Community News (V13-I37)

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Gov. Quinn names members to Muslim American Advisory Council

CHICAGO, IL–Illinois  Governor Pat Quinn, last week,  named members to serve on the Muslim American Advisory Council, which will help ensure Muslim American participation in state government. Governor Quinn announced the new council during “Eid,” the close of the holy month of Ramadan.

“Illinois is a diverse state, which is one of our greatest strengths,” Governor Quinn said. “There are more than 400,000 Muslims and 300 mosques within our borders, representing various racial and ethnic sects of Islam. I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity for input in how we address issues such as education, public safety and jobs, because the strategies may need to differ based on the history, culture and needs of different communities.”

The Muslim American Advisory Council will advise the Governor on ways to advance the role and civic participation of Muslim Americans in Illinois. Additionally, the council will recommend strategies to better integrate Muslims in Illinois socially, educationally, culturally and economically. The council will facilitate relationship-building in the Muslim community to achieve goals related to International Commerce in Muslim countries/communities, and identify ways to more effectively disseminate information and outreach to Muslim Americans regarding state programs and services.
The council will advise the Governor on appropriate policy developments, official directives, and other issues of significance impacting Illinois’ Muslims. It will bring important faith-based issues based on factual findings to the Governor’s attention and make recommendations to address those issues. It will also strengthen communication between the state and Muslim leadership and the general community.

Samreen Khan, senior policy advisor and liaison to Asians and Muslims for the Office of Governor Pat Quinn, and Kareem Irfan, president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, have been named as co-chairs of the council.

S.E. Idaho Muslims plan to build mosque

Southeastern Idaho’s Muslim population has swelled beyond numbers that can be accommodated in the current mosque, a small home near downtown Pocatello, the Idaho State Journal reports.
As a result, religious leaders from the region are trying to raise some $200,000 to erect a new facility that’s capable of holding about 300 people.

Still, local leaders said it’s been tough to raise the cash for a building and accompanying parking space.

Approximately, 150 people currently use the existing mosque facilities.150 people currently use the existing mosque facilities.

Justice Dept. & Henrico Reach Settlement For Mosque Lawsuit

HENRICO,VA–The Justice Department recently  announced a settlement with Henrico County, Va., resolving allegations that the county violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied the application of a Muslim organization to rezone property to construct a mosque. The settlement, which must still be approved by a federal district judge in Richmond, resolves a lawsuit between the United States and the county of Henrico.

“Religious freedom is one of our most cherished rights, and that right includes the ability to assemble and build places of worship without facing discrimination,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “We are pleased that the county of Henrico has agreed to take steps to ensure that all people exercising this basic American right will not encounter discrimination during the zoning and land use process.”

“The law – not stereotypes or bias – should dictate whether a worship facility can be built in a community.” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “No one should be discriminated against based on their religion, and this agreement will ensure that religious freedom is upheld in Henrico County.”

The case arose from the county’s denial of a 2008 application from a Muslim organization for construction of a mosque. The government’s complaint, which was filed with the court along with a consent decree resolving the lawsuit, alleged that the county’s denial of the rezoning application was based on the religious bias of county officials and to appease members of the public who, because of religious bias, opposed the construction of a mosque. The complaint further alleged that the county treated the Muslim organization differently than non-Muslim religious groups that regularly have been granted similar rezoning requests.

As part of the settlement, the county has agreed to treat the mosque and all religious groups equally and to publicize its non-discrimination policies and practices. The county also agreed that its leaders and various county employees will attend training on the requirements of RLUIPA. In addition, the county will report periodically to the Justice Department.


Eye Witness Account of the Texas Muslims Trip to the Capitol

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 


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).