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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