Jaber Hazziez Jr. honored for heroism

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

eaFBi.Em.81KANSAS CITY, MO– Jaber Hazziez Jr., a firefighter and part time Sheriff’s Deputy,  was honored by the Kansas City Council for his heroic actions during an Air Tran flight from Atlanta to Kansas City over the thanksgiving weekend.  The fact that Hazziez is a Muslim was noted by the press.

In a bizarre incident  a  passenger was foaming at the mouth, experiencing seizures and tried to open the cabin door during a flight Wednesday, November 30, 2011, and except for a quick-thinking  Jabir Hazziez, Jr., was prevented from a potential mid-air disaster. 

Jabir Hazziez, Jr., who is also a  Naval Reserve Officer, had visited family over the Thanksgiving holiday and was returning on an Air Tran flight from Atlanta when a flight attendant announced that a passenger was in medical distress and asked if anyone had any medical expertise.

The man appeared to be in an “altered mental state” and clearly appeared agitated.“He was trying to get to the door of the plane,” Hazziez recalled in an interview to the Kansas City Star. “I grabbed ahold of him and tried to calm him down.”But the man only became more combative and knocked Hazziez into the cockpit door.Using his law enforcement training, Hazziez put the man in a neck restraint and took him to the floor. The man continued kicking and trying to reach the door with his feet. Another passenger grabbed the man’s legs.Together they held him for about 15 or 20 minutes until the plane, which had taken off in Atlanta, made an emergency landing in Memphis and authorities came on board to deal with the man. Later, Hazziez learned the man had been suffering from an adverse reaction to a vaccine.“I’m glad it was a medical situation and not a criminal incident,” Hazziez said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

The Midland Islamic Council also issued a statement praising Hazziez for enhancing the image of American Muslims and helping to “affirm the many valuable and useful contributions they make to our nation.”

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Boxing Council Orders Hopkins-Dawson Rematch

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

HopkinsDawsonWeighIn_Hoganphotos_(3)The World Boxing Council last week ordered a rematch between light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins and former titleholder Chad Dawson at its 49th annual convention in Las Vegas. The Hopkins-Dawson rematch order came two days after the California State Athletic Commission changed the result of their controversial October 15th fight in Los Angeles from a second-round knockout in Dawson’s favor to a no decision following Hopkins’ protest.

Originally, referee Pat Russell ruled Dawson a TKO winner after he lifted Hopkins up and dumped him to the canvas because Hopkins was draped over his back after missing a punch. Hopkins suffered a shoulder injury and could not continue. The WBC, which sanctioned the bout, had already kept Hopkins as its champion following the fight and now has ordered a rematch with the caveat of “unless their representatives mutually agree to another arrangement.” That means the two camps could try to make a deal or agree to do at least one interim bout.

Gary Shaw, Dawson’s promoter, was pleased with the WBC’s decision. “I think justice has been served,” he told ESPN.com. “When Hopkins had a draw with Pascal, the WBC gave him an immediate rematch. And now they have done the same thing for Dawson after the controversy.”

When Dawson thought he was champion after being declared the winner in October, he vowed not to give Hopkins a rematch. After the result was changed Tuesday, he said he wanted a rematch, but Hopkins said he would not fight Dawson again. Now that the WBC has ordered a rematch, Hopkins said he would take the fight, which might not actually happen because the first fight was such a commercial disaster that finding a network to put up the money required to make the fight could be very difficult. That is why the sides may agree to look for different fights.
Hopkins has now come to grips with the idea of a rematch. “Let’s get the ball rolling,” Hopkins, told ESPN.com after leaving the convention. “The fans got cheated because of circumstances in the first fight. Now they get an opportunity to get their money’s worth. It’s been a really interesting 48 hours. Things are different now because of that (order). Let’s get it on. The bottom line is a champion defends his belt. That’s what champions do. I believe I am the best at light heavyweight. So my whole thing is champions defend, they don’t get stripped, they don’t throw belts away. I’ve done it for 20 years and I ain’t changing my stripes today.”

But, the fight will have to make financial sense, says Hopkins. “Whatever is best economically without having my belt stripped then I’m fine with that,” he said. “I duck no one. I never did. But if the fans and the people and the networks believe that Chad Dawson don’t draw bees to honey — and this is a business — then that is what it is. I’ve earned this championship belt and I am not ready to leave.”

The 46-year-old Hopkins insists that he is not fearful of rematches, as witnessed by his track record. “My record speaks for itself. I’m normally victorious the second time round,” he said. After a draw with Pascal last December, he outpointed him in May to become the oldest fighter to win a world title. He then avenged a loss to Roy Jones last year.

Hopkins defeated Antwun Echols in a rematch of a prior win, twice defeated Robert Allen after their first bout ended in a no contest and knocked out Segundo Mercado to win his first world title at middleweight after their first fight ended in a draw. Only Jermain Taylor got the better of Hopkins in both meetings.

Hopkins’ promoter, Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer, however, is not in favor of the rematch with Dawson. “I think that there is no interest in this fight,” he told ESPN.com. “As long as the fighters know that, and they are OK with whatever money there is, then why would I want to stop that fight from happening? I really just want to do fights the public would want to see and where I know going into the fight that it will be entertaining. I just don’t think that these two styles mesh.”

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Activists: 111 Killed in Syria’s “Bloodiest Day”

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian forces killed 111 people ahead of the start of a mission to monitor President Bashar al-Assad’s implementation of an Arab League peace plan, activists said on Wednesday, and France branded the killings an “unprecedented massacre.”

Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 111 civilians and activists were killed on Tuesday when Assad’s forces surrounded them in the foothills of the northern Jabal al-Zawiyah region in Idlib province and unleashed two hours of bombardment and heavy gunfire.

Another 100 army deserters were either wounded or killed, making it the “bloodiest day of the Syrian revolution,” he said.

“There was a massacre of unprecedented scale in Syria on Tuesday,” said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “It is urgent that the U.N. Security Council issues a firm resolution that calls for an end to the repression.”

The United States said it was deeply disturbed by reports of indiscriminate killing and warned Assad the violence must stop. Britain said it was shocked by the reports and urged Syria to “end immediately its brutal violence against civilians.”

Events in Syria are hard to verify because authorities, who say they are battling terrorists who have killed more than 1,100 soldiers and police, have banned most independent reporting.

Tuesday’s bloodshed brought the death toll reported by activists in the last 48 hours to over 200.

The main opposition Syrian National Council said “gruesome murders” were carried out, including the beheading of a local imam, and demanded international action to protect civilians.

The escalating death toll in nine months of popular unrest has raised the specter of civil war in Syria with Assad, 46, still trying to stamp out protests with troops and tanks despite international sanctions imposed to push him onto a reform path.

Idlib, a northwestern province bordering Turkey, has been a hotbed of protest during the revolt, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world this year, and has also seen increasing attacks by armed insurgents against his forces.

The Observatory said rebels had damaged or destroyed 17 military vehicles in Idlib since Sunday while in the southern province of Deraa violence continued on Wednesday.

Tanks entered the town of Dael, the British-based group said, leading to clashes in which 15 security force members were killed. Six army defectors and a civilian also died and dozens of civilians were wounded, it said.

ARAB PEACE MONITORS

The Syrian National Council said 250 people had been killed on Monday and Tuesday in “bloody massacres,” and that the Arab League and United Nations must protect civilians.

It demanded “an emergency U.N. Security Council session to discuss the (Assad) regime’s massacres in Jabal al-Zawiyah, Idlib and Homs, in particular” and called for “safe zones” to be set up under international protection.

It also said those regions should be declared disaster areas and urged the International Red Crescent and other relief organizations to provide humanitarian aid.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said unless Damascus complied fully with the Arab League plan to end the violence, “additional steps” would be taken against it. Washington and the European Union have already imposed sanctions on Syria.

“Bashar al-Assad should have no doubt that the world is watching, and neither the international community no the Syria people accept his legitimacy,” he said.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said on Tuesday that an advance observer team would go to Syria on Thursday to prepare the way for 150 monitors due to arrive by end-December.

Syria stalled for weeks before signing a protocol on Monday to admit the monitors, who will check its compliance with the plan mandating an end to violence, withdrawal of troops from the streets, release of prisoners and dialogue with the opposition.

Syrian officials say over 1,000 prisoners have been freed since the plan was agreed six weeks ago and that the army has pulled out of cities. The government promised a parliamentary election early next year as well as constitutional reform which might loosen the ruling Baath Party’s grip on power.

Syrian pro-democracy activists are deeply skeptical about Assad’s commitment to the plan, which, if implemented, could embolden demonstrators demanding an end to his 11-year rule, which followed three decades of domination by his father.

Assad is from Syria’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, and Alawites hold many senior posts in the army which he has deployed to crush the mainly Sunni Muslim protests.

In recent months, peaceful protests have increasingly given way to armed confrontations, often led by army deserters.

In a show of military power, state television broadcast footage of live-fire exercises held by the navy and air force, which it said aimed at deterring any attack on Syria.

U.N. TOLL

The United Nations has said more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since anti-Assad protests broke out in March.

Arab, U.S. and European sanctions combined with the unrest have sent the economy into sharp decline. The Syrian pound fell nearly 2 percent on Tuesday to more than 55 pounds per dollar, 17 percent down from the official rate before the unrest.

Arab rulers are keen to prevent a descent into civil war in Syria that could affect a region already riven by rivalry between non-Arab Shi’ite Muslim power Iran and Sunni Muslim Arab heavyweights such as Saudi Arabia.

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Alister Bull in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Peter Millership)

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COPAA Statement on the Killing of Pakistani Soldiers

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

COPAA Press Release

The Council of Pakistan American Affairs strongly condemns the NATO cross-border air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. COPAA also extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of the Pakistan Armed Forces who lost their lives in a air strike by NATO forces.

COPAA has sent a letter to President Obama expressing deep concerns over the NATO attack and of the worrisome oscillations in the crucial relationship between the two allies. COPAA also asked the White House for a full and fair investigation. Moreover, COPAA  has also sent letters of concern at this tragedy to Congresswoman Judy Chu, who is in the Pakistan Caucus of the House among other lawmakers.

On the night of November 27th, NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two Pakistan military outposts, killing 24 and injuring 13 soldiers in what Pakistan said was an unprovoked assault. An army source told COPAA that the attack came between 1:00 and 2:00 A.M. The first outpost attacked was  identified as Volcano and then Boulder outpost came under attack in the Baezai area of Mohmand Agency. The official confirmed that 24 soldiers among them two officers, a major and captain, were killed in the attack. The officers were identified as Major Mujahid and Captain Usman. Pakistan buried the troops killed in the attack Sunday. In a prayer ceremony at the headquarters of the regional command in Peshawar, attended by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by telephone early Sunday to convey “the deep sense of rage felt across Pakistan” and warned that the incident could undermine efforts to improve relations, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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NYMLC Statement on Arrest of Jose Pimentel

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release

2011-11-21T050556Z_1152492163_GM1E7BL10E301_RTRMADP_3_USA-SECURITY-NEWYORK

Jose Pimentel, 27, in Manhattan Criminal Court 11/20/11.

REUTERS/William Lopez/Pool

NY Muslim Leadership Council Issues Statement on Arrest of Jose Pimentel by CAIR on Tuesday, November 22, 2011. A Statement from the Majlis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metro New York, on the Arrest of Jose Pimentel:

Two days after Muslim leaders and activists convened by the Majlis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metropolitan N.Y. held a (November 18, 2011) prayer service and rally decrying the NYPD’s illegal, outrageous and completely inappropriate ethnic and religious-based mapping and surveillance of the New York Muslim community, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have announced the arrest of an alleged “lone wolf terrorist” intent on taking innocent lives in a pipe bomb plot.

It is worth noting that the individual described by both the Mayor and the Police Commissioner was apparently tracked and, ultimately, arrested because of his interest in bomb-making and the steps he allegedly took towards assembling an explosive device. Assuming this early version of the facts is accurate, it is worth noting how different that policing approach is from the NYPD/CIA program targeting our faith community, based not on suspicion of criminal conduct but on religion, race, ethnicity, and such legally protected activities as mosque attendance, enrollment in a Muslim school, or where one shops for food or has coffee or tea.

Considering the long history in America of “lone wolf” assassins and terrorists of different ethnicities, political persuasions, and religious affiliations or none, on one hand we are glad whenever a wrong or evil is averted that would result in the taking of innocent human lives. The Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York continues to oppose all acts of terrorism – at home or abroad, whether by individuals, groups, or states.

On the other hand, we await the details of this particular arrest. We are waiting to determine the answers to the following questions – As we have already learned that there was a “confidential informant” involved in the case for some time, is this arrest yet another example of police generated entrapment schemes and plots? What was the informant agent’s role in pushing the plot forward? Is the timing of today’s announcement purely coincidental or strategically convenient? Is the defendant mentally deficient or unstable in any way? How long was the NYPD monitoring the defendant’s online activities? Was the NYPD directly engaged in surveillance on the defendant in Schenectady? Why were the federal authorities only at the “assessment” stage in this case, and did they decline to investigate or prosecute under federal laws? Time will tell. In the interim, we call on the independent media to ask serious and probing questions regarding the extent and nature of the threat posed by the accused.

In the meantime, the Majlis remains committed to combating domestic terrorism from within Muslim ranks, while at the same time preserving the civil liberties and civil and human rights of Muslims, as with all Americans.

THE MAJLIS ASH-SHURA OF METROPOLITAN N.Y. 88-29 161 STREET, JAMAICA, QUEENS, NY 11432 nycmajlis@gmail.com.

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On the Verge of Transition

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

– The Syrian Expatriate

By Laura Fawaz

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Livonia, MI–“I think what happened in Syria is exactly what happened in the rest of the Arab World.  It’s the results of long term torture and oppression by the current regime,” said Ammar Ghanem, of Indiana, with the Syrian National Council, when speaking about the effect of the Arab Spring on Syria.

Last Saturday, the Syrian Expatriate, along with the Syrian National Council, held a seminar called “On The Verge of Transition, a Meeting With The Syrian National Council, at Burton Manor in Livonia.” 
The seminar focused on the Syrian National Council’s (SNC) integration within Syrian Communities across the world.  The SNC’s focus was for the Syrian community, especially in Metro-Detroit, to meet the SNC and the Syrian Expatiate. 

SNC board member Louay Sakka of Canada explained that they are hoping “for an exchange of ideas, and to discuss the future of Syria.”

Ghanem added, “The main objective is trying to help the people inside Syria, and to help drive forward the Syrian Revolution.”

Attendees were asking questions and exploring options for Syria with the SNC, as part of the seminar that was divided into four topics: The structure and the way the SNC is currently working, the economics of the Syrian Revolution and options to weaken the regime, discussing the political work being done, and lastly, international protection and interaction to protect civilians in Syria.

Ghanem explained that the plans for this event have been in the works for five weeks, and were necessary because “the people of Syria couldn’t take it anymore, and they want to up rise and want to get rid of the current regime.  Who doesn’t want freedom?”

Asked if most Metro-Detroit Syrians feel the same way about the current Syrian political party, Sakaa replied, “most of the people in general already get to a point where they are completely against the regime.  Having said that, it doesn’t mean that everyone is on the same page.  You still have people who get some type of benefit from this regime, directly or indirectly.” 

According to Sakaa, since the rest of the world is primary against the current political Syrian party, the Arab League has just removed Syria.  After this, it seems as though most Syrians are feeling the isolation, and is why less people are working with the Syrian government. 

Some of course still support the current Syrian regime. So the SNC when asked whether anyone came out and showed disagreement with this event, they explained that Burton Manor received anonymous threatening phone calls. 

The SNC took extra precautions, including having the Livonia Police Department all around the building, as well as having their own security on board.

As the rest of the Arab World has shown this past year, we truly cannot know what is happening inside country lines until it all unravels.  So for now, attending events such as this will be our closest entry point. 

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Poor Voter Turn-Out in the City of Houston Elections

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Only Around 118,000 People Came Out To Vote

800px-Election_MG_3455Out of the around 983,000 registered voters in the City of Houston, only about 118,000 showed up during the Mayoral & City of Houston Council Elections 2011 (about 12%). In some of the District Level Elections, the turn-out was even less than 10%. Many critics have said that this is not a good trend for a democracy.

In a race of six candidates, incumbent Mayor Annise Parker won the election, after getting only 59,920 votes (58,001 votes going to other five candidates) and barely avoiding a runoff, a signal that she lacks any sort of mandate heading into her second term.

“I want to thank the voters of Houston for giving me two more years in a job that I love,” she said. “I am still excited to go to work every day, absolutely thrilled.”
Ms. Parker ended up with 50 percent of the vote with 100 percent of the precincts reported. Of her five challengers, Jack O’Conner was the next closest, with 15 percent of the votes. Fernando Herrera came in third with 14 percent.

Recent media polls suggest that some voters haven’t been happy with Parker’s performance. Local TV Channel 11 Political Analyst Bob Stein has said the low voter turnout wasn’t exactly good news for Parker.

“It doesn’t help when the mandate she gets is less than 5-or-10 percent of the eligible registered voters here in the city,” said Stein. “It just doesn’t speak well when she has a difficult fight with some of the council members. True, they’re not getting many more voters either. But it’s hard to lead when very few people show up.”

In the Houston area just about 12% of the registered voters showed up at the polls, officials said. At the West Gray Multi-service Center in River Oak, traditionally one of the busiest polling places in Houston, the number of voters was at an all-time low. It was a far cry from Election Day two years ago when voter lines extended all the way around the building.
Incumbent City Council Member Jolanda Jones’ position was sought by three challengers. Jack Christie, a chiropractor and former Texas State Board of Education Chairman will be up against Ms. Jones on December 10th, 2011 run-off elections.

Another incumbent, Brenda Stardig of District A, finished second in a three-way race. The other two runoffs are for District B to replace term-limited Councilman Jarvis Johnson. His aide, Alvin Byrd and non-profit director Jerry Davis are in the runoff for that seat. And we won’t have the At-Large 2 seat filled until December 10th. It will be either Pastor Andrew Burks or former State Representative Kristi Thibaut, replacing outgoing Councilwoman Sue Lovell.

Nancy Sims, a political analyst with Pierpont Communications says the turnout for the regular election was dismal already, so bleak might be a better prediction for the run-off races.
“Traditionally when we’re in a non-mayoral election year we do tend to have lower voter turnout in the run-off because all people are coming out for is these council races. So there’s nothing else on the ballot to pull them out. But the district races will probably drive the bulk of the turnout.”

Sims is referring to the run-off races in Districts A and B which are likely to generate more activity at the polls, and therefore those voters are more likely to determine the outcome of the two at-large races on the ballot.

But Sims says all Houston voters should take this election seriously.

“I would encourage voters to pay close attention. This is an important race. You’ve got four members of council, that’s going to be a quarter of the new council, with run-offs and still picking that leadership. So it’s important and every Houstonian can vote in the at-large races.”

Houston’s run-off election will be held Saturday, December 10th, 2011. There are four city council races on the ballot.

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Community News (V13-I47)

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Howard gets women only swim times

HOWARD, MD–Women living in Maryland now have access to their own swim times at swimming pools. The accomodation was made after members of the Dar al Taqwa mosque in cooperation  faith-based county group, People Acting Together in Howard, met with the Columbia Association to create a twice-weekly, women-only swim time, a trial that is scheduled to be announced Tuesday.

The Columbia Association, which operates 23 pools in Howard, will join other communities that have made similar accommodations to create a more welcoming atmosphere for Muslims and other female swimmers.

The change has been welcomed not only by Muslim women but also others. Katlin Lampke, for instance, told the Baltimore Sun, “During puberty, my body was changing. I was getting made fun of or hit on,” she said. “It was very embarrassing.” She stopped going.

“She was really uncomfortable,” said her mother, Amy Lampke, 46. “We both love the water, but the experience changed. When this came up …, I thought, ‘What a great idea.’”

Ali Khademhosseini honored with presidential award

Using fish cells to generate artificial muscles, a Harvard University professor is aiming to create functional tissues that could one day help robots move like living creatures.
Dr. Ali Khademhosseini’s work for the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has earned him a spot among 94 scientists and engineers recently recognized by President Obama with the highest government award for young professionals on the cusp of promising independent research.

Coordinated by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is conferred annually upon researchers who are nominated by 16 federal agencies and departments.

Khademhosseini was one of nine PECASE selectees contributing breakthrough advances to ONR-funded programs. They each received a citation, a plaque and an opportunity to meet with the president in a ceremony at the White House on Oct. 14. The award comes with a potential five-year grant worth $200,000 annually to continue their research efforts.
“The most amazing part was meeting the president and getting to shake hands with him, and spending a few minutes talking with him. It was a totally unbelievable and unforgettable experience,” Khademhosseini said.

Faisal Khan named Chicago city council’s new legislative inspector

CHICAGO,IL–Chicago’s City Council has chosen Faisal Khan as its new legislative inspector.

Khan, 37, spent four years as a senior investigator for the Big Apple’s version of the Independent Police Review Authority and seven more as an assistant district attorney in Queens County. He served as New York City’s inspector general until September 2010.

He was selected after a rigorous process which initially had 170 applicants. 44 passed muster with the Department of Human Resources and 30 candidates were interviewed by a blue-ribbon selection committee that subsequently settled on Khan.

“You’ll be very surprised by him. He’ll be a very independent inspector general,” Ald. Dick Mell said after introducing Khan’s appointment at last week’s City Council meeting.
Khan has a bachelors degree in criminology from the State University of New Jersey and a JD from Brooklyn Law School.

Saba Ahmed switches support to Republican Party

Saba Ahmed, who recently ran in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, has switched her support to Republican Party. Explaining her switch on her facebook page she wrote:
“(M)y conservative Islamic values (pro-life, pro-family values, pro-business) made it very hard for me to defend myself as a Democrat. George Bush advocated water boarding torture just like Obama advocated drone missiles. Both parties treat Muslims badly, which is why American economy is going bankrupt fighting Islam. Inshallah, I look forward to helping foster a better understanding of our faith…

And yes I was banned from the Oregon Tea Party and Washington County Republicans earlier this year because of my Islamic beliefs, but I have to believe there is room for learning. I have to try and make a place for myself even if i’m unwelcomed. I know several tea party republicans hate me because they somehow blame me for 9/11. But I know once we talk to each other, get to know one another, we can all heal together. Inshallah!”

Students demand resignation of professor for alleged remarks

CALUMET,IN–Students at Purdue University Calumet are asking for the resignation of one of the faculty members for his alleged anti-Muslim remarks. According to published reports Maurice associate professor of political science Moshe Eisenstein posted comments attached with a link to a YouTube video on his Facebook page on Nov. 6, where he asked for justice for the killings of black Christians in Nigeria while lashing out towards Muslims.

The video link was found by another PUC professor, which then started a heated debate between Eisenstein and PUC students via Facebook. On one of Facebook comments,Eisenstein allegedly  wrote that “Muslims are barbarians and that they are nothing more to me than dogs.” He further wrote that Muslims are “out to kill him,” the Chronicle reports.

Eisenstein has taught at PUC since 1993 and received tenure in 2000.

Students have also complained that he has a history of making such remarks and complaints were filed in the past.

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Pakistan Gets UNSC Seat

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Pak Says India Played Role

PTI

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KARACHI: India played a big role in supporting Pakistan’s successful bid to become a non-permanent member of the powerful UN Security Council, Islamabad’s envoy to the world body Abdullah Hussain Haroon said here today.

Many of the countries that Pakistan had considered as friends were no longer its friends, but India “supported us in becoming a non-permanent member of the 15-member Security Council,” Haroon told reporters at the Karachi airport.

Pakistan, which was challenged by Kyrgyzstan, was backed by 129 of the 193 member states in the UN General Assembly. Kyrgyzstan polled 55 votes.

Pakistan will replace Lebanon, which currently occupies the Asian seat, on January 1, 2012, for a two-year term.

Haroon said that Pakistan had worked very hard in the past six months to win votes for the prestigious seat.

“I think we should not be discouraged by the reaction by some of the nations in the UN because I can say the world wants Pakistan to play its positive role in the global scenario,” he said.

Pakistan has been on the Council six times earlier — 1952-53, 1968-69, 1976-77, 1983-84, 1993-94 and 2003-04. It’s new term would overlap with India — which began its two-year tenure on January 1 this year — for the fourth time.

Pakistan and India had earlier shared terms on the Security Council in 1968, 1977 and 1984.

Haroon said Pakistan was committed to multilateralism and promoting principles and purposes enshrined in the UN Charter.

To a question on US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas, he said he could only take up the issue if the government authorised him to do so. “But we should not be scared of these attacks.” he added.

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Saudi Says Iran Will “Pay the Price” for Alleged plot

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parisa Hafezi and Jeremy Pelofsky

TEHRAN/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia vowed on Wednesday that Iran would “pay the price” for an alleged plot to kill its ambassador in Washington and U.S. officials said there could be a push for a new round of U.N. sanctions.

Tehran angrily rejected the charges laid out by a number of top U.S. officials on Tuesday as “amateurish,” but a threat nevertheless to peace and stability in the Gulf, a region critical to global oil supplies with a number of U.S. military bases.

“The burden of proof is overwhelming… and clearly shows official Iranian responsibility for this. Somebody in Iran will have to pay the price,” senior Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal, a former ambassador to Washington, said in London.

Vice President Joe Biden echoed those hawkish sentiments, telling U.S. network ABC Iran would be held accountable. He said Washington was working for a new round of international sanctions against Iran, warning that “nothing has been taken off the table.”

U.S. authorities said on Tuesday they had broken up a plot by two men linked to Iran’s security agencies to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. One was arrested last month while the other was believed to be in Iran.

The motive for the alleged plot was not clear. Iran has in the past assassinated its own dissidents abroad, but an attempt to kill an ambassador would be a highly unusual departure.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are bitter regional and to some extent sectarian rivals, but they maintain diplomatic ties and even signed a security agreement in 2001. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Riyadh in 2007.

The United States has led a global effort to isolate Iran and pile on United Nations sanctions in recent years over Tehran’s nuclear energy program which Washington and its regional allies including Israel and Saudi Arabia fear is a front for developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies nuclear arms ambitions.

Those allies fear Washington could take its eye off the ball on Iran. US diplomatic cables from Riyadh leaked by Wikileaks over the past year — in which Jubeir features prominently — show Riyadh repeatedly pushing the United States to take a tougher stand, including the possible use of military force.

Tensions rose between Riyadh and Tehran when Saudi Arabia sent troops to help Bahrain put down pro-democracy protests let by the island state’s Shi’ite majority that both governments accused Iran, a non-Arab Shi’ite state, of fomenting.

This month Riyadh accused some among its Shi’ite Muslim minority of conspiring with a foreign power — a reference to Iran — to cause instability, following street clashes in the Eastern Province.
But Iranian analyst Saaed Leylaz said it was hard to see why Iran would risk involving itself in such a plot.

“Killing the Saudi envoy in America has no benefit for Iran,” he said. “The consequences of this plot are dangerous … It could cause military confrontation in 2012 between Iran and America.”

ACTION AT U.N.

A Western diplomat in Riyadh said the charges would likely be discussed at the UN Security Council.

“The U.S. and Saudi Arabia and other allies are discussing the possibility of taking this to the Security Council because this is an assault on a foreign diplomat in the U.S,” he said.

President Barack Obama, who seeks reelection next year, called the alleged conspiracy a “flagrant violation of U.S. and international law.”

The United States said Tehran must be held to account and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hoped countries hesitant to enforce existing sanctions on Iran would now “go the extra mile.”

But also seeking recourse in the world body, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations voiced outrage and complained of U.S. “warmongering” in a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. “The U.S. allegation is, obviously, a politically motivated move and a showcase of its long-standing animosity toward the Iranian nation,” Mohammad Khazaee wrote.

Ali Larijani, Iran’s parliament speaker, said the “fabricated allegations” aimed to divert attention from Arab uprisings Iran says were inspired by its own Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah — though Islam has not been the overt driving force for unrest across the Arab world.

“America wants to divert attention from problems it faces in the Middle East, but the Americans cannot stop the wave of Islamic awakening by using such excuses,” Larijani said, calling the a “childish, amateur game.”

“These claims are vulgar,” he said in an open session of parliament. “We believe that our neighbors in the region are very well aware that America is using this story to ruin our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

The State Department issued a three-month worldwide travel alert for American citizens, warning of the potential for anti-U.S. action, including within the United States.

“The U.S. government assesses that this Iranian-backed plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador may indicate a more aggressive focus by the Iranian government on terrorist activity against diplomats from certain countries, to include possible attacks in the United States,” it said in a statement.

At a news conference, FBI Director Robert Mueller said a convoluted plot involving monitored international calls, Mexican drug money and an attempt to blow up the ambassador in a Washington restaurant smacked of a Hollywood movie.

Attorney-General Eric Holder tied it to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), guardian of Iran’s 1979 revolution, and the Quds Force, its covert, operational arm.
“I think one has to be concerned about the chilling nature of what the Iranian government attempted to do here,” he said.

QUDS FORCE CONNECTION

The primary evidence linking Iran to the alleged conspiracy is that the arrested suspect is said to have told U.S. law enforcement agents that he had been recruited and directed by men he understood were senior Quds Force officials.

The Quds Force has not previously been known to focus on targets in the United States.

A plot against targets inside the U.S. “would be a first for the Quds Force,” said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA and National Security Council analyst who now heads the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“I do want to hear more about what evidence (U.S. authorities) have and why they believe” that the Quds Force was involved, Pollack said.

U.S. officials said there had also been initial discussions about other plots, including attacking the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, but no charges for those were brought.

There are no formal diplomatic ties between the Islamic republic and Washington, which accuses Tehran of backing terrorism and pursuing nuclear arms, charges Iran denies.

Iran already faces tough U.S. economic and political sanctions and Washington slapped further sanctions on five Iranians, including four senior members of Quds.

U.S. SAYS AMBASSADOR NEVER IN DANGER

U.S. officials identified the two alleged plotters as Gholam Shakuri, said to be a member of the Quds Force, and Manssor Arbabsiar, who was arrested on September 29 when he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport from Mexico.

Arbabsiar, 56, a naturalized U.S. citizen with an Iranian passport, initially cooperated with authorities after being arrested. He made calls to Shakuri after being arrested and acted as if the plot was still a go, court documents said.

Arbabsiar appeared briefly in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday where he was ordered detained and assigned a public defender. He appeared in blue jeans and a dress shirt, with thinning gray hair and a scar on the left side of his face.

Officials said the Saudi ambassador, who is close to King Abdullah and has been in his post since 2007, was never in danger. Obama was briefed in June about the alleged plot.

Court documents say a plot began to unfold in May 2011 when Arbabsiar sought help from an individual in Mexico who was posing as an associate of an unidentified drug cartel and who was in fact a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant.

The unidentified paid informant tipped off law enforcement agents, according to the criminal complaint. Arbabsiar paid $100,000 to the informant in July and August for the plot, a down-payment on the $1.5 million requested.

LIKE A “HOLLYWOOD MOVIE”

Shakuri approved the plan to kill the ambassador during telephone conversations with Arbabsiar, the complaint said.

As part of the plot, the informant talked to Arbabsiar about trying to kill the ambassador at a Washington, D.C. restaurant he frequented, but warned him that could lead to dozens of others being killed, including U.S. lawmakers.

The criminal complaint said that Arbabsiar responded “no problem” and “no big deal.”

In a monitored call, Shakuri told Arbabsiar to execute the plot, saying “just do it quickly, it’s late,” court papers say.

After Arbabsiar’s arrest in New York, he gave U.S. authorities more details of Tehran’s alleged involvement, Holder said.

Mueller, the FBI director, said that “individuals from one country sought to conspire with a drug trafficking cartel in another country to assassinate a foreign official on United States soil.”

He added: “Though it reads like the pages of a Hollywood script, the impact would have been very real and many lives would have been lost.”

The men face one count of conspiracy to murder a foreign official, two counts of foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire and one count each of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

Authorities said no explosives were acquired for the plot and the weapon of mass destruction charge can range from a simple improvised device to a more significant weapon. The two men face up to life in prison if convicted.

(Additional reporting by Basil Katz in New York, James Vicini, Mark Hosenball, Tabassum Zakaria, Matt Spetalnick and Andrew Quinn in Washington and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

On Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Resolution of the Fiqh Council of North America Adopted in its General Body Meeting held in Virginia on September 24-25, 2011

Like other faith communities in the US and elsewhere, we see no inherent conflict between the normative values of Islam and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Contrary to erroneous perceptions and Islamophobic propaganda of political extremists from various backgrounds, the true and authentic teachings of Islam promote the sanctity of human life, dignity of all humans, and respect of human, civil and political rights. Islamic teachings uphold religious freedom and adherence to the same universal moral values which are accepted by the majority of people of all backgrounds and upon which the US Constitution was established and according to which the Bill of Rights was enunciated.

The Qur’an speaks explicitly about the imperative of just and peaceful co-existence, and the rights of legitimate self-defense against aggression and oppression that pose threats to freedom and security, provided that, a strict code of behavior is adhered to, including the protection of innocent non-combatants.

The foregoing values and teachings can be amply documented from the two primary sources of Islamic jurisprudence – the Qur’an and authentic Hadith. These values are rooted, not in political correctness or pretense, but on the universally accepted supreme objectives of Islamic Shari’ah, which is to protect religious liberty, life, reason, family and property of all. The Shari’ah, contrary to misrepresentations, is a comprehensive and broad guidance for all aspects of a Muslim’s life – spiritual, moral, social and legal. Secular legal systems in Western democracies generally share the same supreme objectives, and are generally compatible with Islamic Shari’ah.

Likewise, the core modern democratic systems are compatible with the Islamic principles of Shura – mutual consultation and co-determination of all social affairs  at all levels and in all spheres, family, community, society, state and globally.

As a body of Islamic scholars, we the members of FCNA believe that it is false and misleading to suggest that there is a contradiction between being faithful Muslims committed to God (Allah) and being loyal American citizens. Islamic teachings require respect of the laws of the land where Muslims live as minorities, including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so long as there is no conflict with Muslims’ obligation for obedience to God. We do not see any such conflict with the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. The primacy of obedience to God is a commonly held position of many practicing Jews and Christians as well.

We believe further that as citizens of a free and democratic society, we have the same obligations and rights of all US citizens. We believe that right of dissent can only be exercised in a peaceful and lawful manner to advance the short and long term interests of our country.

The Fiqh Council of North America calls on all Muslim Americans and American citizens at large to engage in objective, peaceful and respectful dialogue at all levels and spheres of common social concerns. We call upon all Muslim Americans to be involved in solving pressing social problems, such as the challenge of poverty, discrimination, violence, health care and environmental protection. It is fully compatible with Islam for Muslims to integrate positively in the society of which they are equal citizens, without losing their identity as Muslims (just as Jews and Christians do not lose their religious identity in doing the same).

We believe that emphasis on dialogue and positive collaborative action is a far better approach than following the paths of those who thrive on hate mongering and fear propaganda. Anti-Islam, anti-Semitism and other similar forms of religious and/or political-based discrimination are all forms of racism unfit for civilized people and are betrayal of the true American as well as Islamic values.
May the pursuit of peace, justice, love, compassion, human equality and fellowship prevail in the pluralistic mosaic that is the hallmark of our nation.

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Anticipated Date for Eid al-Adha is Nov 6, 2011

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

10545_596In preparation for Eid al-Adha, many in the community are eager to find out if the final date has been announced.  ISNA follows the decision of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA)  to determine the date for both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. In the case of Eid al-Adha, the Fiqh Council uses the date determined by the Hajj authorities in Makkah. 

This date has only been tentatively calculated at this point for Sunday November 6, 2011.

The official date will be announced by the Hajj authorities, and followed by FCNA and ISNA, later this month.  As soon as the Hajj authorities announce the official date, FCNA and ISNA will let the community know.  ISNA will send an email announcement to every person on our mailing list and will also post it at the top of our website.

For more information, please refer to a statement released by FCNA earlier this week regarding the determination of the date of Eid al-Adha in the year 2011 (1432).

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Amin Hashmi Runs for Troy City Council

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

amin_dscn0089One of the many community members running for local, state and federal positions in this cycle of elections is Mr. Amin Hashmi, who is running for Troy City Council.

Hashmi has lived around the world, east and west, and further has travelled the world in his capacity as a merchant marine engineer. 

“I have drunk all seven oceans,” Hashmi says with some satisfaction, further explaining that while living ship-board he had drunk desalinated water from literally around the world.

Hashmi is unaffiliated as a candidate, offering to bridge the divide between Republicans and Democrats that has paralyzed all levels of American government in the polarized climate of the past few years–from the federal level all the way down to the Troy City Council, which has been immobilized by a vicious debate over raising taxes.

Hashmi explains that he does not want to raise taxes until the last minute, but if it is necessary to avoid cutting necessary fire and security services then raising taxes would be a valid if unappetizing alternative.

Hashmi is one of two unaffiliated candidates, running against three Democrats and three Republicans.  The eight candidates are running for three spots on the city council; no incumbents are in the election.

The candidate is realistic about his chances but explains the difficulty of making estimates in an election where there are no polls.  Certainly Mr. Hashmi is familiar with the demographics of Troy.  He explains that Troy has about 85,000 residents, from whom about 12,000 votes will likely be cast in the November 8th election.  Realistically he hopes that with 4,000 to 6,000 votes a candidate would be able to secure one of the available seats.

This is not Hashmi’s first brush with public service.  He explained in an interview with TMO that over the past ten years he has worked to cross ethnic hurdles in Troy by facilitating events designed to celebrate the ethnic heritages represented there, from Greek to Indian, to Pakistani and others.

Troy, he explains, is a relatively very powerful city.  The city is among Michigan’s top three cities, and nationally is one of the top 20 or 30 cities, according to him.

Having been educated literally around the world, Hashmi ascribes deep importance to education and has fought very hard on behalf recently of a millage to fund the Troy city library.

Visit aminhasmi.com for more information about his campaign.

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Anam Miah: Second Time Around

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Hakim Rahman

Anam_miahAnam Miah, Hamtramck City Council candidate, imagines the city of Hamtramck, Mich. as a place for leaders and community members to work together toward common goals by unifying through diversity and neighborly relations.

Miah, 35, said this is the right time for him to join in the leadership to help bring about a discussion between leaders and residents. “This community deserves to know what’s going on behind the doors in city hall.”

Miah received 345 votes in the August Primaries, making it to the top six. He ran in 2009, at a time when he had four union contracts as the President of the local USW 690 for steel workers (he was elected in April 2006), which took away time from door-to-door campaigning.

He has been employed at Flexible Products in Auburn Hills, Mich. for 15 years.

As a 25-year resident of Hamtramck, Miah remembers growing up in a time when people were proud home owners, and they took care of their neighborhoods. He said things have changed since, “Ethnic groups stick with their own.” 

“That’s not how a community works,” Miah said. “We need to all put our two cents in. I need to look at where I’m from and where you’re from to get a better sense of unity.” Miah was born in Bangladesh and moved to the United States with his family to pursue a better life.

One of the issues Miah hopes to tackle if elected is work to train Hamtramck police officers to better deal with the diverse community made up of predominant populations of Polish, Bangladeshi, Yemeni and Bosnian Americans. 

He said police are hard-wired to “follow the book” rather than explain offenses in a dignified manner to citizens who may “not fully understand the rules.” Another way to deal with this problem is by hiring people within the diverse communities to fill (when applicable) vacant spots in City Hall and the police and fire departments, he said.

Residents are left in the dark on how their tax money is used, he said. For example, Miah said leaders can help people find out about federally funded programs for low-income families such as the Michigan Weatherization Program, which helps people in the city without hurting the budget. “Vast amount of people are working class… more than well qualified don’t know or never have heard about these programs.” 

Miah was inspired to change his life after a trip to Memphis, Tenn., with USW, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The experience made him reflect and realize he could make a difference, “Instead of living my life working and paying bills.” 

This one man changed world history for minorities and people, he said. “If he can do it and he has done it I can try.”

Miah has been serving on the Hamtramck Zoning Board of Appeals since 2006.

He hopes to pursue an Associate’s Degree in criminal justice or political science at Oakland Community College. 

The father of two works from his home office with an average of 35 volunteers.

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Remembering the Tragedy of 9/11

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

One of the most corrosive elements in our society is Islamophobia, a well funded and staffed industry which, to the surprise of no one, shifted into high gear after the tragedy of 9/11.  Muslims have been its victims, and Muslims have, through their community outreach, been its stalwart opponents. Their solution has been simple, but not easy: to persevere in the truth.

The Los Angeles area remembered and commemorated the tragedy of 9-11 that took place a decade ago. Two events were held: a Health Fair that honored first responders which took place at the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC), and an ecumenical prayer service held in the historic Los Angeles down town area at St Johns Cathedral. 

The ICSC is the site of the first Masjid in Los Angeles. Saturday it played host to first responders and city officials, including keynote speaker, Kevin James, a Muslim firefighter who was at the World Trade Center when the planes struck. Mr James spoke of the first responders he worked with, many of whom were injured or killed in the line of duty.

Mr. James further said that he was puzzled when recent Muslim immigrants to the United States spoke as if being Muslims made them outsiders. He reminded his audience that Islam was a part of the America fabric and that Muslim explorers from Africa were here before Christopher Columbus. In addition, he continued, one third of the slaves brought to this country were Muslim though many were forced to adopt, albeit superficially, the Christianity of their masters.

Also honored were: Captain ll Sean W. Conway of the Los Angeles Fire Department; Reserve Chief Michael Leum of the LA Sheriff’s Department, and Officer Mike Odel of the Los Angeles Police Department. Like Mr. James, emotion cloaked their acceptance speeches as they recalled comrades injured and killed.

City Council President Eric Garcetti recalled the events of 9/11 and its aftermath. He said that in Los Angeles people seemed to be dividing and standing alone because of the tragedy. It was the ICSC and its members that wove together the tapestry that was and again could be Los Angeles. In the midst of considerable hate and suspicion, these Muslims made us all stand together.

Dr. Maher Hathout, the founder of ICSC and a man celebrated in the area by Muslims and non Muslims alike, summed up the program. He said that in the beginning of fear is the voice of courage. It tells one to enter a burning building that others are exiting. It is, he said, the voice of God.

Sponsors of the event were the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); The Islamic Center of Southern California; the UMMA Clinic, the American Muslim Health Professionals, The Council of American Pakistan Affairs; American Muslim Women’s Empowerment Council; UPLIFT, and the Guibord Center.

On Sunday September 11th an interfaith service was held at St John’s Episcopal Church. The event was sponsored by the Guilbord Center, an interfaith organization dedicated to celebrating what the different American religions have that unite them. The service was titled: Finding Hope in the Holy. Representatives of different faiths read from their holy books. Jihad Turk, the Religious Director of the Islamic Center of Southern California, spoke for the Islamic faith. Each speaker poured water into a cistern upon the completion of his or her address.

The congregants answered each spokesperson with a prayer of hope and commitment

Children born since September 11, 2001 were presented with saplings watered by the above cited cistern. These children are the hope of the future and the event was a pledge that all those who were present would work to make that future a just and peaceful one for them.

Among the co sponsoring groups was: MPAC, the South Coast Interfaith Council, The Islamic Center of San Gabriel, Progressive Christians Uniting, and the ICSC.

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Mohammad Qayoumi, New President of San Jose State University

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

SAN JOSE,CA–Mohammad H. Qayoumi was appointed last month as president of San José State University, the oldest and one of the largest universities in the 23-campus CSU system. Previously, Qayoumi served as president of California State University, East Bay, where under his leadership, the university adopted long-range academic and strategic plans that significantly strengthened its regional position and profile.

In addition to his more than 30 years of experience in the service of higher education and industry, Qayoumi is a licensed professional engineer and a certified management accountant. He has published eight books, more than 85 articles, and several chapters in various books. Additionally, he has presented at numerous national and international conferences on topics ranging from quality and energy to systems theory. Qayoumi is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and has served as a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award examiner and senior examiner.

Qayoumi has served his native country in various capacities, including as a senior advisor to the Minister of Finance of Afghanistan and member of the board of directors for the Central Bank of Afghanistan. Locally, Qayoumi is a member of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and serves on several boards including the Bay Area Council, the East Bay Economic Development Alliance and the Contra Costa Business Council.

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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.

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Foreign Policy: Why Can’t the Syrian Opposition Get Along?

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kate Seeyle

Kate Seelye is Vice President of the Middle East Institute. Prior to joining MEI, she worked as a radio and television journalist covering the Arab world from her base in Beirut, Lebanon.

The buoyant images of Libya’s rebels, who are currently tearing down the last vestiges of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, have also underscored the challenges facing the fragmented opposition in another Arab country — Syria. Five months after the start of an uprising against President Bashar Assad that has left more than 2,200 people dead, dissidents are still struggling to forge a united front that could duplicate the role played by Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC).

The TNC was created just 12 days after the start of the Libyan uprising, quickly organizing resistance to Gadhafi within the country and lobbying for support on the international stage. By contrast, the opponents of Assad’s regime have held gatherings in Antalya, Turkey; Brussels; Istanbul; and even Damascus, the Syrian capital, to shape the opposition’s leadership and articulate a road map toward a democratic Syria. But as of yet, Syrian activists in the diaspora have failed to establish an umbrella group that has earned the endorsement of the only body that can confer legitimacy — the protest organizers inside Syria.

Although Assad’s brutal crackdown has undoubtedly made this a difficult task, the absence of a united front has hindered the opposition’s ability to effectively communicate to regime-change skeptics that there is a credible alternative to the Assad government.
The disarray in the anti-Assad camp is recognized all too well in Washington. “I think the [international] pressure requires an organized opposition, and there isn’t one,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when asked on Aug. 11 why the United States didn’t throw more weight behind the protest movement. “There’s no address for the opposition. There is no place that any of us who wish to assist can go.”
Given the lack of a recognized leadership, different Syrian groups — mainly based in the diaspora — have been jockeying to assert themselves. Most recently, on Aug. 29 young dissidents speaking on behalf of a revolutionary youth group inside Syria named a 94-person council to represent the Syrian opposition. At a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, Syrian dissident Ziyaeddin Dolmus announced that the respected Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun would head the so-called Syrian National Council, which would also comprise the crème de la crème of Syria’s traditional opposition.

Dolmus said the council would include many of the traditional opposition figures based in Damascus, such as former parliamentarian Riad Seif, activist Suhair Atassi, and economist Aref Dalila. “Delays [in forming a council] return our people to bloodshed,” he said at the news conference, which was broadcast by Al-Jazeera.
But no sooner had the council been announced than it started to unravel. When contacted by the media, Ghalioun and the others quickly distanced themselves from the announcement, claiming they had no prior knowledge of it, according to reports in the Arabic press. Later, Ghalioun denied any association with the group on his Facebook page.
One Washington-based Syrian activist, Mohammad al-Abdallah — whose father, Ali al-Abdallah was named to the council — dismissed it as a joke.
Others said it was an attempt by young revolutionaries, upset over the lack of progress, to put forward a wish list of opposition members.
U.S.-based Syrian activist Yaser Tabbara, who had helped organize a gathering of anti-government Syrians a week before in Istanbul, called it “an earnest attempt by youth to reach out and demand that we move faster than we have been.”
According to Tabbara, the Istanbul conference that concluded on Aug. 23, was motivated by a similar sense of urgency. “It has been five months since the uprising started, and we don’t yet have a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Assad and his cohorts for their massacres,” said Tabbara. “Part of the reason is that some in the international community, like India, Brazil, and South Africa, do not see a viable alternative to this regime.”
The four-day Istanbul gathering, according to organizers, sought to unite all the efforts of previous opposition efforts under one banner.
Few of the groups or individuals from previous opposition gatherings attended the meeting, however. Members representing a consultative committee that emerged from a June opposition gathering in Antalya withdrew at the last minute, claiming, according to Reuters, that it “did not build on earlier efforts to unite the opposition.”
The conference was further handicapped by what Syrian journalist Tammam al-Barazi called “the perception that it was held under an American umbrella.” Its organizers included members of a grassroots community group based in Illinois, the Syrian American Council.
Although dismaying, the opposition’s divisions and sniping are hardly surprising. Most activists grew up under the Assad family’s authoritarian rule, and their differences reflect the many divisions inside Syrian society, which is split by sect and ethnicity as well as ideology. The opposition includes Arab nationalists and liberals with little trust for the Muslim Brotherhood, whose supporters were accused of dominating the first Istanbul conference organized in July by a leading human rights lawyer, Haitham al-Maleh.

Gaddafi Loyalists Under Fire as Libya Celebrates ‘Eid

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Samia Nakhoul and Maria Golovnina

TRIPOLI/TAWARGA, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan forces backed by NATO bombers struck at loyalist troops dug in around Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown on Wednesday, as refugees streamed out of the besieged bastion fearing a bloody showdown in the coming days.

2011-08-31T101914Z_1293657413_GM1E78V1EZE01_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA
Libyan Muslims react during Eid prayers at Green Square in Tripoli August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

As people in Tripoli and other cities marked the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan with special savor following the end of 42 years of one-man rule, anti-Gaddafi fighters at the front around the coastal city of Sirte kept up pressure on its defenders, whom they have given till Saturday to surrender.

NATO said its planes bombed Gaddafi forces near Sirte on Tuesday, targeting tanks and other armored vehicles as well as military facilities. They also hit targets in the area of Bani Walid, another Gaddafi stronghold 150 km (100 miles) southeast of Tripoli. Anti-Gaddafi fighters said on the same day that they had advanced to within 30 km (20 miles) of the desert town.
On Wednesday NTC fighters said they clashed with Gaddafi forces patrolling in the area west of Sirte.

At Tawarga, west of Sirte, civilians streamed in laden vehicles along the coastal highway, some flying white flags.

Passing through a checkpoint set up by the forces of the interim ruling council, the NTC, many of the refugees said they feared a major battle, since they did not expect those holding Gaddafi’s tribal homeland to give up without a fight.

“I need to take my family where it is peaceful. Here there will be a big fight,” said one man, who gave his name as Mohammed.

Ali Faraj, a fighter for the opposition forces which forced Gaddafi into hiding last week, said he doubted people in Sirte would willingly join the revolt: “There will be a big fight for Sirte. It’s a dangerous city. It’s unlikely to rise up. A lot of people there support Gaddafi. It’s too close to Gaddafi and his family. It is still controlled by them.”

There is no independent confirmation of conditions in Sirte, which was developed into a prosperous city of 100,000 during the 42 years Gaddafi ruled Libya. NTC officials say power and water are largely cut off and supplies are low.

In Tripoli, after dawn, worshippers packed Martyrs’ Square, which was named Green Square in the Gaddafi era, chanting “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), Libya is free.”
Fighters on rooftops guarded against any attack by Gaddafi loyalists and sniffer dogs checked cars. Even the interim interior minister, Ahmed Darat, was searched.
“This is the most beautiful Eid and most beautiful day in 42 years,” said Hatem Gureish, 31, a merchant from Tripoli.

“Gaddafi made us hate our lives … We come here to express our joy at the end of 42 years of repression and deprivation.”

Fatima Mustafa, 28, a pregnant woman wearing a black chador, said: “This is a day of freedom, a day I cannot describe to you. It’s as if I own the world. I’m glad I haven’t given birth yet so my daughter can be born into a free Libya.”

But the war is not over yet, with Gaddafi on the run and his loyalists defying an ultimatum set by Libya’s interim council.

Saturday Ultimatum

Libyans who revolted against Gaddafi in February needed NATO air power to help them win, but, given their country’s unhappy colonial history, they remain wary of foreign meddling.

Their interim leaders, trying to heal a nation scarred by Gaddafi’s cruelly eccentric ways, may want United Nations help in setting up a new police force, but see no role for international peacekeepers or observers, a U.N. official said.

“They are very seriously interested in assistance with policing to get the public security situation under control and gradually develop a democratically accountable public security force,” Ian Martin, special U.N. envoy for post-conflict planning in Libya, said at the United Nations in New York.

“We don’t now expect military observers to be requested,” he said. “It’s very clear that the Libyans want to avoid any kind of military deployment of the U.N. or others.”

The National Transitional Council (NTC), keen to assert its grip and relieve hardship after six months of war, won a $1.55 billion cash injection when the U.N. sanctions committee released banknotes in Britain in frozen Gaddafi accounts.

France has asked the committee to unfreeze 1.5 billion euros

($2.16 billion) of Libyan assets in France, a French government source said on Wednesday, adding that Libya has 7.6 billion euros of assets parked in French banks.

“Friends of Libya”

The source also said that Russia and China, which have not formally recognized the NTC, would send representatives to a “Friends of Libya” conference in Paris on Thursday to discuss support for political and economic rebuilding.

The timing of the meeting, on September 1, strikes a chord for many Libyans, who for four decades have been obliged to celebrate the date as the anniversary of the military coup that brought Colonel Gaddafi to power in 1969.

Despite the killing and shortages of fuel, power and water that Tripoli has endured since Gaddafi’s fall, worshippers in Martyrs’ Square were mostly ebullient about the future.

But Nouri Hussein, 42, an engineer, said that while he was glad Gaddafi was gone, he feared the guns in the hands of unruly fighters: “There is apprehension about what next. The rebels should not be blinded with the ecstasy of victory.”

NTC leaders have told their forces to treat prisoners with respect — in contrast with the reported killing and torture of detainees by Gaddafi’s forces — but Amnesty International said its staff had seen anti-Gaddafi fighters threaten and detain wounded opponents, notably black Libyans and foreigners.

“The council must do more to ensure that their fighters do not abuse detainees, especially the most vulnerable ones such as black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans,” Amnesty’s Claudio Cordone said in a statement after one incident in Tripoli.

“Many risk reprisals as a result of allegations that Gaddafi forces used ‘African mercenaries’ to commit widespread violations during the conflict,” the lobby group added.

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Sovereignty and a New Reality

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Palestinian Recognition at the U.N.

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Washington–Your reporter has devoted much time to the (progressive) Israeli position on any possible peace discussion with the rightful Arab claimants to the Holy Land.  The Palestine Center, housed in the American capital city, has given your narrator the opportunity to voice the opposing Palestinian position on their march to recognition towards their legitimate status at next month’s meeting at the United Nations.

“Ambassador” Maen Areikat gave a formal speech on his “country’s” formal position on a potential declaration next month of his country’s independence in New York City a month ago here in the District of Columbia with the most knowledgeable legal expert on Ramallah’s right for national agency, Professor John Quigley.  

This, presented in July, was part of the Palestine Center’s public examination of what they termed “The Arab Spring becomes the Palestinian Autumn” — something your scribe does not as yet subscribe.

“Ambassador” (your raconteur only puts parenthesis around his title because Areikat represents a stateless State, and his credentials may not be officially recognized here in D.C.) Mean Areikat is the main PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) representative in the U.S. officially commissioned with the rank of Ambassador by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority (PA). 

He has held high positions in negotiating teams and delegations with the Israeli occupiers.   Maen, also, served as Desk Officer over English-speaking powers within the PA’s Orient House’s International Relations Department.

From your author’s recent research on Israel, the attitude of the Palestinians going directly to the U.N. on Manhattan’s River for an official acknowledgment of their natural entitlement is anathema to Tel Aviv.  As John Quigley pointed out, the Israeli parliament (or Knesset) recognized the PLO as  representing a State by recognizing the legitimacy of the Oslo Accords or the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arraignments or more succinctly the Declaration of Principles (DOP) of September 13th 1993.  Further, under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the Turks under their then Ottoman Empire ceded their former territories (including Palestine) as States to the (former) League of Nations who gave them in trust to the victorious (post-)World War I European Empires as temporary Mandates. 

Erekat noted, whatever,  the Security-Council does not have the right to recognize or deny nationhood, but it must be passed by two-thirds of its members to be sent on to the General Assembly (GA) , but, if it does pass the initial hurdle, it will most likely be bureaucratically shunted into a Committee.  Here, this Committee can be slowed down in referring it to the General-Assembly. 

The leading legal expert on this process this process is Professor John Quigley of Ohio State University in Columbus.  Besides the law, Quigley’s interests includes human rights; and, thus, Palestine.

Professor Quigley simply states that, after the matter has been referred to the General-Assembly without obfuscations, the Security-Council has to defend their position on whether to grant Statehood or not to the G.-A.   This can actually go back and forth between the two bodies for some time.

The Ambassador showed that it is only the G.-A. that can bestow the legal status of Statehood, and that standing can have several different levels.  Under the U.N. Charter the U.S. can’t say  “We don’t like it [our bid], or give Israel more time to make peace.”  Both of these are invalid under the United Nations’ Charter. 

There is a question of what exactly is legally binding because the Charter is ambiguous here:  It is not clear whether the General Assembly has the authority to admit a country into the U.N. without the Council’s approval to do so, and there has been no precedent to establish it one way or the other.  To continue the pun we are proceeding on uncharted ice.

Only Israel is claiming that this move is unilateral.  It is not so, as the Ambassador declares, “ We are going for full admission into the United Nations to be acknowledged as a sovereign entity!”    In the General Assembly the Palestinians only require a plurality of fifty (percent) plus one.  Debate is proceeding back home in Ramallah on which course to proceed.  According to the District of Columbia, the U.S. insists that Palestinian State’s status should only come through negotiation, but negotiations for Tel Aviv denotes the avoidance of the two-country agreement whereas Palestine advocates a dual realm resolution by fighting against the unjust Settlements.  The real cost of the Occupation is borne by the international commune.  This is “Not an effort to isolate Israel,” for “We are committed to non-violent peaceful resistance, but we shall not tolerate the Occupation!”

The Right Honorable Maen Areikat continued, “The only way we shall reconsider [this bid for recognition] is if the community of nations can guarantee our security; then, discussions can go on in good faith.”

Quigley, further, adds that, if Palestine achieves its place amongst the family of sovereign states, the War Crimes committed against the Canaanites can be brought before the International Court under the Treaty of Rome of 2003.

If Palestine would be welcomed into that august body on the Hudson, then, as a sovereign nation, “We would have [to have] responsibilities,” too, Areikat stated.  “We would [then] have to follow the U.N. Charter,”  Conversely, “The Quartet [the  nations acting as interlopers between Tel Aviv and Ramallah – the United States, the United Kingdom (U.K.), the Russian Federation, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations  as a coordinator] is concerned about [this forthcoming] September[‘s confrontation], for [it is bound] to be more favorable to the Arabs.  It is a foregone conclusion that Ramallah will gain the fifty plus one in the General Assembly guaranteeing a Palestinian nation, but alternatively, they can merely grant Observer  Status; but, thereby, we shall gain international legality,” also.

Areikcat said, “We may just be headed for New York  as a rouse..[but we have the ]the right to tell…people our options!”  Concluding, “We can move towards independence!…We have rights under the U.N. “  Then, “We can move forward towards [true] Independence…We’ll have our rights under the U.N.!”  There “will be a change in international relations.  In 1948,Israel agreed to be a neighbor of a bordering Arab State.  The PLO’s position is a two-State solution!”  Ultimately, the agreement will be made between the Palestinians and the Israelis.  Although there is EU support, His Excellency felt the European vote is in question.

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