Thursday, March 31, 2011

Anti-Islam stereotypes, political correctness are rival fears
By Shaun Waterman, The Washington Times, 3/29/11

Two senators have launched an inquiry into federally funded counterterrorism training for state and local police, saying they are concerned some of the instruction includes inflammatory and inaccurate anti-Muslim stereotyping. But the move has ignited fears that political correctness might undermine the training.

"We are concerned ... that state and local law enforcement agencies are being trained by individuals who not only do not understand the ideology of violent Islamist extremism, but also cast aspersions on a wide swath of ordinary Americans merely because of their religious affiliation," wrote Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, in a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano.

The two senators, who work closely together as the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked for details of the two departments' grant funding for counterterrorism training and for information about any standards or guidelines that training had to meet to qualify for federal money -- including instructors' qualifications.

The senators said staff inquiries had uncovered evidence that "improper training may not be limited to mere isolated occurrences." (More)


New report says taxpayer-funded trainers 'propagate dangerous Islamophobic themes'

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on the Obama administration and Congress to provide oversight for what a new report says is widespread anti-Muslim bias in the training of law enforcement and security personnel nationwide.

SEE: New Concern About Bias in Counterterror Training (NPR)
Manufacturing the Muslim Menace

CAIR's request for oversight comes following the release of an 80-page report, titled "Manufacturing the Muslim Menace: Private Firms, Public Servants, & the Threat to Rights and Security," released today by Political Research Associates (PRA) that details a systemic failure to regulate content in counterterrorism training.

PRA says its report exposes the "anti-Islamic rhetoric propagated in one form or another by trainers associated with three private counterterrorism organizations with national outreach, and exposure to over 130,000 security and law-enforcement personnel."

According to the executive summary of the report: "[P]ublic servants are regularly presented with misleading, inflammatory, and dangerous information about the nature of the terror threat through highly politicized seminars, industry conferences, trade publications, and electronic media ... a vocal and influential sub-group of the private counterterrorism training industry markets conspiracy theories about secret jihadi campaigns to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law, and effectively impugns all of Islam -- a world religion with 1.3 billion adherents -- as inherently violent and even terroristic."

SEE: Manufacturing the Muslim Menace

PRA's nine-month investigation focused on three organizations -- International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association (ICTOA), a nonprofit corporation founded by New York Police Department personnel; Security Solutions International, LLC (SSI), a Florida-based company that also publishes "The Counter Terrorist" magazine; and The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI Centre), a for-profit company that functions as a training academy and speakers bureau in Washington, D.C.

The report states: "Although different from each other in many regards, all three groups, or their affiliated trainers and spokespeople, propagate dangerous Islamophobic themes and stories to personnel charged with public safety and national security."

Islampohobic themes promoted by the trainers include claiming that Islam is a "terrorist" religion, that Muslims are a "fifth column" in America, that mainstream Muslims have terrorist ties, and that Muslims seek to replace the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law.

Possible negative outcomes of the biased training could include biased intelligence analysis, stereotyping and profiling of Muslims, unlawful searches and illegal surveillance, physical violence and hate crimes, and the chilling of free speech.

"CAIR supports the recommendations in this revealing report that focus on increased government oversight of counterterrorism training to ensure that such training is balanced, accurate and free of anti-Muslim bias," said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

He added that the Washington Monthly magazine recently published a major investigative article showing similar anti-Islam attitudes by private trainers of law enforcement agencies.

SEE: How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam

Hooper noted that in 2008, the Port of Seattle dissociated itself from cooperating with SSI, one of the groups investigated by PRA, after learning of concerns about the anti-Islam bias of its presenters.

SEE: Does Course on Islam Give Law Enforcers Wrong Idea? (Seattle Times)

CAIR's New York chapter (CAIR-NY) recently called on the New York Police Department (NYPD) to investigate how a notorious anti-Muslim propaganda film came to be used in mandatory counterterrorism training.

SEE: NYPD Cops' Training Included an Anti-Muslim Horror Flick

CAIR also asked the Defense Department not to use anti-Muslim extremists to train military personnel. That request came after Robert Spencer, one of the nation's most notorious Islamophobes, published a post on his blog claiming he trained members of the "military intelligence community."

SEE: FAIR Unmasks the Smearcasters - Robert Spencer

A coalition of Muslim, Sikh, Asian-American, and other civil liberties groups called on FBI Director Robert Mueller to explain why Spencer was invited to train state and federal law enforcement officers. The letter noted that Spencer has referred to Islam's Prophet Muhammad as a "con man."

SEE: Coalition Letter to Director Mueller

CAIR made a similar request of counterterrorism and military leaders not to employ Muslim-bashers as trainers following a Washington Post investigative report on post-9/11 government surveillance, which stated: "Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies."

SEE: Monitoring America (Wash. Post)
Video: CAIR Decries Anti-Muslim Police Trainers
Islam-Bashing Bigots Train Counterterrorism Agents

Last year, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) acknowledged that an anti-Islam film should not have been used in training offered to security personnel by that military law enforcement agency.

CAIR contacted NCIS after receiving a report that a three-day NCIS surveillance detection course at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., included the viewing of a propagandistic anti-Islam film.

SEE: CAIR Seeks Probe of Anti-Islam Bias in Military Training

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, 202-744-7726, or 202-488-8787, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail:


In Letter to Secretaries Napolitano, Holder

By: Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Tuesday sought information to ensure that federal funds for counterterrorism training are not being wasted on programs that could undermine the national effort to deter homegrown terrorism.

The Senators, in a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, asked what guidelines and standards counterterrorism training must meet and what qualifications counterterrorism trainers must possess.

Anecdotal evidence suggesting that some local law enforcement officers are being trained by people who are unqualified or provide inaccurate--even inflammatory--information led the Senators to ask how the two departments oversee federal grants for counterterrorism training.

Following is a copy of the letter: (More)



Bellingham, WA (March 30, 2011) -- Hand Crank Films has won a prestigious Gold ADDY® Award for the PSA ‘9/11 Happened to Us All', produced by CAIR, the Council of American-Islamic Relations. The ADDY® Awards recognizes overall advertising excellence, and the spot was viewed over 1 million times in two weeks. See it here.

Since the spot launched in September of 2010, it has aired on a variety of networks, including CNN and Fox, and has been featured on the front page of Yahoo and a variety of prominent blogs.

"We wanted to capture one story about that day," says Max Kaiser, founding director at Hand Crank Films. "Our spots aren't about being Muslim as much as they are about being American - and how all Americans were tragically affected on 9/11."

The PSA is designed to show the commonalities between faiths and to challenge those who would divide America along religious lines. Hand Crank Films scripted, shot and edited this spot and two others in one week to accommodate CAIR's launch dates.

"We hired Hand Crank Films because we knew they would capture the story we wanted. These public service announcements have reached millions of people around the world with a message of religious inclusion and mutual understanding," says CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Check out the thought provoking work here.

About Hand Crank Films.

Hand Crank Films was started in 2005 and has produced a variety of commercials, corporate videos, and feature films. The company has won 6 Telly Awards, a Cine Golden Eagle, and a Golden Mercury Award for Documentary Excellence. The Addy holds a special place in those accomplishments.

Got a Story to Tell? Contact Chris Donaldson at chrisd@handcrankfilms or 360.383.6376.

About CAIR

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 at or 202-744-7726


By Hiba Haque, Detroit, 3/29/2011

The Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan Chapter (CAIR-MI) celebrated its 11th anniversary at its annual banquet at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn last Sunday, attracting about 900 people, including renowned journalist and Pulitzer Prize Winner Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald, who gave the keynote address.

The honorable Congressman John D. Dingell, who has been the longest serving member of the United States House of Representatives, was presented with the ‘CAIR-MI Civil Rights Defender and Lifetime Achievement Award' at the event. (More)


Art Barnum, Chicago Tribune, 3/29/11

A federal judge has denied DuPage County's request to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed by a group seeking to open a mosque and Islamic school near Naperville.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer issued a written ruling today, rejecting the county's motion to dismiss. No trial date has yet been set, said Kevin Vodak, attorney for the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago).

The DuPage County Board in January 2010 voted 10-7 to deny a conditional-use permit requested for the Irshad Learning Center, proposed for a 2.9-acre site on 75th Street between Wehrli Road and Naperville Boulevard. ...

CAIR-Chicago, which said the center would serve about 30 families, "will continue to pursue the Center's right to use the facility they own to accommodate the needs of the community," said Vodak. (More)


Jim Myers, Tulsa World, 3/30/11

WASHINGTON - A current lawsuit challenging a 2010 state question banning the use of Shariah law in Oklahoma courts and a case settled seven years ago over a Muskogee sixth-grader's religious head scarf were cited Tuesday in a hearing on protecting American Muslims' civil rights.

In response to questions, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez told a U.S. Senate subcommittee that his Civil Rights Division will continue to review the Oklahoma matter for any "potential federal civil rights violation.''

"I am certainly aware of the Oklahoma matter and am aware of this conversation in other states,'' Perez said. "We have not intervened.''

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the newly formed Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee, questioned Perez about the state question adopted last year by Oklahoma voters.

Durbin conceded that hardly a day goes by without a news report about abuse of Shariah law by Western standards in a foreign country.

"But for American Muslims, Shariah includes rules dealing with personal matters like prayer, fasting, marriage and inheritance,'' he said.

"So, there's a fear among some Muslim Americans that a strict ban on Shariah would, in fact, inhibit their freedom of religion.''

Oklahoma's state question drew a legal challenge quickly after it was adopted in November.

Filed by Muneer Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the lawsuit challenges the state question on the grounds that it singles out a particular religion for disfavored treatment. (More)


Seth McLaughlin, The Washington Times, 3/29/11

Less than three weeks after a much-criticized House Republican hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, Senate Democrats countered Tuesday with a hearing of their own -- this one focusing on protecting the civil rights of Muslims.

The two hearings highlight the chasm between the Republican-led House and the Democratic-led Senate on the issue of balancing the religious and civil rights of Muslims against the need to protect the country against radical offshoots of Islam.

"We should all agree that it is wrong to blame an entire community for the wrongdoing of a few," Sen. Richard J. Durbin said in his opening remarks Tuesday. "Guilt by association is not the American way, and American Muslims are entitled to the same constitutional protections as every other American."

The Illinois Democrat said that while Muslims compose less than 1 percent of the American population, they account for 14 percent of Department of Justice (DOJ) religious discrimination cases and about 25 percent of religious discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (More)


Chris Stein, Associated Press, 3/29/11

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling for a speaker invited to testify to Alaska House Judiciary Committee to be pulled from Wednesday's lineup. (More)


ADL, 3/25/11

One of the driving forces behind Shari'a-related conspiracy theories and growing efforts to ban or restrict the use of Shari'a law in American courts is David Yerushalmi, an Arizona attorney with a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.

In recent years, Yerushalmi has created a characterization of Shari'a law (i.e., Islamic law) that declares there are "hundreds of millions" of Muslims who are either "fully committed mujahideen" or "still dangerous but lesser committed jihad sympathizers" who, because of Shari'a law, would be willing to murder all non-believers unwilling to convert, in order to "impose a worldwide political hegemony." Meanwhile, Yerushalmi asserts, the U.S. government itself has consciously chosen to turn a blind eye to this threat.

To combat this alleged threat, Yerushalmi has vigorously opposed all perceived "inroads" of Shari'a law in the United States, even entirely innocuous measures such as American financial institutions creating financing packages designed to be compatible with Islamic restrictions against loaning money at interest. ...

Yerushalmi has not only actively promoted his conspiratorial vision of Shari'a law, but has also sought to portray all Muslims as a threat. In one March 2006 article, for example, Yerushalmi even went so far as to claim that "Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization...The Muslim peoples, those committed to Islam as we know it today, are our enemies." (More)


By Tanya Somanader, Faiz Shakir, Benjamin Armbruster, George Zornick, Zaid Jilani, and Alex Seitz-Wald, ThinkProgress, 3/29/11

Once relegated to the right-wing fringe, Islamophobia has exploded onto the political scene as anti-Muslim pundits and activists gain traction in the conservative mainstream. Lawmakers and activists are now targeting anything affiliated with Muslims -- be it a charity, a teacher, or a mosque.

GOP politicians like former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich are fear-mongering over perceived dangers within the American Muslim community to pander to the conservative extremes.

But this weekend at the Conservative Principles Conference in Iowa, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain introduced an unprecedented level of bigotry into the GOP platform by declaring he would never appoint a Muslim to his administration. His anti-Muslim views sparked considerable outrage, but Cain remains unfazed.

"I does not care, I feel the way I feel," he rationalized. Regardless of how he may feel, his anti-Muslim sentiment does not attract public support. Americans still support the religious freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and believe they should be applied to all, including Muslims.

As President George Washington noted in 1790, the United States "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens." (More)


Salvador Rizzo,, 3/29/11

Gov. Chris Christie today voiced his strongest defense yet of Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim lawyer he nominated to the Superior Court earlier this year, before a largely receptive town hall audience in Hammonton.

During the question-and-answer session, Christie quickly corrected an audience member who said Mohammed, an Indian-American who has been criticized by right-wing blogs for allegedly supporting radical Islamists, had defended terrorists in Guantanamo Bay. Mohammed actually represented people in New Jersey who were not found to have participated in any crimes, Christie noted.

"If it is disqualifying for the bench to be an Arab-American in New Jersey who represents innocent people and gets them released, then this isn't the state I believe it is," Christie said. "I've known this man for 10 years. He's a good, decent American and New Jerseyan, he's an outstanding lawyer, and he deserves the opportunity to be on the bench. I am proud to have nominated him." (More)


Topher Gray, Evanston Patch, 3/29/11

Someone threw a brick through the window of the Dar-us-Sunnah Mosque on the 2000 block of Brown Avenue on March 27. Police said a patrol officer noticed the broken window on the Simpson Street side of the building when passing by. A key holder to the building found a brick and glass inside the mosque, but nothing was taken and no one appeared to enter the building.


Elizabeth Lee, Voice of America, 3/29/11

Watch the video.

At a time when some Americans fear the radicalization of Muslims in the United States, and others, a growing anti-Muslim sentiment, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says it has the solution to fighting home grown terrorism and creating peace among Muslim and non-Muslims.

In a city with one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States, seeing a Muslim in uniform is still rare.

But Sherif Morsi is a Muslim and a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles. "Culturally, as kids are young, they're asked by their parents, 'Are you going to to be a doctor, engineer, lawyer or businessman. Law enforcement is not really on their list for various reasons," he said.

Jihad Turk of the Islamic Center of Southern California says Muslim immigrants in the U.S. often have a negative perception about law enforcement. "A lot of people who are Muslims in the United States come from other countries that are often times run by dictators and the police is just an extension of an oppressive regime," Turk said.

Deputy Morsi has worked for nearly four years to change that belief through the L.A. Sheriff's Department's Muslim Community Affairs Unit. The unit is the first of its kind in the country and aims to build trust through education and personal relationships. (More)

Judy L. Randall, Staten Island Advance, 3/31/11

CAIR-NY contact: Cyrus McGoldrick, 212.870.2002, 203-206-6883

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A Dreyfus Intermediate School sixth-grader was arrested today on felony hate-crime charges.

The 12-year-old boy and an accomplice -- who is being sought -- allegedly assaulted a female classmate about noon in the Stapleton school.

The 12-year-old reportedly demanded to know if she is Muslim and attempted to pull off her headscarf, a law enforcement source told the Advance.

A source at the school described the victim as an honors student.

The boy was taken from the school by officers from the North Shore's 120th Precinct and charged with "harassing the girl, beating her, throwing her to the ground, asking if she is Muslim and trying to pull off her scarf," the law enforcement source said. (More)


Doug Auer, New York Post, 3/31/11

A Staten Island schoolkid has been charged with felony assault as a hate crime after he tried to rip the religious headscarf off a fellow female classmate, The Post has learned.

Osman Daramy, 12, allegedly attacked the victim today around noon inside the Dreyfus Intermediate School on Warren Street in Stapleton.

He and a 13-year-old accomplice beat the girl up, punching and kicking her, before she fell to the ground, authorities said.

"Are you Muslim?" Daramy allegedly barked before grabbing at the hijab wrapped around the victim's head. He was apparently unsuccessful in removing the covering.

Daramy, who has previously attacked the victim four times over a two-month period, was arrested, authorities added. He is also charged with aggravated harassment. (More)



Watch the video.

CAPE CORAL - The idea of a school's Islamic guest speaker ignited an uproar at the Lee County School District and as a result, his appearance was been canceled before it even began!

Wednesday, the principal of Trafalgar Middle School in Cape Coral called off the scheduled visit from an imam. He made the decision after some parents threatened to pull their kids out of class.

Imam Mohamed Al-Darsani, from the Islamic Center for Peace, says he is disappointed and hurt.

Al-Darsani says with a religion that already faces so much discrimination, this is just another blow. But, he says, it motivates him to continue promoting peace for Muslims. (More)


Sean Cockerham, The News Tribune, 3/31/11

JUNEAU -- Palmer Republican Rep. Carl Gatto has set off a political firestorm with a bill aimed at stopping what he deems as the potential of Islamic religious law -- Sharia -- trumping the U.S. Constitution in Alaska courts.

Gatto said he has strong support of Mat-Su area tea party groups and has received nearly 500 emails and phone calls from places like New Zealand, Poland and Israel in support of his bill. It's part of a push nationally by conservative state legislators, with similar measures introduced in more than a dozen states.

A Muslim group in Anchorage says Gatto is spreading an anti-Islam message and the Alaska Civil Liberties Union argues the bill could have unintended legal consequences. The Alaska Department of Law, meanwhile, testified it's hard to see the bill having any real effect as U.S. law already reigns supreme in Alaska's courts.

Gatto said he grew up in New York City, where his Italian neighborhood clung to technically illegal customs like giving a child whiskey to help with illness. But the world of other immigrants is different, he argued.

"I'm more concerned about cultures that are vastly different from European immigrants, who come here and prefer to maintain their specific laws from their previous countries, which are in violent conflict with American law," Gatto said. "That's the issue that I am worried about." (More)


Chris Stein, Associated Press, 3/30/11

JUNEAU, Alaska - A bill to ban the use of foreign law in Alaska courts was applauded by some House lawmakers Wednesday as a bulwark against the possibility of Islamic law, while other lawmakers questioned its necessity during the proposal's first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. (More)


Justin Elliott,, 3/31/11

When an Alabama Republican legislator introduced a bill to ban Shariah law and subsequently couldn't define Shariah law, I thought we had seen the single most ignorant and problematic of the anti-Shariah efforts.

But now the Alaska GOP is giving Alabama a run for its money. In becoming the latest state legislator to seek to ban Islamic law, Alaska Republican Rep. Carl Gatto called a fringe anti-Muslim blogger to testify as an expert witness in the House Judiciary Committee.

That would be Pamela Geller. The New York-based blogger delivered a statement by phone and then took questions from Alaska legislators during the hearing Wednesday.

Geller is the blogger who spread many of the original falsehoods about the so-called "ground zero mosque" (sample headline from her "Atlas Shrugs" website: "Monster Mosque Pushes Ahead in Shadow of World Trade Center Islamic Death and Destruction"). Her blog also regularly features conspiracy theories such as the classic, "Malcolm X is Obama's father."

That Geller was called as an expert in anything in a deliberative body is remarkable. The Anchorage Daily News reports on her testimony: (More)


Anti-Defamation League, 3/25/11

Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), created in 2009, promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam. The group seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy "American" values. The organization warns of the encroachment of shari'a, or Islamic law, and encourages Muslims to leave what it describes as the "falsity of Islam."

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who took over the group's leadership in April 2010, view SIOA as protecting against a powerful and dangerous "Islamic machine" that stands to threaten the security and cultural fabric of the U.S. Geller, in views she outlines in her blog, has linked Islam to bestiality and rape of minors and described the Qur'an as "inspiring" violence. Geller has also charged that Muslim immigration has caused "rampant" honor killings in North America and Europe, compared Muslims to Nazis and asserted that Hitler was inspired by Islam.

Geller and Spencer work closely with David Yerushalmi, an Arizona attorney with a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry. Yerushalmi is one of the driving forces behind Shari'a-related conspiracy theories and growing efforts to ban or restrict the use of Shari'a law in American courts. Geller and Spencer head the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a non-profit organization that was incorporated by Yerushalmi. AFDI and SIOA organize most of their activities and initiatives together, and AFDI serves as host through which Geller and Robert Spencer publish their blogs. (More)


Anti-Defamation League, 3/25/11

ACT! for America is an organization dedicated to combating what it describes as "the threat of radical Islam" to the safety of Americans and to democracy. ACT! promotes the idea that Islam is a backward and seditious political ideology and that Muslim immigration to the U.S. must end.

The organization was launched in 2007 and is constructed around the persona of its founder and president, Brigitte Gabriel, who came to the U.S. in 1989. Gabriel's personal story of growing up Christian in Lebanon and as "a survivor of Islamic terror" is featured prominently in ACT!'s publications and is often cited in speeches by its leadership.

In her writings and public appearances, Gabriel often portrays Islam as a threat. In her book They Must Be Stopped; Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It, she wrote, "It is not yet politically correct to talk about a religious war. But this is exactly what we are facing: a religious war declared by devout Muslims....It's not radical Islam. It's what Islam is at its core."

Gabriel claims that 20 percent of all Muslims support a radical form of Islam that justifies suicide terrorism and works for the establishment of a global totalitarian Islamic state. She further claims that "tens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America operating in sleeper cells, attending our colleges and universities, even infiltrating our government."

Gabriel's views are in line with a growing field of groups that use community concerns about Islamic extremism to stoke fear toward the Muslim community at large. Among other groups that promote an extreme anti-Muslim agenda are Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE). (More)


ARUN SIVASANKARA, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3/31/11

Two Coral Springs Muslims confronted Allen West at a town hall meeting last week about his comments on Islam and terrorism, close on the heels of the Congressman's exchange of words on the same topic with a leader of the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Pompano Beach recently.

Unlike CAIR director Nezar Hamze, Samir Kakli and Shehryar Wahid did not have the Koran with them, but that did not seem to hamper them as they put their point across. West defended his stand on the issue, and judging from the response of an overwhelmingly supportive crowd, did a good job of it.

"I happen to be a Muslim," Wahid said. "I've read some of your comments regarding Muslims and I am a little worried about my children's future. As far as I am aware, you haven't taken the opportunity to meet with your Muslim constituents to explain yourself or to hear them."

West was quick to respond. "I never talk about Muslims; I talk about radical Muslim ideology...There is a radical element out there. When I was in Afghanistan and Iraq, we had many Muslims who were killed by the enemy. I went in the villages where people were throwing acid on little girls who were going to school. Now, if you don't want me to stand up against that kind of ideology, then, I tell you, I am not changing."

"I still feel this is important that you need to meet with your constituents," Wahid intervened. ...

"You said that you were just talking about the radicals and that you are not making statements about Islam," Kakli said. "The problem I have about that is that you have made blanket statements about Islam and the Koran." (More)


Michael Shammas, Duke Chronicle, 3/31/11

American Muslims are facing increasing amounts of public distrust and hate speech, said Andrea Elliott, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times.

Elliott gave a lecture titled "Islam in a Post-9/11 America" in the Sanford School of Public Policy Wednesday afternoon to discuss the challenges Muslims face assimilating into American society. She stressed that some Americans are starting to believe that terrorism and Islam are synonymous, even though Muslims have fought for, and even died in the service of, the United States.

"The perpetrators of [the 9/11] attacks were of course not Muslim-American," she said. "And even though some of their victims were, and even though thousands of American Muslims later served in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, this episode left many Muslims feeling they have lost their face in America to... fear and suspicion."

The event was sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center, the Duke University Middle East Studies Center and the Sanford Institute's DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy. After lecturing for nearly an hour, Elliott spent approximately 15 minutes taking questions from students and faculty in attendance. (More)


Megan Hart, The Muskegon Chronicle, 3/31/11

I wasn't quite sure how to take it when I got "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam" in the mail.

The book, sent by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was one of several surprising results of my column a few weeks ago about my plan to read through the Quran. I also received a copy of the Quran with commentary (which is much longer and heavier than the commentary-free version I had been using), and a Facebook "friend request" from a medical student in Pakistan.

From the opposite viewpoint, someone sent a copy of a speech about the threat Islam presents to America, and two people suggested a DVD made by a former terrorist who converted to Christianity.

While receiving the "Complete Idiot's Guide" wasn't the most flattering moment of my career thus far, it has provided an interesting starting place for the study of Islam, as has the commentary-enhanced copy of the Quran. I have to read both, along with my uncommented copy of the Quran, with the understanding that they are written by Muslims, with obviously positive views of Islam, with the same skepticism I have for Christians writing about other religions.

So here are a few interesting notes on what I've found so far:

• There is no concept of original sin in Islam. Christians believe that Adam and Eve's original sin of disobedience to God was passed to their descendants, and all are born sinful and cannot save themselves by their actions. Therefore, they depend on faith in Jesus' power to take away their sins. By contrast, Muslims believe children are born innocent, and need only live good lives in obedience to Allah's commandments in the Quran. ...

I'm still slowly making my way through the Quran, as I did with the Bible when I was in college. Keep checking MLive for updates, or even better, join me in reading. You might find a few surprises. (More)


Amanda Bankston, The Minnesota Daily, 3/31/11

When 6-year-old Olivia Trembley was younger, getting a glimpse of a woman wearing the hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf, was like being in the presence of royalty.

"She used to think the headscarf meant they were princesses," her mother, Sarah Trembley, said.

Both mother and daughter learned the true meaning behind the hijab when they participated in the Hijabi for a Day event Wednesday as part of the annual Islam Awareness Week hosted by Al-Madinah Cultural Center and the Muslim Student Association.

Members of the student organizations provided more than 100 free scarves in front of Coffman Union to non-Muslim women -- and even men -- willing to wear the traditional covering for the day. (More)


Why can't these fellow conservatives be friends?
Jonathan Zimmerman, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/31/11

Stop the spread of sharia law! Ban gay marriage and abortion!

As the 2012 elections inch closer, GOP lawmakers and presidential hopefuls are tripping over each other to denounce the alleged threat posed by Islam to the American body politic. They're also trying to rally so-called values voters with appeals to conservative cultural themes, especially on marriage and reproduction.

Memo to Republicans: Muslims are cultural conservatives, too. And if you can stop maligning them for a moment, they might move over to your column.

It has happened before. Consider American Catholics, who voted overwhelmingly for Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, our only Catholic president. They were also widely vilified by evangelical Protestants, who warned that JFK would put America under the heel of Rome.

That's why Kennedy had to make his now-famous campaign speech promising he would not take orders from the pope. Evangelicals weren't mollified. The Vatican "does all in its power to control the governments of nations," insisted Christianity Today, the Rev. Billy Graham's magazine.

The charge echoed a tradition of anti-Catholic bigotry going all the way back to the birth of the republic. There's a troubling parallel between that history and the contemporary attacks on Muslims, who have been accused of conspiring to replace American law with their own religious code. (More)