ADVISORY: U.S. MUSLIM COMMUNITY MAY BE TARGET OF HATE CRIMES (CAIR) -TOP Chris Zawistowski, CBS Investigates intern, 5/20/11
Tensions stemming from the death of Osama Bin Laden and uprisings throughout the Middle East may result in attacks on Muslim-based groups in the United States, according to an advisory from the New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center.
The New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center wrote in the advisory that it has no specific information regarding a credible threat against religious organizations or facilities at this time.
However, several recent crimes against Muslim facilities and organizations around the country have put law enforcement officials on the lookout for further incidents.
This past Saturday, at least three masked men---caught on surveillance video---attempted to burn down the Madrasah Islamiah Mosque in Southwest Houston, Texas, igniting several prayer rugs in the main prayer room.
No injuries were reported in the suspected arson attempt and there was no significant damage to the building, according to a spokesperson for the Houston Fire Department. ...
Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment since the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Hooper said that international events have sparked incidents against Muslims in the past but finds it strange that the death of Osama Bin Laden would elicit such negative reactions from many across the nation.
"I guess any kind of international event brings out the worst in some people," he said. "It's quite disturbing." (More)
MISSOURI ISLAMIC CENTER TARGETED BY HATE BURGLARIZED - TOP Cory de Vera, News-Leader, 5/19/11
Thieves stole two air conditioning units from the Islamic Center of Springfield and broke into an outbuilding there, police said.
"To say whether this is part of the ongoing hate campaign against Muslims by the few people who engaged in that recently, or just run-of-the-mill villains, I can't say," said Robert Baker, a member of the center who reported the thefts Wednesday night.
In January, vandals left graffiti on the center's walls and broke a water spigot.
In April the center reported receiving a threatening letter, and members found what appeared to be burned remains of three Qurans. Later that month, people of many faiths gathered at the center to speak for religious freedom.
Baker said police told him a task force is investigating the recent air conditioner thefts. (More)
CAIR: SMEARING ISLAM IS A FORMULA FOR HATE - TOP Charleston Gazette editorial, 5/20/11
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A few fanatic U.S. Christians have murdered doctors and nurses at abortion clinics -- but no thinking person would blame all of Christianity for the crazed acts of a tiny fringe.
However, some people try to blame America's millions of peaceful Muslims for suicide massacres by a minuscule number of fanatical "martyr" volunteers. Accusers portray all Islamic believers as dangerous -- as secret holy warriors undermining U.S. democracy.
Republican presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich boosted this alarm when he denounced plans for a Manhattan mosque, and when he said Muslims want America to adopt the "sharia" religious law that requires stoning and chopping off hands and feet.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., fanned the flames when he held congressional hearings last month into allegations that terrorists are recruited in U.S. mosques.
Currently, conservatives in 20 states are backing laws to forbid courts to employ sharia -- although no U.S. judge ever considered such a thing. (More)
DUTCH ANTI-ISLAM ZEALOT FINDS SYMPATHETIC EAR AT TENN. CHURCH - TOP Richard Lloyd, Nashville Scene, 5/20/11
"I have a message for all those people who want to rob us from [sic] our freedoms, and my message is, 'Stay in your own country!'"
With those words, Geert Wilders brought his Middle Tennessee audience to its feet last week for one of several standing ovations. If the message was familiar to the audience at Madison's Cornerstone Church, the messenger was more exotic. Tall and slim with luxuriant waves of bleached-blonde hair, Wilders is a flamboyant and controversial Dutch Parliamentarian who has ridden the rising tide of European Islamophobia to international notoriety.
Wilders came to Nashville to headline the inaugural Signature Event of the newly formed Tennessee Freedom Coalition, an organization co-founded by former congressional candidate, Tea Party identifier and noted Murfreesboro mosque opponent Lou Ann Zelenik. The event had to thrill its organizers. The cavernous mega-church was packed May 12 with an appreciative, overwhelmingly white and late-middle-aged crowd.
Dubbed "A Warning to America," Wilders' speech laid out point by point what has become a right-wing catechism. Western Judeo-Christian "civilization" is superior to all others and must be defended; Islam is a force for evil, exempt from First Amendment protections since it is not actually a religion but a jihadist hate-campaign; non-Western immigrants cannot or will not assimilate to Western values; mosques (or as Wilders put it more colorfully, "hate palaces") are breeding grounds for home-grown holy war; and, most incomprehensibly, the imposition of Sharia law is an imminent threat. (More)
CAIR-CA: MUSLIMS REPORT UNWARRANTED SURVEILLANCE, HARASSMENT - TOP Ali Winston, KALW, 5/19/11
Admist complaints from Bay Area Muslim, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern residents of unwarranted surveillance, harassment at San Francisco International Airport and federal agents offering fast-track immigration status in exchange for information, the participation of the San Francisco Police Department in the local Joint Terrorism Task Force came under review at last night's joint hearing of the Police and Human Rights Commissions.
Last night also saw the introduction of a proposal from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Asian Law Caucus to alter SFPD's participation in the JTTF to give more local control over city police officers participating in the anti-terrorism team.
Currently, SFPD has 2 officers allocated to the Bay Area JTTF, which is run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's San Francisco office. SFPD participates in the task force under a memorandum of understanding, and has done so since 2002 under the oversight of the Police Commission.
According to ACLU-Norcal Police Practices John Crew, the MOU was altered without notifying the Police Commissioner. Unlike the 2002 MOU, the current agreement, signed in 2007, loosens the standards for intelligence-gathering by SFPD's JTTF liaisons and throws up obstacles to oversight of their actions by the department, the Police Commission and the Office of Civilian Complaints. (More)
NY INTERFAITH COALITION TO PROTEST REP. KING'S ANTI-MUSLIM BIAS - TOP Víctor Manuel Ramos, Newsday, 5/20/11
A newly formed coalition of interfaith and civil rights advocates is rallying this weekend against Rep. Peter King's plan to continue hearings into what he calls the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism.
King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, yesterday dismissed the coalition -- Long Island Neighbors for American Values -- as a fringe group of "malcontents." (More)
ANTI-SHARIA LAW: A SOLUTION IN SEARCH OF A PROBLEM - TOP Daniel Mach and Jamil Dakwar, Religion News Service
NEW YORK (RNS) A discriminatory and wholly unfounded idea is taking root in state legislatures across the country: attempts to pass laws that would explicitly and unnecessarily ban state courts from applying or even considering Islamic, or Shariah, law.
One of the first, and worst, of these was a state constitutional amendment approved last year by Oklahoma voters. That measure has been temporarily blocked by a federal court, and the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations are seeking to have the measure struck down permanently. (More)
CAIR: PRESIDENT OBAMA OUTLINES MIDDLE EAST VISION (VIDEO) - TOP Lisa Millar, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 5/19/11
LISA MILLAR, REPORTER: The speech had been planned for weeks, but Barack Obama was tweaking it until the very end, delaying his arrival for 30 minutes. Despite the last-minute edits, there was no confusing the message.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: We have the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator.
LISA MILLAR: Accused previously of being overly cautious and hesitant over the Middle East uprisings, Barack Obama is now throwing his weight behind the protesters.
BARACK OBAMA: The people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.
LISA MILLAR: Two years ago he delivered a landmark speech from Cairo, this time the venue was the State Department at Foggy Bottom.
Nearby, American Muslim leaders waited to hear if the tone had also changed.
MAHDI BRAY, MUSLIM AMERICAN SOCIETY: Many in the Arab world, in the Muslim world don't have a lot of expectations from this president. I think there is a general feeling of speech fatigue now. I think people want to see something, some concrete action.
LISA MILLAR: They watched in silence as the president outlined plans to cancel a billion dollars in debt for Egypt and guarantee another billion dollars in loans. He promised to put economic might behind his support for infant democracies.
Their immediate reaction was positive, with conditions.
NIHAD AWAD, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: The true test for this speech is to translate it into action. Two years after the Cairo speech, people felt discouraged because of the lack of progress, now we would like to see that this speech is going to be translated into action. (More)
VIDEO: CAIR-MI REP COMMENTS ON PRESIDENT'S SPEECH - TOP TV20Detroit.com, 5/19/11
CAIR-LA: OBAMA GIVES NEW SPIN TO FAMILIAR MID-EAST STRATEGY - TOP Beige Luciano-Adams, Whittier Daily News, 5/19/11
PASADENA - In a sweeping speech at the State Department on Thursday morning, President Barack Obama tried to set the tone for U.S. foreign policy in a new Middle East - one built on the sparks of the Arab Spring. ....
For Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Center on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Los Angeles, Obama fell short when it came to holding Israel to the same standard as the other governments he criticized.
"What we see in the Middle East today is a popular movement demanding human dignity, justice and freedom - and that also includes the Palestinian people," he said.
"We have to become as vocal and honest in our criticism of Israel's repression of the Palestinian people as we are of other leaders in the region." . ...
"I sensed a genuine support from the president for the aspirations of the people in that region for democracy, dignity and justice," Ayloush said, adding that many are waiting to see some "real action," but the focus on Egypt and Tunisia is a good start.
At this point, Ayloush said it will come down to our response in other countries like Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, where the struggle for democracy is still raging.
"Muslims in the Middle East look up to America and value its stance for liberty and justice for all - and just want America to align its foreign policy with those great values that everyone admires." (More)
CAIR-CHICAGO: LOCAL REACTIONS TO PRESIDENT OBAMA'S FOREIGN POLICY - TOP Jennifer Brandel, WBEZ, 5/19/11
Religious leaders in Chicago are reacting to President Barack Obama's foreign policy speech on Thursday. Islamic and Jewish organizations in Chicago praised the speech overall, but disagreed over Mr. Obama's tone toward Palestine and Israel.
Ahmed Rehab is the Executive Director of CAIR Chicago: the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He said the President sugar-coats the US demands on Israel. "Would you please do this, pretty please do that? That's not the message the United States should have. We need to be a lot more courageous and bold and demanding of the right thing," he said after the president's speech. (More)
CAIR-NY: PRESIDENT'S MIDDLE EAST SPEECH RATTLES ISRAELIS, PALESTINIANS ALIKE - TOP CBS New York, 5/19/11
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- President Barack Obama stepped right into the line of fire Thursday, laying out a controversial Middle East peace plan that has both the Israelis and the Palestinians unhappy. ...
But while supporters of Israel are upset by the president's demand for the Palestinians to recover territory taken by Israel in 1967, Palestinians in New York City said they are equally upset by the Obama's insistence that the state of Palestine be a demilitarized state.
"I think that Rabbi Hillel once said that you should want for your neighbor what you want for yourself and I think to put the Palestinians at a disadvantage, in may ways, I don't think will bode well for peace in the long term," said Zead Ramadan, the president of Council on American-Islamic Relations: New York. (More)
CAIR-SAN DIEGO: MUSLIMS REACT TO OBAMA ARAB SPRING SPEECH (VIDEO) - TOP 10News, 5/19/11
SAN DIEGO -- Local Muslims Reacted To President Obama's Arab Spring Speech Thursday Morning, where he spoke on a new era for American diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa.
In the speech lasting about 45 minutes, Obama addressed topics from the death of al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden to the people's uprisings in authoritarian governments to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Many San Diego Muslims 10News spoke to were satisfied with the speech, saying that just speaking about the topics is a good start.
"My heart was joyful, yet cautious," said Hanif Mohebi, the executive director of San Diego's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). (More)
CAIR-ST. LOUIS: OBAMA'S SPEECH DRAWS PRAISE, CRITICISM - TOP Phillip O'Connor, S. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/20/11
While President Obama's vision of a peaceful and economically thriving Middle East was dissected in St. Louis on Thursday, activists on all sides agreed they were happy to see the president engage on such a critical issue. ....
Faizan Syed, executive director of the St. Louis Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he supported the two-state solution endorsed by Obama. But he was concerned that the president made no mention of the future of Jerusalem or the Palestinian right of return.
"Unless they are discussed, those are two issues that are really stumbling blocks to peace negotiations," Syed said.
He said he was excited, though, to hear the president talking about spurring economic development in the region and not just in oil industries that Syed said had enriched the elite but had done little for the masses. (More)
SAN FRANCISCO CIRCUMCISION BAN A POTENTIAL VIOLATION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM - TOP Huffington Post, 5/19/11
A proposal to ban the circumcision of male children in San Francisco has been cleared to appear on the November ballot, setting the stage for the nation's first public vote on what has long been considered a private family matter.
But even in a city with a long-held reputation for pushing boundaries, the measure is drawing heavy fire. Opponents are lining up against it, saying a ban on a religious rite considered sacred by Jews and Muslims is a blatant violation of constitutional rights.