred across the country
Bruce Nolan, Times-Picayune, 11/20/09

For awhile Thursday in New Orleans, disparate Jewish and Muslim worlds with little prior contact met and introduced themselves to each other, chatted amiably, even shared a little humor.

It seemed a good beginning for members of Congregation Beth Israel, a small Orthodox congregation in Metairie, and Masjid Abu Bakr al Siddiq, a much larger Metairie Muslim community.

Led by two young men, Rabbi Uri Topolosky and Imam Omar Suleiman, a few representatives of both congregations met for the first time Thursday. They asked and answered questions about each others' traditions, briefly worked together on a Katrina rebuilding project and visited each others' places of worship -- or in Beth Israel's case, the ruined and empty building in Lakeview once occupied by the congregation. (More)

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