Saturday, January 30, 2010

CAIR: Calif. Mayor Says He is ‘Growing a Christian Community
Muslim group to file civil rights complaint with Department of Justice

(LOS ANGELES, CA, 1/29/10) - The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today called on California religious and political leaders, particularly Republicans, to speak out in support of religious diversity after a mayor in that state used an official event to claim he is “growing a Christian community.”

CAIR-LA also said it will file a complaint about the mayor's remarks with the Civil Rights Divisionof the U.S. Department of Justice.

In his state of the city address this week, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris told a group of 160 people:

“We’re growing a Christian community, and don’t let anybody shy away from that…I need (Lancaster community) standing up and saying we’re a Christian community, and we’re proud of that.”

In the same address, the mayor said he wants voters to back a ballot measure endorsing prayers at city meetings that include reference to Jesus.

SEE: Parris Touts City as a ‘Christian Community’

News reports describe Parris as a “staunch Republican.”

"The mayor's remarks promoting a particular faith in his official capacity at an official city event seem to violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Elected officials should not use public positions to impose their religious beliefs on others," said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. "We also call on California's religious and political leaders to repudiate the mayor's remarks because they could serve to marginalize people of other faiths and Christians who value the separation of church and state."

Earlier this week, CAIR-LA sent a letter to Lancaster Councilwoman Sherry Marquez asking her to meet with members of the American Muslim and interfaith communities to discuss the negative impact of inflammatory anti-Islam remarks in a recent Facebook post.

Marquez wrote in reference to a murder trial in New York involving a Muslim defendant:

"This is what the Muslim religion is all about -- the beheadings, honor killings are just the beginning of what is to come in the USA. We are told this is a small majority [sic] of Muslim's [sic] in America, but it is truly what they are all about...You disrespect/dishonor them or their religion and you should die (they don't even blink at killing their own wives/daughters, because they are justified by their religion)..."

SEE: Council member Sherry Marquez's Facebook posting

In another post, Marquez claimed that "Obama is a Muslim." Her post links to a YouTube videotitled "Obama Admits He is a Muslim."

SEE: Councilwoman Marquez Faces Criticism Over Anti-Muslim Comments

Marquez is a director of the Antelope Valley Republican Assembly.

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.

But let's return to the bureaucracy. "Ro'i" – if that is indeed the Israeli official's name, for it is difficult to decipher – signed a batch of demolition papers for Jiftlik last December, all duly delivered, in Arabic and Hebrew, to Mr Kasab. There are 21 of them, running – non-sequentially – from numbers 143912 through 145059, all from "The High Planning Council Monitoring [sic] Sub-Committee of the Civil Administration for the Area of Judea and Samaria". Judea and Samaria – for ordinary folk – is the occupied West Bank. The first communication is dated 8 December, 2009, the last 17 December.

And as Mr Kasab puts it, that's the least of his problems. Palestinian requests to build houses are either delayed for years or refused; houses built without permission are ruthlessly torn down; corrugated iron roofs have to be camouflaged with plastic sheets in the hope the "Civil Administration" won't deem them an extra floor – in which case "Ro'i's" lads will be round to rip the lot off the top of the house.

In Area C, there are up to 150,000 Palestinians and 300,000 Jewish colonists living – illegally under international law – in 120 official settlements and 100 "unapproved" settlements or, in the language we must use these days, "illegal outposts"; illegal under Israeli as well as international law, that is – as opposed to the 120 internationally illegal colonies which are legal under Israeli law. Jewish settlers, needless to say, don't have problems with planning permission.

The winter sun blazes through the door of Mr Kasab's office and cigarette smoke drifts through the room as the angry men of Jiftlik shout their grievances. "I don't mind if you print my name, I am so angry, I will take the consequences," he says. "Breathing is the only thing we don't need a permit for – yet!" The rhetoric is tired, but the fury is real. "Buildings, new roads, reservoirs, we have been waiting three years to get permits. We cannot get a permit for a new health clinic. We are short of water for both human and agricultural use. Getting permission to rehabilitate the water system costs 70,000 Israeli shekels [about £14,000] – it costs more than the rehabilitation system itself."

A drive along the wild roads of Area C – from the outskirts of Jerusalem to the semi-humid basin of the Jordan valley – runs through dark hills and bare, stony valleys lined with deep, ancient caves, until, further east, lie the fields of the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers' palm groves – electrified fences round the groves – and the mud or stone huts of Palestinian sheep farmers. This paradise is a double illusion. One group of inhabitants, the Israelis, may remember their history and live in paradise. The smaller group, the Palestinian Arabs, are able to look across these wonderful lands and remember their history – but they are already out of paradise and into limbo.

Even the western NGOs working in Area C find their work for Palestinians blocked by the Israelis. This is not just a "hitch" in the "peace process" – whatever that is – but an international scandal. Oxfam, for example, asked the Israelis for a permit to build a 300m2 capacity below-ground reservoir along with 700m of underground 4in pipes for the thousands of Palestinians living around Jiftlik. It was refused. They then gave notice that they intended to construct an above-ground installation of two glass-fibre tanks, an above-ground pipe and booster pump. They were told they would need a permit even though the pipes were above ground – and they were refused a permit. As a last resort, Oxfam is now distributing rooftop water tanks.

I came across an even more outrageous example of this apartheid-by-permit in the village of Zbeidat, where the European Union's humanitarian aid division installed 18 waste water systems to prevent the hamlet's vile-smelling sewage running through the gardens and across the main road into the fields. The £80,000 system – a series of 40ft shafts regularly flushed out by sewage trucks – was duly installed because the location lay inside Area B, where no planning permission was required.

Yet now the aid workers have been told by the Israelis that work "must stop" on six of the 18 shafts – a prelude to their demolition, although already they are already built beside the road – because part of the village stands in Area C. Needless to say, no one – neither Palestinians nor Israelis – knows the exact borderline between B and C. Thus around £20,000 of European money has been thrown away by the Israeli "Civil Administration".

But in one way, this storm of permission and non-permission papers is intended to obscure the terrible reality of Area C. Many Israeli activists as well as western NGOs suspect Israel intends to force the Palestinians here to leave their lands and homes and villages and depart into the wretchedness of Areas B and A. B is jointly controlled by Israeli military and civil authorities and Palestinian police, and A by the witless Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas. Thus would the Palestinians be left to argue over a mere 40 per cent of the occupied West Bank – in itself a tiny fraction of the 22 per cent of Mandated Palestine over which the equally useless Yasser Arafat once hoped to rule. Add to this the designation of 18 per cent of Area C as "closed military areas" by the Israelis and add another 3 per cent preposterously designated as a "nature reserve" – it would be interesting to know what kind of animals roam there – and the result is simple: even without demolition orders, Palestinians cannot build in 70 per cent of Area C.

Along one road, I discovered a series of large concrete blocks erected by the Israeli army in front of Palestinian shacks. "Danger – Firing Area" was printed on each in Hebrew, Arabic and English. "Entrance Forbidden." What are the Palestinians living here supposed to do? Area C, it should be added, is the richest of the occupied Palestinian lands, with cheese production and animal farms. Many of the 5,000 souls in Jiftlik have been refugees already, their families fled lands to the west of Jerusalem – in present-day Israel – in 1947 and 1948. Their tragedy has not yet ended, of course. What price Palestine?

Religion, Politicians Fiery Combo in Calif. Town
Lancaster officials became embroiled in religious controversy this week after the mayor spoke of trying to make the Antelope Valley city a "Christian community" and a councilwoman wrote on Facebook that beheadings are what Muslims "are all about."


CAIR: Autopsy Shows Mich. Imam Shot 21 Times, Handcuffed
Muslim civil rights group repeats call for independent probe of FBI shooting

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/30/10) The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today reiterated its call for an independent investigation into the death of a Michigan imam, or Islamic religious leader, who a leaked autopsy report has revealed was shot 21 times and then handcuffed during an October FBI raid in Detroit.

Video: Shocking Details of Slain Imam's Autopsy (Fox)

CAIR, other civil liberties groups and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, have all called for an investigation into the death of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah. Earlier this month, Conyers sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to ask the Justice Department's civil rights division to investigate both the October shooting and whether the FBI violated the Constitution by using informants in mosques. A report detailing the imam’s autopsy is scheduled for official release on Monday.

SEE: Autopsy in Imam Shooting to be Released Monday (Detroit News)
Conyers: Review FBI Case on Imam (Detroit Free Press)

“The shocking details of the imam’s autopsy raise a number of disturbing questions that need to be answered,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR’s Michigan chapter. “First of all, did the FBI agents follow established procedure when they shot the imam 21 times? How was the imam shot in the back? Was it proper procedure to handcuff either a dead body or a mortally-wounded suspect? If the agents found the imam alive following the shooting, did they call for medical assistance? All these questions need answers.”

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.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ask President Obama and State Department to act on congressional letter

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/28/10) - CAIR today urged American Muslims and all people of conscience to show their support for 54 members of Congress, led by Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), who recently sent a letter to President Obama calling for an end to the blockade of humanitarian aid imposed on the people in the Gaza Strip.

That letter stated in part: "The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts."

SEE: Ellison, McCollum and Oberstar Urge Obama to Lift Gaza Blockade

The letter outlines the well-documented suffering of Palestinians living under the Gaza blockade and notes, "lifting these restrictions will give civilians in Gaza a tangible sense that diplomacy can be an effective tool for bettering their conditions." In the letter, the elected officials also called for freedom of movement in and out of Gaza and for access to construction materials to rebuild houses.

CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad offered support for Palestinian access to humanitarian aid: "All civilians in the region should have unrestricted access to food, water, shelter, medical care, and sanitation. Peace and stability are founded on such basics."

He said those who support the congressional letter should also contact the White House and the State Department to seek action to end the blockade of Gaza's civilian population.

Awad reiterated a statement made by CAIR in 2002: "To break this cycle of violence and counter-violence, all parties must focus on a political solution based on justice and equality, not force of arms."


1) Contact the president and the Department of State and urge them to call for an end to the blockade of humanitarian aid imposed on the people in the Gaza Strip.

2) Send a note of thanks to your elected representative if he or she signed the letter. (Note this part of the alert only works if you live in the district of a member who signed the letter.)


WYTV, 1/28/10

Dozens of people rallied Wednesday night in front of Mathews High School in support of a Vienna mother who claims her children were abused by a school bus driver.

Carol Sassya claims the bus driver made her kids sit in a certain seat and called them terrorists because they are of Lebanese descent.

When the racial slurs got to be too much, she filed a police report in November.

The Arab American Community is supporting her cause and a representative from the Arab-American Community Center spoke in her defense at the rally.

"Kids don't come home crying. Kids don't show signs of depression. Kids don't act like they don't want to go to school anymore because nothing's happened," said Ray Nakley from the Center. "There's something happened, and we need to get to the bottom of it."

The bus driver, Kathy Kotanicheck, was suspended last week. (More)



A group of more than 40 people, members of the Arab American Community Center of Youngstown, protested before the Mathews board of education Wednesday night, alleging discrimination and safety issues for the district’s two Arab- American students.

Several carried signs, including one that read “Arabs are not terrorists.”

The group’s protest followed publicity over alleged discriminatory remarks made against the two students, both of Lebanese descent, by a school-bus driver who was suspended for three days last November after the incident and later reassigned to the bus garage. (More)


By Chris McGuinness, Antelope Valley Life, 1/28/10

Lancaster -- Members of the Muslim community attended a meeting of the Lancaster City Council Tuesday to voice their concern of comments made by Councilwoman Sherry Marquez.

The comments, posted on Marquez’s Facebook page were a reaction to the murder of Aasiya Zubair Hassan, who was beheaded by her husband in what some assumed was a so called “honor killing”.

“This is what the Muslim religion is all about the beheadings, honor killings are just the beginning of what is to come in the USA,” Marquez posted on the popular social networking website. “We are told this is a small majority of Muslim's in America, but it is truly what they are all about…You disrespect/dishonor them or their religion and you should die (they don't even blink at killing their own wives/daughters, because they are justified by their religion)…"

The comment posted on Saturday the 23rd stirred up controversy, earning Marquez a letter from The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), who asked the California Republican Party to repudiate Marquez’s statement….

Members of the Muslim community also spoke at the meeting. Some stated their dismay at the comments, claiming that their religion does not condone so called “Honor Killings” and voicing their fear that the remarks could incite violence against Muslims in the Antelope Valley.

“There is a general disconnect between Councilwoman Marquez and the people of this city,” Said Omar Khalifa, who also addressed the council. “Her comments were uninformed, misguided, and ill befitting of an elected official.”

Khalifa, a twenty- five-year resident of the Antelope Valley said he believed that the comments by Marquez were an “isolated incident” and not indicative of the feelings of AV residents as a whole. Nonetheless, he insisted that the comments have a detrimental effect of the community.

“It’s troubling,” Khalifa said. “She has a responsibility to understand the various intricacies of the community… We need to engage each other in a productive discussion.”

Several speakers at the meeting invited Marquez and the other members of the council to learn about the Muslim faith. CAIR-LA has also contacted the Councilwoman, asking her to meet with members of the Muslim community to discuss what they see as the “negative impact” her remarks have had on the local Muslim community. (More)


University of Exeter, 1/28/10

A new report launched today 28 January reveals the trends behind underreported violence against Muslims in London.

It illuminates how contexts of fear and prejudice against Muslims are providing a basis for violence against Muslim communities.

This is the first step in a ten year research project led by the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter that will investigate Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime in towns and cities across Europe. (More)



(NEW YORK, NY, 1/28/10) A representative of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) participated recently in a civil rights panel discussion during a two day conference, themed, “Building Momentum in Mainstream Culture,” at New York University (NYU).

The panel, organized by the Islamic Center at NYU, focused on pressing civil rights issues and contemporary cases, ranging from airport security to Guantanamo Bay.

Speakers at the event included CAIR-NY Civil Rights Director Aliya Latif; Imam Zaid Shakir, Islamic Scholar and professor at Zaytuna Institute; Faiza Patel, counsel in the Liberty and Justice Project Law, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s School of Law; Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantanamo Justice Initiative, Center for Constitutional Rights; and Abu Yousef, representative, Muslim Justice Initiative.

Some 400 attendees turned out for the panel discussion.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group. 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-NY Civil Rights Director Aliya Latif, 212-870-2002, 732-429-4268,; CAIR-NY Community Affairs Director Faiza N. Ali, 212-870-2002, 718-724-3041,


Detroit Free Press, 1/28/10

Wayne County is expected to release the autopsy of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah by Monday, after Dearborn police wrap up an investigation into the shooting of the Islamic leader. The autopsy, including photos, should stir local, national and international headlines.

What happens next is unclear, with U.S. Rep. John Conyers and local leaders such as Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, calling for an independent investigation.

It’s likely, though, that Wayne County’s decision to delay the release of the autopsy, at the request of Dearborn Police, will only fuel skepticism and controversy by suggesting -- even if unfairly -- that the government hasn't come clean. (More)


Event designed to help community build bridges of understanding

(ST. PAUL, MN, 1/28/10) On January 26, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) co-sponsored a community town hall meeting at the St. Cloud City Chambers in response to recent anti-Muslim cartoons posted around the city. More than 300 community members were in attendance.

Speakers included CAIR-MN Civil Rights Coordinator Zahra Aljabri and other community leaders, including the mayor, city attorney, chief of police, St. Cloud State University president, and the human rights coordinator for the St. Cloud Human Rights Office. An open discussion was held after the speakers gave their presentations. The moderator of the program was CAIR-MN Outreach Director Kashif Saroya.

SEE: Forum Focuses on Posting of Cartoons in St. Cloud (St. Cloud Times)
SEE ALSO: St. Cloud Muslims Fearful and Angry after Racist Incidents (MPR)

To address the increase in hate crimes in the city, the mayor vowed to establish an active human rights commission.

“Finding solutions to race-related issues takes time and effort from the community and officials,” said CAIR-MN Civil Rights Coordinator Zahra Aljabri. “This was a great first step in helping the St. Cloud community come together to address some of those issues.”

Aljabri added that there was positive relationship building at the event, referring to a church youth group and mosque youth group who discussed holding interfaith youth meetings to better understand one another.

The town hall meeting was co-sponsored by CAIR-MN, St. Cloud Office of the Mayor, City Attorney's Office, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud Area Somali Salvation Organization, St. Cloud Islamic Center, Create CommUNITY, Great River Interfaith Partnership, Center for Service-Learning and Social Change, St. Cloud Area Somali Women's Association, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum- St. Cloud Chapter, NAACP- St. Cloud, College of Saint Benedict and St. John's University.

As a follow up to the town hall, CAIR-MN will hold a “Know Your Rights” workshop in St. Cloud on Saturday, February 13 to address the community’s safety concerns.

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-MN Civil Rights Coordinator Zahra Aljabri, 651-645-7102, E-Mail:; CAIR-MN Outreach Director Kashif Saroya, 651-216-9557, E-Mail:; CAIR-MN Communications Director Jessica Zikri, 612-226-3289, E-Mail:; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726, E-Mail:


By Lawrence Schumacher, Twin Cities Daily Planet, 1/27/10

Farhad Mohammed and many of the roughly 500 people gathered at St. Cloud's City Hall Tuesday evening found the official response to a series of vulgar, anti-Islamic cartoons posted around town last month woefully lacking.

"Why is there no punishment?" the St. Cloud resident asked a panel of local officials at a town hall on anti-Muslim hate sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota and many local human rights groups. "This may encourage other persons to do the same thing or more, because they feel they won't be prosecuted." (More)

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Israel Bars American Volunteers, Access to East Jerusalem Hospitals, Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land Issue Communiqué, and more…


1. Israel Bars American Volunteers
2. Access to East Jerusalem Hospitals
3. Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land Issue Communiqué
4. Vatican Document Addresses Root Cause of Conflicts in Middle East


1. Israel Bars American Volunteers

In the January 22 bulletin, we reported that a person deported from Israel was associated with the Lutheran World Federation. She was not. We regret this error.

A number of U.S. citizens have been denied entry or face deportation recently. An American journalist Jared Malsin, who works for the Palestinian news agency Maan, also was detained and denied entry<> into Israel last week.

According to Haaretz<>, the Israeli "Interior Ministry has stopped granting work permits to foreign nationals working in most international nongovernmental organizations operating in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem." Now the ministry is granting NGO employees tourist visas only, which bar them from working.

A Washington Post article<> reports that "Since the summer, dozens of Palestinian and Israeli activists have been picked up…"


2. Access to East Jerusalem Hospitals

The East Jerusalem Hospitals Network (EJHN) reports that Israeli police have revoked an agreement to allow hospital staff through checkpoints expeditiously. Now only doctors can access all checkpoints. To read more please click here<> .


3. Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land Issue Communiqué

January 14 a high level group of Catholic Bishops issued a communiqué saying, "We urge all people to support public officials who take courageous initiatives for a just resolution of the conflict - a two-state solution with security and recognition for Israel, and a viable and independent state for Palestinians For us, this is not merely about politics; it is an issue of basic human rights."

The group represents Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Europe and North America. This year the focus of its meeting was on property confiscations and evictions in East Jerusalem. The Bishops meet with the Catholic Bishops and people of the Holy Land every year and through prayer, encouraging pilgrimage and political persuasion seek to demonstrate solidarity with the local Church in the difficult socio-political climate.

To read the complete communiqué, please click here<>.


4. Vatican Document Addresses Root Cause of Conflicts in Middle East

This week, the Vatican released a document<> suggesting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a root cause of most conflicts in the Middle East and has made life difficult for Christians who remain. According to a Jerusalem Post article<>, "the document is a guide for discussions for an Oct. 10-24 meeting of Mideast Bishops convened by Pope Benedict XVI to discuss the exodus of Christians from the region and religious discrimination."


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