Thursday, February 18, 2010

By Judson Berger,, 2/17/10

A panel discussion on the threat posed by "Islamic supremacism," Shariah and political correctness has been scheduled for this week's Conservative Political Action Conference, stirring complaints from some American Muslims that the exercise amounts to Muslim-bashing.

The two-hour session, titled "Jihad: The Political Third Rail," is set for Friday morning, right in the middle of the three-day annual summit of conservative icons and activists in Washington, D.C.

Scheduled to speak are Steve Coughlin, a former Pentagon specialist on Islamic law who was fired two years ago, allegedly under pressure from pro-Muslim officials, and Wafa Sultan, an author and prominent critic of Islam. The discussion is billed as a window into Islam's "war on free speech," the "encroachment" of Shariah -- or Islamic law -- in the West and efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate American society.

Overall, CPAC is attuned more to political strategy and domestic issues, but organizers of the "Jihad" session have been trying to stir the pot with what they call a blunt and objective discussion of Muslims' attempts to harm the West while silencing criticism.

Mission accomplished. The pot has been stirred.

"It's unfortunate that a conservative conference would be in any way associated with Muslim bashers and Islamophobes," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It's a free country. They're free to be anti-Muslim bigots if they like, but it's really up to the organizers of CPAC to determine if they're going to allow their conference to be associated with the hate-filled views of those who will be speaking." (More)


By Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post, 2/17/10

Allegations of religious bias are being leveled against a notable federal body: the one responsible for monitoring international religious freedom.

Some past commissioners, staff and former staff of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom say the agency charged with advising the president and Congress is rife, behind-the-scenes, with ideology and tribalism, with commissioners focusing on pet projects that are often based on their own religious background. In particular, they say an anti-Muslim bias runs through the commission's work-- a charge denied by its chairman, Leonard Leo. (More)


Palestinians in Israel have protested the piecemeal destruction of Jerusalem's Mamilla Cemetery over the decades. It's just that their complaints have fallen upon deaf ears.
By Hussam Ayloush, Los Angeles Times, 2/16/2010

It is a leap in logic for the Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to argue in his Feb. 13 Times Op-Ed article that because a parking lot has been built by Israel over part of the Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem, or that power and sewage lines have been placed underground, the Muslim cemetery ceases to exist.

The crux of the dilemma is a simple moral one: The Wiesenthal Center is seeking to build a Center for Human Dignity on top of a Muslim cemetery, a historic landmark and a place held sacred by many. Under the Wiesenthal Center's supervision, more than 200 skeletons have been unearthed at the site.

The cemetery land, along with other property in the waqf (Islamic trust), was designated as "absentee property" when West Jerusalem came under Israel's control after 1948. The land was ruled no longer sacrosanct in 1964 by the state-sanctioned Islamic Sharia Court in Jerusalem, whose members were appointed by Israel and largely distrusted by the Muslim population. In violation of international law, the land was then designated by Israel as public open space, and the municipality built a parking lot on it.

Hier's claim that there has not been any opposition to the building of the parking lot ignores the fact that the government imposed martial law on Palestinians in Israel until 1966. Under this martial law, Israel ensured that any indications of national spirit or identity among Palestinians were quickly and forcefully crushed.

Despite this, Muslims in Israel did legally oppose the designation of waqf land as absentee property in the 1960s, lobbied to rebuild and maintain the Mamilla graves after the 1967 war, protested the desecration of the graves in the '70s and '80s, and today oppose the Center for Human Dignity's construction on the cemetery land. One cannot blame Muslims in Israel because their protests fall on deaf ears.

Hier's assertion that the "Israeli Supreme Court deliberated for almost three years before unanimously . . . authorizing the Wiesenthal Center to begin construction" must be understood in context. This is the same court that has long excused internationally condemned apartheid-like policies and human rights violations against Palestinians, including occupation, settlement construction and denying refugees the right to return. An organization like the Wiesenthal Center -- whose proclaimed mission is to protect the human rights and dignity of all people -- must certainly understand that the Israeli Supreme Court's decision does not settle the moral issue. Building a Museum of Tolerance over the cemetery will only add to the existing pain and suffering of Palestinians and Israelis, further damage relations between Muslims and Jews worldwide and sow new feelings of animosity and division for generations to come.

Ironically, the same Wiesenthal Center that now plans to destroy Jerusalem's historic Muslim cemetery previously spent nearly 15 years forcing the removal of a Roman Catholic convent from Auschwitz, which the organization's associate dean said in 2005 is "the largest Jewish cemetery -- the single largest unmarked human graveyard -- in history," and it "deserves universal respect." Does the Wiesenthal Center believe that a different set of standards should apply to Jewish cemeteries versus non-Jewish ones?

Out of respect for human dignity, which is what this museum is supposed to honor, it would behoove the Wiesenthal Center to relocate the building to land that is not a burial ground. Doing so would not only save the center time and money, it would also keep the name of their Center for Human Dignity from becoming a mockery.

Hussam Ayloush is the greater Los Angeles area executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


Muslims say head scarves are a source of curiosity
By Lois K. Solomon, Sun Sentinel, 2/17/10

Feel free to ask Morinikke Williams a question about her hijab. She's heard them all.

The most frequent: "Why do you wear that?" But "Isn't it hot under there?" is also near the top of the list.

In France, Muslim women might hesitate at similar questions. The hijab, or head scarf, is prohibited in French schools. The French parliament is debating whether to ban the burqa, or covering from head to toe worn by some Muslim women, after President Nicolas Sarkozy said it is "not welcome" in France.

Williams, 30, who became a Muslim 10 years ago, and fellow moms at the Islamic Foundation of South Florida school say they are glad to talk about why they cover their hair. They believe the questions demonstrate a climate of tolerance and interest in their religion and culture. (More)


By Scott Ridgway, Tennessean, 2/17/10

On behalf of the Metro Human Relations Commission, I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the Muslim community of Nashville following the recent vandalism of Al-Farooq Mosque. This hate crime is not just a crime against an individual congregation, but a crime against our entire community. We deeply regret that you have been subjected to such an ignorant and offensive act, and we share your outrage.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the open house at the Islamic Center of Nashville. I was impressed by how many people from different faiths and all walks of life turned out for this event. I think the open house demonstrated that the people of Nashville are genuinely interested in the Muslim community's efforts toward education and openness.

I look forward to hearing about similar events and will work with the Center to promote them to the general public.

Mayor Karl Dean's meeting with Chief Ronal Serpas last week regarding the incident was a good first step, and they can both count on the commission's assistance in organizing the people and government of Nashville to make sure that these despicable acts will not be tolerated in our city.

Hate crimes and intolerance have no place in our community. As a community, we stand together to denounce this act. We will fight to eliminate all acts of hatred and prejudice. We will work tirelessly to ensure mutual understanding and respect for all. Together, we will create "One City for All People."


Voice of America, 2/16/10

The Rand Corporation reports that of nearly 30 homegrown terror plots uncovered in the United States since the September 11 attacks, ten surfaced in 2009, making it a record year for homegrown terror plots. But many Muslims say law enforcement is pushing too hard in the quest to uncover terrorists among Muslim communities in the United States.

When five young Muslim Americans went missing last November, their parents met with Muslim elders and then went to the FBI.

"This could have been much worse than what it appears to be today had it not been that the families, the mosque and the Muslim community responded in both a lawful and responsive manner," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.

The men were later arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks.

In the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day, his father also contacted authorities before the alleged attack to report his son's growing extremism.

Muslim community members in New York City say they too want to help law enforcement ferret out terrorists in their midst.

But some say the FBI is pushing too hard, infiltrating their mosques and threatening them if they don't cooperate.

"If I see somebody will make attack here I will go to stop it in every way. Even I will lose my life," said Sheikh Tarek Saleh, a Brooklyn cleric. But he says there's a limit to what he can and will do to help police. (More)


Sonja Pace, Voice of America, 2/17/10

Many Muslim scientists like Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, known in the West as Alhazen, and Mu?ammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (Algorithmi), made great contributions that shaped the modern world. In the 9th century, Muslim inventor Abbas ibn Firnas was the first to design and test a flying machine, hundreds of years before da Vinci drew plans of his own. Hospitals as we know them today believed to have come from 9th century Egypt.

Coffee, computers and piston engines - could we imagine a world without them? These are intricate parts of every day life for most of us and the knowledge that led to them was either invented by or passed down through the ancient Muslim world. That is the theme of an exhibit in London's Science Museum and it's a far cry from the view held by some that the Muslim and Western World represent a "clash of civilizations."...

And there were many other inventions or innovations passed on by the early Muslim world from the 7th Century onward, says Hassani.

"One of them is the invention of the university. This was done in the year 850 by a young lady called Fatima al-Fihri in the city of Fez in Morocco," al-Hassani said. "The first university as we know it in the world, giving degrees and so on."

And that's the theme of this exhibit at the London Science Museum. It's called 1001 inventions: the Muslim Heritage, a bit like "1001 Arabian Nights," the well known fairy tale.

The exhibit in London focuses on scientific or technological inventions and advances that changed our world - from some of the earliest universities, to innovations in medicine, hygiene, pumps, and water wheels. (More)

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