Saturday, April 3, 2010

Educators of all faiths will now have their religious rights protected

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/2/10) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today welcomed the signing into law of legislation that will end Oregon's 87-year-long ban on teachers wearing Islamic head scarves (hijab) or the religious attire of other faiths.

The lifting of the ban will go into effect after the 2010-11 school year to give time to write policies for implementing the new law. Now only two other states, Pennsylvania and Nebraska, have restrictions on teachers' religious attire.

SEE: Governor Signs Repeal on Teachers' Religious Dress

"We welcome the repeal of the ban on teachers' religious attire and hope legislators in Pennsylvania and Nebraska will now follow Oregon's example of respect for religious freedom and diversity," said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. "This change in the law protects the rights of educators of all faiths."

Hooper said CAIR has consistently defended the right of Americans of all faiths to wear religious attire in the workplace, in schools, in courtrooms, and as customers in public venues such as banks. CAIR chapters in Oklahoma and Minnesota helped block proposed legislation that would have prohibited wearing hijab in driver's license photographs.

SEE: Calif. Muslim Fired Over Hijab Appears on Fox
Okla. Muslim Takes Driver's License Photo with Hijab
Credit Union Regrets Muslim Woman's Treatment

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 National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail:


By Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post, 4/1/2010

Muslim advocacy groups say an increasing number of Muslim and Arab U.S. citizens and permanent residents who travel abroad are facing new complications in returning to the United States because of heightened security.

An attempted Christmas day bombing on a Detroit-bound airplane caused soul-searching in government agencies after it became clear that the alleged would-be bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was not on a watch list. Since then, the no-fly list has swelled from 3,400 people to about 6,000, with thousands more on the list for travelers who warrant extra screening.

The lists are not made public, and most people don't know they are on one until they arrive at the airport. In one case, an American says he has been barred from returning to the United States without explanation.

Raymond Earl Knaeble IV said that when he presented his U.S. passport at the airport in Bogota, Colombia, for a flight to Miami last month, "They came back and told me, 'You can't fly with any airlines to the USA.' "

Knaeble, 29, a California-born military contractor scheduled to start a job in Texas that week, said the airline sent him to the U.S. Embassy to straighten things out. There, he said, an FBI agent questioned him about his recent conversion to Islam and a trip to Yemen, where he had spent three months studying Arabic...

For travelers -- mostly men -- who are questioned, "it's really having a chilling effect," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, which has been advising Knaeble and others. "People do whatever they can now not to cross borders if they're Muslim because they feel there's some potential for humiliation." (More)


By Anne E. Kornblut and Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, 4/2/10

The Obama administration is abandoning its policy of using nationality alone to determine which U.S.-bound international air travelers should be subject to additional screening and will instead select passengers based on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern, senior officials said Thursday.

After the attempted bombing of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day, U.S. officials decided that passengers from or traveling through 14 specified countries would be subjected to secondary searches. Critics have since called the measures discriminatory and overly burdensome, and the administration has faced pressure to refine its approach.

Under the new system, screeners will stop passengers for additional security if they match certain pieces of known intelligence. (More)


Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/2/10

San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón has been on an apology tour this week after making controversial remarks about terrorism and Middle Easterners - and the dustup is likely to lead to changes in the Police Department and at City Hall.

Gascón reportedly said last week the Hall of Justice is susceptible to a terrorist attack by members of the city's Middle Eastern community parking a van in front of it and blowing it up.

Despite reports to the contrary from people in attendance, Gascón said he never lumped all Middle Easterners or Arab Americans together, but instead referred to people from Yemen and Afghanistan as posing potential threats. He later apologized...

"It doesn't end with an apology, and the community has been very staunch about this," said Zahra Billoo, programs and outreach director for the Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "An apology helps, but this is indicative of a larger problem."

Billoo said the group is also discouraged by Gascón's plan to revive the department's intelligence unit, which was disbanded about 15 years ago after The Chronicle reported one of its officers was leaking information on groups singled out by the Anti-Defamation League. Billoo said her group will seek some kind of civilian oversight of the new unit. (More)


Bay City News, 4/2/10

San Francisco police Chief George Gascon will meet publicly today with members of local Arab- and Muslim-American communities to address ongoing concerns about remarks on terrorism he made last week that some found offensive.

Gascon issued a public apology the day after he made the comments March 25 to construction and trade groups in San Francisco. He had been talking about a $412 million bond measure on the June 8 ballot to build a new police headquarters and implement other seismic upgrades citywide.

Gascon said he discussed possible terrorist threats to the current headquarters at the Hall of Justice as another reason to support the measure. He said he mentioned the possibility of domestic terrorism but also the threat of international terrorism from Yemen and Afghanistan, and also noted that significant populations from those countries reside in the Bay Area.

The next day, nearly a dozen community groups sent Gascon a letter of concern, calling his statements "inflammatory," "insulting" and "unbecoming of an official who is obligated to serve community members regardless of race, religion or creed."

The groups worried that statements by a high-level city official could spark hate crimes against local Muslims and those of Middle Eastern background.

The same day, Gascon's office issued an apology.

"Chief Gascon did not intend to upset the community and he is mindful of the importance of cultural sensitivity, not only here in San Francisco, but nationally," the statement read.

Zahra Billoo of the Council on American Islamic Relations, one of the groups that signed on to the letter, said Thursday that Gascon's apology seemed sincere. She noted also that he has since met with leaders in the Arab- and Muslim-American communities and apologized personally. (More)



Click here to listen to the interview.

The Justice Department is probing the killing of Detroit-area Islamic cleric Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was shot dead during an FBI raid shortly after being indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit federal crimes. The FBI said Abdullah was shot after he opened fire, but critics say he may have been targeted for assassination. We speak to Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


By Adil James, The Muslim Observer, 4/1/10

This year's CAIR banquet really was special. Every year, CAIR Michigan and many other organizations have gala awards and fundraising banquets, but typically in the past Michigan's Muslim organizations have been less connected to the political landscape than some ethnic organizations which have in the Southeast Michigan region managed over several decades to establish long term ties with all levels of the political landscape, from the local to the federal level.

The Muslim organizations however, from the mosque level up to the level of national organizations, have not opened strong and lasting relations with any political groups (other than coordinated discussion groups and organized means of complaining to politicians and mainstream media about perceived and real injustices), other than an occasional speech by a political celebrity.

Perhaps a stronger movement has been the involvement of individuals in politics, such as for instance Farhan Bhatti, Deputy Campaign Manager at Virg Bernero for Michigan. There are Muslims who have been elected to individual office, such as Rashida Tlaib in the Michigan legislature, and Keith Ellison in the US congress.

This year's CAIR gala, with about 1,000 attendees including many powerful audience members from the business, media, and political community, on the other hand, seemed to offer the potential of a long-term conflation of interests between the Muslim community and America's established civil rights aristocracy. Present at this year's fundraiser was Nihad Awad, who founded CAIR and set it up as a not-for-profit franchise operation of sorts, with now branch offices across the country to advocate for Muslims. Mr. Awad is not always able to attend all of these gala events, but it seemed that he sensed the importance of this particular one.

But the real jewels in the crown of the 2010 CAIR Michigan fundraiser were the civil rights workers who for sixty years have been deeply involved at their own personal peril with the struggle for civil rights in the USA.

Jesse Jackson Sr., the keynote speaker, was one of those. But there was also Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-14), whom Jackson described as "perhaps the only man who was ever endorsed by Martin Luther King." There was Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15). There were many others, including the strong gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero (currently Lansing's mayor)...

What was different this year was that CAIR did not just bring politicians to speak for their own interests, rather CAIR Michigan bought into a movement, a movement that has been intrinsically and vitally important to the American landscape for the better part of a century, carrying with them the ghosts and spirits of men who gave their lives in that journey.

Nihad Awad offered his goal, a vision of a seemingly impossible world, post-911, in which Muslims face no discrimination – he argued that CAIR is working toward that goal from where we are now. (More)


PRWEB, 4/2/10

"Joe the Plumber" speaks up on religion and the government, while a Tea Party organizer addresses President Obama's birth certificate.

(PRWEB) April 2, 2010 -- During a rally organized by local tea party and business groups, Sandgrain Films was granted an interview with the featured speaker of the event Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher. The event was held on March 26th at the capitol building in Phoenix and was supported by local politicians, who addressed the crowd during the rally. Sandgrain Films was attending the event to gather footage for a future project.

When asked about his view of religion in government, Mr. Wurzelbacher was quick to point out that, "Thomas Jefferson was awful afraid of them [Muslims. " He went on to say that, " A lot of great men have been afraid of Muslims, Islam spreading across the country." He addressed the crowd shortly after the interview. (More)


Gerald Caplan, The Globe and Mail, 4/2/10

Here's a couple of questions about Ann Coulter's Canadian sojourn that haven't yet been fully answered: Who invited her? Who thought Canadians needed more exposure to this woman?

Coulter clearly had a wonderful few days here. She got what she lives for: mass attention and irreconcilable controversy, which in turn leads to more media, more highly-paid speeches, more books sold.

If there's a silver lining to the debacle, it's the hope that more Canadians have been exposed to the kind of venom she routinely peddles. Hate, bigotry, cruelty and violence ooze out of her every pore, even when she smiles as the knife goes in. (More)


By QMI Agency, Toronto Sun, 4/1/10

MONTREAL - Montreal police are trying to determine whether a fake bomb left in front of a city mosque was an April Fool's prank or an intimidating warning to the Muslim community. (More)

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