Friday, April 2, 2010

CCR CHALLENGES EXPERIMENTAL PRISON UNITS THAT RESTRICT COMMUNICATION AND FORBID PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH FAMILY WITHOUT DUE PROCESS - TOP
Segregated Federal Units Target Muslims, Activists
Center for Constitutional Rights

CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

March 30, 2010, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit challenging violations of fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to due process, at two experimental federal prison units called "Communications Management Units" (CMUs). The units are being used overwhelmingly to hold Muslim prisoners and prisoners with unpopular political beliefs.

CCR filed Aref v. Holder in the D.C. District Court on behalf of five current and former prisoners of the units in Terre Haute, IN and Marion, IL; two other plaintiffs are the spouses of prisoners. The CMUs were secretly opened under the Bush administration in 2006 and 2007 respectively and were designed to monitor and control the communications of certain prisoners and to isolate them from other prisoners and the outside world.

Transfers to the CMU are not explained; nor are prisoners told how release into less restrictive confinement may be earned as there is no review process. Lawyers say that because these transfers are not based on facts or discipline for infractions, a pattern of religious and political discrimination and retaliation for prisoners' lawful advocacy has emerged. The five plaintiffs in Aref were designated to the two CMUs despite having relatively or totally clean disciplinary histories, and none of the plaintiffs have received any communications-related disciplinary infractions in the last decade. Several of the plaintiffs expect to serve the entire remaining duration of their sentences at the CMU.

"These units are an experiment in social isolation," said CCR Attorney Alexis Agathocleous. "People are being put in these extraordinarily restrictive units without being told why and without any meaningful review. Dispensing with due process creates a situation ripe for abuse; in this case, it has allowed for a pattern of religious profiling, retaliation and arbitrary punishment. This is precisely what the rule of law and the Constitution forbid."

In addition to heavily restricted telephone and visitation access, CMU prisoners are categorically denied any physical contact with family members and are forbidden from hugging, touching or embracing their children or spouses during visits. Attorneys say this blanket ban on contact visitation, which is unique in the federal prison system, not only causes suffering to the families of the incarcerated men, but is a violation of fundamental constitutional rights.

Said the 14-year-old daughter of one of the prisoners in the lawsuit, "The thing that hurts the most is that I can hear him but I can never touch him. I haven't hugged, kissed or held my dad since December of 2007."

Between 65 and 72 percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim men, a fact that attorneys say demonstrates that the CMUs were created to allow for the segregation and restrictive treatment of Muslims based on the discriminatory belief that such prisoners are more likely than others to pose a threat to prison security.

Others prisoners appear to be transferred to the CMU because of other protected First Amendment activity, such as speaking out on social justice issues or filing grievances in prison or court regarding conditions and abuse.

For more information on Aref v. Holder, visit CCR's legal case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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CAIR-LA: PRAYER CAUSES GRIEF FOR LOCAL MUSLIM GROUP DURING TRIP THROUGH NEVADA - TOP
Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, 3/29/10

CLAREMONT - The sound of bouncing basketballs echoed through Claremont High School's gym as Faheem Mohammad, a devout Muslim, raised his hands in prayer a few steps from the gym entrance on a recent Sunday.

There was no prayer rug or beads, just a Lakers hat marking the spot where his face touched the ground.

A few minutes later, the Diamond Bar resident was back in the game. Asr, one of his five daily prayers, was completed.

But a similar act of pausing to thank God during a trip through Nevada spelled trouble for Mohammad and his friends. Police were suspicious enough to check their names against a national terrorism watch list.

Police detained Mohammad and six other Inland Empire men for "suspicious behavior" in December after they prayed next to their vehicle in a parking lot during a trip through Henderson, Nev.

The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relationsfiled a misconduct complaint against the police officers this month, alleging that the young men's actions were not suspicious enough to justify a stop or their detention for almost an hour.

A police officer may detain someone if the officer reasonably believes that the person is committing a crime, said Ameena Mirza Qazi, CAIR's staff attorney.

"The officers had no reason to hold these young men," Qazi said. "The Fourth Amendmentprotects people from unreasonable searches and seizures, and that's what we fear the officers engaged in. The young men were not engaged in criminal activity." (More)

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CAIR-CHICAGO: MUSLIM CIVIL RIGHTS GROUP CLAIMS DISCRIMINATION - TOP
Odette Yousef, WBEZ, 3/30/10

In the last few months, two faculty members have filed separate lawsuits against Truman College. The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says the school has done nothing to address their claims of harassment and prejudice...

Attorney Zubair Khan represents both plaintiffs. One plaintiff is a Pakistani-American Chemistry professor. She says her supervisor made offensive remarks about Islam, and blocked the hiring of Muslim applicants. (More)

SEE ALSO:

CAIR VIDEO: MUSLIMS EMPLOYEES ALLEGE BIAS BY CHICAGO COLLEGE - TOP

CAIR-Chicago held a news conference on March 29, 2010, to call on the City Colleges of Chicago to resolve complaints of discrimination by Muslim employees of Truman College.

Watch a news report on the press conference here.

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CAIR-OK: CAIR HONORS CONTRIBUTORS AT ANNUAL BANQUET - TOP
William F. O'Brien, The Edmond Sun, 3/30/10

The Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, known by the acronym "CAIR," had its annual dinner at the Oklahoma Cowboy Hall of Fame last week. Razi Hashmi, the director of the Oklahoma CAIR chapter, addressed the gathering, and spoke about the great prophets that are revered by Muslims that include Abraham, Moses and Jesus. He said that there was a need to find common ground with people of other faiths that also revere those prophets to work together to build a better society.

Hashmi also told of how his organization has worked to build a better understanding of Islam by distributing copies of the Muslim holy book the Quran to people of other faiths and also defended the rights of Muslims who have been subject to unlawful discrimination. A film titled "A Year of Hope" was shown that documented the lives of promise that are being led by many young Muslims in Oklahoma. The CAIR director ended his address by saying that Oklahoma's Muslims "Are Americans and are proud to be Americans." (More)

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MUSLIM STUDENTS BRING FOOD, CONVERSATION TO FLORIDA HOMELESS - TOP
Imran Siddiqui, Voice of America, 3/30/10

In the southern U.S. state of Florida, a group of American Muslim students is running a non-profit organization called Project Downtown. The project's goal is to help the poor, poor people of all backgrounds and cultures. Our correspondent went down to the city of Tampa, Florida to learn more about Project Downtown and the Muslim students who belong to it.

Like just about any major city in the United States, the city of Tampa has its share of homeless people. But it also has people who are reaching out to help Tampa's homeless.

"We are here because, in Islam, we are supposed to feed the hungry," said one of the students. "So that's our purpose here. That's all."

The students belong to Project Downtown, an organization that started about two years ago in Miami and now has branches other U.S. cities. The Tampa members of Project Downtown say what motivated them was seeing people in need. (More)

SEE ALSO:

LUNCH & LEARN: ILLUMINATED ISLAMIC MANUSCRIPTS - TOP
Lee Gardner, Baltimore City Paper, 4/1/10

Islamic art bans representation, but that only seems to have inspired the centuries' worth of artists working within the tradition to infuse their designs with a wealth of subtle pattern, color, and compositional play in everything from mosque architecture on down to common prayer books. Today, the Walters opens an exhibit of a variety of Islamic manuscripts created between the 9th and 19th centuries, a treasure trove for art lovers, design nuts, and bibliophiles.

Walters Art Museum
600 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD
Venue phone: 410-547-9000
On-street metered parking. Walters pay parking lot at a reduced fee if ticket validated at the museum.
Ticket Info: free

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WHEN ISN'T IT "TERRORISM?" - TOP
Darrell Dawsey, Time, 3/29/10

I wasn't really shocked that the feds raided a right-wing "Christian" militia headquartered about 70 miles outside of Detroit. If you know Michigan, the idea of some kooks crawling around the backwoods of Adrian with AK-47s just isn't that jarring. And given how crazy the political fringes of our entire nation have become of late, I guess I'm not even surprised that this Hutaree "Christian" militia has been accused of plotting to kill a law-enforcement official in order to launch a war on cops (and maybe others). Disturbed, sure. Shocked? Not so much.

But I was a little stunned at what I didn't read: Despite the laundry list of suspected offenses laid out by the FBI, I was a little curious as to why no one seems to want to say what seems quite obvious to me -- that these guys are being accused of outright terrorism. (More)

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