Congressman’s Apology to Muslims

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By James Warren

Mike Quigley knows about cheap shots on ice. Now he’s an expert on being blindsided on the Internet and cable TV.

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Congressman Mike Quigley, (D-5th-IL)

Mr. Quigley, a Democratic Chicago congressman, had a relatively light Saturday recently. He played ice hockey in the morning, did a beach cleanup with the Sierra Club and hit four block parties in the 32nd, 43rd and 44th Wards. Along the way he surfaced at a conference held by the American Islamic College. It was a quick in-and-out, with remarks to perhaps 100 attendees about the strengths of American pluralism, the sort he makes to many groups. They included:

“Forms of discrimination come in many forms, many shapes and many guises. You have my pledge to work with you to fight them, and I think that it is appropriate for me to apologize on behalf of this country for the discrimination you face.”

He then bicycled to the first block party. The Islamic College audience was apparently grateful but didn’t find his appearance especially notable as they returned to the business of their meeting.

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, found the address nice and patriotic. “What we’d expect of a congressman,” he said.

Neither he, Mr. Quigley nor anybody else there was prepared for the response initiated in the conservative blogosphere, then intensified on radio and TV.

The congressman was attacked harshly, with at least one death threat on a Fox News site that by week’s end was still not taken down despite requests.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative activist, blogged that Mr. Quigley made a “surprise appearance”  before “the primarily Muslim audience. He rambled on about the typical racism and discrimination that the liberal left is so convinced America is rampantly infected with.”

The appearance was not a surprise, even if not on the formal program.

But the nefarious implication was repeated on blogs and the Fox News Channel. Video links included the lines above but not related comments about the legacies of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.

Social media posts and hundreds of nasty calls, e-mails and faxes poured in to his offices, which deleted profane and violent posts and passed direct threats to law enforcement.

But the conservative echo chamber was in high dudgeon. Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host, decided that Mr. Quigley’s remarks were a story and thus conferred high-profile legitimacy to the bloggers’ vituperation on Tuesday. Mr. Quigley could not appear, but Mr. Rehab did, initially nonplused that the remarks were deemed newsworthy.

With “Questionable Apology” emblazoned on the screen, Mr. O’Reilly repeated the same two sentences Mr. Quigley had uttered and declared:

“Wow! What discrimination?”  Statistics don’t support claims of bias against Muslim Americans, he said.

Much data and polling contradicts him. As an unabashed Mr. Rehab told him, “You’d have to be living under a rock” to miss the overarching reality.

Mr. Rehab cited federal figures on rising workplace complaints of anti-Muslim discrimination and polls showing both that 39 percent of Americans would require Muslims to carry special identification and that one-third don’t think Muslims should be allowed to run for president.

“O.K., those stats bolster your argument,” Mr. O’Reilly conceded. “But in economic realms, Muslim Americans are doing well, pretty well,” he said. “We don’t want anybody to be anti-Muslim. Thank you for coming on here,” Mr. O’Reilly concluded brusquely, with Mr. Rehab having clearly failed to fulfill a role of self-righteous liberal piñata.

But Fox wasn’t done.

On Wednesday, its morning “Fox and Friends” show saw Mr. Quigley, 52, called a “silly old fool” by Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and advocate of aggressive military actions. He belittled Muslims with a series of mock apologies like “We should apologize for preventing them from beating their daughters to death for flirting.”

Eboo Patel, an Indian-born Muslim and former Rhodes Scholar who runs the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Corps, found the response offensive.

But he noted a Gallup poll finding that American Muslims remain very optimistic despite facing discrimination.

He mentioned that his nephew in Houston was hassled when, for religious reasons, he wouldn’t eat school pizza with pork.

Well, at least we occasionally try to curb school bullies. We clearly don’t when it comes to the bullies who can drive our public dialogue.

jwarren@chicagonewscoop.org

James Warren writes a column for the Chicago News Cooperative.

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Community News (V13-I31)

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

New Mosque in Staten Island

STATEN ISLAND,NY–The Muslim American Society is opening a new location on Staten Island.

The mosque and community center will be housed at the site of a former Hindu temple on Burgher Avenue in Dongan Hills.

Renovations are underway, and the center is not open to the public as of yet reports NY1.

St. Louis’s Imam Ansari Passes Away

ST.LOUIS,MO–Samuel Ansari, a much beloved leader of the St.Louis Muslim community, passed away on July 24, after suffering a heart attack. He was 62. He owned a bakery and served as a volunteer imam at the Al Muminun Mosque.

Mr. Ansari was born Samuel Hicks on Nov. 20, 1948, in Huntingdon, Tenn., and moved to St. Louis as a child. He graduated from Vashon High School and did a stint in the Army in the 1960s that took him to Alaska. When he came home, he was disillusioned with the United States. Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, a social movement of black Muslims, appealed to him.

“When I heard him say the white man is the devil, it hit home,” Mr. Ansari told the Post-Dispatch in 2006. “We wanted white Americans to feel what we felt.”

But after Elijah Muhammad died in 1975, Mr. Ansari followed the leadership of Muhammad’s son, W. Deen Mohammed, who focused on the universal teachings of Islam, not separatism.

Imam Ansari had worked hard to build bridges between the immigrant and the African-American Muslim community of the city. He was also active in interfaith efforts.

DOJ Asked to Probe Michigan Bias

DETROIT,MI–The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether local planning officials in that state are violating the religious rights of Muslims by denying a permit to build a school on property they own.

On June 16, the Michigan Islamic Academy (MIA) went before the Pittsfield Township Planning Commission for land usage approval on a newly-purchased property to be used for educational and religious purposes. The planning commission voted on a preliminary procedural motion to deny MIA’s request after concerns of disruption of neighborhood harmony were raised and derogatory comments were made about the religious practices of Muslims. (A final vote will be taken at a commission meeting on August 4.)

Ali Mushtaq Wins Piano Competition

WASHINGTON D.C.–Ali Mushtaq, a statistical contractor and an amateur pianist, came first at the ninth annual Washington International Piano Artists Competition.  The competition is open to amateur pianists 31 years of age or older. The event had competitors from around the world and was hosted by the French Embassy.

Arts Midwest Launches International Program to Bridge American and Muslim Cultures

Arts Midwest, the non-profit Regional Arts Organization (RAO) serving America’s upper Midwest, announces the launch of Caravanserai: A place where cultures meeT, a groundbreaking artistic and cultural exchange program supported by the nation’s RAOs. Caravanserai is funded by a one million dollar grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) Building Bridges program.

“The name Caravanserai was carefully selected for this program,” says David Fraher, Executive Director of Arts Midwest. “Historically, in the east and middle-east, stopping places for caravans were called caravanserais. Safe places to come together and exchange stories. The name evokes that imagery of travelers in a safe haven, a place where cultures meet.”

Betsy Fader of DDFIA says Caravanserai is a natural fit for their Building Bridges grants program. “Caravanserai beautifully illustrates our mission to promote the use of art and culture to improve Americans’ understanding and appreciation of Muslim Societies. We believe this pilot program of music and film will start many conversations and open many doors to understanding.”

Nearly two years in the making, Caravanserai begins with a pilot program in five US communities comprising performing arts and film programs featuring art and artists from Muslim cultures. The pilot program focuses on Pakistan. Future programming will feature other geographic regions and artistic disciplines and will travel to more US cities.

After receiving applications from across the country, Arts Midwest selected the following communities to present Caravanserai:

•    The Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire; Littleton, NH
•    Artswego SUNY Oswego; Oswego, NY
•    FirstWorks; Providence, RI
•    Monmouth University; West Long Branch, NJ
•    The Myrna Loy Center; Helena, MT

Each organization will host three arts experiences in their community, including music residency tours featuring traditional and contemporary Pakistani musicians and a film residency, featuring a Pakistani filmmaker. Residency activities will include educational workshops, public performances, film screenings, and localized community outreach.
Curated by artistic director Zeyba Rahman, Caravanserai features a roster of outstanding contemporary Pakistani artists.

•    Arif Lohar – Folk singer
•    Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin – Qawali singers
•    Sanam Marvi – Folk and Sufi singer
•    Ustad Tari Khan – US-based tabla master
•    Ayesha Khan – Filmmaker, “Made in Pakistan”

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Leadership Summit Summer 2011

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

With Islamophobia rampant in the United States, programs and people to combat it are essential. While there are very many with the knowledge, faith, and desire to be warriors in this mission, one essential ingredient is often missing. That is the practical knowledge of how to form teams to fight Islamophobia. This past Saturday that problem was remedied in a practical, “how-to”, nitty gritty session which gave these willing warriors their tools.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) California and the Muslim American Society held a leadership training program this past Saturday at the Islamic Center of Reseda in Reseda, Ca. Titled: Leadership Summit Summer 2011, the event was well attended and enthusiastically received. The speakers were highly motivational and well versed in the field of leadership training and its application to Islamic activity.

Mohammad Abbasi, the first presenter, is a Regional Director for Keller Williams Realty Group Greater New York area. His experience in the field of leadership training is vast, and he devotes his time to serving his community. In addition to his experience, he is able to teach in a way that captivates his audience. The message is well structured and comprehensive, educating the listener while making him enjoy the lesson.

Leaders make themselves leaders and consciously develop the necessary qualities for leadership, he began. They are not born, and no one can force leadership onto a person. To the surprise of the audience, he continued, in any group one can tell the leader because he or she is the one who talks the least. If the leader has formed efficient teams, the leader will be the least missed in the event of his absence. Leadership is about team building.

Brother Abbasi told of his visit to one of his companies after an absence The receptionist said upon seeing him: “May I help you?”. That is when he knew he was a success. He was a good leader because the company was able to function without him.

He spoke of former General Motors CEO Lee Iacocca whom the public perceived as being a great executive. On the contrary, Brother Abbasi insisted, he was a failure. The company could not sustain itself without him. As a leader he was a failure.

Speaking of the Arab world he described Arab leaders as being insecure. The do not reward success on the part of others for fear of the competition these successful people would present.

He also referenced President FDR and called him insecure. He chose a weak Vice President, Harry S. Truman, because he could not stand competition.  English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on the other hand, was secure and cultivated others to replace him throughout his entire political life.

A Board of Trustees, a position he favors, determines the course of funding and defines the group’s mission. In the United States we have the government sector, the private business sector, and the non-profits (known often as NGO’s – non government organizations). In the Middle East the NGO is absent and is very much needed. He made the point that a member of a non profit is not motivated by the chance to be elected to public office or by the paycheck he will receive. He is motivated by idealism. Because of this his dedication should be greater. He gave as an example the late Mother Theresa and her organization, Sisters of Charity. The audience seemed surprised to discover that there is a six month probationary period for her volunteers. People work for non profits because they have high ideals, and they will only work for organizations that have high standards.

After a lunch break CAIR representative Adel Syed spoke to the group. Brother Adel is the Government Relations Coordinator for CAIR – LA. His function is to strengthen working relationships between Muslims in the Los Angeles area and government officials and organizations.

Brother Adel referenced literature that had been given attendees upon registration. The discussion began with the problem of Islamophobia. He showed a map of the United States with many marked areas where opposition to the building of mosques took place.

“I never realized it was that bad” said one young woman looking at the well marked map.

“I knew about Park 51 and Temecula” said another “But I never knew there were this many.”

Also discussed were anti Islamic hate web sites: Brigitte Gabriel, Robert Spencer, and Pamela Geller, to name but a few. On the positive side in the news, again to name but a few, were Jon Stewart, the web site loonwatch (which tracks hate sites), and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (for his strong support of the proposed Park 51 Islamic Center).

Islamophobia was defined as was the term “close minded” and the term “open minded. To take a soft stance on Islamophobia is to accept a form of second class citizenship for Muslims. Civic engagement is primary. It is best not to begin with grandiose plans, as that will inevitably lead to disappointment. At the local level one might begin by becoming a county commissioner. Invite community members to mosques, Eid events, Ramadan Iftar, and to your homes. Engage in coalition building. Organizations such as CAIR and MAS are indispensable to this. After each success – or failure – analyze to decide what the next step should be.

“Reinforce positive norms for working together and continue to cultivate new leaders.”

We will know we have achieved success when being Muslim is considered an asset for a public official, and when those who associate with anti-Muslim hate groups will be de facto discredited.

Mitch Krayton, a noted author, coach and motivational speaker gave the day’s final presentation. He specialty is training people to be effective and confident public speakers.

Following is a statement from Brother Fiaz Zubair Syed of MAS who was one of the organizers of the day’s event.

“In the Quran, chapter 33 line 22, God says “For you the life of the Prophet (s) is a good model of behavior.”

One of the major roles of Prophet Muhammad (s) was to lead mankind toward a just society who strives toward God Consciousness. The purpose of this program is to understand what leadership is, it’s qualities, and every persons role of being a leader. This Leadership Summit is one in a series of many that will be introduced to the community where different skill sets will be shared, workshops will be conducted as well as opportunities to be active in our society and cause positive change. We believe in development of individuals through education and practice and that is why we (Muslim American Society) have partnered with CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) to begin training a group of young Muslim Americans to fulfill the mission of MAS and ultimately of Islam which is to: “To move people to strive for God consciousness, liberty, and justice, and to convey Islam with utmost clarity.””

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Girl Sues to Wear Hijab at Abercrombie

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Abercrombie_logo7

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A Muslim woman alleged in a lawsuit filed this week that U.S. retailer Abercrombie & Fitch forbade her from wearing her head scarf while working at a northern California clothing store owned by the company.

Hani Khan filed her federal lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, with support from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.

The suit accuses Abercrombie of violating Khan’s civil rights by discriminating against her on the basis of religion when she worked at the San Francisco Bay area store Hollister Co., which is owned by Abercrombie.

Khan alleges that when she was hired in October 2009, she was told she could wear her head scarf, or hijab, as long as it matched the company’s official colors.

But four months later, a pair of managers asked her to remove the hijab while working, and when Khan refused she was suspended and then terminated, according to the lawsuit.

A representative for Abercrombie did not return calls.

Khan’s lawsuit echoes similar complaints brought against Abercrombie in the past by black, Latino and other minority workers and applicants who alleged the company had a “look policy’’ that discriminated against them.

In 2004, Abercrombie reached a $40 million settlement in a federal class action lawsuit by the minority plaintiffs, and the company agreed to take steps to improve its hiring and recruitment of minority workers.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) joined in that previous legal action against Abercrombie, and this week the agency supported Khan by filing a federal lawsuit against the retailer that also accused Abercrombie of violating her civil rights.

“Growing up in this country where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I have felt let down,’’ Khan said in a statement.

Attorneys’ attempts to reach an out-of-court settlement in Khan’s case broke down in January, according to the Council on America-Islamic Relations. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan)

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Victim of 9/11 Hate Crime wants Governor of Texas to Pardon the Attacker

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Rais Bhuiyan is calling for compassion, healing, and forgiveness. Sign his petition at www.worldwithouthate.org”.

Rais Bhuiyan Speaking At The Press Conferencebw
Rais Bhuiyan Speaking At The Press Conference

These were the words of Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Texas Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-TX), as he welcomed the media and members of the Houstonian community to a special press conference.

Rais Bhuiyan, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Bangladesh, was one of this country’s first hate crime victims immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He is requesting the Texas Criminal System and Governor Rick Perry that the scheduled July 20th, 2011 execution of his attacker, the white supremacist Mark Stroman, be commuted to life in prison without parole. Bhuiyan was working in a convenience store when, 10 days after the terrorist attacks, a man pushed a gun into his face. “Where are you from?” were the last words the 26-year-old Bhuiyan heard before his attacker shot him at close range, blinding him in one eye and leaving shrapnel he still carries in the right side of his face. The shooter had asked the same question of two other South Asian immigrants, Waqar Hasan and Vasudev Patel, before killing them in separate incidents on September 14th and October 04th, 2001, respectively.

Widow of Waqar Hasan and Rais Bhuiyan have both issued statements to forgive Mr. Stroman, while Rais Bhuiyan is going steps forward to have the death sentence commuted to life imprisonment without payroll and wants many people to sign his petition at www.worldwithouthate.org

“My parents have taught that hate leads to cycle of violence. Best thing is to forgive. Plus in our religion and Sacred Book Quran, we have been informed that saying one life is as saving the life of humanity. Our beloved Messenger Mohammad Peace Be Upon him was brutally wounded when he took message of God to the people of Taif. Angel Gabriel gave him the option to kill everyone in Taif, but he forgave them all by saying what they have done is in ignorance and hopefully future generations’ will be better than them. When I went for Hajj in 2009, I saw the valley of Taif, which is now one of the most peaceful places in Saudi Arabia. Although I lost one eye and bullets shrapnel are still in my skull, I still want to forgive Mr. Stroman due to the way my parents have brought me up and what I have learned from our religion Islam,” said Mr. Bhuiyan.

The joint hosts of the event were Dominican Sisters, a Christian faith based group against death penalty, and CAIR-TX. Other organizations, who either came to speak or are showing their support for Rais Bhuiyan cause include the Amnesty International, Dallas Peace Center (DPC), Houston Peace and Justice Center (HPJC), Islamic Circle of North America – Houston Chapter (ICNA-Houston), Muslim American Society – Houston Chapter (MAS-Houston), Sikh Establishment for Harmony, Appreciation & Joy (SEHAJ), Shades of White (SOW) world peace organization, Texas Coalition Against Death Penalty (TCADP), Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement (TDPAM) based at the SHAPE Community Center, and Greater Houston area religious leaders and human rights activists.
Speakers included:  Sister Ceil Roeger – Dominican Sisters, Rais Bhuiyan – World without Hate (www.worldwithouthate.org), Hadi Jawad – Representative Waqar Hasan Family, Rick Halperin – History Professor & Director of the Embrey Human Rights program at Southern Methodist University (SMU), Texas State Representative Lon Burnam (D-90),  Harpal Singh – Sikh Establishment for Harmony, Appreciation and Joy,  Imam Qasim Khan – Shades Of White world peace organization.

Mr. Stroman wrote on his website that he lost a sister in the attacks on the Twin Towers and that he believed his actions would be celebrated as those of a patriot. Now imprisoned in the Polunsky Unit death row facility in Livingston, Texas, Stroman has expressed profound remorse and deep regret for his actions, (Rick) Halperin says “…and when Mark’s appeals attorney, Lydia Brandt, shared with him (Stroman) that Rais and other members of the victims’ families have forgiven him and were working to commute his death sentence, he was reduced to tears.”  Bhuiyan is seeking solace for himself and the wives and children of the other shooting victims. “Executing Stroman is not what we want. We have already suffered so much; it will cause only more suffering if he is executed,” Rais said.

The decision to pursue commutation of Stroman’s sentence currently resides with Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. If Watkins does not support commutation, Bhuiyan says he will appeal to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which can then make a recommendation to Texas Governor Rick Perry to commute the sentence.

For additional information and to sign the on-line petition to commute Stroman’s death sentence to life in prison without parole, please go to Bhuiyan’s website, www.worldwithouthate.org.

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“Stop Anti-Muslim Acts”

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Hakim and TMO Stringer

P6050015Hamtramck–June 5–”People need to get more involved in their communities,” said leaders at an educational conference held by the Muslim Ummah of North America last Sunday in Hamtramck.

The national faith-based organization has four chapters in Michigan. About 600 guests attended from the north zone.

Hamtramck, home to four large Muslim community groups, namely Bosnian, Bangladeshi, African American and Yemeni, was the venue for the educational conference this past weekend.

MUNA (muslimummah.net) is a large organization which has a Michigan Chapter (headed by Toyab Al-Bari) and a North Zone.  The National President of MUNA is Dr. Sayeed Choudhury.

The North Zone organized this educational conference, and also produces a publication called Flash Point.

Invited speakers included: Congressman John Conyers Jr., A.S. Nakadar, publisher of The Muslim Observer, Dawud Walid from the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter, Sheikh Ali Suleiman president of the Islamic Center of North Detroit and Syed Choudhury, MUNA’s president. Hamtramck council members Kazi Miah and Mohammed Hassan were present.

Congressman Conyers said of the event “Congratulations, you have outgrown this banquet hall.”  He jokingly invited the MUNA organizers to use Cobo hall in Detroit next year or a venue in Dearborn.

Congressman Conyers recently co-signed a call by members of Congress to “Respond to Anti-Muslim Sentiment,” on May 26.  Cosponsors included 24 congressmen, notably including Keith Ellison, Andre Carson, and Charlie Rangel.  Notably the signatories did not include former speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The congressional statement called “for the federal government to take the necessary steps to counter anti-Muslim sentiment.”

MUNA representatives spoke on the activities of MUNA, which have included successful boys and girls “brothers” and “sisters” programs respectively–to involve Muslim young people in fun associations, and they spoke also of the outreach they had done to Muslim youth who are not so active in the community.

Dr. Nakadar in his remarks noted the great accomplishment of Hamtramck in its disproportionately successful Muslim representation in the City Council.

Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan, also spoke.  He spoke of the importance of youth involvement in the Muslim community, and of the importance of providing a good example for young Muslims.

The MUNA conference was very well attended and in fact the banquet hall was filled to capacity.

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Eye Witness Account of the Texas Muslims Trip to the Capitol

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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Houston, Texas (Blog of Sister Wardah Khalid): I am so not a morning person. So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to rub the sleep from my eyes at 4:15 AM last week so I could board a charter bus to Austin. It was for a worthy cause, though, so I dragged myself out of bed and got ready to join other Houston area Muslims (and a few non-Muslims) on a trip to our capitol for “Texas Muslim Capitol Day.”

The event was organized by the Texas chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to encourage civic participation among Muslims and show our representatives in Austin that we DO care about local and national issues. Like their fellow citizens, many Muslims don’t keep abreast of local politics, let alone vote, so this was a prime opportunity to change that. Representatives from the Houston Peace and Justice Center (HPJC) and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) joined us on our journey.

Once on our way, CAIR provided participants with summaries of bills of interest, including HB 274, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry today. The bill originally included an amendment introduced by Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) banning “foreign law” (including Jewish and Islamic law – a.k.a. Shariah) in Texas. Thankfully, it was eventually shot down by the Senate. The ever relentless Berman, however, has since attached his amendment to HB 1717 in hopes that it will finally pass into law. Will someone please tell the Mr. Berman to quit wasting his time and our money on this, as there is no way foreign law can be applied in the U.S. due to our separation between church and state? But that is a story for another day.

Other bills discussed included SB 9 (now SB 12) and SB 11. These are immigration reform bills similar to the ones passed in Arizona asking law enforcement to adopt the Secure Communities program and essentially serve as immigration officers. This of course would require them to reallocate resources from their current duties, such as responding to 9-1-1 calls, keeping our roads safe, and fighting crime.

Upon our arrival in Austin, we met up with other Muslims who had arrived from other cities, including San Antonio and Dallas. We also heard from representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as well as some Senators and Representatives. All emphasized the importance of civic participation.

One of the most interesting parts of our morning was listening in on the proceedings in the Texas House of Representatives. Since it was near the end of the session, there weren’t any hot and heavy debates (just a lot of self congratulation) but it was still worth a look. After lunch and prayers, we had a chance to visit the offices of several Senators and Representatives to discuss our concerns.

All in all, it was an enlightening visit that proved my government teachers right – we CAN accomplish great things if we come together!  Yes, these are our representatives, but it is our civic duty to keep up with current affairs and speak up if we don’t agree with what is going on in Austin. I’m looking forward to our next trip in 2013.

(Other salient participants included members of Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim American Society, Helping Hand USA, ICNA Relief, Young Muslims, and Muslim Observer, Pakistan Chronicle, & Pakistan Journal Newspapers).

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MUNA Conference in Hamtramck

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Hakim Rahman, TMO

“The Muslim Ummah of North America’s north zone will have an educational conference in Hamtramck to discuss youth involvement and community development on June 5. MUNA is a social dawah organization in the U.S. which seeks to spread Islam through dawah, organization, education, social service, and relationship building. Michigan has four chapters and 15 sub-chapters, including two youth groups.

Guests will include: Congressman John Conyers Jr., Congressman Hansen Clarke, President of the Islamic Center of North Detroit (Masjid Al-Falah) and Imam of the Canton Masjid, Sheikh Ali Suleiman Ali, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter, Dawud Walid, Imam Aly Lela from the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit, and Publisher of The Muslim Observer Dr. A.S. Nakadar. President of MUNA Dr. Syed Rahman Chowdhury is the keynote speaker.

The program will be held at the Gates of Columbus, 9632 Conant Ave., Hamtramck, MI, from 2:30 – 7 p.m. Admission is free. For more information contact Muhammad Rafiqul Islam at 313.231.1986 or Maleka Begum at 313.492.9695.”

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US Muslims Condemn Times Square Attack

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By KWTX

WASHINGTON (May 5, 2010)–In separate statements, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, pledged their loyal citizenship and support for law enforcement and condemned the botched attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square.

CAIR’s National Executive Director Nihad Awad said, “In no way, shape or form does this attack represent the American Muslim community and what we stand for as a faith community.”

Authorities in New York have brought terrorism and weapons of mass destruction charges against Faisal Shahzad, who’s a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan.

A criminal complaint says Shahzad confessed to buying an SUV, rigging it with a homemade bomb and driving it Saturday night into Times Square, where he tried to detonate it.

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Community News (V11-I51)

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Madison mosque plan to be discussed

RIDGE LAND,MS–Consideration of a site plan for a proposed mosque north of Madison is on the agenda of the Madison County Planning and Zoning Commission this Thursday.

The Mississippi Muslim Association is seeking approval of the site plan for the mosque on a 5-acre site west of U.S. 51. A site plan depicts the architectural design of a building along with landscaping.

The Board of Supervisors in August approved a special zoning exemption for the mosque.The land was zoned R-1 residential so a special exception was necessary to build a place of worship.

The proposed mosque has met resistance from some residents. At the time the exception was granted, John R. Reeves, an attorney representing some of the residents, argued that the Muslim Association had yet to show adequate provisions for utilities and had not provided any kind of drawing or site plan to show that the proposed building is compatible with the surrounding area.

Citibank asked to apologize

CHICAGO,IL–The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today called on Citibank to apologize to a Muslim woman who was allegedly verbally abused by a security guard at a Gresham, Ill., branch because she wears a religious head scarf, or hijab.

According to the Muslim woman, the guard said it was against Citibank’s policy for customers to transact business wearing head coverings. While another Citibank employee did allow the woman to complete her business, that employee insisted on personally escorting her to the counter and watched over her shoulder as she conducted her transactions.

The guard also reportedly objected to the woman receiving service because it would encourage more of “them” to come into the bank. Throughout the process, which the Muslim customer described as “humiliating,” the guard allegedly made anti-Muslim remarks.

CAIR-Chicago is calling for the apology, a review of Citibank policies related to religious head coverings and for diversity training of bank staff.

“Denying someone the right to enjoy equal treatment in places of public accommodation is illegal and violates our most deeply held values of fairness and respect for others,” said Kevin Vodak, staff attorney at CAIR-Chicago.

“It appears that this security guard was purposefully trying to deter Muslims from patronizing the bank by harassing them. If this is the case, the bank needs to make sure this kind of discriminatory behavior is addressed,” said Christina Abraham, civil rights director at CAIR-Chicago. “It’s illegal and it’s bad business.”

Edmonton Muslims host Eid dinner

EDMONTON–Edmonton Muslims last Sunday hosted an Eid dinner for the needy irrespective of their faith at the Boyle Street Community Services Center.

Aziz Khan, president of the Islamic Family and Social Services Association said, “We hold this dinner closer to Christmas than the end of Ramadan, so it’s really a mixture of two great festivals,” he said.

“It’s part of the Islamic community connecting with the rest of the city, and you see the need with all the people we have here today.”

They prepare enough food for 1,000, and hungry people were lined up into the street.

Sofia Yaqub, an director of the association who’s involved with a variety of multicultural groups, said it’s sad to see the dinner numbers growing each year. “You wonder how all these people fell into this situation.”

Yaqub said the Muslim community encourages younger people to volunteer at the dinner. “We always get a big response, and it’s an excellent experience for them to see how fortunate they are.”

11-51

Muslim Organizations Issue Statements Re. the Shooting of Imam Luqman Abdullah

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Farmington—November 4—The shooting of Imam Luqman A. Abdullah by the FBI sparked controversy, partly because it stirred up memories of America’s past persecution of African American leaders, partly because of the demeaning circumstances, and partly because news reports relating to the shooting have cast far reaching and highly unlikely aspersions on Imam Luqman.

The shooting spurred local and national Muslim organizations to issue alarmed press releases, the common theme of which was that they condemn any illegal activities if Imam Luqman was involved, but ask that news reports refrain from alleging any terrorist conspiracy absent any such evidence. Another theme echoed in several was the demand for an independent investigation into the events of the day.

The facts alleged by the reports do not conflict with one another, although only the MPAC statement actually explores the then-known facts of the incident.  On Wednesday 10/28 the FBI raided 3 Dearborn warehouses, to arrest Imam Luqman and 11 associates on many federal criminal charges.  At the end of the raid, Imam Luqman was dead, shot apparently 18 times.

The American Muslim Taskforce (AMT), Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), Muslim Public Affairs Coalition (MPAC), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Imams’ Committee of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM), ISNA, and Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR Michigan, all made statements regarding the incident.

The American Muslim Taskforce  (an umbrella group including AMA, AMP, CAIR, ICNA, MANA, MAS-Freedom, MSA National, MUNA, and UMA) demanded an investigation and demanded that the government “stop injecting religion into this case,” apparently operating on the belief that the government may have had a valid criminal case against Imam Luqman but no terrorism case and that his religion was extraneous to the events that took place.

The Imams Committee of Michigan’s powerful CIOM unity group (representing most of Southeast Michigan’s mosques including Sunni mosques and Shi’a mosques) met with the director of Michigan’s FBI office (Mr. Andrew Arena, who had previously expressed satisfaction with his agents’ handling of the case) to discuss what happened.  They asked for clarification of what happened, without demanding a full investigation.  They also emphasized that religion should not be brought into the case.

ISNA, America’s largest and politically the strongest Muslim community organization, also made a statement saying it “is distrubed by the recent shootout.”  “The details of the incident are still sketchy,” read the statement, “but the way the incident is presented as a terrorism case when the actual charges involve criminal conduct, including alleged fraud and theft.” 

ISNA joined the chorus asking for a full investigation of the incident also, while also expressing support fot the “vital work carried out by law enforcement agencies” and spoke against resisting arrest, saying “[t]he only morally and legally acceptable way to challenge the actions of law enforcement agents is by working through the justice system and the court of law.”

MANA (which Imam Luqman was a part of) issued a statement which opened more directly the issues involved in the case, saying “Reference to ‘the Ummah’ as a ‘nation-wide radical fundamentalist Sunni group consisting primarily of African Americans’ is an offensive mis-characterization.”

Further, the MANA statement said that “to those who have worked with Imam Luqman A. Abdullah, allegations of illegal activity, resisting arrest, and ‘offensive jihad against the American government’ are shocking and inconsistent.”

MPAC’s statement had one wise piece of advice, “With so much left unknown in the developing case, MPAC is warning government agencies and media outlets of the alarming exploitation of this isolated incident that is stigmatizing Muslim American communities around the country.”

MPAC’s primary concern appeared to be avoiding national backlash against Muslims based on the Imam Luqman shooting and resulting media coverage.

More facts have come to light since the organizations’ statements were made, including that Imam Luqman apparently resisted arrest and shot an FBI dog that was loosed to attack him before going down in a hail of FBI bullets.  Several senior Muslim community workers have explained that as Imam Luqman lay dying from 18 gunshot wounds, he was handcuffed to a stretcher and left to die while the FBI dog was medically evacuated by helicopter. 

News reports around the incident portrayed Imam Luqman as a violent anti-government jihadist bent on a government takeover, but foiled by FBI action. 

However the best report about the incident was in fact the one by this newspaper’s Imam Abdullah El-Amin, who traced a convincing story about FBI provocateurs luring Imam Luqman into dealing in stolen merchandise and then springing the trap before he could escape, perhaps even orchestrating his reaction and demise.

Unfortunately the national theme in investigations of Muslims has largely been one of government provocateurs luring down-and-out Muslim men into situations they don’t fully comprehend and which appear to be fully funded, planned, and coordinated from inside the FBI.  Then the poor stooges are arrested in midnight raids by SWAT teams in body armor and paraded before camera crews as dangerous al-Qaeda terrorists. And the poor slobs are carted away through years of trials which often as not end in their being released.

11-46

Community News (V11-I26)

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Minnesota Somali Community Rallies to Support CAIR-MN

MINNEAPOLIS, MN–On Saturday, June 13, representatives of more than a dozen Twin Cities Somali civil, religious and political organizations held a rally demonstrating their support for Minnesota’s only Muslim civil rights organization, the Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN).
Representatives from local Somali organizations voiced their support of the work CAIR-MN has done in the Somali community and addressed the importance of civil rights education for all Americans. The coalition gathered to represent the collective voice of the Twin Cities Somali population, estimated to be between 70,000 and 80,000.

“CAIR has been the only organization to come into the Muslim community, the Somali community, to help them understand their civil rights,” said Somali Community Link Radio Host Zuhur Ahmed. “They’ve been here educating us about our rights as Americans since long before any men left for Somalia.” Ahmed added that, in addition to know your rights trainings, CAIR-MN has been promoting cooperation with law enforcement.

The group also stressed that Somalis are not represented by one or two media-seeking individuals who refer to themselves as activists.

“We’re here from dozens of active organizations working with the people on the issues important to Somalis,” said United Somali Movement Vice President Aman Obsiye. “We represent the true voice of the tens of thousands of Somalis living in the Twin Cities.”

Prosecutor sues over alleged discrimination

YOUNGSTOWN, OH–An assistant in the Youngstown City Prosecutor’s office claims he’s being discriminated against — and now he’s taking the city to court.

Attorney Bassil Ally claims he was denied the ability to attend weekly Friday prayers as required by his faith — and when he complained about it the Ohio Civil Rights Commission he was harassed.

In documents filed in federal court in Cleveland this week, lawyers claim Ally has been ostracized by co-workers — creating an intimidating work environment and fostering what’s described as “an atmosphere of harassment and retaliation.”

Groundbreaking ceremony held for Islamic school

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ– The Islamic Society of Central Jersey (ISCJ) broke ground for the construction of a new school building with hundreds of area residents and officials present. The Noor-ul-Iman school currently serves about 500 full time and another 500 weekend students.

The first phase of the projects is expected to take two years to finish. Foundation will be be laid and the parking lot is going to be expanded from 194 to 650 spaces.

The group earned approvals for the entire project and the school is going to be constructed as an 86,000-square-foot facility during the second phase.

Top Cleveland neurosurgeon gets coveted job at OSU

CLEVELAND, OH– Dr. Ali Rezai, Cleveland area’s top neurosurgeon, is all set to joining Ohio State University Medical Center later this year. He will be named the vice chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery with a pay package of $600,000 per year.

Dr. Rezai holds seven patents and has helped launch three life sciences companies. His strength is in deep brain simulation.

He is presently working for the Cleveland Clinic.

11-26

Islamic Shura Council Celebration

June 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC) celebrated its fifteenth anniversary at a banquet/fundraiser this past Saturday evening in the Anaheim Sheraton Hotel in Anaheim, Ca.The event was titled: “Together, Yes We Can”.

The hotel ballroom was filled to its capacity of 450 people. The keynote speaker of the celebration was Professor Jamal Badawi.

Other speakers in cluded Arif Ali Khan, the former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles. He bid the attendees farewell as he  prepared to leave the Los Angeles area for Washington, D. C. There he will serve as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Professor Agha Saeed of the American Muslim Task Force (AMT) spoke of the aftermath of 9/11 and the struggle of the Muslim Community against the pervasive atmosphere of Islamophobia and hatred. It was a struggle against the tide – a very strong tide – to prevent Muslims in America from being marginalized and silenced.

Professor Saeed traced the accomplishments of the Muslim community on a local, state and national level in the political arena. He issued five demands from Muslims to the Department of Justice. These demands included a cessation to the infiltration by spies of mosques and an end to the introduction of agents provocateur. In addition there was to be a cessation of attempts to undermine Muslim groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“We will chose our own leaders” said Professor Saeed.

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, the outgoing Chair of the ISCSC, spoke of the need to continue in our efforts as a Muslim community.

Shakeel Syed recognized prominent people in the audience including members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon). Members of the church have worked closely with Muslims in interfaith activities.

He then presented a brief film showing the work of the ISCSC. This work included education and testimony about  torture practiced by the United States.

A poignant scene from Disneyland showed Disney characters being arrested by police. The reality was far from comic. The ISCSC had joined with other groups to protest the subhuman treatment of hotel workers in various locales, including Disneyland. A number of protesters, including Master of Ceremonies, Shakeel Syed, were arrested. A spokesperson for the SEIU (the relevant union) spoke in praise of Muslims in general and Shakeel Syed in particular.

“He was unafraid.”

The ISCSC also held an interfaith ceremony to mourn the victims of Israeli aggression in Gaza.

There were community service awards and closing remarks. During the course of the evening successful fundraising took place. It was an occasion of socializing – seeing friends again – and internalizing the gains of the Muslim community. It was also an occasion of recognizing the work still to be done.

“We have done alot to be proud of” said one young woman.

“Yes,” said her table mate “and there is so much more that needs to be done”.

For more, see www.shuracouncil.org.

11-24

Muslims Among Highest-Achieving American Women

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslims Among Highest-Achieving American Women
Courtesy Donna Gehrke-White, Miami Herald
April 17, 2006
She should be one of those red-white-and-blue success stories: An immigrant, she worked her way through med school and now directs the laboratories of two Florida hospitals. She passed her career drive on to her daughters: One just graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing; the other is an investigator for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
This feminist vision of a successful family, though, has a flaw: Shahida Shakir and her daughters, Sadia and Sofia, are Muslim.
They’re supposed to be downtrodden. Or so that’s what most Americans think.
In a Washington Post/ABC poll last month, nearly half of Americans admitted that they have a negative view of Islam. In a poll conducted for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, most people also said that they would feel better about the religion if they thought Islam treated women better.
The evidence is in our own back yard: While researching my book, “The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America,” I found Muslims are among the most achieving women in the United States. They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, social workers and artists.
Indeed, we should be exporting the success story to the rest of the world.
I found Muslim women achieving from coast to coast. They are leading worldwide humanitarian groups in Washington, presiding over juvenile court in Baltimore, delivering babies in Los Angeles, teaching in Miami and helping the homeless in Las Vegas.
Just like other American women, the Muslimah — or Muslim women—have made startling progress in the workplace in the last 30 years. In fact, except for the recent refugees, Muslim women are among the most educated in the United States. Most of the 50 women profiled in the book have at least college degrees. And they are far from the stereotype of the secluded Muslim woman. One ran for county office in northern Virginia while a University of Louisville professor crusades against “honor killings” of Third World women suspected of adultery or premarital sex.
Another risked her life to help women under the thumb of Afghanistan’s oppressive Taliban.
These women should reassure many Americans in these anxious times. They are intensely achieving — as well as patriotic. After all, they have as much to lose as any other Americans if our economic and political systems come under attack.
Since 1990, the United States has welcomed more than 300,000 Muslim refugees fleeing war and persecution. They have come from 77 nations.
Unlike the poor North Africans who went to Europe for a better life, our Muslim poor have been given more opportunities to better themselves, and have become part of the American fabric. The Arizona Community Refugee Center in a Phoenix suburb, for example, teaches many women to read and write for the first time. The center also provides programs for their children.
The great majority of these new refugees insist that their children study hard. Batool Shamil is an Iraqi Shiite single mom working two jobs in Phoenix. She demands A-studded report cards from her teenage son and daughter.
“I am working so hard,” she told me. “My dream is for my children to go to college.”
In Erie, Pa., Senada Alihodzic, a refugee from the Bosnian violence, is just as determined that her two sons and daughter will go to college.
“They can have a better life here,” she said.
Meanwhile, more American mosques are making an effort to ensure women are treated equally. In northern Virginia, Cathy Drake, an
American-born, home-schooling mom, told me that she would not have converted to Islam had she not felt comfortable.
Does more work need to be done? Yes, judging from several Muslim women who have come up to me while on a recent book tour to complain about their own mosque’s inadequacies. But Ingrid Mattson, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, promises that change is coming.
“I believe,” she said, “the struggle is now out in the open and that it will get better soon.” -
Donna Gehrke-White is a features writer for the Miami Heral and the author of “The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America” (Citadel). Write to her in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit 48226 or oped@freepress.com.