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Community News North America (V9-I11)

March 8, 2007 by  


Cop under investigation for alleged slurs

MINNEAPOLIS, MN–A top official of the Minneapolis Police Union is reportedly under investigation for remarks he is alleged to have made against U.S.Congressman Keith Ellison during a police ethics training class. Lt.Bob Kroll denies the allegations.

Kroll, who is the vice president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, said that he never used the word ‘terrorist’ to describe Rep.Ellison. “I never called Congressman Ellison a terrorist,” he insisted.
Police Chief Tim Dolan sent an email to all MPD officers today saying he has ordered an internal investigation of the incident to see if there was a violation of the MPD’s Code of Conduct.

Chief Dolan called the alleged comment, if in fact it was made, “unacceptable.”

He said “calling Representative Keith Ellison a terrorist is a prejudicial statement. The comment not only offends a U. S. Representative duly elected by the citizens of Minnesota, but more importantly, it offends our own officers of Muslim faith.”

He added, “if these statements were made in the way they relayed to me, I am disappointed and concerned.”
The Chief noted, “It was appropriate that fellow classmates challenged these comments.”

ACLU to investigate anti-Muslim proselytizing

RALEIGH, NC – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina today announced that it is expanding its investigation into reports of longstanding, anti-Muslim proselytizing to students at Enloe High School in Raleigh. Expressing deep concern about the dismissive manner in which the school has handled this matter, the ACLU of North Carolina invited parents and students to contact the organization with information about proselytizing at Enloe High School on February 15, 2007 or any time prior.

“We are deeply disappointed by the manner in which the school has thus far handled these serious allegations,” said Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “In the face of overwhelming evidence that proselytizing took place in this public school, school officials have insisted on miscasting this as a free speech issue. Children’s religious upbringing should be directed by their parents, not by government officials entrusted with teaching students to read and write. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was designed to prevent this very activity.”

The father of an Enloe student contacted the ACLU of North Carolina to report that students in a social sciences class had been subjected to blatant proselytizing by a speaker invited to address the class by teacher Robert Escamilla. The speaker, Kamil Solomon, heads an anti-Muslim Christian evangelical organization called Kamil International Ministries Organization whose stated mission is “to teach the truth about Islam and equip Christians to share Jesus with Muslims.”

In addition to lecturing on the virtues of Christianity and the so-called evils of Islam, Solomon distributed two pamphlets to students, one entitled, “Jesus Not Muhammad Part 1,” and the other, “Do Not Marry a Muslim Part 1.” Both pamphlets seek to promote and endorse Christianity at the expense of Islam and encourage readers to embrace Christianity and shun Islam and its followers. One pamphlet calls Muhammad a “criminal,” “Demon Possessed,” “Inspired by Satan” and “Prejudiced,” while the other warns the readers that if they ever give up Christianity, they will face “eternal condemnation.”

Immediately upon learning of the incident, the ACLU of North Carolina attempted to contact Enloe High School principal Beth Cochran, who has not responded despite numerous phone calls. The organization has determined that blatant proselytizing did indeed take place in Escamilla’s class on February 15 and that for many years he has engaged in proselytizing to his students. The investigation also showed that the school has done nothing to put a stop to this unlawful activity.

The ACLU of North Carolina sent a letter to Cochran, expressing concerns about the incidents that had taken place and seeking written assurances from Enloe High School that presentations by faculty, staff and invited guests endorsing religion or promoting any particular religion at the expense of another would never again be allowed.

Del Burns, Superintendent of Wake County Public Schools, responded to the ACLU of North Carolina with a very short letter in which the school system acknowledged no illegal activity and made no promises to prevent future proselytizing from taking place. To date, no one from Enloe High School has returned any of the ACLU of North Carolina’s phone calls or directly responded to the organization’s letter.

“The school’s dismissive response to these constitutional violations is deeply troubling,” said Azadeh Shahshahani the ACLU’s Muslim/Middle Eastern Community Outreach Coordinator. “In light of reports we have received that this was not an isolated incident, we are actively inviting parents and students at Enloe to contact our office regarding Mr. Solomon’s presentation on February 15 and other incidents of school-sponsored proselytizing that they have witnessed at Enloe High School.”

Enloe High School students and their parents are encouraged to contact the ACLU of North Carolina at (919) 834-3466 or aclunc@nc.rr.com.

Planning Board gives nod to upstate New York’s largest mosque

TROY, NY–The Colonie town planning board has approved plans to build what is being described as the largest mosque in upstate New York. The board unanimously approved the plans for the Al Hidaya Center which will feature a 54 feet high dome and two minarets.

The Muslim Community of Troy which is leading the project plans to build a large worship area, 11 classrooms and a gymnasium. The center will occupy 50,992 swuare feet and it can take up to seven years to construct all the facilities.

The Muslim Community of Troy was founded almost 25 years ago by students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. For the past 15 years they have been worshipping inside a two-story Victorian house on 15th Street in Troy. The community has grown so large that Friday morning worship services are held at a gymnasium on the RPI campus.

About seven years ago the Muslim community bought the wooded land off Troy-Schenectady Road. Five years ago plans were submitted to the town to build the mosque and other facilities. Although site plan approval was granted in 2002, Elmi said members of the mosque needed to raise money to finance the construction.
The gymnasium would also host community functions, such as weddings and funeral prayers. The retail shopping plaza would be leased to private operators; the revenue generated would go to support the mosque.

Bias suspected: attack at Fredericton Mosque

FREDERICTON, MD–Police said they are investigating a possible hate crime in Frederick County after vandals defaced a mosque last week.

Authorities said someone threw large stones through some of the mosque’s windows last Wednesday.
The incident is the third of its kind against the Islamic Society of Frederick in just more than a year, officials said.

A window was broken at the mosque three weeks ago, NBC news reported.

“It does tell us that this society is sensitive to the probability that they could be being targeted. As an agency, we are very sensitive to that,” said Lt. Tom Chase of the Frederick City Police Department.
Despite the recent incidents, the leaders at the Islamic Society of Frederick said they are not ready to categorize them as hate crimes.

“This is in the hands of the authorities, so I cannot really comment on that,” said mosque member Waleed Beidas. “But, we’ll just leave it the way it is right now and see what happens in the future.”
In response to the attacks, mosque leaders have requested to build a 6-foot fence around its property. But, officials said that as they repair the damage, they do not plan to isolate themselves.
Mosque leaders said the rocks may have damaged their place of worship but not their faith in God or fellow man.

San Antonio cops get training on ME culture

SAN ANTONIO, CA–Police officers in San Antonio are getting valuable insight on the Middle Eastern culture as the city’s growing Muslim population now numbers 20,000. It is part of Police Chief William McManus’ idea that police officers should know good “customer service.” The goal is equal treatment for all San Antonians — not just Muslims but people of different religions, races and creeds.

To that end, the department for the first time is turning to people who know those communities and cultures firsthand. So far, two classes on Middle Eastern culture have been taught at the academy. Two Muslim women, both wearing a hijab, were brought in to conduct the training.

Mosque opposed in Goldsboro

GOLDSBORO, NC–Proponents of a new mosque are facing tough opposition from residents in Goldboro. Dr. Waheed Akhtar of Goldsboro owns the overgrown lot at the corner of Memorial Drive and Best Avenue and said he wants to build a mosque there to make it easier for area Muslims to worship.

“There is a very small Muslim community in Goldsboro,” Akhtar said, noting that they have to drive to Raleigh or Greenville to worship, which is difficult for him when he is on call. “I believe having a mosque in Goldsboro is good for Goldsboro.”

He has petitioned the city to change the zoning of the lot to allow a 2,000-square-foot mosque and parking lot.
But some neighbors are fighting the proposed change. They have filed a formal petition to stop the rezoning.
The Goldsboro Planning Commission will present a recommendation to the City Council at its next meeting.

Canada–Moncton builds its first mosque

Muslims in the greater Moncton area are hoping their new mosque will help keep more new immigrants in the region.

Until recently, Muslims met for worship in their own homes, or in rooms at the Université de Moncton.
The new building, in the city’s downtown area, is more visible and provides a central meeting place for the community.

Riaz Akhtar, president of the Greater Moncton Muslim Association, said the mosque will be a great advantage for new immigrants.

“Now that we have a mosque, I think it will be an added advantage to the new immigrants,” Akhtar said. “They’ll find there is already a community; they can become part of it. We can help to some extent in introducing them to the community.”

The association is planning to hold an open house at the new building in the next few months, Akhtar said.

V9-I11

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