SE Michigan News (Vol 8 Iss 35)

August 24, 2006 by  


ACCESS Community Hearing on Immigration

Dearborn—August 18—ACCESS held a meeting of powerful representatives of immigration-involved groups this past Friday at their headquarters on Schaefer in downtown Dearborn.

Present were many community leaders including Rima El-Zein of the ADC, Juan Escarena of the MOSES project, an ecumenical religious organization, several of ACCESS’s leadership including Taleb Salhab and Noel Saleh, and an audience of about 60 people.

Taleb Salhab opened the “People’s Hearing on Immigration” by welcoming the many attendees and thanking Rashida Tlaib and Nadia Zain who had been instrumental in coordinating the event. Hassan Jaber, the COO of ACCESS, was the MC for the event.

The purpose of the event was for prominent community leaders from the Arab and Hispanic communities to vent frustration with abusive immigration, detention, and deportation policies.

Hassan Jaber began the event by decrying the “in your face” tactics of US law enforcement, the almost complete reliance on the military approach to the terrorism problem, and exhorted Arabs, Latinos and African Americans to unite against the abuses justified under the banner of counter-terrorism.

Prof. Saeed Khan of Wayne State University emphasized the disparity between the treatment of white passengers and the treatment of people of Muslim origin, especially in the light of Catherine Mayo’s recent detention after erratic behavior on an airplane; he cited the many contraband items she had been able to bring on board the airplane (lighters, matches, a screwdriver) as evidence that airplane security sweeps are in fact based on racial profiling rather than effective methods–he said they had given her a “free pass because of her background.”

Prof. Khan also emphasized his own mistreatment by customs officials, emphasizing the vulnerability one feels when subjected to intrusive and demeaning searches by young and callous customs officials. He cited an example of his having been escorted brusquely off of an airplane by customs agents while fellow passengers sat in their seats after a transatlantic trip–the manner of his removal from the airplane made the other passengers think he had imminent designs on their safety. He explained that he is so familiar with the customs agents he sees in airports that as he passed a checkpoint one time and a customs official said “I was thinking about you a couple of weeks ago”–more familiar, said Prof. Khan, than he wants to be with customs agents. He said that on average he spends between 5 and 45 extra minutes at each customs checkpoint.

Rima Elzein of the ADC cited many recent cases that highlight the bizarre approach of law enforcement, which quickly ascribes terrorist motives to visibly benign activities when they are carried out by Muslims and people of Arab or South Asian origin. She cited the recent detention in Caro Michigan of three Palestinian men falsely accused of terrorism while engaged in a business adventure with 1,000 Walmart cell phones.

Edith Castillo of LA SED emphasized the catastrophic impact on local hard-working families forcibly deported, the “disappearance” style nature of the detentions of Latinos (which frequently occur without notification of detainee families), and explained that these deportations largely begin by racial-profile-based traffic stops by policemen.

In perhaps the most stirring speech, Juan Escareno of MOSES emphasized the story of the eleven remaining Companions of Jesus (as), who when he was withdrawn from their midst locked themselves in seclusion. He emphasized that at some point it was necessary for them (and as he said it is now for us also) to emerge from seclusion and face the world with courage, and he asked those present at the meeting to go out into the uncertain world and seek the real blessings of this country, including freedom from police searches, civil liberties, and so on.

Rep. Conyers steered the debate primarily towards his own issues, speaking about the wanton and repeated aggressions against constitutional and legislatively pro-tected freedoms by the Bush administration, and emphasizing the impossibility of going after and detaining or deporting 12 million undocumented aliens, the fundamentally misconceived Iraq war, and spoke briefly on the similarity between “driving while black” and “flying while Arab” police abuses.

Several people present had come apparently for the wrong reasons, including at least two young representatives of the Lyndon LaRouche organization who attempted to turn the agenda to international issues. Another quiet heckler video-taped Rep. Conyers and asked race-baiting questions designed to elicit visceral responses–the ACCESS staff members and especially Rep. Conyers deflected these questions with skill.

Masjid Annual Picnics Coincide

Brighton—August 20—The Tawheed Center of Farmington Hills held their picnic at the beautiful and spacious Kensington Metro Park in Brighton this past Sunday—a picnic which coincided with those of the Bloomfield Unity Center and Canton’s MCWS.

The Kensington Metro Park is a beautiful venue for a picnic, a 4,481-acre recreational facility open year-round, with trails, boating, a farm, and more. The Playfield North location, where the picnic was, was ideally situated, with a huge makeshift soccer field where children played, and a volleyball net hung between trees for the adults. In the afternoon there was even a cricket match. Mountains of food were prepared, with hundreds of liters of soda–all in readiness for the expected 200 attendees.

In the Western part of the Kensington Metro Park on the same day, unbeknownst to the Tawheed Center attendees, MCWS (the Canton mosque) held a picnic also. This may have been the biggest of the masjid picnics held this past weekend. According to MCWS president Mohammed Usman, about 400 attendees were present, including men women and children; the families played volleyball and cricket, plenty of food was available, and MCWS attendees were charged an optional fee of $5 for attendance.

On the same day, the Bloomfield Unity Center held their own picnic as well–their picnic was held on their own beautiful mosque grounds in Bloomfield Hills. About 200 people came to their second annual picnic (the first is held on 4th of July). They had soccer and volleyball also, and the mosque rented a rock climbing wall for children.There were also orienteering games for the children using GPS.

The BUC event lasted from 2pm until about 8:30 pm.

The BUC likes to have their picnics at the mosque in order to bring people to the mosque and because the mosque has indoor and outdoor facilities as well as bathrooms and an area to make wudu.

Perhaps next year the picnics can be held close to one another so that attendees from the various mosques can meet with each other and interact. •

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